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Dr. Harlan Ustick

Updated: May 9, 2022

My GPS mapping system disagrees with most people in Boise when it comes to pronouncing the name Ustick. Boiseans typically pronounce it YOU-stick. The disembodied voice that comes out of my dashboard insists it’s UH-stick. So does the voice that comes out of my computer on I’m sticking with the traditional Boise pronunciation because neither of the computer voices actually knew Harlan Page Ustick, and many Boiseans did, once. It was Dr. Harlan P. Ustick, to be exact. Ustick, who was born in Ohio, was a prominent Boise physician who specialized in eye and ear maladies beginning in 1892. In the Treasure Valley he is most remembered for creating the town of Ustick as a development half a dozen miles outside of Boise. Ustick, the man, organized the Boise Valley Railway company with his partner Watson Donaldson. Ustick, the community, was founded in 1908 as the developers sold off five- and ten-acre lots of farmland “with terms so easy anyone can buy this.” Harlan Ustick was also a partner in the Boise Gas and Light Company, which powered the railway. The tracks and cars would later become part of the system remembered today as the Interurban. Ustick never did get big. Here we’re talking about the town, not making a judgment on the girth of its founder. It was about three blocks in size, boasting a bank, two churches, a school, a few retail stores, and an Interuban depot. It was known for its irrigated orchards in its heyday. Dr. Ustick, a man of many interests, was also an orchardist, and secretary of the Southern Idaho Fruit Growers Association. He raised mostly plums (to dry for prunes), apples, and peaches. In 1902 he had 40 acres of apple orchards and 30 acres of plums, which brought in $7,500 when freighted to the east and to California. There are traces of the little community along and near Ustick Road. The bank building is probably the most prominent. Dr. Ustick founded the bank upon the creation of the town in 1908. It closed in 1911. The building can still be seen today on the corner of Ustick Road and Mumbarto Avenue. The Ustick School is down Mumbarto a bit. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places it is today a residence. The town’s founder had many investments, including in the Cinnabar Mine near Yellow Pine. He was there when he wrote his last letter to his wife, telling of the wonderful prospects of the mine, but complaining about the high altitude. He had been taking strychnine to stimulate his heart. Mrs. Ustick, according to an article in the September 28, 1917 edition of the Idaho Statesman, had written back to her husband pleading with him to return home. “If the altitude is affecting your health, come home at once; the richest mine in the state is not worth risking your health for.” He never got the letter. Dr. Harlan Page Ustick died on September 26, 1917 in Yellow Pine from heart disease. The town that bore his name lasted about 50 years, with the post office closing down in 1958. Doctor Harlan P. Ustick is the man in the top hat, at the “Silver Spike” ceremony for the Boise Valley Railway Company, which he operated. Photo courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society, 64-57-8.

Speaking of Idaho history posts are copyright © 2020 by Rick Just.


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