Idaho Falls - City of Destiny

Business and Industry

Agriculture spawned many industries to assure a strong steady agricultural-based economy. For example, the Potato Growers of Idaho flourished long and powerfully in potato processing and shipping, employing many people, as did many large private companies. Grain elevators dotted the tracksides; the railroad article reflects the volume of business. Under our heading of Agriculture, see also the Sugar Industry article. A major seed company, Rogers Brothers, operated here from 1911 until 1986.

Contents: Banking, by Richard Adams; Chamber of Commerce, by Merrell Smith; Rogers Brothers Seed Co., by Hazel Rose; all edited by Mary Jane Fritzen. Related stories are within other chapters.

Banks and Banking

A Man's Word Was His Bond. Old-timers remember that loans were sometimes secured by a man's word. Two early bankers credited with such trust were Minnie Gibson Hitt and Gilbert George (G.G.) Wright.

Minnie Hitt. Minnie Gibson Hitt, with her quick mind and caring heart, helped Eagle Rock residents build their dreams by lending them money. As the only female banker in town, she saw beyond the collateral and thought a moral risk was better than a secure one.

In 1889, at age 17, she arrived in Eagle Rock with her widowed mother and sister. She began working at a trading post owned by Robert and J. C. Anderson. As the success of the Anderson brothers progressed, so did Minnie's. When the brothers opened a bank, Minnie became a cashier.

Over the 50 or so years she worked as a banker, Minnie Hitt established a reputation for something bankers aspire to--an ability to size up a risk. But she took her work one step further.

She wasn't beyond telling borrowers how to spend the money she lent them. Minnie Hitt realized that a community's real value wasn't in the streets and the buildings, but in its people, and she had faith in those people.

The money she loaned helped the community grow and kept families together during hard times.

Source: Lynn Hackman, Post Register, July 4, 1991; Lexie French and Cheryl Cox, Second Stories.

G. G. Wright. Gilbert George Wright came to Idaho Falls from Ogden, Utah in 1889 to manage a branch of Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company. This company had been founded by Gilbert's uncle George T. Odell, Heber J. Grant and other prominent men. It sold everything from farm machinery to buggies, seed and other farm supplies, saddles and lap robes. It became the first chain store with branches all over Utah and Idaho.

Gilbert married Matilda Ellen Bailey in 1890. His father Gilbert Josiah Wright, also came to Idaho Falls.

G.G. Wright was widely known and respected in his community. He was a great friend to farmers, especially in New Sweden. In bad years he loaned them money and gave them credit for seed and machinery at C.W. & M. He was a member of the New Sweden Pioneers Association.

In 1912 he was promoted to a management position in Salt Lake City, but commuted weekends to Idaho Falls. While driving from Salt Lake City he was killed in a car accident in 1933. From the many newspaper articles published at that time it is evident that he was widely mourned. Idaho Falls stores and banks were closed on the day of his funeral.

A summary of his positions indicates the nature of Idaho Falls business during the first three decades of the 1900s. In addition to being General Manager of the C.W. & M. Company, G.G. Wright was involved in many business and financial endeavors. He was President of the Anderson Brothers Bank, and with Edward Fanning, founded the Idaho Falls Mill and Elevator Compoany. The mill was the only market for grain and other produce for years. He was a member of the following organizations: Board of Directors of the First Security Corporation, Republican State Central Committee, the Rotary Club of Idaho Falls, the Elks Club, Board of Directors of Utah Power and Light Company. He was President of the Dinwoody Furniture Company, the Rexburg Drug Company and the G. G. Wright Loan and Investment Company. He was Chairman of the Board of the Salt Lake City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and during World War I, he served as the Director of Council of Defense and the Liberty Loan Drive.

He was instrumental in having established in Idaho Falls the Carnegie free library and was a member of the first library board and President for two years, serving from 1909 to 1914.

