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Idaho Statehood, 1890

In 1868 Idaho was reduced to its present form and size by an act of Congress creating the Territories of Montana and Wyoming. After the country east of the main range of the Rocky Mountains was thus cut off, Idaho consisted of seven counties, viz: Nez Perce, Shoshone, Idaho, Boise, Alturas, Owyhee and Oneida. In 1864-65 Idaho was the center of attraction through all the West, owing to the numerous rich placer discoveries. In the half dozen years succeeding there was a great influx of people into the Territory, many of whom had seen service in the Civil War, and many agricultural settlements sprang up. In this period many rich quartz discoveries were also made, and new mining camps came into existence. This increase of population led to numerous county divisions, until the number of counties has grown from seven, in 1864, to twenty-three in 1909, the last two to be created being Bonner and Twin Falls, in 1908. The former is the northernmost county in the State, and was created by detaching a portion of Kootenai, while the latter was formerly the western end of Cassia County, and was made possible by the great Twin Falls irrigation project.

Idaho was admitted to the Union July 3, 1890, adding the forty-fifth star to the flag. Hon. Geo. L. Shoup was at that time Territorial governor, and he continued in the office until the first State legislature met, when he resigned and was elected to the United States Senate. Hon. Norman B. Willey was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Governor Shoup, and he held the office until January 1, 1893, when he was succeeded by Hon. J. W. McConnell, who had been elected for the regular term. Since the admission to statehood the growth and development of Idaho have been steady and rapid.

The population of Idaho, as shown by the Federal census of 1870, was 15,000; in 1880 it was 32,000; in 1890, 84,000; in 1900, 162,000, and it is believed at this time to be not far from the 300,000 mark, as the growth from immigration alone has been for some years past at the rate of about 15,000 annually. Up to 1900 the population of Idaho was almost wholly rural, and it is still largely so, but in the past nine years the urban population has increased at an astonishing rate. Boise has grown from 5,000 to more than 20,000, Lewiston from a few hundreds to 10,000, Idaho Falls from 1200 to 8000, while near Shoshone Falls, in the plain where six years ago there was not a sign of civilization, nothing but an expanse of sagebrush as far as the vision extended in every direction, now stands Twin Falls, a well-built, substantial city of more than 5000 people. Pocatello, Nampa, Caldwell, Coeur d'Alene, Payette, Blackfoot and other cities have made a fine growth, while scores of prosperous villages have sprung into existence. The rural growth is shown by the vote of Kootenai County. In 1904 the total was 5608, while in 1908 it was 11,451 in the same territory, the county having meantime been divided.

Idaho has an area of 84,600 square miles, 510 of which are covered by the waters of lakes, the largest of which are Bear, Pend D'Oreille, Coeur d'Alene and Priest's lakes. The State lies in the form of an irregular triangle, the longest dimension from north to south measuring 487 miles, while the breadth from east to west along the southern border is 309 miles, and on the northern boundary forty-eight miles. Owing to the extremely rough and mountainous character of the central portion of the State, which has not yet been pierced by a north and south railroad, the routes of travel from the southern to the "pan-handle" or extreme northern part of the State are circuitous, thus accentuating the really great length of the State from north to south. A facetious individual once remarked that "Idaho is bounded on the south by the forty-second parallel and on the north by the aurora borealis," an assertion that anyone who has ever traveled from Oneida or Bear Lake counties to Bonner is not disposed to dispute. The largest county in the State is Idaho County, of which Grangeville is the county seat. It has an area of 10,800 square miles. The smallest is Bear Lake with an area of 864 square miles.

Idaho presents many striking physical features. With the exception of a small section in the southeastern part of the State, drained by the Bear River and its tributaries into the Great Salt Lake, the entire area of the State slopes as a whole to the west and is drained into the Pacific through the Columbia and its affluents. The State is, as it were, the upper portion of the western roof of the continent, the comb of the roof being the Bitter Root range of mountains, which forms the greater part of the eastern boundary of the State, and for much of that distance also forms the continental divide, separating the waters flowing to the Atlantic from those flowing to the Pacific. As would follow from this condition, the lowest point in the State is found at Lewiston, on the western border, at the confluence of the Clearwater and the Snake, where the elevation above sea level is but 750 feet, while the crest of the Bitter Root range on the eastern border is about 10,000 feet. The Sawtooth, the highest interior range, approximates 12,000 feet, Mt. Hyndman, the highest peak, reaching an elevation of 12,078 feet.

