Kootenai County Idaho
Among the acts of
the first territorial legislature affecting county organizations and
was one approved February 4, 1864, which set aside within stated
section in northern Idaho was known as Latah, Kootenai and Bonner
the time no name was given to this section, which was attached to Nez
county for judicial purposes. The first part of this unnamed territory
organized was Latah county, which was created in 1880. The remainder of
region was known as Kootenai, its county government becoming effective
This section is
closely connected with some of the earliest events in Idaho's history.
on the site now covered by the city of Coeur d'Alene that Father
1842, met the Indians and introduced among them the Catholic religion.
also, eleven years afterward General Isaac I. Stevens, governor of
territory, in which Idaho was the included, spent several weeks while
transcontinental expedition. During the General's sojourn he made
explorations of the surrounding country and held frequent consultation
Indian chiefs. So impressed was he with the beauty of the lake and its
surroundings that, in his report to congress, he gave an exhaustive
of the country based on his observations during his stay.
Following the visit
of General Stevens came that of Captain Mullan, the well-known military
builder. The historic Mullan road was the first built from Walla Walla,
to Fort Benton, on the Missouri river, along the south side of Lake
d'Alene to the old mission, but in the summer of 1861 a new route was
which leads around the north part of the lake and a portion of which is
occupied by Sherman street in the city of Coeur d'Alene.
General W. T.
Sherman, while on a tour of inspection of the military forts of the
visited this place in 1877. The General was very favorably impressed
country and recommended to congress the establishment of a military
and a fort, and the following year the reservation was platted. It
the lake and the Spokane river and included about one thousand acres.
spring of 1879 the fort was regularly established and garrisoned.
Lieutenant-Colonel H. C. Merriam was made commander and five companies
Second Regiment, United States Infantry, placed under him. The fort was
originally known as Coeur d'Alene, but was subsequently named for
For several years
after the establishing of the fort the place was merely a trading post,
during the years 1882-3, when the mines in Shoshone county began to be
it became a thriving village and an outfitting point for the mines.
It is claimed that
the first county seat of Kootenai was at Seneaquoteen on the Pend
river, now known as Laclede. Seneaquoteen was, at the time it was named
county seat, a trading post and a stopping place for the Canadian mail.
possessed three or four buildings, of the typical frontier character,
three inhabitants—Dick Fry, in charge of the post, and a half-breed
his squaw. While Seneaquoteen was the county seat, it existed as such
only, as no county business was ever transacted there.
Provision was made
that whenever fifty citizens petitioned for a county organization, the
should appoint a board of county commissioners, the members of which
empowered to name the other officers. It was not until 1881 that the
possessed enough settlers to furnish the required number of signatures
this way secure for themselves a county organization.
In July, 1881, M.
D. Wright, later a prominent business man of Coeur d'Alene, and George
Wonnacoit issued a call to the citizens to meet at the latter's store,
miles west of Fort Sherman, for the purpose of signing the petition as
first step toward county government. The first meeting failed, as did
second, but at the third, after a thorough canvass of the county, the
number of signatures was secured. The petition was forwarded to the
who appointed as a board of county commissioners O. F. Canfield, J, T.
arid William Martin. The board, in its turn, after considerable
finding men who would serve, named the other officers, and the
the distinction of having served as the first officials of Kootenai
Sheriff, Fred Haines; auditor and recorder, George B. Wonnacott;
D. Wright; treasurer, Max Weil, and probate judge, Charles Chilburg.
The last named
failed to qualify for the office and A. L. Bradbury was appointed in
organization was completed in the month of July, 1881, and in August
Wonnacott, auditor and recorder, moved his store to Rathdrum, which had
effect of also moving the county seat to that point. The records do not
disclose that any official action authorized the removal, but it is
was a tacit agreement among the county commissioners. Coeur d'Alene did
become aroused to the fact of her despoliation until 1885, when she
through the board of commissioners, to again lay hands on the county
the plea that it had never been legally established at Rathdrum.
During the interval
Rathdrum, because of the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad and
of people into the Coeur d'Alene mining district, had become the
in the county, both in point of numbers and business interests, and it
intention of relinquishing its position of political center. So
the people of Coeur d'Alene, however, that for three months the
guarded the county records, fearing their forcible removal. The towns
the northern part of the county were on the Rathdrum side of the
and Coeur d'Alene was forced to abandon her quest, but only
She then commenced
a long and determined fight in the legislature for a division of the
having in view ultimately the establishing of the county seat at Coeur
either by legislative act or by an election after the passing of a
dividing the county.
The battle was
again, and this time successfully, renewed in the legislative session
A bill was introduced by Representative Taylor for a division of the
the northern part to be known as Bonner, with its county seat at
southern part of the county was to continue under the name of Kootenai,
Rathdrum as the capital esque, and many summer homes are located near
Hayden lake is one of the favorite summer playgrounds. It has no
outlet, but has a subterranean connection with the Spokane river.