Source: Marjorie (Mrs. Karl) Homer; Martha Jean Bybee Vlahos, The Wright Family History, 1982.

Short History of Banks and Banking in Idaho Falls

Anderson Brothers Bank opened in 1865 as a private bank in Eagle Rock, Idaho. This was the fourth bank in the state. Two banks were opened in Lewiston in 1863 and one in Boise in 1864. The Trading Post on the banks of the Snake River was owned by Robert Anderson and Matt Taylor. They built a toll bridge and provided some banking services. Joined by Anderson's brother, John, these men expanded their enterprise as the village grew. It was a private bank until the Anderson Brothers Bank was chartered by the state of Idaho in 1898. It was acquired by Eccles Browning in 1927, and became a branch of the First Security Bank of Idaho in 1933.

Other early banks opened by the turn of the century were the following:

The Bank of Eagle Rock, a private bank organized and opened in 1885 by G. W. Lyman, Charles Bunting and others. It closed in 1890.

The Farmers Mortgage Bank, a private bank, opened in 1890 and closed in 1891.

The Bank of Idaho Falls, a private bank opened in 1892 and chartered in the state of Idaho as the American National Bank in 1903.

The "State Bank" opened in 1900 and was granted a state charter in 1903. S. E. Larabie was president and C. G. Peck the cashier. It closed in 1921.

As the town grew and prospered many more banks opened. Of the 18 chartered banks, three were closed voluntarily, and only one was closed by liquidating its assets. The remaining fourteen have been merged or bought out or are still in operation in 1991. Since about 1980 the meaning of the word "bank" has become somewhat distorted, with all financial institutions such as Savings and Loan companies, credit unions, thrift offices and small loan businesses sometimes being referred to as banks. However those referred to in this article are truly banks that have been chartered by state or national banking regulatories and are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC).

Banks Operating in 1991 (listed alphabetically)

Bank of Commerce, opened in 1959. Bank of Eastern Idaho, opened in 1985. First Interstate Bank of Idaho, started in 1947 as Bank of Eastern Idaho. First Security Bank of Idaho, started in 1865 as Anderson Brothers Bank. Valley Bank, opened in 1972. West One Bank, started in 1892 as the Bank of Idaho Falls, and chartered in 1903 as the American National Bank. Key Bank of Idaho, opened in 1986 as Idaho Bank and Trust Company.

Submitter: Richard Adams, retired banker. Sources: Idaho Banking 1863-1976, a Black Diamond History by Glen Barnett.
Representatives of The Key Bank of Idaho, First Interstate Bank of Idaho, The Bank of Commerce.
For more information, including a historical summary of all 18 banks opened in Idaho Falls, see the topical file at Bonneville Museum, as submitted by Richard Adams.

Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce has been very much a part of the Idaho Falls scene for over 80 years helping to forge the business community forward.

It came into being in February 1907 when the Club of Commerce was formed for the purpose of improving the business environment of the city, and throughout all that time it has enjoyed the leadership necessary to get jobs for the city and area.

The name changed April 28, 1919 to Bonneville County Commercial Club, and again April 5, 1922 when the Chamber of Commerce came into existence. At a later date it was recognized that whatever effected the businesses of Idaho Falls had an impact on the surrounding communities so the name was changed to The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, its present designation (1991).

A Board of Directors is elected each year by the business community and is the governing body of the chamber. The board elects the president who is the presiding officer for one year. This board then selects committees to assist in carrying out the ideas and projects it directs.

Space and lack of information prevent listing all the directors who have served the chamber, but the known list includes most of the prominent men and leaders of the community from all segments--business, professional and agriculture.

