“The name Wetxuwiis has stumped a few people extremely knowledgeable about Idaho,” says Stapilus, 57.
While there are many familiar names in the new book “Idaho 100, the People Who Most Influenced the Gem State” — Joe Albertson and John R. Simplot among them — there are probably more names that people won’t recognize, says co-author Randy Stapilus.
The Nez Perce woman is credited with persuading her tribe not to kill Lewis and Clark when they arrived in the area.
Stapilus spent 30 years reporting for Idaho newspapers, including the Lewiston Tribune and Idaho Statesman, and now runs Ridenbaugh Press in Carlton, Ore. He wrote and published “Idaho 100” with historian Martin Peterson, 69, of Boise. Peterson, born in Lewiston and raised in Clarkston, lives in Boise and is the interim director of the McClure Center for Public Policy Research.
The book took them close to a decade to write. Two pages are devoted to each person. While some of their subjects are still alive they tried to stay away from people who remain active in shaping the state’s destiny, Stapilus says. People are ranked according to impact. At No. 1 is W. Lloyd Adams. Wetxuwiis is No. 10, right before Simplot.
Some people’s influence is purely local. Anyone who travels in and out of the Lewiston area encounters the work of No. 70, C.C. Van Arsdol, the engineer who designed the Lewiston Spiral Highway, the infamous Rattlesnake Grade and the grades outside of Winchester, White Bird and Pomeroy.
Others continue to affect Idahoans even after death, like No. 19, Joe Albertson, whose nonprofit foundation, the authors note, continues to shape Idaho public schools and early childhood education.
As with any tour through history there are many fascinating asides pointing to what could have been. Portland journalist Alonzo Leland, No. 92, pointed the way to Idaho when gold was first discovered there in 1860. He moved to Lewiston and was elected to the first session of the House of Representatives where he fought the effort to move the capital to Boise. When that didn’t work he turned to creating a new territory of northern Idaho, eastern Washington and western Montana.
“He just about pulled it off,” Peterson says.
The 1887 Senate and House approved it and sent it to President Grover Cleveland to sign.
“Unfortunately Congress was adjourned by the time the president got it and he declined to sign it, which in effect vetoed the bill.”
The book is $15.95 and available online at ridenbaugh.com.