Our History

Deary, Idaho is the product of Potlatch lumber company, just like Bovill, Elk River and Potlatch.  But unlike other company towns along Washington, Idaho and Montana Railway Company, Deary was carved out of the timber by homesteaders and farmers.  The town lies at the head of Big Bear and Texas Ridges at the edge of the great white pine forest.  It was these areas that homesteaders came to 1880 and 90's.  They were mostly Scandinavians who had tried the upper Midwest first. To these people good farmland had timber on it, and by the late 19th centery in the Midwest, land parcels were small and forest were dwindling.  


The homestead act gave 160 acres to anyone, who could clear 40 acres, build upon it, and live there for five years.  This was called "proving up" and in white pine forest, it was a tall order. 


Determined settlers, did make the land productive, and gradually the land filled up.  If one person couldn't make a go of it, there was someone else who could "jump the place" adding acreage to his own. 


Though life was difficult, homesteaders socialized together, built schools and churches, and gathered for barn raisings, and held dances with midnight lunches in some of the old cabins. Visits to Troy and Kendrick were opportunties to sell lumbar and farm produce for cash and to buy luxuries and well as necessities. 


The shortage of currency, especially after the depression years of 1893 to 1896 was probably the greatest obstacle to real growth in the community.  Prices for land or groceries were low because there just wasn't any money around.  Trading was an especially important activity.  


​In 1905 the engineers for the Potlatch Lumber Company survey the  right-of-way for the railroad to Bovill area.  When the settlers around Avon insisted on too high of a price for their land, William Deary, Potlatch General Manager, decided to locate his station at the present site of Deary.  Most of the future townsite consisted of Blailock homestead.  Blailock had cleared 5 or 6 acres, but had decided to bail out and move to Joel.  Deary bought the Bert Crooks place too,  where the present school is located.  Finally, Deary got the Roundtree place on the eastside, in trade for a team of horses.  By 1906, Andrew Carlson had a wayhouse in operation at the townsite, catering especially to the track construction crews, and later expanded into the Carlson hotel.  


The promise in the embryonic town was welcomed by all: jobs, money, and trade would surely improve the life in the upper Potlatch country. 


The town of Deary was born on September 24, 1907.  That was the first sale day of town lots, by the Deary Townsite Company, managed by F.C McGowen and H.P. Henry.  Unlike the town of Potlatch, where every interest and life itself was run by the lumber company,  the announced policy of the Potlatch Lumber Company was to log around Deary and then sell the cleared lands.  McGowen and Henry were former employees of Potlatch who had been educated in the east, risen through the company ranks, and installed as mangers for the Townsite Company to oversee Potlatch interests.  Two homes, which still stand were built for their occupation by Potlatch. 


Residence lots were not expensive.  Later, some were donated to the University of Idaho and some were given away in community fundraising lotteries. In the first year Deary grew quickly.  Several mercantile stores opened to satisfy the real needs of the established farming community.  


The first business buildings were sided with "rustic" lined burlap and were roofed with paper.  The Latah County State Bank opened it's doors September 14, 1908 and its officers were J.R. Harsh, H.D. Warren, A.W. Laird, McGowen, Henry, and Ole Bohman.  Bohman was also an officer of the Troy bank, respected and well liked.  Harsh had never been to Idaho was was, in fact, still in Michigan. 


The newspaper, the Deary Enterprise, started publication on September 19, 1908.  Its owner was Carl Peterson, who had formerly published a newspaper at Peck, Idaho.  He immediately began extolling the virtues of Deary and the Upper Potlatch country.  He publicized every development scheme and quoted the "boosters," who were actively working to bring business to the Deary area.  Periodically he would remind subscribers of his favorite developmental hopes such as the dairying industry, strawberry growing, and a cold storage plant.  The newspaper tried mightily to exact the proper respect for everything about Deary and never referred to Spud Hill except at Mt. Deary.  


