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Statue represents Rexburg heritage

Val and Alice Hemming commissioned the statue of Grover and Cora Hemming. Val Hemming said he and his wife plan to develop Hemming Village in a way that leaves a legacy. AUSTIN SWENSON | Scroll Photography
Val and Alice Hemming commissioned the statue of Grover and Cora Hemming. Val Hemming said he and his wife plan to develop Hemming Village in a way that leaves a legacy. AUSTIN SWENSON | Scroll Photography

A new statue stands in front of the Hemming Cabin on Second West in Rexburg.

The statue portrays Grover and Cora Hemming, parents of Val Hemming, the man who commissioned the work of art.

“It will be dedicated to his parents and to the citizens of Rexburg that kept [Ricks College] open and kept it [in Rexburg],” said Alice Hemming, wife of Val Hemming.

Val Hemming said that the story behind the statue is one that many people in Rexburg don’t know because it happened more than 50 years ago.

Val Hemming wrote an article in the Journal of Mormon History about the struggle the residents of Rexburg had keeping Ricks College alive.

Ricks was founded in 1888 as the Bannock Stake Academy, and was part of a Church-wide effort to promote education.

According to Val Hemming’s article, as public education became more readily available, most of the stake academies were shut down.

By the early 1950s, though Ricks was still running and beginning to do well, Ernest L. Wilkinson, administrator of the Church Education System, decided that Ricks College needed to be moved.

“He looked at Rexburg and he realized that the population in the per valley was south of here. It wasn’t in Rexburg; it was in Idaho Falls,” Val Hemming said.

Val Hemming said that after putting so much work and effort into Ricks, the residents of Rexburg didn’t want it moved south.

For the next six years, Wilkinson debated with the people of Rexburg over the fate of Ricks.

“The reason [BYU–Idaho] is here on the hill today is because of those people,” Val Hemming said.

Alice Hemming said she and her husband are also working to preserve as much of Rexburg’s heritage as they can.

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