Thomas E. Ricks: A Man of Foresight


BYU—Idaho, formerly Ricks College, traces its roots to the foresight of colonizer Thomas E. Ricks.

Thomas E. Ricks (1828–1901) was invited by President John Taylor (1808–87) to colonize all of eastern Idaho north of Pocatello. Thus, on 11 January 1883, Brother Ricks, in company with others, arrived at the present site of Rexburg, Idaho, to establish a colony there, which was soon named in his honor. These early settlers were very poor, and Brother Ricks gave financial credit to all and bore a large portion of the colony’s expenses, which eventually caused him financial problems.

“I was called here and have expended my means for the benefit of the people,” he said in February 1890. “My means have been used up, and I am comparatively poor. But my faith has been increased in the Lord, and I acknowledge the blessings of the Lord.”

Although he had little education, Brother Ricks understood its value. In 1888, as chairman of the stake board of education, he offered the dedicatory prayer that marked the beginning of Bannock Stake Academy.

Thomas E. Ricks died on 28 September 1901. The school’s name was changed to Ricks Academy two years after Brother Ricks’s death. Later it became Ricks College, which served as a two-year junior college until 1949, when it served as a four-year college until returning to two-year status in 1956. On 21 June 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Ricks College would again become a four-year college and be renamed Brigham Young University—Idaho.

Of Brother Ricks, President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) said, “It may be a long time before we find another man his equal in honor, mind, and unswerving loyalty to the cause of God and His people.”

Shown are three scenes from the life of Thomas E. Ricks painted by Latter-day Saint artist Glen S. Hopkinson. The paintings currently hang in the Hyrum Manwaring Student Center on the BYU—Idaho campus.

[illustration] Left: Announcing Bannock Stake Academy. In November 1888, stake president and board of education chairman Thomas E. Ricks introduced Jacob Spori as principal of Bannock Stake Academy. He said the academy “was to give spirituality precedence over worldliness; the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ were to be taught side by side with arithmetic, geography, [and] reading.”

[illustration] Above: Leaving Nauvoo. In fall of 1845, 17-year-old Thomas E. Ricks worked alongside his father, Joel, and others to complete the temple in Nauvoo, Illinois. In February 1846, he crossed the frozen Mississippi as a teamster with some of the first families to leave Nauvoo on their exodus to the West.

[illustration] Left: Handcart Rescue. In October 1856, ten days after 28-year-old Thomas E. Ricks returned home from a Church mission, he and others were called at general conference to rescue the Martin and Willie handcart companies stranded by an early snowstorm in Wyoming. They left immediately and were successful in helping rescue the companies.