Of all the pioneers in Idaho, I would have to say Polly Bemis (or Lalu Nathoy or Hathoy) is one of the most interesting. She was born in China in 1853. As a child, her feet were bound in what was termed "golden lotuses." Times were hard and her impoverished family sold her to bandits for 2 bags of seed. She was ultimately shipped to San Francisco where she was sold for $2,500 to Hong King, a saloon owner in Warrens, a mining camp in Idaho, as a prostitute, though it is uncertain whether Polly actually worked as a prostitute or Hong King kept her for his concubine. Charlie Bemis, a resident of Warrens, became her protector and eventually they lived together and then married. Speculation is that it may have been a marriage of convenience - Polly took care of Charlie and in return, she was saved from deportation. They later moved to a spread on the Salmon River where they were known for their hospitality. Charlie Bemis died and Polly ran the ranch by herself for several years. Polly died in 1933 from injuries sustained a fallIn 1991, a fictionalized account of Polly's life, a movie entitled "Thousand Pieces of Gold" was released. Though lacking in many ways the true account of Polly's life, it did symbolize the plight of many Chinese women who were smuggled into the United States for the purpose of prostitution.
The Polly Bemis Ranch is a designated national historic site.
For more information on this amazing woman: