Contact Information

Office hours
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
M – F, except for
recognized holidays

See “Contact Us” page
for department
phone listings

Map to Latah County Courthouse

Assisted Listening SystemAssistive Listening System (ALS)

History of Latah County

“Latah County has the distinction of being the only county in the United States created by an Act of Congress.”

Visit the Latah County Historical Society web site to learn more.

History

In 1870, pioneers attracted by deposits of gold, silver, mica and opals, began moving to the area. Sawmills were built and the first mail route was established between Moscow and Lewiston in 1872. The first railroad, the Northern Pacific, reached Moscow in 1885. Agriculture was the driving force in the area for many of the first settlers.

In 1886, the Territorial Legislature passed an act to create La Tah (later Latah). “Latah” is a combination of two area Native American names. The first being the first syllable of La Koh, meaning "pine trees" and the second part being the first syllable of Tah-lo, derived from "stone from which are made pestles." Thus, Latah means the pine and pestle place. Latah was part of Nez Perce County.

The founding of the city of Moscow began a long struggle for the establishment of a county separate from Nez Perce. The city of Moscow (now the county seat) was important due to the fact that the only post office and stage station within the large surrounding area were both located there. Three attempts to secede from Nez Perce County were quashed by strong opposition from the city of Lewiston (Nez Perce County seat). Nez Perce county endeavored to retain her territory, while the city of Moscow insisted upon the creation of a new county.

Latah County has the distinction of being the only county in the United States created by an Act of Congress. In 1887, Idaho's delegate in Congress introduced a bill for the creation of Latah County, designating the boundaries and county seat as they are today. The bill passed Congress and president Grover Cleveland approved it in 1888. The University of Idaho was founded in 1889 and thus began the association between agriculture and higher learning in Latah County.

Characteristics

The county is located in the northern Idaho panhandle; to the immediate west lies Whitman County, Washington. These counties are referred to as "the Palouse," which produces a large share of the wheat, lentils, peas, oats and barley in the United States. The Palouse is home to two major universities: University of Idaho and Washington State University; as well as the Appaloosa Horse Club.

Size

Latah County is approximately 1,078 square miles, containing 697,000 acres, of which 55% is devoted to agriculture and forest industries.

Census

The population of Latah County is approximately 35,169.

Income

The three major sources of income are agriculture, forestry and the University of Idaho.

Crops

Soft white wheat, peas, oats, barley and lentils are the major crops. The Palouse Region is the pea and lentil capital of the world. The growing season is approximately 150 days.

Climate

Rainfall varies between 20 inches in lower elevations and 34 inches in the forested areas. July and August are the warmest months with an average high of 80° F . Winter temperatures usually stay near or below the freezing level.

Elevation

The elevation of Latah County varies from 750 above sea level at Kendrick to 5,300 above sea level in the mountainous eastern region.

Cities, Towns and Communities

Moscow, with a population of 22,000, is the county seat and also the largest city in the county. The population of Moscow fluctuates as the University of Idaho population increases and decreases with the change of semesters and summer break. The other incorporated cities in Latah County include Genesee, Juliaetta, Kendrick, Troy, Deary, Bovill, Potlatch and Onaway. There are also several small unincorporated communities: Princeton, Harvard, Viola, Joel, Avon and Helmer.

Visit the Latah County Historical Society web site to learn more.