[Vision2020] The Story Of How Idaho’s Capital Moved From Lewiston To Boise Completely Embodies The Wild West

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Sun Mar 1 08:20:09 PST 2020

Courtesy of Only in Your State at



The Story Of How Idaho’s Capital Moved From Lewiston To Boise Completely Embodies The Wild West

These days, the city of Boise is considered the urban epicenter of the Gem State. However, it wasn’t always considered Idaho’s main metropolis. In fact, it wasn’t even always the state capital. Lewiston was. The story of how Idaho’s capital moved from north to south is one that includes plenty of lawlessness (and even a threat of annexation), and it perfectly sums up the world of the Wild West in which Idaho was born. Despite the massive impact this event had on our state’s history, it’s one that a surprising amount of people don’t even know about. Everybody should know the story of how Idaho’s state capital moved from Lewiston to Boise, so be sure to read up on this fascinating tidbit of Gem State history.

Visiting the quiet city of Lewiston today, you'd be surprised to learn that it was once considered the largest community in the Idaho Territory. With a thriving population made up of thousands of prospectors and their families, it was even larger than Seattle and Portland combined.

Jimmy Emerson/Flickr
In fact, Lewiston was considered THE place to be the year Congress carved out the Idaho Territory in 1863. It was even designated as Idaho's capital city. However, Lewiston's time in the spotlight wouldn't last long.
The next year in 1864 was when the Boise Basin received a huge influx of people moving there. Most of Lewiston ended up going south to follow the gold (and silver), and the sudden arrival of all these people meant the creation of new counties.

Jimmy Emerson/Flickr
When the legislature returned in late 1864, a bill was created to officially move the capital from Lewiston to Boise. Suffice it to say, northerners were NOT happy about the bill and they did everything they could to keep the capital in Lewiston, including protecting the territorial seal and documents at all costs.

Ken Lund/Flickr
Lewiston residents even went as far as locking up the seal and accompanying documents in the town jail. Unfortunately, these efforts did not stop Idaho's acting governor, Clinton DeWitt Smith, from riding up to Lewiston with federal troops to take them by force. DeWitt Smith arrived in town with the troops, broke into the jail, and took the papers before escaping town on a ferry.

Ian Poellet/Wikimedia Commons
As you'd expect, the people of Lewiston were supremely ticked off. They were so mad that they appealed to Congress years later to annex the northern half of Idaho into the Washington territory. The bill actually passed in both the House and the Senate, but was ultimately pocketed by President Grover Cleveland at the last minute.

If this all sounds like a thrilling scene out of a Western movie, that's because it basically was. These were the days of the Wild West and this event was the epitome of the Western spirit! It's hard to say what Lewiston and Boise would look like today if this controversial event hadn't taken place.

Jimmy Emerson/Flickr
Did you know the story of how Idaho’s capital moved from north to south? This definitely explains the rivalry between these two regions of Idaho to an extent! For more interesting Idaho history, check out these 8 Weird Facts About Idaho History You Didn’t Know. 

Address: Lewiston, ID 83501, USA


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

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