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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Filer

Friday, November 15, 2019  
Posted by: Payton Grover
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The city of Filer is located in the heartland of the Magic Valley about 10 miles west of Twin Falls. New residents are attracted to Filer because it offers affordable housing near the urban amenities of Twin Falls where many commute to work.

Historical Tidbits

Prior to 1811 when the first Euro-American explorers/trappers came, American Indians of the Bannock and Shoshone Tribes inhabited the vast sagebrush-covered lands now known as the Magic Valley. Beginning in the 1870s cattle ranchers used the land as winter range for their livestock. Twenty-two-year-old Ira B. Perrine moved his herd of 40 dairy cows from the Wood River Valley to Blue Lakes in the Snake River Canyon in 1884. He had a business providing dairy products and meat to the Wood River miners. However, with winter approaching, he needed a place with abundant grass to winter his livestock. Perrine built a flood irrigation system and grew fruit, berries, wheat and vegetables, which he sold to the Wood River Valley miners along with dairy products and meat. In 1894 the U.S. Congress passed the Carey Act. Under the Act, the federal government ceded up to one million acres to any state that would bring the land under cultivation. Development of the land was a public-private partnership. Idaho would ultimately use 850,000 acres of its allotment. Under the Act, private interests financed and built dams and canals. The State, represented by the Idaho State Land Board, sold 40 to 160 acre parcels of land to individuals, and the developers sold water rights and town site lots. Congress would later pass other land reclamation laws. For example, the U.S. Reclamation Service—created in 1902—built many other dams and irrigation systems in Idaho.

Around 1900 Perrine sought to develop a “Carey Act” diversion dam—Milner Dam—across the Snake River at a point above Shoshone and Twin Falls known as The Cedars. Ultimately, water from the dam would irrigate over 244,000 acres. Perrine formed the Twin Falls Land and Water Company (TFLWC) and brought together investors in the project. Several Magic Valley communities and places bear the names of TFLWC investors and officers. One of the company’s principles, Walter J. Filer, was an engineer born in Sharon, Pennsylvania. He became the company’s vice president and general manager for dam and canal construction. On January 2, 1903, the State Land Board approved the TFLWC dam and irrigation plan and signed the contract. TFLWC formed a townsite and an investment company, platted the new town of Twin Falls and filed the plats with the county. On August 7, 1905, the Oregon Short Line railroad reached Twin Falls. However, connecting branch lines west to Filer and Buhl would not come until 1907.

Achille Duquesne filed the first homestead claim in the area that became Filer. Two other homesteading families, Rettig and Lorain, pooled their resources with Duquesne and formed the Filer Townsite Company (FTC) in 1905. The FTC named its new town Filer after Walter G. Filer, platted the town and formed the Filer Investment Company, Ltd. The Investment Company opened the town for the sale of lots on April 14, 1906—the same day Buhl opened its lots for auction. On November 18, 1905, the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction came to Filer to appoint a School Board. The school was established and opened January 15, 1906, with 18 pupils. Finalizing the site for the business section of town, however, proved problematic. After the plat was completed, a representative of the Oregon Short Line Railroad indicated that the railroad planned to build a rail siding northeast of what is now the fairgrounds. Several businesses actually put their buildings on skids, hooked them up to teams of horses and moved them to where they believed the railroad siding would be constructed. However, a couple of entrepreneurs, the Coffin Brothers, saw an opportunity and bought the entire proposed railroad siding site. The businesses that had moved their buildings had to move them again. They moved them to lots they acquired near what is the city’s present business center on Main and Yakima. John Sommer, a child of one of the proprietors, said that with all the moving of buildings, he did not know where to find his school the next morning. Filer became an incorporated village on November 11, 1909. On July 30, 1926, Filer became an incorporated city, effective after the election in May 1927.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The city has two parks built on a total of 15 acres. The parks have picnic and playground facilities and ball fields. The Twin Falls County Fairgrounds are located in Filer. The county fair is held annually in September and has grown to be one of the largest fairs in Idaho. The fairgrounds are also the center of activities almost every weekend, especially in the summer months. The historic Union School, constructed in 1900, houses the County Historical Museum, which features a large collection of early artifacts. A blacksmith shop, pioneer house and craft house are available on the grounds for viewing during the summer months. In addition, two ice wagons, a steam tractor, a 1940 Twin Falls Fire Engine, and numerous other pieces of old farm equipment and other items of interest are displayed outside. The Snake River and the deep canyon that it cut is six miles north of the city and extends several miles in an east-west direction. On the western stretch of the river and canyon are four separate units of Thousand Springs State Park. These four park units are Billingsley Creek, the Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Malad Gorge and Niagara Springs. The units are excellent fisheries and have spectacularly beautiful crystal-clear cold water bursting out of the canyon walls and flowing into the Snake River. The city of Twin Falls is on the southern edge of the eastern stretch of the canyon. Two miles further upstream are the spectacular Shoshone Falls—the “Niagara Falls of the West.” The Sawtooth National Forest starts 20 miles southeast of Filer. Downhill skiing is available at Magic Mountain Ski Resort, which rises to over 8,000 feet. The resort is located in the forest about 40 miles from the city on Rock Creek Road. Several state and federal reserves, monuments, wildlife management areas and attractions are located within an hour’s drive from the city. Balanced Rock, a Unique Natural Feature, is located 20 miles west of the city. The 49-milelong City of Rocks Back County Byway to the City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park starts 30 miles southeast in the city of Oakley.

Starting to the west of Balanced Rock are vast acreages of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands. These lands extend well into the neighboring states of Oregon and Nevada. The nearby public lands offer a variety of hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, swimming, boating, rock climbing and winter sports adventures to both the casual and experienced outdoor enthusiast. 

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