Our History

Oneida County was formed in 1864. The name, an Indian word for a member of an Iroquoian tribe once in New York State, was chosen by the legislature because some of the early settlers were from Oneida, New York.  Soda Springs was designated to be the county seat. Brigadier-General Patrick Edward Connor had laid it out the previous summer, 1803. With three companies of soldiers, and some families of Morrisites, he established Fort Connor, and created the first hotel and general store.  However, treaties with the Bannock and Shoshone Indians in the fall of 1863 brought about by the presence of troops made travel along the Oregon Trail safe for the first time. As immigration dwindled,, the strategic importance of the military post declined.  A bill of the Territorial Legislature passed on January 5 1866 moved the county seat to Malad City.  For two years the county government was maintained in the upper level of Connor’s adobe hotel in Soda Springs.

The valley was visited between 1818 and 1821 by Donald McKenzie, a French-Canadian, and his party of trappers associated with the Northwest Company.  Legend says that the name “Malade” was given to the largest stream by some of these trappers, either because they were made sick by drinking the alkaline water, or because they ate food that was tainted by the water. The word is French for bad water, or sickness.

Jim Bridger, of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company may have passed through the valley in 1832 as a guide to Captain Benjamin Bonneville.  The first colonists to pass through, in 1885, were a group of LDS missionaries going to establish Fort Lemhi. An early freight road crossed the Malad valley and went to the Bannock valley, but after settlement began the Portneuf rout was used by way of Marsh Valley.  Much traffic still continued to cross the Malad valley. One of the best-known roads was the Oneida Wagon Road, from Malad to Blackfoot. It was operated on a toll basis by William Murphy, and later by H.O. Harkness.  Old settlers still recall the bandits who repeated robbed the stage of god being shipped to Salt Lake City from the Mines in Montana.

In 1854 the Waldron family, LDS converts from England settled the lower valley, and probably helped in building the old Malad Fort near Portage, Utah.  However Indian hostilities around 1860 drove them back to Utah. No further attempt to colonize was made until 1864, when seven men and boys from Utah began to irrigated farming community where the present Malad City now stands. Benjamin Thomas built the first house, made from willows and mud. His son David was the first white Child born in the settlement.  By 1886 Malad City was the fastest growing village in eastern Idaho.

The first Cemetery was on Hungry Hill, but was moved because it was polluting the water. Early stores, besides that of Henry Peck, were operated also by A.W. Vanderwood, Joseph W. Morgan, and the LDS Church. The building for the business of the LDS church still stands to this day as the Evans Co-OP.