Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, built circa 2005-2007, located at 750 South 2nd East, Rexburg. Photograph by wikipedia username: Andy Knelson, own work, 2000, via wikimedia commons [public domain], accessed February, 2023.
Interest in the Rexburg [†] area seemed to pick up pace as early as 1879. Between 1879 and 1882 a man named John Poole spent time hunting around Menan while working for the Utah Northern Railroad. Mormon Church members heard about fertile farmland in the region and became interested in the site for a settlement. John Taylor, the Mormon President at the time instructed William Preston, President of the Cache Valley Stake, and Thomas E. Ricks, who was ordained Bishop of the New Bannock to scout the site and form a settlement.
In March of 1883, the first log house was constructed. Rexburg began as a Mormon colony with thirteen settlers that year. In 1883, in a foot of snow, the town was surveyed into lots at the direction of William Preston. Preston gave the community its name based on the German ancestral name 'Rex' which is a surname to Thomas Ricks. Thomas Ricks ultimately became the founder of Rexburg and Ricks College, which would eventually become Brigham Young University-Idaho. By May of 1884 there were 875 people living in the town site.
Homesteaders continued to flock to the area despite the hard winters. William F. Rigby introduced saw lumber into Rexburg, and in 1883, opened the first lumber mill. He also opened the first mercantile in 1884. Henry Flamm was the founder of a commercial enterprise known for its lenient credit policy. Flamm was Rexburg's Chairman in 1893 and 1894, and became the first Mayor when City status was achieved in 1903.
The valley grew considerably because of the Northern Railroad. Travelers would use the railroad to go to Market Lake, Roberts, and Eagle Rock, now known as Idaho Falls. A slower form of transportation was used to get to Rexburg until a branch line was created in 1899. Beginning in 1883, ditch and canal work brought much needed irrigation water to the semi-arid desert and bench land. The Rexburg Irrigation Company was organized in 1884 and by 1900 there were 97 canals in the area.
Dry farming began in 1898 and by 1905 was considered a profitable endeavor. The town's first municipal water system was constructed in 1906 at a cost of $25,000. The first water pipes were made of wood. In 1913 board sidewalk started being replaced by paved sidewalks. Street paving started in 1917. Rexburg still has the distinction of having the widest main street in the state.
The Bannock Stake Academy was established as the town's first school in 1888. College courses were added to the curriculum resulting in Ricks Academy which was the first Junior College in the Inter-mountain region. The school became well-known as Ricks College.
Historic Downtown Rexburg In 2001 the college was upgraded to a four-year school and was called Brigham Young University (BYU) Idaho. A number of bachelor degrees are now offered at the school and is a thriving institution of higher learning.
The Madison Memorial Hospital opened in 1951. Prior to that time, private residences were used as hospitals.
On June 5, 1976 at 11:57 a.m., Rexburg faced one of the most catastrophic events that ever happened in the area, the Teton Dam flood. The flood released 80 billion gallons of water into the valley. Houses could be seen floating through town. The damage was overwhelming but the city made a miraculous recovery and within two years everything was cleaned up and rebuilt. Some residents say, "Time in Rexburg is measured before the flood and after the flood." The Teton Flood Museum, located in the old tabernacle, offers artifacts and pictorial displays of the disaster.
Historical accounts show the residents of the village of Rexburg under the direction of Thomas Ricks and his associates seemed to accomplish more in two years building canals, roads, schools and making general improvements than was usually accomplished in five years anywhere else.
This is a testament to the spirit and determination of early Mormon settlers.
† Rexburg Community Review, 2004, irp.idaho.gov, accessed October, 2020.