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Nampa wasn’t always called Nampa. How it got its name


Nampa is the third largest town in Idaho – but it used to be called something else.

In 1883, the Union Pacific built the Oregon Short Line Railway from Granger, Wyoming to Huntington, Oregon. Towns popped up every 10 to 15 miles along the tracks – one of those was Nampa.

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But it wasn’t called Nampa at that time. In 1885, according to the City of Nampa website, Alexander and Hannah Duffes, decided to buy 160 acres and make the sagebrush filled land their home – with the intent of building a town. The Duffes were very religious – refusing to sell land to anyone who wanted to build a saloon. This led to people calling the town the “New Jerusalem”. Ironically though in 1888 – The Nampa Progress – which was the town’s first newspaper – listed 28 businesses – 3 of which were saloons.

Eventually, the name Nampa was adopted for the town and according to Nampa historian, Annie Laurie Bird, the name comes from the Shoshone word, Namb – which means moccasin or footprint.

“I learned that the Indians (Native Americans) of the region were wont to stuff their moccasins, during cold weather, with sage brush leaves,” Bird wrote. “This would enlarge to unusual size, the tracks of Indians wearing such stuffed moccasins”

Nampa isn’t the only town with that name – there is a Nampa, Canada – a town in northern Alberta.

To read more on how Nampa came to be, click here.

Correction: Nampa is Idaho’s third-largest city, behind Meridian as of the 2020 Census. A previous version of this story contained outdated information.

Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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