Coeur d'Alene Lake


Launch: Heyburn State Park, Chatcolet Unit

Nearby campsites: At the State Park

Comments: Heyburn State Park is in the far southwestern portion of the Lake. This end of the lake has somewhat less use than the northern portion, near the town of Coeur d'Alene



-----The busiest of the three Idaho Panhandle lakes is Coeur d'Alene, since the town of Coeur d'Alene is on the northern end of the lake. Like the next lake to the north, Lake Pend d'Oreille, this lake can also have various pronounciations. The locals call it 'core da lane.'

-----There are some interesting statistics for the town of Coeur d'Alene. It's a great town for single guys: according to the 2000 census, for every 100 women over 18 there are only 89 men. The median age is 35 years. The median income for a household is $33,000. There are 34,500 people in the town.


French Fur Traders

-----French fur traders allegedly named the local Indian tribe, Coeur d'Alene, out of respect for their tough trading practices. Translated from French, Coeur d'Alene literally means "heart of the awl." This could be interpreted as "sharp-hearted" or "shrewd." Today, they call themselves, "Schee chu'umsch," or 'they who live here.' A large reservation encloses most of southern Lake Coeur d'Alene.

-----Others interpret "heart of the awl" to translate to "Eye of the Needle", and this might refer to the narrow passage through which the lake empties into the Spokane River.

-----General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered a fort constructed on the lake in 1878. He gave it the name Fort Coeur d'Alene; and the city that grew around it retained the name. Later, the name of the fort was changed to Fort Sherman in honor of the general.

-----The Coeur d'Alene Miners Strike of 1892

-----Gold was discovered in the early 1860s in the mountains to the south of Coeur d'Alene. Silver, copper, and other minerals were also found. Idaho experienced boom after boom, and mining towns arose overnight, boomed, and then disappeared as the miners left for the latest rush.

-----The Coeur d'Alene Mining District was especially rich in gold. More than $9 million dollars worth of gold was shipped from the District in 1891, making fortunes for the mine owners. The railroads increased their rates, so to control costs, owners reduced the wages of miners to $3 a day, and increased their working hours from nine to ten hours a day with no increase in pay. They were forced to work seven days a week, and pay high rates for room and board. In 1892 union miners walked out in strike. Owners advertised for workers from the Midwest. Every inbound train was packed with strike-breaking workers, who were met by heavily armed local miners. Owners hired Pinkerton detectives as a private army to protect the non-union workers and to infiltrate the unions.

-----One of the Pinkerton men to join the union was Charlie Siringo. By buying drinks and loaning money to miners he became Recording Sect'y of the union, allowing him access to union books and records. The information he gained, he shared with the mine owners. This allowed the owners to outmanuever the strikers. During this time, Siringo stood against a union mob, using his supposedly impecable union loyalty, to hold off the angry miners. They were determined to lynch prosecuting attorney Clarence Darrow (who was on the mine owners payroll).

-----Angered by the infiltration by spies ferreting out their plans, strikers confronted the companies. On July 10, miners gathered above the Frisco Mine and shots rang out. Miners sent a box of black powder down a flume into one of the mine buildings killing a guard and injuring others. Gunfire killed another before the guards surrendered.

-----Just after the explosion at the Frisco Mine, hundreds of miners surrounded Siringo's boarding house. They had discovered the identity of the Pinkerton spy. Charlie sawed a hole through the floor of his room, dropped through and slid a trunk over the hole. He then crawled to his escape under a wooden boardwalk, listening to union men walking above talking about what they were going to do to Charlie Siringo when they found him.

-----Another attack, this time on the Gem Mine, resulted in the death of four union men and about 130 union workers surrendered to the Pinkerton guards. While the captives waited to board a boat on Lake Coeur d'Alene, banished by the community, gunfire broke out and 17 more men were wounded.

-----The violence gave the Governor the excuse to send in six companies of the Idaho National Guard. Six hundred miners were confined, without charges, formal hearings or legal defense, in bullpens (literally, pens to hold cows and bulls, now fringed by barbed wire to hold human prisoners) . After the region was secure, Charlie Siringo came down from the hills to finger union leaders. He wrote that for days "he was busy putting unruly cattle into bull pens." (Siringo went on into history, infiltrating Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang and fingering Kid Curry. Later in life he wrote popular books about his Pinkerton days).

-----The Supreme Court later held that the miners were illegally retained and had to be released. The Western Federation of Miners evolved from the jailed miners.

