Latah County's Vanishing Communities

Russell Cook, who was a long-time member of the Latah County Historic Preservation Commission until his recent death, revealed the history of Latah County from an unusual perspective. In 1995, in conjunction with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, the University of Idaho, and the Moscow and Latah County Historic Preservation Commissions, Russ compiled an inventory of once-healthy communities in Latah County that faded from existence. Russ surveyed 16 sites in Latah County that were considered early and disappearing communities; here are the histories of a few of the communities included in his survey.

Blaine, a thriving village in the 1880s, consisted of a one-room schoolhouse, the Methodist Episcopal Church, grocery store, blacksmith shop, stage shop, and a post office. All the buildings, except the schoolhouse, have disappeared. Blaine is on Eid Road, three miles east of US Highway 95 at the intersection with Blaine Road.

Used first by Native Americans, then by miners and freighters traveling from Walla Walla to the Coeur d’Alene mines, Kennedy Ford was the only wagon crossing on the upper Palouse River. In the 1880s, touring religious revivals were held there; and until 1970, Riverside Park, an amusement park, hosted auto races and dances. Homesteaded by the Kennedy family in the 1890s, the community once had storage buildings for sacked and bulk grain, a railroad siding, a community hall, and a grange hall. The Kennedy Ford Grange, organized in 1906, is still active. Kennedy Ford is about three-quarters of a mile west of US Highway 95 on Idaho Highway 6.

Freeze was named for the homesteading family who moved there in 1877. It was first a stage stop on the way to the Hoodoo mines, and then became an active trading center with a blacksmith shop, grocery store, community hall, school, post office, church, and cemetery. In 1905, when Potlatch was built four miles away, Freeze rapidly declined. All that remains today is the church and cemetery, which are in the National Register of Historic Places. Freeze is at the intersection of Freeze and Deep Creek roads, about one mile east of US Highway 95.

In 1890, the Northern Pacific Railroad needed a stop west of the Troy grade to give the engine a running start up the hill. Moscow businessman, William Kaufmann, donated the land in exchange for the concession that the new stop be named after his son, Joel. A small farming community developed, consisting of several grain and hay warehouses, the United Methodist Church, an Odd Fellows Hall, grocery store, post office, sawmill, skating rink, and a stage shop. In 1920, the Moscow Fire Brick and Clay Products Company built a tramway to transport clay to the railroad from a pit north of the town. Joel is six miles east of Moscow on the south side of State Highway 8 at milepost 8.

Lenville was often called the Solider Neighborhood because of the large number of Union Civil War veterans who settled there. Lenville was named after Leonard (Len) Nichols who established a general store in the area. The community, which spread along Lenville Road for a half mile, included a church, blacksmith shop, and a school. In the 1880s, Reverend Peter Carlson organized the first Swedish Lutheran congregation. The historic Cordelia Lutheran Church was built in 1893 three miles away. Lenville is about 13 miles southeast of Moscow on Lenville Road between the intersections of Magee Road and Campbell Loop.

Cornwall, first named Bronta Cabin and then Otto, after Otto Fries, a partner in the Moscow Brewery, was founded by Mason Cornwall in 1895. At one time, the community had two general merchandise stores, hotel, grocery store, blacksmith shop, feed stable, wagon shop, two saloons, and a post office. Other than the school, which was more recently converted to a tavern, none of the original buildings remain. Cornwall is seven miles east of Moscow on the south side of State Highway 8 at milepost 9.

Freeze, circa 1908.

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