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Lewis County, Idaho facts for kids

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Lewis County
State Bank of Kamiah
State Bank of Kamiah
Official seal of Lewis County
Map of Idaho highlighting Lewis County
Location within the U.S. state of Idaho
Map of the United States highlighting Idaho
Idaho's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Idaho
Founded March 3, 1911
Named for Meriwether Lewis
Seat Nezperce
Largest city Kamiah
 • Total 480 sq mi (1,200 km2)
 • Land 479 sq mi (1,240 km2)
 • Water 0.9 sq mi (2 km2)  0.2%
 • Total 3,533
 • Density 7.36/sq mi (2.842/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 1st

Lewis County is a county located in the north central region of the U.S. state of Idaho. As of the 2020 census, the population was 3,533, making it the fourth-least populous county in Idaho. The county seat is Nezperce, and Kamiah is the largest city. Partitioned from Nez Perce County and established in 1911, it was named after the explorer Meriwether Lewis. Most of the county is within the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, though Native Americans comprise less than 6% of the county population. Similar to the opening of lands in Oklahoma, the U.S. government opened the reservation for white settlement in November 1895. The proclamation had been signed less than two weeks earlier by President Cleveland.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 480 square miles (1,200 km2), of which 479 square miles (1,240 km2) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 km2) (0.2%) is water. It is the fourth-smallest county in Idaho by area. The county contains the northern portion of the Camas Prairie, an elevated prairie-like region of the middle Columbia basin, south of the Clearwater River. The Clearwater River forms the eastern boundary of Lewis County, just upstream of where the Lewis and Clark Expedition put their canoes in the water for the trip to the Pacific Ocean.


Native American Settlement

Early settlement of Idaho by native peoples occurred around 14,000 years ago. Initially, natives of the region were spear hunters of big game. Documented settlement of Idaho's Camas Prairie by the Nez Perce dates back more than 8,000 years with characteristics of the Old Cordilleran Culture appearing in the region. Characteristics of this culture consist of more sophisticated tools for hunting and the introduction of art forms. The Nez Perce, like their Shoshoni counterparts of southern Idaho gained access to horses prior to the Lewis and Clark Expedition's first interaction with the tribe in 1805. The expedition camped near Kamiah in the winter of 1806 before returning to the main Clearwater River for their continued trek westward. The majority of Nez Perce County's territory is located within the boundary of the Nez Perce Reservation. The reservation was established in 1859 following the provisions of an 1855 treaty with the four bands of the Nez Perce Tribe. Relations with the Nez Perce were amicable until discovery of gold at multiple locations within the reservation's boundaries created tension starting in 1860. A smaller reservation was negotiated with the Kamiah and Lapwai bands of Nez Perce, with a treaty signed in 1867. The Salmon-Wallowa and lower Snake River bands were not a party to the treaty and efforts to force them to the reservation resulted in the Nez Perce War in 1877 that decisively forced all of the Nez Perce to the Nez Perce Reservation. Settlement of non-natives within the boundary of the reservation was authorized starting in 1894.

Non-Native Settlement

With the opening of non-native settlement by agreement of 1894, settlements emerged starting at Winchester in 1896 followed by Craigmont and Kamiah areas starting by 1898. By the 1900 Census, Nez Perce County established precincts for Central Ridge, Cold Springs, Fletcher, and Nez Perce within the territory of present Lewis County. Their combined population at the time was 2,782.

Settlement increased along the route of the Camas Prairie Railroad which reached Reubens in 1906 with operation of the line starting in 1908. The railroad had stops at Nucrag, Reubens, and Craigmont. By 1908, multiple stage lines commenced operation with terminus at Kamiah. At the 1910 Census, Nez Perce established additional precincts for Chesley, Kamiah, Mason, Mohler, and Winchester. Together, all precincts at the 1910 census had a population of 5,037.

Development of Cities

Nez Perce Village incorporated in 1903 with Kippen Village following in 1907. Vollmer town was incorporated in 1908 with the villages of Ilo and Kamiah incorporated in 1909. Reubens and Winchester Villages incorporated by 1920. Ilo and Vollmer consolidated as Craigmont in 1920. Kippen Village was dis-incorporated by 1940 as it is absent from that census.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • US 12.svg – US 12
  • US 95.svg – US 95
  • ID-7.svg – SH-7
  • ID-11.svg – SH-11
  • ID-62.svg – SH-62
  • ID-64.svg – SH-64
  • ID-162.svg – SH-162

National protected area

  • Clearwater National Forest (part)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 5,851
1930 5,238 −10.5%
1940 4,666 −10.9%
1950 4,208 −9.8%
1960 4,423 5.1%
1970 3,867 −12.6%
1980 4,118 6.5%
1990 3,516 −14.6%
2000 3,747 6.6%
2010 3,821 2.0%
2020 3,533 −7.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2020 2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 3,821 people, 1,657 households, and 1,041 families living in the county. The population density was 8.0 inhabitants per square mile (3.1/km2). There were 1,880 housing units at an average density of 3.9 per square mile (1.5/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 90.3% white, 4.7% American Indian, 0.4% black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 1.6% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.3% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 39.4% were German, 16.7% were English, 16.5% were Irish, and 3.0% were American.

Of the 1,657 households, 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.8% were married couples living together, 7.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 37.2% were non-families, and 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.84. The median age was 48.0 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,808 and the median income for a family was $41,250. Males had a median income of $32,933 versus $23,850 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,580. About 10.4% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.1% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.



Unincorporated communities

See also

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