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Arbon Valley
During the boom in dry farming in World War I, it is said that American Falls shipped more grain than any other station on the Union Pacific System. Homesteads had been settled in Arbon and Rockland Valleys and a prolonged wet period gave the farmers the taste of prosperity. This turned to the taste of failure with the crash in grain prices after World War I and several dry summers.

In her historical review of Arbon Valley, Laurie Ward wrote:

"As the homesteaders poured all their energy into the taming of the land, the long hours of hard work and sweat seemed to turn into pride when the finished product, a field clear of sagebrush, was put into grain and the land that was once untamed, was now producing crops."

No matter that most dryland homesteads were not practical. This was part of the American dream.

Rockland Valley
The sparsely populated Rockland Valley barely manages to support Rockland, a tattered town with a store, gas station, and Mormon church. This is mainly dry farming country, largely depopulated during the 1930's.

(left) American Falls Lake beds, deposited between about 80,000 years and about 30,000 years ago in the ancestral American Falls Lake, (September, 1988).

(right) Stumps of mature trees on street of Old American Falls, now covered much of the year by waters of the American Falls Reservoir. The town was moved in 1926 when the dam was built and the reservoir flooded part of the townsite. In drier years, the old town is accessible late in the irrigation year when the reservoir is almost empty, (November, 1990).

Here are some recollections of Virgil Allen, born in Rockland Valley in 1914.

"I was born and raised in Rockland, Idaho, and attended school there in grades one through nine. In 1928 we had just harvested the biggest and best dry farm grain crop of our lives. Everything looked rosy...We moved to Pocatello so my two older sisters could attend the University of Idaho Southern Branch. We planned to return to Rockland the next summer to resume farming. Grain prices were low in the fall so Dad decided to hold his crop until the price rose in the spring. But the price didn't go up. Instead it plummeted. The price of grain went so low that across America people were burning if for fuel because it was cheaper than coal...By 1928 Dad had acquired three homesteads to increase our holdings to more than a section of land... But when the Depression came, one foreclosure followed another until there was nothing in Rockland for us to move back to." (in Hanson, editor, 1984, p. 70.)

Map of part of the Old American Falls townsite, after Idaho State Journal, September 20, 1992. Original is in American Falls Library. Number 1 on the map identifies the location of store number 1 operated by the Skaggs Brothers whose grocery business expanded rapidly, ultimately becoming the Safeway chain.