Prior to the settlement of Camas County the Bannock Indians utilized the Camas Prairie as their summer camping area. Here they gathered the Camas and Yampus roots and hunted wild game.
Goodale’s Cutoff, a heavily used emigrant trail route was utilized beginning in the early 1850’s. This route traversed the length of the Camas Prairie. Following the Bannock War of 1878 the summer gathering of roots by the Indians tapered off dramatically, but, still continued into the 1950’s.
In 1877 the government opened the area for settlement and within two years the first land filings were recorded in Boise. In addition to the homestead filings on the prairie there were numerous mining operations of various sizes working in the timbered foothills to the north. By 1883 the first local school was established. Eventually a total of 27 small schools dotted the prairie serving the educational and social purposes of the scattered communities. By 1948 most schools had consolidated with the Fairfield system. The last rural school closed in 1953.
At one time nine small towns thrived in what is now Camas County. The town of Soldier, located two miles north of Fairfield, was a bustling center of commerce, culture and social activity. Soldier’s decline, however, began during the formation of Fairfield in 1911 occasioned by the arrival of the Oregon Short Line Railroad. Hill City, the terminus of the railroad, at one time shipped more sheep than any other point in the world. The railroad served the Camas Prairie for a period of seventy years. A remnant of this bygone era and many of the daily items from the pioneer days to the present still remain within the historic Railroad Depot/Museum building located in Fairfield. Brochure. The Camas Historical Society manages the museum, to be come a member and receive updated information anyone is invited to become a member.