In those early days, Deary was publicized all over the West and as far east as Minnesota.  This was largely the result of the Deary Commercial Club, which was the impetus behind the organization of North Idaho civic clubs.  McGowan, as club member, was in charge of the Latch county exhibit at the Minneapolis Land Products Exposition of 1912, where most visitors though that all land in Idaho needed irrigation.  Though few today have any personal recollection of McGowan, his own interests and those of Deary intertwined for several years.  He was elected into the state legislature in 1914.


Many businesses came and went in the early boom period.  Lumbering brought jobs and money, but it did have seasonality and unless merchants could weather the snow and slowdown of winter, they would find themselves having extended too much credit and holding too much inventory.  The Potltach Company logged year round in some places and gave job contracts to locals for the summer.  Around Deary, C.W. Asplund, the Greenwood Brothers, Swan Erickson, Joe Wells, and G.R. Lawrence regularly received these contracts.  They in turned hired six to twelve men for their crews, which cut timber along spur-lines (short track routes up timbered drainages).  Lawrence often logged his own land, and since there were several sawmills around Deary and and persistent demand for lumber, he was one of the few independents. 


Joe Wells, a black who emigrated from North Carolina in 1889, was a legendary lumberman in the region.  He earned his reputation of hard work and hospitality with the help of his wife, Lou.  They operated a lodging house and Joe experimented with raising Angora goats, dud the third well in Deary, held a contract in 1910 to log three million feet of timber, and took prize at the Upper Potlatch Fair for his stallions. 


Seasonal jobs were vital for every family around Deary.  When the men had to work in the timber or go to the harvest for cash, the women stayed at home and ran the farm.  The strength required to be a mother, farmer, and homemaker in isolated rural life created strong-willed independent women.  In a society where divorce was not an alternative, domestic incompatibility might be resolved with a buckshot delivered by the wife as well as the husband. 


Deary continued to grow as Potlatch Lumbar Company expanded its operations.  The Deary Lumber Company was established in 1909 to independently mill lumber, the Deary Clay Products Company turned out bricks first used in building the First State Bank At Bovill, and the Farmer's Union built warehouse to make Deary a grain shipping point.  Through it all, Anton Lee, who opened his studio July 16,1909, photographed people, places, and events for postcards and portraits, thus making a valuable historical record for the region. 


In October 1923, the town's major fire destroyed all of the buildings except the bank on the west side of Main Street.  Afterwards, with the dwindling activity of the Potltach Company and the paving of roads to Moscow, Deary settled into its present role as an outlying agricultural community.  In the 40s and 50s there was a mica mining and processing mill in Deary, which provided employment to many Deary residents.  The highway from Deary to Bovill was build in 1957. 


In the 1960s Deary schools consolidated with Bovill and Troy.  Elk River joined the school district in the 80s.  Deary and Troy deconsolidated effective in July 2000.  Deary remains part of the Whitepine School District.  The school was remodeled and expanded in 2004, including the addition of a new gym. 


In 1964, new wells were drilled for the city water supply.  Sewer systems were installed in the 1960s.  The City's water supply was expanded in 1996 with water from Spud Hill.  


Over the years, Deary has seen a revolving downtown.  They used to have a Ford dealership, which is gone.  Deary also used to have a signal light, but that too is long gone.  The City now has a grocery store, NAPA store, saw/general store, library, auto repair and tire store, two service stations, a convenience store/mini-mart, one gas/service station, a community store, and multiple churches 






Who We Are

Located in Latah County, Deary is a small community of just over 500 nestled at the base of Potato Hill, affectionately called 'Spud Hill' by the locals.  At just over 2900 feet elevation, Deary is a bedroom community to Moscow, Idaho, the home of University of Idaho.  Deary's major employers are logging and forestry related with the Whitepine School District and the Idaho Distance Education Academy(IDEA) adding a number of other jobs.  Deary has a nice complement of small businesses including a grocery store, auto parts store, saw & lawn shop, tire and automotive shop, convenience store, artisan bakery and cheese-making shop, restaurant, bar& grill, car dealorship and a thrift store.