Falk Store

Arthur Hart of the Idaho Historical Society called the Falk Store a “regional shopping center of its day.” In 1864, James Toombs opened a store about a mile-and-a-half from the Falk settlement. Years later, Nathan Falk built a rival business and employee Ed Shainwald watched over the business.

The store was on the Placerville-Umatilla stage route (the only store between Boise and Baker City,) and its “roadhouse” location meant a lot of business for Falk. In the 1870’s, it was said that Falk did $60,000 of business yearly, which is very good for the day.

In 1871, a post office was established at the site and the settlement officially became the Falk Store, according to the recollections of Horace Arment in the Daily Argos Observer on Jan. 2, 1976. More and more businesses added to the community in the form of a hotel, saloon, meat market, and a blacksmith shop.

Arment knew a few of the pioneers in the Falk vicinity and was hired in 1926 to teach elementary school at the Falk Store. “The local school board, finding no other available room for a school, rented a room in the old hotel. In the renovated hotel, desks and blackboards were installed and I became the local pedagogue, teaching the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades,” he said.

One acquaintance of Arment’s was Andre Rasmussen. He was born in Denmark in 1849, worked in the Boise Basin mines for a time and then homesteaded in the Payette Valley. At the time, a group of desperadoes called the Picket gang (led by the sheriff in Boise) were stealing cattle and doing other despicable things. Rasmussen joined a vigilante group that cleared that bunch out of the valley, he also was scout in the Nez Perce and Bannock-Paiute wars.

In the 1870’s, Rasmussen helped build a fortified building at the Falk Store because of Indian raids by the Shoshones. A fence made of wooden boards and piled with gravel behind it to help stop bullets was placed there. Port holes were cut to give the defending settlers a wide-angle of fire. “Some could shoot dis vay and dat vay,” Arment remembered Rasmussen saying.

The settlers from the present Malheur, Payette, and Washington counties would rush to the store when the onset of an Indian attack was present. Arment said the pioneers would turn their livestock loose, move the furniture out into the sagebrush, and “high-tail it to the fort with all the women and kids.”

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Oregon Short Line Railroad was established, making the old stage route obsolete, said Hart. Arment said the narrow gauge railroad, called the “Punkin Vine” after the Payette Valley Railroad, carried all kinds of goods around the area.

To cross the Payette River, a pole bridge was constricted, on which the rails were laid. Arment’s father worked on the railroad and was a portly man, similar to W. C. Fields. As the Punkin Vine train would struggle to make the grade at the Fruitland bench, his father would get off the caboose and help push the train up to the top!

On Feb. 7, 1922, fire gutted the last general store at the settlement. Gradually, the other buildings fell into disrepair. All that is left is a rectangle of gravel, of which few people in the county can still locate the spot. Nathan Falk made a prosperous life in Boise and opened the Folk’s ID store on Eighth Street there. The golden oak dining room from the Falk mansion was transported to the Idaho Historical Museum.

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