Updated July, 2022
Chapter Three ~ Railroads and fortunes
The Utah Northern Railroad (UNR) was sold to the Union Pacific (UP) in a bankruptcy sale on April 3, 1878 but, as early as November of 1877, the UP had already started construction of a new line from Franklin, Idaho, the northern terminal of the UNR heading further northward. The new Utah & Northern Railroad (U&N) construction crew arrived at Eagle Rock in April of 1879 and started the construction of the twin bridges over the Snake River. The steel bridges had been prefabricated in the east and shipped out to Eagle Rock by rail.
I chose July 4, 1879 as the date for a celebration held in Eagle Rock at the completion of the new pair of railroad bridges across the Snake River. In actuality, the first steam engine crossing occurred on Tuesday, July 1, 1879. I have no information on whether there actually was such a celebration, but certainly they must have celebrated Independence Day and the completion of the bridge which was a major accomplishment for the railroad and the beginning of a rapid expansion for the town.
The Mormons had started construction of the Utah Northern Railroad in 1871, anticipating Mormon settlers setting up homesteads throughout northern Utah and Idaho, but they only completed a portion of the line to Franklin, just inside the southern Idaho border. The Union Pacific proposed bridge construction to cross the Snake River approximately midway between Salt Lake City and the mines in Butte, Montana, and built a railroad town to act as the division point for the new Utah & Northern Railroad. With the Union Pacific Railroad building the infrastructure necessary to maintain their railroad stock at this location and rumors of gold in the hills north and east of this new town, it was inevitable that the town would grow rapidly and be a destination point for all sorts of fortune hunters.