This post was most recently updated on August 16th, 2019
More about Burley, Idaho!
Burley is 42.8 miles southeast of Malad State Park. An agrarian town located in the center of the Minidoka south side irrigation tract, it was named in 1904 for David Burley, general passenger agent for the Union Pacific railroad. Mr. Burley, who was employed on the line between the town site and Chicago (Catch the Chicago connection!), persuaded several parties to migrate west and farm potato land. The town site, incorporated in 1906, is about three miles east of the Starrhs Ferry crossing that operated on the Snake River.
Burley, the seat of Cassia County since 1918, is blessed with numerous shady streets, where bungalow style houses predominate. The Cassia County Museum, with its pioneer village, farm machinery, stagecoach and railroad car, is located at Main Street and Highland Avenue. A city park is located at East Main and Normal Streets and Scholers Park is situated on the south shore of the Snake River.
The Schodde Connection
Before the Minidoka Dam was built in the early 1900′s, there were very few people (other than railroad workers on the Oregon Short Line) living in what is now Minidoka County – except for Henry Schodde and his family! There was no such thing as a Minidoka Project when he came to the area.
It was 1874 that this pioneer cattleman herded his animals down Goose Creek to the Snake River and began farming and ranching about four miles west of what is now Burley. There was grassland along the river and feed for his cattle on the desert lands to the north. But Schodde could see a potential for more feed by lifting water from the river. So he built water wheels, at least eleven of them, to lift water onto his land, most of it on the north side of the river but some on the south side, according to the Idaho Cattleman. In all, he irrigated 160 acres of land on which he grew hay and grain for his cattle. He established the oldest water right on the river between Glenns Ferry and American Falls.
Schodde’s sons, grandsons and great grandsons farmed the land he brought into cultivation more than 30 years before the Minidoka Dam was built.
Henry Schodde came to the Snake River a lone cattleman with no family, not even a wife. He had emigrated from Germany in 1854 at the age of 18, stopping first in New Orleans. He worked on a riverboat for a short time, tried his hand in the bakery business and worked for a while in freighting in the Midwest. The he moved to Corinne, Utah, where he established a freighting business into Montana. It is reported that he arrived in the mining camps of Montana one time with a wagon load of apples. The fruit-starved miners gladly paid $1 for each apple!
Later Schodde moved to Tonapah, Nevada where he went into the cattle business. Then, learning of the possibilities for cattle ranching on the Snake River, he and an associate (Jack Fuller) moved their herds to Idaho Territory. Fuller settled on Dry Creek south of Murtaugh. While Schodde chose the Snake River where it began it’s plunge into a 600-foot canyon through solid rock to the west. The rapids created by the descending river provided the power to lift some of the water onto his farmland.
Eight years after establishing himself on the Snake River, Schodde went back to Germany and returned with a wife, Minnie. Her name was also Schodde although apparently not a blood relative. The couple raised five sons and two daughters. It is thought that their daughter, Clara, was the first white child born in what is now Minidoka County. Other children born to the Schodde’s were George, Tom, Fred, Frank, Joe (Jean’s beloved Poppy Joe) and Lottie.
Henry Schodde ran as many as 5,000 head of cattle, pasturing them from American Falls to Hagerman, where he sometimes wintered some of his animals. It is not clear where he marketed his cattle before the coming of the railroad in 1883, but it seems probable that he drove them to Kelton, Utah on the Southern Pacific Railroad (south of the now abandoned town of Streville.) After the Oregon Short Line (later Union Pacific Railroad) was built across southern Idaho, he shipped by that railroad to Omaha, Nebraska.
His grandson Henry (son of Tom) says that members of the family would accompany the cattle on the train to unload them at railroad stops for feeding and watering. Then they would return them to the rail cars to continue the journey to market. This hardy cattleman went to Ogden, Utah to purchase his machinery (a new horse-drawn mower cost him about $25) and he shopped for other necessities at Ogden, Albion or Hailey. These were his closest neighbors in those early days of cattle ranching in Idaho.
When the Milner Dam was built in 1904, the impounded waters flooded Schodde’s water wheels making it impossible for him to lift the water onto his land. Though he attempted to sue to recover his losses, this stubborn German had yet to learn – you don’t sue big government! He was offered land on the Twin Falls Tract (to be irrigated from the Milner Dam.) But he refused the offer, preferring to stay on his own land. It was only a few years later that water became available from the new Minidoka Project.
In 1880 George Starrh built a ferry across the Snake River, the north end anchored just below Schodde’s house, according to grandson Henry. The family apparently used the ferry for their own needs for a while. Then, after a falling out with Starrh, Schodde quit using the ferry, even forbidding his children to use it.
Starrh’s Ferry remained in use until the railroad came to Burley in 1905. For a time it carried the rich ore of the Wood River mineral mines across the river, on their way to the railroad at Kelton. As the railroads expanded, even that traffic would end. There were some reports that Schodde built a second ferry across the river. However, grandson Henry says that never happened. He said his grand father vowed, “I’ll build a bridge across that river.” But he never did.
