Shoshone County and Its Courthouses

Shoshone Co. courthouse in Wallace, Oct. 1985

If you take the Friday tour to the Silver Valley (The Big Burn and Idaho's Silver Valley, led by Nancy Richardson and Keith Petersen, a 2012 National Preservation Conference Field Session), you'll probably see the Shoshone County Courthouse on Bank Street. It's a handsome Neo-Classical Revival building designed in 1905 by two Spokane architects, Lewis R. Stritesky and Robert C. Sweatt. The walls use concrete blocks made from recycled mine tailings. This the third official courthouse for Shoshone County and Wallace is the third county seat. Yes, there have been a few changes in Shoshone County in more than 150 years.

It all started back before Idaho was even Idaho. Following the 1860 gold rush to the Pierce area, the Washington territorial legislature created Shoshone County on January 9, 1861, designating Pierce as the county seat. It was a huge county, taking in much of what is now North Idaho. After Sheriff R. L. Gillespie drew plans, the county commissioners contracted with K. C. Reed and W. Keith to build a combination log and frame building for $3,700. The new courthouse was ready for use by August 1862.

The mining population was mobile, however, and the crowds didn't hang around Pierce long after the easy gold was gone. Despite the exodus, Pierce continued as the county seat until a new boom shifted the population and political center farther north to Coeur d'Alene mining region. This district is located on both the North and South forks of the Coeur d'Alene River, east of present-day Coeur d'Alene.

The first boom occurred along Prichard Creek, a tributary to the North Fork. Although there is some dispute, Andrew J. Prichard gave himself credit for finding the first gold in the fall of 1881. He returned the next spring with several other men to locate the extensive placer ground along Prichard Creek. Their secret spread rapidly and crowds of fortune seekers came during the spring and summer of 1883.

This initial excitement paled in comparison with the rush during the winter of 1883-1884. The Northern Pacific Railroad saw the discoveries as an opportunity to generate passenger travel on its newly completed rail line. The company circulated a pamphlet that painted an unrealistic yet seductive picture of the Coeur d'Alene mining region, where the mineral wealth was "practically inexhaustible" and men were making anywhere from $25 to $100 a day.

The railroad advertised four principal routes into the Coeur d'Alene district, leaving from different stations on the line. From Rathdrum, travelers could take a combination of stage, steamboat, and trail, crossing the mountains from Jackass, just east of Kingston, to Eagle. Three other routes originated at NP stations in Montana, with trails over the mountains from Thompson Falls, Belknap, and Trout Creek. All of these were, of course, covered with deep snow during the winter, making travel difficult.

Most of the fortune hunters headed straight for Eagle City where thousands of new arrivals camped. The town boomed briefly and twenty new businesses opened during just one week in March 1884. Then it died almost as fast when the newcomers spread out along the creeks, leaving Eagle almost deserted by June.

Murray courthouse, prior to collapse, 1986

The ultimate beneficiary of this population shift was the town of Murray which claimed about 2,500 residents by the end of the summer in 1884. The rapid growth of the new mining district caused major adjustments in county government. The Shoshone County commissioners, meeting in far-away Pierce in October 1883, appointed Frank Points as Justice of the Peace for the Coeur d'Alene mining region. Unfortunately, Mr. Points did not live up to their expectations and the next spring the commissioners found him "incompetant [sic] to discharge the duties of said office by reason of excessive intemperance."

With the shift in population away from Pierce to Murray, the Idaho Territorial legislature passed a bill in December 1884 to temporarily move the county seat to Murray. In a special election held the following June, voters overwhelmingly approved Murray as the new county seat. County offices and the jail initially were housed in rented buildings, including Steward Fuller's two story hall where the district court held sessions in 1886. The charge of $3 per day included seats, tables, railing, jury rooms, fuel, lights, and all appliances. The rental agreement continued until the county purchased this building for its courthouse in 1888.

Main street in Murray, with Sprag Pole Inn (yellowish building), 1986

Just as Murray was settling into its role as the county seat, the fickle mining population shifted once again, this time moving over to the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River where a silver-lead boom was on. Voters tried to move the county seat in 1890 and then again two years later when Murray received 653 votes and Wallace 1,232 votes, just short of the required two-thirds majority.

While Murray was able to fend off competition initially, it just postponed the inevitable. Witnesses and jurors traveling to Murray for court sessions encountered mud, high waters, and storms that gave the journey "a decided resemblance to a Klondike trip," as one disgruntled resident claimed. Citizens of Wallace mounted a campaign to move the county seat, touting their town's accessibility, hotel accommodations, and permanence. In November 1898, voters overwhelmingly approved removal of the county seat to Wallace. The move took place two months later, with county offices, courts, and the jail once again spread among rented buildings. These probably were not consolidated until construction of the new courthouse in 1905.

Murray Masonic Lodge (left) and Bedroom Goldmine Bar (right), 1986

Both the 1862 and 1905 Shoshone County courthouses are still standing. The Murray building, however, was not as lucky. Heavy snow fell across North Idaho during the winter of 1996-1997. While such snows were not uncommon for Murray, this particular winter was one too many for the old courthouse. It collapsed in the evening of February 21, 1997, just as a the local historical society was struggling to raise money for its restoration. But it takes more than a snowstorm to keep Murray down, and a county insurance policy helped pay for a complete reconstruction of the building.

