It was late in the day when the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stumbled upon the native village of Yaxtoin as they navigated the Clearwater River on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. The explorers announced their arrival in dramatic fashion, wrecking one of their canoes in the rapids just below where the village sat near the mouth of a large creek. Aided by a nearby native resident, they dragged their wet belongings onto dry land and set up camp.
The date was October 8, 1805, and Lewis and Clark had just discovered the place now called Arrow.
The explorers enjoyed the hospitality of the villagers that night and stayed until October 10, when their provisions were dry enough for travel. On their return trip in 1806, they presented a Jefferson Peace Medal to Chief Cut-Nose of Yaxtoin. In 1898, railroad construction crews would find this medal, wrapped in buffalo hide, in an indigenous grave near the mouth of the Potlatch River.
With the opening of the Nez Perce Reservation to outside settlement, Yaxtoin gave way to the bustling railroad depot of Arrow Junction, Idaho. At one time it boasted a steamboat, church, school, and store. It was upon this stage that a community of shared cultures lived, loved, suffered, and earned a vital place in Northern Idaho’s history.
Longtime Arrow resident and author Pam Thorson has spent nearly three decades researching the rich history of this community. In this, the first of two volumes, she presents her discoveries.