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“Everything Was Lively”: David Hickman Describes the Prosperity Late Nineteenth-Century Railroads Brought to the West

by David Hickman

The availability of rail connections often determined whether a western community would survive or die. The rails fostered prosperity by bringing both goods and people. This trade, and the local service industries that sprouted up to capitalize on the movement of people and goods, drove many local economies. Here, David Hickman talked about the boom years that followed the arrival of the railroad in the Latah County, Idaho town of Genesee in the 1880s.

Listen to Audio:

David Hickman: Oh, every business house was filled up. Every place along the line had something in it. My dad ran a livery stable there and that was just about the east end of town as far as any business was concerned. But across from us was a creamery. Up the line a little ways was a hardware store, furniture store, and then just keep right on going through town. Every place was filled up; everything was lively. And there were two or three blacksmith shops. Later, of course, some of those turned—a couple of them turned—into garages, but at that time why they were blacksmith shops for shoeing horses and fixing farm equipment.

I donĚt have any idea how many places there were that were actually places of business, but I can remember when there were a couple of grocery stores and two or three, two merchandise stores, mercantile stores where they handled dry goods and this type of thing. And my recollection of the thing I like to remember about it is that where we lived down on the flat was right in the area where they had the old ball field at one time. And the city ball field was right close there. But it was also the place where the Indians came when the Indians moved into town or came in for a celebration. Why they came down and stayed right down on that flat close to us.

Source: The Latah Legacy (Moscow, Idaho: Latah County Historical Society)

See Also:"Genesee Had Railroads": Kenneth Platt Recalls the Importance of the Railroad to Late Nineteenth-Century Western Towns