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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines its Community Spotlight on Drummond

Monday, February 4, 2019  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Old Grain Elevator in Drummond

Drummond is surrounded by rolling hills of grain punctuated by an occasional farmhouse. The Grand Teton Mountain Range outlines the eastern sky.

The residents remaining in this once thriving community occupy nine of the city’s homes. The others are owned by non-residents and used as vacation homes.

Historical Tidbits

When the Oregon Short Line Railroad built its rail line through what is now Drummond around 1907, it connected several Eastern Idaho farming communities and provided the transportation needed by hundreds of farmers and ranchers to ship their commodities and livestock to distant markets.

Drummond began as a railroad stop on land homesteaded by Elmo Lamont. The railroad’s chief engineer at the time, Bill Ashton, said that he would name the trail stop after the homesteader. However, shortly thereafter Ashton was seriously injured by a runaway team of horses and had to be replaced. Ashton’s successor was a man named Drummond.

Drummond was a bald man of middle age and excellent character with a strong voice that could be heard from a long way off. It was said of him that, "Even at conversational level, his voice seemed to be pitched at someone a rod or two down the right of way."

Drummond used his position as the new chief engineer to set Ashton’s plan aside. He named the train stop after himself, saying he would give the name of Lamont to another community further east. He then successfully applied for the Drummond post office which opened October 31, 1911, and was involved in platting the town. The mail came by train and was then delivered to the surrounding communities by horse and wagon. In the winter the mail carrier used a dog sled.

Around that time Charles and Josephine Burrall owned the town’s general merchandise store as well as a store in nearby Squirrel. In 1914 Josephine’s brother, John Carlson, and his wife and four young sons came to Drummond to help run the stores.

A year earlier area residents built a three-story brick schoolhouse in Drummond. The building had a coal-fired, steam-heat furnace in the basement, five classrooms, an indoor volleyball court and restrooms. However, it only included classes up to the 10th grade.

In order for the children to take the last two years of high school, they boarded with families in the towns that had high schools. Many Drummond families lived in a second home in Ashton while their children attended high school, returning to their Drummond farms when school was out.

At that time, the Presbyterian Church was the only church in town. A traveling minister came periodically to hold services for area families. Other families traveled to Ashton or combined to hold services in their homes.

However, a terrible tragedy was about to strike this peaceful community. The tentacles of the global influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1919 reached Drummond with devastating force. Two families particularly affected by the virus—generally known as the Spanish Flu—were the Burrall and Carlson families. When the epidemic was over, only Charles Burrall and his nephews, the two youngest Carlson children, survived.

Drummond incorporated as a village on January 10, 1917. Three months later the citizens passed a bond to pay for a municipal well and water distribution system.

On October 14, 1919, they passed another bond to enlarge the water system. At that time, the population of the city was about 1,000. The business community consisted of two general stores, a drugstore, barbershop, pool hall, two grain elevators, a lumberyard, hotel and a bank.

The next year, Idaho Governor Charles Moore helped persuade "a trainload of people" from Missouri to homestead around Drummond, Lamont and France.

Dry-Land Farming and the Railroad

Early farmers found the arid land to be most suitable for raising dry-land winter wheat.

The railroad created the town and for decades provided the transportation system that promoted the agricultural settlement of the area. Drummond became the railroad shipping point for the area’s dry-land wheat farmers. In 1938 an estimated 250,000 bushels of Drummond wheat were loaded on rail cars.

As the years passed technological innovation in agricultural equipment, farming practices, improved plant varieties and motorized transportation encouraged farmers to invest in equipment that could cultivate more land with improved productivity and substantially fewer workers. In that environment, smaller farm operations began selling or leasing their property to larger operators. With these changes, there were fewer families and workers coming to town and retail businesses suffered.

The country was entering an era of more efficient motor vehicles and hard-surface roads connecting communities. By the middle of the century, trucks were hauling more commodities than trains. Unable to compete, the railroad shut down and abandoned its rail line through Drummond, jobs were lost and more residents moved.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The state-owned "Rails to Trails" hiking and biking path runs through town on the abandoned railroad right-of-way—one of the last remnants of Drummond’s more vibrant past.

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