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Iona residents gather to celebrate re-opening of historic museum

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Crowd gathers in front of the Iona Historical Museum Saturday for the grand re-opening celebration | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

IONA — After six months of improvements, the Iona Historical Museum is now open again and members of the community used the occasion to celebrate with a grand re-opening and ribbon cutting Saturday afternoon.

Arlene McCabe Riding, president of the museum board, tells EastIdahoNews.com they’ve been working to add context and clarity to the exhibits.

“We had some very nice displays before, but they weren’t all grouped together, organized, or labeled. People could come through and see it, but some people didn’t understand what (the displays were all about),” says Riding. “We’ve improved it so people could understand everything, what it was for and how it was used.”

The Iona Historical Museum highlights the history of Iona and stories of the early settlers of the community. One of the more notable displays is the Wagon Box Memorial.

“That is well worth seeing by itself,” Riding says.

The memorial honors the early pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who settled the Snake River Valley.

“People had come up here on their own from Utah to try and make a living with their young families. (Once they moved here), they began to get discouraged. Nothing was growing and they just couldn’t get things started. Some of the dignitaries from the church came up and encouraged them to stay with it,” says Riding.

On June 17, 1884, Wilford Woodruff and Heber J. Grant, then members of the church’s quorum of twelve apostles, visited and created the Sand Creek Branch, a congregation of church members.

During this meeting, Woodruff told church members “God would bless and multiply this land,” according to a museum brochure. Riding says Woodruff was standing in the back of a wagon box when he spoke these words and that’s why the display is called the Wagon Box Memorial.

Wagon Box Memorial inside the Iona Historical Museum | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

The museum itself is also a historic display.

“The man who built this building was named Oswald. He’s built a lot of these stone buildings all over the valley, and he actually settled on the west side of Idaho Falls in the Osgood area,” Riding says.

The building now occupied by the Iona Historical Museum was built in 1895 and began as a tithing house. In those days, Riding says members of the church would pay tithing with whatever means they had, including food or animals.

“They had a barn in the back and corrals to house their animals, so when people paid their tithing in-kind, they had someplace to put it all. That’s what all this was for,” she says.

The building became a home that various families lived in over the years. It had been abandoned for several years before Riding and others decided to turn it into a museum in 2012.

Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

“It had completely disintegrated inside. The ceiling was down and it was a bat and rat infested area,” says Riding. “But with a lot of hard work, we got it back in shape (to form a museum).”

“A little yellow trailer hauled four loads of bat manure to the landfill,” one Iona resident told EastIdahoNews.com.

Riding feels the museum is important to maintain the community’s rich heritage and teach people about their ancestry.

Approximately 75 to 100 people turned out for the ribbon cutting and grand opening, and Riding says she’s grateful for the community support.

“There was a bunch of people here. We didn’t set up enough chairs, and we thought we’d never fill them. But we did. And then the sun came out. That’s just what I ordered,” Riding says.

The Iona Historical Museum is located at 5293 Rockwood Avenue. It is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment. Visit the Facebook page to learn more or call Riding to schedule a tour at (208) 709-4300.

Museum exhibit | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
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