A Concise History of Idaho

Idaho History Books

History in Idaho began when the White Man discovered it, and that’s that! Well, no, of course that’s not true. But unfortunately the recorded history of Idaho does begin with the appearance of Europeans in the early 19th century. Everything prior is based on fossil records and legends. So, the known story of Idaho is largely one of conflict between settlers and Native Americans, and of the struggle to populate and live off some of the continent’s wildest land.

15,000 to 6,000 B.C.The appearance of humanity, with Big-Game Hunters on the trail of woolly mammoths and mastodons establishing a presence in Idaho.
6,000 B.C. to A.D. 500The so-called Archaic Period sees a major warming of the earth, which creates massive rivers. The Archaic people, hunters and gatherers, begin to trade with one another.
500 to 1805Not much is known about the 1300 years before the arrival of the Europeans, referred to as the Late Period. The modern Indian tribes such as the Nez Perce, the Bannock and the Shoshone, took shape and flourished.
August 12, 1805Lewis & Clark enter Idaho, making it the last of the 50 states to be explored.
1810The fur trade leads to the establishment of Fort Henry on the Snake River, abandoned just a year later.
1832Aided by the Nez Perce tribe, fur trappers engage the migratory Gros Ventre people in a bloody battle at Pierre’s Hole.
1836Henry H. Spalding establishes a protestant mission in Lapwai, writes Idaho’s first novel, opens its first school, and plants its first potato.
Chief Joseph, 1840–1904
1846–1869Tens of thousands of settlers pass through Idaho on the Oregon Trail, though very few choose to settle here.
1860A gold rush leads to the illegal establishment of Lewiston, squarely situated in territory given to the Nez Perce tribe in a treaty.
1863Abraham Lincoln incorporates the Idaho Territory, which included most of present-day Montana and Wyoming, and had its capital at Lewiston.
1877The bitterly fought Nez Perce War concludes with Chief Joseph’s immortal words “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
July 3, 1890Idaho is admitted into the Union as the 43rd state.
1892Mining strikes in Coeur d’Alene turn deadly and union struggles culminate in 1905’s assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg.
1905The completion of Milner Dam allows settlement in the heretofore unpopulated Magic Valley area.
1936The Sun Valley ski resort opens, featuring heated outdoor pools and the world’s first ski lifts.
1981The closure of the Bunker Hill Mining Company signals the substantive end of mining in Idaho.
1992The infamous Ruby Ridge standoff between right-wing separatist Randy Weaver and the US Marshalls leaves three dead, including Weaver’s wife and son.
2001The Aryan Nation is expelled from the state. Owing to Idaho’s remoteness, right-wing extremism has been a problem since the 80s.
2012 and beyondWith the eclipse of mining, Idaho’s economic base turns to tourism and technology, with Boise establishing itself as one of America’s most livable cities, and adventure-seekers the world over beginning to discover the state’s great untamed wilderness.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Karen Ballard

    Nice synopsis. The mining industry might take exception though to your obsservation. They have had some rejuvination with the current value of gold and silver. I’d also like to point out that the media attention to a few rehensible extremists which were ultimately sued and expelled has been the problem. You are correct in the assessment that the remoteness of Idaho allows for a few nut bags to seek a place where they can reside without alot of scrutiny since ther e is so much privacy and people tend to mind their own business.

    1. Mike Powell

      Thanks for those clarifications! We hope to visit a mine or two while we’re here — I read about an opal mine which is open to the public, and sounds awesome. The fewer extremists we meet, the better — but so far, the people have been nothing but wonderful!

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