The biographies and keepsakes of the early settlers have been preserved and celebrated by the Lemhi County residents since the turn of the twentieth century. The 1866 strike by a group of tenacious gold miners helped to establish a regional community. Led by John Rees, Philip Rand, E.H. Casterlin, and Ralph Irvin, the first Lemhi County Historical Society was formed in the early 1900’s in an effort to tell Lemhi County’s history.
The Historical Society was temporarily abandoned with the death of John Rees in 1928, but efforts continued with George Elmo Shoup, son of Colonel George Laird Shoup, who in 1941 produced his history of the county. This history is still available at the Lemhi County Museum or available for purchase here.
The Lemhi County Historical Society resumed and reorganized on May 11th, 1956, determined to collect and exhibit artifacts that reflected the settlement process. Meetings were held in the Probate Courtroom, City Hall, and in the homes of Miss Alice McDonald and Elizabeth Reed. The first exhibit was held in the Herndon Hotel (originally the Shenon House) and contained artifacts from Leesburg (settled in 1866). A second case was put on display at the Steele Memorial Hospital.
As the Society’s collection grew, the need for a building became a pressing issue. The Eagles Association offered the group a ninety-nine year lease on their lot at the corner of North Terrace and Main Street. Members accepted the agreement with the provision that the Eagles would always have their lodge room in the basement—separate from the Historical Society’s portion of the building.
In 1958, a survey conducted by the Junior Chamber of Commerce demonstrated the community’s interest in having a museum focused on Lemhi County history. Fund-raising began in earnest that October at the Halloween Masquerade Ball, with six cinder blocks to be used in construction, sold at $100.00 each to initiate the process. KSRA, Myra McPherson, Henry Benson, Pope Oil Company, the Salmon Rotary Club, and the Salmon Chamber of Commerce purchased the blocks and the building committee began. In less than a year, the Historical Society raised nearly $12,000.00.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place October 23, 1960, and the building was dedicated on March 3, 1963. First officers were as follows:
Mrs. Beulah Brenneman, President
Elizabeth Reed, Secretary
Mrs. Rose Corum, Treasurer
In January of 1966, a second room housing the Ray Edwards’ Asian Collection opened. Mr. Edwards provided the funding for the room’s construction, asking only that his collection be exhibited there as the prominent feature. With the construction of this room, the Eagles and the Lemhi County Historical Society negotiated a second, consecutive ninety-nine year lease.