Exhibit Hall Closed
Reopens April 2

  Visit the Museum of North Idaho at 115 Northwest Boulevard, Coeur d'Alene, Id.
April through October
Tues.-Sat. 11-5.
Free Parking with admission

Nov. 1 to March 31 office and library open by appointment Tues. through Sat.

History of Coeur d'Alene
by Robert Singletary
U Tube History of CdA

2018 Exhibit

Last Season's Exhibit
Keeping History Alive

Visitors enjoyed the 2018 feature exhibit is Keeping History Alive. The Museum celebrated 50 years and the exhibit showcased some of the Museum’s favorite artifacts and the importance of collecting and preserving our region’s history.

Please visit the Museum when it reopens April 2, 2019 with a new feature exhibit.

Discover the rich history of the Coeur d'Alene Region


St. Joe Lumber Co.
St. Joe Lumber Co, Harrison, 1904

The St. Joe River drainage contained one of the world’s largest bodies of white pine. As timber stands were depleted in other parts of the country timber interests looked to North Idaho. Eastern lumber companies flocked here and by 1910 seventy-two major sawmills operated in Kootenai, Benewah and Shoshone Counties. By the mid 1920s the lumber industry began to slow down, and many mills and towns disappeared. Saw mills and lumber production continue to decline with only a handful of sawmills remaining in Kootenai, Benewah, and Shoshone Counties..



Incline Railroad
Incline Railroad
at Marble Creek, 1920s

The terrain in the Coeur d'Alene Region is steep. Try to imagine logging these steep hills and getting the logs to the sawmill, which was usually some distance. Not only did the men have to saw the trees down, they had to get them up the hillside to the log deck where they would be loaded onto some type of transportation or into a waterway for transport. Logging is fundamentally a problem of transportation – getting the logs from the stump to the mill. More than twenty logging railroad systems with about 300 miles of track operated in the Coeur d'Alenes. Railroads were built into isolated areas for the sole purpose of bringing out timber. The largest of these was the Burnt Cabin Creek Railroad built by the Ohio Match Company.



Threshing Machine
Horse drawn harvester, 1914

The earliest farming in the Coeur d’Alene Region was at the Cataldo Mission. The Jesuit fathers and the Coeur d'Alene Indians sold hay to Fort Sherman. With the discovery of rich mineral deposits in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District in the 1880s the fertile lower Coeur d’Alene River Valley was settled with farmers who supplied agricultural products to the developing area. By 1910 the Rathdrum prairie was producing grain and produce, and Hayden Lake and Post Falls had irrigated districts, devoted to fruit and truck gardening. Lands where the timber had been removed around Lake Coeur d'Alene supported dairying and livestock raising. In the Worley district, grain was the principal crop.



Georgie Oakes
The Georgie Oakes on a pleasure cruise. Passengers are dressed in their Sunday best. The Georgie Oakes was built in 1891. In 1908 the Georgie Oakes was bought and rebuilt by the Red Collar Line at the cost of $10,000. She became the largest and fastest steamboat on Lake Coeur d'Alene. With a fine interior including staterooms and a carrying capacity of 1,000 passengers, she was the "Queen of the Lake" for 29 years. In 1922 the Red Collar Line went into receivership and in 1927 citizens of Coeur d'Alene burned the Georgie Oakes as part of the July 4th celebration.

Steamboats made it possible for people to have easy access to the area around Coeur d'Alene Lake and its interior in a time when there were few roads and no highways. By 1910, there were more than 40 large steamboats on Lake Coeur d'Alene. During weekdays the steamboats carried freight, mail, businessmen and lumberjacks to communities, rail lines and mills on the lake and up the rivers. On Sundays, excursion boats carried passengers on pleasure trips.

The Red Collar Line and the White Star Navigation Company controlled the steamboat business on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Steamboat transportation peaked in about 1915 when the automobile was gaining popularity and railroads were well established. Steamboats continued to operate into the late 1930s but the grandeur of those early years was gone.



Northern Pacific Railroad
The Idaho and Washington Northern Depot and train at Rathdrum, Idaho about 1910. This was the second line through Rathdrum arriving in 1908. Many communities had fine-looking depots.

