Idaho History

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Although many explorers and fur trappers had visited the area that became the State of Idaho, trading posts and forts had been established there, and travelers on the Oregon Trail heading to Oregon, Washington, and California had passed through the area, no permanent settlements were established until about 1860 at Franklin in the Cache Valley.

In the early 1860s, gold and silver were discovered, which led to the establishment of Idaho Territory in 1863. After the Civil War, many settlers from the East came to Idaho to mine or to establish farms along the river valleys. The completion of the railroad in the 1880s brought another wave of settlers, as did the establishment of reclamation (irrigation) projects in early 1900s.

Idaho has continued to grow as its settlers turned their attention away from mining and more toward agricultural pursuits.


A Few Important Events in Idaho's History

The following important events in the history of Idaho affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

1834: Fort Hall trading post was founded on the Snake River near the site of present-day Pocatello. During the 1840's and 1850's it became a major way station for those who passed through Idaho over the Oregon Trail.

1846: Oregon Treaty settled boundary.

1848: Idaho became part of the Oregon Territory.

1855: (July 16) Through the Treaty of Hell Gate the Salish and Kutenai (Kootenai) Indians ceded their lands.

1859: Idaho became part of the Washington Territory.

1860: The Mormon community of Franklin in Cache Valley became the first permanent white settlement in Idaho.

1860-1863: Gold discoveries in the river valleys of northern Idaho attracted temporary settlement.

1860-1880s: A series of Indian conflicts continued until the Indians were assigned to reservations.

1863: Nez Perce Indians ceded land.

1863: (March 3,) The Idaho Territory was created out of the Washington and Dakota Territories. In 1864, the Montana Territory was cut away from the Idaho Territory. In 1868, a small part of Idaho Territory was transferred to the new Wyoming Territory.

1865:(January) 224 Bannock Indians were killed when they were attacked by the U.S. army while they were camped at Battle Creek.

1865-1868: Indian Campaigns

1877: (June - October) Nez Perce Indians went to war with the United States. The war ended when federal troops captured Chief Joseph and evacuated the Indians to a reservation in Oklahoma.

1880's: Mining booms in the north and the coming of the railroads to the south brought new settlers.

1887: The Bannock Indians ceded land.

1890:(July 3,) Idaho became a state.

1895: The Bannock Indians left Fort Hall Reservation to hunt in Wyoming under the provisions of the 1868 treaty. The cavalry overtook them and escorted them back to the reservation.

1900-1910: Reclamation projects brought another wave of settlement to the former desert lands of southern Idaho.

External Links

Idaho History Timeline by the Idaho State Historical Society



  • Arrington, Leonard James. History of Idaho. Boise, Idaho: Idaho State Historical Society, c1994. ISBN 0893011762 (Family History Library book 979.6 H2a).
  • Beal, Merrill D., & Wells, Merle W. History of Idaho, 3 vols. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1959. Volume 3 has family histories -- an especially helpful source for studying the history of Idaho. (Family History Library book 979.6 H2b). 3 vols. 
  • Defenbach, Byron. Idaho: the place and its people: a history of the gem state from prehistoric to present day. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1933. (Family History Library book 979.6 H2d). 3 vols.
  • French, Hiram Taylor. History of Idaho: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests. Chicago: Lewis Pub., 1914. (Family History Library book 979.6 H2f). 3 vols.
  • Hailey, John. The history of Idaho. Boise, Idaho: Syms-York Co., 1910. (Family History Library book 979.6 H2hj).  
  • Hawley, James H., ed. History of Idaho the gem of the mountains. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub., 1920. (Family History Library book 979.6 H2h). 4 vols.
  • History of Idaho Territory: showing its resources and advantages, with illustrations ... from original drawings. San Francisco: W.W. Elliott, 1884. (Family History Library book 979.6 H2hi; microfilm 924569 item 1).
  • Nelson, Milo G., & Webbert, Charles A., eds., Idaho local history: A bibliography. Moscow, Idaho: The University Press of Idaho, 1976 -- a bibliography of local histories for Idaho. (Family History Library book 979.6 A3n).