Pocatello History

Gateway to the Northwest
Founded in 1889, Pocatello was known as the "Gateway to the Northwest." As pioneers, gold miners and settlers traveled the Oregon Trail, they passed through the Portneuf Gap south of town. Stage and freight lines and the railroad soon followed, turning our community into a trade center and transportation junction.

Indigenous Tribes
The name "Pocatello" comes from an Indian chief of the Shoshone tribe who granted the railroad a right-of-way through the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

Shoshone and Bannock Indian tribes inhabited southeastern Idaho for hundreds of years before the epic trek by Lewis and Clark across Idaho in 1805. Their reports of the many riches of the region attracted fur trappers and traders to southeastern Idaho.
Permanent Settlements
Nathaniel Wyeth of Massachusetts established one of the first permanent settlements at Fort Hall in 1834, which is only a few miles northeast of Pocatello. When over-trapping and a shift in fashion to silk hats put an end to the fur trade, Fort Hall became a supply point for immigrants traveling the Oregon Trail.

Although thousands of immigrants passed through Idaho, it was not until the discovery of gold in 1860 that attracted settlers in large numbers to Idaho. The gold rush brought a need for goods and services to many towns, and the Portneuf Valley, home of Pocatello, was the corridor initially used by stage and freight lines. The coming of the railroad provided further development of Idaho's mineral resources and "Pocatello junction" became an important transportation crossroads as the Union Pacific Railroad expanded its service.

Gold Rush & Agriculture
After the gold rush played out, the settlers who remained turned to agriculture. With the help of irrigation from the nearby Snake River, the region became a large supplier of potatoes, grain and other crops. Residential and commercial development gradually appeared by 1882.