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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Tensed

Friday, September 7, 2018  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Welcome to Tensed Sign

Tensed lies about 30 miles north of Moscow, six miles east of the Idaho/Washington border. Farmland interspersed with groves of timber and heavily wooded mountains with peaks rising over 4,700 feet surround the city. A high percentage of the land surrounding the city is part of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation.

Historical Tidbits

For centuries, the Coeur d’Alene Indians were the principal inhabitants of the land around what is now Tensed. Unlike many other Native American tribes, the Coeur d’Alene Indians were less nomadic. They had permanent settlements throughout the area.

In 1873 U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant established the Coeur d’Alene Reservation by executive order.

In the same year, the Jesuit’s Sacred Heart Mission of the Roman Catholic Church sat up a settlement on the reservation. They named it De Smet—after Father Pierre Jean De Smet, an early Catholic missionary. Coeur d’Alene Indian members supplied much of the labor in building the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in De Smet. In 1883 the church built a boys’ school in De Smet named the Academy at Sacred Heart.

In 1887 in an attempt to assimilate Indians into the white mainstream, Congress passed the General Allotment Act—also known as the Dawes Severalty Act.

Under the Act, Native Americans received an allotment of reservation land. Generally, each head of family received 160 acres, a single person over 18 received 80 acres and each orphaned child 40 acres. Any lands not allotted became "surplus" and were made available for non-Indian homesteading and settlement.

Indians who did not want to farm could either sell or lease their land. In many parts of the United States, this law encouraged large-scale settlement by non-Indians on reservation lands and created a checkerboard ownership pattern throughout the reservations.

To accommodate new sawmills, the railroad constructed a rail line through the reservation with a train depot one mile north of De Smet at what is now the city of Tensed.

Area settlers, primarily people involved in the emerging timber industry began to build a new community around the train depot. They applied to the postal authorities for a post office that they proposed to call Desmet. Postal authorities rejected the name because of potential confusion with the nearby village of De Smet. In apparent frustration, the settlers submitted the name of Temsed—Desmet spelled backward. The postal authorities accepted the new name; however, when the clerk recorded the name, he or she made a typographical error and spelled the name Tensed.

At the community’s peak population there were three lumber mills located nearby on Old Sanders Road. The town had two bars and two gas stations.

Tensed was incorporated on April 14, 1947.

Sawmills and the Railroad

Tensed owes its origins to the railroad. As long as there were timber and wood products to transport, the railroad and the community prospered.

While the railroad started the city, the wood products industry sustained it. By the mid-1900s the availability of good stands of nearby timber diminished and wood market prices were not adequate to cover increased costs. Sawmills closed. When the timber went away, the railroad shut down and the economy suffered.

Amenities and Attractions Today

Tensed has three city parks comprising ten acres. Park amenities include children playgrounds and picnic areas.

The Tensed Public Library offers computers and Internet services.

Two state parks are near the city. The 5,300-acre Mary Minerva McCroskey (memorial) State Park is 12 miles south of Tensed. Heyburn State Park that comprises 5,744 acres of land and 2,332 acres of water lies at the base of Lake Coeur d’Alene about 20 miles north of the city.

Two national forests are near the city. The St. Joe National Forest lies 12 miles west across the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation boundary. The Coeur d’Alene National Forest lies 30 miles north.

Downhill skiing is available at North-South Ski Bowl, 14 miles due southeast across the mountains. Following improved roads, the distance is more than double.

The 73-mile-long Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes begins about 12 miles north at the city of Plummer. The trail is a paved non-motorized route built on an abandoned railroad line. It follows the shoreline of Coeur d’Alene Lake then passes through a chain of lakes and marshland along the scenic Coeur d’Alene River, over high railroad trestles, through tunnels, national forests and old mining towns to the mountains of Mullan.


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