Molstead Family History

The Molstead farm was established in the early 1900s near Blue Creek Bay.

| February 28, 2020 1:00 AM

A short history of a giving family

Adolph and Anna Molstead, nee Nilson immigrated from Norway in 1888 and were married in 1890 in Elkhorn, Mont. Looking for a healthier environment, they moved to early Coeur d’Alene.

Adolph found the lake to be reminiscent of the fjords of his native Norway and he fell in love, so in 1900 he purchased a section of land surrounding Blue Creek Bay. From there, he started a farm, a post office, a small grocery store and later a service station.

His earlier life in Norway had included extensive sailing of the fjords and working as a shipwright. He started building boats on Coeur d’Alene Lake. His boat building included two steamboats, the Firefly and the 50-foot Storre.

These two steamboats were used to ferry passengers and freight the 50-minute, 8-mile trip from Blue Creek Bay to Coeur d’Alene. One spring while Adolph was trying to break up the ice during a thaw, the Firefly sank in Blue Creek Bay.

The Molsteads had a large and energetic family consisting of six sons. The oldest son, Adolph Jr. was a Kootenai County deputy sheriff as was son Ed. (Ed can be seen in a 1930s group photo of the sheriff’s department on page 124 of Robert Singletary’s book “Coeur d’Alene: Beautiful & Progressive”)

A Forest Service historian wrote about the Molsteads’ business in the 1900s: “I made arrangements with him (Molstead) to furnish us with boat transportation. They would pick us out [sic] in the morning, and I would tell them where to pick us up in the evening. The section of survey we worked from Molstead’s ranch extended from a point well above the Wolf Lodge Bridge to Bennett’s Bay. The work took between two and three weeks. In addition, he took the entire crew to Coeur d’Alene one Sunday on the steamer so they could take in a picture show. And when I settled up with him my bill for boat service was $14. I had two of his sons working for me as axe men and I never had more efficient or hard-working boys than they were. One of them worked so hard one day he fainted.”*

This family’s visionary thinking and hard work allowed them to contribute to the quality of life in Coeur d’Alene, even to this day. When daughter-in-law Jessie Coulson Molstead died in 1994, some of her extensive property was donated to North Idaho College. The monetary value of this enormous gift ultimately resulted in a permanent endowment capable of producing a library. The College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously in 1998 to name it The Molstead Library and Computer Center.

*Early days in The Forest Service, Vol 1, page 21 (Compiled by Jesse Thompson with story by Hartley Calkins.)

• • •

Richard and Marjorie Molstead of Hayden Lake are the grandson and granddaughter of Adolph and Anna.

• • •

We all can’t give like the Molsteads. But, the Museum of North Idaho cherishes the small donations from the proud citizens who want the satisfaction of knowing that they have been a part of the new, state-of-the-art Museum now under development. See the Museum’s website – – for ways you can be a valued Museum supporter, or contact Jim Faucher: