Idaho State Journal Pocatello, Idaho, Sunday, April 6,1980 Mormons Helped Lay Rails Into Idaho, Settled in Area By Betty Hale
Colaborador: jdeanhagler Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
It was 1878 when the narrow gauge Utah Northern Railroad reached Pocatello from the south. The road from Ogden to Franklin, Idaho, was promoted by the LDS church and mining interests in Butte, Mont.
Northern Utah was rich agricultural area which would profit from railroad connections. Its most lucrative market had come to be the mining camps around Butte, which had been experiencing a boom since the middle 1860's. While Butte, Virginia City, and Helena were fully 500 wagon miles north of Ogden, they depended heavily on Mormon farmers for their food and freighting. Every mile that a railroad was pushed toward Montana would increase the mutually profitable exchange between Butte and northern Utah.
Farmers and men of all occupations were "called" by Brigham Young to work on the railroad. The church was an important stockholder.
From Franklin on, the railroad was under new management. The Union Pacific purchased interests and formed a new company. Some Mormon families and small groups followed the railroad north and established homes in Pocatello and the Upper Snake River Valley.
Among them was a Thomas Richardson, the son of Thomas Richardson who joined the church in England. The elder Richardson's family was in Nauvoo, Ill., when the Saints were driven across the river to Montrose. Young Thomas was born there. His mother died. He and his brothers and sisters were taken into families of friends. Their father was called back to England on a mission for the church. When he returned the United states was at war with Mexico and he was recruited as a member of the Mormon Batallion. He marched to California where he was released from the army. (He actually was on the sick detail in Pueblo) He walked back to Utah where he and a friend were outfitted with a wagon and they went back to get their families. Young Thomas was seven years old when he and his father and other brothers and sisters came back to Utah with the Cutlers Handcart Company, again walking all the way.
The family settled in Utah and eventually young Thomas moved to cache Valley where he went to work for the railroad. His wife, Mereb Stone Richardson, came along with him and as they laid rails through McCammon and along the Portneuf Valley she ran the cook shack. There were few women in the group and she taught Indian women to help her. They learned to mix bread and helped serve meals.
Thomas was section foreman. July 4 came while they were working on the road and they wanted to celebrate. The railroad site was dry, dust, sage-covered desert with no shade. Among there granchildr4en is Arla Lish of Inkom, who says:
"They tell of dumping large kegs of spikes to use the kegs to hold up a platform. I guess the spikes were too heavy to move. I would hope they put up their platform down near the river where there was a little shade. grandma Richardson made an American Flag." Arla is sure that Grandfather Richardson was one of the performers. He was a talented step dancer and enjoyed entertaining.
Thomas continued to work for the railroad until his retirement, working for the Oregon Short Line Construction crews and later in the Pocatello railroad yards. He eventually settled in Inkom where he built a little log cabin which is still in evidence.
Many others came to Pocatello to work for the railroad. Many Pocatello people will remember Arthur Petersen, who was a telegrapher, and his father who came here when he was a young boy.
They came and stayed and became part of the many nationalities and people of many religious persuasions that made up early Pocatello.