The History of Star Idaho

The History of Star Idaho

The Settling Of Star

Star, Idaho is one of the earliest settlements in the Boise Valley, getting its green light in 1863 when M.B. Palmer began what became known as "The Pioneer Ditch." Later on this ditch and its contained water supply was extended toward Middleton Mill, meaning the unsettled land between Star and Middleton could be inhabited from an early time period. 

F. Swalley was one of the first people to help put Star, Idaho on the map along the Boise River. In 1863 he drove his oxen onto 300 acres of land that is now a mile south of the present town's center. Naturally, other people followed in his footsteps, and soon Star became a bustling little community of farms and homesteads. Star became known as a stopping point for travelers going between the city of Boise and the mines in Boise Basin. Many farmers in the area would put up room and board for these travelers.

Religion goes back to the beginning of the community. In 1864 the very first meeting of the church of Christ was held by Christian minister David Fouch, who held the meetings on his property. Later on Mr. Fouch would become Star's second postmaster. (Before him in the position was Shepp Gray.) One of Idaho's first Christian churches was founded in the area around 1869. Nearly twenty years later the Church of Christ founded a church on land donated by Sam McDowell's wife. The church was later moved in 1906 to where it remains today. In these early days, another popular church was the Methodists' Star Chapel. 

Originally, Star was located about one mile east from where it is today, near the Star-Emmett junction. The first building to be associated with Star, Idaho was a schoolhouse built in the 1870s thanks to a land donation by B.F. Swalley. This was the same time that Star got its name. The legend says that there was some arguing over what to call the settlement until one of settlers nailed the outline of a star to the schoolhouse. This became a huge landmark for travelers coming through the area: seeing the star meant that they only had to travel another mile before finding food and lodging. Soon the area became known as Star thanks to the design on the schoolhouse. 

It did not take long for the tiny community to start growing, thanks in part to its role as a stopping point for travelers and as a place for the local farmers to flock to when they needed to go into town. Star became a marker on the map when its first post office was opened in 1880. Shepp Gray served as the first postmaster and the owner of the general store. In early Star there were also two blacksmiths, two churches, and a few primary residences. In 1888 Star saw its first hotel, making it an even more warranted lodging area.

The Incorporation Of Star

1905 saw the incorporation of Star, with city limits established four miles in every direction. For a long time in the early part of the 20th century, Star was a flourishing little town, full of good business and good attitudes. Star had everything a good town needed: a mayor, a marshal, a justice of the peace, and a constable, with a jailhouse by the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall. Star was a sizable small town by the time the railway went in nearby. 

W.E. Pierce charted The Farmers Bank in 1907. The same man, a real estate dealer from Boise, served as the bank's first president. (Unlike other small town banks, The Farmer's Bank survived for a good many years. After the economic fallout of the '20s and '30s, the bank had to close.) Around the same time as the bank's opening there were many other businesses, including the Conway Hotel, Star Creamery, and the El Dorado Lumber Company, known for handling orchard and farm products. The same time period saw a huge boom in Star's size in other areas, including a new sidewalk put in on Valley Street by the railway. By this time Star had a population of around 500, making it the second largest township in the Boise Valley outside of the city itself. Thanks to its population, Star was able to stay on the forefront of architectural trends, building most of its home in the California bungalow style famous across the country. Star was heralded for its banks, hotels, stores, and industry centers.

The Modernization Of Star

One of the biggest changes to come to Star was in 1907, when W.E. Pierce finished the Interurban electric railway line connecting Star with the rest of the Boise Valley. This railroad line ran between Boise and Caldwell, stopping in Eagle, Star, Middleton, Nampa, and Meridian in between. The electric railway also brought to Star electricity for the first time in the town's history. Fare was 65 cents. 

Thanks to the addition of the Interurban railway, Star was certified as a viable town to settle and make a home in. The Idaho Daily Statement had a lot of pleasant things to say about Star, including, "this town has taken a wonderful activity and citizens here have awakened to the fact that Star is very liable to become a very important point before long. There’s been a great deal of building of late and the population of the town has easily doubled since it was definitely known that the electric line would be built through here." Today Star continues to be a bustling community for both new and old residents. In the past twenty years alone Star, Idaho has gone from 600 to nearly 6000 residents.

