Political intrigue partly explains the weird shape of Blaine County. It is something of a leftover county, with its shape changing four times between March 5, 1895, and February 6, 1917.
There was much drama over the shape of counties in February 1895 when the question of Blaine County was first debated in the Idaho Legislature. Rumors abounded that Nampa wanted to be a part of Ada County and that Boise County was about to be split up with part of it to be named Butte County. The rumors were so frequent and contradictory that one legislative wag ginned up a phony bill to create one giant county called Grant County. It would have consolidated the 21 counties that then existed into a single county. Grant County’s county seat was to be the city of Shoshone, which was one of the towns then embroiled over a debate regarding what was to become of Alturas and Logan counties. The bill writer, tongue in cheek, thought that making one county, the boundaries of which would match the boundaries of the state, would solve all the boundary problems.
The proposal to create a county called Blaine, named for 1854 Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine, was contentious because of the financial pickle of Alturas County, which was in a state of bankruptcy. Citizens of Logan County, which was to be combined with Alturas to form Blaine County, objected to taking on the debt of Alturas.
Poor Alturas. Its last gasp would come on March 5, 1895 when the Blaine county bill prevailed. It was a bloated county upon its creation by the Idaho Territorial Legislature in 1864. Taking up more map space than the states of Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware combined, it was doomed to be whittled down to nothing.
The new Blaine County didn’t retain its original shape for long, either. The Legislature carved Lincoln County from it just a couple of weeks later, on March 18. It lost a little more weight in January of 1913 when Power County was extracted from Blaine. The dieting county slimmed down to its present shape in February 1917 when Butte and Camas counties were trimmed away.
Through all that reduction in size, Blaine County managed to keep that weird little strip reaching down to Lake Walcott because it improved the county’s tax base. That narrow reach of land encompassed a bit of railroad property, taxes for which helped Blaine County keep its books balanced.