It was 16 years before Idaho became a state that Henry Schodde started ranching on the Snake River. At the time, the entire area of south central Idaho lying north of the Snake River was one vast county known as Alturas, with its county seat at Rocky Bar in what is now northern Elmore County. Then in 1889 Logan County was formed from the southern portion of Alturas County with the seat of government at Bellevue. Still later, Logan County was dissolved with the formation of several smaller counties, including Lincoln County. In 1913 Minidoka County was formed from a portion of Lincoln County. At that time it included most of what is now Jerome County, which was later made into a separate unit.
With no neighbors for miles around, Schodde established his own school at the ranch so his children could get a proper education. The first post office, initially called Jesse and later renamed Starrh’s Ferry, was at the ranch.
The Schodde’s first house was a one-room rock shack built on the river. After a few years they built a larger house on higher ground and used the rock house for the school. The second house is still standing and, if you know where to look, you will even find that old rock school house.
Recreation was hard to come by in those days. The Schodde children would sometimes ride horseback the 20 miles to Albion to attend dances. Sometimes they had to swim their horses across the river. At other times they rode them across the ice of the frozen river.
The only surviving grandson still living in the area is Henry of Heyburn (Sad to report that Henry Schodde passed away September 13, 2006.) Henry’s son, Lynn, still runs cattle on part of the original ranch.
My wife, Jean, is the daughter of great-grandson, Walt Schodde, who also ranched in the area his entire life.
More About Walt Schodde
Walt Schodde was born June 27, 1914 in Heyburn, Idaho, the son of Joseph Walter Schodde and Genevieve Farrell Schodde, who had moved from South Dakota with her parents to a homestead in the Emerson area. By all accounts, Walt had a great childhood, learning the ranching operation from his father. He graduated from Burley High School and went to college for a year at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. But his heart wasn’t in the academic life. All Walt Schodde ever wanted to do was work his land and cattle. So, in 1936, Walt joined his father full-time in the cattle business.
On June 5, 1940 Walt married his sweetheart Eleanor Grohosky. A local school teacher, Eleanor’s family had a sheep operation in the Albion area. After marriage, Eleanor left teaching to join Walt running the family cattle business. Just a few years later, Walt and Eleanor welcomed their only child, Jean Ann, into the world.
In 1949 Walt and Eleanor bought a Blaine County ranch in the Sun Valley area (up the East Fork Road.) The property had good water rights and BLM grazing rights on the adjacent forest land. So Walt felt the ranch would provide an excellent summer range for his cows and calves. It didn’t hurt that there were two great trout streams (East Fork – Wood River and Hyndman Creek) crossing the property! Walt had grown quite fond of fly-fishing and loved to work the streams for a little relaxation. Later in life, when his knees gave out, Walt would fish from the back of his horse Buck. I can still see Missy, one of Walt’s cow dogs, leaping behind the horse – trying to catch the fly on Walt’s back cast! Walt gave me my first fly-fishing lessons on those two streams.
In the best tradition of the west, Walt was a hard working man. One of his favorite sayings, learned from his father, was:
If you don’t have half a days work done by 10 o’clock in the morning, you won’t get too much accomplished that day!
But Walt knew how to have a good time too. Of course, steak and Idaho spuds were his favorite meal. Christmas and other special occasions would usually mean prime rib at the Schodde table. When it came time for cocktail hour (5:00 PM, sharp, on the Schodde Ranch!) Walt served as the crack bartender. His usual drink was vodka & tonic, but we also sipped a lot of Yukon Jack while sitting around the fire pit and watching stars as big as marbles.
Walt had a full and happy life. He was a member of the Burley BPO Elks Lodge No. 1384, the Paul Masonic Lodge No. 77, the Scottish Rite Bodies and the El Korah Shrine. But most of Walt’s extra curricular activities revolved around the cattle business. Walt served on the Idaho State Brand Board for twelve years, he was President of the Idaho State Cattlemen’s Association and was a Charter Member of the National Cattleman’s Association. Walt was also inducted into the Southern Idaho Livestock Industry Hall of Fame and the Northern International Stock Show and Rodeo Hall of Fame in Billings, Montana.
We lost Walt January 24, 1998 and he is still missed by all, especially Daddy’s little girl, Jean Ann.
Eleanor Maurine Schodde
Jean’s mom has also passed away. Eleanor Maurine Schodde, a 92-year-old resident of Burley, passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007, at Cassia Regional Medical Center.
She was born July 8, 1914, in Oakley, the daughter of Henry A. and Gail Roe Grohosky. She received her education in Cassia County, graduating from Burley High School and Albion State Normal School. She married Walter F. Schodde on June 6, 1940, in Burley. To this union was born one daughter, Jean.
Eleanor taught school several years in Twin Falls and Paul, yet was privileged to be a wonderful wife, mother and homemaker. Her family was of the utmost importance. She loved the quality time spent with family and close friends. Although she resided in Burley, she spent more than 40 years during the summer months living at their ranch in Hailey, which she dearly loved.
Eleanor was a longtime member of the Methodist Church and at the time of her passing, she was the oldest living member of the Burley United Methodist Church. She was also a member of PEO, Chapter BB, and was a past president of the Idaho Cowbells. Additionally, she enjoyed her association with the Better Homes and Garden Club and various Bridge clubs.