Twin Falls History

About the Book


In the early years of this century, photographer Clarence Bisbee documented the people, places, and events involved with the founding of the Twin Falls community. One of his photos, taken nearly 100 years ago, is a view from a sagebrush-covered hillside in Jerome County looking south toward what would someday become the city of Twin Falls. The primary subject matter in this particular photo is two rows of newly planted poplar saplings. Otherwise, the foreground is markedly dry, sterile, and without features of note. To Bisbee, this photo recorded something of significance though it does stand in contrast to many of his other photos of downtown Twin Falls, public celebrations, important citizens, and visiting dignitaries. Regardless of his motive in capturing this stark image, it is striking to viewers today because it symbolizes the challenges that were to lie ahead for the developing community.

The sagebrush and grasses in the foreground of the photo have since been replaced by a new cloverleaf intersection of US 93 and Interstate I-84. Today, this exact location sees almost as many vehicles per day as any intersection in the state of Idaho. Bisbee would probably not have been surprised to see that Twin Falls has since grown into an intensive agricultural community with a population of over 35,000, retail base of over 170,000, more than 50 churches, 43 manufacturing plants, 41 food processing plants, 14 public schools and many more private schools, a nearby regional airport, and the Idaho’s fastest growing institution of higher education. His photos, however, continue to remind us of the changes brought about within a single century.

This book is not unlike the Bisbee photo. The following pages provide a unique and profound look toward a community through the wide-angle lens of the historian. Whereas the photographer was documenting progress with an eye toward future changes and development, this book is a look back—a unique historical view from the inside the community with a focus on the landscapes, people, and events that would come to define Twin Falls.

This monumental history of the city of Twin Falls required the review of many varieties of historical records, including census data, photographs, newspaper archives, public records, diaries, museum archives, and many others. So much of this material exists that the Twin Falls Public Library has an entire room dedicated to local history, and much more can be found in public archives, local museums, and private collections. This quantity and variety of information would require years to peruse if not done using the methodology and techniques of the scholar-historian. Organization of the material into this seminal publication required organized planning, careful reading, extensive annotation, collection of oral histories, travel to distant archives, and—most important—the ability to synthesize this information into a work that accurately represents the history and spirit of the community. This sort of scholarship requires an academic insistence on accuracy and a clear and concise focus on the end product. It is also a labor of love undertaken by someone with a heartfelt interest in sharing the vision of a community history that developed following the investment of hours with computer monitors, tape recorders, microfiche viewers, and open books.

The author, Jim Gentry, is uniquely qualified to write this history of the Twin Falls community. He moved to Twin Falls in 1969, the year he accepted a position in the social science department at the College of Southern Idaho. When he arrived in Twin Falls, he was looking for a place to call home. He and his wife, Barbara, were seeking a place to raise a family and engender a career. Not long after moving to this community, he set himself a goal to someday publish a comprehensive history of the community, so during the ensuing years he collected information and refined his ideas for this undertaking. The approaching centennial year 2004 afforded the timely opportunity to complete this goal.

Jim Gentry is currently chair of the department of social sciences and education at CSI and has served on numerous educational and administrative committees. He has been married to Barbara for 34 years, and together they have raised two children, both of whom graduated from CSI. Dr. Gentry has also been very involved in community activities. Since 1969 he has been an active member of the First Baptist Church of Twin Falls. In 1987, he helped organize the Twin Falls County Historic Preservation Commission, which oversees a variety of historic-preservation projects in the county, and has been a member since that time.

Dr. Gentry has an associate of arts degree from Citrus College in Azusa, California. His bachelor of science is from California State College, Pomona, and his master of arts degree is from California State University, Los Angeles. While teaching at CSI he completed his Ph.D. in history from the University of Utah in 1985.

Before venturing into the pages of this book, a more personal introduction to the author is in order. I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Gentry for more than 25 years. In that time, I have had many opportunities to visit with him about professional business and community issues as well as personal and family matters. Not only does he have the classic demeanor of a scholar and administrator, he also possesses a compassionate interest and perspective on life outside of academics. He cares for each and every colleague and student, and his office door is always open for anyone. He will nearly always invite one into his office to just “sit and chat.” Over the years he has shown a genuine interest in me and my family and a curiosity about my perspective of the community. This authentic interest in others is perhaps the single most valuable trait that enabled him to write this insightful and humane look at our community.

The following pages are not simply a recitation of important events in the building of Twin Falls. Rather, the reader will soon learn of the personalities that built this community, and learn of their successes and failures that contributed to what makes this community unique. In the ensuing chapters, you will find a historically sound look at Twin Falls as seen through the eyes of a scholar, and at the same time you will find the humanness behind this century-old story of a community built in a most surprising location.

James C. Woods, Director
Herrett Center for Arts and Sciences
College of Southern Idaho
July 2003