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.

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