Blackfoot was the terminus of the railroad in 1880 and probably seemed to publisher Edward Wheeler the better bet for starting a newspaper than Eagle Rock, 25 miles to the north. Eagle Rock would later become Idaho Falls, and by far the larger city, but in 1880 it didn’t amount to much. It had a saloon, a store, and Matt Taylor’s toll bridge. Blackfoot, meanwhile, had a café, hotel, four general stores, four saloons, two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a lumber yard, a doctor, and even a jewelry store. It was also, at the time, the most populated city in Idaho Territory. Newspapers run on advertising, so starting one in the comparatively booming City of Blackfoot was the easy choice.
And, make no mistake, advertising was top of mind for Mr. Wheeler. In the first edition of the Blackfoot Register he wrote, “We have… one main object in view, and that is to secure as large an amount of the filthy lucre as possible.”
Wheeler did well enough in Blackfoot for the more than three years he operated there. He plunged into local political issues, championed the building of the city’s first school, and even campaigned to make Blackfoot the territory’s new capital. But lucre moved north and so did the paper.
By 1884 the railroad line had stretched to Eagle Rock and established its headquarters there. Settlers began pouring in. Wheeler pulled up stakes and moved his operation to Eagle Rock where the newspaper began calling itself the Idaho Register.
I’ll write more about the Post Register in later posts, relying as I did for much of this post on William Hathaway’s fascinating book, Images of America, Idaho Falls Post Register, published by Arcadia Publishing.