In 1863 Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, sent Lorenzo Hill Hatch to serve as the temporal and spiritual leader of the community. He was the town’s first mayor and second Mormon bishop as well as the first Mormon legislator to go to Boise to represent the area. He was the main connection between the local community and the central church in Salt Lake City until 1875. In 1865, under the direction of Bishop Hatch, a rock building was commenced for a meeting house and in 1866 another rock building was a schoolhouse. It was a substantial sandstone structure, twenty-five by forty feet, with a shingle roof and ample room for the school children for a number of years. It was torn down later to make room for the present brick structure. Bishop Hatch also had built the FCMI Mercantile which was the first store in the State of Idaho.
Early sketch of Franklin’s pioneer school house as it may have appeared in the 1860s.
School and Church
The humble beginnings of education in the state of Idaho started in Franklin. Opening in the fall of 1860 at William Comish’s home, Hannah Comish taught twenty-one children for three months. The Franklin school impacted the surrounding area in that it provided local children an education and gave community school teachers the second greatest influence next to the bishop. The first teacher, chosen by the bishop, was George A. Davy. The school opened in the fall of 1861, with about 70 pupils in attendance. The students used slates and pencils made from the slate rock found in the mountains east of Franklin. In 1863-64 William Woodward taught school, collecting payment from each pupil, for a total of about $10 per month.
Franklin - First Permanent Settlement in Idaho
Location and Name
Franklin is located on Highway 91 just across the Utah border on the southern end of Franklin County. It was first called Green Meadows because of the abundant vegetation in the area. Later the name was changed to honor LDS apostle Franklin D. Richards who visited the area frequently after it was founded. It is the only town in the United States named Franklin that is not named after Benjamin Franklin.
Prior to the Mormons coming to Cache Valley, a tribe of Shoshone Indians roamed the area. Chief Bear Hunter (Shoshone) was the most prominent leader of this band. His hatred of the white people began with the founding of Wellsville, Idaho, and continued until his final stand against them in 1863. Peter Maughan, leader of the Wellsville settlers, met with Chief Bear Hunter in 1855 just prior to the influx of the Wellsville settlers. Understandably, Chief Bear Hunter and his band objected to the coming of the white men. Chief Bear Hunter held a grudge against the whites until he was killed in the vicinity of Franklin seven years after Wellsville was settled. In 1860, President Brigham Young requested that several settlers move from Utah towns to settle near the Muddy River (now Cub River) in northern Cache Valley. With a total of five groups from Slaterville, Kaysville, Provo, Payson, and Bountiful, Utah they started out for Cache Valley in March of that same year.
By the fall of 1860 a total of sixty families were gathered together to start their new life in the Franklin fort. The following men/women (families included) are considered the founders of Franklin and occupied the fort in 1863. East Side: Jane Nelson, A.M. Neeley, Joseph Dunkley, William Howell, C. H. Poulsen, Sr., John Doney, Edward Kingsford, T. C. D. Howell, Andrew Morrison, Wm. Pratt, Nathan Packer, L. H. Hatch, Leonard I. Smith, Thos. Mendenhall, Sr., Everet Van Orden, W.K. Comish, Nephi Comish, C. W. Fox, Wm. Lennox, Sr., John Morrison, Dabner Keel, John Frew, John Goaslind, Richard Coulter, James Oliverson, James Sanderson, Samuel Sanderson, Peter Preece, and Geo. W. Crocheron. South side: Wm. Woodward, Wm. Comish, Robert Cox, John Bowman, Wm. Lundgree, Charles Olsen, Samuel Handy, Thomas McCann, Elvira T. Wheeler, S. R. Parkinson, Mary Pool, Peter Pool, Peter Nash, I. B. Nash, Arnold Godliff, George Lee, Enoch Broadbent, Henry Hobbs, Thomas Ball. West Side: Wm. Corbridge, Sr., Mrs. Hampton, James Cowan, Jr., Thomas Slater, Charles Spongberg, Wm. Whitehead, Wm. Pratt, I. H. Vail, Ephraim Elsworth, Nathan Packer, Thomas Bennett, John Biggs, W. C. Patton, Charles Hobbs, Sr., George Alder, Gabriel Maybetrry, Joseph Mayberry, Thomas Mayberry, Owen Roberts, W. T. Wright, Thomas Hull, Jr., Peter Lowe, Thomas Hull, Sr., Allen Rankin. North Side: Joshua Messervy, Sr., Joshua Meservy, Jr., John Laird, Alexander Bothwick, amelious Hansen, Thomas Lowe, Sr., Wm. Garner, Martha Howland, Thomas Smart, W. G. Nelson, Jr., James Packer, George A. Davey, Robert Dowdle, Alexander Stalker, Shem Purnell, Alfred Alder, Wm. Bishop, Sarah Marshall, Joseph Chadwick. Outside the Fort: Nathaniel Parrat, Robert Gregory, Mary Chadwick, Ben Chadwick, George Foster, W. L. Webster, and Preston Thomas.
