The New International Encyclopædia/Idaho

IDAHO, ī′dȧ-hō (North American Indian, gem of the mountains). One of the Western States of the American Union, lying between latitudes 42° and 49° N., and longitudes 111° and 117° W. It is bounded on the north by British Columbia, on the east by Montana and Wyoming, on the south by Utah and Nevada, and on the west by Oregon and Washington. The extreme length from north to south along the western boundary is 485 miles. The width varies from about 50 miles in the north to nearly 300 miles in the south. Its area is 84,800 square miles, including 510 square miles covered by lakes.

Topography. The surface of Idaho is elevated and mostly mountainous. Lying between the main axis of the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Cascades on the west, the State embraces a portion of the Great Basin, a plateau lying 2000 to 5000 feet above the sea, while the northern and eastern parts are traversed by mountain ranges whose loftier summits rise above the snow-line. The principal ranges, the Salmon River and Bitter Root, attain their maximum development near the eastern border, but they send out spurs which extend nearly across the whole width of the State. Northward from the Bitter Root Mountains the system of elevations is continued by the Cœur d'Alêne and Cabinet ranges to the Canadian frontier. In the extreme southeast are the Bear, Blackfoot, and Snake River ranges, offshoots from the main Rocky Mountain system in Wyoming. Nearly the whole area of Idaho is drained into the Columbia by the Kootenai, Clark Fork, Spokane, and Snake rivers. The Snake, or Lewis Fork, is much the largest, its basin within the State covering more than 60,000 square miles, and its course being about 850 miles. It receives important tributaries in the Boise, Payette, Weiser, Owyhee, Salmon, and Clearwater, but its waters are usually shallow. In its course from east to west it passes over three falls, the American, the Shoshone, and the Salmon. The Shoshone Falls have a perpendicular descent of nearly 200 feet. Below the Salmon Falls the river is navigable for light-draught boats to the mouth of the Powder River. In the northern part of the State there are several lake basins, including Pend Oreille, Kaniksu, and Cœur d'Alêne, and in the southeast on the Utah boundary. Bear Lake drains through the Bear River into Great Salt Lake.

NIE 1905 Wyoming - Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.jpg


County Map
 County Seat.   Area in 

1890. 1900.

Ada A 4  Boise 1,117 8,368 11,559 
Bannock C 1  Pocatello 3,123 2,629 11,702 
Bear Lake C 4  Paris   961 6,057 7,051
Bingham C 4  Blackfoot 4,314  13,575    10,447  
Blaine B 4  Hailey 6,309 .... 4,900
Boise A 3  Idaho City 4,203 3,342 4,174
Canyon A 4  Caldwell 1,327 .... 7,497
Cassin B 4  Albion 4,511 3,113 3,951
Custer B 3  Challis 4,670 2,176 2,019
Elmore B 4  Mountainhome  2,431 1,870 2,286
Fremont C 4  Saint Anthony  6,145 .... 12,821 
Idaho A 3  Mount Idaho 11,074  3,955 9,121
Kootenai A 1  Rathdrum 5,595 4,108 10,216 
Latah A 2  Moscow 1,114 9,173 13,451 
Lemhi C 3  Salmon 4,455 1,915 3,416
Lincoln B 4  Shoshone 3,270 4,169 1,784
Nez Perces  A 2  Lewiston 1,421 2,847 13,718 
Oneida C 4  Malad City 2,695 6,819 8,933
Owyhee A 4  Silver City 7,907 2,021 3,801
Shoshone A 2  Wallace 4,677 5,382 11,950 
Washington  A 3  Weiser 2,908 3,836 6,882

Climate and Soil. The climate in the more elevated parts is severe, with heavy snowfall in winter; the plains and valleys have a milder climate, free from great extremes, as the summer heat is moderated by mountain breezes. The rainfall in the south is very light, increasing toward the north and east, where the elevated ranges arrest the moist winds. Agriculture is thus limited to the mountain valleys and to the basins of the large rivers, such as the Salmon, Clearwater, Payette, and Boise, where irrigation can be practiced. These basins have a rich alluvial soil that produces excellent crops of cereals and fruits. The uplands have a moderately fertile soil of sands and clays, and are best adapted to grazing.

Flora and Fauna. See paragraphs on these respective topics under Rocky Mountains and United States.

