|Although the Spirit Lake area historically attracted Native Americans with white settlers arriving as early as 1884, the official establishment of this community dates to Frank Blackwell’s 1902 arrival in Idaho. He purchased 100,000 acres of timbered land here and proceeded to form a lumber company with a few prominent Pennsylvania associates. After four years, the company was sold for a sum of $6 million. Blackwell then purchased 100,000 more acres along the nearby lakeshore, and the Panhandle Lumber Company and Spirit Lake Land Company were organized. When the company’s large sawmill was completed, Blackwell’s land company platted a town site from 1907 to 1908 and began selling lots. Blackwell provided residents with water and sewage systems along with cement sidewalks free of charge. Within a year, Blackwell’s company town boomed to over 1,000 residents, and over 100 homes had been constructed. Blackwell didn’t stop there, though. Before his death in 1922, Blackwell went on to construct the Idaho and Washington Northern Railroad from Rathdrum, Idaho through Spirit Lake to Metaline Falls, Washington.
Although the lumber industry was responsible for this town’s creation, Spirit Lake now attracts visitors and residents with its resort-like atmosphere and scenic wonders. As for the town’s namesake, Blackwell adopted the same title as a nearby lake. The lake’s name reportedly originated with the Indian word Tesemini, meaning “Lake of the Spirits.” Legend states that Chief Hyas-Tyee-Skokum-Tum-Tum of a local Indian tribe bore a daughter who deeply loved one of the tribe’s young warriors. Another area leader, Chief Pu-Pu-Mox-Mox, threatened war if the girl were not given to him as his bride. Desiring peace, the girl’s father reluctantly agreed to the other chief’s arrangement, but the deal would never materialize. Before the chief’s daughter was to be married, she and her true love securely tied their hands together and jumped into the lake. The Indians believe that Tesemini, the water spirit, claimed the pair in anger and retaliation. From then on, the lake was known as Tesemini, “lake of the spirits,” which was translated and gradually changed to Spirit Lake.