Wandering Lizard

An online magazine with information related to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of Idaho

Kootenai County
Old Mission State Park

Coeur d'Alene is the largest city in Kootenai County. The city is named after the Coeur d'Alene People, an indigenous Native American people that have long lived in the area. Their first contact with Anglo-Europeans is thought to have been in the very early part of the nineteenth century. Given that the name by which they are known to us utilizes the French language, it can be assumed that their first contact with the outside world was with French fur traders operating out of Montreal. David Thompson is known to have explored the area extensively for the North West Company as early as 1807 and Alexander Henry the younger described meeting them in 1810 and 1814 while he too was working for the North West Company. A great deal of controversy surrounds the origin of the name. Obviously it is not a translation of the name that the people themselves used. The most probable explanation is that it describes the narrow passage through which the lake empties into the Spokane River, however, the most common meaning given the name is a reference to the shrewdness of the people.

In 1842, Jesuit Father Pierre-Jean De Smet visited the Coeur d'Alene area and a site for a church was selected. The first site was susceptible to flooding and, in 1846, the present site was selected. In 1850, Antonio Ravalli directed the construction of the Mission of the Sacred Heart, also known as Cataldo Mission (because of it's proximity to the community of Cataldo). The parish house was built in 1887.

The state park includes the church, parish house, a small graveyard and a frame structure which illustrates the way in which the original buildings were constructed. The church is the oldest building still standing in the entire state of Idaho and no nails were used in it's construction. Both the church and the parish house are open to visitors.