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Top 10 Historical Facts About Nampa, Idaho

Nampa, Idaho has had an interesting history growing up from a mixture of railroad and agricultural town. As the state’s second-largest city, a lot has happened as it has grown. We did some digging and found a lot of fun facts. Here is a list of the top 10 historical facts about Nampa.

There is some speculation as to the origin of Nampa’s name. 

Many early residents called it New Jerusalem because of the large religious community. The general consensus about the origins of “Nampa” is that it is from a Native American word for “foot”. Some historians say it was named after a Shoshone Chief named Nampus, which means “bigfoot” according to local legend. Others say it refers to “Namb”, which means footprint or moccasin. Native Americans in the region were known to stuff their moccasins with or wrap their feet in sage brush to insulate against the frozen winter ground, making their footprints larger.

The streets in Nampa are laid out differently than other railroad towns of the same age.

Most towns in that era were built with roads that ran north-south. The streets in Nampa run perpendicular to the tracks, which run northeast-southeast. Nampa founder Alexander Duffes did this on purpose to prevent fatal accidents like one he saw near Toronto, Canada when a buggy got stuck trying to cross the railroad tracks and was hit by a train. He surmised that fewer crossing points would mean fewer accidents. By all accounts, he was correct.

Nampa had one of the fanciest railroad depots in the area.

While the Boise Depot gets a lot of attention, the Nampa depot gives it stiff competition. The Oregon Short Rail Line bypassed Boise and instead went through Nampa on its route between Granger, Wyoming and Huntington, Oregon. This brought a lot of people and money to the area, so a fancy building to greet them was built in 1903. It is considered one of Idaho’s best examples of Baroque revival architecture. Currently, the depot is the home of the Canyon County Museum.

Northwest Nazarene University was originally an elementary school. 

NNU started out as a grade school named Idaho Holiness School. The school was built in 1913 by a local congregation of the Church of the Nazarene to teach 13 students. In 1916, it was converted into Northwest Nazarene College and more buildings were built. In 1931, it received accreditation by the Idaho Board of Education as a degree-granting institution. This made it the first accredited college affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. Today, there are 8 Nazarene-affiliated colleges and universities around the country. 6 years later, the school began granting 4-year degrees. In 1999, it was renamed to Northwest Nazarene University.

The Snake River Stampede started with a farmer’s market. 

The Harvest Festival was started as a street fair in 1908 and was massively popular. By all accounts, it was a farmers market for Nampa. In 1931, a bucking bronco contest was added for more entertainment and the rodeo was born. In 1937, the harvest festival popularity declined, but the rodeo portion grew in popularity, drawing national rodeo talent. To this day, the Snake River Stampede is a stop on the national rodeo tour and is one of the top 10 rodeos in the United States.

Nampa’s founder didn’t want any saloons in town.

Nampa’s founder, Alexander Duffes, was very religious and refused to sell building lots to anyone who wanted to build a saloon. Yet in 1888, of the 28 buildings that made up the town, 3 were saloons. Ironically in 1909, the Duffes’ home was moved after his death and a brewery was built in its place.

Nampa has a school for the mentally disabled. 

In 1918, the Idaho State School and Hospital was built to help the state’s developmentally disabled population. The school was on large tracts of land and contained a farm that was staffed by students and residents. Eventually, most of the land was sold and now exists as Centennial and Ridgecrest Golf Courses. The institution still operates today.

Nampa contains 24 city parks.

The largest is Lakeview Park, which . The parks contain playgrounds, sports fields, workout stations, and lots of open green space. Make it a point this year to visit each one!

Nampa’s strong agricultural roots. 

Nampa is one of the top producers of sweet corn seed, alfalfa, sugar beets, mint, onion, and cattle. Onions and mint are among Idaho’s top exports. The sugar beet factory was built in 1942 and produces sugar for the White Satin Brand. The parent company, the Amalgamated Sugar Company, was founded in Utah in 1897. The headquarters moved to Nampa sometime after World War II.

The Nampa School District is one of the largest in Idaho.

The Nampa School District includes 15 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 4 high schools. Nampa is also home to Northwest Nazarene University and the College of Western Idaho.

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