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The Territory of Idaho was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 4, 1863, until July 3, 1890, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Unionmarker as the State of Idahomarker.


Seal of Idaho Territory 1863-1866
The territory was officially organized on March 4, 1863 by Act of Congress, and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. It was created by areas from existing territories; the area west of the Continental Divide was formerly part of the Oregon Territorymarker and Washington Territory, whereas most of the area east of the Continental Divide had been part of the Dakota Territory. The original territory covered most of the present-day states of Idahomarker, Montanamarker and Wyomingmarker.

The first territorial capital was at Lewistonmarker. Boisemarker was the territorial capital from 1865.

Although the 1863 Bear River Massacremarker in present-day Franklin Countymarker is considered to be the westernmost battle of the Civil War, the upheaval caused by the Civil War and Reconstruction was a distant concern to those in the comparatively stable Idaho Territory, a situation which in turn encouraged settlement.

In 1864, the Montana Territory was organized from the northeastern section of the territory east of the Bitterroot Rangemarker. Most of the southeastern area of the territory was made part of the Dakota Territory.

In the late 1860s Idaho Territory became a destination for displaced Southern Democrats who fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. These people were well-represented in the early territorial legislatures, which often clashed with the appointed Republican territorial governors. The political infighting became particularly vicious in 1867, when Governor David W. Ballard asked for protection from federal troops stationed at Fort Boise against the territorial legislature. By 1870, however, the political infighting died down considerably.

In 1868, the areas east of the 111th Meridian were made part of the newly created Wyoming Territory. Idaho Territory assumed the boundaries of the modern state at that time.The discovery of gold, silver and other valuable natural resources throughout Idaho beginning in the 1860s, as well as the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, brought many new people to the territory, including Chinesemarker laborers who came to work the mines. As Idaho approached statehood, mining and other extractive industries became increasingly important to its economy. By the 1890s, for example, Idaho exported more lead than any other state.


Construction began on the Idaho Territorial Prison in 1870 and was completed by 1872. The prison was in use by the territory, then the state until 1973. The Old Idaho State Penitentiarymarker was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 for its significance as a Territorial Prison. The site currently contains museums and an arboretum.

Entrance to the old Penitentiary

Almost immediately after Idaho Territory was created, a public school system was created and stage coach lines were established. Regular newspapers were active in Lewiston, Boisemarker and Silver Citymarker by 1865. The first telegraph line reached Franklin in 1866, with Lewiston being the first town linked in northern Idaho in 1874. The first telephone call in the Pacific Northwest was made on May 10, 1878, in Lewiston.

Although forming a sizeable minority, Mormons in Idaho were held in suspicion by others in Idaho. By 1882 notable and powerful Idahoans successfully disenfranchised Mormon voters in Idaho Territory, citing their illegal practice of polygamy. Idaho was able to achieve statehood some six years before Utah, a territory which had a larger population and had been settled longer, but was majority LDS with voting polygamists.


After the capital relocation controversy proposals to split the two regions became widespread. In 1887 Idaho Territory was nearly legislated out of existence, but as a favor to Governor Edward A. Stevenson, President Grover Cleveland refused to sign a bill that would have split Idaho Territory between Washington Territory in the north and Nevadamarker in the south.

In 1889, the University of Idahomarker was awarded to the northern town of Moscowmarker instead of its original planned location at Eagle Rock (now Idaho Fallsmarker) in the south. This served to alleviate some of the hard feelings felt by North Idaho residents over losing the capital.

The territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Idaho on July 3, 1890.

Image:Wpdms idaho territory 1863 idx.png|Idaho Territory in 1863Image:Wpdms idaho territory 1864 legend idx.png|Areas ceded to Montana and Dakota in 1864Image:Wpdms idaho territory 1868.png|Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming territories in 1868

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