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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.
- 1803: The area that became State of Idaho was part of the Louisiana Purchase.
- 1805: Lewis and Clark Expedition passes through.
- 1809: First fur trading post built by David Thompson
- 1820: Fort Boise established.
- 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.
- 16 July 1855: 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.
- 1861: Lewiston became first incorporated town.
- 1863: Nez Perce Indians ceded land.
- 29 January 1863: 224 Shoshone Indians were massacred when they were attacked by the U.S. army while they were camped at confluence of Bear River and Beaver (now Battle) Creek.
- 3 March 1863: 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.
- 1865-1868: Indian Campaigns
- June-October 1877: 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.
- 3 July 1890: 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.
Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.
- 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. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 979.6 A3n)
- Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985.) At various libraries (WorldCat); (FHL book 973 H23bi
- Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. WorldCat 315166; FHL book 973 A3ka
State Histories Useful to Genealogists
Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the lauditory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name.
- By William John McConnell, Idaho. Legislature Published by The Caxton Printers, 1913, Original from the University of Virginia. Full text can be viewed at Google Books.
- Arrington, Leonard James. History of Idaho. (Boise, Idaho: Idaho State Historical Society, c1994.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 979.6 H2a
- Beal, Merrill D., Wells, Merle W. History of Idaho, 3 vols. (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1959.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 979.6 H2b3 vols and Volume 3 has family histories -- an especially helpful source for studying the history of Idaho.
- Defenbach, Byron. Idaho: the place and its people: a history of the gem state from prehistoric to present day (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1933.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL 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.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 979.6 H2f) 3 vols. Digital version available through FHL catalog entry.
- Hailey, John. The History of Idaho. Boise, Idaho: Syms-York Co., 1910) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 979.6 H2hj A full text can be viewed at Google books
- Hawley, James H., ed. History of Idaho the gem of the mountains. (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub., 1920) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 979.6 H2h) 4 vols. Digital version available through FHL catalog entry.
- History of Idaho Territory: showing its resources and advantages, with illustrations ... from original drawings (San Francisco: W.W. Elliott, 1884.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL film 924569 item 1; book 979.6 H2hi
United States History
The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:
- Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. (Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2almThis book provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
- Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2adIncludes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.
- Van Doren, Charles Lincoln; Robert McHenry, Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. (Springfield, Mass.: G and C Merriam, 1971.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 973 H2v Includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.
- American Historical Association, Writings on American History (Washington, D.C.:American Historical Association,1960-1960) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 973 H23wFull text available at Google Books
Family History Library
To access histories available through the Family History Library Catalog, use the Place-names Search for:
- IDAHO - HISTORY
- IDAHO, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
- IDAHO, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY