Colorful History on the High Prairie
By Diana Hooley
Photos by Susan Johnston Stanek
In the Lemhi Valley of eastern Idaho lies the little community of Leadore. The valley feels empty and quiet except for the town, a small huddle of buildings between the snow-capped peaks of the Lemhi and Beaverhead Ranges. It’s hard to imagine that significant events in history occurred in such a remote area. But as Northwest Geology noted in July 2017, “The Beaverhead Range has been historically important for over two hundred years.” In 1806, Lewis and Clark trekked through the Lemhi Pass above Leadore. It became a major stage route, and then a railroad throughway after the discovery of gold, silver, and lead. The famous leader of the Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, camped near Leadore as he fled the cavalry.
I live in southwest Idaho, and really didn’t know much about Leadore, tucked away as it is in an eastern mountain valley. I’d driven past the town maybe once on my way to Salmon, but never stopped. It wasn’t until our farmhand, Rick Proulx, started talking about growing up in Leadore that my curiosity was piqued.
“We moved to Leadore when I was a teenager,” he said. “My grandma, Clara Proulx, was born and raised there. She was a wonderful lady. You know, I still have the necklace Chief Tendoy’s daughter gave Grandma when she was just a girl.”
Later Rick knocked at my front door and showed me his grandmother’s wonderful Indian necklace. He spread the slender belt of burnt orange and silver beads along the palm of his hand. I was both impressed and surprised he had possession of such a historic artifact. I’d come across Chief Tendoy’s name in Idaho history, but didn’t know much about him.
“Oh, I can tell you lots of stories. My grandma knew all about the chief. Everybody liked him.”