Other families that settled in Franklin and the surrounding area included: William Rogers, James Dawson, William Fluitt, John Reede, James Lofthouse, James May, Alma Taylor, Charles Shumway, John Comish, James Chadwick, John Corbridge, James Frew, George Hampton, Benjamin C. Baker, Samuel Huff, Robert Hull, William Hull, William Handy, Thomas Mendenhall Jr., John Messervy, Joseph Messervy, Joseph S. Nelson, Taylor Packer, John Smith, Thomas Smith, Susannah Preece, Mark Preece, Martha G. Vail, Robert Taylor, Edward Price, Martin H. Pack, George Taft Benson, John Thompson, Elliot Butterworth, Thomas Butterworth, Edmond Buckley, Joseph Chatterton, A. N. Clements, Joseph Scarborough, Edward Gamble, Thomas Durrant, Clarissa Eastman, David Jensen, Edmond Nelson, Joshua Hawkes, James Gilbert, Thomas Preston, John Albiston, Mary Handy Atkinson, James Atkinson, John Laird, Wm. Lynox Sr., Nephi Packer, Thomas Bennett. W. C. Patten, James Haworth, Richard Coulter, Thomas S. Smart, James Packer, James Haworth, Alex Lowe, William H. Head, Owen Roberts, and Joseph Perkins.
The settlement of Franklin was divided into lots which were large enough (1¼ acres each) to accommodate a garden, barn, and outbuildings. In the center of the rectangular Franklin Fort stood the bowery where worship services and secular council meetings were conducted. Also within the rectangle was a common community well and a corral to conceal cattle from night-time Indian raids and the ravages of wild animals. Every man in the Fort had a cane lot east of town, on which he raised sugar cane. The hay lands lay south and west of town, near the cemetery, which were known as “New Fields.” Broom corn was also grown east of town and it was made into brooms. The pasture lands west of Franklin inspired the name “Green Meadows.”
The main valley militia unit was stationed in Logan. Each settlement, including Franklin, had their own group of minute men. In Franklin, the group was composed of all able-bodied men who were capable of being ready in the event of danger. Each man in the militia had his own horse and rifle. In addition, the Franklin minute men were also able to put Mount Smart or Look-out Mountain (now Little Mountain) to use by posting guards on top so that they could keep watch on Indians and other movements in the valley. Fortunately fatal events involving Indians in the immediate vicinity of Franklin were few and isolated.
During the summer of 1860, all of Franklin’s able-bodied men and boys were called to work on the irrigation ditch about four miles outside the fort. In their absence, they left William Gardner and a crippled boy to stay at home and take care of affairs. During the day, to the terror of the settlers, seventeen Shoshone warriors, decorated with war paint and feathers, rode into the settlement. Mr. Gardner treated them kindly and ordered buttermilk and bread to be brought to them. He stood at the entrance to the settlement and entertained the warriors while the crippled boy rode the four miles to inform the men and boys working on the ditch. In the meantime, the Indians seemed satisfied with the kindness of the people and soon rode away. Soon after their departure the men from the settlement arrived. The settlers rejoiced and named the event the “Buttermilk War”.
