Discover the Oldest Town in Idaho

Flag of Idaho
© Xrmap / Public Domain

Written by Justin Zipprich

Updated: November 9, 2023

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The state of Idaho was founded back in 1890, making it one of the oldest and most historic places in the country. Even before it became a state, it was the location of Franklin, which is the oldest town in Idaho. Today, we’ll tell you a bit about the great history of one of the oldest cities in Idaho, including the people that live there, and some of the animals that call this ancient area their home.

Franklin is famous for being the first permanent European settlement in Idaho.

What is The Oldest Town in Idaho?

The oldest town in Idaho is Franklin, which was founded on April 14, 1860. It’s a city in Franklin County, and as of 2010, there are currently 789 residents. Franklin is part of the larger Logan, Utah-Idaho metropolitan area. 

The Founding and History of Franklin

Thomas S. Smart and a group of Mormon pioneers founded Franklin in what was then considered part of the Washington Territory. The town is named after Franklin Richards, who was one of the Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Life was complicated during those early years as the settlers got used to the area. There were many conflicts with local Indian tribes and a lot of violence. 

Franklin is famous for being the first-ever permanent European settlement in present-day Idaho. The town is about 4,500 feet above sea level. The city itself is quite small, at only about 1.29 square miles, and 0.03 of that is water.

One of Franklin’s claims of fame is that it was where part of the movie Napoleon Dynamite was filmed. Specifically, the scenes where the main character worked at a chicken farm. That was at Ritewood Egg Farms, and the supervisor in the movie was loosely based on Marlow Woodward, an actual Franklin resident. 

Historical District

Historical City Hall, Franklin, Idaho

Franklin’s historical district houses many original buildings like the Franklin City Hall.

©Tricia Simpson / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Franklin is small, but it’s home to a historic district that has a couple of buildings of interest. One is the Franklin Cooperative Mercantile Building. Located on Main Street, it was one of the first buildings, and it’s now a museum of Mormon history. 

Another noteworthy building is The Hatch House, which was the home of Lorenzo Hatch, back in 1872. He was one of the town’s spiritual leaders and the first mayor of the town. He went on to become the first Mormon legislator in the state. Visitors can stop by and check out both buildings.

Who Lives In Franklin?

The population of Franklin hasn’t experienced much change over the years. During the 2000 census, there were also 641 residents but only 195 households. 

Interestingly, the population didn’t change that much during the 2010 census, as at that point, there were 641 total residents in Franklin and 221 households. There are about 508 residents living per square mile, and at this point, the town is about 91% white, 0.5% African American, and a smaller mix of other races. Of those residents, 42.5% have children, and just over 62% are married couples. At that time, the median age was just under 30 years old, and the demographics were about 50-50 men and women.

As of the most recent census, there are 789 residents, so it has grown a bit, but it still has its warm and cozy small-town feel. 

Where is Franklin Located on a Map?

Franklin is the oldest city in Franklin County, Idaho, and is a small community within the United States. With a population of 789 as of the 2010 census, it holds a peaceful charm.

Here it is on a map:

Interesting Facts About Franklin

Here are some more miscellaneous facts that you may interest you about the oldest town in Idaho:

  • Unemployment Rate – 3.1%
  • Median income – $33,000
  • Voting – 87.7% of Franklin’s residents are Republican
  • Average commute – 16.7 minutes
  • Median home cost – $348,000

Wildlife You’ll Find in Franklin

Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Kicks Up Snow on Log Winter - captive animal

There are many incredible animals you can find in Franklin County, including the Lynx.

©Holly Kuchera/

The oldest town in Idaho and the larger Franklin County is also known to be home to a wide variety of wildlife, from insects and fish to larger mammals.  


There are many birds that call Franklin home, including several hawk varieties, like the Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawk. Other bird species include red-winged blackbird, grasshopper sparrow, northern pintail, and more.


Franklin is home to many insects, including a large selection of moths. Among them are the speared dagger moth, cutworm moth, mouse moth, and celery looper moth. The area is also known for various types of bees, including two-form bumble bees, northern amber bumble bees, and Hunt’s bumble bees.


The county is home to a wide variety of invertebrates, from salamanders to mayflies. There are also several species of amber snail and underwing. 


Franklin is no stranger to a growing variety of mammals. Venture around the county, and you could see dogs, coyotes, big brown and silver-haired bats, porcupines, cats, jackrabbits, bobcats, martens, voles, chipmunks, deer, and you may even spot a lynx. Mountain lions are also spotted from time to time.


There are a variety of rattlesnakes that call Franklin home, including the prairie rattlesnake, great basin rattlesnake, and western rattlesnake. Other common reptiles include gopher snakes, western skinks, and sagebrush lizards.


The lakes in Franklin Country offer a variety of fish, including northern pike and bluntnose Jack.


Some of the more common plant and tree varieties in the area include the pygmy poppy and whitebark pine, in addition to various types of grass.


That covers the basic history of the oldest town in Idaho. Franklin is a town of rich history, and the people there live a simple life that’s calm and quiet. If you’re ever in the area, consider stopping by to say hello.

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About the Author

Justin Zipprich is a writer at A-Z Animals, where his primary focus is travel, state facts, pets, and mammals. Justin has been writing and editing animal content for over 7 years, though he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Western Illinois University, which he earned in 2005. As a resident of Texas, he loves discovering local animals and spending time with his wife and two kids.

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