Geology and Mineral Resources. Geologically Idaho exhibits the general features characteristic of the Rocky Mountain States. Strata of Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and later ages alternate with eruptive and metamorphic rocks. Along the Snake River there is a vast lava-bed forming a desert nearly 400 miles long and 40 to 60 miles wide, the eastern end of a volcanic belt that extends to the Pacific. The fissures from which the molten rock poured out during the late Tertiary period are generally concealed beneath the thick sheets, although their position may be indicated by the lines of flow. The surface of this region is a level plain, almost destitute of vegetation.

Mining. The mineral resources of the State, including deposits of gold, silver, lead, iron, coal, and salt, are of great importance. Gold is obtained from both placer and quartz mines in nearly every county. The first discoveries were made about 1860, and the total output up to 1901 amounted to more than $100,000,000. There has been a decrease in production in late years, owing to the exhaustion of the placer deposits; but with the opening of new fields for quartz mining, such as that at Thunder Mountain, the industry may regain its former prominence. Dredging operations for the recovery of gold from the bed of the Snake River have been carried on successfully for several years. The Cœur d'Alêne lead-silver district in Shoshone County is one of the richest in the United States. The metallic output of Idaho in 1900 was as follows: Gold, $1,727,700; silver, 6,429,100 ounces, valued at $3,986,042; lead, 85,444 short tons; copper, 290,162 pounds.

Forests and Forestry. There are in the State 7,000,000 acres of timber land, the exploitation of which has just begun. Almost the whole of the forest area is in the northern part of the State, where the valleys are covered with an exceedingly dense growth. The larger part (3,456,000 acres) of the Bitter Root Timber Reserve is in Idaho. The higher elevation is known as the alpine fir region, constituting nearly three-fourths of the total reserve, the timber in this part being of little value. In the lower zone the yellow pine occupies the drier regions, and the red fir the more moist regions. The Idaho forests have suffered great losses from forest fires.

Agriculture. A very large part of the State is arid and irreclaimable land. In the north the rainfall is greater, and supplies sufficient moisture for grain crops. Three-fourths of the total area is yet public land. This, however, is being rapidly taken up. The great development of the mining industry has created a home market for farm produce, and justifies incurring the heavy expense of irrigation. The channels of the main streams—the Snake and Clearwater—are generally deep, making irrigation impossible or highly expensive. But numerous smaller streams offer excellent irrigation facilities. This is especially true of the head-water region of the Snake River and of the large district, in the western part of the State, lying north of the Snake River and watered by the Boise River and other streams. The Bear Lake region in the southeast corner is also said to be adaptable to irrigation purposes. In 1900, 602,568 acres, or 42.0 per cent. of the improved land, were irrigated. Five and nine-tenths per cent. of the total area, or 3,204,903 acres, were reported for the same year as contained in farms, the average size of which was 183.4 acres. As is common with irrigated lands, intensive farming is the rule, and the soil being very fertile when sufficiently watered, the yield of all crops is very abundant. Hay and forage is the most extensive and valuable crop, the annual acreage for which increased over two and a half times in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Over a third is alfalfa. In the same period the acreage devoted to cereals increased over threefold. Wheat constituted 72 per cent. of the cereal crop for 1899. Oats, barley, and flaxseed are of less importance, and corn is scarcely raised at all. The western part of Idaho, particularly the Boise Basin, is becoming noted for its fruits and vegetables. Apples and prunes are the chief varieties of orchard fruits.

Stock-Raising. Thus far, however, it has been the grazing rather than the farming facilities which have been most extensively utilized. There are 25,000,000 acres of pasture land in the State. In the northern and the mountainous parts of Idaho considerable expense is incurred in stock-raising, owing to the shortness of the summers and the depth of the winter snow. Herders and packers who use mules and horses in the northern mountains through the summer season withdraw to the valley of the Snake River to winter their stock. Along the Snake River, on both sides, there are numerous valleys where winters are not severe enough to prevent cattle and horses from picking up a living for themselves. In the decade ending with 1900 large gains were made in every variety of domestic animals. Sheep are the most important, having produced wool to the value of $2,210,790 in 1899. The following tables show the relative importance and increase of the different varieties of crops and domestic animals:

 Hay and 

1900  513,656  266,305   64,739  32,798 4,582 9,313
1890 190,501  63,704 21,997 10,004 1,362 3,721

 Horses   Mules and 
Sheep  Swine 

1900   51,929   311,605   170,120  2,155  1,965,467  114,080
1890 27,278 192,153  84,135 1,012   357,712  32,188

Manufactures. The manufacturing industry, though not large, is making a vigorous growth. The value of products increased 283 per cent. during the last decade (1890-1900). Flour-milling is of some importance; but the sawing of lumber is the principal industry. The census for 1900 gives the following figures: Number of establishments, 591; capital, $2,941,524; wage-earners, 1477; wages, $862,088; value of products, $4,020,532.

