Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were among the first to explore the place we know as Idaho. From September 13 to 20, 1805 the group were basically lost, looking for the headwaters of the Missouri River. On this date their journal reveals that their hunting had failed them, and their food supply was exhausted. Then the Lord blessed; they found their footing and were able to continue on to the Pacific.
I am going to use that as an introduction to something about Idaho.
Twenty-five years after the Lewis and Clark expedition we have the first mention of Baptists in what became Idaho. George Ferris and his wife opened general stores at Old Arco and Houston, but there were no gospel churches in the area. The Ferris’s worried about the spiritual condition of their children, provoking Mrs. Ferris to plead with her husband about returning to civilization for the sake of their family.
About that time Howard Bowler, a Baptist missionary serving at Bellevue, north of today’s Twin Falls, heard about the spiritual need in the Big Lost River Valley. He hitched a horse to his open buggy and began the 90 mile journey east and north through the lava desert toward the Lost River. After days without seeing any sign of life, he arrived at a lone cabin where the woman of the house, Mrs. Nelson, was a believer. Following some mutual, spiritual refreshing the missionary moved eighteen miles further on, arriving at the Ferris cabin. When Bro. Bowler told his new hosts that he wanted to start a mission, the couple went to work locating a meeting place (the local dance hall) and inviting their scattered neighbors. Within a few weeks, the Lord began to bless the preaching of His Word and the congregation began to grow. Remarkable demonstrations of saving grace took place. The owner of the dance hall complained that his business was suffering through a lack of customers. And despite the arrival of a very cold winter, holes were chopped through the ice of a nearby pond, and a few converts were baptized.
Howard Bowler spent six weeks in the Lost River area visiting every family in the valley. He preached sixty times, and when he finally returned home in Bellevue he estimated that he had traveled a thousand miles. But a church and Sunday School had been established; property was secured and rock and lumber weregathered for the erection of a meeting house.
It is said that the wild and sinful community in the Lost River Valley was transformed. George Ferris who was encouraged by his wife to return to civilization remained, becoming a leader in the Lost River Baptist Church, preaching and teaching when there wasn’t an ordained pastor to lead them.. When he passed away, the assembled mourners were so many that the building couldn’t contain them all.