Quiet and Busy All the Time
Story and Photos by Lorie Palmer Russell
I have never understood how people can be bored in a small town. In Grangeville, which has a population of about 3,300, our family always has to make choices about how to spend our free time. Actually, there was a small reduction in those choices back in the warm months of 2007 and again in 2020, when severe storms knocked down the movie screens at the drive-in theater, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from my house. We missed seeing the movies from home during those summers. But generally, from school and church events to dinners and balls sponsored by local organizations to fun runs and walks and craft fairs, sports, and book clubs at the library, there’s always something to do.
I’m not an expert on Grangeville but as a reporter for the Idaho County Free Press, I have spent the past twenty-seven years writing about the town that’s been my home for twenty-eight years. Our family’s roots in Grangeville go deeper than that, as my parents lived here in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My dad was stationed at the nearby Cottonwood Air Force Base and my brother, Steven, was born at Grangeville’s Syringa Hospital in 1961. I followed my parents to Grangeville in 1994, after they retired here, where my husband and I were happy to raise our family. The town lies in a picturesque part of the state’s north-central region, along U.S. Highway 95 where the Camas Prairie and Nez Perce National Forest unite.
In addition to its fortunate setting, Grangeville offers historical charms that go back to the 1860s, when prospectors and gold seekers crossed a giant meadow on their way to goldfields in Florence and Elk City. In 1897, that meadow became the site of the City of Grangeville and in 1902, voters designated it the Idaho County seat. Grangeville was named for the town’s grange hall, which stood where a restaurant and lounge are now located. A flour mill built at about the same time received no such recognition.
According to the 1990 book Idaho County Voices, edited by Zona Chedsey and Carolyn Frei, thirty-five people lived in Grangeville when the Nez Perce War broke out in 1877. Just thirteen years later, the Idaho County Free Press’s owner, A.F. Parker, wrote about the town, “It has all the elements of a quiet, progressive center, and is one of the most moral, orderly and law-abiding towns in America.”