MELBA — Imagine growing up in a town named after you. The schools, the grocery stores, the post office and even the churches having your name on every sign.
That's what life was like for Melba Todd. Her father, Clayton Todd, homesteaded the town of Melba in 1912.
Melba Todd was 4 years old when her father decided to name his future town after her.
In the Centennial Scrapbook of Melba, 1912-2012, published by Madge Cook Wylie, Melba Todd wrote a brief article about her father.
Clayton Todd grew up on a farm, was once a teacher and sold produce in Florida where he was married and had three children before he divorced his first wife. Her name is lost to history.
Clayton Todd left Florida and moved to Texas to work in the oil business when he met and married Bessie Miles, Melba's mother.
“Oil led them to California but because of its uncertainty, my father decided to leave Los Angeles for Alaska,” Melba Todd wrote. “On the way he decided to stop in Weiser to see an old Florida friend, W.W. Fuller, who was then city clerk of Weiser.”
According to Melba Todd's writings, Fuller painted a beautiful picture of Idaho with his own words and quickly convinced Clayton Todd to buy 160 acres of land for the steep price of $2,000.
“So at 55, when some people think of retiring, he laid out a townsite in the sagebrush,” Melba Todd wrote.
After building a home for his wife and daughter, Clayton Todd and his friend Ed Laughlin started collecting signatures for a post office.
“Mr. Laughlin said he though they should name the post office Melba,” Melba Todd wrote. “So they did. I was four.”
The city of Melba was not incorporated into Canyon County until 1967.
Melba Todd's mother was the first teacher at the town's school. She graduated from the 8th grade at 12-years-old.
The town itself became a bustling place to live in the middle of perfect farming community.
“Stores, lumberyards, blacksmith shops and gas stations soon were built,” Wylie wrote in her book.
“It was a boom town.”
Melba is not much of a boom town anymore, Wylie said. She said the road patterns have been the same since the town was founded and few businesses are being built. She describes the town as the end of the road, but generations of families still cherish the land.
As for Melba Todd, she gained the town of Melba some fame in the 1950s through the March of Dimes. Wylie said in 1951 Melba Todd and many of the men and women raised $3,786 for the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis to help the fight against polio, which struck communities in Idaho drastically. Melba gained national attention for donating the most money among any town its size.
Melba Todd didn't stop collecting that year. In 1952 she charged ahead and gathered over $5,000 for the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis.
Wylie said Todd remarried and became Melba Hays. She moved to Oakdale California to farm with her new family but visited the town of Melba quite often. Wylie said she enjoyed the famous Melba Fourth of July carnival, she would lead the parade at times.
Not much else is known about Melba Todd and her life. In 2001, Melba passed away at 92-years-old. She's buried in her hometown at the Melba Cemetery.
So the next time you are in Melba, stop by and say hi to Melba Todd and her family, who gave Canyon County the sleepy little town.