Reconstructed Murray courthouse, courtesy of Idaho Heritage Trust and Katherine Kirk

Murray's population has dwindled to a handful today, but its old buildings still line the main street. And access to the town has improved with the paving of the road over Thompson Pass into Montana, bringing many more summer tourists; this road is not maintained during the winter. Wallace, the Shoshone county seat for well over a century now, is a busy town with a fondness for its history and historic buildings. The entire town, in fact, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

If you'd like to get a politically incorrect sneak preview of the historic buildings in Wallace, watch Dante's Peak, a movie partly filmed in Wallace in 1997. While it was justifiably panned by critics, if you sit through till the ending, you can see major parts of the National Register district get totally blown away by a pyroclastic cloud.

Note: Major parts of this blog post were taken from a report I wrote on the Murray courthouse for the Idaho Heritage Trust. (I was just finishing my writing when I learned that the subject of my research had just collapsed.) Thanks to Katherine Kirk and IHT for permission to use this material. Katherine also provided the photo of the reconstructed Murray courthouse.


We were actually talking

We were actually talking about Murray in our history class today. I thought it was very interesting. I didn't know it was listed in National Register of Historic Places. Interesting.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

I just couldn't leave your website before suggesting that I extremely loved the usual info an individual provide on your guests?

Is going to be back frequently in order to check out new posts

Also visit my web blog ... moving calculator

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your post. I like to write a little comment
to support you.

Here is my weblog carpet cleaning commercial

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Yes! Finally something about .

Look into my web-site :: ผ้าม่านราคาถูก

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

I'm curious to find out what blog platform you're utilizing?
I'm having some minor security problems with myy latest blog and I'd like to
find something more safeguarded. Do you have any suggestions?

Look into my homepage G-shock watches Man

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice,
keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future.
All the best

Feel free to visit my website ... learning and teaching resources

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

I've been surfing on-line greater than three hours as of late, yet I by no means found any fascinating article like yours.
It's beautiful value enough for me. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made excellent content material
as you did, the net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

My spouse and ӏ absolutely love youг blog and find mߋst of ʏօur
post's to Ьe eхactly Ι'm looking for. Would үօu offer guest writers tο write content in уour
case? I wouldn't mind composing а post or elaborating on ɑ fеw of the subjects you write in relation tօ here.

Again, awesome website!

my web site :: งานออนไลน์ จ่ายจริง

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Appreciation to my father who informed me on the topic of this webpage,
this webpage is actually awesome.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching
for น้ำมันก๊าด

Take a look at my homepage: คอนแทคเลนส์สายตา

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

I do consider all the ideas you have introduced in your post.
They're very convincing and can certainly work. Still,
the posts are too brief for newbies. Could you please prolong them a little from subsequent time?
Thanks for the post.

Look into my webpage :: teeth whitening products Elk Grove

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Yօu loose the fats as a reѕult of natural activity
of the HCG hormone and there аre no ϲҺemically prepared ρroducts
or medicines that are. Yоu աill not have to go through the Һassles of gеtting a doctor's appointment, getting your
tests done and so on. It helps you lose weight
swift and yоu'll not be required to carry out physical exercise.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any
widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.

I've been looking for a plug-in like this for quite
some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience
with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything.
I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

Feel free to visit my web-site ลดพุง

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is magnificent, let alone the content!

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well
written article. I'll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of
your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

You need to take part in a contest for one of the highest quality blogs on the net.
I am going to highly recommend this site!

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it's
time to be happy. I have read this post and if I
could I wish to suggest you few interesting things or tips.
Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article.
I desire to read even more things about it!

my webpage; learn to play ukulele online free

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You obviously know what youre talking about, why
throw away your intelligence on just posting videos
to your blog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

Stop by my page: ทำ seo

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared
to be on the internet the easiest thing to be
aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while
people consider worries that they plainly don't know about.
You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out
the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal.
Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

It is truly a nice and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you simply
shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this.

Thanks for sharing.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Then, a gradual addition of starch can be added in small quantities.

For the first two days, you can eat as much as you want of anything you
want. However , while using HCG procedure, it's possible you'll achieve to reduce weight even with minimal physical fitness day to day.

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Wonderful post! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our website.
Keep up the great writing.

Look at my page toyota car parts sacramento

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

When I initially commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now
each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.

Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
Appreciate it!

My site ... กาแฟเพื่อสุขภาพ

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Every weekend i used to go to see this web site, as i want enjoyment,
for the reason that this this web page conations genuinely fastidious funny information too.

my web site :: วิเคราะห์บอล

Reply to comment | Preservation Idaho

Its like you read my thoughts! You seem to know a lot approximately this, like you wrote the e-book in it
or something. I feel that you just can do with a few percent to force the message house a little bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog.
A fantastic read. I'll certainly be back.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <p> <span> <div> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <img> <map> <area> <hr> <br> <br /> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <table> <tr> <td> <em> <b> <u> <i> <strong> <font> <del> <ins> <sub> <sup> <quote> <blockquote> <pre> <address> <code> <cite> <embed> <object> <strike> <caption>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.