Pop. 51,466

“Po-ca-ta-ro” (meaning unknown) was Chief of about three hundred northwestern Shoshone Indians. After being arrested twice for harrassing Oregon Trail pioneers, Po-ca-ta-ro signed the Treaty of Box Elder in 1863 and moved to the Fort Hall reservation. Upon his 1884 death, he was placed in a spring now buried under the American Falls reservoir.

Named after this historical chief, Pocatello began as a railroad station house in 1864. The government had secured forty acres from the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, but by 1866, the US government decided it needed 1,600 more acres to accommodate the herds of migrating settlers who decided to plant roots in the area. Finally, in 1887, the Native Americans agreed to sell the requested land for $8.00 per acre. Although the post office was established in 1883, the village wasn’t officially platted until 1889. Through the years, the town continued to grow and expand its boundaries into reservation land. In 1898, the Shoshone-Bannock tribes reluctantly sold 418,000 acres on the south end of their reservation for a measly $600,000.

The Utah and Northern railroad, which came up from Salt Lake City and Franklin, came through Pocatello in 1879. They continued to extend the line to Butte, Montana, but in order to do so, had to cross seventy miles of Indian reservation land. Although the tracks were completed by 1881, a legal right-of-way over the reservation was not obtained until 1886 when the Native Americans were compensated with $6,000. On its path to Oregon, the Union Pacific railroad laid its track westward through town in 1884.

On June 17, 1902, the “Day of the Run,” the reservation land opened up to settlement, and Pocatello’s roots firmly took hold. During a public auction, the land within five miles of town was sold to homesteaders in forty-acre tracts. Pocatello soon became the American West’s largest railroad hub, bringing with it an ever-expanding population. By 1920, the community boasted over 15,000 residents, and more than 4,500 railroad cars poured through town daily during World War II.

Today, the area is still a railroad center but has also garnered attention as home to Idaho State University. The university boosts the area’s cultural amenities, and Pocatello continues to boast historically phenomenal sunsets.

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