Fort Lapwai

Fort Lapwai (18621884), was a federal fort in present-day Lapwai in north central Idaho, United States. On the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in Nez Perce County, it was originally called Camp Lapwai until 1863. East of Lewiston, it was located on the west bank of Lapwai Creek, three miles (5 km) above where it joins the Clearwater River at the state's first settlement, Lapwai Mission Station (now Spalding), built in 1836 by Henry Spalding.[1][2] It is part of the multi-site Nez Perce National Historical Park. The word "Lapwai" means place of the butterflies, as the area had thousands in early summer in earlier years.[1]

Fort Lapwai
Fort Lapwai in north central Idaho


Camp Lapwai was established by Major Jacob S. Rinearson, 1st Oregon Cavalry by order of Brigadier General Benjamin Alvord. The post was established to prevent both the increasing numbers of white settlers from attempting to encroach on Nez Perce lands and the Nez Perce from retaliating.[3] Company E 1st Regiment Washington Territory Volunteer Infantry recently mustered in at Alcatraz, were ordered on October 19, 1862 to Camp Lapwai near the Nez Perce Agency, where they were to build the encampment.[4] Company "F", 1st Oregon Volunteer Cavalry Regiment joined them at the post in November 1862. It was renamed Fort Lapwai in 1863, in what would become bounds of the Idaho Territory when it was created in March.

It was briefly unoccupied in 1866 at the end of the Civil War, when the Volunteer regiments were disbanded and before sufficient Federal troops were available to garrison it. Reoccupied again that November it was only unoccupied again between July and November 1867. It was finally decommissioned on June 5, 1884, and turned over to the Indian Service.[5]

The Northern Idaho Indian Agency moved to the site in 1904 and several original structures remain.[6] A tuberculosis sanatorium (and preventorium) was established at the fort site in 1907[7] and operated until 1944.[8] The village of Lapwai was incorporated in 1911,[2][9] with a model rural school.[10]


See also


  1. Ruark, Janice (November 25, 1977). "Once early-day fort, Lapwai Indians' home". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 3.
  2. Wilson, Darol (January 30, 1971). "Lapwai became village -- 60 years ago today". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 6.
  3. "Idaho military posts and camps" (PDF). Idaho State Historical Society, Reference Series #63. May 1971. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 3, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  4. District of Oregon, Special Order No 76
  5. Frazer, Robert W. (1975). Forts of the West: Military Forts and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called Forts West of the Mississippi River to 1898. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 45.
  6. Fort Lapwai 1862-1885, photos
  7. "Indian children find health and happiness at old Fort Lapwai tuberculosis sanatorium". Lewiston Morning Tribune. February 7, 1937. p. 1.
  8. "Indian office rejects Lapwai school project". Lewiston Morning Tribune. December 24, 1946. p. 3.
  9. "Lapwai growing". Lewiston Morning Tribune. October 29, 1911. p. 10.
  10. "Historic Fort Lapwai now site of model rural school". Lewiston Morning Tribune. April 21, 1912. p. 9.

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