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AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Gooding

Thursday, August 24, 2017  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Old TB Hospital in Gooding

Surrounded by fertile farms inside vast tracts of prehistoric lava flows and public land, Gooding is about 33 miles north of Twin Falls.

The Little Wood and Big Wood Rivers bracket the city and the Snake River comes within about 12 miles of the city on the west and southwest.

Historic Tidbits

Fur trappers arrived in the area in the early 1800s and were the first newcomers to compete with the nomadic Indians for the natural resources of the Snake River Plain. The trappers primarily worked the tributaries draining into the Snake River.

Cattle and sheep ranchers began grazing their herds on the large expanse of rangeland near what is now Gooding in the 1870s. However, it was not until the railroad came that significant settlement began.

In 1882 the Oregon Short Line Railroad built a rail line between Granger, Wyoming, and Huntington, Oregon. When the line reached Shoshone, the railroad stopped to build a branch line north to the mines in the Wood River Valley. A year later, the rail line passed through Gooding and on to Caldwell and Huntington, located just across the Snake River from Weiser. When completed on November 17, 1884, the line connected Portland with Omaha.

Some railroad workers and passengers returned to Gooding as homesteaders and settlers. They were attracted by the settlement potential of the large tracts of fertile land between lava flow outcroppings and the prospect of using water from the Big Wood and Little Wood Rivers for irrigation.

The railroad’s chief engineer, Jacob Blickensdorfer (or Blickensderfer, the exact spelling of his name cannot be confirmed) made a train stop he called Toponis, the site of what is now Gooding. Toponis is reportedly a Shoshone Indian word meaning "Black Cherries." The U.S. Postal Service opened the Toponis Post Office in 1887.

In 1876 the first registered settler in the area, Nathan R. Woodworth, homesteaded a site on the Little Wood River. He and his family built the first house, put in the first dam and dug the first ditch to divert water from the river.

One Toponis resident was prominent sheep man Frank R. Gooding. He came to the area in 1888 and homesteaded south of town. Over the next few years, he systematically increased his land holdings to several hundred acres.

In 1893 the sheep ranchers formed the Idaho Wool Growers Association and named Gooding its first president.

During that time, Gooding became active in Idaho Republican politics. He served as an Idaho state senator and chairman of the Idaho Republican Central Committee. He was elected governor in 1904 and re-elected for a two-year term in 1906. Gooding was elected to the United States Senate (six-year terms) in 1920 and again in 1926, dying in office in 1928.

Frank Gooding aggressively used his influence to develop his growing business interests. In 1907 while still governor of Idaho, he hired H.P. Blodgett to survey and plat 160 acres of his land near Toponis for a new townsite named after him.

He laid out the plat with Main Street running from south to north, ending at the railroad tracks. He divided the townsite with eighty acres on each side of Main Street. On Gooding’s birthday, November 14, 1907, he began selling building lots.

Gooding and M. Mattson opened the first general store in the city under the name Gooding Mercantile Company.

On April 25, 1908, the new town of Gooding became an incorporated village with W.J. Gooding, Frank’s brother as chairman. The 1910 census reported a population of 1,444. Six months later on November 21, Gooding became an incorporated city. With the economy of the area shifting to the city of Gooding, the adjoining town of Toponis lost its separate identity.

The Legacy of Frank R. Gooding, Benefactor

Gooding not only founded the city, he was its greatest benefactor.

He is the primary reason the State built the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind (ISDB) in Gooding. The original school was located in Boise. However, after it burned down, the State accepted Gooding’s offer of 20 acres of his property to rebuild the school in Gooding. The deed specifies that if the land is not used for the school or some other State purpose, the property reverts back to the Gooding heirs. The first campus building opened in 1910.

On January 28, 1913, the legislature formed Gooding County, with the city of Gooding as the county seat.

Four years later, Frank Gooding donated 70 acres to the Methodist Episcopal Church as the site for Gooding College, which the church planned to build and operate. The college operated until 1938 when it had to close because of declining enrollment. At that time, the church gave the property to the State of Idaho for a tuberculosis hospital.

The Idaho Legislature established the Idaho State Tuberculosis Hospital on that site in 1941. The State moved the buildings used by the military in Rupert for housing World War II prisoners of war to the hospital property in 1947.

A decade later, the State built a new million-dollar hospital that for many years was in the forefront of tuberculosis and respiratory disease treatment. However, subsequent innovation in medical science essentially eradicated tuberculosis and the need for those hospital services. The hospital closed in the mid 1960s. All but one of the hospital buildings was razed. The remaining building, which was originally a dormitory at Gooding College, is now privately owned.

Amenities and Attractions Today

A short drive from Gooding in almost any direction, except the southwest, puts you on public land. These open high-desert vistas and ancient volcanic flows provide a wide variety of year-round recreational opportunities. There is fishing, camping, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, boating, trap shooting and numerous opportunities for viewing wildlife in its natural habitat.

The city’s amenities include a municipal golf course, swimming pool, county fairgrounds, baseball diamonds and tennis courts including some on public school grounds, a public gym located at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, two privately owned gyms that offer memberships, a bowling alley, library and four city parks including a skate park.

Many Gooding residents are of Basque heritage. Initially, they emigrated from Spain to work in the area’s sheep industry. They organized the Gooding Basque Association, which in 2003 built a new cultural center that is open to the public. The association seeks to preserve the Basque culture in Idaho by sponsoring an annual picnic the third Sunday of July and a dinner on the first Friday of each month. The picnic offers traditional Basque food accompanied by cultural dancing and weight carrying and lifting contests.

Gooding combines the friendly rural hometown atmosphere of a progressive Western farming community with the convenience of having easy access to the larger cities of Twin Falls and Boise.

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