Idaho Falls - City of Destiny

Early Churches

"Idaho Falls Churches Have Modern Homes," the Idaho Falls Daily Post's Peace and Prosperity Edition wrote in 1919. "Churches of almost every denomination are represented in Idaho Falls, there being the Trinity Methodist, First Presbyterian, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. Johns Episcopal, Christian, Baptist, Catholic, Swedish Mission, German Lutheran and Christian Science."

Members of the Jewish faith have lived here from the early days, but the nearest Jewish synagogue has been in Pocatello. The following sketches of the early churches were prepared by representatives of each.


The First Baptist Church of Idaho Falls was founded by ten charter members in August of 1884, under the calling and inspiration of Mrs. Rebecca Mitchell. Through her efforts, the congregation, and help of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, a chapel was built and dedicated in November of that year. Over the years that building also housed the area's first school and library, as well as becoming the early meeting place for several other churches.

In the late 1950s the growing congregation bought its site on John Adams Parkway and constructed the current building.

Rebecca Mitchell. The little steam engine screeched to a steamy, dusty halt on June 5, 1882 in the little town of Eagle Rock, Idaho. Among the few passengers who stepped off that day came a fiesty little woman in her late forties, dragging a reluctant adolescent daughter. Rebecca Mitchell had dreamed of this day for many years, but must have had some misgivings as she gazed about at this frontier village with one store, no schools, no churches, but a host of saloons.

Mrs. Mitchell was a woman with a mission. She had long yearned to be a missionary to spread the truth of Jesus, but circumstances had not been favorable. Finally she saw her opportunity and took the youngest daughter, Bessie, and headed to the Baptist Missionary Training School in Chicago for preparation, then to the mission field--the wild West.

She was advised to go to the prosperous mining town of Bellevue, but the money ran out at Eagle Rock, so she determined to serve God where she was. As she had hardly a cent, the station master treated them to breakfast and then she sought a place to live. She found a dirty room behind a building, borrowed a broom and unpacked. Within five days she had visited every family in the community. Then on Sunday, June 11, 1882, she conducted the first Sunday School. On the following morning with the same 18 pupils, she organized a day school. Her small shanty on what became Eagle Rock St., formerly a saloon, was their school room, and boxes served for seats and desks. This early day Sunday School she named "Providence Mission," for her faith found expression in Mark 9:23: "...all things are possible to him that believeth."

During the week Mrs. Mitchell taught reading, writing and arithmetic to the few children she could gather, and each Sunday she followed her real love, to teach about Jesus. Before long she had acquired a lot on the corner of Eastern Ave. and Ash St., and with help from the the mission society and private gifts from persons to whom she wrote, she built a building; and in August of 1885 the First Baptist Church began officially for ten charter members. The frame building, which stood there for more than 70 years, became a community meeting place. It had to be greatly enlarged in 1934, but by the 1950s was again too small to handle the task, so the new church was built on John Adams Parkway.

Submitter: R. Carl Reynolds, Pastor

First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church of Idaho Falls, Idaho was organized just before the turn of the century. About 1889 Charles and Martha Ramsay moved to Eagle Rock from New York, and finding no Presbyterians, began attending the First Baptist Church. Subsequently the Ramsays began promoting interest in organizing a Presbyterian church. Eight people voted support, and the Baptists allowed them to begin holding separate services in their building. On April 29, 1891, the Rev. Samuel D. Wishart, synodical missionary for this region, organized the First Presbyterian Church. In August, work was begun on a building at the corner of Shoup and A, and the church was dedicated on April 24, 1882. Total cost was $1600. The choir was organized within the year and soon after that the church was carpeted, painted, and furnished with window shades and a 1200-pound bell.

The first minister was Rev. D. E. Van Geison who stayed only three months. He was followed in quick succession by five other ministers. Finally after 15 years of very slow growth, Rev. Hugh Jones came in 1906, and during his six years 252 members were received. The church began to be too small and in 1915 serious consideration was given to moving `across the tracks' to the residential section. Just before Christmas, 1917, Rev. Arthur Richards came as pastor and during his tenure property for a new building was secured. The frame church had to be sold to provide a down payment for construction. Having no place else to go, the determined Presbyterians moved into a "tabernacle" on Eastern Avenue, which had been constructed in one week at a cost of $318; it was covered with tar paper and the floor was sawdust.

