The Visitor Turns Evangelist
By Amy Larson
I have to admit, I hadn’t much considered Wilder. Located on US Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 19, about fourteen miles west of Caldwell and forty miles west of Boise, one could breeze right through Wilder and not think twice. A store and post office, some modest houses, a lonely railroad track cutting across the main street. Out of curiosity, I read up on the place and found, as with every town in Idaho that’s examined closely, a myriad of stories.
In 1904 a group of settlers decided to put down roots there, and often had to haul water from the Snake River to their homesteads. They were making a go of it, and investors began rubbing their hands together over the area, thinking they’d take the railroad from Butte, Montana through Idaho, and then clear to San Francisco. Expecting a boomtown future, people talked big, and the group of financiers unofficially dubbed the place “Golden Gate.” Settlers liked the name so much, they named a school, a Baptist church, a store, and their irrigation and canal district after it.
And Golden Gate it would have remained, had it not been for Marshall P. Wilder, the enterprising editor of a widely-read women’s magazine called The Delineator, who bargained with an official to name the town after him in exchange for a favorable write-up. (For one short month, the town was known as “Wilderia,” but that got nixed for what might seem like obvious reasons.) The community didn’t exactly love the new handle, thinking Golden Gate sounded much better.