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Fort Lemhi

Updated on November 22, 2012

Fort Lemhi and the Salmon Mission

"If these walls could speak," a phrase often heard. But if these walls could speak, there are few who would hear its tale. To most passing by this wall may appear only a long mud heap in a cattle field--and there are only a few traveler passing through in Tendoy, Idaho, population 110. These are the remains of Fort Lemhi, an early Latter-day Saint settlement. Unlike most forts, Fort Lemhi was not established for war, but as part of a peace mission, To me, this wall speak of the faith and brotherly love of those who were dedicated to serve their God and fellow men.

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Salmon River 2011
Salmon River 2011

The Salmon Mission

The History of Fort Lemhi

Mormon Pioneers who traveled West often left behind family and fortune. They were full of dreams and hopes for their new land and religion. But they were faced with opposition throughout their journey and even after settling in the territory they named Deseret. They face hardships from natural forces, opposition from Indian raids and even Americans whose standards of liberty should have been higher. But as many Mormon Wagon trains crossed the mid-west plains, Deseret began to blossom.

Brigham Young, a Latter-day Saint prophet and governor of the Deseret Territory, sent a group on what is know as the Salmon Mission. Their duty was to establish a settlement and befriend the Indians along the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers. These men arrived along the Lemhi River on May 30, 1855 and began to establish the fort and farms. Other settlers joined them as the settlement grew. For three years, the Saints and the resident Indians got along quite well; however trouble often came from tribes passing through.

Brigham Young and a group of over 100 other men, visited the fort in May of 1847. Brigham Young commented that the site of the fort was poorly selected. He suggested that the location made the fort an easy target in the event of a raid.

Trouble was brewing for the Saints in Utah. Under the order of the United States, Colonel Johnston was ordered to check on the Mormon settlements in Utah. Johnston's army is said to have influenced a group of Indians while stationed at Fort Bridger in Wyoming. On February 28, 1858, that band of angry Indians raided Fort Lemhi. Two men came out of Fort Lemhi to make peace with the Indians. These men were George McBride and James Miller. Instead of making peace, the two men were shot and scalped. Two others rushed from the Fort to seek help.

Help arrived a month later on March 23. Colonel Andrew Cunningham and Captain Horton Haight arrived with a troop of 150. The Saints in the Fort made preparations to return to Salt Lake City. For more than a century, that ground has been used for farming and ranching. Today, only a remaining mud wall and a monument erected May 13, 1950 mark this historical location.

Center of Modern Salmon City, 2011
Center of Modern Salmon City, 2011

The Best Lessons in Life

The best lessons in life are often those that come in quiet moments. The story of Fort Lemhi has been one of inspiration for me, particularly this last year, after moving my family across the Idaho boarder and into the same wilderness of my 3x great grandfather George McBride. My call to Salmon Idaho wasn't meant as a peace mission, but a chance to regather after an unexpected job termination. Like the pioneers who traveled West, my family moved on with similar hopes of the future.

But even though the modern trail was paved, our trip was not easy. We made many wonderful friends in Salmon, Idaho. As my great grandfather benefited from the Native American hospitality as well as served them, so did my family gain and give to those around us. But our raid soon came when my new employer began withholding my wages. My family had just recovered from my earlier termination, but began to look again for new employment.

Our stay in Salmon was only 7 months, before we packed up and moved again. As we drove 20 miles out of Salmon, passing through the town of Lemhi, I looked East down old highway 28. I thought how close I was to Old Fort Lemhi, and my family history, but never able to see it. The raid that took my great grandfathers life accrued when George was 32 years of age. The impact on his wife and children must of been devastating, but the event mentioned in family history is spoken as a tribute to his faith in Christ and devotion to his church and family--never as vengeful spite against the attackers. Now, myself being a new 32 year old husband and father, my prospects looked brighter. I was able to let go any hard feelings, and move on with higher hopes and faith in Christ. Some day, my challenges might inspire my posterity if I boldly move forward as did my ancestor. And some day, when we recover from the financial blows of job loss and moving, I hope to some day travel back to the area of Fort Lemhi and the unmarked grave site of my great grandfather, George McBride

17 Miracles - The Movie

The trailer below is based on true stories of a group of Mormon Pioneers trek west to Utah. While their story does not relate to the events of Fort Lemhi, their believe, trails, and history are similar.

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    • selah74 profile image

      selah74 3 years ago

      @Mommie-Moola: Thanks for visiting my lense.

    • Mommie-Moola profile image

      Mommie-Moola 4 years ago

      I'd never heard of it before - thanks for the intro to such an interesting place.

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      goodee 5 years ago


      I really enjoyed the mix of historical information and your personal story. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Your a good writer, and this an interesting story. :)

    • profile image

      halloweenprops 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the story of Fort Lemhi.

    • selah74 profile image

      selah74 5 years ago

      @KandDMarketing: That's awesome. I've always wanted to make it that way to see some of the early church sites like the Smith Farm, but have yet too. Thanks for visiting.

    • KandDMarketing profile image

      KandDMarketing 5 years ago

      Interesting ... I grew up just a few miles from the Smith farm in Palmyra, NY.

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      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Interesting history.