Congressman Simpson Recognizes Idaho’s Sesquicentennial


Idaho’s Territorial Sesquicentennial






March 4, 2013



Mr. Speaker: On this day in 1863, 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed a congressional act creating the Idaho Territory.  Twenty-seven years later, part of that territory would become the 43rd State, the State of Idaho. 

The Idaho Territory was initially much larger than the borders of Idaho today; it included most of what would later become Montana and Wyoming.  The territory, to be governed by William H. Wallace, an old friend of Lincoln’s, was previously part of the Washington Territory. 

Western Washington politicians moved to discard large tracts of land in eastern Washington Territory partly because the population in those areas was increasing rapidly and they wanted to assure Olympia would remain the capital of the region.  That population increase was mostly gold miners seeking out their fortunes in the Clearwater region, now Idaho’s panhandle. This goes to show you, Mr. Speaker, gerrymandering is not a new phenomenon, it is in fact one of the reasons the Idaho Territory was created in the first place.

However, the land mass for the Idaho Territory was so expansive that within a year Montana broke away, and four years later Wyoming did the same, leaving the Idaho Territory looking very much like the State does today.

In 1890, after 27 years as a territory, Idaho became the 43rd State.  However, much of what distinguishes Idaho today came about during its territorial years, including the creation of its main highways, many of its public schools, its tax system, its tribal laws, its universities, its water laws, and indeed, its eventual Constitution, written in the summer of 1889 in Boise.  Idaho’s Constitution remains today almost exactly how it was written, and it still forms the basis for all Idaho laws to this day.

The citizens of Idaho have always demonstrated a unity and sense of pride in their traditions and history, and this rich history is what makes them who they are today.  From the Canadian border to Yellowstone, from Craters of the Moon to Coeur d’Alene Lake, Idahoans celebrate today.  It is my privilege today to commemorate Idaho’s territorial sesquicentennial.