Transportation. The Oregon Short Line, passing through the southern part of the State, offers good railroad facilities to the Snake River Valley. The northern portion of the State is also well provided for by the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific lines. But the great central portion of the State is without railroads. The development of mines within this section has stimulated the construction of wagon roads and trails, but these are altogether inadequate to the needs of the district. The total railway mileage of the State was 1271 miles in 1899.

Banks. October 31, 1900, there were 15 national banks, 10 of which were in operation. Capital stock, $575,000; outstanding circulation, $218,976. Deposits, September 5, 1900, $3,937,423; reserve held, $1,643,497. On June 30, 1900, there were 8 State banks, with a capital aggregating $185,500; deposits, $537,902; resources, $781,465. There were also 6 private banks with resources aggregating $329,320; capital, $81,665; and deposits, $210,693.

Government. Idaho became a State under its present Constitution, adopted by a convention held August 6, 1889. An amendment may be proposed in either branch of the Legislature, and if agreed to by two-thirds of all the members of each House is submitted to the people, and becomes a part of the Constitution if approved by a majority of the electors. If demanded by two-thirds of the members of each House, the question of calling a constitutional convention is submitted to the people, where it is decided by a majority of the electors voting. Suffrage is granted to both male and female citizens who have resided in the State six months, in the county thirty days, and are registered. There are various offenses which cause disqualification for the right of suffrage, among which are plural marriage, or in any manner teaching . . . or encouraging any person to enter into plural marriage, or membership in any organization which encourages it.

Legislative. The number of State Senators cannot exceed 24, nor the Representatives 60, both being elected from counties or districts composed of contiguous undivided counties for the term of two years. The Legislature meets on the first Monday after the first day of January of even years, and at other times when convened by the Governor. Bills for raising revenue must originate in the Lower House. Members receive $5 per day and mileage, but the per diem allowance cannot exceed $300 for any one session.

Executive. The Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Attorney-General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction are elected for two years at the time and places of voting for members of the Legislature. The Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney-General constitute a board of pardons. A vetoed bill or item of an appropriation bill is carried over the Governor's head by a two-thirds vote of the members present in each House.

Judicial. The Senate constitutes a court for the trial of impeachments, the Lower House having the sole power of impeachment. The Supreme Court consists of three justices, elected by the State at large for a term of six years. The State is divided into judicial districts, in each of which a judge is elected for a term of four years, and there is a district court in each county at least twice a year. A clerk of the district court is elected for each county, holding office four years. A prosecuting attorney is elected for each organized county for the term of two years. There are also probate courts, justices of the peace, and such other courts as may be established by law. Three-fourths of a jury may render a verdict in a civil action, or five-sixths of a jury in a criminal action for a misdemeanor.

Local Government. The Legislature maintains a uniform system of county government, and by general laws provides for township and precinct organizations, and for the incorporation, organization, and classification of cities and towns. Each county biennially elects county commissioners, a sheriff, treasurer, probate judge, county superintendent of public instruction, assessor, coroner, and surveyor.

Finance. The bonded indebtedness of the State on January 1, 1901, was $443,500. Much of this was incurred in the construction of wagon roads. The outstanding State warrants for the same date were $124,766.

Militia. Able-bodied male residents between the ages of eighteen and forty-five are liable to military duty, except persons having conscientious scruples against bearing arms. These may be exempted from such duty in time of peace. In 1899 the State had an organized militia of 566 officers and men.

Population. The development of the mineral and other resources of the State has induced a rapid growth in the population—almost doubling in the decade 1890-1900. The population consists predominantly of native-born Americans, only about one-sixth being foreign born. As in other mining and grazing States, the male sex is much in excess. The population, by decades, is as follows: in 1870, 14,999; in 1880, 32,610; in 1890, 84,385; in 1900, 161,772. In 1900, Boise, the capital, contained a population of 5957, and Pocatello, 4046.

