Once Enlivened by Transportation and Water, Will This Town Fade Back into the Desert?
By Dean Worbois
King Hill was a thriving community when my grandfather bought the last unclaimed property of the King Hill Irrigation District in 1920. Today the place is devoid of businesses. With the coming of diesel engines, the railroad no longer needed the water tower and began keeping its helper engines for the King Hill Grade in nearby Glenns Ferry, where the main yard and roundhouse were located. Nowadays, the trains don’t stop even in Glenns Ferry. But in my grandfather’s day, the pride of King Hill was a substantial two-story brick schoolhouse dominating the town from a knoll just north of the bank, hotel, bar, grocery story, café, and other businesses lining Meridian Street.
Signs of the First Inhabitants
People lived on this big bend of the Snake River for two thousand years before a wheel ever crossed the land. Mark Plew, a professor in Boise State University’s Department of Anthropology, has excavated five sites along the river at King Hill. Bands were small, just ten to twelve people. The deer and rabbits that comprised most of their diet were plentiful, but scarce fuel for cooking and warmth forced the bands to move on. An interesting oddity of the archeological record around King Hill, including from Three Island Crossing in Glenns Ferry to Hagerman, is that this is the only place on the Snake River where metal points are found in the digs. We know from Captain John C. Fremont’s journals that he brought metal rings for trade. Apparently, native people quickly realized how handy metal is for working into projectile points.
In the valley around King Hill everyone picked up rocks—and they’re still picking them up. Rocks are piled into fences and have been used to build homes, including the one my mother was raised in west of town. About five years ago, when I first introduced myself to Jean Allen, who now owns the property with her husband Roy, Jean’s first words were, “Well, we’re still picking up rocks” (for that story, see “House of Stone,” IDAHO magazine, November 2008). Roy now assures me he has a big tractor with teeth, and he’s going to get those rocks out for good. Jean rolls her eyes.