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Benewah History
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Posted: Dec 19, 2004, 21:14

Benewah County rich in scenery
"The Following was published in the Coeur d’Alene Press Centenial Edition, Section 3, p. 5, 1963"


From the Idaho Almanac

For more than 50 years, present day Benewah county was part of Kootenai county. So its early day history is a part of the history of Kootenai.

Settlers originally came into the area with the completion of the Mullan Road, but the big advance in development of the section came in the 1880’s.

Placer mines were discovered in Camas Grove, near St. Maries, now the county seat, in the north eastern section during what Senator William E. Borah called the “stampede days” of mining discovery in the northern part of the state.

Center of much activity in the early days was the DeSmet mission, located near the present town of DeSmet. It was often referred to as the “new’ mission, because it was established after the boundaries of the Coeur d’Alene Indiana reservation, leaving out the Mission near Cataldo, which had served the Indians since late in the 1840’s.

Mining, lumber and agriculture, following the well-known development patterns of this area of the state, were all well advanced when Benewah county was created.

Benewah county is a rolling, hilly area with three distinct mountain ranges separated by rivers. Three picturesque streams flow through the scenic sections of the county into Lake Coeur d’Alene. Southern tip of this lake is within the county’s boundaries. Other lakes include Chatcolet, Benewah, Bells and Swan. Climate of the area is warmer than the section lying immediately north and relative mildness in temperatures is characteristic of the county as a whole.

The county’s points of interest include Heyburn State Park. Boat trips down the shadowy St. Joe River are popular with many residents and also attract many visitors. Fish-rearing ponds are located at Fernwood.

Benewah county also has the site of a mission founded by the Jesuit priests in 1842, which was moved four years later to the present Cataldo area. High waters each spring prompted the move.


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