Any resident of Latah County can tell the roots of this place run deep but few would suspect that local history has been shaped and influenced by the ancestors of the state’s first family.
On Saturday, Idaho first lady Teresa Little boarded a bus in Moscow to help lead a tour of Latah County and discuss her deep familial ties to the region. Coordinated by the Latah County Historical Society, Little joined attendees for a day of exploration, winding past historic farms, fields and churches, occasionally chiming in where the local history intersected with that of her family.
“By the end of this trip, you’ll forget she’s our first lady,” promised LCHS board member and tour guide Earl Bennett.
While Little was not raised in the region herself, her forebears were among the first settlers of European descent to make their homes on the Palouse, and their progeny played a large part in shaping the history of the region and of Idaho.
Little said that throughout her life, she frequently visited family in the area, including her grandmother, Lola Gamble Clyde, a local teacher, farmwife and historian for whom a park in Moscow is named. Clyde was reputedly a pillar of the Moscow community and was once famously pictured in a 1983 National Geographic article titled “A Paradise Called the Palouse” holding a fresh-baked apple pie with rolling fields of wheat in the backdrop. Today, after seven generations of Hokes, Clydes, Gambles and Zeitlers — among others — the region teems with Little’s extended family.
LCHS Executive Director Dulce Kirsting-Lark said the idea for the tour began when an article in the Lewiston Tribune about Little’s local family ties caught the eye of Bennett, who sits on the board for both LCHS and the Idaho State Historical Society.
“Earl, our tour guide, read it and he said, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be great if she would do a tour — if we could do a tour based on that history?’ ” she said. “He reached out to the first lady’s office, and she was receptive to that and then, as it turns out, she had actually done a sort of field trip with her own family a few years ago.”
Little herself was a buoyant presence, with a quick smile and a sympathetic demeanor — as Bennett predicted, it was easy to forget her lofty connections. She said she was beyond honored when she received the invitation to lead the tour.
“I kind of like genealogy and history anyway,” Little said. “Because of the fact that my grandmother, who lived here, was such an awesome historian, I have a pretty good record, and when my oldest son was first born, it was kind of like, ‘I really want him to know his history.’ ”
Kersting-Lark said the Little family’s Palouse roots help build a connection between Boise and the state’s rural regions. With state leaders spending time in the Latah County community, she said, it helps engender confidence that they truly understand the diverse needs of their state and helps to offset the perception that those in the capital can sometimes forget their rural constituents.
Latah County Commissioner Tom Lamar, who was also in attendance, said Little’s roots are further proof of the tight-knit bonds that exist between all Idahoans.
“There were nieces and aunts, and all these different relations and it was just fun to see her palling around just being really friendly,” said Lamar, noting the governor’s frequent visits to the region in the past for football games and the like have had a similar air of familial conviviality.
“I’ve heard people say that Idaho is a small town, and it feels like that, you know?”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.