After at least two extremely difficult winters in Wyoming, all members of our families who had been in Wyoming decided at various times in 1891 to move to some place more promising for farming. Some, like the Lovells, considered going back to Utah but were thwarted in that effort by snowed-in roads early in the fall of 1891. But all at various times in 1891 ended up as neighbors again in roughly the same part of the South Fork of the Upper Snake River Valley in Eastern Idaho. Other family members who had not had the Wyoming experience joined later. Reasons for their choice in and near what later became a town called Ririe will be discussed later.
But certainly a big factor in this decision was that the land in Eastern Idaho's Upper Snake River Valley had already been surveyed for homesteads by the federal government, and the potential for irrigation water was greater than anywhere else they had lived. A few pioneers that had already settled in the region also had proven that crops would do well there and that winters were not going to be quite as devastating as in Wyoming. Unlike the natural limitations on the development of water and farmland in their Utah homes, the Snake River had a larger volume of water than any river they had seen in Utah, and the relative flatness of the Snake River Plains for miles to the west and beyond promised an abundance of land for their future generations to grow in Eastern Idaho.
Another important attraction to this area was that the LDS Church by the 1880's was also strongly promoting the Upper Snake River Valley as a good place for Mormon farmers to settle. Consequently the vast majority of settlers in the Upper Snake River Valley were from Utah or older Mormon settlements in Southeastern Idaho. Within a few years after their settlement most of their neighbors were Mormons just as they had been in Utah. This made the area more attractive to our families who wanted to carry on with their Mormon traditions of community cooperation and worship with little "interference" from non-Mormons.
But at least one factor in this settlement process was different from early settlements in most of Utah. Settlers in eastern Idaho early on acquired title to government-surveyed homesteads in units of 40, 80, 120, or 160 acres. In order to "prove up" on their essentially free homesteads, they had to live on their farms rather than in a farm village as was so common in Utah. This meant that their families and neighbors were dispersed, often miles apart, on their separate farms. This dispersed rural settlement pattern, however, did not inhibit the development of a sense of community. As an LDS ward was organized in each rural tract, a church building would be built with cooperative labor just as in Utah, and the church meeting house became a focal point of each dispersed community.
Every rural tract also needed a school house which was nearly always built early in the pioneering process. Idaho had become a state in 1890. Children were required by law to go to school. But settlers required that schools be relatively close to where their children lived, resulting in many small school houses throughout the settled area, each of which became a focal point of a community just as the churches were. In the early years the school building might function temporarily for both purposes. Rural schools were usually fairly close to the church.
These rural community tracts would always be named, sometimes after the LDS ward name for that district, and may or may not ever have ever been on a map because a town in the usual sense may not have developed there. For example, our families settled in the rural communities of Shelton, Poplar, Milo, Perry, and Rudy, all located adjacent to each other, but these communities never became towns by these names and cannot be found on the most common highway maps of Idaho. They were strong communities where our families lived and died. The cemeteries in some of these places, especially Shelton, contain the graves of many of our families strongly connected to each other through generations of intermarriage and community life.
In 1915, about 30 or more years after the above rural tracts were first settled, the town of Ririe developed on a railroad loop built to connect many farming tracts east of Idaho Falls. Ririe, along with Rigby to the west, were then the closest service centers for the rural tracts settled by our families.
For some of our families the initial move from Wyoming involved stronger push factors than pull factors. They knew they wanted to get out of Wyoming because of its cold weather, but many of them initially did not know exactly where their next home was going to be. The trip from Etna to the Snake River Valley near what is now Ririe was not a great distance, but it involved driving wagons at first through an accommodating canyon of the Snake River toward the northwest. But as they continued farther into the canyon, past what is now Swan Valley, Idaho, the river becomes boxed in by a solid lava rock canyon with essentially vertical walls on both sides of the narrowly confined river. Where that segment of the canyon begins is where travelers had to climb steep walls to the foothills above the canyon.
