Cassia County, Idaho was created on February 20, 1879, by
an act of territorial legislation. At that time, the county included all
of the territory south of the Snake River from Raft River on the east to
Devil Creek on the west side of the city of Twin Falls which was near the
boundary of Owhyee County. The first county seat of Cassia County was
Albion. The county was named after Cassia Creek which derived its name
from two words: cajeaur, peasant French for raft; or James John Cazier, a
member of the Mormon Battalion and a colorful captain of an emigrant
train, whose name was corrupted to Cassia. Most natives of Cassia County
hold that the word comes from the "cassia" plant which does not grow along
The first human inhabitants of the area that is now Cassia County were the
Paleo Indians who settled in the area 15,000 to 16,000 years ago. Later
the Shoshoni and Paiute people established communities in the area using
the natural bounty of the land to hunt, fish and gather on their seasonal
The first known white settler to arrive in Cassia County was Charles
Gamble, a 22-year old man from Maryland. Gamble settled in the Raft River
area in December of 1866 with a herd of cattle and his cowboy associates.
Although Mr. Gamble may have been the first settler in these parts, he was
definitely not the first man to enter the boundaries of Cassia County. In
the 1860's, thousands of pioneers passed through the area which is now
known as the City of Rocks. It was a common place for the wagon trains
headed to Oregon or California to stop and rest. Local history enthusiasts
have discovered that there are approximately 230 miles of authentic
emigrant routes crossing Cassia County.
By 1868, pioneers were settling in Marsh Valley (now Albion). The next ten
years saw people moving to Malta, Elba, Almo, and Oakley. While cattlemen
and sheepmen grazed their herds, Mormon pioneers began farming operations
near the Oakley Basin. Oakley became known as the educational and
religious center for the Mormon pioneers who settled in the area.
In the first year or two of the century, a man named David E. Burley, a
passenger agent for the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, traveled
through this area. While working for the Oregon Short Line, he became
familiar with the area and its ability to grow sugar beets. In 1905, a man
named I.B. Perrine and five others platted a town on the south bank of the
Snake River. This town, of course, became known as Burley, Idaho. The town
wasn't incorporated until July 19, 1909. It wasn't long after Burley was
established that the townsfolk announced that they would do everything
they could to move the county seat from Albion to Burley. They weren't
successful until 1918 when Burley officially became the county seat of
The smaller present-day towns of Almo, Elba, Malta Albion, and Oakley were
settled in the 1870's, and Burley was founded in 1905. On November 5,
1918, the county seat was moved to Burley. The present day courthouse was
built in 1939 and is still being used for county government. It is on the
list of the U.S. Historical Buildings. The oldest building still in use in
the county is the Tracy Store in Almo which opened in 1894. In 1995,
Cassia County had a population of 20,811 people and comprised an area of
2,577 square miles.
At the turn of the century, many cattle and sheep were being raised in the
area. Eventually, cattlemen and sheepmen began to argue over grazing
rights. One feud led to the arrest of the famous hired gunman,
Diamondfield Jack Davis in 1897. Diamondfield Jack, who was hired by a
cattle rancher to keep sheepherders off his land, was accused of murdering
two sheepherders in February of 1896. It wasn't until November of 1900
that two cattlemen confessed to the murders. Mr. Davis was eventually
pardoned in 1902. Documents from the trial proceedings involving
Diamondfield Jack are kept in the archives of Cassia County.
In 1904, construction began on the Minidoka Dam as the first government
Reclamation Project in Idaho. Until that time, a few farmers had built
water wheels to move water from the river to their cattle and crops. With
the arrival of irrigation, more farmland was established. Grains, sugar
beets, potatoes and alfalfa were in demand across the country and the
south-central Idaho soil and growing season were perfect for growing these
Today, Cassia County contains 1,642,624 total acres (or 2,577 square
miles). These acres can be divided as follows: Privately owned: 665,854
(40.5%); controlled by the State of Idaho: 50,776 (3.1%); Federal
government (mostly USFS and BLM): 923,593 (56.2%); and the remaining acres
are owned by counties and cities. The county is about 66 miles wide from
east to west and 49 miles long from north to south. It is the 8th largest
(land mass) county in the state. According to the U.S. Census conducted in
1995, Cassia County has a population of approximately 20,811 people.
Following is a list of some towns located in the county and their
populations according to the 1995 census:
Albion 305 Burley 9272 Declo 300 Oakley 579 Malta 171
Since 1917, records show that Burley temperatures have ranged from 106
degrees in July 1934 to -35 degrees in January of 1922. On average, there
are 45 days per year when the temperature reaches 90 degrees or higher.
There are 5 days per year when temperatures fall to zero or colder. An
average growing season lasts from May 9 to October 3.
Acres of public lands provide hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, horseback
riding, bicycling opportunities. The Snake River provides boating, boat
racing, water skiing and fishing. Pomerelle Ski Resort provides early and
deep snow for snow skiing and snowmobiling. The mountains offer
paragliding and hang-gliding. The City of Rocks National Reserve is a
unique area and provides pioneer trails, recreation and scenic drives. The
City of Burley provides golfing and each city in Cassia County has parks
and softball facilities. The Cassia County Museum located in Burley is a
must to visit and the Cassia County Fair and Rodeo is one of the largest
in the state. These and other areas make Cassia County appealing to both
residents and tourists.
South of Burley is a section of the Sawtooth National Forest which is the
home of Mt. Harrison and Lake Cleveland. This mountain and lake were named
from the 1888 presidential election -- the winner's name, Benjamin
Harrison, went to the high mountain, and the loser's name, Grover
Cleveland, went to the lower, less visible, lake. Mt. Harrison has an
elevation of 9,285 ft. To the south is Cache Peak, the highest point of
Mt. Independence. Cache Peak has the highest elevation in the county,
10,339 feet above sea level.
Cassia County is home for many industries. Ore-Ida Foods now known as
McCain’s was built in the 1960's and processes French fries and hash
browns. Boise Cascade Corp., a manufacturer of cardboard boxes and other
materials, operates southwest of Burley. In addition to these
corporations, there are numerous potato processing plants, machinery
manufacturing companies, milk processing farms, feed mills, commercial
feed lots, and gravel and cement processors. Well-known Simplot Industries
started in Cassia County.
Because of the diverse amount of agriculture, Cassia County is one of the
leading agricultural counties in the state. It's ability to produce wealth
from beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, potatoes, sugar beets, beans, and
cereal crops also makes it a leading county in the nation as well.
Approximately 82% of the total economical sales in Cassia County are from
agricultural production and about 78%of direct or indirect employment is
dependent upon agriculture.
If there are other interesting and important aspects of Cassia County that
you may be interested in, please contact Cassia County Historical Society
& Museum at (208)678-7172.