Under Rev. Richards' leadership, the new church was built at Ridge and Elm at a total cost of $90,000. The building is done in the Greek classic style and set on a terrace suggestive of the Greek hills. The four columns are the largest ever taken from the Boise sandstone quarry and were transported over 300 miles of unpaved roads. The building was dedicated in a huge ceremony on Sunday, April 11, 1920.

Soon after the dedication, financial problems began. In April, 1923, Rev. Gulick, recently graduated from Princeton Seminary and serving the church in Soda Springs, asked for a chance to save the building. Dr. Joe, as he became known, stayed until 1959. He took the pastorate at a starvation wage, teaching history in the high school to supplement his salary. But it was really the women who paid for the church building. Year after year they sold dinners to the public and held bazaars. The last payment of $4000 was made just before the church's fiftieth anniversary, Sunday, May 8, 1941.

Dr. Gulick initiated the first religious service broadcast over radio in Idaho as a Sunday night feature. For eight years this service began with a 60-member robed choir singing "Day Is Dying in the West." Since about 1906 the Presbyterian Women have held a Colonial Tea, to which the community is invited each February.

Submitter: Jo Snell
Sources: Centennial Committee chaired by Les and Jean Kiel


For some years before any parish, mission or station existed in southeastern Idaho, a number of Catholic families had settled in and around Eagle Rock, reaching that locality in 1879 as ranchers, farmers, and as employees of the Utah Northern Railroad shops. In 1884, Father Nattini of Hailey procured from the Anderson Bank, lots 5 and 67 in block 21 in Eagle Rock. On July 29, 1885 these two lots were deeded to the Vicarate. Father Nattini and Father Edward Morrissey made one or two visits a year to the area until June of 1888. At that time Father Van der Donckt was assigned to Pocatello and made trips to Eagle Rock to say Mass in the homes of parishioners.

In 1891 the foundation of the church was laid, but the panic of 1893 caused a delay in construction of the superstructure for three years. The 22 by 36 foot church on Eastern Avenue was completed but not furnished during 1897. Rev. James E. Mooney was appointed pastor on September 18, 1900. Folding chairs were installed by mid-October for Sunday worship. Pews were installed in March of 1901, and on Easter Sunday 1901 the first High Mass was celebrated. The church was dedicated in May as Holy Rosary Parish. In 1907 two side altars were installed as gifts of E. P. Coltman and C. C. Tautphaus.

The year 1912 brought the railroad Chapel Car "St. Peter," provided by the Extension Society, for Catechism and Missions, into the area. About sixty Catholic families moved into the area to develop farms and businesses from 1906 to 1918. In 1919 Father Thomas Purcell realized the need for a larger church and purchased lots at 9th and Lee streets in Idaho Falls. The new church at that location, which was the first floor auditorium of the school, was dedicated on February 15, 1920. The new school opened in September of 1921.

Faber Hall. Faber Hall was acquired and used as a Parish Hall from 1930 through 1949 as the official meeting place for the church's various social organizations. Marie Faber was responsible for financing its purchase. This was the original telephone building on Broadway. The lower floor boasted a fine hardwood floor, mural paintings and a stage. The upstairs had two apartments which were rented out. Later in 1951 it was sold to the Labor Union and was called the Labor Temple.

The present Holy Rosary Church was first used and dedicated in 1949. The continued growth of the Holy Rosary Parish Community warranted dividing the parish and building a second Catholic Church in Idaho Falls. In 1967 the new Christ the King Church was dedicated at the corner of 17th and Woodruff streets. By 1991, due to unavilability of nuns, lay teachers were teaching all classes in the Catholic School. The Convent has been converted into the Parish Center. Two religious education buildings built near Skyline and Idaho Falls high schools in the 1970s have been sold to the school district for additional classrooms.

Submitter: Joan Drexler.
Source: Blackrobe's Journey.

