The History of Pocatello

The Gateway City

Pocatello is called “The Gateway to the Northwest,” and for good reason. Pocatello history begins with Shoshone and Bannock tribes, who inhabited this area of southwestern Idaho for centuries. Lewis and Clark were the first explorers to arrive in 1805, and their reports attracted fur trappers and traders. Even after the fur trade declined, the area remained a popular route for immigrants to the West.

The Gold Rush in 1860 attracted more settlers on their way through the Oregon Trail, transforming the area into a trade center and transportation hub. The name “Pocatello” was given by a Shoshone chief who granted a newly-built railroad the right-of-way through the Fort Hall Reservation. After the Gold Rush, settlers found a fertile land suitable for agriculture. Residential and commercial development blossomed and Pocatello was founded in 1889.

Since then, Pocatello has thrived as one of the largest cities in Idaho, now with a population of just over 54,000. We have some unique laws, too. In 1948, the mayor George Phillips passed an ordinance making it illegal not to smile. The "Smile Ordinance" was passed as a joke because of the exceptionally severe winter, which had dampened the city's spirits. Unintentionally, the ordinance was never repealed. As a result, we are now "The U.S. Smile Capital."

Come to the Pocatello for the stunning Northwest scenery, and the brightest smiles in the country.