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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Troy

Friday, December 15, 2017  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Troy is  nestled in a beautiful narrow valley surrounded by a patchwork of fertile fields of wheat, barley and peas interspersed by pine-covered ravines. The city’s beautiful setting in a canyon with wooded slopes exudes a feeling of comfort and peace.

The Palouse Range, with Moscow Mountain rising to nearly 5,000 feet, lies a few miles north. The western edge of the St. Joe National Forest begins about 18 miles northeast. Dworshak State Park Recreation Area and the 53-mile-long Dworshak Reservoir in the Clearwater National Forest are accessible about 33 miles southeast. The city of Moscow lies 11 miles west.

Historic Tidbits

For centuries, tribes of the nomadic Nez Perce Indians passed through and hunted in the forests that once covered the land surrounding what is now Troy. In fact, the city’s Main Street follows an old Nez Perce trail. In the late 1980s construction workers building the city’s wastewater treatment plant on the south edge of town, unearthed the remains of an old Nez Perce hunting camp.

Early settlers called the canyon where Troy is located "Huff’s Gulch." At that time, the canyon was densely forested and marshy. Early histories described the canyon as "so thick with forest [tall pine and cedar trees] that birds could scarcely fly through."

In 1885 J. Wesley Seat filed a homestead claim for 160 acres in the heart of what is now downtown Troy. He built a portable sawmill that he moved as he harvested the timber. Other homesteaders were also moving into the area.

Many of these homesteaders held church services in homes until they could construct their church buildings. The United Methodist congregation built their first church in 1887; Trinity Lutheran (Norwegian) in 1897; and Troy Christian Church and the Scandinavian Methodist Church were constructed a few years later. The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Westdala congregation built a 24 foot x 26 foot x 14 foot church in 1891. It had a tower that was "at least no lower than that of the Scandinavian Methodist Church." It still stands on Main Street and has been in continuous use since then. The Troy Christian Church also still stands, but it is in serious disrepair and is no longer usable.

Around 1891 the Northern Pacific Railroad completed a branch line from Spokane, Washington, to Lewiston, Idaho. The survey took the railroad through Huff’s Gulch. The railroad’s steam engines required constructing a stop about every 20 miles in order to take on water and fuel.

In anticipation of the rail line, a group of Moscow and other entrepreneurs that included Seat and John P. Vollmer—a Lewiston merchant, banker and agent for the railroad—sought to plat a new town on Seat’s land. Vollmer used his influence with the railroad to insure the rail line between Moscow and Kendrick would pass through the new town that the founders would name Vollmer.

With the railroad assured, the founders sold building lots in the new community. John Vollmer built a general merchandise store and livery stable on two of the lots.

Vollmer used a similar business strategy of using his influence and insider information to establish, or try to establish, other Northern Idaho cities.

Homesteaders cleared their land and planted grains, peas and fruit they planned to ship by rail to commercial markets. In addition, about five sawmills had set up in the canyon.

Many homesteaders cut and corded wood for sale to the railroad to fuel the trains. By that time, the town had two grocery confectionery stores; a general merchandise store; a hotel; and two newspapers, the Alliance Ledger and the Vollmer Vidette.

The January 1, 1892, edition of the Moscow Mirror quoted an article in the Alliance Register of Vollmer extolling the agricultural benefits of the area, the timber resources and the "very healthy climate." The same article lists the leading businessmen and their enterprises in glowing terms. Not surprisingly, all persons listed were advertisers in the newspaper.

The article continues with a section about the homes in Vollmer. "We are pleased to see so many neat and tasteful residences in Vollmer and that the work of building and improving still goes on. There certainly has been a great improvement since last year, when the town could boast of scarcely anything except shanties."

The town’s business buildings had storefronts equipped with canvas awnings. When the weather warranted, they would roll up or down the awnings with a metal hand crank.

In 1893 school patrons erected the town’s first schoolhouse on North Main Street. It had over 100 students. They separated the students into three age groups, taught by three teachers. The first known graduation took place in 1905 and consisted of 11 students.

On April 19, 1892, the Nez Perce County Commissioners approved the town’s application making Vollmer an incorporated village.

A few years later, wet fall weather crippled the agricultural economy. For three years, rain soaked the wheat standing in shocks in the fields. This caused the wheat to sprout making it almost worthless. Many farmers could not pay their mortgages and lost their farms to foreclosure. These economic problems in the farming community had a ripple adverse effect on the town’s business community.

At this time, many citizens had also become upset with John Vollmer. He had promised to build a community center and failed to do so. They also resented having their town named after a man who had amassed over 32,000 acres of land, much of it obtained by acquiring foreclosed farmland—perceived as taking unfair advantage of farmers’ misfortunes.

On September 6, 1897, the village held an election to reconsider the name of the town. A Greek railroad worker suggested they name the town Troy, the name of "the most illustrious city in the world." He offered a drink of whisky to anyone who voted for "Troy." The vote was 29 for Troy and 9 for Vollmer. On September 16, 1897, the county commissioners officially changed the name of the village to Troy.

Profound effect of World War II

The war had a profound effect on Troy. Not only did most of the city’s youth serve in the military, many families moved out of town for high-paying defense jobs on the coast. When the veterans returned home, they had new skills and high hopes. Many started new businesses that added to the city’s economy.

However, this period of a vibrant downtown business community was short lived as gasoline rationing ceased and motor vehicles became the preferred mode of travel. Many residents drove to larger nearby cities to do their shopping. Several local retailers gradually closed their doors.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The city has two parks comprising nine acres. The largest park, Welna Park, has a tennis court, softball field and children’s playground. It also has a covered gazebo that holds several picnic tables and a bandstand. A walking path circles through the grassy park.

On the third Saturday in July each year, the park is the site of Troy’s biggest celebration. The celebration, put on by the Troy Lions Club, is variously called Troy Day, Community Day or Old Timer’s Day and includes a "Buffalo Hunt Raffle" where tickets go on sale over the Internet several weeks in advance of the drawing.

Other Troy Day activities are a pancake breakfast, parade, car show, kid’s races, buffalo burgers and other raffles. The parade and an exhibit depicting facets of Troy history, prepared by the Troy Historical Society, occur downtown. In recent years, a street dance has been held on Main Street in the evening. Everything else is at the City Park.

The Greymalkin Art Gallery features the work of local artists. The Troy Community Library is located in the Bohman Building financed with a community fundraising campaign that started with the 1992 Centennial celebration and was completed with the help of volunteer labor.

Troy is the terminus for a walking and bicycle trail that begins in Moscow and ends on the southern edge of the city.

The nearby forests and Spring Valley Lake provide outstanding outdoor recreation, including fishing and hunting.

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