New Horizons Genealogy

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Early Settlers of Idaho

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What might be called the first permanent settlement, made in what is now Idaho, was made by the Rev. Henry Spaulding at what is known as the Lapwai Agency on the Clearwater river, twelve miles above where Lewiston now stands, in the year 1836. True, a few Catholic priests had passed through the country but none made settlement. Old Fort Hall was built in 1834 by Capt. Nathalin Weyth, and old Fort Boise was built by the Hudson Bay Trapping Company in 1835. But neither of these could be regarded as permanent settlements as they were built solely for trading and trapping stations. Mr. Spaulding, with his wife and a few other Americans, built this Lapwai station in 1836 for a permanent settlement for the purpose of civilizing, educating, and christinizing the Nez Perce Indians. Mr. Spaulding succeeded so well in his undertaking that this tribe of Indians gave but little trouble other than the Joseph band which was in the northeastern portion of Oregon.

Mr. Spaulding succeeded in getting a small printing press at his station from Honolulu, the first that we have any account of ever having been brought to the northwest Pacific coast. He had school books printed, also a part of the New Testament — the Gospel of St. Matthew — printed in the Nez Perce Indian language, and some books in the jargon language. This was soon learned by both Indians and whites. They could talk understandingly on almost any subject. This language was almost universally used in conversation between the whites and the Indians in Oregon and Washington Territory for many years. Thousands of Indians who could not speak or understand any of our English language soon learned to speak the jargon fluently, so that they could talk with the whites understandingly. For the great sacrifice made and the noble work done by the Rev. Spaulding and his wife, their memory should be revered by all the people of Idaho. These good missionariese had to leave their home mission in 1847 on account of the war waged by the Cayuse Indians. They were escorted by Peter Ogden's men of the Hudson Bay Company safely to old Fort Wallula, at which place they joined other white people and went down safely to Oregon City. But the good work they did among the Nez Perce Indians had the effect of keeping them at peace with the whites ever after.

The next permanent white American settler was Wm. Craig, who appears to have come into the Nez Perce country from one of the western states with his wife (who was a half-breed Indian woman) in about the year 1842, and settled on a tract of land which was later within the boundaries of the Nez Perce Indian reservation. Mr. Craig seemed to understand how to get along peacefully with the Indians. He lived there for many years and until he died, often rendered valuable service to the whites in the settlement and development of that portion of the country in the early sixties.

The next attempted settlement was made by a small party of Mormons in what is now a portion of Lemhi county in the eastern portion of Idaho, in 1855. They built what was called old Lort Lemhi and began the cultivation of some of the agricultural land with the view of making permanent homes, but after some two years stay, the Indians became so troublesome they were forced to leave and return to Utah territory from whence they had come.

The next permanent settlement made in what is now Idaho appears to have been in and around where Lewiston now stands at the junction of the Clearwater river with the Snake, in I860, and also a few prospectors for gold mines in the southern portion of Shoshone county at the small mining camps later called Pierce City, Orofino and Elk City. Placer gold having been discovered in these small camps, quite a number came in I860, and more in 1861. In 1861, more extensive and richer placer mines were discovered furthere east in the mountains at a place called Florence, a few miles from the Salmon river, now in Idaho county. There was a great rush for these mines, several thousand people went in. A few did well, while many were losers. This rush of people to the mining camps gave the people and town of Lewiston quite a boost as Lewiston was situated at the head of steamboat navigation on the Snake river. There were quite a number of business houses erected there in 1862. The material consisted principally of board sidings and canvas roofs. In the summer of 1862, another placer mining camp was disco%'ered south of the Salmon river called Warrens which was not very rich nor extensive. Late in the fall of 1862, more extensive and much richer placer mines were discovered in what is known as Boise Basin in Boise county which attracted people from all over this coast.

The reader must bear in mind that when all these mines were discovered and towns and settlements made, in what is now Idaho, up to March 3, 1863, Idaho was a portion of Washington territory, and the Territorial laws of Washington territory extended over us. A few locations of farming land were made in the Boise and Payette valleys prior to the year 1863.

On December 20, 1861, the Legislature of Washington territory passed an act to "create and organize Idaho county," and on the same day passed an act "to create and organize Nez Perce county," and on December 21, 1861, passed an act to "establish and define the boundaries of Shoshone county." (See pages 3 and 4, Ninth Regular Session Laws, held at Olympia, W. T., 1861 and 1862.)

At their next session held in 1862 and 1863 they passed an act "to create and organize Boise county." So at the time Idaho was created by act of Congress, approved March 3, 1863, we had three organized counties, viz., Nez Perce, Idaho and Boise, and the boundary lines of Shoshone county established by law but no organization.

Soon after the approval of the act of Congress of March 3, 1863, the President of the United States appointed a corps of territorial officers for the territory of Idaho, towit: On March 10, 1863, William H. Wallace, Governor, William B. Daniels, Secretary, Sidney Edgerton, Chief Justice, Alex C. Smith and Samuel Parks, Associate Justices. Dolphus Payne was appointed U. S. Marshal on March 13, 1863. There does not appear to have been any person to accept the position of U. S. Attorney until February 29, 1864, when George C. Hough was appointed. Most of these officers were in the east when appointed, and did not get out here for some considerable time, owing to the long, slow and roundabout way. They had to come by water from the east to the Pacific coast. We have no record of the exact date of their arrival, but presume the Governor arrived some time in the following July as his appointment of John M. Bacon, Territorial Auditor, was made July 23, 1863. Derrick S. Kenyon was appointed Territorial Treasurer September 7, 1863.

The delay of the Federal officials in getting to Idaho did not stop the wild rush of people to the rich placer gold mines in Boise Basin, situated in Boise County which had been discovered in the fall of 1862. They came in large numbers, horseback and afoot. A few made selections of agricultural lands and built cabins thereon. Major Lugeanbeal with a detachment of U. S. troops located the present military post. Fort Boise, early in July, 1863. A few days later, Cyrus Jacobs, Thomas Davis, H. C. Riggs and a few others laid out and started the present town of Boise.

Section 4 of the act of Congress creating a territorial government for Idaho, provides among other things "that the Governor, previous to the first election, shall cause a census of enimieration to be made of the voters and divide the territory into legislative districts, apportion the numbers for each district, call an election, canvass the returns, issue certificates of elections, name the place for them to meet, etc."

The first election was called and held on October 31, 1863. The time and place appointed and directed by the Governor for the Legislature to meet was on the seventh day of December, 1863, at Lewiston. [Source: The History of Idaho, by John Hailey, Press of Syms-York Company, Inc., Boise, Idaho.]