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History

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South of town, there is a 16-foot statue representing our namesake, Chief Pocatello, the brave and courageous leader of about 400 members of the Shoshone Band in the mid and late 1800s. When the stage and freight lines were not able to serve the growing populations and the railroad wanted to have access through the Fort Hall Reservation, he was the major Native American leader who negotiated with railroad and governmental officials to obtain permission. This allowed our city to become a major hub in the railroad system.

Many descendants of those early, culturally diversified railroaders now live in the Pocatello area because their ancestors, after the railroad was built, settled and became businessmen, farmers and ranchers, having found needed services or good soil and abundant water from the Snake River and its tributaries. Later, even more water was found in the aquifer below us.

Before this, the Shoshone and Bannock bands roamed for hundreds of miles around the area, following opportunities the land provided in season: game, fish, grain, insects, tubers and birds. Their knowledge of the land and willingness to share in many ways allowed for the safe progress of early visitors, including fur traders working for John Jacob Astor or the Hudson’s Bay Company, explorers such as were in the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s or, later, “overlanders” and seekers of gold and fertile land on the Oregon/California Trail.

Fort Hall became an important supply point on the Oregon/California Trail, especially during the gold rush of 1849. A replica of the fort can be visited in Pocatello, and the Shoshone/Bannock Tribe tells their story at the Shoshone/ Bannock Tribal Museum just nine miles north of Pocatello. Ruts on the original Oregon/California trail can be viewed from several easy to reach sites, including the rest stop west of American Falls.

Just a few more miles west is Massacre Rocks State Park with “Register Rock,” an area where pioneers left their carved messages for those following on the trail. Massacre Rocks State Park also has a museum that tells the story of a skirmish that occurred near there. The State Park also provides inexpensive and scenic camp sites by the Snake River.

In Old Town Pocatello, particularly at Pre-History Park, there are large boulders from the Bonneville Flood, which occurred about 15,000 years ago. A 400-foot wall of water came through this area at an estimated 70 MPH, tearing large pieces of Basalt stone from the mountains south of us, near Inkom. As they rolled, they became as smooth and round as river pebbles, only some are as large as small cars!

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Although Pocatello is known as the “Gate City,” it and Chubbuck have other titles. In September of 2007, Valley Pride, an organization of volunteers dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of the Portneuf Valley, suggested that the cities be recognized for the abundance of volunteers who serve here, stating that in our cities “volunteerism is a way of life.” Both mayors then proclaimed Pocatello and Chubbuck the “Volunteer Capitals of America.” Also, during a time of stress many years ago, the Pocatello City Council wrote and passed a resolution stating that it was illegal to be seen in town without a smile.

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