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History of Moscow, Idaho

Life in Moscow, Idaho, revolves around the University of Idaho and the rich farmlands on the rolling hills of the Palouse and it has been that way for more than 100 years. Moscow lies in the northern part of the state. Folks in the southern region tend to know little of the north and vice versa. People in southern Idaho fuss about why the University of Idaho, the state’s land grant college, is “clear up there.” The location of the University of Idaho resulted from the most important presidential signature that never was — at least from an Idahoan’s perspective, according to author Carlos Schwantes, in his 2003 Brief History of the University of Idaho. The first serious move to establish a university came in 1887 when the territorial legislature passed a measure to establish a college at Eagle Rock (now Idaho Falls), but Governor Edward A. Stevenson vetoed it, claiming the bill suffered serious omissions. About the same time, both houses of Congress voted to sever the panhandle from the rest of Idaho and attach it to Washington State. Citizens of Lewiston, still nursing a grudge from their loss of the territorial capital to Boise in 1865, greeted news of their impending return to Washington with brass bands and a celebration. But their revelry stopped short four days later when they learned President Grover Cleveland had pocket vetoed the bill because of protests from Governor Stevenson. The presidential signature that never happened so angered residents of the north that when the 1889 legislature met, lawmakers responded by creating a public university, locating it in the panhandle town of Moscow and calling the action an olive branch of peace. This happened the year before Idaho was granted statehood. After settlers arrived in 1871, the town was known as Paradise Valley. However, in 1877, Samuel Neff filed for a postal permit under the name Moscow, because the area reminded him of his hometown, Moscow, Pennsylvania. Today, the university is home to about 13,000 students and the town personifies the image of small town friendliness along with a rich assortment of cultural and recreational activities. Moscow is consistent ranked among the top small art towns in America along with Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Every year in February, the university and the town host the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the largest educational jazz festival in the world. The week-long festival offers student workshops and brings acclaimed world-famous jazz musicians to town for evening concerts. Moscow has a twin town just eight miles away in Pullman, Washington. Pullman is home to Washington State University and the two communities share their wealth of culture, especially in the area of performing arts. An example is the Washington-Idaho Symphony with participating performers from Eastern Washington and northcentral Idaho. Moscow shares its name with the Russian city, but not the pronunciation. Idaho’s Moscow is pronounced “Mos-coe,” not “cow."