AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Athol
Friday, March 25, 2016
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
Aerial view of Athol
Athol lies four miles west of Farragut State Park and the southern tip of the beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. The city of Coeur d’Alene is about 16 miles south.
Farmland and forested areas surround the city. Kaniksu National Forest is accessible a few miles east and west of the city.
Until the early 1800s when explorers/trappers began coming into the area, American Indians—primarily of the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Tribes—had exclusive use of the land as they migrated through the region en route to their encampments near the area’s many lakes and streams.
This all changed in 1881 when the Northern Pacific Railway established a depot on its line between Hauser Junction and Sandpoint. They named the train station Athol after a city in Massachusetts, which in turn derived its name from a community in Scotland.
Railroad employees were the town’s first residents. Homesteaders soon began filing claims in the general area of the train depot and a small community of a general store and shops was established. In 1895 town residents successfully petitioned postal authorities for a post office.
However, the location of the new community was on state lands. State surveyors platted the new township but, apparently, did not record the change in ownership. For many years, the town’s residents did not have title to their land. However, the state finally corrected the problem.
In 1900 the Methodist congregation built a church that also served as a school until 1902 when school patrons built their first school building. About the same time, the Baptist congregation built their church.
In December 1902 Hackett & Wilson opened a sawmill near the city. The mill became the city’s largest employer and had the capacity of producing 25,000 board feet of lumber per day. After lumberjacks cleared the timber, farmers brought the land under cultivation.
By 1903 the town had a hotel, a drugstore, a blacksmith, a jewelry store, restaurants, a mercantile store and a saloon.
On August 10, 1909, Athol became an incorporated village. In November 1967 it became an incorporated city in accordance with the requirements of a new state law.
Athol’s first water well was dug by hand by Joe Pricsha and his crew. It was 350 plus feet deep. They dug into a large boulder, so they had to dig around it, which made a curve in the shaft. A 5hp pump motor was installed, which supplied the town with water. Later, another shaft with a larger pump was installed in the same hand-dug hole.
Amenities and Attractions Today
Two state parks are nearby. The 4,000-acre Farragut State Park is four miles east, and the 142-acre Round Lake State Park is about ten miles north.
Farragut State Park was a World War II naval base that, following the war, the military donated to the state. In 1942 the U.S. Navy built Farragut Naval Training Station on 4,000 acres at the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille. The lake was deep and large enough for the Navy to perform their navel research and training in a secure setting. The training base also became an encampment for prisoners of war.
During this time, civilian jobs on base provided a significant boost to Athol’s economy. The park now has a museum commemorating the role of the naval station during the war.
Some of the city’s natural amenities include the beautiful surrounding mountains, lakes, rivers and streams. They offer excellent opportunities for backpacking, hiking, trail riding, boating, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Downhill skiing is available at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, about 30 miles north.
About a mile south of town is Silverwood Theme Park. This privately owned park has over 65 rides and attractions including a 12-acre water park. The park draws visitors from throughout the Inland Northwest.