About the middle of June of 1861, more than a thousand Indians from Oregon entered the valley and were determined to clear the country of whites. The value of the military organizations became evident, and the militia and minute men of each settlement were assembled and were prepared for instant service at any threatened point. Strong guards watched the herds by day and the settlements by night. A body of fifty selected men, under the command of Major Ricks with George L. Farrell and J. H. Martineau as aides, was stationed about a mile from the Indian encampment to act as an observation corp. The Indians also sent out spies to detect weak places for attack, but they found none so they gave up and returned to Oregon. In spite of the vigilance of the settlers, the Indians stole many horses on that occasion.
During the fall and early winter of 1862, large bands of Indians under Chief Bear Hunter, Chief Sagwich and Chief Pocatello began to assemble at their wintering grounds on Battle Creek approximately twelve miles northwest of Franklin. The Indians were especially burdensome to the settlers of Franklin because of their constant demands for food, and because of their stealing and thievery. In areas beyond Franklin plundering and deadly skirmishes between the Indians and miners and between Indians and other emigrant parties were too frequent. These events had been reported to the U. s. military forces stationed at Fort Douglas near Salt Lake City, Utah.
For the most part, the Indians began getting more and more troublesome keeping everyone in a state of fear and suspense. They would wait until the men were at the fields, then visit the cabins, and if the women would not give them everything they asked for, they would dance around them, yell and swing their tomahawks, all the time getting closer and closer until the women feared they were going to be scalped.
Chief Bear Hunter seemed to delight in getting involved with affairs adverse to the white men. On September 28, 1862, some Indians from the north ran off with thirty horses stolen in Logan. Volunteers went after them. Chief Bear Hunter sent one of his braves to inform the Indian horse thieves so they could get away. The volunteers overtook the Indians on the Cub River near Franklin. It was a dark, cold, rainy night making it impossible to pursue them that night. The next morning they resumed the pursuit, but the Indians had escaped during the night. The pursuit lasted from Sunday until Tuesday. The volunteers finally gave up the chase, and the Indians got away with eighteen head of horses.
On October 1, 1862, a band of Bannock Indians near present-day Soda Springs, were assembled planning a raid on Cache valley. The Cache Valley settlers became aware of their plans. Consequently twenty-five “Minute Men” were assembled and sent to Franklin. The Indians would never attack unless the odds were greatly in their favor, so when they found out about the assembled minute men they abandoned the attack.
During the winter of 1862-63, a band of Shoshone Indians, including men, women and children, established themselves for the winter in a sheltered spot adjacent to Bear River, approximately twelve miles northwest of Franklin. The military attachment at Fort Douglas had been apprised of the location of winter camp, and concluded that the band represented the culprit Indians who had committed the reported plundering and massacres.
In response to the request for help, Colonel Patrick E. Connor lead a detachment of 300 California volunteers, consisting of infantry and cavalry troops, from Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah north to the Idaho border. On the sub-zero morning of January 29, 1863, a fight took place at the Bear River encampment. Few of the Indians escaped; most were killed in hand to hand combat; some hid or pretended to be dead while others swam down the Bear River in the freezing water. Twenty three soldiers were also killed as the out-maneuvered Indians attempted to defend themselves. After the fighting was over, men of Franklin used their teams and sleighs to help remove the wounded troops from the scene of carnage, including a few surviving, innocent Indian women and children. Initially, they were taken to Franklin where they were cared for until other arrangements could be made. The settlers were deeply saddened by this tragedy, which turned out to be the last major clash with the Indians in the mountain west. Some of the orphaned Indian children were taken into Franklin homes and raised to adulthood.
The FCMI Mercantile store, built by Bishop Hatch, was the first store in the state of Idaho.
