Jerusalem Valley—Spotlight

Timeless, Pure, Inspirational

By F.A. Loomis

Jerusalem Valley, a tiny community just east of Highway 55 above Horseshoe Bend, allegedly was named when two Porter Creek natives left a bar and its fisticuffs in Horseshoe Bend in the 1880s. One said to the other, “It’s time to go home.” And the other responded, “Yes, let’s head back to Jerusalem.” The name stuck, for the valley seemed—as it still seems—timeless, pure, and inspirational.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, my paternal grandmother was no longer teaching school in Jerusalem or on the Gold Fork River, but knowing she had once taught in Jerusalem gave me the incentive to learn its history. Those familiar with the area know how pristine it is, with few new housing encroachments. It is still easy to stand anywhere in Jerusalem Valley and see clean, rolling hills as far as possible, sparsely populated by horses, cattle, sheep, and homesteads amid wild grasses, alfalfa, sage, wild rose, and a smattering of tiny orchards or lone apple, apricot, or plum trees. The small population of today still looks forward to spring, when natural edibles such as woolly-britches, camas root, balsamroot, wild onions, and watercress appear.

In her 1976 book Ollie’s Yesteryears, Ollie Gunderson Grindstaff wrote, “The hills were covered from early spring until late fall with Johnny-jump-ups (dog-tooth violets), sego lilies, wild sweet peas (white and pink), snow drops, rooster heads, roses, violets, both purple and yellow . . . There were the woolly-britches that grew under the bushes all along the creeks and low places. Mother cooked them for greens, and we loved them. In those days fresh vegetables were nonexistent (except carrots from our cellar), so we were hungry for green stuff. Rather like the cows that had been on dry hay all winter and when they got a taste of green vegetation, they ate it all. Lena said she would never forget how the milk tasted after they ate so generously of the wild onions.”

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