A ‘town’ that won’t die
Picabo’s on brink of new surge
Picabo is an old settlement
with a frontier history. Nick Purdy’s forbears—five Scottish Kilpatrick
brothers—settled here in the 1880s after helping build railroads into
By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer
PICABO—To travelers slowing
down while passing through this scattering of dwellings sitting astride
U.S. Highway 20 in southern Blaine County, they might believe they’re
seeing the remnants of a forgotten town on its last legs.
In fact, Picabo is on the brink of
a new surge of life.
After several years of complicated
replatting, Blaine County is in the process of rezoning tiny
unincorporated Picabo to allow a sliver of commercial land and 25
residential lots to be developed.
For Nick Purdy, 64, the rezoning
is not merely good business. Making lots available for sale will mean an
annuity for his children and grandchildren.
Sharon and Nick Purdy relax
at the Silver Creek Convenience Store, a favorite stopping spot for
Blaine County residents, ranchers, tourists, anglers and U.S. Highway 20
travelers passing through the tiny town of Picabo. Express photo by
David N. Seelig
Purdy, a leathery rancher and
businessman and highly regarded civic figure throughout Idaho, has acted
as guardian of Picabo’s character for years. The replatting and rezoning
is designed to modernize a plat laid out in the late 1800s. It was
requested to prepare for a future he believes will attract homebuyers
escaping from the more hectic pace farther north in the Wood River
Picabo, about a 45-minute drive
from Ketchum, is an old settlement with a frontier history. Purdy’s
forbears—five Scottish Kilpatrick brothers—settled here in the 1880s
after helping build railroads into Idaho.
Thus began the civilizing of raw
flatlands that would become Picabo and provide growing business
opportunities for a succession of generations: cutting blocks of ice for
sale to the railroad, ranching, farming, and now the Silver Creek
Convenience Store and fuel stop and Rancher’s Supply across the highway.
Purdy also founded two Boise-based
firms that specialize in computerized farm irrigation and cattle cooling
and dust control.
The social center of Picabo is the
convenience store, managed by Purdy’s wife of 45 years, Sharon, who also
oversees a deli, the local post office and in one corner what passes for
a family museum of artifacts and memorabilia from more than 100 years of
boom-and-bust life in Picabo.
The Purdy family might well have
given up all their land in 1917 when it advertised 2,300 acres for sale:
"Splendidly located and will make a good town and is building fast
(with) two blocks of cement sidewalk."
But buyers defaulted and the
Purdys regained possession.
The most striking image of the
area is the pastoral tranquility for miles in all directions, largely
the result of the Purdy family emphasis on preserving the environment,
especially along Silver Creek, a world renowned trout stream.
Several thousand acres have been
dedicated as a conservation easement, and this is off limits to
This high regard for proper land
use was influenced in the 1970s, when Purdy is credited with
implementing Blaine County’s first comprehensive plan as a member of its
Planning and Zoning Commission.
Some prospective buyers of lots
that Purdy estimates may sell for $50,00 each will be attracted by the
3,000-foot grass runway for aircraft, plus hangar space and residential
lots adjoining the field.
Purdy is a pilot of 40 years whose
two aircraft include a turbine powered Cessna 210 high-altitude
Centurion he flies 300 hours a year.
And if questions come up about
whether Picabo’s lifestyle is healthful, Purdy can point to his father,
Bud, now 86, who everyday leaves deskwork to his son and grandsons and
is out among cattle and crops on horseback or on a tractor.