In 1861, Josha Messervy installed a “pit saw” by digging a hole or pit in the ground deep enough so a man could stand in it. The timbers were rolled into position over the pit and with one man in the pit under the log and one on top, with a large saw with handles on each end, the log was slowly ripped into lumber. This was the beginnings of the first saw mill in Idaho. Samuel R Parkinson and Thomas Smart built a sawmill operated by an undershot waterwheel near the present residence of S. C. Parkinson. Mr. Thomas Lowe and his son T. G. Lowe built the first shingle and lath mill in the state, just east of Franklin, and James Haworth and partners started the first grist mill in Idaho on Cub River.
In December, 1868, the Deseret Telegraph lines, which connected the settlements in Utah, were extended to Franklin, the first in the state. It was first installed in the southeast corner of the Franklin Mercantile Cooperative Store. It was from this location that a telegram announced to the world that the Sioux Indian warriors had defeated and massacred General George Custer and his troops at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana, on June 25, 1876. At that time the nearest telegraph lines were in Bozeman, Montana, some 150 miles from the battlefield, and it was to Bozeman that the dispatch riders first brought the news. As fate would have it, the telegraph equipment at Bozeman was malfunctioning. Consequently, the message was sent by stagecoach to Eagle Rock (now Idaho Falls, Idaho). Again the telegraph equipment at Eagle Rock was malfunctioning, and the stage hastened all the way to Franklin before the driver could deliver the dispatches into the hands of a telegrapher whose transmitting key was operable. The young Franklin operator, Hezekiah Eastman Hatch, was somewhat inexperienced and slow with the telegraph key. He did however, dutifully and laboriously tap out the very long and detailed dispatch to Salt Lake City. Finally, after five hours of work, Hatch ended the message stating “That is all,” to which the Salt Lake receiver replied “Thank God”.
Just two years prior to the Big Horn episode, the Utah and Northern Railroad had been extended north from Ogden, Utah. On May 2, 1874, the first train (a freighter) to enter Idaho territory arrived in Franklin. For two years Franklin was the railroad’s most northern terminal which transformed Franklin into bustling prosperity. At one time there were over 200 wagoner freighters transporting goods from the Franklin railroad terminal into Montana and points north. Franklin was a growing community and all indications were that Franklin would become the center of northern Cache valley. It was often called Franklin, Utah.
Franklin resident Elliott Butterworth was the force behind preserving relics from this era and interpreting early history. The Franklin Relic Hall, built in 1937, is a landmark in the community and a tribute to Franklin’s earliest settlers.
Franklin was Actually in Idaho, not Utah
The act creating Utah Territory was signed by President Millard Fillmore on September 9, 1850. The boundaries of the territory were the forty-second parallel on the north, the thirty-seventh parallel on the south, and the summits of the Rocky Mountains to the east, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west. Then in March of 1863, Idaho Territory was officially organized by an act of Congress, and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The northern portion of Cache Valley was then claimed by Idaho. Utah considered Franklin part of its territory and in an act of the Utah Legislature on February, 1861 had already incorporated Franklin City in Cache County. The dispute between the two territories was quite important to Franklin; the community would naturally wish to remain part of the territory for which is was suited. This would stay in effect even after Franklin became part of Idaho. A government survey of the west was taken in 1872, and fixed the exact location of the boundary. Officially Franklin was declared in the state of Idaho. This new realization that they were part of Idaho had a sobering effect upon the people of Franklin. The largest number of people in the state lived in northern Idaho, far away from them. To the south, the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints and State of Utah could not help the Franklin settlement as they had done in the past.
The early settlement and founding of Franklin has been able to greatly impact the surrounding area in Utah and its legal state of Idaho. Not only was it the first town established in Idaho, but the town of Franklin has also been able to be the place where many business ventures, etc. were first introduced into the state of Idaho. The need for growth became the mother of innovation resulting in many of Idaho’s “firsts”, including a saw mill, grist mill, store, woolen mill, creamery, telegraph, telephone, and railroad.
The Franklin Relic Hall (museum) is located in the historic district of Franklin.