Historians differ on the origin of the town name “Weiser”: many believe that the town was named after Revolutionary War veteran Peter Weiser, who served as a quartermaster, hunter, and cook on the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, which passed through the area. The map that William Clark prepared for publication in a 1814 edition of the Lewis & Clark journals does note the newly named “Weiser River,” which may very well have been named for Peter Weiser. Others, however, believe that the town of Weiser was named for the trapper and miner Jacob Weiser, who discovered gold in the early 1860s in Florence Basin’s Babboon Gulch and settled in the area soon after.
In 1864, Reuben Olds began ferrying people across the Snake River, providing better access to Weiser, and in 1866 the town received a post office. It wasn’t always through industry and access that Weiser grew, however; it also benefited through a bit of underhandedness in 1879, when Weiser won the county seat from the nearby town of Salubria through the bribe of a jug of “Snake River redeye” and a suspiciously missing ballot box. Two years later, in 1881, the Oregon Short Line Railroad helped seal Weiser’s long-term stability by extending its tracks through the town on its way to Huntington, Oregon. Because of Weiser’s growing population during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the town ranks among the top four cities in Idaho for architecture.