Victor was inhabited by Native Americans including the Crow, Shoshone and Blackfoot tribes for centuries. Mountain men started traveling through the valley in the 19th century. In fact, John Colter from Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery was the first white man to pass through the area. Both Native Americans and the early mountain men lived seasonally in the valley until the beginning of winter when they would have moved south to escape the harsh winter season to then return in the spring after the thaw. The relationship between Native Americans and mountain men was peaceful until 1832 when a battle occurred at a trading conference resulting in the loss of many lives. Teton Valley was virtually uninhabited for the next 50 years with only outlaws and horse thieves coming into the area. Few settled to stay due to the severity of the winters.
Gideon and Alice Murphy were the first white settlers in Teton Valley, moving their family from Lyman to the valley in 1888. Their fifth child, Elizabeth, born in October 1888, was the first white baby born in Teton Valley. These early settlers came primarily from Utah. They were Mormon converts or descendants from Great Britain, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany. They came to establish new homes and lives because of the plentiful land, irrigation water, and timber. The original wagon route was close to the Teton River. Pioneers followed and settled near the river, which gave them easy access to water for themselves and their livestock, and because lush meadow grass grew along its banks providing forage for livestock.
Hazards and gruesome sights occasionally masked an otherwise peaceful scene as the pioneers came to the area. A skeleton of a trapper greeted settlers that came to Warm Creek in April of 1889. His hands got caught in a bear trap and he could not get out of it.
Draft horses were important to a successful settlement. The biggest loss to any Victor farmer was the death of a horse.
Those who came here had a rustic lifestyle that was a far cry from the creature comforts people expect today. The early log cabins had bare floors and dirt-pitched roofs. Unless straw or animal hides were on the floor, the floors were extremely cold and when it rained or the snow melted, ceilings leaked muddy water. If the cabin had windows, blankets or hides were used to cover the exposed areas and door hinges were made of rawhides.
Abundant food, such as wild game, a variety of berries and small stream fish, was abundant. Crops grew well and animal reproduction was high. Foods not able to be grown in the valley were done without. Flour had to be shipped by wagons into the valley until threshing machines and mills became available in the 1890s.
With the exception of the above-mentioned berry bushes, fruit was not — and still is not— a viable crop in Teton Valley because of the consistency of the soil found here. For this reason, a child finding an orange in his or her stocking at Christmas time considered it a real treat. Rail shipment made this possible.
It is important to mention that even though the early settlers did without a lot of foodstuffs and products and services, their overall health was good. A scarlet fever epidemic as well as typhoid fever came through the area in 1910 but no lives were lost. Smallpox also came to the area in 1911 and there were no deaths.
The settlers dug irrigation canals and after this back-breaking work planted crops, built sawmills, ranched sheep and cattle, and mined for oil, coal and limestone. From 1926 to 1970 Victor mined limestone near the area now known as Fox Creek for the sugar beet factory in Idaho Falls. Gas emitted from the limestone purified the sugar. The railroad was used for transportation and Victor produced enough limestone to be transported to Idaho Falls every other day.
For 100 years, farming and ranching was the basis of Victor’s economy. There are still some working farms and ranches remaining today, but population growth has resulted in the development of lands within city limits. Progress has changed the landscape, but Victor's spirit and sense of community remains warm and welcoming.
Formation of City
In 1889, Cache Valley Mormons founded Victor. The city was comprised of four existing settlements; Trail Creek, Fox Creek, Chapin and Cedron. Originally it was named Raymond Village after David Raymond Sinclair, the ward’s first bishop. Bingham County still has the original drawing that was recorded.
The United States Post Office rejected the name Raymond as there already was a Raymond on record, so the found fathers had to decide on a name for the community. They opted for Victor, after George Victor Sherwood, the local postman who was known for devotedly carrying the mail between Teton Valley and Jackson Hole over Teton Pass.
The extension of the rail line that came from Driggs in 1913 put Victor on the map by providing the residents with access to goods that were otherwise not readily available in the area. The Oregon Short Line was the original rail service that came to Victor; years later it was followed by the Union Pacific. A “Y” rail was built so that the train could turn around and go back to Driggs. The same year rail service extended to Victor, the Trail Depot was also built. This building still stands today as a preserved historic monument and is a reminder to residents of our rail history.
The railroad’s presence created jobs. It was less expensive for Jackson Hole residents to get goods shipped here than from any point in Wyoming. Haulers would loads wagons up and go over Teton Pass to deliver these goods.
The first hotel was built in 1896 by Ben (Grampa) Jones. Folks visiting the area had a place to lay their weary heads. The Killpack Hotel was also established as a place for visitors to stay. Both establishments are no longer in existence.
After the summer, cattle drivers moved herds down from the high country to pastures in the valley. When ready for market, cattle were moved to stockyards, which were located next to the railroad for easy transportation. The same was true with sheep.
The year 1921 brought the first airplane that ever landed in Victor. The pilot was from Idaho Falls and he landed in a field a mile away from town. He took people for rides above the valley. On the 4th of July he would do stunts and maneuvers over the grandstand.
The pulling out of the passenger train service in the mid 1960s dealt a blow to the city’s economy. Known as the “Park Train,” the rail service brought visitors to Victor who would then be bussed over to Jackson Hole/Grand Teton National Park and back again. In the early 1970s all Union Pacific rail service stopped and there was a loss of convenience experienced by the whole community. With the end of the rail service, the stockyards closed and residents had to come up with alternatives to provide for their livelihoods and provisions.
This is a city that refused to give up and quit. It has withstood the test of time and all the trials and tribulations that go with it. Today, Victor is renowned for being a charming, small mountain west town with world-class access to outdoor recreation.