The experience of moving from Etna to the Upper Snake River Valley is very well expressed by Rebecca Freeman, drawing upon the Joseph H. Lovell family journals for her source:
"Early snows [in the fall of 1891] had closed the road to the south through Freedom, Wyoming and Montpelier, Idaho, so they [the Lovells] decided to go north, then west and south through Eagle Rock [Idaho Falls] and Fort Hall. One major obstacle was that there was no road out of Swan Valley in that direction. The sheer canyon walls were not tall but were steep. Everyone including Leah [Radford] had to climb up the steep walls. Joseph [Lovell] and his older sons managed to get the team of horses up to the top, then they hooked ropes to the wagon and lifted it straight up the sheer walls. By the time they reached the next settled area [Snake River Plain] winter snows had arrived and they were stranded for the winter. This area was called Shelton [Idaho]. There were very few settlers and no homes or cabins available. A settler named David Ririe had a cabin that had been used as a barn and a chicken coup. He let the family live in it that winter. The family lived in tents in the snow until Joseph could get it cleaned out and livable for the winter."
"By the time spring came they decided to stay and try to settle in that area. They found conditions more hospitable here and there were other settlers around. Leah regained enough health and strength to move into her own small cabin when one was built for her."
The Poplar Tract
As our families made their choices about where to settle in the Snake River Plain, some chose the first flat terrain area they came to as they descended from the hills to the east and south, at that natural boundary line between hills and plains. The 70-year-old Thomas Morgan was among those who chose to settle near the southwest bank of the South Fork of the Snake River where our migrants from Wyoming first descended the hills and onto the fertile plain. This rural tract area had become known as Poplar. Here in Poplar he and Ann and his young family with Nancy Jane settled down, beginning again for the seventh time as pioneers working with others to help establish a new settlement. This time he soon acquired title to this land, a 160-acre homestead, which he and his boys, especially John Thomas and young Joseph Charles, would "prove up on" within a few years. Thomas and Ann's oldest sons, Edward and James John and Nancy's son Frank Ryset, also obtained farms nearby on other rural tracts.
Certainly one of the attractions already in place in Poplar by the time Morgans got there was the beginning of an infrastructure for farming. Although Indians, ranchers, and fur trappers preceded farmers in the Upper Snake River Valley, more intensive farming began in earnest in the 1880s under the legal framework of the Timber Act and the Homestead Act. By 1884, settlers realized that without irrigation water they would not be unable to improve on their homesteads or even survive. In 1884, years before the Morgans arrived in Poplar, a canal was brought from the Snake River to Poplar region farms. It was a natural seasonal stream channel part of the way but had to be enlarged. The water served the land for a distance of about three miles. The canal was named the Farmers Friend Canal. By the time Morgans got to Poplar in 1891 the canal had already been extended down to the Shelton tract to the west of Poplar. Another earlier canal, the Anderson Canal, had also been completed to water much of the fertile lands west and southwest of Poplar before the Morgans got there.
This map shows the Poplar area in Idaho where Thomas Morgan settled and operated his ferry across the Snake River. The ferry would have been just below and to the right of the center of the map near the X marked in the middle of the river.
Showing again the spirit of cooperation among our families in this pioneer effort, George Radford, writing for the book "Pioneer Irrigation in the Upper Snake River Valley" (pages 87-88), says: "Frank Ryset, Edward, James John, and Thomas Morgan, and a cousin John Radford, went up the river to Black Canyon and got enough logs to build five one-room houses 16' X 18'. These logs were sent down the river on a raft made by the men."
Besides building cabins, obtaining more water seemed always to be an important need. According to George Radford, who wrote a life sketch of Thomas Morgan in the above book:
"Mr. Morgan made and put a water-wheel in the Anderson Canal just below the present site of the Riley ditch headgate. It was made something like a wagon wheel with large paddles extending out and buckets fastened to them. The pressure of the running water from the river turned the wheel and each time the wheel went around each bucket would fill, swing around in position to empty the water into a large trough which then carried the water to his ditch. With his water-wheel he secured water for his garden, livestock and culinary use."
As the family grew and the need for more land and irrigation became necessary, they continued to cooperate in building needed infrastructure. In 1899 they pooled their labor again in building the most important irrigation ditch for their homesteads in Poplar. Until about 1898 the south part of Poplar could not be irrigated for lack of a ditch on this higher ground adjacent to the hills.
