First Discoveries, Cache Valley in Idaho
So far as authentic records show, the first white man to enter Idaho were the party that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploring expedition in 1805-1806. They passed through the state and along the Snake River which they called Lewis Fork, to its junction with the Columbia. The following year they returned through Idaho, did some exploring and named several streams and places, such as Horse Plains, Red Rock Creeks, and Fish Creek: Salmon River they called Sammanah and Quamash Flats, now known as Kamas Prairie.
In the early fall of 1824, Jim Bridger who was in charge of a group of trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, entered Idaho along the Bear River south of the present site of Montpelier. They followed the course of the river and made stops at the springs now called Soda Springs. They continued to follow the river through the Valley now known as Gentile Valley and entered Cache Valley, then called Willow Valley, in 1824. In 1843, Captain Charles Fremont, with a company of men, practically followed Bridger’s course into Idaho and Cache Valley along the Bear River. Fremont was on a scientific and exploring expedition and took considerable time to study and gather specimens of the insect and plant life and to observe the habits and customs of the Indian groups he encountered.
Another expedition to come to the “Gem of the Mountains” or Idaho, was Captain Bonneville, who with one hundred men came during the year 1834 in his search for the outlet of Lake Bonneville. He explored the southeastern part of Idaho and traced the Port Neuf River to the Snake. Both of these expeditions were merely exploring parties and made no attempt at settlement.
In the same year, Nathaniel J. Wyeth, in his trip across the continent, established “Old Fort Hall” on the east bank of the Snake River north of the present site of Pocatello, Wyeth sold “Fort Hall” in 1836 to the Hudson Bay Company, an English firm. During 1835, this company had already established a trading post at “Fort Boise.” Both of these trading posts were abandoned by the Hudson Bay Company when the United States gained undisputed title to the land.
The Indian Mission at Lapwai, some twelve miles from the present site of Lewiston, Idaho, was established during the year 1836 and was the first mission to be founded in the state. During the year 1839, the missionaries of the Sandwich Islands presented to the Presbyterian Mission of Oregon, a printing press. During the same year the press was taken to the Lapwai Mission, set up with type and put into operation by O. E. Hall. Books were printed in the Nez Perce language to be used in the Indian schools. This was the first printing office on the Pacific Coast of the United States, or in the west.
Other missions and trading posts were established in various places and at different times thorough the state but, with those already mentioned, were subsequently abandoned. It remained for a later group to establish the first real and permanent settlement in Idaho.