But, for a couple of decades, there were effectively two towns named Montpelier. The post office didn’t recognize that reality, but the residents did.
When Montpelier residents heard that the railroad was coming to town, there was a division of opinion. Some saw it as progress and opportunity. Some, such as wagon freighters, saw it as competition they didn’t need. There was another fear many residents had: Gentiles.
Montpelier was one of several Bear Lake Valley towns created during the Mormon colonization of Southern Idaho. The Mormons had experienced quite a lot of persecution in the short history of the church. What if the railroad encouraged settlement by non-Mormons?
One of the more progressive citizens of the community, Edward Burgoyne, sold a right-of-way to the Oregon Shortline, along with timber for ties and grading work. So, on July 24, 1882, the first train arrived in Montpelier.
To show their disdain for the non-Mormons who did indeed start moving in because of the opportunities the railroad provided, citizens of what became Uptown Montpelier built a fence between their Mormon community and the developing Gentile community that was called Downtown Montpelier. A gate would let people pass from one to the other, but Uptown Montpelier parents warned their children to avoid the evils on the wrong side. Those evils included the saloons that had sprung up Downtown.
Each “town” had its own business district, school, recreation center, and churches.
The split between the communities was only exacerbated by federal anti-polygamy laws, which US Marshall Fred T. Dubois began enthusiastically enforcing in 1884. Idaho laws for a time kept Mormons from voting, holding office, or serving on a jury. Again, this effectively reinforced that fence.
Anti-Mormon rhetoric subsided somewhat in Idaho in the late 1880s, and people on both sides of the fence began to prosper from the railroad. By 1890 the town had grown to 1174 residents, second only in population to Boise, according to that year’s census (though it must be noted that Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Moscow, and Rexburg didn’t show up in that census, for some reason).
Leaders on both sides began to work together more, and by 1891 there was a unified city council in place. The fence came down at some point, though some Uptown/Downtown squabbles continued. As late as 1906 there was a dust-up over which “town” would have the post office.