Chesterfield ID

I don’t usually leave my photos so big, but I liked this one so much I did:

It doesn’t even show up full size in my browser. Right click or something, download it, and check it full size!

Chesterfield is sort of a ghost town Mormon pioneer farming community. It was a small but busy town in the late 1800s through around 1950. Its citizens had hoped that a major rail line would eventually connect it with the outside world, but when the railroad was built it, and later the highway, ended up about twenty miles away. That was too far, and Chesterfield couldn’t survive as a town. Now it’s nine miles from Bancroft, which is to say (with apologies to the good people of Bancroft) nine miles from nowhere. Go ahead and google map it, and you’ll see what I mean. There’s a beautiful picture of it in the winter on Google Maps (but no more beautiful than my picture above 🙂 ).

Chesterfield is being lovingly restored as a historic site. It will never be the Sturbridge Village of the West, if only because it’s not on the way to anywhere else. Even Bancroft isn’t on the way to anywhere else except Chesterfield.

We found our way easily, partly because I remembered the road from five or six years ago when we had first been there, and parked by the Barlow Log Store.

There were two teenage girls in there and two women about our age. One of the women is a guide for the place. She got us a sarsaparilla soda from the cooler (sounded right for the old West) and asked what we’d like to see. I said my first priority was the tithing house, since that was something unique to the Mormon history of the town.

When people started to restore the town, they almost gave up on this building. The mortar was falling apart, and they didn’t know what to do to keep it together. A man who knew something about construction happened by and couldn’t get the building out of his mind. He figured out a way to hold it together with T-shaped bolts — a threaded 5/16″ rod about the length of the thickness of the wall, with a short rod welded across one end. There are now over a thousand of those holding plywood to the inside of the bricks and keeping the bricks from falling out on the outside. There are just two rooms in the building. I guess the outer one was a waiting room. The inner one was the bishop’s office (a whole bishop for a town of that size!), where people paid their tithes or requested help from the community (or more likely asked for help on behalf of friends or neighbors who might have been to proud to do so themselves).

The only other thing we had time to see was Denmark Jensen’s cabin.

“We have a joke here,” said our guide, “that when your mother said, ‘Now, you go straight up to bed!’, she meant straight up!” That ladder is the only access to the second floor.

Our guide said they have 10,000 visitors a year. That sounds like a lot to me, but maybe. They have a lot of church youth groups that come out, go on camping trips in the hills, and help with some work around the place. I can see the attraction for Mormon kids who might want to see what the intermountain West looked like when their great great grandparents were settling it.

All right, it’s isolated out in Chesterfield, but isn’t it GORGEOUS! I’m not listing it on my top ten things to see in Idaho, but I do really like it.

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