North Idaho has strong connections to Buffalo Soldiers, the all African American U.S. Army troops. Units from Ft. Missoula and later Spokane’s Ft. Wright participated in restoring order during the 1890s mining wars, as well as help rescue local townsfolk from the Great Fire of
1910 — still the largest wildland fire in U.S. History. But it’s not just history. That relationship has been rekindled in recent years.
One hundred years after the Big Burn Buffalo Soldiers Groups from the National Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston participated in Centennial ceremonies to the 1910 Fire. In 2016, on the 150th anniversary of the establishment of All-African American Units, Buffalo Soldiers scholar John Langellier, PhD, was the featured speaker in the Wallace Fall for History Festival.
Then in June 2019 Wallace hosted a group of Buffalo Soldier re-enactors. They came to shine a light on a little-known chapter in the annals of U.S. Military History. On June 14, 1897 a force of 20 African American Soldiers along with two white officers, a doctor and newspaper reporter set off on an epic 1,900-mile bicycle ride from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis.
Nicknamed the Iron Riders for both the heavy one speed cycles they pedaled and their iron hard constitutions, the intrepid group made the trip in six weeks, battling poor roads, every kind of weather condition, meager rations and prejudice. But they received heroes welcomes and national acclaim when they arrived in St. Louis.
The town that is home to Idaho’s only Hall of Fame bicycle Rail Trails thought it would be a good idea to celebrate that historic cycling achievement.
As a result of the June 2019 event, the riders’ sponsoring organizations, the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, CA. and the Historic Wallace Idaho Chamber have officially become sister chambers.
Today there are several historical markers about the Buffalo Soldiers’ contributions along the Route of the Hiawatha Rail Trail; while in Wallace, the town’s museums have sponsored exhibits highlighting the Buffalo Soldiers service in the community. The two chambers are now working together on several projects, including videos, historical signage, rail trails, exhibits and to bring conventions of Buffalo Soldiers organizations to the area.
For more background information on the Buffalo Soldiers and the Bicycle Corps, please visit the following: MONTANA PBS, THE BICYCLE CORPS AMERICA”S BLACK ARMY ON WHEELS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNnTSD219GA; GEAR JUNKIE MAGAZINE LITTLE KBOWN BLACK HEROES. ALL BLACK 25TH INFANTRY BICYCLE CORPS https://gearjunkie.com/biking/25th-infantry-bicycle-corps; BUFFALO SOLDIERS NATIONAL MUSEUM https://www.buffalosoldiermuseum.com/ BLACK PAST https://www.blackpast.org/ 9th and 10th (HORSE) CAVALRY ASSOCIATION https://www.910hcav.org