Big Hailey Fire

John L. Baxter of Fairfield, Idaho, whose reminiscences of early days have lately been published in the Camas County Courier, has this to say of the early citizens of Hailey: “I want to say that the citizens of Hailey went very strong for anything that they wanted. They could raise money for anything that would help Hailey, and I believe there are a good many residents in Hailey who are just as loyal now as were those of that time. Just to show what kind of citizens there were in Hailey, I want to state one incident that occurred at that time. The people of Camas Prairie wanted a road into the Big Smoky country. I went into Hailey to try to raise money to put in bridges across Big Smoky and South Boise River so there could be a road put in the next spring so that people would be able to cross these streams in high water. I went to a business man and told him what we would like. He asked me to go with him for a little while and I did. In less than two hours, he handed me $300.00 to help put in these bridges. That is the way the Hailey people always were. They were always ready to
help build up the country. That was the starter of the road to Big Smoky.”

On September 24, 1883, fire in Hailey destroyed the business portion of the east side of Main Street between Bullion and Croy Streets. Estimated loss: $75,000. In place of the frame buildings destroyed, substantial brick buildings were soon erected. On July 2, 1889, about 1:30 in the morning, the Nevada Hotel in Hailey was discovered to be on fire. This hotel was situated about the same place as the Hailey Commercial Club building is at present, which is about half way between Bullion and Carbonate streets on the east side of Main Street. There was a strong wind blowing at the time and the fire got beyond control and burned all the business section except the brick store building of S. J. Friedman, which is still intact; the rear of the building now owned and occupied by the Friedman company as a general store, and the rear of the building now owned and occupied by Dr. Robert H. Wright as his office. The S. J. Friedman store had a dirt roof under the ordinary roof which accounts for its not being destroyed. The loss caused by this fire was estimated at the time to be about $500,000.00.

Before winter the greater part of the burnt district had been re built. The Fourth of July celebration that year was held out near the Hailey Hot Springs Hotel, about one and half miles west of town. This was a fine hotel which was built in 1888-9. It was heated by the natural hot water. It had a gentlemen’s plunge adjoining, bath rooms, and a ladies’ plunge a short distance from the hotel. Robert E. Strahorn was the first manager. It was destroyed by fire in August, 1899.

Hailey was incorporated as a village in April, 1903, and in April, 1909, became a city of the second class. At present, Hailey is well supplied with business houses, two banks, three churches, hotels, rooming houses, restaurants, three garages, five service stations, two drug stores, one assay office, one grade school and one accredited high school, an up-to-date hospital, a talking picture theatre, and a large auditorium. The following fraternal organizations are well represented, namely, Masons, Eastern Star, Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Modern Woodmen of America, Royal Neighbors, Eagles and W. B. A. They all meet in the Odd Fellows’ Hall. Each succeeding year finds this town becoming more of a summer resort. The nights here are always cool. Since the settlement of the Gooding and Twin Falls tracts, the increase in the number of summer tourists is quite noticeable. A great number of sheep and lambs are shipped from this station every year.

The Wood River Daily Times of August 4, 1884, devotes two columns to W. W. Cole’s Circus, which arrived that morning by special train. The estimated number of persons in town was 5,000. The greater part of the article, however, is taken up with a description of the havoc wrought by Samson, the five-ton, 100-year-old elephant. It states he went on the rampage and killed two horses, overturned four wagons, and demolished three railway cars. It also states that 40 or 50 shots were fired at him with rifles and, although several hit him, they were without effect. It describes the consternation created by Samson. Finally, Samson attempted to climb onto a pile of ties. Being unable to get a firm footing, this halted him, and the circus-hands threw ropes over and downed him. After resting a few moments, they led him back to his tent gentle as a lamb.

The Wood River Times in 1884 had the following: Wood River’s Record

 In 1878 Wild Indians

In 1880 Settled by the whites.

In 1881 Yield of the mines $1,250,000

In 1882 Yield of the mines $2,500,000

In 1883 Yield of the mines $3,500,000 In 1884 Yield of the mines $5,000,000 (Estimated) The foregoing figures are given for what they are worth. The year 1879 is omitted from the list, perhaps for the purpose of making a good showing. But as the development of mining on Wood River began in 1879, it should have been included with 1880 as “settled by the whites.”

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