by Andrew Crisp
A celebration of Idaho history Monday morning was also a chance to honor President Abraham Lincoln, who created the territory with his signature March 4, 1863, and 150 years later, state officials assembled at the Idaho State Capitol to kick off "Idaho at 150" sesquicentennial celebrations.
"Our nation's flag, draped so handsomely atop the statehouse today, has 50 stars. Had Lincoln been unsuccessful, it might only have 39," said David Leroy, former Idaho attorney general and master of ceremonies.
Leroy contended March 4, 1863, was one of the most important days in Lincoln's life. That day, said Leroy, the "master strategist" not only created the Idaho Territory, but blocked the westward expansion of slavery and secured silver and gold deposits for the Union war effort.
"Does Lincoln still matter? I say yes. I hope you agree," said Leroy.
Then the 16th president himself took the podium following an introduction from Leroy, in the form of Portland, Ore., Lincoln impersonator Steve Holgate.
"Even in the midst of this great peril, our travails will yet result in a new birth," Lincoln told the crowd. "And so we commemorate today not only Idaho, but our own aspiration to achieve that more perfect union envisioned 87 years ago."
Celebrations also paid tribute to the history of the native populations that first settled the Gem State. More of Idaho's history will be on display during first big exhibit of the sesquicentennial, "Essential Idaho: 150 Things That Make the Gem State Unique," opening at the Idaho State Historical Museum Tuesday, March 5.