Although Native American tribes had settled in Idaho for hundreds of years, little human settlement occurred in the area that is now Nampa until the late 1800s. Settlement in Nampa began in 1883, a direct result of the completion of the Oregon Short Line Railroad. At that time, Caldwell resident James A. McGee and businessman Alexander Duffes decided to invest in the development of this new town. Duffes filed a claim under the Idaho Homestead Act, and in 1886 McGee and Duffes formed the Nampa Land and Improvement Company and filed the town's articles of incorporation. Initially, the Short Line bypassed Nampa, but due to increased traffic it soon became necessary to provide a connecting line between the Oregon Short Line and Boise. The Idaho Central Railway was built to make that connection, and Nampa was a stop along the way.
Nampa was incorporated in 1891. Population and business development continued to grow into the 1890s, mainly a result of irrigation made possible by the Phyllis Canal, but in 1894 Duffes mortgaged Nampa's unsold lots in an attempt to boost the slowing economy. The loan source defaulted and the town spiraled into debt. In 1896, Colonel W.H. Dewey paid the debt and received 2,000 deeds to town lots. He was crucial to the continued development of Nampa, as he began a survey of a route for the Boise, Nampa, Owyhee Railway that eventually linked Boise with the mining towns of the Owyhee Valley.
As the 20th century began, the Western Idaho Sugar Company and the Crescent Brewing Company were both established in Nampa. These companies utilized local farmers and created jobs at their processing plants. But a business decline was followed by a fire in 1909, which caused the destruction of more than 60 stores in downtown Nampa. By the 1920s, however, Nampa had once again established itself as a stable community. The Northwest Nazarene School, now Northwest Nazarene University, was established in 1913 by Eugene Emerson. During World War I, Nampa's farming community benefited from high crop prices. However, when the bottom of the market fell out after the war was over, many farmers were bankrupted. The economy was revived in 1942, when the Amalgamated Sugar Company opened a sugar beet plant in Nampa, which spurred farm productivity.
In 1949, the Nampa Industrial Corporation (NIC) was formed to encourage other economic development beyond farming. By the 1970s the NIC's investment in land and facility improvements had resulted in a more diverse economy, having encouraged new businesses and industries to locate in Nampa.
Today, Nampa has grown to become Idaho's second-largest city, boasting a thriving economy and excellent quality of life.
Historical Information: Canyon County Historical Museum, 1200 Front Street, Nampa, ID 83653; telephone (208)467-7611