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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Hamer

Tuesday, March 10, 2020  
Posted by: Payton Grover
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City of Hamer

Hamer is small farming community located about 35 miles north of Idaho Falls on Interstate 15. Vast acreages of public lands, interspersed with large farms and ranches surround the city. The lakes, streams and wetlands of the 10,578-acre Camas National Wildlife Refuge and the adjoining 8,853-acre Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area are located to the immediate west of the city.

Historical Tidbits

Years For millennia, Native American Indians came to the area that now comprises the Camas National Wildlife Refuge and the Mud Lake Wildlife Management  Area to hunt and fish. In 1863 prospectors discovered placer gold in what is now western Montana. A stagecoach and freight wagon trail soon developed from Utah to the Montana gold fields.  The trail, called the Gold Road, crossed the Snake River at Idaho Falls and continued about 85 miles north to Monida Pass and on into Montana. The stagecoach company built relay stations every 12-15 miles where travelers could rest and eat. One of these relay stations, named Sandhole Station, would become the city of Hamer. A few years after completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit in northern Utah in 1869, the Utah and Northern Railroad—later merged into the Oregon Short Line Railroad—began constructing a rail line from Corrine, Utah, to Butte, Montana. The rail line generally followed the Gold Road. In 1879, the rail line reached Sandhole Station. The railroad built  its roundhouse and depot five miles north of Sandhole Station at Camas. Three years later in 1882, there was a serious drought and the railroad’s Camas well went dry. Railroad officials found that at Dry Creek, later named Dubois, located 16 miles north of Camas had a much better water supply. They moved their roundhouse and other buildings to Dubois. There they drilled a well and built a water tower, telegraph office and section house. Several men worked at the roundhouse and operated the helper engines used to get the trains over the 6,824-foot-high Monida Pass. As a general practice, the railroad built train stops about every 20 miles. With the abandonment of the Camas location, Sandhole Station, located about 20 miles south of Dubois, became a train stop. Sam Turman, a long-time Hamer resident, said the railroad steam engines would stop at Sandhole Station for water and load locally produced cattle and sheep for market. Sam Turman’s grandfather, James Ross Turman, came to the area as an employee of the railroad. He worked leveling railroad track beds with a Fresno (horse drawn) scraper.  James   liked the location so much he filed a homestead claim at Sandhole Station near the railroad track. In 1908 he constructed a general store out of lava rock. Sam Turman said, “The store had everything from pickles and candy in barrels, big rounds of cheese, horseshoes, neck yokes and anything a farmer or rancher would need. The upstairs had rooms that were rented out to school teachers or sheep herders.” James then applied to the postal authorities for a post office operated out of his store. His application specified the post office name of Hamer; named  after Col. Thomas R. Hamer—a resident of St Anthony, Spanish-American War veteran and Idaho Territorial Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hamer was first incorporated as  a village. Its status changed to a city with a change in legislation in 1967.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The city’s small population obscures its importance to the area’s far-flung farm and ranch families. The city is the center for events that bring the greater community together. The city has a post office, an elementary school that houses the public library and a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints meetinghouse and grounds that often are used for community events. Its retail businesses consist of a tire and parts store, scale house and a bar. Annual community events include an Independence Day celebration each July and a Christmas program put on by the students at the school. Two service organizations, the Hamer Lions Club and the Hamer Friends of the Library support the community. The Camas National Wildlife Refuge and the Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area are prominent attractions. A broad array of migratory and native birds and animals thrive among the diverse habitats of the area. Ducks, geese, trumpeter swans, songbirds, raptors, moose, elk, deer and pronghorn antelope inhabit these wildlife preserves. Both the Refuge and Management Area have facilities to accommodate the increasing numbers of people coming to watch the birds and view the big game that come out of the mountains each winter. Hamer has continual winds, clean air and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Over the centuries, the winds produced the St. Anthony Sand Dunes. These sand dunes begin about 10 miles northeast of the city and cover an area 35 miles long and up to five miles wide. The height of the dunes themselves range from 70 to 365 feet—a height greater than the dunes in Death Valley, California. In the winter, the winds often produce high sweeping snowdrifts that turn the landscape into a beautiful winter wonderland; a paradise for cross country skiers and snowmobilers.

 


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