The first ditch built along this south bluff is known as the Riley Ditch, named after John Riley, the first husband of Thomas and Nancy Jane Morgan's daughter Martha. After a survey had been made of his land, John Riley determined that if a ditch could be run along the bluff extending southwest from the river it would be possible to deliver water to this barren spot. Work began in the summer of 1899 when John Riley, Thomas Morgan, Edward Morgan, Daniel Radford, Jr. and others started construction on the ditch. Considering that Thomas at this time was about 78 years old, he probably didn't do much of the physical work. As a surveyor, however, he may have helped determine the course the new ditch would take.
Sources say the building of the Riley ditch was more difficult than expected because of the need to remove boulders and trees and make a firm leakproof bed for the ditch in some soft gravel areas. Joseph Morgan, in 1902, youngest son of Thomas and Nancy Jane, was among those who filed for water rights to farm on his homestead in Poplar using water from the new Riley Ditch.
Poplar was the first Idaho home of the Thomas and Nancy Jane Morgan family. Four years after settling there, Ann Ollen Watkins Morgan died in Poplar on 19 August 1895 at the age of 73. Her death left Thomas with his wife Nancy Jane and her family. But in May 1900 Nancy Jane at age 53 died in Poplar of "nervous prostration." By that time four of her five surviving children had reached adulthood. Her youngest, Lydia Almeda, was 12 years old when her mother died. It is probable that Lydia Almeda moved to her sister Martha's house after Nancy Jane's death. In October 1906 the 85-year-old Thomas married 66-year-old widow Susan Byington Wilbur. Her Byington family were early pioneers of Poplar, as well as her husband's family the Wilburs.
Thomas Morgan's Ferry Across the Snake River
Thomas Morgan is the elderly man with a white beard leaning against the rail on the left side of the ferry. There are more pictures of Thomas Morgan's ferry in the Historical Pioneer Works section of this website.
The Snake River during most of the year was much too wide and unforgiving to simply ford across in a wagon. Ferry boats were employed, especially where the channel was narrower. North of the Poplar area the Snake River divides for a distance of about five miles, forming an island between its two channels. Upsteam from this division (east) near the intake (headgate) for the Anderson Canal, the river was narrow at a place now called Byington Fishing Access. This was a good place for the "Upper Ferry," which the elderly Thomas Morgan operated for a few years.
In the book Ririe Our Hometown:
"In about 1898, Elof Nelson . . . built a ferry about three miles upstream from the town of Heise. The ferry consisted of two boats with timbers over the top joining both boats. Planks were laid over the timbers to create a solid floor. A railing was placed around the outside of the whole ferry. The ferry was placed so that the river current itself provided the momentum to move it across the river. In 1906, Elof Nelson sold this "Upper Ferry" to Thomas Morgan. . . . He ran it himself for several years."
Morgan's ferry carried teams of horses and wagons and hauled logs and timber from a sawmill in Kelley's Canyon. Many people also ferried for pleasure, as a swimming resort was now at Heise Hot Springs, about three miles downstream (west) on the north side of the river.
The Shelton and Milo Tracts
Bordering the Poplar Tract on its west is Shelton, and Milo is to the west of Shelton. In 1891 the families of Frank and Priscilla Morgan Ryset, Joseph and Leah Radford Lovell, Edward and Sarah West Morgan, and Willard and Annie Morgan Moore moved to Shelton. Within a short time they all had legal title to homestead lands in Shelton. In the true pioneering spirit some of them donated plots of land for community purposes. Willard Moore donated a large lot for a cemetery, now the Ririe-Shelton Cemetery, where most of our Shelton and Poplar ancestors are buried. Frank Ryset donated a lot for a school. Frank Ryset and his neighbors floated logs down the Snake River and built the first schoolhouse "in time for a Christmas party in 1892." Other family members arriving in Shelton in the 1890s included Franklin Brown (husband of Edward Morgans daughter Mary Emma), who with his brother A. W. Brown built the first store in Shelton.
The Anderson Canal was the first canal built in the region that included Shelton. First surveyed in 1879, by the early 1880s, it was already providing water to the Shelton area and beyond when our families arrived. It eventually became part of a larger system of canals still in use.
