Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Great Seal of Idaho

There is no official record of when the first Great Seal of Idaho was adopted when Idaho was declared a territory in 1863.  This is that first seal, the design credited to Silas D. Cochran, a clerk in the office of the Secretary of State.

There was dissatisfaction with this official seal and Territorial Governor Caleb Lyon presented a seal of his own design which was accepted by the Idaho Territorial Legislature on January 11, 1866.  This Seal (below) was redrawn a number of times but was used until Idaho became a state in 1890.

In March, 1891, the basis for the current Great Seal of the State of Idaho was adopted and is a story in itself as it was the only State Seal that was designed by a woman.  Check back here for more on the story to be continued on March 5 and March 14.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Military Connection to North Idaho

Last night was Part 6 of the 12 part Connections to the Past history series presented by Robert Singletary at the CdA Library and focused on our military connection.  Here's a few interesting bits of information.

General William T. Sherman, the Union Civil War hero and Confederate scoundrel who marched through Georgia, was on an inspedtion tour and followed the Mullan Road.  Impressed with the location where the Spokane River flows out of Coeur d'Alene Lake he recommended it as a site for a fort. On April 16, 1878, a military post known as Camp Coeur d’Alene was established. The name was changed to Fort Coeur d’Alene on April 5, 1879, and finally to Fort Sherman, April 6, 1887.

The Army's 2nd Infantry Unit was the first to man Fort Coeur d'Alene and grudgingly helped build the encampment.  The last regular unit to be stationed was the 16th Infantry between 1894 and 1898.

Post Civil War, soldiers quit the military and tried to resume their regular lives.  The Army was hard pressed to recruit and many immigrants were accepted to build back the forces.  Many soldier couldn't even speak English and, like many forts, Fort Coeur d'Alene had English classes for the troops.

The Fort CdA/Sherman hospital was one of the finest in the Inland Northwest and many military personnel were sent there for treatment.  The hospital was also required to keep weather records, that's why local weather can be tracked back that far.

A town was built around the fort as non-military people were required to provide goods and services, from construction to food to local women who washed uniforms.  Soldiers referred to the area we now call City Beach as Sudstown because that's where clothes were washed on rocks in the lake.

Oscar Canfield was a friend of Sherman's and got the first contract to supply beef to the fort.  Visiting the ranch, Sherman asked what the name of the mountain behind them was called.  Previously unnamed, Sherman declared it to be Canfield.

Other place names also originated from these times.  One commanding officer was Col. William P. Carlin, another Civil War hero who led the troops in the mining revolt of 1890.  He wasn't very fond of the post but did end up buying property on the east side of the lake, now known as Carlin Bay.  Some of the soldiers who mustered out of the Army stayed and homesteaded the area, one was a Col. Stanley, hence Stanley Hill.

Over time, Fort Sherman was pinched in as a town had grown around it and due to the fact it was susceptible to spring flooding, it was decommissioned and troops were moved to Ft. George Wright in Spokane in April of 1901.  The area was turned over to the Department of the Interior and was sold at public auction in 1905.

This history series is entertaining and enlightening, as are a number of other presentations at North Idaho libraries.  To see what's coming up, visit FYI North Idaho and check the calendar of events.

This Day in Idaho History, 19 February

February 19, 1901 First issue of the St. Maries Courier newspaper is printed.  It only published until March of 1905.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 4 Seasons sing Idaho

Are you old enough to remember The 4 Seasons?  Maybe Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons will ring a bell.  They had hits like Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don't Cry, Candy Girl and Ain't That a Shame.

Like all groups, they had songs that weren't a hit.  And while one song should have been a hit here in the Gem State, turns out we didn't even like it that much.

Yes, that's an original 45 of the 4 Season not-so-hit song, Idaho.  But is was enough that the 3:05 minute song is included on the 2-CD set In Season, Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons Anthology.

It's not one of their most melodic tunes and opens with a weird horn part that sounds like it could be from Frank Zappa.  But, it is about Idaho.  Here's the lyrics.


Where I long to go
Thrilling checker games
Spelling bees, cherry trees

Idaho, lovely Idaho
Daisies on the grass
Grandma's stew
The cows and you

Idaho, lovely Idaho
Playing pick-up sticks
Santa Claus, apple sauce

Rain or sleet or snow
You'll be in my heart
I love you so, just
Thought you'd like to know

My Ida
Sweet as apple cider
How I love you so
My Idaho

The record sleeve has what must be a phony ad promo for Idaho.  It even shows a cruise ship as transportation.  (I know Lewiston is our inland port but I don't think that ship'll get you here.  Also is an offer to send for info and $1 to "try" Idaho.  Sorry, no mailing address to send it to.

And there's today's musical history lesson.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This Day in Idaho History, Feb 10

February 10, 1881 Historical Society of Idaho Pioneers forms to collect and preserve a reliable history of the early settlement of the territory.

Idaho is chock full of history. Thank goodness these pioneers chose to get things started.  You can visit the official website  at

Monday, February 8, 2010

On This Day in Idaho History, Feb 8

February 8, 1921: Movie star Lana (Julia Jean) Turner born in Wallace

Born Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner in Wallace, Idaho, she was the daughter of John Virgil Turner, a miner from Tennessee, and Mildred Frances Cowan, a sixteen-year-old Alabama native.

Until her film career took off, she was known to family and friends as "Judy". Hard times eventually forced the family to re-locate to San Francisco, where her parents soon separated.

