Thomas Sleight recorded in his journal that on September 14, 1863, he was called on a mission to the Bear Lake Valley. At this time he was farming in Hyde Park, Utah. The very next day he, with Lewis Ricks and others, started their journey to the Valley. Eleven hard days later they stopped at a center location in the valley next to a creek to establish the first settlement in the Bear Lake Valley. This place was later named Paris. He further records that two days later September 28th it snowed. This early snow must have been hard on these stalwart pioneers who had just started building cabins. However, this early snow did not deter their dedication to the call by their prophet to settle the Bear Lake Valley and to establish it as part of Zion. By Spring there were 34 cabins in all. One of the first was built by Thomas and Marianne Sleight and Charles and Ann Atkins. It is reported that the Sleight and Atkins couples spent the first winter in the cabin with a line drawn down the center of the one room cabin designating the living space for each. While these early saints established Paris, they also quickly branched out and established many of the communities throughout the valley.
Today this cabin is the oldest building in the Valley. Its preservation to date is due in large part to the City of Paris maintaining it as a city park. In 1978 the Sleight family donated the cabin and property to the State of Idaho Historical Society and later it was donated to the City of Paris.
Even with past preservation it was evident a few years ago that time was taking its toll on the cabin. Eighteen months ago the Sleight family, Friends United for Bear Lake, Idaho Historical Society and the City of Paris teamed together to bring new life back into this incredible historical landmark. With a plan in hand the partners set out to raise money and enlist volunteers to renovate a building that is so important to thousands and thousands of residents and former residents who had ancestors involved in this early pioneering venture.
A fund-raising campaign consisting of family and friend donations and a grant from the Idaho Historical Society soon brought in enough funds to start the renovation. It was amazing the number of Sleight family members and others interested in historical preservation who have donated to the project. The Friends United for Bear Lake under the direction of President Laurie Rich also
sponsored dinners and other activities that added to the money needed to start the project. With the funds in hand, Summer of 2020, volunteers were called upon to do the actual work. The work was coordinated by Reed Sleight who has a great love for his great grandparents who occupied the cabin that first winter and continued to live in the cabin until December 1872. Reed and others donated over 500 hours of time to date. While there is still much to do on the cabin to make it complete, it has a new foundation, roof, 20 new wall logs that replace those that were rotting away, and a gravel apron placed around the perimeter of the cabin to help keep the moisture away from the foundation.
The most wonderful part of the project has been the number of people who have been excited to see this historical site preserved for next generations and have contributed funds and performed many hours of labor to preserve the cabin. It is projected that by next spring more funding will be identified and the remainder of the exterior of the cabin will be completed and a sprinkler system installed in time for the 4th of July celebration. This holiday attracts a huge number of current and former residents and relatives to Paris. It is hoped that families from around the world will yet visit the Thomas Sleight Cabin and Park. As they do, they will be reintroduced to the magnificent contribution the early pioneers made to their lives. The Bear Lake Valley has a most exciting history that needs to be preserved. In doing so, all will better understand who they are and why these high mountain valley communities are important to the past as well as the future.