In his 1942 book, “A History of Southeastern Idaho,” M.D. Beal points out that while Mormons were the first settlers in Idaho, appropriate “wholehearted” recognition of that fact was slow in coming.
“It is true that the first crop of wheat planted by the Franklin (LDS) farmers was still standing in the field when the discovery of gold on the Clearwater precipitated a more impressive occupation,” Beal said.
Aside from that the reasons for the lack of recognition lie in religious and political turmoil, including a distrust and a huge cultural divide between the mining and farming factions, and a distaste for the Mormon practice of polygamy.
Beal points out the Mormon faithful may have had no interest in settling a new territory. “In fact the settlers all along the frontier from Malad to the Wyoming line thought they were living in Utah until the boundary was definitely fixed by a government survey in 1872,” he said. The settlers had paid taxes in Utah and had officers under that authority.
“Hence the Mormons were not intentionally the first Idaho pioneers,” he said. It was an accident.
Most of the pioneering families in the Teton Valley were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it’s fair to say they intended to settle in Idaho. The valley was among the last areas to be permanently settled in the territory, and barely could claim settlement when the Idaho territory became a state in 1890.
Edlefsen is a volunteer at the Teton Valley Museum.