Joe Rich, who came into the Bear Lake Valley in 1863 in company with Gen. C. C. Rich, Lorin Farr, Captain Jefferson Hunt, T. R. Miller, Richard Hopkins, and John Hill, is credited, via his own account, with building the first steamboat in southeastern Idaho.
His steamboat was 41 feet in length, solidly and substantially built, with two cabins, a first-class finish, and two decks, one being a poop deck. It comfortably accommodated 50 passengers and was driven by a six-horsepower Marine gasoline engine and propeller.
The boat was reported to take parties of not less than 20 people on lake excursions.
That steamboat was to launch at the Hot Springs on the northeast end of the Bear Lake, where his Hot Springs was located, on the 15th of May (year unknown) .
Joe Rich was quite a character and purports to have done an extraordinary number of things in the Bear Lake Valley.
For example, he carried the first mail on snow shoes express from Franklin to Paris. He carried the first U.S. mail from Cache Valley to Paris via Gentile Valley and was seven days making the trip in the dead of winter — cutting the ice and swimming Bear River near the county bridge west of Montpelier, the ice being too thin to bear up the pack animals.
He brought the first and only woman who ever crossed the mountains on snow shoes from Franklin to Bear Lake, Mary Ann Rich, wife of Doctor Ashabell Pomeroy.
With Bell Sterrett, Rich owned and ran the first resident mercantile establishment in the valley. They gave from 40 to 60 cents a pound for butter, making no reductions for the Dutch cheese, flies, and bedbugs, and shipped it off in pine barrels made by Bill Bird to what he called the “ungodly” of Montana at 75 cents.
He said coffee and sugar in those halcyon days retailed at from 80 to 90 cents and other things in proportion. They sold whiskey in those days — what they didn’t drink themselves — at $1.50 per pint, brandy $2, and peach brandy $2.50, all out of the same barrel but colored with burned peaches and other incidentals.
He surveyed every city, town, and village except Dingle and Garden City, and all the farming land from Evanston to Soda Springs.
Rich was the first and biggest military commander of the Utah Militia in Bear Lake — — then Richland County, Utah, being commissioned Colonel.
He was the first Justice of the Peace in Paris; was postmaster, too; one of the first county commissioners; the first county recorder; and the first auditor of Bear Lake County.
Rich took the first wagon train that went over the route from Laketown to Bear River, taking 17 wagons loaded with grain from the south end of the lake to Fort Bridger and ferrying Bear River with wagon boxes instead of boats.
He was superintendent of Indian affairs under Governor Duffee of Utah in the early days of the settlement of the valley.
He was a member of the legislative assembly of Idaho twice.
Rich established the first newspaper in the valley in connection with Hon. J. H. Hart, and was the first editor.
He built the first saw mill in Liberty and built the first furniture shop in the valley in St. Charles.
Rich was also the first lawyer in the valley and saw the first marriage in Bear Lake, John Hancock, esq., at Montpelier.
Then he opened the first pleasure resort in Bear Lake, the noted Hot Springs, on the border of Bear Lake.
He shipped the first carload of ore that ever went out of Bear Lake County and was the only man in the county who ever sold a mine for a respectable amount of cash.
Rich built the first sailing vessel that successfully and safely swept the placid waters of Bear Lake and made the run from the Hot Springs to Laketown — 20 miles — in the unprecedented time of two hours. He named it the “Ann Eliza” after his wife, who made him make just such unprecedented runs on many occasions.
Rich also said he graduated as No. 1, of Class A, for the year 1892, of the Pocatello Institute for “Dipsomaniacs.” He said he would recommend it to many of his friends who never indulged.
A character indeed.