It’s a question that Joyce Burch has had since she and her husband were first house hunting in Ada County before deciding on Melba. It was one of the first questions we received when we launched Curious Idaho in August.
“I noticed there are just too many roads between Five Mile and Ten Mile for the distance to be only 5 miles,” she said. “I thought maybe the distance between those roads was slightly less than the usual mile, so I checked it with the car odometer, and it really is 1 mile between each main road, making a total of 6 miles. I joked to my family that this is one of the great mysteries of life!”
Well, maybe not a complete mystery, but the answer isn’t perfectly clear either.
One theory is that these were stops on the Overland Stage route from Boise to Silver City, named for their distance from the route’s starting point, Caldwell historian Madeline Buckendorf told the Idaho Statesman in 2010. The stagecoaches started running in Idaho 1864.
Even if that is true, the more likely — and the more accepted — theory is that the roads were named for Five-mile and Ten-mile creeks and that they were five and ten miles from some location, though no one is sure where.
The Boise River or the city? Possibly, said Jennifer Stevens, of Stevens Historical Research Associates.
“Perhaps the creeks were on the stage route,” she mused. “Maybe someone guessed about the distance, no one really knows.”
One of the earliest references to Five-mile creek was in brief in the Tri-Weekly Statesman in 1886. Before that, both Five- and Ten-mile creeks appear on a survey map drawn by A. D. Foote in 1882. The husband of well-known artist and writer Mary Hallock Foote, he was the engineer who conceived and created what would become the New York Canal irrigation system, which transformed the valley.
Though the distance between those roads didn’t start out as a history question, that’s where we ended up.
If you’re curious about how more Treasure Valley roads got their quirky names, check out this story, “What’s in a name?” by former Statesman reporter Kristin Rodine. She tracked down the origins of the names for several iconic pathways, including Black Cat, Chicken Dinner, Frozen Dog roads and many others. It’s a fun read.
More Idaho history
It turns out that the majority of questions we received through Curious Idaho, so far, are about history. So, we’re going to launch another Curious Idaho voting round with some of the history questions readers posed. You can vote until midnight Friday, Sept. 14.