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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Middleton

Friday, November 17, 2017  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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City of Middleton

Middleton is located in the north central part of the Treasure Valley. Fields of potatoes, sugar beets, grains, corn, mint, hops, beans and sod, trees and shrubs sold to retail nurseries surround the city, forming a checkerboard of color and texture.

The Boise River forms the southern boundary of the city. The mountain ranges that border the valley are in full view. The clouds that often drift over the mountains make for spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

The economic growth experienced in the Treasure Valley has spilled over to Middleton, making it one of Idaho’s fastest growing cities. It is now Idaho’s 30th largest city.

Historic Tidbits

Several frontiersmen began traveling and trapping beaver on the Snake River and its tributaries in 1811. At that time, the nomadic Shoshone and Bannock Indian Tribes traversed the area. The prehistoric Boise River flood plain had an abundance of wild game. Salmon and steelhead trout filled the Boise River each year during their annual spawning migrations.

The British Hudson’s Bay Company built a trading post in 1834 on the river floodplain at the confluence of the Snake and Boise Rivers about 17 miles northwest at what is now Parma. A French Canadian, François Payette, became the manager of the post. He named the river Boise and the trading post Fort Boise, the French term for wooded, because of the forests of cottonwood and willow trees bordering the river.

In 1841 the first wagon train of immigrants and explorers en route to Oregon traveled along the Boise River on what would become the southern border of Middleton.

Two years later, Captain John C. Fremont, a topographical engineer, led a surveying expedition to the West and stopped at Fort Boise. He referenced the fort as a rest stop and landmark on his maps which Congress would later publish. Oregon Trail immigrants used Fremont’s maps extensively, finding rest at the fort until massive floods destroyed part of the fort, and it was abandoned in 1854.

Prospectors discovered gold near Idaho City in 1862. In the following year, 16,000 prospectors and fortune seekers flooded into the mountains of the Boise Basin. Many of these prospectors and miners came from the Northwest, passing near Middleton in a reverse direction from the earlier Oregon Trail pioneers.

U.S. Army Major Pickney Lugenbeel led a detachment of troops in 1863 to construct a military fort to protect the miners and settlers from hostile Indians. On July 4, Lugenbeel selected a location on a sagebrush-covered foothill, several blocks north of the site where the State Capitol Building now stands, and named it Fort Boise, the same name as the destroyed Oregon Trail landmark 40 miles west. Three days later, merchants and settlers living near the fort platted a new town they named Boise City.

The following year, the Territorial Legislature designated Boise as Idaho’s permanent Territorial Capital.

The gold rush prompted an immediate demand for food and supplies. Initially, freighters hauled supplies for hundreds of miles on pack trains and wagons. In 1862 Congress passed the Homestead Act allowing citizens to convert 160 acres of public land to private ownership if they improved and lived on their claims for five years. Many homesteaders came into the Treasure Valley. They staked their claims on the fertile irrigable land in the river floodplain and tributaries and raised beef, dairy cattle and poultry; harvested wild hay; and planted a variety of agricultural crops for sale to the miners.

One of the first homesteaders, William Montgomery, filed a plat for a new city he named Middleton on July 23, 1863. He named the town Middleton because it was midway between the old Fort Boise and the new Fort Boise.

In surveying the townsite, Montgomery divided the town into eight city blocks, designating one lot as the town square. The lots were 136 feet square, and the streets 100 feet wide. He named the two principal streets Montgomery and Payette.

Homesteaders built small private diversions of water from the Boise River and its tributaries to irrigate their farms and ranches.

A local entrepreneur built the Middleton Flour Mill in 1871. Settlers throughout the region brought their wheat to the mill for sale or to exchange for flour.

The next year a heavy snowpack caused the Boise River to flood. Afterwards, residents literally moved the town about a quarter of a mile north to higher ground.

George Liggett, owner of the hotel and livery stable, gave a grand ball on October 26, 1880, as a farewell to the old Middleton townsite.

In 1907 the Boise and Interurban Railway completed construction of an electric trolley connecting Eagle, Star, Middleton and Caldwell. At about the same time, the Boise Valley Railway built a line connecting Boise, Meridian and Nampa.

Five years later, investors acquired the two companies and completed the rail link between Caldwell and Nampa creating a passenger and freight service called the "Boise Valley Loop." The railroad built an electrical substation in Middleton called the Middleton Trolley Station to convert alternating current to direct current used to electrify the railcars. The City now owns the Trolley Station and rents it for non-City sponsored events.

On April 10, 1910, Middleton became an incorporated village. In 1967 it changed its legal status to that of a city as required by a change in state municipal law.

Transformation from Dry High-Desert Landscape to Agricultural Oasis

Irrigation was critical to the economic development of Middleton. It started with small private diversions of water from the Boise River and its tributaries. However, it would require federal programs and funding to build dams, reservoirs and canal systems to bring irrigation water to the sagebrush-covered high desert west of Boise.

Federal support began in 1902 when Congress passed the Reclamation Act creating the U. S. Reclamation Service—now Bureau of Reclamation—authorizing federal construction and management of the dams and irrigation systems needed to reclaim the arid West.

