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History of Blackfoot, Idaho

Blackfoot, the Potato Capital of the World, is about halfway between Pocatello and Idaho Falls on I–15. The town is home to the Idaho Potato Expo that welcomes visitors to its many potato-themed exhibits. The Expo shares space with the Greater Blackfoot Area Chamber of Commerce. Bingham County, where Blackfoot is the county seat, is the largest potato-growing county in the state. Idaho’s “Famous Potato” variety is the Russet Burbank. In 1872, Luther Burbank noticed a seed ball had emerged on one of his Early Rose potatoes — an uncommon development on that plant variety. He collected 23 seeds and planted them in the spring to find some produced a tuber that was superior in size and number. Burbank continued to cultivate the variety and once it had proven itself, he sold it to a Massachusetts grower and moved to California, taking several of the tubers with him to introduce the variety there. Idaho’s growing conditions — high elevation, hot days and cool nights, light volcanic soil and high soil moisture — are considered the elements responsible for creating this superior product. Blackfoot’s Jensen Grove Lake is adjacent to the city’s golf course, a picturesque course, popular among golfers throughout the region. Also there is Jensen Grove Park with its two-mile greenbelt path around the lake. The town was first named Grove City because of the abundance of trees. The name was changed to Blackfoot after the Blackfoot River, which was initially named Blackfeet after a band of Indians encountered in the area. When Bingham County was separated from its southern neighbor Oneida County in 1885 and Blackfoot became the county seat, the legislature issued $20,000 in bonds to establish Idaho’s first mental hospital at Blackfoot. Until that time, patients were sent to an asylum in Salem, Oregon. In 1889, a United States Land Office was established in Blackfoot and during the first three months, about 300 homestead entries were processed. The land office was the registration center when the Fort Hall Reservation was opened to settlement on May 7, 1907. Called “the day of the run,” several thousand homesteaders staked their ground and hurried to Blackfoot to file a claim. Blackfoot is home to the Eastern Idaho State Fair, which draws thousands of people to town the first week in September for this most classic of fairs, featuring top country entertainers along with horse racing, a carnival, and all kinds of traditional and non-traditional competitions. Another attraction is the Bingham County Historical Museum, located in a restored southern mansion and featuring old photographs, rare artifacts and unique pieces of history.