As we've worked and lived in Montana, and now Idaho, we've noticed how many places, roads, and at least one town, are named after John Mullan. Mullan is responsible for building the 6oo plus mile road back in the 1850s and 1860s, from Fort Benton in Montana to Walla Walla in Washington. The road was used for all kinds of travelers, and parts of it still exist today. Taking a drive on a mountain road which came out on the freeway, we discovered a sign pointing to the Mullan Tree. We just had to see what it was!
At the parking lot we found a trail leading to parts of what was once the original Mullan Road. Here is Mr. Keith finishing his soda as he looks down the road. John Mullan, an army engineer, led the construction party of soldiers and civilians who built this road. Parts of I-90 still follow Mullan's road. The original route was marked with the letters "M. R." on posts, trees and rocks. The "M.R." stood for "military road", but it has always been referred to as "the Mullan Road."
The Mullan Tree was inscribed with "M. R. July 4 1861" by Lt. John Mullan's road crew during the construction of the military road. His crew celebrated July 4th at the summit, chopping the date into a great white pine which probably looked like this ancient tree beside the monument. The tree was the last surviving mile marker on the Military Road. Fourth of July Pass, Fourth of July Canyon, and Fourth of July Creek were named for the inscription on this tree.
The Mullan Tree was about 250 years old when it was blazed in 1861. In 1962 the top of the tree broke off in a windstorm. In 1988 the remains of the blaze were removed for preservation. (Quoted from a sign on the site of the tree.) The tree stump is now housed in a museum in Coeur d'Alene. We loved being in this deep, old growth forest with remnants of deserted roads and the history that took place here.