The Northern Pacific Railroad was the first railroad connecting the Coeur d'Alene Region to the east and the west. In 1882 the Northern Pacific came through Rathdrum and in 1886 D.C. Corbin built a spur from that line at Hauser Junction to Coeur d'Alene. This was Coeur d'Alene’s first railroad. By 1909 there were five transcontinental railroads crossing the Idaho Panhandle carrying products to and from markets. The trip from ocean to ocean could be made in five days in comfort and luxury.




Since the days of Fort Sherman, the Coeur d'Alene Region has been known for its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Early visitors found Coeur d'Alene Lake one of the most beautiful features of the country. As railroads and steamboats were built, Coeur d'Alene Lake, the St. Joe and Coeur d'Alene Rivers became destination points for thousands of tourists. Camping, hunting, boating, and fishing were popular past times. Lodges, hotels, campgrounds, attractions, and the transportation industry developed to accommodate the influx of visitors. The Red Collar Line, a steamboat company, promoted the area with fancy brochures and special excursion rates.


 Playland Pier
 Playland Pier, 1950s

Playland Pier

In 1941, fill was extended into Lake Coeur d'Alene, at what is today known as Independence Point, to build the Playland Pier Amusement Park. The pier attracted both tourists and local residents to its midway for amusement rides and games. Fire destroyed Playland Pier in December 1975. In 1976, Independence Point was developed at this location.


 Notre Dame Hydroplane
 The Notre Dame hydroplane in front of Coeur d'Alene

Diamond Cup Hydroplane Races

In 1958, the Coeur d'Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association worked to bring the first hydroplane races to Coeur d'Alene. Up to fourteen hydroplanes from eight states were entered. Approximately 100,000 people lined Tubbs Hill and City Beach for the first race. The 3rd Street Dock area served as the pits. The last race was held in 1968.


The Coeur d'Alene Tribe

 Tom Costello, back row, extreme left, Indian agent for the Cd'A Indians, 1891 Treaty, a year after Idaho became a state. Later elected Sheriff of Kootenai County. Chierf Seltice is in front row, center.


The Schee-Chu-Umsh, translated 'the ones that were found here' a Sahlish speaking people, once occupied over four million acres in northern Idaho, Montana and eastern Washington. They were primarily a hunter-gatherer people who followed the seasonal cycle of wild game, fish runs, roots and berries. Extended families or one to three families lived in conical lodges constructed of poles and sewn tule mats. Villages and camps were primarily located on lake shores or at special food gathering and processing location.

The horse was introduced to the Coeur d'Alenes by the Shoshone Indians. After 1760 the Coeur d'Alenes were able to hunt in the northern plains for buffalo. Hides replaced grass mats and became the preferred material for carrying bags and housing. Transportation became easier with the use of travois pulled by horses.


Members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe attending dance near Morrison Ranch in Fairfield, WA.  c. 1920.

The Coeur d'Alene Name

Explorers and fur traders came into the Inland Northwest during the early 19th century and established trading posts among the Schee-Chu-Umsh people. David Thompson, of the Northwest Fur Trading Company, brought French speaking Iroquois Indians with him as guides and scouts. Possibly, these French-speaking Iroquois Indians called the tribe Coeur d'Alene. In his journals, Thompson referred to these Indians as "pointed hearts", which is probably a translation of the French words "Coeur d'Alene” “heart of the awl.” An awl is a pointed tool used to pierce leather. Why the name was applied to the Schee-Chu-Umsh is uncertain, but the most widely-accepted explanation is that it described their sharp trading practices.


Cataldo Mission.Haynes photo. 1885.

DeSmet Mission
Jesuit houses, Sisters' building, and the boys' school at DeSmet on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, 1910.

The Cataldo Mission

In the spring of 1842, the first meeting of the Coeur d'Alene and the Black Robes occurred at the head of the Spokane River (the present site of North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene). In the fall of 1844 Black Robes established the first mission of the Sacred Heart at the mouth of the St. Joe River, but was abandoned due to flooding. A new mission site was located, and the Fathers and the Coeur d'Alene built the Cataldo Mission, which still stands today and is the oldest standing building in Idaho.  




The increase in white settlers in the Cataldo Mission area created problems for the Coeur d'Alene and in 1877, the Fathers encouraged the tribe to move south to their camas digging fields where vast farmlands were available for them to continue their successful farming practices. At the site of DeSmet, they established the third and the last Sacred Heart Mission.   

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