Local History…

The town of Eagle Rock grew at the site of a toll bridge over the Snake River that was constructed by J M. Taylor in 1864 or 1865.

The gold rush to Idaho and Montana had resulted in an increase in the number of people needing to cross the river, and the junction of a Salt Lake-Montana road with a westbound connector to the Lander Road and the Oregon Trail became a natural location for a trading settlement.

The rapid expansion of commercial ventures in the town after rail service arrived in 1879 and the location here of the Utah Northern Railroad shops in 1880 allowed the town’s population to stabilize and grow.

The relocation of the railroad shops to Pocatello in 1887 resulted in a decrease in population in Idaho Falls, but as irrigated agriculture developed in the area, the town expended to become the economic and trade center or the surrounding reason.

In 1891 the name was changed to Idaho Falls.

In the Beginning…

While the official organization of Trinity Methodist Church, Idaho Falls, dates back to April 27, 1886, when incorporation was accomplished, Methodist history in Eastern Idaho began more than fifty years earlier.

In 1834, pioneer Methodist missionary Jason Lee preached the first sermon west of the Rockies at Fort Hall.  The first Methodist services in Eagle Rock were held in the summer of 1866 by three ministers, Riggins, Van Orsdel and Iliff who were on their way from Montana to Salt lake City to attend an annual conference.  Brother Van, as Van Orsdel was known, would return in 1918 for the conference held here.

By 1881 and 1882 Rev. Riggins, who was the superintendent of the Montana mission of which this portion of Idaho territory was a part, held services here regularly.

In the fall of 1883, Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church of Eagle Rock was organized by the Rev. And Mrs. E. B. Elder, Mrs. Susan Watts, Miss Sallie Austin, Mr. And Mrs Jesse Long Mrs. W. B. Green, and Mrs Sarah E. Crow.  Services were held in the old frame school house which stood in the middle of Elm Street, just east of Water Avenue.  A small Esty reed organ was purchased.  Under the energetic leadership of Anna Davis Elder, the wife of the pastor, the ladies raised money for lamps to be used in the schoolhouse where meetings and church were held.  Later services were held in the newly built Baptist Church.

By the late 1880’s the church began to plan for expansion.  On April 27, 1886 Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church of Eagle Rock was incorporated by John J. Wahlgreen, John H. Mason, C. B. Wheeler, W. H. B. Brow, all of Eagle Rock, and Rev. J. P. Morris of Blackfoot.  On the same date the church purchased Lots7 and 8 in Block 23 of Eagle Rock, the present site of the church, for which $285.00 was paid.  The Eagle Rock Register  noted the purchase but the paper commented, “From what we have learned, the lot selected is the net thing to a hole in the ground far out in the country, in the vicinity of Crow’s Addition.  Had the committee taken into consideration the fact that a large number of men congregate at the saloons on Sunday evenings who would attend if the church were in a convenient location, they would probably not have located it so far out of town.”  The inconvenient location was at what is now Elm and Water Streets, our present location.

A subscription of $1300.00 was raised and application was made to the church extension society for a loan of $500.00 and a donation of $500.00.  The loan of $500.00 was granted but the donation was made for $250.00.

The cornerstone was laid on September 9, 1855.  Excavation began and lava rock was hauled in for the basement.  But Eagle Rock suffered a sudden and devastating economic depression when the Oregon Short Line car shops moved to Pocatello.  Church construction came to a halt with only one church member remaining in town.  The church remained without a pastor until the fall of 1892 when the church was transferred from the Montana Conference to the Idaho Conference.

By 1895 fortunes changed and work was begun again on the construction with the cornerstone being laid on September 9, 1895,  The church was enclosed and plastered and three rooms in the basement were finished off for Pastor Hardman and his family to live in.  The building had a bell in the tower over the entrance hall, chairs for seats, the small reed organ, and a central stove with a long pipe to reach the chimney.

The congregation numbered 24 in 1895 and by 1899 the members numbered 29.  The population of Eagle Rock was 1200.

     Trinity United Methodist Church; 237 N. Water Ave. Idaho Falls, ID 83402                   208-522-7921        TrinityUMCIdahoFalls@gmail.com