Thomas E. Ricks was one of the great colonizers of the West. He came to Idaho's Upper Snake River Valley at the request of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to determine the feasibility of settling the area. His opinion was that the people would willingly relocate here because the valley was a natural magnet and he immediately began to organize the area.
Brother Ricks, who had accumulated considerable assets by helping bring the railroads to the emerging territory, was called to serve as bishop of the vast valley. He used every means at his disposal - including his own - to ensure success of the new colony.
The early settlers who moved into the region often had barely enough to survive. Even worse, access to basic commodities required crossing the Snake River at Henry's Fork, but there was no bridge.
When no one else could, or would, Bishop Ricks built a ferry to transport people across the river. A man of action, he worked his teams night and day to dig irrigation canals so that the wilting crops could receive water. He also opened a store, liberally extending credit to neighbors in need. When his own resources were near exhaustion, he solicited the help of his influential friends to keep the settlement going.
Knowing that education was a major priority of the Church, Bishop Ricks was intent on seeing to it that the new settlers would have the opportunity for an education. Although he himself had little formal education, he had the frontier know-how so necessary for conquering the wilderness of his day. But he recognized that for succeeding generations to prosper, they would need formal education.
Speaking at a conference of the Bannock Stake, over which he was called to preside, he noted: "We must educate our children, as there are important positions awaiting them." It was also his desire that young people be educated "according to the promptings of the Spirit as well as the promptings of the intellect."
His greatest achievement, however -- and his most notable legacy -- is the educational institution he worked so hard to establish and which was named Ricks College in his honor from 1903-2001.