|David Thompson, the Canadian explorer and trapper, mentions in his 1809 journals a point of sand along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. It is this point of sand from which Sandpoint derives its name. Robert Weeks opened a general store at this location in 1880. Between that year and 1906, three different railroads laid tracks in the region and drove potential settlers through the site. In 1898, when L.D. Farmin subdivided his Sand Creek homestead, the town was surveyed and platted. Just two years later, the growing city was incorporated with an economy based upon logging and milling. By the time the major sawmill closed in 1931, over two million board feet of lumber had been produced. At one time, the city also served as the American West’s largest cedar pole shipping point.
In 1910, the area’s population boomed when land prices dropped as low as $1.25 per acre. The settlers and would-be farmers cleared the timber-filled land with horses, chains, and dynamite. However, the homesteaders quickly realized that land that readily grew trees wouldn’t necessarily grow good crops. Area mining was also a disappointment, and when three fires tore through the downtown district, the city suffered economic and population losses.
Despite these downtimes, the town resurrected itself. The 1970s brought in numerous artists. Soon after, outdoor recreation, hunting, skiing, and fishing drew attention to the area. Today, Sandpoint’s residents are a culturally diverse mix of loggers, outdoor lovers, and writers and artists. The town also relies on its outstanding scenic splendor and Lake Pend Oreille to attract hundreds of tourists each year.