North Idaho History
The City of Coeur d’Alene began with the construction of Fort Coeur d’Alene, later named Fort Sherman, in 1878. For 20 years, the presence of the military not only contributed to the local economy, but also provided a variety of cultural activities for local residents. The fort and the town were named by early French-speaking fur traders, who also named the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. The most common theory for the name is that they were known to have hearts (Coeur) as sharp as the point of an awl (Alene). The lake, which was the center of the Tribe’s homeland, become known as Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Natural resources of the area generated a flow rich in the industries, such as fur-trading, logging, mining. As a result of logging and mining, railroad and steamboat transportation greatly impacted the region’s economics. In 1886 Coeur d’Alene became the transfer point for a railroad/steamboat transportation system that connected the Northern Pacific Railroad to the Silver Valley. By 1910 the booming city had a variety of new stores and was served by five railroad lines and a fleet of steamboats. Coeur d’Alene became incorporated as a town in 1887, and the same year Fort Coeur d’Alene was renamed Fort Sherman in honor of General William Tecumseh Sherman, its original commander.
By the early 1890’s Coeur d’Alene was developing into a prosperous and unique city. The surge of prosperity came to a halt when a railroad was built around the southern end of the lake to the mining district and thus Fort Sherman closed.
The city of Coeur d’Alene had a rebirth in the early 1900’s as the result of a major timber boom. Coeur d’Alene developed from a small frontier village with a population of less than 500 into a bustling city of 8,000 in less than 10 years. In addition to becoming the political and business center of Kootenai County, Coeur d’Alene also became known for its tourist attractions as the electric train brought people from Spokane, WA to enjoy the parks, beaches and excursion boats. In 1908, Coeur d’Alene became the county seat of Kootenai County.