The thrill of the hunt leads historian and songwriter to Boundary County
Born and raised in West Virginia, Gary Eller has a deep love for the historical stories and songs that originated from his home state.
When he moved to southern Idaho in 2004, he started searching out similar stories and songs native to the area.
He didn’t find much at first but he was certain they were out there.
Eller knew that a number of Idaho’s early settlers “came from the neck of the woods I’m from […] and didn’t stop writing songs because they came here.” He “figured they just got lost somehow.”
His assumption turned out to be correct and the Idaho Songs Project was born.
Eller collects, interprets and preserves pre-1923 (before radio came to Idaho) songs, poems and stories. A lifelong banjo and guitar player, he records and produces combination CDs and interpretive booklets for each project, often setting the poetry he finds to music. The Idaho Songs Project now includes over 200 songs.
He has traveled through Idaho, collecting songs, poems and stories from libraries and museums, as well as from people who bring them to him. He looks for pieces that are specific to “the culture of early Idaho.”
With a doctoral degree in chemistry, Eller is no stranger to research — and it’s a skill that has served him well throughout the Idaho Songs Project. He enjoys the “thrill of the hunt” and has been in “every library and museum in the state of Idaho.”
Now, Eller is coming to North Idaho for his 20th and final project. In conjunction with the Boundary County Historical Society and Museum and through a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, he will be holding workshops at the Boundary County Museum