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Jun 02

Community Spotlight - Worley

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 12:11 PM by GayDawn Oyler

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Worley City Hall

Worley is located 28 miles south of Coeur d’Alene on a beautiful rolling agricultural plain interspersed by large tracts of forest. Fields of bluegrass, wheat, oats, lentils and peas surround the city. This farmland is substantially all tribal trust land of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation.

The incorporated city occupies 127 acres. However, the city’s boundaries appear larger because it blends into a suburban community of nearly 100 houses built by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

Historical Tidbits 

In 1887 in an attempt to assimilate American 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. Each head of family received 160 acres; single persons received a lesser acreage. Any lands not allotted became “surplus” and were made available for non-Indian settlement. This created a checkerboard ownership pattern throughout the reservation.

Charles O. Worley was the area’s first Indian agent. Non-Indian settlers first came in 1906. In 1908 in anticipation of an influx of settlers to the area, a new town was platted.

Charles Worley located his office in the new village. As the area’s principal federal officer, “Worley” became the described destination of those having business in the growing community.

As non-Indian farm and ranch settlers moved into the area, many opened new businesses. In 1910 villagers built the first school—a one-room structure with one teacher.

In 1913 the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad built its line through Worley. A large construction camp with over 200 workers set up near the Worley town site.

The rail line opened new markets for the area’s agricultural and timber products; and, within a very short time, Worley began to develop a thriving business center. By the end of 1913 the village had a new general store, hotel, blacksmith shop and a combination confectionery and pool hall.

In 1916 the hotel burned down and was replaced by a new facility named the Worley Hotel. In that same year, the first sawmill was built on the southwest edge of town. In addition, another general store opened, a telephone line was constructed and the Congregational Church moved into new facilities.                                 

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Worley First Congregational Church, 1918          The Bain Wagon Company

On March 22, 1917, Worley became an incorporated village. The Kootenai County Commissioners appointed trustees to serve until the next election.

The next four decades were a period of significant growth. A bank, butcher shop, livery stable and hardware store opened. In 1921 the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches built their new facilities. In 1923 Washington Water Power brought electricity to the village. In 1924 the school district added a new High School. Construction of U.S. Highway 95 reached Worley in 1926. In 1932 a farmer’s cooperative built a large grain elevator near the railroad tracks.

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                                            Leo's Worley Club

By the 1930s Worley had emerged from a pioneering community of logging and small farms to large wheat and pea farms. In 1956 the village became an incorporated city.

The Pioneer

Martin Walser opened a general store, that he named “The Pioneer.” He built his store from rough lumber sawn from the trees growing on his lot. He covered the front of his store with tin painted to look like brick.

There were no established roads in the area. Travelers followed trails through grass fields and woods. Walser stocked the shelves of his store with goods he transported about 15 miles by wagon from Fairfield, Washington.

The first post office was located in Walser’s store. His daughter was the first postmistress. The Pioneer Store became an informal community center during the early days. The Coeur d’Alene Indians were among the first customers. Walser encouraged them to bring leather-beaded bags for sale at the store. Eventually, Walser displayed these handmade goods in a large glass case.

When the railroad came to town, the 200 workers living in the railroad construction camp purchased much of their camp food and supplies from the Pioneer Store.
Amenities and Attractions Today 

Worley’s most significant attraction is the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Casino and Resort complex. Located four miles north of the city, this destination resort includes a casino, hotel, 18-hole professional golf course and facilities that can accommodate concerts as well as boxing matches.

The 73-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is one of the most spectacular paved non-motorized trails in the Western United States. It begins five miles south at Plummer and extends east to Mullan. The trail is an abandoned railroad line that passes over high railroad trestles, through railroad tunnels, national forests and old mining towns. 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 up into the mountains of Mullan.

Heyburn State Park, comprising 5,744 acres of land and 2,332 acres of water, lies at the base of Coeur d’Alene Lake six miles southeast of Worley. The lake is popular for boating, fishing and other water sports.

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