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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Bancroft

Monday, September 26, 2016  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Rodeo, Bancroft, Idaho 

Bancroft lies in the upper reaches of Gem Valley about 15 miles northwest of Soda Springs, 11 miles south of the partially preserved historic pioneer ghost town of Chesterfield and 48 miles east of Pocatello.

Caribou-Targhee National Forest and Fish Creek Mountain Range outline the city’s western skyline. Petticoat Peak, the highest mountain in the range, rises to 8,033 feet and lies four miles due south of the city. Across the valley about 10 miles to the northeast is the Chesterfield Mountain Range.

Historic Tidbits

In 1841 the first emigrant wagon train traveled on what would become the Oregon and California Trails. Upon reaching Soda Springs, the party divided. One group of 32, led by Thomas Fitzpatrick and Father Pierre de Smet turned northwest through what is now Bancroft on their way to Oregon Country. The other group of 37, led by John Bidwell, headed west to California.

For the next few decades, thousands of Oregon Trail pioneers traveled a similar route through what is now Bancroft on their way to their next rest stop at Fort Hall, near what is now Pocatello.

In 1882 the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) began constructing a rail line between Granger, Wyoming, and Huntington, Oregon. This segment of railroad, completed in 1884, provided the connecting link between Omaha, Nebraska, and Portland, Oregon. The railroad passed through what is now Bancroft.

A new town was platted next to the railroad siding that they named Bancroft, the name of an OSL railroad executive.

At that time, Chesterfield, 11 miles north, was a growing farm community with a population of around 400. Bypassed by the railroad, Chesterfield declined in influence and Bancroft flourished.

On October 21, 1913, Bancroft became an incorporated village.

RailroadSource of Life or Death of a Community

The railroad was the principal economic basis for establishing Bancroft. In the early 1900s it provided needed transportation for the lime mining and processing operation and moving farm commodities to market. It led to the growth and vitality of Bancroft and the demise of Chesterfield. Freight trains still stop at Bancroft.

Amenities and Attractions Today

Numerous outdoor amenities are available to Bancroft residents and visiting sports enthusiasts.

The nearby mountains have large populations of big game animals, migratory birds and other wildlife. In the winter season, sportsmen enjoy snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing.

Blackfoot Reservoir and the 2,400-acre Blackfoot River Wildlife Management Area for cutthroat trout and upland and riparian wildlife are located northeast of the city. Several other smaller nearby reservoirs and streams are also excellent fisheries.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game also manages the 3,349-acre Georgetown Summit Wildlife Management Area for elk, mule deer and sharp-tailed grouse southeast of the city.

The historic agricultural ghost town of Chesterfield has numerous preserved buildings and a museum in the restored brick church meetinghouse.


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