St. John Evangelical Lutheran

The migration of members of the LDS Church from the Eastern part of the United States to Northern Utah and to Southeastern Idaho did much to aid and abet the development of the area. However, not all the immigrants were Mormon in their religious beliefs. Members of other denominations also settled in the fertile Snake River Valley.

Because of the newness of the area the mission field was unlimited and the Reverend E. P. Meyer of Squirrel, Idaho, sensed the opportunity and realized the necessity for a mission program beginning in 1902. After he had served the community for several years as a visiting Pastor, in 1909 he was officially installed as a Missionary Pastor to Idaho Falls and to the surrounding vicinity. He built up the congregation to a communicant membership of 18 by the time he accepted a call to Memo, South Dakota. The next few years produced several changes in the pastorship of the small congregation.

In the spring of 1913 Reverend William Jaeger came to Idaho Falls and surrounding territories as a missionary. It was during his work in Idaho Falls that these Lutheran people organized into a congregation on December 28, 1913. The congregation was using the old Swedish Lutheran Church on alternate Sundays. The first parsonage was located on 7th Street. During this time the congregation was increasing in number. Pressing and immediate need for a permanent church edifice was evidenced. in 1922 a small frame church was constructed and dedicated on the corner of 7th and Emerson. The present church is located on the same ground.

In 1930 the congregation became self-supporting and also paid off the indebtedness on their second church building. Another important phase of St. John Lutheran Church's progress was its acceptance into the Missouri Synod in 1933. No longer was this Church a separate entity, but it had now become an integral part of a large Synod.

In 1935 two lots East of the church and five lots West on the South side of 7th Street were purchased. A ten-room parsonage on 13th Street was given to the congregation by one of its members. In 1937 the first parsonage was converted into the parochial school which was begun in 1938 and operated until 1946. In 1947 a new parsonage was built East of the first church, and in 1948 ground was broken for the new church building. First services were held in the basement of the new church building in 1949, and the old building was sold and moved the next spring. A new education wing was dedicated in 1958.

Submitter: St. John Lutheran Church

Christian Science

It was in 1900 that a few people interested in the study of Christian Science met regularly each Sunday at the home of one of the group.... When increasing interest made necessary a suitable meeting place, the Masonic temple on Broadway was used for several years.

A Christian Science society, a branch of the mother church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass., was organized on September 12, 1912. A Sunday school was established immediately and a reading room opened in a down town office building on November 8, 1917, where Christian Science literature could be read, borrowed or purchased.

The group grew in members and finally a committee was appointed to find a permanent church home. A building at 234 C Street was selected, purchased, remodeled and occupied as a church edifice in December of 1925. Shortly afterward the full requirements for a church organization were fulfilled and the society was merged into the First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Idaho Falls, on October 17, 1930. In August, 1933, the church was incorporated as a religious organization and obtained a charter from the state of Idaho. The building was dedicated that December after the full debt incurred by the purchase of the church had been paid. (Post-Register, Sep. 10, 1934)

Salvation Army

In 1934 the Post-Register wrote:

For years a Salvation Army post has been located in Idaho Falls. Known for its charities, the local post has had ample opportunity to help the poor and indigent of the community as well as transients who, during the past few years have stopped here in search for employment and have gone by the hundreds to the Salvation Army for aid. During the past winter the post served meals to hundreds each month, the number of meals served often approaching the 1000 mark.
In addition to such work among the unfortunates, the post sponsors regular church services, often conducted out of doors and at other times at the army building on the corner of Capital avenue and C street. Cap. Carl Duiell and Mrs. Dueill have charge here and are entering their third year of service in Idaho Falls. Mrs. Dueill heads a Ladies' Home league which boasts 72 members. There is a young people's group with 100 members and there are 55 enrolled in the Sunday School.
For several years the post had headquarters in an old frame building on the corner of Capital avenue and B street, where the foundation for a new Salvation Army home has been constructed. Capt. H. J. Gallahue had charge of the local post prior to Captain Dueill's administration.