The Railway Years

The Boise & Interurban Railway Lines

The Boise Interurban railway prompted rapid growth of Star. W.E. Pierce completed the development of the Boise to Caldwell electric railroad in 1907, and this railroad ran via Eagle, Star and Middleton, passing through Nampa and Meridian too. When the interurban railway arrived it brought electricity to Star. The fare for this railroad was just 65 cents.
The development of the railroad was best summarized in the Idaho daily Statesman report in 1907, which stated that the town had "taken a wonderful activity", and noted that citizens were becoming aware that Star would become "very important" soon. The increased through traffic and the increased population of the town in the post-railway years prompted a lot of new developments and a flurry of building work.
After the Boise Interurban was developed, W.E. Pierce and Co developed two new areas of land on the east of the original site of the town. These areas became known as the pierce Addition and the Interurban Addition, and quickly became hubs of activity.
In the same year, the State interurban Depot, with its freight office and passenger waiting room, were built on Valley and Knox streets. This handsome building was designed by Tourtellotte and Hummel, two well-known Boise architects. The transformer house, which was connected to Emmett, stood nearby. These buildings were used for many years. However, when automobile usage became commonplace in the Treasure Valley the Interurban fell into disuse, and by 1928 it had gone out of business.  The depot moved to the eastern side of town in 1950. The loss of the interurban link marked a period of decline for Star.
Business Growth

The railway years were a period of growth for Star. In 1909 there were a total of 30 new buildings constructed, including the two storey Odd Fellows building, which was partially occupied by the Pinney Opera House.  There was another flurry of construction work in 1912, which saw the Friends Church being constructed, along with commercial buildings such as the ones for J.W. Rounds, J.B. Stoner and J.C. Hughes. The Boise Payette Lumber Co. constructed a yard in Star in 1917, and W.T. Kirtley constructed the Star Mercantile Co. property in 1919. 

It did not take long for the Star Mercantile to go from being a small cracker barrel store to a highly successful and competitive company that carried everything from groceries and drugs to veterinarian supplies, stoves, and a varied range of appliances. 

Other notable businesses included the cheese factory, which opened in 1917 and later went on to become the Mutual Creamery, and the Star Courier - a weekly newspaper which served the region from 1911 to 1920. The newspaper bore the banner "News of the 3 towns covering north side of the Boise Valley", and served Eagle and Middleton as well as Star.  The population of Star peaked during the early 1920s, rising above 600.
Other Transportation

One little known fact is that one of the later branches of the Oregon Trail passed through Star. This branch crossed the river near Boise, and was located just south of the modern day Highway 44. Ezra Meeker, who devoted his later years to marking the course followed by the old Oregon Trail, paid a visit to Star on May 5, 1906. Some parts of this Oregon Trail corridor became a part of the Old Valley Road, and now connect Boise to Caldwell. During the spring months, travelers would use those alternative foothills to avoid getting stuck in muddy bogs.
During the 1860s, the stage from Boise City would follow the Old Valley Road before arriving at Gray's Station, to the east of Star, near what was then old Balm Mill. Today, that is the site of Moon Valley Road. From there, the stage would proceed northwest to Willow Creek, which had its own stage station. Next it would continue to the Payette Valley before moving on to Umatilla, then Oregon and towards the Columbia River. These stage routes operated until the 1880s, when they were made obsolete with the introduction of the railway.  Because the early railroads bypassed Star, the period between the 1880s and 1907 were quiet and difficult times for the area.
The Star Ferry, which was introduced to the area in 1890 by A. Fouch and his Brother helped to keep some traffic coming to the area during those years. The crossing was replaced by a bridge in 1904. Transport links were improved again in 1929 when the state paved the Valley Road, and again in 1964 when the road was expanded and Highway 44 connected to the 1-84.
Agriculture and the Economy

