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As we pause this month to pay tribute to heroes lost, days past and the coming of summer, a nod to the Friedman’s and their contributions to our community seems fitting. 

It may come as a surprise to learn there was not one Friedman family in the Valley but two. Details we uncover from our past are not always 100 percent accurate. Especially when there were two prominent men within a small community -with the same name. Nor was fact-checking at its best in the 1900s. Historians shudder. With assistance from the Blaine County Historical Society, we fill in the cracks and piece it back together the best we can. So let’s take a peek back in time to cousins S.M. and S.J. Friedman. A tale of two Simons.

The airport’s namesake

Simon Mason Friedman 

S.M. Friedman, born in Germany and a Utah rancher, arrived in Hailey in 1886- (there are reports that it may have been as early as 1881) and he may or may not have brought the very first flock of sheep to the Valley. The introduction of sheep meant a significant economic boost to the Valley as the mines had shut down, and other emerging industries were critical. Whether he was the first or not, he went on to become a significant member of the community.

He would serve on the first Board of Trustees of incorporated Hailey and later he was elected the town’s first mayor. In the 1880s he purchased Wilman & Walker’s grocery store on Main St., and in 1891 renamed it the Hailey Mercantile Company. S.M.’s home was at 215 E. Silver St. in Hailey. It began as a one-story cabin in 1885 and enlarged to its present size in 1911. 

In the 1920s the country was truly fascinated by air travel. Idaho was no exception. S.M.’s son, Leon, and daughter, Lucille, donated nearly 76 acres of farmland for the airport to the city in Dec. 1930. A year later, with great enthusiasm, the community celebrated the grand opening with the arrival of five airplanes on its 0.75-mile landing strip.

Leon and Lucille also donated the building that is currently the Blaine County Historical Museum in 1962. Built of adobe brick in the early 1880s, the building served as a liquor store, dance hall, movie house, store, armory, and warehouse. It has hosted graduations and many community events.

Simon and his wife Selma, had three children, Leon, Lucille, and Marian. S.M., Selma, and son Leon are interred at the Hailey Cemetery.

Simon J. Friedman

Like his cousin, S.J. was from Germany, and previously Utah. He arrived just a few weeks after the town of Hailey was first being developed in 1881. He opened a general store on Main St. in a 20 x 40 tent where he sold dry goods, clothing, boots, and shoes. Eventually, he would be the architect of his permanent store. It was the only building to survive the fire of 1889 as it was built with steel window shutters and a dirt-covered roof. As a thank you, the Union Insurance Company presented him with a silver pitcher and tray. 

He married Lucia Meyer and they had four children, Beatrice, Myrtle, Jerome, and Frederick. They made their home at 123 N. 2nd Ave. in Hailey. He passed away in the 1920s.

A big thank you to the Blaine County Historical Museum for the information provided. The museum, located at 218 N. Main St., has a large display of Friedman family items on display. Please see Blaine County Historical Museum for visitation times.