St. Maries
Pop. 2,652

In 1842, Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet arrived at the convergence of the St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers and developed a mission to convert area Coeur d’Alene Indians to Catholicism. Feeling extremely blessed in his endeavors, Father DeSmet named his mission St. Maries (pronounced St. Mary’s) and the name remained as other settlers moved into the area. By 1889, the site was no longer a hub of religious activity as the timber industry began to boom. Joe Fisher and his two brothers filed a claim and built the area’s first sawmill, and their prosperity greatly improved as the railroad carrying passengers and freight arrived in town. Soon, the town was a thriving economic center. In 1902, St. Maries was incorporated, and in 1915, became the county seat for Benewah County.

Despite its humble and holy beginnings, however, the town’s economic activity also brought with it considerable notoriety. Murders, bar brawls, and encounters with famed prostitutes were common occurrences in the town’s early days. Fortunately, this reputation was short-lived. Today, after surviving several great floods, St. Maries’ economy still thrives on the timber industry, and the area is popular for boating and floating.

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