1880-1890

"The giant steel railroad net, falling over the United States, pulling in large and small communities alike, would soon be steeling its way into the Magic Circle in the form of the Oregon Short Line.

Shoshone had been selected as the stopping place to build the shops, and it was the first spot, since leaving Granger, Wyoming, that the Oregon Short Line would be building permanent railroad shops.  Work started in 1882 on a large water tank for the steam engines, a round house, machine shops, blacksmith shops and everything else needed for the railroad.

The Shoshone business district erupted on both sides of the new railroad right-of-way, and the town popped up, around, and about.

They came from all directions—good guys, bad guys, railroaders, gamblers, rascals, ruffians, rapscallions, and lawyers—all milling around in the mud or dust, prattling and glabbering, drinking, carousing, making friends, enemies, and deals.

Idaho

The hub-bub never stopped.  Lot jumpers were numerous, bad whisky unlimited, saloons on every corner, guns fired at all hours, 10 to 15 arrests a day—and they just 'threw the crooks into jail'—literally.  The jail was a hole in the ground with a shotgun up top.

A two-page weekly newspaper called 'The Rustler' was soon circulating news and ads.  Crude boarding tents and rooming houses appeared out of nowhere.  Endless lines of heavily laden wagons filled with all kinds of building material inched their way through the streets, fired along by scorching blasts of hair-raising profanity from the teamsters.

As the railroad grading and construction camps moved closer to the town, big payrolls came with them, and plenty of money changed hands.  Every nationality was present among those itinerate railroad laborers, called 'boomers', and the contractors had to keep tight control with 'pick handle authority'.

Working on the railroad was hard manual labor demanding great muscle and stamina, and those who stayed with it were so tough that even after a ten-hour work day, they were still wound up enough to 'rassle' and wrangle, punch, box, hit, and be mean.  Scores of men, who were given passage to the job, would work one day, pull the pin, and keep right on going.  It was just too rugged for most of them.

It was often said by those who knew, that of all the mining towns, cow camps, boom towns, and railroad camps in the West, Shoshone was the toughest of them all.  Stabbings and shootings were common.  Not one 'respectable' woman in town.  Wild carryings-on round-the-clock, and the gambling dens threw away the keys.  Twenty-two saloons served customers day and night.

Out in the sagebrush on the outskirts of town, lay a crude, lumpy, unkempt cemetery, and it was told far and wide that every man in it died a violent death—except one—who got drunk and fell in the river and drowned!

The main man in Shoshone at that time, was a slick dude named 'Pinkston', owner and operator of a two-story saloon appropriately named 'Pink's Place'.  It had a bar, Wheel-of-Fortune, Faro, and Stud Poker tables, fallen women upstairs, and men fallin' downstairs.  Pink was the Godfather of the local Mafia in charge of vice, villany, foul play, double dealing, and corruption.  He was a natty dresser, always outfitted to the nines, and his looks were indeed startling—he had white, white skin, and black, black hair, and with a name like 'Pink', he was literally the most colorful character around.  But nobody made fun of Pink—he was the top dog, and he was IN CHARGE.  Mention is made of 'Pink's Woman', but no clarification as to their legal relationship.  Some thought she was his wife, while others....?  Nobody dared ask.  She was just 'Pink's Woman'.

Shoshone was not all bad, however.  There were representatives of the United States Department of Justice and Interior on hand, and also a goodly number of Secret Service men employed by the Union Pacific railroad.  They all kept a low profile, though, and nobody bothered them much."  Source: Excerpted from Idaho and the Magic Circle, How They Came to Be, by Betty M. Bever, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, ID, 2000, pp. 114-116—Editor.




1900-1910
Excerpted from the same book, pp. 218-220—Editor.

"Shoshone lucked out on big entertainment in the summer of 1908.  The 'Greatest Show on Earth', the 'gigantic, stupendous, collosal, Barnum & Bailey Circus' was crossing the country on the railroad, entertaining with performances in BIG cities only.  Boise and Pocatello were both on their schedule, but the distance between them was too far without a stop to feed and water the animals, so the circus people decided that the logical place to stop would be Shoshone, and since they had to get everything off the train anyway, decided to give a performance there.

The advance man showed up about the middle of July to arrange for space and food and water.  He ordered wagon loads of bread and vegetables, barrels of milk, tubs of butter, whole beeves, and whole bee hives, plus hay, grain, and everything else needed for their army of a thousand men, acres of horses, elephants, camels, and 'wild and curious beasts of all kinds'.  He then made arrangements to have special trains put on to bring people to Shoshone for the show.  Posters and billboards were sent out to every town within a hundred miles.

All of this was a real wind-fall for Shoshone folks, and they excitedly started to gear up to host more people than had been in the town since it was born.

The circus arrived on August 7th.  At ten in the morning, the street parade started and the entire colorful cavalcade took a full half-hour to pass a given spot!  The parade was attended by thousands strung out along the way to the race track.

This was probably the biggest circus that ever traveled the United States.  There were four special trains—not cars—TRAINS!  TRAINS!  containing 32 elephants, 24 Siberian camels, innumerable llamas, zebras, alpacas, sacred cows, Indian cattle, etc., etc.  A seemingly endless assortment of strange and beautiful creatures.

The Journal ran a few tidbits ahead of time telling about the bi-horned rhinocerous that had his entire hide rubbed full of fish oil three times a week, and both he and the hippopotamus were scrubbed down with soap and water every day.  There were half-a-dozen or more babies in the zoo department:  'Baby Bunting', the infant elephant, a baby camel, baby llamas, and kangaroos.

It was truly a memorable day for all who came to see the great circus.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, the show was underway—three colorful, sparkling rings of lively, leaping, jumping acrobats; tumbling teams; aerialists; clowns; lion tamers; performing horses; and all the wonderful sounds and smells of the circus.  Everyone was enchanted.

The 'special feature' was the 'Autos that pass in the air'.  It would have been a treat to even see an automobile in Shoshone, but to watch WOMEN performing such remarkable feats was almost more than anyone could believe!  WOMEN!  the audience clapped and screamed and wondered 'How do dey do dat'?

They all went home tired and happy after that astonishing day when the 'Greatest Show on Earth' came to Shoshone, Idaho.  Memories and stories were told from generation to generation, and many a loving grandparent charmed the grandchildren with stories of the happenings they had witnessed with their own eyes!"