The Birth of Idaho

And the Man Who Helped to Save Its Life

By Rep. Linden B. Bateman

March 4 is the second annual official Idaho Day, celebrating the creation of Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863. The author, a state representative from Idaho Falls, introduced 2014 legislation to establish Idaho Day. Here, he offers a story in keeping with the theme of this year’s event, Idaho Heroes.

Who made Idaho? Who were the founding fathers of Idaho? Remarkably, the place named Idaho began with our most famous and beloved president, Abraham Lincoln, whose signature created the Territory of Idaho on March 4, 1863. Of course, many leaders helped to build the territory and guide the process that eventually led to statehood. But one man is often forgotten, and without him, the state of Idaho may never have come into existence. He was Territorial Governor Edward Augustus Stevenson.

When Lincoln signed the territory into existence, it included all of present-day Idaho, Montana, and most of Wyoming. Lincoln then went on to appoint fifteen territorial officials, including his close friend, William H. Wallace, to serve as the first territorial governor. Wallace later became Idaho’s delegate in Congress. While in Washington, he and his wife were invited to join the president and Mrs. Lincoln at Ford’s Theater the night of the assassination, but Governor Wallace’s wife was ill that night, and he decided not to attend. He was a pall-bearer at the president’s funeral.

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