The Settlements on the Muddy 1865-1871 "A God Forsaken Place"
Utah Historical Quarterly
Vol. 35, 1967, No. 3
The Settlementson the Muddy 1865 to 1871 "A God Forsaken place"
BY L. A. FLEMING
Colonization in any area in North America presented no greater difficulties than those faced by the settlers on the Muddy River. First was the remoteness of the area — they were 450 miles from Salt Lake City and 90 miles from their headquarters in St. George; there were no cash markets for anything they produced; there were no roads — the original pioneers traveled down the Virgin River crossing it as many as 35 times; and there was the terrible summer heat — even the nights were unbearable. The country was desolate; the trees and palms that now line the valley were planted by the colonists. Then there were Indians—marauding, sneaking, thieving Indians — present everywhere. And always there was the wind — one day it blew from the south; the next day it blew from the north. In the winter it blew cold; in the summer it blew hot; and it always carried the drifting sand. Sand blew into food, into the cracks of houses, and on at least one occasion the people at St. Joseph awoke to find their water ditches blown full of it.
One wonders how these pioneers succeeded as well as they did. To understand, one has to know and consider the people themselves. These settlers were Mormons, members of a new church — a church whose very foundation was based upon the concept of a prophet who was guided by the Almighty to direct them to go places and do things. When that prophet stood up in the semiannual conference of their church, called them by name, and told them they had been selected to go and settle on the Muddy, the call carried the seal of Diety upon it. It was as though the Lord Himself had called them. And they went.
The name "Muddy," which was given to the stream, goes back to early packers who used the California Trail many years before any permanent settlements were there. Kit Carson referred to the river as the Muddy when he camped on it in the spring of 1847. Orville C. Pratt camped on the river October 10, 1848, and called it the Muddy in his journal. James McClintock states that an early map of New Mexico Territory dated 1853 says the "Muddy is set down as the El Rio Atascoso," Spanish for "Boggy." Joseph W. Young, in a letter to the Deseret
News of June 19, 1868, gives the best clue as to how the name was derived. He says:
The stream has it's [sic] name [Muddy] from the fact of there being a low alkali swamp on the east side of the creek where the California Road crosses, which is bad to cross in wet weather, but the creek is clear and very good water, with the exception of being too warm for pleasant drinking.
It became known as the Muddy Crossing and then the Muddy Valley. The Muddy Valley (now known as the Moapa Valley) lies in the extreme southeast part of the State of Nevada. It is approximately 30 miles in length from the springs in the northwest to where it empties into the Virgin River. At no place is the valley over two and one-half miles in width. It is composed of three separate valleys, the first or upper valley is the source of water. Here, in many separate, crystal clear, warm springs, the Muddy River is born. This upper valley is about two miles wide and five miles long, terminating at the lower end in what is called the Upper Narrows. The second or middle valley commences at the Upper Narrows and continues down to the Lower Narrows and is about two miles wide and about six miles long. The third valley begins at the lower end of the Lower Narrows and runs to the confluence with the Virgin River (now covered by Lake Mead) and is about 18 miles long. This is what has always been known as the Muddy Valley. Actually, it is a continuation of the great drainage system of that part of Utah and Nevada not in the Great Basin.
The climate is harsh, for it is true desert. The summer temperatures are extremely high, and with little moisture in the air, the heat of the day in winter is rapidly dissipated so the nights are cold. The vegetation is limited to the creosote bush, cactus, mesquite, and other related hardy desert plants. Timber suitable for sawing into lumber was 60 miles away.
There were three basic reasons for the Mormon Church establishing these settlements on the Muddy, and it is difficult to state which was the most important. The first was the navigation of the Colorado River. There were a thousand miles of wagon roads from the Missouri River to the Salt Lake Valley, all through hostile Indian country. By bringing freight and passengers around the southern tip of South America and up the Colorado as far as navigation was possible, the wagon haul to Salt Lake was only 450 miles, all through country dotted with Mormon communities.
The second reason was Brigham Young's desire to make his inland empire economically secure. Soon after establishing the Indian Mission on the Santa Clara, the colonists learned cotton could be grown there. The Mormons knew from their explorations that there were valleys at lower elevations, with warmer climates, where cotton could be produced even better than in Utah's Dixie area. This no doubt was a very important factor for settling the Muddy Valley.
