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Owyhee County
Established: 12/31/1863

Parent County: Original

Co. Seat: Cities
Murphy: Bruneau, Grand View, Homedale, Marsing, Riddle

Established December 31, 1863 with its county seat at Ruby City. Owyhee County, Idaho was an original county of Idaho Territory. This was the first county to be established by the first territorial legislature. In 1867 the county seat was moved to Silver City and in 1934 to Murphy. Gold was discovered on Jordan Creek in 1863, and millions of dollars of gold and silver were taken from Silver City region until the industry declined in the early 1900s. It is a very rural county, noted mostly for mining, ranching, and farming. It is the second largest county in land area in Idaho, but has only slightly more than 10,000 residents. Information following on Owyhee County submitted by Mary O’Malley
Owyhee County History When Meriwether Lewis and three companions stepped into Idaho at Lemhi pass in August 1805, they were the first Euro-Americans to enter Idaho, last of the 50 states entered by non-Indians. By September 1809, London-born David Thompson, fur-trader and geographer for the Northwest Company, had built a trading fort on Lake Pend d’
Oreille east of Sandpoint, the first house built by Europeans in what became Idaho.

In early November 1811, Scotland-born Ramsey Crooks and 18 companions became the first Europeans to enter what became Owyhee county, when they traveled the south banks of the Snake River from west of Burley to near Weiser. They were part of the Astorians, as the group sent overland in 1811 by John Jacob Astor to start a furtrading post (named Astoria) at the mouth of the Columbia River.

The name Owyhee comes from the river that Scotland-born Northwest Company leader Donald McKenzie sent three of his employees to trap. These three men were called “Owyhees” after their home in what was then called the Sandwich Islands. (When Captain James Cook discovered and named the Sandwich Island in 1778, he asked the natives what they called themselves and wrote the answer as “Owyhees”. When American missionarieswrote this name they spelled it “Hawaii”.) Natives of the islands often were hired by fur-trading companies when ships bound for the Columbia stopped at the islands for provisions. Most fur-trading groups in the Snake Riverccountry had several in their company. When McKenzie came back to meet them in the spring of 1820, the Indians told them that other Indians had killed them. The only thing found of the three men was one of their horses with the Indians and the bones of one of the men. The river and the country around it were called Owyhee after these men.

Idaho became a Territory in 1863 and Owyhee County was the first county created. On December 31, the first Territorial Legislature decreed that “all that part of said Territory lying south of the Snake River and west of the summit of the Rocky Mountains chain be, and the same is hereby organized into a county to be called Owyhee”. Oneida County was formed from Owyhee County east of the 113th meridian on January 22, 1864 in the samesession of the Legislature. In 1879, Cassia County was created from the eastern part of Owyhee County, and in1930, the people of King Hill voted to join Elmore County.

When Owyhee County was created in 1963, Ruby City was the first county seat. But Silver City, just onemile south soon became much larger and on February 1, 1867, was named the county seat. As mining failed andagriculture became the main industry of the county, Murphy was voted the county seat in 1934. The CountyCourthouse was completed in 1935 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

County Clerk:
County Courthouse, POB 128, Murphy, Idaho 83650-0128 Phone: (208) 495-2421 Fax: (208) 495-1173

IGS Publication: Spring 2002