About Quizzes

History of McCall, Idaho

Idaho’s magnificent year-round playground on Payette Lake, McCall, is centrally located on Highway 55, close to halfway between Idaho’s northern and southern borders and at the north end of Long Valley. The pioneers came to Long Valley first. Finnlanders were the first major homesteaders arriving in the 1880s at Roseberry, 11 miles south and a bit east of McCall. They established a community where “lewd and indecent resorts and intoxicating drinks” were prohibited, according to the McCall Chamber of Commerce. Their Finn churches, cemetery, barns, cabins and saunas still dot the countryside. Today, Roseberry is home to the Long Valley Preservation Society and a group of “living” museums. McCall is named for Tom McCall, a prominent town leader who arrived in 1891 to homestead. Unlike Roseberry, early day McCall was a wild and woolly place, notorious for its lakeside whorehouses, dance halls and gambling establishments, including the well-known Harrah’s Casinos. Firearms were allowed in local bars until the early 1980s. In the early days, mining and timber were McCall’s chief industries driving the town’s rapid evolution into a bustling lake port. Warren Gold Dredge Company built the first saw mill on the lake and sold it to Tom McCall. He used it to cut wood for a hotel and several houses. When the mill burned, he rebuilt it. A pattern for mills on the lake was established—they burned, were rebuilt and burned with regularity until Boise Cascade Corporation closed the last one in 1977. Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1914 providing transportation to visitors seeking to escape the summer heat of the valley. In 1924, to alleviate the boredom of McCall’s lengthy winters, Cory Engen, a resident and Olympic ski champion, with a group of volunteers founded the Winter Carnival. They created ice sculptures and organized dog sled races in honor of the sled dogs that used to carry the United States mail when the snow was too deep to use horses. The present day Winter Carnival draws 50,000 visitors for 10 days from the Boise Valley and beyond. Approximately 70 ice sculptures are scattered throughout the town. Sculptures are judged in two categories. The local category includes works created by area businesses, organizations and families. The smaller Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championship draws world-class sculptors from around the Northwest. Admiring the icy works of art takes a considerable amount of time but along the way, “eat, drink and be merry” is the recurring theme. Music fills the air and visitors can choose carnival rides, a beer garden, street dancing, parades, theater and snow sports. In 1938, McCall and Payette Lake were the location for the filming of Northwest Passage starring Spencer Tracy, Walter Brennan and Robert Young. Metro Goldwyn Meyer employed 900 white people and 360 Indians for the project. For decades, McCall has been a weekend retreat for Boise residents who escape the valley heat with a beautiful two-and-one-half hour drive of 100 miles along the Payette River through the Boise and Payette National Forests. The highway has recently been designated a National Scenic Byway. In recent years, McCall has been discovered by many out-of-state people in search of the ideal retirement location.