Updated July, 2022
Chapter One ~ Taylor’s Crossing and Eagle Rock
The Snake River, running first west and then south out of the Teton Mountain range, carved deep channels through numerous ridges of the ancient lava beds of the Idaho high desert before reaching an area near Pocatello where it veered west across the southern portion of Idaho to Boise. This often turbulent river was dangerous to cross and took the lives of many pioneers attempting to head to the Pacific Northwest from the plains on the Montana Trail. The lava bed forced the river into a narrow channel at the present site of Idaho Falls. In 1865, Matt Taylor built a rough-hewn lumber bridge at this location. The bridge was washed out the following year by a spring torrent that came out of the Tetons, but, with the assistance of Bob Anderson, he built a second stronger and higher bridge at the same location in 1866 and collected tolls from travelers wanting to cross the river. This location became known as Taylor’s Crossing, later Eagle Rock, and presently Idaho Falls.
Matt Taylor and Robert Anderson had opened a trading post at Taylor’s Crossing in 1865, hoping to take advantage of the traffic that would be generated at this location. Having acquired a large portion of land east of the bridge, they were briefly partners in the endeavor but Taylor eventually headed back East and Anderson stayed to take part in the development of the small community of Eagle Rock that formed in the late 1870s.
When the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) purchased the bankrupt Mormon-built Utah Northern Railroad (UNR) and changed it to the Utah and Northern RR (U&N), hoping to connect the Transcontinental Railroad with Montana, their surveyors selected Taylor’s Crossing as the most economical location for the railroad to place a bridge over the Snake River to get to the Montana mines. Just south of Taylor’s Crossing, the river divided at a small resistant island of lava which made it the best location to build a pair of bridges. This island was used as the midpoint of the railroad crossing. It was home to eagles and thus was called Eagle Rock. The UP decided to use a location just east of the river at this location for a division point for their new railroad line. This quickly became the town of Eagle Rock as the railroad completed the line north into Montana.
I chose the site for my fictional Patrick’s Saloon from an 1884 map of the small town. The location is the southeast corner of the intersection of Railroad and Chamberlain avenues, although those streets no longer exist at that location. In 1884, the entire town west to east was contained between the Snake River, Capitol Avenue, and Chamberlain Avenue (now Park Avenue.) North to south, the town included Cliff Street and Railroad Avenue with the depot and yard north of Railroad Avenue now the site of the Idaho Falls Public Library. Present-day Chamberlain Avenue bends to the west about a hundred feet from Cliff Avenue and turns into present-day Park Avenue. The railroad tracks are still there. The double railroad bridge can be seen spanning the river and the island in the center is now the site of the Japanese Friendship garden. Taylor’s Bridge would have been just a little north of the railroad bridges. A replica of the bridge is there now and used as a walking bridge to the island and Japanese garden.