Those who have served as Presidents are as follows:

Idaho Falls Club of Commerce
1908 J. Wesley Holden Attorney
1909 E. C. Mosley County Assessor
1910 E. P. Coltman Postmaster
G. G. Wright
C. W. & M. Company
B. J. Briggs
M. B. Yeaman
Editor, The Register
Charles Oles
Real Estate agent
L. M. Earl
Financier, building owner
George M. Scott
Broadway Book Store
Frank C. Bowman
Real Estate agent
Eugene Wright
Furniture store operator

Bonneville County Commercial Club
T. H. Kelly
Credit collection agency
O. A. Johanesen

Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce
George Bistorius
Book store operator
W. L. Shattuck
Eastern Idaho Loan & Trust
H. B. Sheppard
Real estate agent
J. Wesley Holden
Ralph Edmonds
M. B. Yeaman
W. A. Baker
Operator, variety store
F. K. Finlayson
Newspaperman, I. F. Daily Post
F. A. Carlson
Bonneville Auto
C. A. Carlson
Ralph Albaugh
K. D. Rose
Rogers Bros. Seed Co.
E. F. McDermott
Post Register
H. B. Sheppard
E. F. McDermott
Don Kugler
Worth D. Wright
First Federal Savings
J. Earl Evans
David M. Sweeney
Forde L. Johnson
Ford Johnson Oil Co.
William S. Holden
D. V. Groberg
K. P. Slusser
Slusser Wholesale
B. L. Harris
Bonneville Auto
George T. Watkins
Snake River Equipment
Sterling W. Jensen
Aden Hyde
Eastern Idaho Farmer News
Joe G. Call
Poultry firm operator
Glen W. Royce
Johnson's Swedish Bakery
L. L. Branthoover
I. F. Potato Growers
Ray Groth
Ray Groth Oil Company
William C. Kyle
Idaho Falls Hardware
Marshall Keyes
Bonded Produce and Supply
Ray E. Lundahl
Ray E. Lundahl Auto Co.
Karl G. Page
Outdoorsman Sporting Goods
Alex D. Creek
Oil distributor
V. F. Mullin
Financial Credit Corp.
Jack S. Gamble
Gamble's Grocery
Ruland E. Williams
Certified Public Accountant
S. "Eddie" Pederson
Tailor shop operator
Bob Bauchman
Bonneville Construction Co.
John D. Smith
Ready-to-Pour Concrete
Paul Ahlstrom
Ahlstrom Furniture
Van W. Briggs
Briggs Builders
Kenneth L. Cunnington
Bon Marche manager
Milton A. Romrell
Charles J. Just
Just's Hardware and Appliance
J. Allen Jensen
KID TV-Radio
Luther Squires
Eastern Idaho Production Credit
Rueben Svendsen
J. C. Penney manager
Joe W. Hunter
Hunter-Saucerman Const.
William T. Holden
Insurance sales
Robert (Bob) Hammond
Lester W. Kiel
Tandy and Wood
Wayne C. Hammond
Bingham Mechanical
N. Charles Hedemark
Intermountain Gas
J. Patrick McGahan
Gate City Steel
Everett Jordan
Best Western Stardust
J. F. Chadband
Chad's Furniture
B. Phil Warner
E. G. & G.
Merrell C. Smith
Certified Public Accountant
C. Timothy Hopkins
Cliff Brady
Dan McCallister
Intermountain Gas
Jeffery E. Jones
First Interstate Bank
Joseph Call
Certified Public Accountant
Con Mahoney
Atlas Mechanical
George Felker
Larry Pettingill
Elliott Industrial
Linda Milam
E. G. & G.

In the early 1960s it was determined that chamber activities involved too much time for volunteer personnel to manage, and the Board of Directors opted to hire a full time Executive Vice President. This procedure is still in effect. Executive Vice Presidents and Executive Secretaries have included Allison Smidt, Jack Gobble, Earl Hockett, Charles Stark, Robert (Bob) Stilling, William (Bill) Brooks, J. Kent Just, Chuck Bartholemew, Nancy Carlyle, Delmar Brewster, Ira Koplow.