The third reason was to keep non-Mormons from settling in these valleys and gaining control of them. The mines at Pioche, in El Dorado Canyon, and throughout Arizona Territory were coming to life. The natural route for travelers to take from the Nevada mines to the Arizona country was down the Meadow Valley Wash to the Muddy, thence to the Virgin and the Colorado rivers, and into Arizona. If travelers were to pass this way, it was only a matter of time until people would locate here permanently.
At a meeting in St. George in 1864, President Erastus Snow told his people that "in his recent visit to Clover and Meadow Valleys he was satisfied that it is the intention of Col. Connor and other Gentiles to settle there, and not only claim the mines of silver, in that vicinity, but also the farming lands, water priviledges, &c. in those and surrounding valleys." With that idea in mind, he thought it best to "strengthen those settlements."
With the outbreak of the Civil War and the supply of cotton cloth cut off, it became imperative that the Mormons produce their own cotton goods. In the October conference of 1861, 300 families were called to settle in the south on a "Cotton Mission." By 1864 these colonies were permanently established, and cotton was being successfully produced.
Steamship travel was becoming fairly common on the Colorado River by the summer of 1864. Regular service was in existence from the mouth of the river to Hardy's Landing, approximately 150 miles below the confluence of the Rio Virgin and the Colorado rivers. The time was ripe for the Colorado River transportation to Utah to begin. The idea of transporting goods from Europe and New York over the Isthmus of Panama, or around South America and up the Colorado River to the "head of Navigation" was to become a reality.
At a High Council meeting held in St. George on June 11, 1864, it was decided that it would be "advisable to explore for a more direct wagon-road from St. George to the head of navigation on the Colorado and especially for a distance of twenty miles, or so, from St. George in a S. W. direction." Jacob Hamblin, Isaac Duffin, David H. Cannon, and Leonard Conger were selected as the exploring party for this purpose. They were given authority to call others to assist, them if needed.
In the meantime a group of the leading merchants of Salt Lake City formed a company with the idea of "building a warehouse at some suitable place on the Rio Colorado, with a view of bringing goods into Utah by that River." Also it was thought, "the Mormon emigration might come into Utah from that direction should possible contingencies render it advisable."
At the general conference of October 1864, Anson Call of Davis County was directed by the First Presidency "to take a suitable company, locate a road to the Colorado, explore the river, find a suitable place for a warehouse, build it, and form a settlement at, or near, the landing."
By fall word had spread down the river to Hardy's Landing that the Mormons were embarking on the river freighting business. William H. Hardy immediately dispatched a letter to the leaders at St. George, which was read to the conference of November 4, 1864. Hardy invited trade with the Mormons
. . . via the Colorado river and giving a list of prices of some articles he will furnish at Hardy's landing, on the Colorado: Flour $10.00 per hundred, Bacon 17£ per lb. General merchandise at a small advance on San Francisco prices. Transportation to or from San Francisco to Hardy's Landing, 3 to 4¢ per lb.
Following the reading of Hardy's letter, President Erastus Snow proposed that a party of men be sent to the Colorado River for further exploration and to visit Hardy's Landing to see what arrangements for commerce could be made. Jacob Hamblin, James M. Whitmore, Angus M. Cannon, and David H. Cannon were selected for this purpose.
On December 17, 1864, Anson Call had arrived at the Colorado River. He selected a site for the church warehouse and landing, 125 miles from St. George.
Elder Call found the river at this point to be the size of the Illinois River and landing, he states, is as good as the Peoria landing in Illinois. He reports flowers to be in full bloom. On the 18th of December he picked a water melon, which was not ripe but growing thriftily. The explorers did not find any large body of arable land below the Muddy Valley. They found a good piece of farming land at Beaver Dams about 30 miles from St. George. It was estimated that it would cost $60,000.00 to make a good road to the new landing.
While he was exploring the river, Call and his party went to Hardy's Landing, 150 miles downstream. Very likely the purpose of this trip was to ascertain whether the best possible site for the church warehouse and landing had been selected. In telling of the trip, Call stated that "no steamboat was there but one was expected daily." Call also reported to President Snow that "during the prevalence of high water, it was judged that boats could go up the river to Jacob's Crossing [mouth of Grand Wash] on the Colorado, 75 miles from St. George."