Fish lakes are in the northwestern part of the county and lay just
their full share of beauty. At the former Chautauqua grounds have been
and assemblies are held there each summer.
The hills, the
towering evergreens, the lakes and rivers combine to produce one of
glorious panoramas. The color and outline of sky and cloud, mountains
trees, are caught and held in the clear depths of the waters which so
enhance their beauty. St. Joe river is unrivaled in the delicacy and
exquisiteness of its shadow effects.
Kootenai county is
first and foremost, so far as its natural resources are concerned, a
country. A large acreage lies within the national forests of Coeur
Perce and Pend d'Orcille, but there are privately owned tracts which
billions of feet. The streams afford the means of conveying the giant
their forest home to the mills on the lake. The white pine of this
commands the highest price on the market. But the white pine no longer
monopolizes the demand, and the yellow pine, cedar and fir find ready
been confined to the valleys and only in the last few years has this
been emphasized. Although Kootenai county lies in the humid belt, the
precipitation being about twenty-five inches during the year, much of
only attains its highest productiveness after irrigation, and the
farmed by this method will doubtless steadily increase. The fertility
soil is evidenced by its average yields of grain, which show thirty
wheat, forty-two bushels of oats, thirty-eight bushels of barley and
twenty-eight bushels of corn to the acre. Much interest is now being
horticulture and many orchards are being planted. Gradually, as the
slopes are denuded of their magnificent trees, the husbandman will
domain, and where now stand the mighty monarchs of the forest, future
will see the commodious ranch home, surrounded by its fields of grain
bending under their burden of fruit.
given an impetus by the opening to settlement of the Coeur d'Alene
reservation in 1909-10. An article from the Coeur d'Alene Evening
telling of the reservation and which also gives interesting facts about
Indians themselves, reads as follows: "In connection with the passing
the Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation, which is to be thrown open to
the coming summer, a brief history of the aborigines will not be out of
Charles O. Worley, Indian agent at DeSmet mission, furnishes most of
statistics for this article.
which is situated wholly in Kootenai county, contains approximately 625
miles, or four hundred thousand acres. At least two-fifths of the land
in the reservation is cultivable and of great fertility. The remaining
three-fifths, or nearly a quarter of a million acres, contain a heavy
timber, consisting of fir, tamarack, white and yellow pine and cedar. A
portion of the timber land, when cleared, will make desirable farms.
already under cultivation ranks among the best for agriculture in
crops thus far produced have been wheat, oats and hay, but the soil has
proven to be admirably adapted to the growing of sugar beets.
taken last year shows the number of stock to be as follows: Horses,
cattle, 1,200; hogs, 600; sheep, 175.
d'Alene Indians there were males 255, females 245. Besides these there
ninety-seven Spokane Indians, nearly evenly divided in regard to sex.
show very little change as to the number of Indians in the tribe since
mission was established at DeSmet in 1880. There were then
hundred of all ages on the reservation, and the census recently
practically the same number. The birth and the death rate practically
the longevity of many of the Indians, the mortality rate is high, being
exceeded by only a very few cities in the United States. A visit to
cemetery furnishes convincing proof that a large proportion of the
those of infants and children and that, having passed maturity, the
excellent for arriving at a ripe old age.
"The great age
reached by a number of these people is a subject of common remark, the
of which might make an interesting physiological study. Father Caruana,
DeSmet mission, states that old Charles, who died there a few years
ago, was at
the time of his death not less than one hundred and twenty years old.
totally blind for many years before his death, and was waited on by his
daughter, who died later, deaf and blind, over ninety years of age.
instances could be cited.
majority of these people their longevity is the only remarkable feature
their lives. Some of the men in their prime were looked upon as
endowed with supernatural power, and consequently of great influence
their fellows. When the 'black gowns' or priests began their work, they
condemned that sort of superstition, and the medicine men gradually
power and influence. Little, then, remains to be told of these old men
women, unless it be their conversion to Christianity.
present time all, both old and young, are devout adherents of the Roman
Catholic religion. Their devotion is something really noteworthy. All
living within a reasonable distance of the mission attend every church
with great punctuality. On special occasions, such as Easter, the Feast
Ascension, or Christmas, both sexes and all ages turn out en masse to
participate in the ceremonies. On those days they assemble at the
all parts of the reservation, many coming from a distance.
intervals between religious observance, they take part in various
games and exercises, such as running, jumping, horse racing and
are especially fond of the latter, and many of the young men are
experts at the
great national game."
Since the opening
of the reservation, the lands in Kootenai county that are available for
agricultural purposes have been estimated at eight hundred thousand
Live stock, owing
to the limited extent of its grazing lands as compared with other parts
state, has not been an important factor in the county's development.
statistics show that there are over one thousand range cattle within
limits. Swine and sheep are as yet negligible quantities, but in its
which number over three thousand, and in its more than sixteen hundred
cows, Kootenai compares favorably with many other counties of Idaho.