One of the Bureau of Reclamation’s first endeavors which benefited Middleton farmers was the Boise Project, which eventually included an integrated system of hydroelectric dams on the Boise, Payette and Owyhee Rivers with thousands of miles of canals and ditches. The largest dams on the Boise River were Arrow Rock (1915), Anderson Ranch (1950) and Lucky Peak (1955). These dams provided storage capacity for release throughout the growing season.

Barber Dam, built a few miles east of Boise in 1908, diverted water into the New York Canal. This canal provided water for lower elevation canals and emptied into the Lake Lowell Reservoir, completed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1909. Lake Lowell was built around a natural depression in the earth’s surface near Nampa called Deer Flat.

In addition to building the dams and integrating the canal systems, the Bureau of Reclamation provided expertise and financial aid under a low-cost, long-term loan program. Within a few years, it developed a complex system of canals and lateral ditches throughout the valley, and farmers transformed the dry high-desert landscape into an agricultural oasis.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The City of Middleton has four parks. The largest, Middleton Place Park, is located on 12 acres. The park features a shelter, picnic facilities, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a baseball diamond, playground equipment and restrooms.

Roadside Park is in the heart of town along Idaho Highway 44. This park has three acres and features a creek, swings, picnic facilities, four horseshoe pits, restrooms and a walking bridge that leads to the City-owned and rentable Civic Center and Trolley Station.

Davis Park is a quarter-acre park next to the creek. It has picnic facilities and a shelter.

The Grove is a quarter-acre nature park bordering the city’s west pathway greenbelt.

The Greater Middleton Park and Recreation District owns and maintains three additional parks in the city. Hawthorne Park has seven acres with four baseball diamonds, play equipment and restrooms. The Richard B. Foote Memorial Park is a 23-acre parcel of which five acres are developed with soccer fields and a sand volleyball court. The remaining 18 acres are undeveloped. Ed Payne Park sits on a three-acre site. It has a softball diamond that is also used by younger baseball players.

The Middleton Library is a focal point for learning. The library can access books from other libraries and offers children’s programs, a book club and personal computers with Internet access.

Each spring, Middleton Heights Elementary holds its annual Spring Carnival. This community event consists of carnival games, food, raffle items and auction baskets put together by each classroom. Local businesses contribute to the event, and the proceeds go to school projects and grants for classroom teachers.

In March each year, the Middleton Booster Club holds its annual Dinner/Auction, and the Middleton Community Club sponsors an annual Chili Cook-Off.

The Saturday before Easter, the Greater Middleton Parks and Recreation District sponsors an Easter Egg Hunt at Foote Park for 5th grade children and younger.

Each April, the City sponsors Middleton Cleanup Day. This community-wide clean up brings everyone out to help get "our home" ready for summer activities.

Each May, seventh and eighth graders put on an "Evening of the Arts," where the children perform or display their talents.

The first Saturday in May is the annual Scout Plant Sale. Middleton Boy Scouts sell garden plants and flowers to raise funds for their camps and activities.

The May Day Fun Run, hosted by Middleton Elementary Schools, starts in the morning and ends with a bike fair. The bike fair raises bike safety awareness for community children and their parents.

The annual Middleton High School "Viking Homecoming" includes a community chili cook-off and fireworks.

The annual 4th of July Celebration includes a Fireman’s Breakfast, a parade, a street fair, a horseshoe tournament, a street dance and a fireworks display.

The weekend before Labor Day is the annual Boy Scout Fair, which includes many activities and educational experiences for the youth.

September also brings the community’s annual Dog Days of Summer K-9 Demo, sponsored by the Canyon County Sheriff’s Department, with free hotdogs and corn on the cob.

Every Thursday from May to October from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. local farmers and artisans bring their produce, plants, flowers, baked goods and handcrafted items to sell at the community’s Farmers Market.

The Fall Harvest Carnival, hosted by the Purple Sage Elementary PTA, is held each fall.

A Community Craft Bazaar is held each October to help the Middleton Community Pantry and the Middleton Food Bank.

Each year after Thanksgiving, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Festival.

In the fall and winter, the Greater Middleton Parks and Recreation District sponsors two train rides through the Thunder Mountain Line in Horseshoe Bend—the Pumpkin Liner in October and the North Pole Express in December.

Ten miles south of the city is the large and small mouth bass fishery, Lake Lowell and the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. Picnic facilities and boat ramps are located around the lake.

The Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge includes the lake, 110 miles of the Snake River and 86 islands on the river. Several hundred thousand migratory birds and 180 different bird species inhabit the refuge.

Fishing, boating and waterskiing are also available in other nearby lakes and reservoirs. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are available 20 miles northeast on the Payette River. Hunting, hiking and camping are within an hour’s drive at the Boise National Forest to the northeast or the Owyhee Mountains to the south.

The College of Idaho in Caldwell adds an important cultural dimension. Under its "Fine Arts Series," the College brings in performances of nationally recognized artists and theater companies. The Series is open to the public and held at the school’s Jewett Auditorium.

Five miles south of Middleton is the Treasure Valley Marketplace, a newly constructed retail center including Costco, Target and many other large retailers and restaurants.

Residents generally say that the city’s most attractive attribute is its rural location and home-town feel, yet it is within a short commute to nearby urban centers and employment.

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