(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.)

Soda Springs. Photo: Jimmy Emerson DVM, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

SODA SPRINGS, Bannock County. –This place was so designated because of the vast deposits of soda about the various springs. They were first called Beer Springs. There were also numerous hot springs, differing widely in character and appearance, and there was one miniature geyser erupting to a height of about three feet at regular intervals. The noise accompanying these pulsations caused it to be named Steamboat Spring. The place was similar to the Yellowstone National Park, only on a much smaller scale, but many objects excited considerable curiosity in travelers.

SOUTH PASS, Wyoming. – So named in contradistinction to the north pass used by Lewis and Clark. It is not known by whom this mountain passage was discovered, but it is likely that the returning Astorians passed thru this divide in 1812. It is quite probably that Ashley’s party located it in 1823. The ascent is so gradual that, although 7,500 feet above sea-level, its elevation is not perceived, and in 1843, Fremont could, with difficulty, tell just where he crossed the highest point of the divide. The topography in the vicinity of this pass is quite confusing, for near it rise the streams which flow into the Atlantic via Missouri River; into the Pacific via Columbia and Colorado rivers; and into the Great Basin via Bear River.

Philadelphus lewisii. Photo: CC 2.0

STATE FLOWER. –By common consent, Lewis’ syringa is the state flower of Idaho. The queen of Idaho’s wild flower garden is by unanimous acclaim the modest syringa, Philadelphus lewisii, which is limited in its territory to the western group of states, from Montana and Wyoming to Washington and California. Its flowers matching the orange blossom in beauty, its bursting buds appearing to be fairly pin-cushioned, its fragrance as delightful as the odors that sweep over Elysian fields, its leaves a delicate, soft, shimmering green, the Idaho syringa is a shrub well equipped to awaken enthusiasm in every lover of flowers. It belongs to the saxifrage family, and was so loved by Ptolemy Philadelphus, the master king of old Egypt, that he gave it his own name, and the western specie of this family to which the Idaho syringa belongs was named for Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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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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