Indians. According to the last census there were 4226 Indians in the State. There are four reservations, viz. the Fort Hall, Lemhi, Cœur d'Alêne, and Nez Percé. The Indians in the two last-named reservations have made much progress and are practically self-supporting. The others are still dependent upon the Government, receiving about 30 per cent. of their substance from Government rations.

Religion. In religion, Idaho is, like Utah, strongly Mormon. The Catholics are the next strongest, and the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians follow in the order named.

Education. The school officers of the State consist of a superintendent of public instruction, a superintendent of each county, and a board of three trustees in each district. Schools cannot be supported from the public-school fund if any political or sectarian doctrines be taught therein; and the distribution of books, tracts, or documents of this character in them is forbidden by law. The public schools are sustained from the income of a general school fund, also from a county tax, from moneys arising from legal fines and forfeitures, and from fees paid by teachers for certificates of qualification. The basis for distribution of the school money is the number of individuals of school age (five to twenty-one years). Districts may levy special taxes for building or repairing school-houses, and, when the cost of repairs does not exceed $25, the trustees may levy a rate bill, to be collected from such patrons of the school as are able to pay. In 1900 only 4.6 per cent. of the population ten years of age and over were unable to read and write, which was smaller than the corresponding number for the whole country. The State institutions comprise the University of Idaho at Moscow and normal schools at Albion and Lewiston. In connection with the State University an agricultural and mechanical college is maintained. There are also the College of Idaho (Presbyterian) at Caldwell; Episcopal school at Lewiston; Saint Aloysius Academy at Lewiston; Saint Teresa's Academy at Boise; and an industrial school for Cœur d'Alêne Indian girls at Desmet.

Charitable and Penal. Detectives are temporarily sent for purposes of education to the institutions of neighboring States. In 1900 the State insane asylum at Blackfoot contained 118 male and 74 female inmates. In the same year the State prison at Boise contained an average daily enrollment of 150 prisoners.

History. The first white explorers of Idaho were Lewis and Clark in the first decade of the nineteenth century. A mission is reported to have been established at Cœur d'Alêne in 1842, but for many years after that the region was visited only by hunters and prospectors. It was organized as a Territory on March 3, 1863, but with an area more than three times as large as at present, since it included the whole of Montana and nearly all of Wyoming. In May, 1864, a part was set off to Montana, and in 1868 Wyoming was organized. The discovery of gold in 1882 at Cœur d'Alêne in the northern part of the State was followed by a large immigration. In 1889 a new constitution was adopted, and the University of Idaho was established at Moscow. On July 3, 1890, Idaho was admitted to the Union. The presence of a large number of Mormons in the southern part of the State excited great alarm, and as early as 1883 led to hostile action on the part of the Legislature. A law depriving professed polygamists of the right to vote was carried to the United States Supreme Court, and there sustained. In 1893, however, the heads of the Mormon Church rejected polygamy as an essential element of their creed, the anti-Mormon restrictions were removed, and all single-wived Latter Day Saints were admitted to the ballot-box. From May to September, 1892, a miners' strike at Cœur d'Alêne was marked by a number of bloody conflicts between union and nonunion workers. Federal troops were dispatched to the scene of disturbance, and military law was proclaimed. The strike failed, but dissatisfaction persisted among the mine workers, and in April, 1899, blazed out in renewed strikes and riots. Martial law was once more proclaimed, and nearly one thousand miners were seized and imprisoned by the United States troops till the strike was crushed out.

In national elections Idaho was carried by the Democrats, or the Democrats and Populists in fusion, in 1892, 1896, and 1900. The Governors since its organization as a Territory have been as follows:

William H. Wallace 1863-64
Caleb Lyon 1864-66
David W. Ballard 1866-70
Gilman Marston resigned without acting
Thomas M. Bowen
Thomas W. Bennett 1871-76
D. P. Thompson 1875-76
Mason Brayman 1876-80
John B. Neil 1880-83
John N. Irwin 1883
William M. Bunn 1884-85
Edward A. Stevenson  1885-89
George L. Shoup 1889-90
George L. Shoup Republican 1890
Norman B. Willey 1891-92
William J. McConnell 1893-97
Frank Steunenberg Democrat-Populist 1897-1901
Frank W. Hunt 1901—

Consult: Onderdonk, Idaho, Facts and Statistics Concerning Its Mining, Farming, and Industries (San Francisco, 1885); Bancroft, Washington, Idaho, and Montana (San Francisco, 1890).