Blackfoot—Spotlight City

Decades of Change

Story and Photos by Geraldine Matthias

Blackfoot was IDAHO magazine’s Spotlight City in June 2004. Copies of that issue are available from the magazine’s office or our website. And now it’s time to revisit.

February 1968. My husband opened the letter from a company then called American Potato. He was offered a job as a chemical engineer in the research department. We were moving again. After two-and-a-half years in Idaho Falls, where we’d moved after three years in Oklahoma, we would live in the small city of Blackfoot, thirty miles south of Idaho Falls. I’d been there once to visit the East Idaho State Fair (now known as the Eastern Idaho State Fair), but we hadn’t spent any time in the town at all. It seemed small. I was reluctant to leave Idaho Falls where I’d learned my way around, made a few friends and, importantly to me at least, I had reliable babysitters for our two young children. It didn’t matter. The movers would be at my door in a few weeks. Blackfoot did offer a few amenities, a couple of parks, a small (very small) library, and beautiful Shilling Street, whose historic homes and center islands were filled with several varieties of trees. Blackfoot, the Bingham County seat, still had a lovely old (albeit inadequate) courthouse surrounded by a sweeping lawn and graceful, mature trees. Off we went, searching for a rental house.

Years later, I delved into Blackfoot’s interesting and colorful history to discover I was not the first woman who didn’t consider Blackfoot to be my cup of tea.

Carrie Adell Strahorn‘s husband Robert was hired by the Union Pacific Railroad to explore and publicize the West.  He took the job only if she could accompany him and she did, for thirty years. In Volume 1 of her two-volume 1911 work, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, she describes a terrifying night spent in Blackfoot in the late 1870s.

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