Submitter: Mary Jane Fritzen
Sources: Post-Register, September 10, 1934

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been part of the community of Idaho Falls since very early in the 1900s, when a group of Christians living in the Idaho Falls area gathered to consider forming a congregation of the Christian Church. The congregation languished for lack of pastoral leadership, but the Ladies Aid carried on. These loyal working women purchased a triangular lot at the corner of what is now Birch and Boulevard.

In 1915, the South Idaho Christian Missionary Society sent the Rev. D. B. Titus to see what could be done to form a congregation. The group started meeting in the Star Theater, and soon decided to build a building on their lot. On February 20, 1916, the chapel was dedicated. The total cost was $3200.00 of which about $3,000.00 was still owed. After a sermon entitled "God's Portion," $3,900.00 was raised in cash and pledges. The extra was used to finish the basement.

The congregation for many years continued to have difficulty in supporting a sustained pastoral ministry, and there have been 29 full and part time ministers in the 80-plus years of existence. During the depression in the mid-1930s the Rev. W. F. Pool served the congregation on a part-time basis. He was a federal employee during the same time.

In the early 1950s during a spurt of growth the congregation wanted to improve the building, adding some space. The building also needed many repairs and off-street parking, so a decision was made to sell the property and completely relocate. The building and land was sold to the City of Idaho Falls in about 1962, and building was started at 12th and Westergard in 1963. The old church building was rented from the city until the new one was finished in January 1964.

Submitters: the Reverend Jimmy R. Lebel and Jane Arnold, July 8, 1991
Sources: church scrapbook, including "Manual for the First Christian Church, Idaho Falls, Idaho," dated May 1916.

St. John's Episcopal Church of Idaho Falls

Episcopal ministry began in Idaho in 1864 when the Rev. Fackler rode his horse up the Boise River Valley. A missionary of the Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society, he served in Boise and the neighboring mining camps. In 1866, Daniel S. Tuttle was elected Bishop and assigned to the area including Montana, Idaho, and Utah. His youth and great vigor were an advantage for his service in the rugged frontier. In 1880 Bishop Tuttle founded St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Blackfoot.

People from Eagle Rock made contact with him and requested that he come here in the spring to perform a marriage between Luther Arthur Buckner and Emma Muckley. He performed the wedding in John Muckley's home on April 13, 1881. During his stay, Episcopalians and Anglicans in the area asked him if he might hold services in Eagle Rock.

On August 12, 1881, the Rt. Rev. Tuttle rode the caboose of the Utah and Northern Railroad to Eagle Rock, gathered a small group of worshippers together in the home of James Richie and began to form a congregation.

It is assumed the new church was called St. John's because the Eagle is the symbol of St. John, the Evangelist, and the town was named Eagle Rock. For the first few years, the members met in each other's homes or held services during the week in the Baptist Church; circuit priests of the Episcopal Church, shared with Blackfoot and Fort Hall, conducted the services. By 1895, the membership had grown to 30 families, who organized to erect the first St. John's Episcopal Church in Idaho Falls. B. J. Briggs and W. M. Keeler were the contractors for the red brick chapel built at the corner of Park Avenue and :"A" Street. The handsomely carved pews are still in use in the Children's Chapel in the present church. By 1909, that building was razed and a new one erected at the present site on Placer Avenue. The second building was replaced in the 1960s by the present building. The old rectory was moved and is still in use by the Speech and Hearing Center on Rollandet.

The Episcopal Church remained a mission under several vicars until January 1953, when it became self-supporting with the Rev. David Blackaller as the first rector.

Submitter: Virginia E. Doucette.
Sources: See folder in Bonneville Museum for sources, photos, and names and dates of clerymen, vicars and rectors. St. John's Historians, 1990-1991, Mary Burnet, Virginia Doucette.

Alliance Covenant Church

Alliance Covenant roots go deep into the Idaho Falls community. On July 30, 1895, a group of Swedish families called a meeting to start a Swedish language church in the New Sweden area, west of Idaho Falls. This soon became the Swedish Mission Church. On March 10, 1899, another meeting was held by a newly arrived group of Swedish people to organize the Swedish Evangelical Mission Church of Idaho Falls. The first meetings were held on Western Avenue, two blocks west of the present church. Because of growth, land was purchased and a building was erected at Sixth and Boulevard in 1906.

