Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rancher and Mayor Amasa Rich and the Paris Tabernacle [otd 10/25]

Apostle Rich, ca 1875. LDS Institute photo.
On October 25, 1856, Amasa M. Rich was born in San Bernardino, California. His father, Charles C. Rich, had led the establishment of a Mormon settlement there. An LDS Apostle and very prominent in the church, Charles also helped found the town of Paris, Idaho, in the fall of 1863.

The founding of Paris, the first town established in the Bear Lake area, continued a pattern of northern colonization started at Franklin in the spring of 1860. The process was slowed, however, by on-going Indian unrest. Settlement picked up after the summer of 1863, when officials negotiated the Box Elder Treaty with the Shoshone bands in the region [blog, July 30]

At the time, locals thought they were in Utah, and Apostle Rich even served in the Utah legislature from the Bear Lake district. Not until 1872 did a new boundary survey show that the area actually belonged to Idaho. Three years later, the Idaho legislature split Bear Lake County off from Oneida, and Paris became the county seat.

Amasa graduated from school there and attended Utah State University in Salt Lake. He then returned to the Paris area to take up ranching. After some years working with his own stock, he spent two years as foreman for another rancher, perhaps to broaden his experience.

Amasa also served a two-year mission for the LDS church, canvassing parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. A reporter for The Deseret Weekly interviewed him upon his return and wrote (March 23, 1889) that in northern Alabama “he had some experience with mobs, but was not injured.”
Tabernacle photo: Idaho Tourism, Dept. of Commerce.

The timing meant that Amasa was back for the completion and dedication of the Paris Tabernacle. Work had begun in 1884, before he left Idaho, and construction took more than four years.

The Tabernacle is considered a prime example of the Romanesque Revival architectural style. One of Brigham Young’s sons designed the structure and local red sandstone and timber were used in the construction.

The stone quarry lay 15-20 miles away on the far shore of Bear Lake. Thus, teamsters had to use wagons and ox carts to haul the material out of the rugged hills and then skirt the marshy area at the foot of the Lake. Fortunately, during the winter, the slabs could be sledded across the frozen lake. The settlers themselves did most of the work.

A family of skilled Swiss masons provided specialized help. They had recently immigrated to Utah and moved to Paris to execute the fine stonework. Other skilled craftsmen contributed fine woodworking detail, the pulpit and choir ceiling being considered particularly noteworthy. The Tabernacle was dedicated in September 1889 and has recently been renovated.

Amasa was also active in civic affairs: He served several city council terms and sat on the Paris school board for well over a decade. At various times he held county positions as sheriff, assessor, and deputy game warden. He also served as a delegate to the 1902 state convention of the Democratic Party. When Hiram T. French published Amasa's biography in 1914, Rice was mayor of Paris. He passed away, in Ogden, in February 1919.
References: [French], Hawley], [[Illust-State]
Arthur A. Hart, “Paris Tabernacle,” Reference Series No. 961, Idaho State Historical Society (July 1972).
“Return From the South,” The Desert Weekly, (March 23, 1889).

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