The lowlands near the Boise River are very flat and offer good irrigation for Star. The Pioneer Canal was one of the first irrigation systems designed to make use of the area's topography. It was built in the 1860s. Later systems included the Lawrence Kennedy Canal and the Middleton Canal, as well as the Canon Canal, located just upstream to the Star Bridge.
Agriculture was an important part of Star's economy. In the early 1880s a handful of landowners had enclosed the area, farming large crops. S.S. Gray worked 140 acres, while Joseph Ayres worked 125 acres, D. Williams 100 acres, Samuel McDowell 90 acres and Henry Hill 80 acres.
Since then, the farms in the area have engaged in diversified farming, working alfalfa, sugar beets, wheat, oats and fruit trees. The soil is rich and the climate supports a lot of different crops.


The original 1870s Star School was replaced by a brick schoolhouse constructed on River Street in 1903.  In 1912, Star started a four-year high school and in 1937 a new school was built with bricks that were salvaged from the old 1903 schoolhouse on River Street.  In 1975, the Star Elementary school was built alongside the old brick schoolhouse, which was later demolished.  For a long period of time, Star maintained its own school district, but later became part of the Meridian School District.   In 1905 the Central School was built west of Star on Highway 44.  The original brick building is now a private homestead, which stables Arabian horses.

Major Events

During the early 1900s, Main Street served as a race track for periodic horse racing events.  Horse racing was one of the major events which were attended by almost everyone in the district.  A horse racing event was usually followed by a baseball game which was also very popular. Horse racing events held on Main Street were not only held on specific dates or times, but could be arranged for impromptu challenges between horse owners at any time.

Other popular activities included weekly debates held by the Debating Society, where everyday issues such as Women’s Rights, Laws regarding what was appropriate or not on Sundays and other issues such as Railroad management were discussed.  There was also a Literary Society, a Skating Rink and several Star School Sports events. Stock sales were held on Star Trading Days every third Saturday of the month.  A typical evening out for a party of young people included a chartered round trip trolley excursion to Boise.

The Star Cemetery

Dating back to 1871, a number of graves can be found in the Star Cemetery of those who died along the Oregon Trail.  The land for the Star Cemetery was deeded to the community in 1900 by James and Jemima Ayers and the Trustees appointed were the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  A picket fence was erected in 1901 to encircle the cemetery.  In the cemetery there is a hand-hewn stone dated 1872 and engraved with the name of Hester A. Riley.

Small Town Living in Star

With the closure of Boise & Interurban in 1928, Star’s growth declined sharply and in 1929 the town suffered another setback when it was disincorporated.  During the same year the State decided to pave a highway east and west to the city limits of Star.  The cost of the pavement was expected to be paid by the community of Star and the farmers created such huge disturbances regarding taxes that were raised to build the highway, that the City Charter was overturned and the highway became State property. 

The Ada County Commission approved an order on December 12th, 1997 with a proclamation and resolution that established the geographical boundaries of the City of Star, Ada County’s newest city. A Mayor was appointed together with six members of the City Council and so the city of Star became the first city to be incorporated into Ada County since 1971.

During the following years, the population of the City of Star has remained static at around 500, the same as earlier in the century.  In recent years, however, the population has steadily grown and the population was 5,793 at the 2010 census, up from 1,795 in 2000.

The City of Star is mainly a trading center with a working community that earns its living for the most part from the soil.  A number of buildings in Star have succumbed to fire in the past and in 1959 the Hadley Hardware & Implement Company building and their grain mills were destroyed by fire.  In 1955 the Star Fire District was formed with a new fire station.

The City of Star Today

To this day Star maintains its rural character and is located 16 miles northwest of Boise and 16 miles south of Emmett. It is 6 miles west of Eagle, 9 miles north of Nampa and 7 miles east of Middleton.  From the river valley in Star there are impressive views of the Owyhee Mountains to the south and the Boise foothills to the north.

Contact Information

Randy & Doyelene Gridley
Silvercreek Realty Group
1099 S Wells St. Suite 200
Meridian ID 83642
Randy's Direct Office: 208-859-7060

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