Growing up in Idaho, the history of Lewis and Clark and the opening of the west to settlers was a large part of the history I learned as a child. As part of the Pacific Northwest, the land that became our state was wild and unsettled. A perfect place to put down roots, raise a family, and build a homestead. Unfortunately, the land that easterners thought of as uninhabited, the Nez Perce Indian tribe called home.
Definitely a disaster waiting to happen.
One story out of the history books that always stuck with me was about Henry and Eliza Spaulding, the first white settlers in what’s now the state of Idaho. Now, there’s some debate on that claim, and I’ve found a couple mentions of a fur trading business set up as early as 1805
so I don’t know if that part of the story is true. But the Presbyterian missionary couple was one of the first waves of westward expansion to inhabit Idaho. Henry and his wife built a homestead in a beautiful area now known as Lewiston. Nestled in the middle of the state, even now, the area is more rural than the capital Boise, which lies south of the area. The current residents depend on forestry, agriculture and mining for jobs and commerce.
In 1836, Rev. Henry and Eliza Spaulding travelled across the country with their friends, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. But when the Whitman’s decided to set up a mission in nearby Walla, Walla Washington, Henry and Eliza pushed on farther into the wilderness into what is now Idaho and the Clearwater River site. The couple stopped at a site near Lapwai Creek and Eliza wrote about the clear springs and natural beauty of the spot. After building at one site, which was little more than a swamp, they moved a few years later to the mouth of the creek and the pair settled there in 1838.
The couple started teaching and preaching to the Nez Perce Indians who lived in the area. Before they left in 1844, they’d built a school, printing house, and additional living quarters for some of the Nez Perce who helped run the mission. Henry felled trees and built a log home for his lovely bride.
In 1844, fearing for their lives, they abandon their mission and school. Word had just arrived that their friends, the Whitman’s, were massacred in their home in Walla, Walla, in an Indian uprising. Thirty years later, the Nez Perce were headed to a reservation, and the west had been changed forever.
As a child, the idea of starting over, in a land where you didn’t know anyone, seemed inconceivable. I wondered about the woman who taught the children to read as she tried to make a life in the wilderness. Why had she agreed to leave her home in the east for an uncertain future? Had she been excited about the possibilities, or frightened at the dangers?
As an adult, I’ve taken a different route, moving east from Idaho to the edge of Illinois, where Lewis and Clark started their journey. And I find myself in Eliza’s shoes, trying to navigate my way through a land where things are different than home. People are different. But Eliza taught me one important lesson as I studied her life so many years ago. You make your place in the world. And you decide if you’re happy or not.
Today, I’m giving away another Idaho story for your e-reader to one lucky commenter. The Bull Rider’s Brother is set in a fictional little mountain town nestled on the road between Boise and the Spaulding site.
Shawnee, Idaho is known for two things. Amazing salmon fishing and the first local rodeo of the summer. For four friends, growing up in Shawnee, meant one thing, making plans to get out. Five years later, that wish has been granted for all but one. What happens when they all get together again changes five lives.
When James Sullivan visits his hometown’s rodeo weekend and learns that his high school sweetheart had his child – six years ago – Lizzie Hudson’s world is thrown into turmoil. In THE BULL RIDER”S BROTHER, James struggles with family and Lizzie questions the risk of love.
Click on the cover to purchase on Amazon.
alpha heroes range from rogue witch hunters to modern cowboys. And her heroines all have one thing in common, their strong need for independence. Or at least that’s what they think they want. She blogs at her website, A Fairy Tale Life.