The boundaries of
Kootenai county include an area of 2,043 square miles. The population
twenty-three thousand. There are something over seventy thousand acres
land, classed as agricultural and timber.
Minerals have been
found in this county at different times and at different places, but
mines of its neighbor, Shoshone, so overshadow everything in this line
little development has been attempted in Kootenai. In recent years the
principal mining activity has been on Tyson creek, a tributary of the
Maries river, where both placer and quartz ground has been opened.
Kootenai is among the most favored sections of the entire state. The
of the Northern Pacific, from 1880 to 1883, and the discovery of the
of the Coeur d'Alene district during the same period caused Kootenai
begin its development. There quickly came a population of two thousand
more,, but it was largely brought in by the railroad construction and
therefore, of a floating nature. In 1882, the valuation of the property
the county is given at $305,741, while the number of taxable residents
only eighty nine. Kootenai county has now the benefit of the following
connections: Northern Pacific, Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound;
Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company; Spokane &
International; Idaho Washington Northern; Spokane & Inland Empire.
Kootenai boasts of
many thriving communities to several of which, in addition to Coeur
the chief city of the county and one of the important ones in the
than passing notice could well be given.
former county seat, was at one time the largest and most prosperous
town in the
panhandle of Idaho. When the Northern Pacific was built, it became an
distributing center, and the supply and outfitting point for the
the Coeur d'Alene mines. In 1884 it was in its prime and had commodious
and substantial business buildings. Water was piped into the town and a
the Kootenai Courier, edited by M. W. Musgrove, made its weekly
Rathdrum still holds a leading place, is situated on the
Railroad as well as the Northern Pacific, and is surrounded by splendid
identified with the large lumber interests of the section. It is
located at the
mouth of the Coeur d'Alene river, and here the great mills convert into
form the logs that are floated to their doors. Here, also, the lake
connect with the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company and,
of this line, with the Northern Pacific at Wallace.
Spirit Lake is one
of the newest towns in the county, it being but a few years since the
now occupies was covered by a virgin forest. The growth of Spirit Lake
rapid and substantial. The town has water, sewer and electric light
good public and business buildings, and several miles of cement
Located on Spirit lake, its scenic surroundings are all that could be
Its population, as well as of Rathdrum and Harrison, is about one
St. Maries is, in
point of numbers, the second city of the county. It lies at the
junction of the
St. Maries river with the St. Joseph and is the outlet for the largest
white pine timber in the Northwest. The transportation facilities of
are supplied by the line of steamers on the lake and by the Chicago,
& Puget Sound Railway.
although it has lagged behind some of its neighbors in population, is
the oldest locations in the county. In 1871 Frederic Post took up a
at this place and installed a saw and planning mill. The canyon and the
waterfall make Post Falls worthy of note because of its scenic
tremendous energy of the water is utilized in the generation of the
current for the railway and for the great Coeur d'Alene mines.
Kootenai has the
rare combination of affording business opportunities of high order and
attractive surroundings for ideal homes. Here one may pursue his
activities and at the same time enjoy the natural beauties of a Lake
emphasize the desirability of Kootenai as a place for homes. In the
its school children this county ranks fourth in the state, while the
of its school property, which is almost three quarters of a million
only exceeded by Ada County, in which is situated Boise, the capital
largest city in Idaho.
To the sportsman
this section is a land of delight. Coeur d’Alene lake itself, as well
as all of
the smaller lakes and streams, teem with fine and gamy fish. Black bass
trout are found in abundance and will readily rise to a fly or minnow.
time to time the game warden of the state has transplanted in the lakes
rivers bass and trout, and by reason of the great amount of food in
waters, their increase has been phenomenal. The species of trout are
cut-throat, the mountain brook and the steel head, and they weigh from
pound to four or five pounds. The bass weigh from one to eight pounds.
Probably no section
of equal area in the world provides a greater number and variety of
does this. Here are found the partridge, the prairie chicken, the blue
and ducks of every variety. The mallard, the wood duck, and the buffalo
make this region their home and breeding place. The birds of a
nature, which can be found here in the spring and fall, are the blue
winged teal, the widgeon or ball pate, the pintail, the spoon bill or
the red head and the canvas back.
For the more
adventuresome, the mountains furnish larger game. There are still to be
black and cinnamon bear, and the mountain lion, the cougar, the wild
coyote and occasionally a gray wolf. Not far from the lake may be
black tail, white tail and mule deer. If one cares for a longer and
trip, he may penetrate the mountains sixty miles or more and be
moose and elk. There, too, are the Rocky mountain goat, the bighorn and
mountain sheep, which are, by long odds, the most difficult game to
they make their homes in the highest peaks.
VOLUME I; BY HIRAM T. FRENCH, M. S.; Publ. 1914; Transcribed and
Genealogy Trails by Andrea Stawski Pack.]
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