Mormon Pioneer History

Franklin Historic District in Franklin Idaho ZCMI Store
Franklin Historic District

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  This page is about Latter Day Saints, sometimes referred to as Mormon pioneers that moved north from Salt Lake City to establish new farming communities in this area. The best way to follow this history is the same time and geographical steps they did. The first settlement was at Franklin, known as Idaho’s oldest city. The walking tour of Franklin’s still standing buildings include Idaho’s first home, the original grist (flour) mill, the Z.C.M.I. store, the Relic Hall Museum and others.

Oneida Stake Academy in Preston Idaho Pioneer Historic Byway
Oneida Stake Academy

We continue north on US 91 to Preston for the next LDS settlement. Here we view the Oneida Stake Academy. This hand hewn sandstone building was completed by church craftsmen 114 years ago for educational purposes. The building was moved to the Ezra Taft Benson Park ensure its preservation. The Oneida Stake Academy is much more than a fine example of magnificent architecture. It is a physical symbol of the legacy of excellence early pioneers left the people of Franklin County.

Historic Chesterfield Townsite near Grace Idaho
Historic Chesterfield Townsite

At the north end of Preston we stay on the state highway 34, known as Pioneer Historic Byway, through Thatcher, Grace and Last Chance Dam, then on to Chesterfield Historic Town Site. This settlement is now without residents, but not abandoned. Each summer work crews of descendants of it’s founders come back to continue its preservation. Chesterfield is unique in LDS history because it is the only church settlement the Oregon Trail passed through.

Brigham Young's summer home site in Soda Springs Idaho
Brigham Young’s Summer Home Site

Proceeding to Soda Springs on US 30 finds a summer home built for Brigham Young, 2nd President of the LDS Church. Highway 34 (still the Pioneer Historic Byway) proceeds north out of the LDS settlement of Freedom, Wyoming.

Paris Tabernacle Historical Site in Paris Idaho
Paris Tabernacle Historical Site

To view the other several settlements we will instead travel the Oregon Trail (US 30) southeast to Montpelier (which Brigham Young renamed for his birth place in Vermont) then turn southwest on US 89 to Paris. Charles Rich was the Prominent church leader appointed by Brigham Young to build settlements in this valley, which he accomplished prodigiously, founding seven in 1863-64. This called for an appropriate meeting house, the result of fifteen year toil being the magnificent Paris Tabernacle. A guided tour of the interior and exterior is a memorable experience.


So Hitch Up Your Wagon And Take A Pioneer History Tour Of Southeast Idaho! Get Google map directions to each stop.

Take the Bear River Heritage Area Road Trip! It straddles the Idaho-Utah border where the Great Basin and the Rocky Mountains meet. It is home to a strong agricultural economy, history-laced landscape, and abundant natural beauty. Retrace the footsteps of early fur traders, Mormon settlers, and generations of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.