Kate Curley Park’s namesake was a civic improver

Aug. 7-8
The 25th Annual Great Snake River Greenbelt Duck Race kicks off Aug. 7-8. The event features thousands of toy ducks dropped into the Snake River. Money from purchased ducks go toward improving the greenbelt.
Sept. 12: 5:30 p.m., Freeman Park
IF150 Symphony Concert in the Park and Heritage Plaque Presentation
Sept. 25, Colonial Theater
“Celebrate our Hydropower Heritage” program and bond fire
Sept. 26: noon–4 p.m.
Idaho Falls Power open house
Oct. 7: 6:30 p.m.
Museum of Idaho
Story-telling Night at the Museum

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth installment of a 10-part series that looks at key historical from Idaho Falls first 150 years.

Driving down the streets of Idaho Falls, one would not expect cattle crossing the roads to be a problem.

But in the late 1800s lumbering livestock were such a nuisance that Kate Curley, with the Village Improvement Society, lobbied the City Council to create an ordinance barring the animals from roaming the streets, according to Paul Menser’s book “Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls.” Curley and the group’s actions resulted in cows having to be stabled and not roaming free to, um, “fertilize” the street.

This was one among Curley’s many civic triumphs in Idaho Falls.

Curley moved to Idaho Falls from Nebraska with her husband Bowen Curley in 1892, according to Cheryl Cox and Lexie French’s book “Second Stories Revisited: Historical Narratives of Idaho Falls Women.”

Curley engaged with the community and helped organize the Village Improvement Society in 1898, aimed at upholding culture and civic improvement.

When Curley moved here, she took umbrage with the scarcity of trees in Idaho Falls as well as the trash in the streets, Cox and French’s book said. To solve the trash problem, she collected a membership fee of 50 cents per person from her 40-member society in order to hire a carpenter to build 50 pine trash boxes. One of the white boxes, with the letters “V.I.S.” stenciled on the lid, is on display at the Museum of Idaho.

The Curleys also had 20,000 elm, ash and birch seedlings shipped from Iowa to plant along the city streets, the book said.

For her work in greening up the city, Kate Curley Park, between 9th and 10th streets, was named in her honor in 1908, the book said.

An old photograph shows Curley primly dressed with her hair parted down the middle and curls sweeping back toward her forehead. Curley was a studious intellectual. After receiving her degree, she taught English literature at an academy in Erie, Pa., the book said.

Curley originally organized the improvement society as a club purposed with educating women in politics and literary works, the book said. She was fond of influencing the community and that “complaint was good citizenship,” the book said.

Later in life, Curley gave the commencement address to the 1903 graduating class of Idaho Falls High School, the book said. Months before her death at age 53 due to cancer, she encouraged the graduates to serve the world they lived in.

“Think not that the world owes you a living, but that you owe the world a life,” Curley said.