Filed Under Settlers

The Struggle to Colonize the Frozen Tundra of Paris, Idaho

Many marked Paris, Idaho as inhospitable. The colonists lacked the manpower to easily sustain a colony and confronted harsh conditions that tested their mettle.

Charles C. Rich and his family settled Paris, Idaho on September 26, 1863. Rich served as an Apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints under the prophet Brigham Young. Young sent Rich and his family to settle the area and establish a colony of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even today, Paris, located near Bear Lake, is notorious for its cold winters and mild summers. 

Rich and his family succeeded in establishing a colony despite the difficulties presented by the climate and location of Paris. The winters were terrible in Paris and challenged the colonists each year with life-threatening cold. The climate also complicated agriculture and made it difficult for Paris’s early settlers to make it a sustainable place to live. Originally, Brigham Young and the colonists of Paris thought they were in Utah. But that changed when Rich tried to run for a Utah government position, and they discovered Paris was in Idaho.

In 1884, early Paris residents began building a meetinghouse for the church members to worship in. They worked to quarry sandstone from a location over 20 miles away from the construction site. The harsh climate worked to their advantage in the winter, enabling them to reduce the travel time by several miles by transporting the stone over the frozen Bear lake. Today, the tabernacle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to visitation by the public.

The tabernacle in Paris is one of its most visited and iconic attractions that the town has to offer. The original Mormon settlers in Paris endured the climate and their perseverance proved to be worth it. Not only did the original settlers survive, but the original buildings have persevered as well.


A Sunny Day in Paris
A Sunny Day in Paris Source: Witt, Travis K. “Paris, Idaho.” July 18, 2012. Via Wikimedia Commons.,_Idaho.
Welcome to Paris
Welcome to Paris Source: Woluwebe. "Paris (Idaho), Ortsschild.JPG - Wikimedia Commons.” August 2008. Via Wikimedia Commons.,_Ortsschild.JPG.
The Paris Tabernacle
The Paris Tabernacle Source: Lund, Ken. Bear Lake Stake Tabernacle, Paris, Idaho. April 15, 2006. Via Wikimedia Commons.,_Paris,_Idaho_(129262712).jpg



Trevor Rich, Brigham Young University , “The Struggle to Colonize the Frozen Tundra of Paris, Idaho,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 18, 2024,