Prior to Idaho County and city governments compiled vital records, many people documented crucial dates, events, and names in their family Bible. Family Bibles are helpful research resources. Despite the fact that the dates may not be guaranteed, Family Bibles are a tangible link with past generations.
Several religious groups have come to Idaho throughout the years. For example, Mormon groups settled in the eastern part of the state, near the Snake River. They became farmers and started the first settlement of whites in Idaho, at Franklin. Meanwhile, Episcopalians and Methodists came to the area during the time when gold mining was at its peak and Catholics came to the area to start missions for Native Americans, especially the Coeur d’Alene tribe, in the year 1853.
The Mormons make up the largest religious presence in the state of Idaho. By 1860, they had already begun to settle in the eastern part of the state. The Mormon practice of marrying multiple people at once created conflicts in Idaho. So, many of them continued onward and settled in Alberta, Canada. There are still many Mormons in that area now.
The FHL has Mormon mission and ward records on file. Rexburg, Idaho is home to the Brigham Young University-Idaho. Mormon documents pertaining to the Upper Snake River Valley settlement. Those documents include recorded oral histories, pictures, and manuscripts.
The Mormon’s came to Idaho with the main goal of working the land and building settlements on it. However, the Catholics and Protestants came to the area with the goal of Native American conversion to Christianity in mind. Presbyterians and Methodists came to Idaho before the Catholics settled there.
The Episcopalians were the next to come to the area that is now Idaho. They settled in the northern areas and focused on ministering to the Flathead and Nez Perce tribes. Methodists also formed a mission with the Flathead Tribe in 1834.
The year after Idaho Territory was formed, the Episcopalian Church founded St. Michael’s Church in Boise. It was the only church of its kind in Montana, Utah, or Idaho at the time. Episcopalian priests quickly converted members of the Shoshoni-Bannock Tribe at Fort Hall and the Episcopalians soon gained a foothold across the southern part of what is now Idaho. The Idaho State Historical Society has 110 years worth of Episcopalian records on file on microfilm. Those records include records for each district and diocese from 1896 to 1924. They also include Silver City, Delmar, and Fort Hall church registers.
The Lutheran religion arrived in Idaho with the Norwegian and Swedish immigrants. In the beginning of the 1900s, other Scandinavian settlers came to Idaho in order to build irrigation canals. Many of them traveled there from the Midwest. Once their jobs were complete, several of them decided to stay in the area permanently. Finns of Lutheran faith settled mainly near McCall and Cascade, in Long Valley.
Father Pierre Desmet was given the job of ministering to Native Americans in Idaho in 1840. Then, in 1846 near Kellogg, the Cataldo Mission was founded. That church building still exists today. In fact, it is the oldest building in the entire state. Pioneers and miners settled in Idaho in the 1860s and priests were put in charge of ministering to those congregations.
In the state of Idaho, the Catholic Church is the second biggest denomination. Roman Catholic Diocese of Idaho, Catholic Chancery Records of Idaho, Master Index (1872-1964) has the transcribed, published records from the Diocese of Boise on file. The diocese itself may also be able to provide some information. It’s address is 303 Federal Way, Boise, ID 83705.
Prior to the start of the 1900s, it’s unclear what the Quaker population of Idaho was. However, a census taken in 1918 showed that there were 763 Quakers living in the area. Quakers began to hold meetings in Boise in 1898, but not for long. Around 1900, the Star area, which is located around 20 miles away from the city of Boise, was home to a Quaker group. The Boise Valley was soon settled by Quakers who had heard about the possibility of good irrigation in the area. The Mountain View Monthly Meeting was formed in 1906 as a way of bringing the Mountain View and Fairview groups together. That same year, the first Idaho Quarterly Meeting in Boise Valley was established. That stemmed from the Yearly Meeting in Oregon. The Quarterly Meeting brought the groups from Mountain View, Boise, and Star (New Hope) together.
Between about 1875 and 1900, Church of the Brethren members came to Idaho. They settled in the northern part of Idaho and were encouraged to do so by agents from the Railroad. However, the Brethren members were also attracted to the southern area of Idaho because of the Snake River Valley’s excellent farmland. The Idaho and Western Montana District was formed as a result of the fact that so many different congregations were created from 1895 to 1910. Some of those congregations included: Moscow, Grafton-Clearwater, Nez Perce, Winchester, Nampa, Boise Valley, Boise, Bowmont, Payette, Weiser, Idaho Falls, Lost River, Twin Falls.
In the time that Idaho was a territory, the Jewish people played a large role in keeping settlements going. They served as merchants, particularly for miners. In 1895, the first Jewish synagogue was established in Boise. It is the oldest continuous service synagogue that exists on the west side of the Mississippi River. There is also a synagogue at Pocatello. The first Jewish governor in the history of the United States was from Idaho.