Shoshone County, Idaho

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Shoshone County administrative offices are located at 700 Bank Street, Wallace, ID 83873; phone: 208-752-1264.

Beginnings [1]

Shoshone county was the first organized unit of government in Idaho, created by the legislature of Washington territory in 1858. It included all that the area in Idaho lying north of the 46th parallel. However, organization was not affected until 1861. That year the Washington territory organized a county government for Shoshone, designating Pierce City, named for the man who first discovered gold in Idaho, as the county seat. The first county officers of Idaho were elected in Shoshone County.

The first discoveries of gold in Idaho were made at Orofino Creek which was in Shoshone County at that time, but is now in Clearwater County. The only inhabited territory was around the mining fields of Orofino and Pierce; not until 1882 was there any white settlement in the present area of Shoshone. The territorial legislature of Idaho in 1863 to 1864 reorganized Shoshone County defining its boundaries to include the area embraced by the present Shoshone and Clearwater Counties. It became one of the original seven counties in which the present forty-four Idaho counties were formed. In 1904, the territory embracing what is now Clearwater County was taken from Shoshone and annexed to Nez Pierce, leaving Shoshone at its present size. In 1884 the seat was moved from Pierce city to Murray; in 1898, it was located at Wallace which was the largest city in Shoshone County at that time.

Gold was found by Andrew J. Prichard in 1831 near the present site of Murray. Although he and his friends endeavored to keep their findings secret, news leaked out and 6,000 miners and prospectors rushed to the Coeur d' Alenes in 1884. Eagle city was the first town to spring up, but by the end of the first year, it became overshadowed by Murray over four miles away and declined as rapidly as it had grown. In 1885, interest in acer gold was transferred to the immense ledges of baser metals, which has made the Coeur d'Alenes one of the largest lead-silver producing sections in the world.

The first settlement was made in Wallace in 1884 under the name of Placer Center, and Kellogg was founded in 1893. The first train arrived in Wallace over a narrow gauge road in 1887.

As the placer mines were worked out, quartz mining was introduced. The Tiger and Bunker Hill and Sullivan were among the first mines to be developed in Shoshone County. However, troubles and disputes started early, originating over compensation. The first outbreak in Idaho occurred at Bradford in Blaine County. A compromise was effected, but in 1892, troubles over wages arose in the neighborhood of Gem; mines were closed and mining companies brought in a number of men to guard their mines and mills. Several weeks of agitation culminated in pitched battle; guards were defeated and the troubles ended in a victory for the miners. Following the outbreak, miners took possession of the mill at Bunker Hill, and Sullivan Company, and retained it for several days. The State and Federal Troops were sent to the district, warrants were issued by the united States Court charging a number of men among the Coeur d'Alene miners with contempt of court. Most of the turmoil in the mines was culminated with the capturing of a train at Burke by a number of Union leaders, the dynamiting of a mill, and the assassination of Governor Steenenburg by Union leader Harry Orchard, ending the early history of the mining districts.

  1. Shoshone County Idaho, Comprehensive Plan: History, 1996,, accessed August, 2012.

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