James Madison “Matt” Taylor is credited to be the founding father of Eagle Rock, which was first called Taylor’s Crossing in 1865. Matt and several partners built the first bridge across the Snake River with the intention of charging a toll to travelers using the California Trail and its northern leg, the Montana Trail, leading to Oregon. This turned out to be very profitable due to this bridge being the only way for freight to be moved across the Snake River in this part of Idaho. Matt initially lived alone near the bridge but asked his wife’s brother, Robert Anderson to assist him in running the toll business. In the fall of the same year, Robert and Matt’s wife and children arrived to become the initial occupants of this tiny, remote village. The bridge was washed out the following spring but Matt and Robert rebuilt it higher and stronger.
Within two months of his arrival, Robert was appointed as the first postmaster and later as the first chairman of the village board and mayor of the village. An article from Idaho Falls Magazine states: “During [Anderson’s] tenure, the board passed important ordinances defining misdemeanors punishable by fines: riding a horse or mule recklessly through the village, shooting firearms from horseback, lying drunk on a public street, fighting and even threatening to start a fight.”
Robert opened the Anderson Trading House and later the Anderson Brothers Store and Bank. The building served as an early form of department store, offering groceries, boots, shoes, hats, and dry goods, as well as a bank and post office. By this time, his brother, Jack Anderson, had moved to Eagle Rock and bought out Matt Taylor’s shares of the toll bridge. Matt and his family left the area to go back to Missouri and the Anderson brothers purchased additional land around the bridge in hopes of building up the town. When Union Pacific chose the area near Taylor’s Crossing for the new railroad bridge for the Utah and Northern Railroad, Anderson’s Oneida Road, Bridge, and Ferry Company granted the Utah & Northern Railroad a right-of-way 100 feet wide on each side of the proposed tracks in what would become the downtown of Eagle Rock as well as 102 acres of downtown property for the railroad buildings. The Anderson Brothers Trading Post and Bank stayed in business until 1900 when it was sold to a company based in Saint Louis.
Although there is considerable historic record to indicate that Robert Anderson was a significant leader in the founding of Eagle Rock and a shrewd businessman as well as unusually community minded, I have found little to indicate what his personal life might have been like. Since he was so instrumental to the early formation of the town, I have taken the liberty of portraying him as one of the real historical individuals my fictional characters are influenced by in Cat’s Cafe. I apologize in advance if my portrayal does not reasonably represent the real Robert Anderson.
Readers will find that Mr. Anderson continues to make significant contributions to the community over the next decade that will be documented in Books Two and Three of the Eagle Rock Trilogy.
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