February 07, 2009

Lincoln and the "Idahoax"

Western states remembering Abe Lincoln, too"Lincoln had an enormous impact in the West–even though he never stepped foot in what are now the mountain West and far West states," said Syd Nathans, a chairman of Colorado's Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

In 1860, Lincoln defeated Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, who advocated "popular sovereignty" in which Western states could decide for themselves whether to allow slave labor. Lincoln's presidential victory assured there would be no formal expansion of slavery into the far West.

After war broke out, the West was forged by the conflict thousands of miles away. Gold from California and Colorado, and silver from Nevada, bankrolled the Union's efforts. In Hawaii, sugar cane plantations replaced a commercial whaling industry as whaling ships were diverted to the fight and northerners looked for a non-Confederate sugar supply.

Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, which led to the completion of the nation's first Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory, Utah, in 1869; the Homestead Act, which ultimately opened 1.6 million homesteads in the West; and the Morrill Land Grant Colleges Act, setting up public land-grant universities such as the first University of California in Berkeley.

Lincoln appointed Idaho's first territorial governor and signed off on the name "Idaho," thought at the time to come from a Shoshone Indian word meaning "gem of the mountains." Historians now say the name has no such origin and was simply made up by a lobbyist, a claim known as the "Idahoax."
Wiki: IdahoIdaho is the only state that was possibly named as the result of a hoax (the so-called "Idahoax") although this is disputed. In the early 1860s, when the United States Congress was considering organizing a new territory in the Rocky Mountains, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested the name "Idaho," which he claimed was derived from a Shoshone language term meaning "the sun comes from the mountains" or "gem of the mountains." Willing later claimed that he had made up the name himself. Congress ultimately decided to name the area Colorado Territory when it was created in February 1861.

However, the name "Idaho" did not go away. The same year Congress created Colorado Territory, a county called Idaho County was created in eastern Washington Territory. The county was named after a steamship named Idaho, which was launched on the Columbia River in 1860. It is unclear whether the steamship was named before or after Willing's claim was revealed. Regardless, a portion of Washington Territory, including Idaho County, was used to create Idaho Territory in 1863.

Despite this lack of evidence for the origin of the name, many textbooks well into the 20th century repeated as fact Willing's account that the name "Idaho" derived from the Shoshone term "ee-da-how."
Comment:  I hadn't heard of the "Idahoax" until now.

Other than the mention of the Shoshone Indian word, the first article doesn't mention Indians. Interesting how people and agencies and the media talk about Lincoln uncritically. The first transcontinental railroad and the Homestead Act...wow. Thanks for furthering the conquest of America's Indian nations, Abe.

For more on the subject, see The Real Emancipator (of Indian Land).

1 comment:

BB-Idaho said...

Well....Idahoax is better than oh, say the state of North Utah...:)