On the Road: What’s in a Name? Pt 2

This post is part 2 of 3, continued from On the Road: What’s in a Name? 

History 

In May of 1877 Nez Perce Chiefs Joseph, White Bird, Looking Glass and Toohoolhoolzote received orders to move onto the reservation designated by the Treaty of 1863 by the middle of June. The Nez Perce had already divided, some consenting to the 1863 agreements, moving their homes onto the grounds centered around Lapwai, and others holding to the tribal norms that no governing body could control an individual’s rights. The treaty had reduced the size of the tribe’s previous agreements with the United States by almost ninety percent – from 7 million acres to just under 800,000. In their place towns and farms sprung up overnight, each with their own hopes and dreams, competing with each other for the dollars of weary travelers and boasting the promise of the new frontier. 

A Town 

From the little town of Fenn to the saddle where it crests Mount Idaho, Hwy 95 makes a sweeping arc around Tolo Lake to include Grangeville, the county seat. If, while traveling legal speeds from Fenn to Grangeville, you happen to glance toward the hills, you might catch the town of Denver. 

Denver Cemetery Road

The intersection of Canyon Road and Denver Cemetery Road marks the way past or through the town of Denver, Idaho, now a field of black loam and wheat.

Located in the exact geographic center of the Camas Prairie, Denver was founded by investors from Moscow, Ida., Pullman, Wash. and the Camas Prairie. 

The investors purchased a total of 2,720 acres from Hon. L.P. Brown of the town of Mount Idaho, selecting 640 acres to be the townsite. In the book The Oregonian’s Handbook of the Pacific Northwest, a mass of information on Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana gathered by the newspaper The Oregonian, Denver is described:

 …it was a necessity, from a commercial standpoint, of a town at this point, that induced its location here. The syndicate, in choosing this point, located a young city that would be easy of access from all points and where it would naturally command the trade of a vast territory that, from its resources alone, must become thickly settled in the near future…The promoters of the new townsite claim that Denver is destined to become the metropolis and commercial center of the Panhandle of Idaho. 

It was hoped that Denver would replace the then county seat of Mount Idaho as “the metropolis and commercial center of the Panhandle of Idaho.” Research into Denver’s dates of creation and demise are unclear but by one account it existed as early as 1863 and as late as 1906. So by all accounts it was well established when the Nez Perce bands agreed to occupy the reservation. It’s hard to stand at the edge of a field and reconcile a town on the GPS with only a canvas of wheat and rape, absent the bustling streets of a metropolis that once claimed its own newspaper, The Denver Tribune, two hotels and a livery stable. Denver’s population reached a bustling 200 when it was just more than a year old. Now the postmaster delivers to addresses designated “rural route” and only a signpost, Denver Cemetery Road, remains. 

Tolo Lake, Camas Prairie, ID

Tolo Lake on the Camas Prairie. The town of Fenn, Idaho, population of around 40, sits about five miles in the distance.

A Lake 

In the twilight of the arrival of settlers and missionaries and left with little alternative, White Bird, Toohoolhoolzote, Joseph and Looking Glass agreed and began to make arrangements to move to the reservation. In early June 1877 a final gathering was organized between members of five non-treaty bands at a traditional camping ground on the Camas Prairie five miles from Grangeville and just eight miles from the reservation border: Tepahlewam or Tolo Lake. 

It was here that White Bird’s band held a tel-lik-leen a traditional, peaceful ceremony in which past triumphs were remembered in salute to a collective history. As night fell on June 14 three young men broke from the band to seek revenge for a father’s murder – a successful outburst that dominoed into more attacks on settlers in areas including Cottonwood, now a town, originally a halfway house, and Grangeville. Of the tel-lik-leen and what caused the men to seek revenge West writes: 

Whatever inspired it, this tel-lik-leen provided the spark that set loose the greatest modern crisis of the Nez Perce people…At some point on the circuit, something happened. By one account, their horse stepped on some drying camas roots; by another, they frightened a child. Someone then taunted Shore Crossing and his honored place in the ceremonial (tel-lik-leen) train: “If you’re so brave, why don’t you go kill the white man who killed your father?”…Overnight, Shore Crossing decided to right the imbalance.

The attacks continued for three days across the praire. Knowing they would soon meet the retaliation of the U.S. Army, the tribes abandoned their move and turned back to the canyon of White Bird’s village. 

Now infamous for its entombment of a resurrected woolly mammoth and a favorite of local fishermen, Tolo Lake is an unassuming spot on the prairie. A small blue watering hole easily overlooked within the vast fields of rape and alfalfa, barbwire fences and stock horses line the oiled gravel roads leading to the lake. The hum of 18-wheelers on Hwy 95 becomes a lull with the sound-offs of robins and ravens. 

Standing on the edge of the lake, placid to an empty sky one can almost see the grasses trampled by hundreds of horses. Looking north to the unhindered horizon it’s not hard to understand the heartbreak and tensions those assembled must have felt and their desire to create a ceremony around their loss. And it’s easy to imagine what the settlers saw and interpreted. Here the prairie is flat to the horizon, a rare place for a state as rugged as Idaho. Horses grazing three miles away can be seen by a standing man. Hundreds of Nez Perce gathered, performing a ritual ceremony that was, in fact, celebrating past battles, may have easily been interpreted as a cry for war. 

Up Next… “A Road, What’s in a Name?” 

About Jonna

Created for curiosity. View all posts by Jonna

3 responses to “On the Road: What’s in a Name? Pt 2

  • Anonymous

    Awesome JB!

    • Desiree

      ‘Obaadmacare’ as it’s known, may indeed go down; but it won’t be for lack of popaduadlar supadport. Aa0majoradity of Ameradiadcans supadport at least some poradtions of the bill. There may be, denpedading on which poll you read, majoradity supadport for repeal of the law. Howadever, when aa0properly-​designed poll is taken, the true nature of the oppoadsiadtion become clearer.A sigadnifadiadcant peradcentadage of us oppose the bill because it doesn’t do enough. It was so watered down in the process of tryading to get through both houses of Conadgress, that it failed to achieve the objecadtives origadiadnally envisioned.When you add the poradtion of the pubadlic which feels this way, to the peradcentadage who want the law to remain in effect; you find that there is aa0fairly large pluadraladity in favor of far-​reaching reform. Readading the polls careadfully, it’s apparadent that there is just aa0scant third of us strongly opposed to this law. That’s about the same peradcentadage who still think Presadiaddent Bush did aa0good job. It’s fewer peoadple than voted for Sarah Palin and John McCain. It’s about how many peoadple who think ex-​Governor Palin would be aa0good president.Indeed, many states’ attoradneys genaderal have mounted aa0chaladlenge to the law. But this should not be interadpreted as lack of popaduadlar supadport for aa0radadiadcal overadhaul of our health care system.

  • Shuvro

    Clients seem to want Flash. Can an agency prdovie in-house or do they have to deal with outsourcing.Clients talk about their (expensive) experiences with shops so when they are left high and dry, ala Blueline, they go in with cynicism (sp?), agencies need to present a truthful and harder sell of their capabilities.Maintaining quality workforce. This town is small, and the industry is incestuous. The cream of the crop not only rises, it gets licked up by the shops able to pay for their skillsets.

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