Thomas Perry was one of the first men to settle on Mormon Row in 1907. He arrived in the valley with neighbors from Idaho, returning home for the first winter. In 1908, he and Thomas Alma and John Moulton, along with Thomas Murphy returned to their claims and began the work to build homes. Perry was not a rancher but a carpenter, and only did the minimal work to receive his patent. He was skilled in construction, and assisted his neighbors with their ranches. Other than his initial settlement which required at least ten acres of cultivation, he did not practice agriculture on his homestead. In 1914, his living room hosted the first permanent location for the Grovont School. It had previously been held irregularly in different homes up and down the Row. Seeing a growing need for both a school house and a church, Perry donated an acre of his land to construct a church. He was the contractor on the project and the work was completed in 1917. School was held in the church basement until 1922 when a separate schoolhouse was built.
Sometime between 1917 and 1945, Perry sold his homestead to his neighbor Wallace Moulton. Since he was not interested in ranching, he held valuable acreage that his neighbors could put to good use. It is not known if Perry was living in his homestead for the construction of the school house in 1922. The Perry homestead was sold to Andy and Ida Chambers in 1945, having acquired it from Wallace Moulton. It is not known if the Chambers received the entirety of Wallace’s holdings or if they only obtained the Perry land. Wallace was the first Moulton brother to sell his land and leave Mormon Row. The Chambers made good use of Perry’s home as their new residence. They had suffered the loss of their two-story frame house to fire in 1936, and had been living in their tiny log cabin since. Soon after moving in, Andy suddenly died. Ida was assisted by two sons, Roy and Reese to continue running their ranch. In 1946 they installed a windmill to provide electricity to the property. This was a revolutionary change to Mormon Row, as electricity would not arrive until 1957.
In 1951, after the expansion of Grand Teton National Park, Ida sold the 900+ acres she and her sons had acquired to the National Park Service with a life lease. Roy would continue to run the ranch until his mother’s death in 1989, when the ranch was turned over to the National Park.
1907: Thomas Perry arrived in the valley to file on a claim with his neighbors from Idaho, Thomas Alma and John Moulton, and Thomas Murphy. The men file on adjacent parcels and return home for the winter.
1908: The men return to the valley and begin construction on their homesteads, beginning the work to improve the land. Perry, being a carpenter, is the most skilled at house construction.
1914: School in Grovont is first held in the living room of Perry’s home.
1917: Perry receives the patent to his homestead. He also deeds an acre of land for the construction of a church next door, just south of his house. As a skilled carpenter, he is the contractor for the project. That year, school is held in the church basement.
1917-1945: Not much is known about the homestead during these years. It is known that Perry still owned his land as of the 1917 construction of the church. It is not known if he participated in the 1922 construction of the school house. Wallace Moulton did purchase this homestead and Perry left the area, but the dates are unknown. In 1945, Wallace sold his property and also left the valley. This particular parcel was sold to the Chambers, who lived next door.
1922: A separate school house is built, just to the south of the church.
1945: Wallace Moulton sells the property to Andy and Ida Chambers, who move into the Perry house. The homestead lacks the normal agricultural infrastructure, as Perry found more work as a carpenter than rancher. The same year, the Chambers erect a windmill to generate electricity for the ranch, a rare modern convenience along the Row. The rest of the Row would not get electricity until 1957.
1951: Ida Chambers sells the 900+ acre property to the National Park Service with a life lease.
1989: Ida dies and the property transfers to Grand Teton National Park.
Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach