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Shoshone County, Idaho facts for kids

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Shoshone County
Wallace Carnegie Library
Official seal of Shoshone County
Map of Idaho highlighting Shoshone 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 February 4, 1864
Named for Shoshone tribe
Seat Wallace
Largest city Kellogg
 • Total 2,635 sq mi (6,820 km2)
 • Land 2,634 sq mi (6,820 km2)
 • Water 5.5 sq mi (14 km2)  0.2%
 • Total 13,169
 • Density 4.9977/sq mi (1.9296/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 1st

Shoshone County is a county in the U.S. state of Idaho. As of the 2020 census, the population was 13,169. and the largest city is Kellogg. The county was established in 1864, named for the Native American Shoshone tribe.

Shoshone County is commonly referred to as the Silver Valley, due to its century-old mining history. The Silver Valley is famous nationwide for the vast amounts of silver, lead, and zinc mined from it.


Wallace Idaho 1910 fire
Wallace, Idaho, following the Great Fire of 1910

Shoshone County was formed under the Territory of Washington on January 9, 1861. Washington Territory legislators established the county in anticipation of the gold rush that occurred after the discovery of gold at Pierce in October, 1860. Their location of the northern boundary at a line drawn due east from the mouth of the Clearwater River, unknowingly placed the emerging mining settlement at Pierce outside of the county's boundaries while residents of the new Mormon settlement at Franklin were unknowingly within the established boundaries. Regardless of the geographic reality, the county seat was at Pierce. Growth at Pierce was so rapid that Shoshone County boasted the largest vote of any county within Washington Territory at the territorial election of July 8, 1861. In less than a year, Shoshone County contained additional settlements at Lewiston, Elk City, Newsome, and Florence. On December 20, 1861, Nez Perce and Idaho counties were created from most of the original territory of Shoshone County. On the following day, Shoshone's boundaries were shifted northward, containing most of present-day Clearwater County and a portion of present-day Shoshone County.

This new boundary alignment left the existing settlement at Pierce and the new settlement of Orofino as the county's only settlements. The county's population dwindled as prospectors abandoned Pierce for gold prospects at Elk City and Florence. Idaho Territory was created in 1863 and the first census of the territory in that year enumerated only 574 residents in Shoshone County. The county boundaries were expanded to include the Silver Valley by the legislative assembly of Idaho Territory when it officially created Shoshone County on February 4, 1864. The expanded territory contained no population at the second census of Idaho Territory in 1864. All of the county's 276 residents were located at Pierce and Orofino.

Until 1904, Shoshone County included present-day Clearwater County to the south. That portion was annexed by Nez Perce County for several years and then was established as a new county in 1911. When the Silver Valley population rose dramatically in the 1880s, the seat was moved to Murray in 1884 (and to Wallace in 1898) to better serve the majority of the county's population. The southern area's population increased with homesteading in the Weippe area in the late 1890s. The vast distance and time required for travel to Wallace from the Clearwater River area prompted the southern portion to move to Nez Perce County.

Hard rock miners in Shoshone County protested wage cuts with a strike in 1892. After several lost their lives in a shooting war provoked by discovery of a company spy, the U.S. army forced an end to the strike. Hostilities erupted once again in 1899 when, in response to the company firing seventeen men for joining the union, the miners dynamited the Bunker Hill & Sullivan mill. Again, lives were lost, and the U.S. Army intervened, requested by Governor Frank Steunenberg, as the Idaho National Guard troops were still stationed in the Philippines following the Spanish–American War. Steunenberg was assassinated outside his residence in Caldwell in 1905, nearly five years after leaving office, and the subsequent trials in Boise in 1907 made national headlines.

Much of the county was burned in the Great Fire of 1910, including part of the town of Wallace.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has an area of 2,635 square miles (6,820 km2), of which 2,630 square miles (6,800 km2) is land and 5.5 square miles (14 km2) (0.2%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Major highway

  • I-90.svg Interstate 90

National protected areas

  • Clearwater National Forest (part)
  • Coeur d'Alene National Forest (part)
  • St. Joe National Forest (part)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 722
1880 469 −35.0%
1890 5,382 1,047.5%
1900 11,950 122.0%
1910 13,963 16.8%
1920 14,250 2.1%
1930 19,060 33.8%
1940 21,230 11.4%
1950 22,806 7.4%
1960 20,876 −8.5%
1970 19,718 −5.5%
1980 19,226 −2.5%
1990 13,931 −27.5%
2000 13,771 −1.1%
2010 12,765 −7.3%
2020 13,169 3.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020 2020 The county seat is Wallace,

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 12,765 people, 5,605 households, and 3,511 families living in the county. The population density was 4.9 inhabitants per square mile (1.9/km2). There were 7,061 housing units at an average density of 2.7 per square mile (1.0/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.4% white, 1.4% American Indian, 0.4% Asian, 0.2% black or African American, 0.1% Pacific islander, 0.5% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.0% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 32.2% were German, 17.6% were Irish, 13.5% were English, 6.4% were Norwegian, and 4.4% were American.

Of the 5,605 households, 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 37.4% were non-families, and 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.79. The median age was 46.2 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,654 and the median income for a family was $44,685. Males had a median income of $38,315 versus $25,273 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,020. About 13.8% of families and 17.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.5% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.



Unincorporated communities

Ghost town

Ski areas

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