-Once Again in 1899

-----The Bunker Hill Mining Company was profitable for its eastern owners, having paid $600,000 in dividends. It was the only non-union mine in the region - consequently miners were paid up to a dollar a day less than other mines. The Union decided to organize the mine. The Company hired Pinkerton spies to identify the union men, and fired 17 suspected members. On April 29, 350 angry union men seized a train. They loaded eighty wooden boxes aboard - each contained fifty pounds of dynamite. More than a thousand men now climbed aboard the train and traveled to the Bunker Hill mill, valued at $250,000. They toted the dynamite to the mill, touched off a blast that killed two men, and triumphantly rode the 'dynamite express' away from the scene.

-----Governor Steunenerg requested federal help, and soon soldiers arrived and indiscriminately began arresting virtually all men in the mining towns. One thousand were rounded up, including the town doctor, two of the three county commissioners, the local sheriff, a preacher, bartenders, the post master and the school superintendent. Without winter clothes or bedding in that cold time of the year, they were herded into an old barn and held for months, and some, without charges, for more than a year. Conditions were so primitive three prisoners died.

------Tony Tubbs (Tubbs Hill is a prominent feature, lakeside from the town of Coeur d'Alene), formerly the boardinghouse manager for Bunker Hill Mining, received the lucrative contract for supplying food to the prisoners.

Tubbs Hill, on the Right, Hotels on the Left (Hill is Granite Rounded by Flood Waters of Lake Missoula

------Also, within a week of the arrival of federal troops, the Governor (known to be a poor man) deposited $35,000 into his bank account in Coeur d'Alene (implying a bribe from mine owners). It is known that the Mine Owners Association gave the Governor $25,000 to hire prosecutors. Some of the money went to hire Clarence Darrow.

-----Paul Corcoran, father of three, a "highly respected community leader" (and financial secretary of the union) was sentenced to 17 years hard labor, through the diligence of those prosecutors, although no one could identify that he was even at the scene of the crime.

-----Then, in 1905, Gov. Steunenberg was assasinated by a bomb planted at the gate to his house.

Gov. Frank Steunenberg, Fourth Governor of Idaho

------Immediately three Union leaders were implicated by Harry Orchard, a paid informant of the Mine Owners Association, a bigamist, a burgler, and a confessed murderer or 17 men.The prosecutors of these men, including attorney Clarence Darrow, were paid for by Mine Owners. Lacking evidence to convict, the jury acquitted them.

------There was sufficient evidence to convict Orchard of the murder, instead, and he was sentenced to die. At the request of Pinkerton men, the judge commuted his sentence to life. Although pardoned in the 1920s, he elected to remain in prison. He died in jail in 1954.

A Touch of Family History

------Passed down through generations on my Mother's side is the tale of Great Uncle Mautz. Tales around the fireside relate how Uncle Mautz, a batchelor, made a fortune in the gold mining rush in the Panhnadle of Idaho. He was a solitary eccentric, died alone and "left his fortune in a Boise bank." Family members have tried in vain to locate his account, now long expired and reverted to the bank -- if it ever existed.


------During the early 1900's, a timber boom caused a 16-fold increase in population in only 10 years.

Log Rafts are Still Hauled on the Lake and Stored near Coeur d'Alene


------Lake Coeur d'Alene is largely a result of the great floods that scoured northern Idaho with the destruction of the ice dams that formed Lake Missoula during the period of 80,000 to 10,000 years ago. There was a trough (the Purcell Trench), scoured by glacial activity in a rough north-south orientation before the destruction caused by the floods. However, the east west arms of the lake are probably the direct result of floodwaters scouring tributary streams to the pre existing lake. And, most of the landscape around the lake is the result of floodwater modification. Lets use our eyes and think massive flood waters hundreds (and probably thousands) of feet above the present lake surface. These floods roared over the landscape, rushing in a west and southwesterly direction.

See the Giant Ripples?

See the Molding of Ridge by Water Flowing From Right to Left?

Look at the Rounded Shapes of the Hills -- All Were Under Under Flood Waters, Perhaps Hundreds of Times


------Today, Coeur d'Alene is the center of business and recreational activities in the Inland Northwest complete with festivals, fairs, concerts, unique bistros, elegant restaurants, and main street shopping. There is free dockage for a visit into the city.


Town Dock; Downtown; El (Waking Up) and a Morning Cuppa at Java

------In the northern portion of the lake, there are many lakeside homes. Some are built on slopes so steep that they use a rail tram to bring supplies to the house or to their dock.


------Some houses are very large with extensive grounds; some perch on a rock; and others are modest size and floating so have no lawn to cut or trees to trim.


------Because of its strong economic base, Coeur d'Alene has influence in the state government. It is now a major tourist center, with its skyline dominated by 'resorts' a waterfront golf course and beach.


------There are, however, some beautiful scenes along the lake shore, virtually unspoiled. We anchored every night in protected coves.


Osprey; Dawn; Dusk


(08 - 08)

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