Note: This article was originally published under a different title (namely, “Did Shoshone County Turn 150 Years Old This Year”) in Idaho magazine, July 2008.
There is a majestically large book in the Wallace Public Library’s locked glass case. Its pages amount to a veritable bible of early Idaho history and biography. It is titled An Illustrated History of North Idaho, Embracing Nez Perces, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, published in 1903. Historian Robert Wayne Smith wrote of this volume — in relation to Shoshone County’s early history in particular — that the book contained “…more documentary material and more authoritative information than any other work.”
The book says, on page 33: “The territorial government of Washington…organized Shoshone County in January, 1858, comprising all of the country north of the Snake river and between the Columbia river and the Rocky mountains, with the county seat on the land claim of Angus McDonald.”
Organized in 1858?
If so, then 2008 would be Shoshone County’s 150th anniversary year.
No small anniversary.
An 1858 birth date would make Shoshone County older than the State of Idaho and even a little older than the Idaho Territory. The state was created by the U.S. Congress on July 3rd, 1890, the territory on March 4, 1863.
But what is the source and authority behind this birth year assertion?
The great volume in the locked glass case offers no source.
A little digging revealed, however, that the 1858 claim appears in more than a few additional historical works. For instance, Hiram T. French’s History of Idaho (1914, page 109) says Shoshone County was created on January 29, 1858. Vardis Fisher, the celebrated Idaho writer and historian, dated the county’s origin to 1858 in his The Idaho Encyclopedia (1938, page 329). W. Earl Greenough’s First 100 Years [of the] Coeur d’Alene Mining District (1947, page 7) says, “Shoshone county was without county government for three years following its creation in 1858.” Even U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s web page on Shoshone County offers: “It was the first organized unit of government within Idaho boundaries, created and named for the Shoshoni Indians in 1858 by the Washington Territorial Legislature as part of Washington, effective in 1861.” Continue reading