The Other Montpelier
During a recent vacation out West, we were traveling toward Yellowstone along a Blue Highway, and became intrigued that the town of Montpelier, Idaho was directly in our path.
So of course we stopped in to take a look.
Montpelier, ID, population about 2500, was settled in 1864, and sits in high desert country, tucked into the lower right corner of the state, near the border with Wyoming. Originally known as Clover Creek, it was later renamed Belmont, and then Brigham Young got involved and, being originally from Vermont, he had it named after our state’s capital Montpelier (charted 1781), which in turn was named after the French city of Montpellier (first mentioned in 985).
The diminutive town is the largest in this neck of the woods, and is not far from a beautiful aquamarine lake. But its main claim to fame, as one gathers from the kitschy signage on the main drag, is that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed a bank here in 1896.
Otherwise, the town is a sleepy, quiet place that has seen better days. Many of the downtown shopfronts are empty, as commerce seems to have been pulled out toward the boxy stores on the edge of town. We did, nonetheless, discover a nice little chocolate shop (“been making it the same recipe for five generations,” the twenty-something in charge informed us), and the National Park employee on the edge of town gave us a nice heads up about a hike outside nearby Afton, WY that would take us to an interesting periodic spring – where an emptying and filling subterranean cavern has created a mountain stream that starts and stops about every 20 minutes.
For there record, there appear to be 12 towns named Montpelier in the US. At least two others (in Iowa and Indiana) were named after ours in Vermont, thanks to their being settled by Vermont transplants.