In the summer of 1862, before there was a town called Boise City or a territory called Idaho, Lewiston, which was then in Washington Territory, was a boom town in the midst of a gold rush.
Appropriately, its newspaper was named the Golden Age, and the ads in it tell us that for such a small place, Lewiston had many hotels with interesting names: Marshall’s What Cheer House offered board and lodging by the day or week, and accommodations for families. Its proprietor J.R. Marshall identified himself as “late of Lee & Marshall’s Circus.” We have been unable to find any information about such a circus, but it must have been a very small traveling show.
Lewiston’s What Cheer House takes its name from two California hostelries, one in San Francisco in 1858 owned by R.B. Woodward, and another in Sacramento still standing, listed as a California Historical Landmark.
The Luna House, owned and operated by Hill Beachey, was one of Lewiston’s most famous landmarks. It was built in 1862 and served as Nez Perce County courthouse from 1882 until 1889, after which it was torn down.
The owner was remembered as one of Idaho’s early-day heroes for his epic trip to San Francisco on the trail of three men suspected of the brutal murder of Beachey’s close friend Lloyd Magruder and four of his men as they slept in their camp in the mountains of Central Idaho, all for $10,000 worth of gold they were carrying. Beachey secured a warrant for their arrest, found them in San Francisco, brought them back to Lewiston and saw them tried, convicted and hanged.
When Beachey died in San Francisco in 1875 at 53 years of age, he was eulogized by papers all over the West as a notable pioneer who had led an adventurous life as river boat pilot, miner, hotel keeper and stage line operator. He had owned an earlier Luna House hotel in Red Bluff, Calif., in the 1850s before coming to Idaho.
In 1863, R.C. Mayhew, proprietor of the Alta House “on the bank of Snake River,” advertised board for $9 per week, “positively in advance.” Mayhew would serve as Idaho Territory’s clerk of court in Caleb Lyon’s administration in 1865. The name of Mayhew’s hotel, Alta, Spanish for “high” or “upper,” was familiar to all old Californians, since it was applied to a number of things, including upland California itself. In 1863, Lewiston’s Alta House also contained the offices of the county auditor, the district clerk and the U.S. assessor.
For German speakers there was A. Bittner’s Globe Hotel, listed in its ad as “Deutsches Gasthaus” (German Inn), and for French speakers there was Madame Bonhore’s Hotel de France. She had been proprietress of the United States Hotel in Grass Valley, Calif., on Sept. 13, 1855, when it and 300 other buildings burned to the ground.
In 1863, Lewiston’s What Cheer House got a new name and new management. It was now called the Oriental Hotel with Miss Fanny Porter as owner. Her ad in the Golden Age read, “The above house has been thoroughly renovated and refitted in a style not to be surpassed, and the Proprietress flatters herself that guests will meet with better accommodations at the ORIENTAL than elsewhere. The BAR will be furnished with the choicest brands of wines and liquors. TERMS: Board per week — $9. Single meals — 75 cents. Lodging — 50 cents.
Hotels on roads outside Lewiston also advertised in the Golden Age. Canyon House, on the road from Lewiston to Orofino and Elk City offered meals for $1 and “Animals to hay per night $1. Oats and barley always on hand at 20 cents per pound — F. Rosenstock.” The Half-Way House on the road to Florence, owned by Durkee & Crampton, offered similar accommodations and noted that “The Culinary Department will be under the control of Mrs. Durkee.”
Next week we’ll recall famous early hotels in Boise Basin and Boise City as much of North Idaho’s population moved south on yet another gold rush.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.