Turner's discovery at a Hollywood drug store is a show-business legend. As a sixteen-year-old student at Hollywood High School, Turner skipped a typing class and bought a Coke at the Top Hat Cafe where she was spotted by William Wilkerson, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter.  Wilkerson was attracted by her beauty and physique, and referred her to actor/comedian/talent agent Zeppo Marx.  Marx's agency immediately signed her to a contract.

And the rest, they say, is history.

Friday, February 5, 2010

On This Day in History, 5 February

February 5, 1855 Congress provides funding for Mullan Road

What was labeled a military road had been proposed a few years earlier as the United States had a desire to eventually build a railroad through Montana and Idaho to Washington.

Mullan Road was the first wagon road to cross the Rocky Mountains to the Inland of the Pacific Northwest. It was built by US Army Lt. John Mullan between the spring of 1859 and summer 1860 between Ft. Benton, Montana (the navigational head of the Missouri River) and Ft Walla Walla, Washington Territory. The road approximately followed the path of modern-day Interstate 15 and Interstate 90 through what are now Montana, Idaho and Washington.

The project itself was interrupted due to conflicts with Indian tribes and Lt. Mullan spent the summer of 1858 with Col. George Wright and participated in the conflicts with the Spokane, Palouse and Coeur d'Alene Tribes.  Along with his actions in the battles, Mullan also surveyed and mapped the region from what we now call the Palouse, up through the west side of Spokane and towards Colville.

While the Mullan Road was never used in a military sense, it saw an estimated 20,000 people cross it on their way west.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This Day in History, February 3

February 3, 1911
Operations at the Milwaukee Lumber Company in St. Maries began.  The Milwaukee Lumber Company was incorporated in Idaho in February of 1910 by Mr. Fred Herrick, who had come to Idaho from Wisconson in 1909, and his associates A.V. Braderick and W.A. Barnum.  

The Milwaukee Land Company operated the first logging railroad in the St. Maries drainage.  Logging and timber production, being susceptible to the forces of nature, fluctuated from year to year.  Among the adversities the Milwaukee faced were forest fires that not only wiped out timber stands but sections of railway, and the unpredictability of spring floods.

In April 1913, high waters on the St. Joe River flooded the mill and it was shut down along with the St. Maries Lumber Company.  Worse yet was the flood of May 1917, where (according to best estimates of the time) almost $500,000 worth of lumber were lost along the St. Joe, Coeur d'Alene and Spokane Rivers.  The Milwaukee Lumber Company estimated that between three and four million board feet of lumber stacked in the yard floated away.    

The mill produced 50 million board feet of lumber the first year.  Production dropped to 22 million board feet in 1912.  Between 1922 and 1928, production averaged 30 million board feet.  The last year of operation was 1929.  During it's run from 1911 to 1929 around 525 million board feet of lumber were produced.

For more information about the timber industry in St. Maries, visit the St. Maries History page.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ski the Great Potato, Part 2

Previously we discussed Idaho's Ski the Great Potato promotion, circa 1970.  While Idaho has so much to offer, spuds and skiing were, and are still, a couple of the state's touchstones.  What a combination.

The logo was so clever that it was picked up on by Ezra Brooks.  Ezra Brooks, along with Jim Beam and other distillers, created collector decanters for bourbons and other spirits depicting all sorts of people, places, things and events.  The Ski the Great Potato edition was one of a series of Ezra Brooks special decanters.

Produced in 1972, the Potato was available in Idaho liquor stores.  It must not have been very popular as by 1974 the remaining decanters were marked down to get off the shelves.

A wonderful piece of Idaho/skiing memorabilia, you can occasionally find one available on ebay.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ski The Great Potato

Around 1970 the State of Idaho Department of Commerce & Tourism (or whatever the name was then) had a great idea on promoting skiing in Idaho.  Not like Idaho isn't known for skiing, Sun Valley was the first destination winter resort in the United States. The world's first chairlifts were built there in 1936.

Over the years, skiing gained popularity and more resorts sprang up around the state.  To capitalize on these winter activities and promote Idaho as a true four season vacation state, a new slogan, Ski the Great Potato, was introduced.

The above photo is of an original promotional poster from that era.  It features Peter Max style artwork of an All-American skier blasting over the Great Potato, representing the many ski resorts in Idaho.

Across the top of the poster are the names Sun Valley, Bogus Basin, Schweitzer, Targhee and Brundage.  In small print across the bottom were Bald Mountain, Bear Gulch, Blizzard Mountain, Caribou, Cottonwood Butte, Hitt Mountain, Jackass Bowl, Kelly Canyon, Lookout Pass, Lost Trail, Magic Mountain, Montpelier,, North South Bowl, Pine Basin, Pomerelle, Rotarun, Skyline, Snohaven, Soldier Mountain, Tamarack and Taylor Mountain.  Forty years on, a number of these ski areas have changed names or gone out of business for one reason or another.

Most notably, Jackass Bowl is now known as Silver Mountain.  North South Bowl is now known as the Palouse Divide Lodge.  Bear Gulch  lost it's USFS permit and the lodge was burned in 1989.  Other names are parts of larger resort areas or are small, family run operations featuring cross country skiing and a couple have become havens for snowmobile.  Locally, a couple that weren't listed on the poster were Signal Point south of Post Falls (defunct prior to 1970) and Holiday Hills just across the state line above Liberty Lake (ill fated 1970's project that never had a chance). 

This wasn't the only Great Potato promotional piece.  Tune in tomorrow and see what bourbon has to do with Idaho's skiing.