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Before becoming an official townsite, the region surrounding Murphy was home to the Oregon Trail’s south alternate route. By 1891, however, settlers began to stay, and cattle ranchers and sheepherders prospered. Quickly establishing itself as a regional livestock center, Murphy eagerly welcomed the 1892 arrival of the Boise, Nampa, and Owyhee Railroad. At that same time, area residents decided to christen their town after Pat Murphy. Pat was a Silver City mining engineer and close friend of Colonel William Dewey, and Dewey had played an instrumental role in bringing the line to Murphy. Although Dewey fully intended to connect Murphy to nearby Silver City by rail, the plan never materialized, and Murphy remained the end of the line. Nevertheless, the railroad was key in establishing Murphy as the Pacific Northwest’s largest livestock and agricultural shipping point in the early 1900s. Based upon this economic factor and the town’s location near the Snake River, Murphy obtained rights from Silver City as county seat in 1934.

Today, a lone parking meter stands in front of the courthouse, reminding locals to watch where they park. Local lore also states that the meter is supposed to remind visitors that this town may in fact be America’s smallest county seat.

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