(Editorial Note: Part 179 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Larsen-Sant Library Special Historical Collections; The Trail Blazer, History of the Development of Southeastern Idaho; History of Dayton by Newell Hart; Hometown Album, compiled by Newell Hart.)
As the population of the community of Bridgeport moved away that area, part of the Mendenhall and Frew family ranches, become referred to as “The Riverbottoms.” The Bridgeport Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faded away and those homes north of the state road (HWY 36) were included in the Dayton Ward, while those south of the road joined the Weston Ward. “The Frew family gave the ground for the present Highway 36 to the State of Idaho.”
Around 1890 the bridge crossing Bear River on the highway was constructed. A road wound its way back and forth up the eastern hillside to Preston. The old bridge failed about 1952 when there was a Greyhound Bus accident. Due to this a new bridge was installed about 400 yards to the left, and a much straighter road was engineered to climb the hill.
In the meantime two more bridges crossed the Bear. One was known as the Deep Creek Bridge, the other, to the south was the Weston Bridge. There were also regularly used fording places, available when the water was low in the river. Drivers had to be careful using the fords due to the possibilities of quicksand and also of dropping off into a deeper hole on either side of the traveled crossings.
The Riverbottoms stretched on both sides of the Bear River as it wound its way through the county. At the southern end it was five or six miles west of the bustling town of Franklin, then reached to the north to Battle Creek and the lower end of the Riverdale community. There was another bridge across the Bear River constructed during the hey days of Battle Creek when it was the terminus for the Utah Northern Railroad as it was extending its way to the northwest. The locals simply called it the Railroad Bridge but when the boomtown dwindled it was used as one more way to cross the river barrier across the wide valley of the county.
The upper 40 acres of the Riverbottoms first belonged to the Winn family, the earliest settlers of lower Winder. These grassy meadows offered more than pasturage for the settlers’ livestock. With the relatively flat area and open spaces it was a gathering place for large celebrations, particularly during the summer months such as July 4th and the pioneers’ July 24th.
“The big field was some celebration place. You could go swim or else go out on the field. For celebrations they had bowers (boweries) where they’d sell drinks, ice cream and eats. There were foot races. The whole field filled up with people. There was a big race track for horse racing. They used that track for years. They also had a baseball diamond and lots of teams came to play.“ This was on the east side of the river and there was a little foot bridge to cross back and forth, a swinging bridge. Liquor flowed pretty freely in those days and there was always someone deputized at the events to “keep watch” throughout the day. There were frequent fist fights and drinking episodes that might be in need of some law enforcement or even a buggy ride up to the jail in town.
There were mineral hot springs on the upper end of the ‘bottoms,’ on the west wide of the river. Local entrepreneurs of that time, A. W. Hart and Clarence Chadwick, owned the piece where the steam rises at the bend of the river and built a resort/swimming pool there in 1904. They later leased the resort to Sanders & Sanders. This new management advertised: “The best mineral baths in the world are at the Hot Springs. Try Tem. Cures rheumatism and all skin diseases.” Later these managers turned the resort into a saloon and dance hall to cater to the men building the surrounding canals. The owners were outraged, but there was little they could do about it.