Amity Road Inferno uncovers history

Amity Road Inferno uncovers history »Play Video
BOISE - Last week's devastating Amity Road Inferno destroyed too many homes and family memories, but the flames did uncover one piece of history: a nearly two century year old unmarked trail that plays an important role in the heritage of many Boiseians.

"This is my great great grandparents, my name sake actually," said William Wilson while pointing at an old picture in his wallet. "Their first child was William Wilson, and I was named after him."

William Wilson is walking back in history, remembering the footsteps his family took in 1851.

"My great grandfather Wilson was a one-year-old baby when they came out in '51," Wilson said.

Wilson's grandparents headed west by wagon, along with thousands during the mid-1800s. They followed a trail that they hope would provide them a better life.

"This is the Oregon Trail ramp down onto this lower level from the bench above us here," said Wilson, while pointing down the ridge.

Sage brush and high grasses covered the trails that date back to 1836.

"I think of these trails sort of my ancestors tracks and a lot of other people's ancestors tracks, too," Wilson said.

The unmarked ramp has been uncovered since last week's Amity Road Inferno, and now, Wilson can clearly see the ruts embedded in this Idaho rock.

"It probably was never marked, because it was private property so they started with public land pretty much to begin with," Wilson said.

After the Inferno, the Oregon-California Trails Association got approval from Idaho Power to line the pioneer route with marking posts.

"This gives us a good reason to mark it now that we can see it easily and have permission to mark it," Wilson said.

Wilson often thinks of the hardships his ancestors experienced while crossing these trails.

"I use to imagine maybe they camped in my backyard, probably didn't but it is fun to speculate about it anyhow!" Wilson exclaimed.

It was a rugged trail that was dug with shovels and picks, so pioneer grandchildren, like Wilson, could flourish in the west.

Historians say more than 350-thousand emigrants traveled by foot on these trails. Some of them started as far east as Independence, Missouri, then they came through the Gem State and some continued in Oregon City where the trails end.