1863 was a significant year for the future city of Idaho Falls.
On January 29th of that year, General Patrick Conner led his troops in the slaughter of 300-400 Shoshone and Bannock Indians at Bear River. In the words of an early Eagle Rock resident, this battle “settled the Indian question,” opening southeastern Idaho for both travel and settlement.
Only five days later, on March 3rd, the Territory of Idaho was created. Meanwhile, the “United” States were at war, and by summer, Confederate troops were winning victories in Virginia.
Gold had been discovered the previous year on Grasshopper Creek in Montana, and in 1863 prospectors were flooding into southeast Idaho on their way to Virginia City, Montana. To accommodate their crossing the Snake River, Harry Rickards (sometimes spelled “Rickets”) and William Hickman began building a ferry in May at Flathead Crossing, approximately 7.5 miles by river north of the present Broadway Street Bridge. William Hickman is also known as “Wild Bill” Hickman, a guide for General Conner, and earlier a bodyguard for Joseph Smith and a confidant of Brigham Young. Hickman wrote an account of his life that was published by J. H. Beadle with the title, Brigham’s Destroying Angel: Being the Life, Confession and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill Hickman, Danite Chief of Utah.
Besides building the ferry, Hickman and Rickards erected a log building which served as their living quarters and shelter for travelers. When the ferry, which would shortly be called the Eagle Rock Ferry, opened on June 20, 1863, 230 people were eager to cross. By the end of the year, 500 wagons had crossed.
As if this wasn’t enough notoriety for the beginning of Eagle Rock, on May 24 of 1863, Henry Plummer was elected sheriff of Bannock, Idaho Territory, which included the Snake River Plain and hence Eagle Rock. On Sept 2, 1863, Sidney Edgerton, who had just been appointed Chief Justice of Idaho Territory by President Lincoln, crossed paths with Henry Plummer in Eagle Rock and was favorable impressed with him. Conversations with other travelers quickly changed Edgerton’s opinion of Sherriff Plummer.