A Haunting Event at Idaho Penitentiary
Event: October 6, Noon to 4 p.m.
By Barb Law Shelley
A person looking to farmstead usually isn’t interested in buying land with a creek that goes dry, but in the early 1860s, New Yorker Phillip L. Schick did just that. He paid a $10 filing fee for a 160-acre land title by Boise in Dry Creek Valley using President Lincoln’s Homestead Act.
Homesteading in the 1860s was a hard life, but it helped people build to a better life by migrating west, and, in Idaho, it laid the groundwork for modern Boise. To learn just how hard 19th Century farming was and how it contrasts with today, attend the Dry Creek Historical Society Old Time Farm Day event on Sunday, October 6, from noon to 4 p.m.
At the event, you will see Phillip’s remarkably preserved house with its original sandstone foundation; square, handmade nails; the kitchen in a separate building; an outhouse; a root cellar; several farm buildings (some barely standing); and old horse tack. And yes, you will see the dry creek.
The farm, now called the Schick-Ostolasa Farmstead, was home to Phillip, his wife Mary, and their daughter, Clara. As required by the Homestead Act, they improved the land and house, growing to nearly 400 acres with fields, orchards, cattle, sheep and horses. Eventually a local newspaper said it was one of the most valuable ranches in the valley. The Schicks built a school nearby so that Clara and area children could get an education. In their home, they built a top floor apartment for the teacher to live in part of the year. They were politically active and provided their home and the schoolhouse for election polling.
Phillip was admired and popular according to the local newspaper. He died at the age of 64 in his farmhouse from burns suffered from an accident that might have involved his tobacco pipe and a careless moment after purchasing lamp oil.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the farm house is one of Idaho’s oldest homes. Schick family members lived on the ranch until 1920 when it was purchased by a prominent Boise banker and cattleman, Frank Parsons. He hired Basque farmers to manage the farm. In 1927, the family of Costantino and Lucia Ostolasa moved in to manage the property. Their descendants continued to work the farm and lived there until 2005.
In 2006, Ada County became the owner of the current property, which is 1.75 acres. The county leases it to the Dry Creek Historical Society to preserve and promote the history of early Idahoans.
A living history museum, the farmstead offers field trips for third graders who learn how Phillip, Mary, and Clara lived day-to-day life. They learn about the root cellar that acted as a refrigerator and food pantry. They use slate chalkboards to solve math problems from an 1895 arithmetic book and make an 1800s toy called a whirligig.
Old Time Farm Day will be held at the farmstead at 5006 W. Farm Court. A celebration of Idaho’s farming past, there will be children’s activities; 19th century re-enactments such as gold panning, soap making and goat herding; live music; food; and an auction in the Hidden Springs Community barn next door. The event is a fundraiser for the Dry Creek Historical Society, a 501c3 that uses proceeds to support the farmstead and preserve Boise’s farming past.
Phillip Schick’s creek is still most often dry all these years later, but now thanks to the efforts of the Dry Creek Historical Society volunteers, his and his wife Mary‘s farm is a living testament to life in 1860s Idaho.
For more information Schick-Ostolasa Farmstead: http://www.drycreekhistory.org