Updated: Feb 9, 2020
The Shoshone-Bannock and Northern Piute inhabited the Idaho Falls region long before the Lewis & Clark expedition traveled across Idaho in 1805. The area’s first settlers of European origin were cattle and sheep ranchers. Although the Fort Hall trading post was established in 1834, no significant development took place until 1864, when a man named Harry Rickets built and operated a ferry across the Snake.
The present-day site of Idaho Falls became a permanent settlement when Matt Taylor built a timber-frame toll bridge across a narrow gorge of the river seven miles downstream from the ferry. The bridge improved travel for settlers moving north and west, and for miners, freighters, and others seeking wealth in the gold fields of Idaho and Montana—especially the boom towns of Bannack and Virginia City. In 1874, water rights were claimed on nearby Willow Creek and the first grain was harvested. Settlement was sparse and consisted of only a couple of families and small irrigation ditches. The first child of European descent was born at Eagle Rock in 1874.
In 1877 the narrow-gauge Utah and Northern Railway tracks that were being laid north from Ogden reached Eagle Rock, where a bridge was built across the Snake River over the same narrow gorge as Taylor’s bridge. The railway would eventually connect to the copper mines at Butte, Montana. As soon as the railroad came through, settlers began homesteading the Upper Snake River Valley in earnest. In 1895, the world’s then-largest irrigation canal, the Great Feeder, began diverting water from the Snake River, helping to convert tens of thousands of acres of desert into green farmland. Today, the region’s farmers produce most of Idaho’s sugar beets, potatoes, peas, grains, and alfalfa. Idaho Falls flourished, growing continuously throughout the 20th century.
Rexburg is an unspoiled town with wide tree-lined streets (the widest in Idaho) and memories going back to its Mormon ancestry. The town abounds with well kept homes, businesses and parks—one even boasts Shoshone, Bannock, Crow, Sioux and Blackfeet made annual hunting trips through this country. The first trappers were led by Andrew Henry in 1810. These trappers established the first American fur trading post west of the Rockies just north of present day Rexburg.
Many years later the Utah Northern Rail- road laid twenty miles of track west of Rexburg in order to connect Utah to the gold fields of Montana and Central Idaho. The nearest labor source was to be found among the Mormons of Utah. One of the many workers was John R. Poole who spread the word that there was fertile land available for farming. The leadership of the Mormon Church was looking for new areas to expand. In 1882 Thomas E. Ricks was requested by the church to lead the colonization effort in the Rexburg area. The first settlers arrived in 1883 to find the townsite already incorporated and surveyed with wide streets laid out in four directions. The town was first named Ricks a carousel. A sound economic base, excellent schools, a low crime rate, and high family values all help to make Rex- burg an “American” family community. Rexburg, in the Mountain Time Zone, is situated in the rich potato region of Eastern Idaho in the area of the Upper Snake River Valley. This charming town has been rated as one of the Top One- Hundred Small Towns in America; it is not hard to understand why once you visit this diverse and interesting area. Cooler temperatures and clear air of this high mountain valley help to create the perfect vacation retreat.
Economic growth is steady and secure. The area’s major industry is agriculture with potatoes, grain and hay being the chief crops. Artco Printing and Brigham Young University-Idaho employ the largest non-agricultural work force. Rexburg Business Park is a progressive business area located near Rexburg city limits. Rexburg has many fine physicians, dentists and other health care professionals, along with a full-service hospital. This coupled with a variety of grocery stores; restaurants, gas stations, pharmacies, retail stores, and other services help meet the needs of residents.
The community takes pride in its respect for the past while maintaining high goals for the future. One of its greatest assets, however, is its genuine old-fashioned friendliness. Rexburg extends a warm welcome to you, your family and your business!
Rexburg was not a permanent home for Native Americans, but the
burg, later changed to Rexburg, the German ancestral name of Ricks.