One hundred years ago, Malad's importance was primarily as a stop for stage coaches transporting goods and passengers between the mines of Montana and the population centers in Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Even so, by 1888, the Church membership had grown enough in the area that a stake was organized, encompassing parts of southern Idaho and northwestern Utah, with headquarters in Malad.This year, the members of the Malad Idaho Stake are observing their centennial. The actual anniversary date of the stake organization is Feb. 12, but the major celebration is tentatively planned for July 22-24, according to Pam Smith, who is in charge of publicity.
That would coincide with the July 24 Pioneer Day, when Church members in Utah and elsewhere celebrate their pioneer heritage. Committees in the stake have been organized to plan a parade, barbecue, dance, and special sacrament meetings among othe events.
Part of the observance is a centennial history being compiled by Hubert Gleed, a former bishop of the Malad Ward.
Gleed said Malad's first settlers came to the Malad River Valley in 1864, and by the following year, what would become Malad City was settled.
Because of its location on the stage coach route, the town quickly grew as a freighting center.
"Settlers tried farming but they were not very successful because of the crickets," Gleed said. "Also it was not very profitable because there was not a nearby market except for the local mill. During the early days, the main agricultural industry was cattle and sheep, which could be driven to market and, hence, were more profitable.
The Church began in Malad as a branch of the Box Elder, Utah, Stake. In 1884, the Oneida Stake was organized with headquarters in Preston, Idaho, and Malad was part of that stake.
Four years later the Malad Stake was formed, consisting of wards in Plymouth, Portage and Washakee, Utah; and Cherry Creek, Malad, St. John, Samaria, Rockland and Neelyville in Idaho.
Today, the stake is comprised of five wards in Malad, and one each in St. John and Holbrook. There are about 2,000 members in the stake.
"Farming has been very profitable in the valley over the years, but these days agriculture is in a decline everywhere," Gleed said. "Most of the farmers here now have moonlighting jobs."
He said many people hold jobs in nearby Box Elder County, Utah, at an aerospace plant, steel corporation and furniture factory.
Latter-day Saints at one time comprised about 90 percent of the population in Malad, Gleed noted. The percentage is now between 60 and 70 percent of the population, which numbers about 1,840.
In early times, anti-Mormon sentiment in Idaho prevented Church members from having the right to vote, Gleed noted. "In Malad, they were hard pressed to get officials for county and city offices because Church members were not allowed to hold office.
"But about 1912, there was a complete turn-around in attitude. It seems like the LDS are now well-accepted and looked up to. They are expected to set a moral and religious standard in the community."
Part of the reason for the change in attitude, he said, was construction in 1914 of a fine LDS meetinghouse, still in use today.
"All the town rallied around the effort to construct it," he said. "Non-members and everyone else contributed to it."