(Editor’s Note: These excerpts are from the book Idaho Chronology, Nomenclature and Bibliography by John E. Rees, published in 1918. In the Nomenclature section, Rees offers his best information and beliefs regarding the origins, meanings and history behind Idaho place names and prominent figures. Born in 1868, Rees grew up in Lemhi County, taught literature and history in Salmon City for 15 years where he served as a prosecuting attorney the same year this book was published. He died in 1928 of heart failure.)

Lemhi Mountains near Leadore, Idaho. Photo: Forest Service Northern Region.

LEMHIS. –At the time Lewis and Clark visited the Lemhi country in 1805 there were about five hundred Shoshonis then occupying the land under Chief Cameahwait. In 1855 the Mormons found the country still inhabited by Shoshonis under Chief Snagg together with some roving Bannacks, but the gold miners of 1866 found a mixed tribe which was composed of Shoshonis, Tukuarikas and Bannacks who had gathered into one congregation and had selected Tendoy their chief, and as they did not constitute a separate tribe, they became known as Tendoy’s band. After becoming settled on the Lemhi Indian reservation in Lemhi Valley in 1875, where they intermarried, they soon coalesced into a tribe now called the “Lemhis,” and so extensively did they intermarry that in 1900, excepting some old people, there were no full-blood Shoshonis, Tukuarikas or Bannacks among them, so they were enumerated, in the census, as a single tribe. In 1905 they gave up the Lemhi Reserve and were, later, removed to Fort Hall Reservation, numbering at the time 474 souls.

LEMHI INDIAN RESERVATION, Lemhi County. –The predominating element of the Lemhis was Shoshoni of the western band and when treaties were made with these tribes in 1868 one as also made with the Lemhis, in which the Indians agreed to cede all their claim to the lands of the Lemhi country outside of a reserve therein described as commencing at a point of rocks on the north fork of the Salmon River (Lemhi), twelve miles above Fort Lemhi and containing two townships of land, but the government failed to ratify the treaty. In 1875 President Grant, by executive order, set aside a reservation for them as follows: [description omitted] …which when surveyed contained 160 square miles. In 1880 the chief and head men of the tribe entered into a treaty with the government to relinquish the Lemhi Reserve and take lands in severalty on the Fort Hall Reservation, but one provision of the treaty was that it should not take effect until it had been accepted by a majority of all the adult males of the tribe, which was not accomplished until December 28, 1905. The provisions of this treaty were that the Lemhis should receive $4,000 per year for 20 years and 160 acres each of farming and grazing lands to each head of family and 80 acres each of farming and grazing lands to all others not head of family, and the Fort Hall Indians were to receive $6,000 per year for 20 years for the lands which they yielded to the Lemhis. The Lemhis abandoned the Lemhi Reserve in 1907.

Lemhi Pass. Photo: USFS.

LEMHI PASS, Lemhi County. –Lewis and Clark crossed the Rocky Mountain Chain seven times at six distinct places, crossing one pass twice. Of these six passes three were of the main range, the others of concomitant ranges on either side of it, and more or less parallel to the main range. In their order of succession and with the names in current use these passes were: The Lemhi, an unnamed pass of the Bitterroot Range at the southwest angle where that range joins the main Rockies, near the unnamed pass mentioned; the Lewis and Clark pass of the main range at the head of Dearborn’s River; and the Bozeman pass between the Bridger and Gallatin ranges east of Bozeman, Montana. Of all of these passes, there were but three that Lewis and Clark both crossed and the only one across the main range that both of them saw and used was the first one – the so-called Lemhi pass. This pass, therefore, should have been called and should, if possible, even yet be named the Lewis and Clark pass. The one now known by the name Clark never saw, and the Gibbon’s pass, which Lewis never saw, should by all rules be known as Clark’s pass, not Gibbon’s, General Gibbon having crossed it seventy-one years after Clark.

LEWIS RIVER, Lemhi County. –This is the name which Captain Clark gave to the Salmon River on August 21, 1805, when he arrived at the junction of the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers, near where Salmon City now stands. He said: “The western branch of this river (main Salmon) is much larger than the eastern (Lemhi). As Captain Lewis was the first white man who visited its waters, Captain Clark gave it the same of Lewis River.” When the expedition arrived at the forks of the Snake and Clearwater rivers on October 10, 1805, they said: “The southern branch (Snake River) is in fact the main stream of Lewis River, on which we encamped while among the Shoshones” (Lemhi), showing that Captains Lewis and Clark referred to the Salmon River and that they knew nothing about the upper Snake River. Cartographers have undertaken to attach the name “Lewis Fork” to the Snake River but the name failed to become permanent and the worthy explorer has been cheated of his just desert. The name of Lewis for Salmon River was the first name given by the first explorers and their rights in the matter should never have been ignored.

Historic monument, Lewis and Clark Historic Trail, Salmon Field Office. Photo: BLM.