In 1928 the Swedish Mission Church in New Sweden merged with the Swedish Evangelical Mission Church. The early 1930s saw the church switch from the Swedish to English language. On June 5, 1942, the name of the church was changed to Mission Covenant of Idaho Falls. In the 1950s the church constructed a major addition to its 1906 building. This fine structure will continue to provide educational and office space for the present church's growing ministries.

In 1972 the name of the church became Evangelical Covenant Church. The church became a part of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1981 and the name again was changed, this time to Alliance Covenant Church.

Submitter: Alliance Covenant Church
Sources: Alliance Covenant Church, 525 South Boulevard

Trinity United Methodist Church

The official organization of Trinity United Methodist Church dates to April 27, 1886, the pastor being Rev. J. P. Morris.

By the turn of the century, Trinity Methodist Episcopal church had grown to 29 members and services were held in a frame building on the present site at Elm and Water Streets.

Another 25 feet of Elm Street was purchased and a two-story parsonage was constructed.

The present building was built by Dan Sweeney, a local contractor, at a cost of $47,000 dollars, and dedicated on October 7, 1917. The stone was quarried in the Ririe area, and Idaho Falls' first pipe organ, a Hilgren-Lane, still in use, was purchased at a cost of $3,500.00.

As Idaho Falls and the local Methodist population continued to grow, a radio ministry was added, services having been broadcast continuously over KID since the 1940s. In June of 1949 the education wing was added, again under the direction of Dan Sweeney and using the same native stone.

Recently the congregation has purchased the two lots to the north of the building, extending the property to Ash Street. This area, presently paved for parking, will afford an opportunity for expansion in the future. The congregaion in 1991 numbers over 800.

Submitter: Bev Kemp, Church Secretary
Sources: Archives of Trinity United Methodist Church, June 1991.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons)

1847. Brigham Young and Pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley.

1855. B. Young called missionary colonists to build Fort Lemhi among Indians, first attempted white settlement in what is now Idaho.

1879. Railroad brings LDS contractors and workers to Eagle Rock.

1883. Eagle Rock Branch is begun.

1885. Eagle Rock meetinghouse built near present Temple site. The June 13 Register reported "Wild roses in bloom....The new church of the LDS between Trout and Rapid Streets on Western Avenue is nearly completed." Edith Lovell adds, "The plain little wooden chapel was built at a cost of $450. It stood in the deep-blown sand near the river south of the present LDS hospital. Eyes, hair, and clothing were always filled with sand by the time the members gained the door." (Captain Bonneville's County, 225).

Inside was a coal stove in the center of the room, with wooden benches on each side. The men sat on one side and the women on the other. There was a platform where Mr. Evans presided. Mr. Lewis, a Jewish merchant, presented the church with a beautiful chandelier having a reflector and a fringe of jewels, which jingled in the slightest breeze to the delight of the children. A marker by Bonneville Daughters of Utah Pioneers marks the spot.

1886. Eagle Rock branch is organized, then Eagle Rock Ward, with James Thomas first bishop.

1895. New chapel built at Eagle Rock.

1908. Bingham Stake headquarters moved to Idaho Falls, Heber C. Austin, president.

1910. Eagle Rock Ward renamed Idaho Falls Ward.

1915. Stake Tabernacle dedicated by Pres. Joseph F. Smith, E St. and Capital Ave.

1920. Stake office dedicated by Elder Melvin J. Ballard.

1919. Idaho Falls Ward divided to form Idaho Falls 2nd Ward, David Smith, bishop.

1923. LDS Hospital dedicated. (See separate story.)

1935. Idaho Falls Stake divided. David Smith, president Idaho Falls North Stake. Idaho Falls first city in Idaho with more than one stake.

1939. Temple ground breaking ceremonies held.

1945. Idaho Falls Temple dedicated. (See separate story.)

Submitter: Mary Jane Fritzen
Sources: D. V. Groberg, Idaho Falls Temple, The First LDS Temple in Idaho. 1985.
Lloyd Mickelsen, Idaho Falls, Idaho, North Stake History, Idaho Falls, c. 1983.



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