Benewah County was established by an act of the Idaho Legislature on January 23, 1915, of land partitioned from Kootenai County and was named for a chief of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
The settlement of Benewah County began after the completion of Mullan Road in 1860, but most settlers came to the area after the discovery of gold near St. Maries in 1880. St. Maries is host to the Paul Bunyan Days celebrations to recognize their logging history. This annual event includes three days of logging competitions, carnival rides, food, crafts, music, and much more!
Did you know that Benewah County has a total area of 784 square miles, of which the majority is land (777 square miles)? There are only 7.3 square miles of water.
Another interesting fact about Benewah County is the history around McCroskey State Park (full name: Mary Minerva McCroskey State Park). This park was given to the state of Idaho in 1955 by Virgil T. McCroskey, who gradually bought up land he thought to be endangered by logging. This wilderness area is Idaho’s second-largest state park and is located about 10 miles north of Potlatch, Idaho. He cut viewpoints into some of the slopes, built picnic areas, planted flowers, and established a road.
The Idaho Legislature was not so sure about this new park because they did not think it would generate enough revenue to justify the loss in taxes. The Idaho Legislature agreed to accept the gift but they required that McCroskey, then in his late seventies, maintain the park at his own expense for the first fifteen years. McCroskey accepted the terms, and lived exactly fifteen more years, fulfilling his obligation to the state of Idaho just weeks before his death in 1970 at age 93.
McCroskey named the park in honor of his mother, a pioneer woman who came to Eastern Washington with her husband and children to establish a homestead near Steptoe Butte; he dedicated it to all pioneer women.