A dedication program was held at the Boundary County Museum June 9 to present the historic interpretive signs funded in part through an Idaho Humanities Council Grant, featuring the history of farming in the Kootenai Valley and the bench land. Guests enjoyed a brief video presentation which included the Merle Olsen ranch on the Deep Creek Loop, Elk Mountain Hops Farm near Porthill, the Dallas Amoth Farm and Young Living Enterprises at Highland Flats.
A few quotable quotes warmed up the crowd and put them into story telling mode, and attendees were encouraged to relay a story or two from personal experience. These ranged from a history of at least one family farm dating back to the Dust Bowl Days, to humorous anecdotes from a former County Extension Agent.
Stories of amusing grain hauling trips, growing up and working on family farms, and various other recollections brought the past into the present with an abundance of laughter and lively discussion. The group then took a field trip to the back entrance of the museum building to view the newly installed panels.
The final panel features a large map of the drainage districts that protect the valley floor from serious flooding and erosion. Reclamation began in 1921, as residing landowners applied for and received authority to tax themselves to raise the money for construction and maintenance of dikes, ditches and pumps.
Some 35,000 acres of bottomland were drained and diked. Excess water from streams and river seepage was either pumped or naturally flowed by gravity into the Kootenai River by a system of drainage ditches.
Today, as a result, a patchwork of dikes and ditches make the valley much more suitable for farming.
There are 15 drainage districts in Boundary County, numbered in the order of application. District #1 was established in 1921, and District #16 was the last one, established in 1949. One District, #14 never materialized. The panel also displays the number of acres in each of the 15 Districts: #2 being the smallest at 784 acres, while #6 boasts the largest at 5,141 acres.
Further information regarding the Drainage Districts in Boundary County can be found at the Boundary County Museum in a study titled “Kootenai Flats Idaho-Flood Control Plans Studies,” by the U.S. Corp of Engineers.
A project of this nature requires many hours and research, writing, editing and finding photos to complement the text, as well as the volunteers to accomplish the task.
The Humanities Scholars for this project were Tom and Tracy Iverson, who served as authenticators as well as proofreaders. The graphic artist/designer was Andrea Kramer along with her husband Dave, who worked diligently to get a “perfect” layout after expertly touching up many of the Museum’s archived photos so they “pop” off the panels.
CW Wraps of Post Falls fabricated and installed the panels just in time for the dedication program. Museum volunteers Howard Kent, Terry Howe, curator Sue Kemmis and Dottie Gray provided the many hours of research and pulling the project together.
In addition to the funds provided by the Idaho Humanities Council Grant, the Boundary County Commissioners authorized additional funds to complete the project. The Historical Society is grateful for all those who made this exhibit possible.