LEWIS AND CLARK TRAIL. –These explorers followed the old “time out of mind” Indian trails from the three forks of the Missouri to the two forks of the Clearwater, excepting at the head of the north fork of the Salmon River where they made the trail as they proceeded. Why they went so far north as the Lolo pass instead of crossing the Nez Perce pass is due, no doubt, to the lack of knowledge on the part of their Shoshoni guide Toby. The party consisted of Capt. Meriwether Lewis, Lieut. William Clark, nine young men from Kentucky, fourteen soldiers from the United States Army, two French watermen, one hunter, one interpreter, one black servant, the interpreter’s wife and child, making a total of thirty-two persons. They left Three Forks July 30, 1805, proceeding up the Beaverhead River to its source, which is at the junction of Horse Prairie and Redrock creeks; up Horse Prairie and Trail creeks to the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains at Lemhi pass, crossing over on August 12, 1805, on to Agency Creek and thence down to the Lemhi River in the vicinity of Fort Lemhi; thence down the Lemhi to its junction with the Salmon River near where Salmon City now stands and thence down the Salmon to Tower Creek; up Tower Creek about four miles, thence northward along the foot of the mountains to Fish Creek; thence up Fish Creek now called the North Fork, where they crossed the divide of the Bitterroot Mountains September 4, on to Camp Creek, down which they passed to the east fork of the Bitterroot River; thence through Ross’ hole and down the Bitterroot River to Lolo Creek, up which they passed and over the Bitterroot Mountains on to Glade Creek; thence down the dividing ridge between the Northfork [sic] and the Middlefork [sic] of the Clearwater to the Lolo Creek that flows into the Clearwater; thence down to the junction of the Northfork [sic] and the Southfork [sic] of the Clearwater, at a place they called Canoe camp. After constructing five canoes they drifted down the Clearwater to the Snake River and on to the Columbia, which they reached on October 16, 1805.

Map of Lewis and Clark’s track across the western United States, published 1814.

{Editor’s Note: This is a superb map of the routes of Lewis and Clark, from “History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark, 1814” by Meriwether Lewis, published by Bradford and Inskeep in 1814. This map was an early attempt by cartographers to accurately show this territory based on what the Lewis and Clark Expedition described. Click on the map above, then zoom in on any portion to see notations regarding names of rivers, mountains and other notable features (with notations such as “These mountains are covered in snow”), Indian groups and their estimated numbers, etc. Since there weren’t yet the states of Idaho, Montana, Washington or Oregon, and because place and feature names have changed with time, it’s hard to get oriented, but the map does show the 45th parallel – which runs east-west just north of New Meadows – as a faint line across the middle of the entire map.}

LEWISTON, Nez Perce County. – “It was Vick Trivit in June, 1861, who named the city at the forks of the river ‘Lewiston.’ The way he came to name it Lewiston was when there were five or six of us sitting on a log near where Trivit had a tent, which was at the junction of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Several names were suggested by our party for the town to be built here and Silcot wanted to name it after some Indian chief. During our talk about another matter Trivit came out of the tent and said: ‘Gentlemen, why not name this place Lewiston, after Lewis and Clark?’ and the suggestion was accepted at once by us. What is now called Snake River Avenue was first known as Clarksville.” BEALL, Idaho Librarian Report, 1915-16.

LOLO PASS AND CREEK, Clearwater County. –In very early days an old half-breed hunter and trapper by the name of Lawrence lived among the Flathead Indians and after his death was buried on Lolo Creek, Montana. The creek was named by the Indians for him, but as there is no r in the Flathead vocabulary “Loulou” was as near as they could come in pronouncing the name Lawrence, which the United States Geographic Board has spelled Lolo. This stream flows into the Bitterroot and was called Traveler’s Rest Creek by Lewis and Clark. The pass at the head of this creek, which lies between the Clearwater and the Bitterroot rivers, is called Lolo pass and also a small stream flowing into the Clearwater is named Lolo Creek, but originally called by Lewis and Clark Collins Creek. The Nez Perce Indians crossed thru this pass in 1877 while being pursued by Gen. O. O. Howard.

LOST RIVER, Butte County. –Named from the peculiar characteristic of sinking in the lava plains. Between Henry’s Fork and the Boise River there is not a single perennial stream flowing into Snake River from the north although the mountains in that region receive a large amount of precipitation. The principal reason for the absence of surface tributaries to the Snake on the north is that broad lava plains intervene between it and the mountains and all the water which flows down to the plains or falls on their surface is either evaporated or lost in the cellular and fissured lava, and after passing thru the underlying rocks join in an underflow which eventually emerges in the Snake River Canyon, as immense springs. There are three streams that become lost in this manner, namely: Big Lost, Little Lost and Brich [sic; should be Birch] Creek, all disappearing the same basin called the “Sinks,” where during high water their contents commingle.

Lost River Range, Dry Creek. Photo: A Hendrick, BLM.

(Cover photo: Birch Creek and Lemhi Mountains, courtesy James Neeley, BLM Idaho.)

Find all previous installments to Idaho Nomenclature under the History category in Natural World tab.

About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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