History of Rathdrum

The area, including the many lakes, prairie and Rathdrum aquifer, was created 10,000 years ago by the Missoula Lake Flood.

The site was chosen long ago by Native Americans as a stopping place along the Seneaquateen Trail because of the year-round Rathdrum creek, as well as the hunting and gathering opportunities in the nearby mountains.  From the beginning, Rathdrum has been an important crossroads while the Indians referred to the area as the "Great Road of the Flatheads." The Hudson Bay and Pacific Fur trading companies traversed the Rathdrum Prairie in the early 1800’s, followed by the Jesuit missionaries in the 1840’s

Rathdrum is one of the oldest towns in North Idaho. Settled in 1861, the City of Rathdrum is located in the Panhandle of Northern Idaho, 12 miles northwest of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and 25 miles east of Spokane, Washington.

In the late 1860’s, a pony express relay station was established in Rathdrum, originally named "Westwood" after Charles Wesley Wood, a local pony express rider, rancher and land developer. The city became the County seat for Kootenai County in 1881 during territorial days, and in 1882, the first Northern Pacific rail line was laid allowing ore from the Silver Valley to be shipped by rail to the mills.  The community thrived for a time as agriculture, timber and mining industries flourished in the area.

In the late 1800’s, the city’s name was changed from Westwood to Rathdrum after Rathdroma, Ireland, the birthplace of a local businessman.  Then in 1908, electors voted to move the County seat to Coeur D’Alene.  

Present day Rathdrum is the crossroads for State Highways 41 and 53, linking the Rathdrum area with northern Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Today, Rathdrum is a thriving community of nearly 7,000 residents.  In spite of three major fires, the earliest in 1884 and the last in 1924, many historical buildings and homes still stand, including Saint Stanislaus Church, the oldest brick church in the state of Idaho which remains as an active place of worship.

The Rathdrum/Westwood Historical Society inherited and has built upon a collection of old pictures, verbal interviews, and historical anecdotes.  If you would like to share in their knowledge, or take a walking tour of the Rathdrum Area, please feel free to contact the Historical Society at larsen.ellen@gmail.com or 208-687-9333.

Today, Rathdrum offers small town living at its best!

 

Old Kootenai County Jail (Restored)


Looking west circa 1905; people in streets, wagons & electric lights.

Saint Stanislaus Church, built in 1901. Oldest brick church in Idaho.


Idaho and Washington Northern Railroad Depot, built in 1908.