This map shows most of the Shelton, Rudy (Now Clark), and Milo areas in Idaho where so many of our Morgan/Radford families settled. The Old Historic Shelton Church is located in Section 1 just below the Jefferson County/ Bonnevile County line. It has been refurbished and is now being used as a wedding chapel. The Shelton Cemetery, where so many of our early Morgan/Radford families are buried is in the bottom right corner of the Section 6 just to the right of Section 1 where the church is located. The Edward Morgan home still stands on the next mile road directly East (right) of the Shelton Church. The community of Poplar is a few miles directly to the East (Right).
In the Shelton community, according to the book "Ririe Our Town," "From the early 1880s Mormon settlers in this part of the Snake River Plain began meeting together in their homes until about 1885 when an LDS ward was organized called Willow Creek Ward, named after a small tributary of the Snake that ran to the west and south of their lands. In 1892 the Willow Creek Ward was divided, forming the Shelton Ward to its east," encompassing our Shelton and Poplar families homestead areas. With the same dedication and cooperation as in previous settlements, our families and their neighbors built the first Shelton LDS church house in 1893, this time made of milled lumber.
In this region of Idaho by the 1880's and 1890's, log and lumber were by far the chief building materials for houses and buildings instead of the adobe common in central Utah. Two-room log cabins with dirt floors and dirt roofs, as described in the Oak City section of this history, were the most common houses during the frontier period. Willard Moore is one who mentioned a dugout as being his family's first home.
In the 1900 U. S. census, the government did not recognize the local names of these tracts where our families lived. Our families living in Shelton and Poplar in 1900 were enumerated in the Willow Creek Precinct in then Bingham County. This was a broad east-west district extending from Poplar west as far as Milo and Ucon. In the Willow Creek census in 1900 were the Frank Ryset family, Willard Moore family, Martha Morgan Riley and two daughters, Thomas Morgan with son Joseph and daughter Almeda (12 years old), and next door was John Thomas Morgan with wife Josephine and daughter. This Willow Creek census was dated 18 June 1900, only about a month after Nancy Jane Morgan died.
Martha Morgan Riley, daughter of Thomas and Nancy Jane, settled in Milo, the tract just west of Shelton, after her first husband John Riley died. She married the widower Samuel Thomas Eames and raised their combined family in the Milo tract. Martha's younger sister Lydia Almeda Morgan married George Nowlin and moved to Clarsholm, Alberta, Canada, where they raised a large family.
Rudy and Perry Tracts
Just to the north of Poplar and Shelton, other rural tracts developed which became the homes of some of our families. Rudy originally was a large tract just to the north of Shelton, but at that time was in Fremont County (now Jefferson), and included the lands extending from east of present Ririe for about seven miles west toward Rigby. Unlike the other tracts mentioned, Rudy early on got a post office and was recognized by the federal government as a census precinct in 1900 and 1910. In these two censuses our families that lived in Rudy include Isaac Chase, second husband of Priscilla Morgan Radford, whose first husband John F. Radford had died while living in Vale, Oregon, in March of 1889. Priscilla moved her young Radford family to the area and sometime later married Isaac Chase. Their children grew up in the Chase home in Rudy. Daniel H. and Everal Hannah Morgan Radford also settled in Rudy. Dick Ross and later Melvin Ross, Nancy Jane Radfords half brothers, also settled on homesteads in Rudy.
In 1908 the LDS Church divided the large Rudy Ward, forming the Perry Ward on its east and Clark Ward on its west. Perry was essentially the tract which later included the townsite of Ririe. Most of our families identified as residents of Rudy in 1900 actually lived in what later became Perry when the two wards were divided. A few years before Thomas Morgan died, he moved to Perry Ward to live in the home of his daughter Priscilla Morgan Chase. He died at her home on 6 July 1915 at the age of about 94. The town of Ririe was not founded until 1915 when a railroad was extended through the Perry area. It now occupies the southern part of the old Perry District.
Dry Farm Regions in the Hills
Just to the south and east of the Upper Snake River plain a hilly topography dominates the landscape. These hills could not be watered by the flood irrigation techniques used when settlers came to the valley. But since the rainfall amount is adequate to grow low-yield crops of grain without irrigation, the hills became known as "dry farm country" (farming without irrigation). Some of our families, especially second or third generation members, claimed land in the hills for dry farming purposes. Grain crops grew, but there was a limit on how many acres could be profitably cleared and plowed for the value in grains reaped. Dry farming here required an alternate fallow year between crop years. So if a family had 160 acres in dry farm lands, only half that amount could be planted any one year, while the other half lay fallow to collect moisture from rains that nourished next year's crop. The planted lands would be alternated with fallow lands each planting season.
