Lewiston is a city in north central Idaho and the county seat of Nez Perce County. It is the second-largest city in the northern Idaho region, behind Coeur d'Alene, and ninth-largest in the state. Lewiston is the principal city of the Lewiston, ID - Clarkston, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Nez Perce County and Asotin County, Washington. As of the 2010 census, the population of Lewiston was 31,894, up from 30,904 in 2000.
Lewiston is located at the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater River, thirty miles (50 km) southeast of the Lower Granite Dam. Because of dams (and their locks) on the Snake and Columbia River, Lewiston is reachable by some ocean-going vessels. The Port of Lewiston (Idaho's only seaport) has the distinction of being the farthest inland port east of the West Coast of the United States. The Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport serves the city by air.
Lewiston was founded in 1861 in the wake of a gold rush which began the previous year near Pierce, northeast of Lewiston. In 1863, Lewiston became the first capital of the newly created Idaho Territory. Its stint as seat of the new territory's government was short-lived, as a resolution to have the capital moved south to Boise was passed by the Idaho Territorial Legislature on December 7, 1864.
Lewiston’s main industries are agriculture, paper and timber products, and light manufacturing. Ammunition manufacturing maintains a very important and growing presence in Lewiston, being the headquarters of ammunition makers, CCI and Speer Bullet. The city is the primary regional transportation, retail, health care, and entertainment center of the surrounding area and serves as a recreation destination for the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
The first people of European ancestry to visit the Lewiston area were members of the David Thompson expedition of 1803. Thompson was looking to establish fur trading posts for the Hudson's Bay Company of British North America (now Canada). Thompson established the first white settlement in Idaho, MacKenzie's Post. But it soon failed as the local Nez Perce tribe's men considered beaver trapping to be women's work, the tribe was migratory and apparently women thought they already had enough to do. This was followed by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in October, 1805. At the future townsite they encountered settlements of the native Nez Perce. Lewis and Clark passed through the valley on the return trip from the Pacific in 1806 also.
The town is believed to have been named after Meriwether Lewis and after Victor Trevitt's hometown of Lewiston, Maine; but people don't know that was the reason Vic Trevitt shouted the idea out. He simply stated the "Journal of Lewis and Clark" talked about being in the valley. The town was founded in 1861 in the wake of a gold rush which began the previous year near Pierce, northeast of Lewiston. The first newspaper in present-day Idaho, the Lewiston Teller began publication in the city of Lewiston, Washington Territory in 1862, and was joined by the present (and only) newspaper, the Lewiston Morning Tribune in September 1892. In 1863 Lewiston became the capital of the newly created Idaho Territory. Thomas J. Beall, one of the first three white settlers in Lewiston, wrote many of the Lewiston Tribune's first articles, and continued to do so until his death at the age of 89.
Lewiston's stint as a seat of the new territory's government was short-lived. As the gold rush quieted in northern Idaho, it heated up in a new mineral rush in southwestern Idaho, centered in Idaho City, which would become the largest city in the Northwest in the mid-1860s. A resolution, to have the capital moved from Lewiston to Boise, was passed by the Idaho Territorial Legislature on December 7, 1864, six weeks before the territorial legislature's session legally began, and after litigation, on a split decision decided by one vote on the territorial supreme court on geographic lines. Boise became the capital in 1866. The move was very unpopular in northern Idaho and in violation of a court order. So, the territorial governor, Caleb Lyon and the territorial secretary, secretly took the territorial seal, archives and treasury and fled from Lewiston, their territorial capital. Lyon went down river to Portland, Oregon, a trip marked by the alleged theft of the treasury from his steamship cabin. The territorial secretary departed southward for Boise to avoid the public outrage that was sure to erupt. North Idahoans were somewhat placated in 1889 when the University of Idaho was awarded to nearby Moscow, north, and began instruction in 1892. Lewiston State Normal School, now Lewis-Clark State College, was established in 1893, as was another normal school or teacher education college, now defunct, in the south at Albion. These were the state's first three institutions of higher education. Lewiston was the site of the first public school in Idaho, beginning in 1862. Hence, it carries the designation of Lewiston Independent School District #1. (Boise was second, opening school doors in 1865.)