Chesterfield & the Gem Valley
CHESTERFIELD is an early Mormon settlement 11 miles north of Bancroft. Founded in 1881, it is now unoccupied, but history buffs won’t let it go away. They formed a foundation to refurbish and maintain 27 original structures now on the National Historic Register. It is astride the Oregon Trail and the architecture and scenery are worth the visit.
Your first look will tell you why this panorama is called the Gem Valley and why it is an important part of the Pioneer Historic Byway. This is the rout the Oregon Trail took during the western push. This is where some of the pioneers split off to take the Hudspeth Cutoff southwest to California while the Oregon Trail went northwest to Fort Hall. Later when the huge wagon train westward migration expired due to building of railroads, Mormon Pioneers pushed north from Salt Lake. They were looking for fertile farm ground with water. Their settlement was Chesterfield in 1879. Farming was good, families grew and prospered. Several homes a school, a church, and a general store were constructed.
Then the Portland to St. Louis railroad came through the valley, but it’s line wasn’t close to the settlement. Some upstarts with commerce on their mind founded Bancroft next to the tracks n 1898. Chesterfield became a ghost town. Chester was, then wasn’t, and now is again. Chesterfield didn’t fare well in the farm economy that developed after the turn of the century and one by one everybody left, everybody. Holbrook Home on the left. Henry’s Store on the right.