In 1943 the following members who served in World War II were honored: Dr. W. R. Abbott, Dr. N. H. Battles, C. P. Blake, Adolph C. Bolte, Fred Carnes, Ralph Chapin, John W. Christopherson, Ralph Cowham, Dr. John S. Hatch, William J. Johnson, Dr. Dale L. Lee, Henry Martin, Paul Meier, Vay I. Miller, Harry Mooney, Karl G. Page, William Parker, Marshall G. Scott, Thero Tippetts, and B. A. Wackerli.

The Chamber is dedicated to telling the Idaho Falls story. Message content has changed over the years, but information is readily provided to the business world and others seeking information on the most important regional shopping center in Eastern Idaho.

"Come to Sunnyland, the city with 6,000 inhabitants, two fine large schools, 23 teachers and a superintendent all earning $60 to $100 dollars per month." That's Idaho Falls as described in a pre- World War I postcard put out by the Chamber; a far cry from the information of 1990 which is selling from a city of over 40,000 in Idaho Falls proper, two high schools, two secondary, 12 elementary, a technical college, and extensions of the universities, and more schools under construction or expansion. This does not consider the surrounding area of Bonneville County represented by School District 93.

The project which had the highest impact is support of the Chamber for the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL), constantly encouraging new enterprises to move to the facility. Idaho was originally selected to be the home of the Atomic Energy site in about 1948. Pocatello was expected to be headquarters. Through clever planning and lobbying Idaho Falls was selected. This included several trips to Washington by Chamber officers and a little underhanded work here at home. For example, a road was needed to connect the site location with the headquarters town. Chamber officers were in Washington telling such a road existed; Chamber members here were out west of Idaho Falls starting where farm roads left off and grading a road across the desert to the junction of the highway from Blackfoot to near where central facilities was to be. When the selection committee came to town, Chamber members and their wives played host and saw to it that everyone, including wives of the committee, were sold on Idaho Falls. Pocatello did not make the same overtures, and when the decision was made, it was for Idaho Falls.

Even today with all the changes in the world the Chamber has remained behind the promotion of the INEL.

The Chamber has sponsored several air shows at the Idaho Falls Airport which have had drawing power from all over Southern Idaho. The airport itself has the full support of the Chamber in its expansion and facilities over the years, making it second to none in the area.

Another of the ongoing activities is sponsorship of the annual July 4 celebration. Festivities begin at 6 a.m. with a chuckwagon breakfast, a huge parade at 9:30, an afternoon of activity at Tautphaus Park, often a professional baseball game at McDermott Field and a gigantic aerial fireworks display shot from Keefer Island in the forebay of the Snake River. Not all events of the day are sponsored by the Chamber but all are in coordination.

The year 1976 was the Bicentennial of the United States, and two years prior to that as a project commemorating the event the Chamber initiated construction of a new environmental-education center on the northern edge of Russ Freeman Park. The structure was to cost over $1 million. The site was to become the permanent home of the Chamber of Commerce. It turned out this location did not serve the best interest of the business community nor tourism. After the Chamber moved back to a downtown location "Science Center" became a branch location for the universities of Idaho, and has become a valuable asset to the education system of Idaho Falls and area.

The Chamber office has over the years been located in many locations downtown, and in 1991 moved from Eastern Avenue to Lindsey Boulevard.

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce is affiliated with the United States Chamber of Commerce, Idaho Association of Chambers of Commerce, and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. The present governing Board of Directors consists of the president, two vice presidents, treasurer, immediate past president, 13 board members and two honorary members. The office staff consists of the Executive Director and a staff of nine.

Submitter: Merrill Smith, President 1981
Sources: Chamber files and Bonneville Museum files

Rogers Brothers Seed Company

"Idaho Falls has one of the largest wholesale seed pea companies in the world," reported a 1923 brochure of the city. "Its spacious quarters are located at the corner of Eastern Ave. and Poplar Street. It is the largest industry in the city in point of number employed and amount of yearly payrolls." We are also told this seed company employs 175 people, of whom 150 are girls and about 30, men. Manager K. D. Rose came here from New York State in about 1916.

