The First Sawmill

Photo ID MIL-7-10

Written by Robert Singletary for the Nickel’s Worth 2/12/2021

The first sawmill to operate in northern Idaho was built in 1878 by the U.S. Army on land near the Spokane River. Under the command of Col. Henry Clay Merriman, a detachment of cavalry hauled the machinery for a small circular saw with steam power from Fort Lapwai. A shingle mill and a planer were added a short time later. The small mill cut the lumber that was used to build more than 50 military buildings on the fort grounds. The new fort, originally named Fort Coeur d’Alene, was later renamed Fort Sherman in honor of General William T. Sherman, who founded the fort. The chapel, powder magazine and one of the officers’ quarters are the only buildings that remain on the old fort grounds, which is now North Idaho College. The chapel, one of the oldest buildings in Idaho, was damaged during a recent wind storm. MIL-7-10

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