The 20th Annual Historical Museum at St. Gertrude Fall Lecture Series concludes at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 24, with Keith Petersen who will present “Straight Lines and Squiggles: How Idaho Got that Weird Shape.”

The West is a land of rectangular states. And then we have Idaho. What happened? Drunken surveyors? Corrupt politicians?

The story of Idaho’s borders begins with international intrigue in the early days of America. It continues through the Civil War, when politicians who had never seen Idaho sealed its fate as a land of perplexing contours. It lingered into the 20th century as northern Idahoans contemplated seceding. And it affects every Idahoan today, living with consequences of an odd configuration complicating connections between north and south. Just how Idaho got this way is a fascinating story of diplomacy, politics, luck, and a congressional obsession with straight-line boundaries.    

Keith Petersen is the former Idaho State Historian. He is the author of several books about Idaho and the Northwest, including Idaho: The Land and Its PeopleJohn Mullan: The Tumultuous Life of a Western Road BuilderRiver of Life, Channel of Death: Fish and Dams on the Lower Snake; and Company Town: Potlatch, Idaho, and the Potlatch Lumber Company. Along with his wife Mary Reed, since 2015 he has volunteered to assist the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude in its exhibit makeover project. Petersen is also a 2019 recipient of the Esto Perpetua Award for distinguished service to Idaho history.

These events provide insights into the history of our region and are held on Thursdays during the month of October with the support of the Idaho Humanities Council. Lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. A Q&A session with the presenters follows the lectures. Light refreshments are provided. The events are held in the Johanna Room at Spirit Center at the Monastery of St. Gertrude located at 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood, Idaho. For information call 208-962-2054.