Rogers Brothers, was founded in New York in 1876 by two brothers, Everett H. Rogers and Austin L. Rogers. It started its pea seed production program at Idaho Falls in 1911, constructing here new warehousing and seed cleaning facilities. Harvey W. Mauth, who joined the company and became president after it was acquired by Sandoz Ltd. in 1975, wrote this explanation of why Idaho Falls was chosen:

"What motivated past management to progressively abandon eastern and midwestern operations and migrate to the west? It must be reacalled that in our early history fungicides and insecticides were not available. Thus when disease organisms became endemic in a seed producing area, a common solution was to move to new ground....The high percent of sunny days and the timely irrigation capability on the new lands provided greater assurance of predictable yields which provided improved inventory control and higher level of seed quality than in rainfall growing areas. More environmental factors were under control....Rogers Bros. has always maintained an excellent breeding program in its three major seeds-- peas, beans, and corn."

Operations were extended beyond seeds when they developed a food products division. During World War II instant mashed potatoes were needed for the armed services, and so these products were continued afterwards. "In 1926 Rogers Brothers was the nation's first successful commercial producer of potato flour. In 1957 Rogers Brothers again was the first to commercially manufacture potato flakes--a form of instant mashed potatoes. Rogers Brothers dehydrated potato line continued to broaden until it became one of the most complete line processors of dehydrated potato products." Rogers also became one of the largest shippers of fresh Idaho russet potatoes. In 1972 they entered into the frozen food processing. (Post Register, July 2, 1976.)

Some of the leaders here were K. D. Rose, Rogers K. Rose, Ernest Rose, T. T. Hopkins, Harvey Mauth, William Parker, Lester Anderson, Dr. Melvin Anderson, Robert Thompson, and Marie Nelson. In 1986 Rogers Brothers left Idaho Falls and moved to Boise.

Submitter: Hazel Rose and Mary Jane Fritzen
Sources: Rogers K. Rose, Harvey Mauth.
Bonneville Museum files: Post Register, July 2, 1976. 1923 Brochure of Idaho Falls



Begin Here
Introductory Comments
Chap. 1 - Agriculture
Potatoes, grains, sugar beets, livestock, irrigation.
Chap. 2 - Business and Industry
Banking, Chamber of Commerce, Rogers Brothers Seed.
Chap. 3 - Amusements, Arts and Music
Amusements: dancing, circus, baseball, theaters, Heise Hot Springs, War Bonnet Roundup, parades. Arts: painting, drama, dance, music, symphony, opera theatre.
Chap. 4 - Communications
Newspapers, telephone, broadcast.
Chap. 5 - Celebrations
Centennials and Jubilees, Pioneer Day, Intersec.
Chap. 6 - Churches
Chap. 7 - City Government
Mayors, City Hall, Public Library; Departments of Electricity, Fire, Police, Building and Planning, Parks and Recreation, Public Works.
Chap. 8 - Courthouse and Federal Post Office
Chap. 9 - Historic Preservation Efforts
Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission (Historic buildings, places, homes), Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Chap. 10 - Schools
Chap. 11 - Clubs/Fraternal Organizations
Lodges, Sportsmen's Association, American Legion and other Veterans Associations, Boy Scouts.
Chap. 12 - Transportation
Railroad, Automobiles, Aviation.
Chap. 13 - Medical Practice &Amp; Hospitals
Chap. 14 - Native Americans
Chap. 15 - Snake River
Bridges, Greenbelt, Temple.
Chap. 16 - Tourism and Hotels
Chap. 17 - Lawyers and Judges
Chap. 18 - War Efforts
Red Cross, World War I, World War II.
Chap. 19 - Population Growth
Chap. 20 - INEL
Appendix 1 - Bibliography Guide
Appendix 2 - Chronology