But trash disposal, problematic as it may be, is not my reason for bringing up Seamans Gulch. I wanted to know where the name came from. The romantic in me—to the extent landfills can be romantic—would like to think it was named after the Newfoundland Meriwether Lewis brought along with him on his famous expedition. Alas, it wasn’t until the 1990s that we knew the true name of the dog. Seamans Gulch had been called that for several decades by that time.
The Dry Creek Historical Society
Fortunately for me, Jay Karamales was also curious about the name. He did a deep dive into records and wrote a story about it for the Dry Creek Historical Society Summer 2022 newsletter.
He found that one Jasper William Seaman was one of many Forty-niners who never lost the dream of finding gold. Originally from Ithaca, New York, Seaman, and his family tried dream-chasing—not always for gold—in Arkansas, California, Washington, and Oregon, before moving to Boise in 1862. They settled on Government Island, where 9th Street crosses the Boise River today. Don’t bother looking for the island. It’s no longer there. In 1898, the south arm of the Boise River was filled in, joining the island to the land on that side of the river.
Col. Lugenbeel, of Fort Boise fame, had designated the island as a source of cottonwood trees from which to begin constructing buildings. The 100-acre island had been stripped of most of its trees by the time the Seaman family came along.
Karamales was unable to find out what Jasper did for a living, but his wife, Ann, ran a boarding house in town.
The Seaman family was prominent in Boise for several years, but Karamales wasn’t able to pinpoint a solid connection to the area around Seaman Gulch to solidify his theory about where the name came from.
The Wrong Path to Seamans Gulch
Then, voila! his research took Karamales to the records of the General Land Office. The island-owning Seaman family had been a romp down the wrong rabbit trail.
Seamans Road/Gulch has a history not nearly as old as it had originally appeared. It goes back to 1935 when William Lewis Seaman Jr bought three 40-acre plots at the foot of then-unnamed Seamans Gulch. He bought another 540 acres nearby in 1939. He planted fruit trees and started Seaman’s Fruit Farm. They sold berries, fruit, and vegetables to whoever was willing to pay to pick them.
The fruit and vegetable farm did a good business until William Seaman died at age 74 in 1950. His son, Donald, took it over but was never able to make much of a go of it. It disappeared in the 1950s, but the Seaman name became attached to the road that ran through the property and to the gulch.
Thanks to Jay Karamales and the Dry Creek Newsletter for a couple of interesting stories rolled into one. Now, as long as those newsletters don’t all end up in the landfill, Idahoans will know the story behind the name.
Apostrophes in Idaho History
English Major Note: It irritates many English majors—I am one—when they see an apostrophe used incorrectly. Seamans Gulch would, by the rules of English, be Seaman’s Gulch with an apostrophe, just as Seaman’s Fruit Farm has one. Oddly, English rules don’t apply here. For a scintillating explanation of why that’s the case, click here.