The Frank Ryset family maintained homes in the dry farm lands as well as down in the valley, requiring some of them to move seasonally. Sons of Thomas and Nancy Jane, Joseph and John Thomas, worked together on their lands in the dry farm area. Ted Radford and some of the Lovells actually went to live in the hills, building homes along one of the many creeks that drained the hills.
The Ririe-Shelton Cemetery
One excellent way descendants of this large Morgan-Radford clan can get in touch with their past is to visit the Ririe-Shelton Cemetery located one mile southwest of Ririe in a clump of trees on the north side of present highway 26. Buried on plots adjacent to each other are many of our earliest Utah ancestors. The southeastern area of the cemetery is the oldest and contains tombstones of John Whitlock and Leah Radford (his remains were brought from Etna, Wyoming, and buried next to his wife). Leah Smith Ross Radford was one of the first of our ancestors to be buried in this cemetery. She died at the age of 72 in her small log cabin in Shelton on 24 December 1894. Others there include Thomas Morgan and his wives Ann and Nancy Jane, Joseph and Leah Lovell, Abraham and Dianna Radford Woolsey, Edward and Sarah West Morgan, Willard and Annie Morgan Moore, Frank and Mary Emma Morgan Brown, Daniel H. and Everal Morgan Radford. Elsewhere in this same cemetery are Frank and Priscilla Morgan Ryset, Melvin and Mary Hadden Ross, and many descendants of our early pioneers.
When Thomas Morgan died in 1915, according to his obituary written by Joseph Charles Morgan, at that time he was survived by 10 children, 60 grandchildren, about 100 great-grandchildren, and 26 great-great-grandchildren. At the beginning of the 21st century, his descendants with his two wives Ann and Nancy Jane would number several thousand. And the early generations of Morgans had so intermingled with the Radfords that most of these Morgan descendants are also descendants of the Radfords and or Rosses, Rysets, and others.
We can look back with pride at our Morgan-Radford ancestors. Their accomplishments were not in the form of books, learning, or art, but in the founding of towns, communities, and families which thrive today. This is a legacy with which we can take pride. It is hoped that by learning more about their history, the places where they lived, and the social and religious circumstances of their lives, we can appreciate the hardships, struggles, and sacrifices which they made for us, and bond with them. We are fortunate today that many pictures and a few artifacts of them have survived. They come alive for us in their stories and pictures.
Thomas Morgan's Life history is the core of our morganclan.com website. Life sketches and pictures of the families resulting from the children of Thomas Morgan and his wives Ann Watkins and Nancy Jane Radford fill the remainder of our morganclan.com Web site. Family group sheets and pedigree charts on nearly all of these families can be downloaded from www.familysearch.org.
Sources for the Idaho Period
Anthony, Betty et al. "Ririe Our Hometown, a Centennial History of Ririe, Idaho." No date or place of publication.
Carter, Kate B. "Pioneer Irrigation in the Upper Snake River Valley."
1955 Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Census of Idaho, 1900, Bingham County, Willow Creek Precinct, and Fremont County, Rudy Precincts.
Forebush, Harold S. "Education in the Upper Snake River Valley The Public Schools 1880-1950." 1992, Ricks College Press.
Hansen, Ruth, in "The Pioneer History and Development of the Milo Ward 1880-1960."
1960 Idaho Falls Typo-Press Commercial Printers. Pages 107-109 (Martha Morgan Eames).
Lovell, Edith Haroldsen, "Captain Bonneville's County."
1963. Idaho Falls. Eastern Idaho Farmer.
Lovell, Edith Haroldsen, "Shelton Is Special."
1976, Bonneville County Historical Society1940, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Sarah Howard Chapter.
Perry LDS Ward Records, 1909 and after FHL Film # 0007246
Poplar LDS Ward Records, 1909 and after. FHL Film #0007247
Shelton, LDS Ward Records, 1891-1909. FHL Film #0007292.