Considered from the standpoint of its physical features, the State naturally divides itself into two divisions, roughly separated by a line irregularly drawn across the State from east to west between the forty-fourth and the forty-fifth parallels. The northern section is in the main a region of mountain, lake and forest, with in some parts deep, fertile valleys, in others a country of low, rolling hills, well adapted to the raising of grain, and in yet others a semi-prairie country originally covered with grass and dotted with groves of forest trees. The mountains are almost everywhere wooded to their summits, and on their lower slopes the same splendid timber which has made Oregon and Washington famous, is abundant. In the counties of Idaho, Nez Perce, Shoshone, Latah and Kootenai is what is said to be the largest and finest virgin forest of white pine timber now known in the world. There are also millions of acres of pine, fir, cedar, tamarack and hemlock timber that are less accessible, but will be drawn up when the need arises. In this section of the State are also located the great lead and silver mines lead mines that supply half the lead product of the United States. The mineralized region of, Idaho is very large, covering thousands of square miles, most of which is practically un-prospected, and those best informed on the geology of the State predict the opening in this new region of some of the greatest gold and silver mines in the world.

One feature that especially distinguishes this section of the State from the southern section is the more abundant rainfall which is in most parts of it sufficient for the production of crops without irrigation. In some localities the precipitation reaches thirty-five inches and over most of the section exceeds eighteen inches, against a precipitation in the southern section of from seven to twelve or fifteen inches. This condition is accounted for by the configuration of the land and the prevailing warm ocean winds. These bring the moisture from the Pacific over the lower land to the west, and on approaching the higher and cooler mountain region the moisture is condensed and falls as rain or snow. The high interior mountain ranges intervening thus reduce the rainfall of the southern section.

The most distinctive, the most striking, and to the student of the phenomena of nature perhaps the most interesting, portion of Idaho is that great southern and southeastern section known as the Snake River valley and especially its central part, known as the Snake River plain, formerly called the "Snake River desert." The Snake is the one great river of Idaho. It drains not only all the southern section of the State, except a small area in the southeastern corner, but much of the northern section as well, its drainage basin including about seven-eighths of the State. . Having its sources in the perpetual snows of the lofty mountains in and about the Yellowstone National Park, and flowing in a great semi-circle, concave to the north, through or touching the eastern, southern, and western portions of the State for more than 600 miles, this stream is at once the State's greatest wonder and the life and vivifying power of the vast arid plain on either side. Its course in Idaho until the mouth of the Weiser is reached is through a generally level plain, varying in width from fifty to 100 miles and flanked by rugged mountains. In this plain is located most of the irrigated land of the State, and it is also the scene of the stupendous irrigating projects now under way and others in contemplation. From an elevation of about 2000 feet at the western border of the State the great plain of the Snake gradually rises to an elevation in the Teton basin on the Wyoming line of 6000 feet. At Milner, Cassia County, the point of diversion for the Twin Falls North and South side canals, the river, whose banks to this point have been generally low, enters the famous canyon, and in the next thirty miles makes a descent of over 1000 feet, the three principal falls being Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls and Auger Falls, their respective heights being 134 feet, 210 feet and 139 feet. These falls, with other falls and rapids of less height along the stream both above and below, afford the finest and greatest power sites in the United States, Niagara alone excepted. Extensive power plants are now in operation at Idaho Falls, American Falls, Shoshone Falls and Swan Falls, with several others under construction or in contemplation. A few miles below Weiser the river enters one of the most remarkable canyons in the United States, comparable only to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in grandeur, and in some places exceeding it in depth, and flows through it for about 200 miles.



Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 



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