On January 15, 1865, William Hardy of Hardy's Landing arrived at Call's Landing in a flat-bottomed barge, 50-feet long and 8-feet wide. His crew had propelled the barge 150 miles upstream by poles and oars. The barge was equipped with a sail, but due to strong head winds, it could be used but two hours on the entire trip. Hardy told Call that he had no difficulty in getting up the river and with a little improvement the stream would be safe for steamers. He offered, for $500.00 in currency, to remove all the rocks considered dangerous between Hardy's Landing and Call's Landing and declared "that he cannot see how more than fifty thousand dollars could be expended to advantage in improving the Colorado from it's [sic] mouth to Call's Landing." Hardy promised Anson Call that
. . . merchandise ordered in San Francisco in March would get to the mouth of the river in April, then by the middle of May it could be delivered at Call's Landing. In June the river would be too high and also dangerous because of drift-wood; but in July, August, September, October and probably in November, a steamer could make, at least three trips a month from the mouth of the Colorado to Call's Landing.
Hardy also brought a communication from the firm of George A. Johnson and Company, which operated a warehouse of 500-tons capacity at the mouth of the river. The communication stated,
. . . this firm recommends that in the event of shipping direct from New York to the mouth of the river, it would be best to use the light barquerigged vessels of 500 or 600 tons burden and drawing 15 ft. of water. Leaving New York about the middle of March, or first of April, which, allowing four months for the trip, would bring them to the river about August, "the very best time for boating the river."
We can deliver your goods with any of our boats at El Dorado Canon 16 in August, September, October, and November. My firguring [sic] is that you can charter a vessel of the class mentioned for eight or ten thousand dollars currency, making $16.00 a ton to the mouth of the River. I will agree to deliver 5 or 6 hundred tons to El Dorado Canon in the months above named for $65.00 in coin, and as freight increases and down freights come on will be diminished. By this figuring, calculating currency at 50¢, your freight will cost, at El Dorado Canon, $7.16-2/3 per hundred pounds in currency.
The warehouse and a few dwellings, together with some huge rock corrals, were completed some time during the month of February. The warehouse, between 75- and 100-feet long and about 45-feet wide, was constructed of stone laid up in lime mortar. The walls were about three feet thick with no windows. There were some rooms petitioned off at one end of the building.
The Saints were very optimistic about shipping along the Colorado River when the project was first considered. Two steamships, the Esmeralda and the Nina Tilden, made the trip somewhat regularly from the mouth of the Colorado to Call's Landing, connecting with other steamships plying between the mouth of the Colorado and San Francisco. The owners of the river boats carried a standing advertisement in the Salt Lake Telegraph seeking trade up to December 1, 1866.
On December 18, 1865, Bleak stated that "Jacob Hamblin and Dr. James M. Whitmore, returned from a trip they had made to the Colorado River. Dr. Whitmore reports, that but little business is being done at Call's Landing."
No estimate is available as to how much freight passed through Call's Landing. Bleak on December 10, 1865, wrote, "Some of the teams that passed through St. George some time ago, on their way to Calls [sic] Landing on the Colorado, came in this morning on their way north," no doubt loaded with freight.
In 1866 the Arizona Legislature, at Prescott, by resolution thanked Admiral Robert Rodgers, commander of the steamer Esmeralda, and Captain William Gilmore for the successful accomplishment of the navigation of the Colorado River to Callville (Call's Landing) "effected by the indomitable energy of the enterprising Pacific and Colorado Navigation Co." Both the Arizona and the Nevada legislatures petitioned Congress to improve the stream.
The port of Call's Landing had a short life. In June of 1869 the Deseret News printed an article mentioning that Call's Landing had been abandoned. The mention of Call's Landing in the newspaper was in connection with the escape of three horse thieves from St. George. These men wrenched four large doors from the warehouse for the construction of a raft upon which they committed themselves to the river at flood time.
Whether the Mormons could have made a success of the navigation and long, slow freight haul to Salt Lake City will never be determined. Hardy claimed it would cost $50,000 to improve the river for navigation. Call claimed it would cost $60,000 to construct a road from St. George to the river. In any event freighting on the river would be expensive. The warehouses and buildings at Call's Landing had hardly been completed when word came through that the Union Pacific had started laying rails west from Omaha in July of 1865. The dream of a transcontinental railway was to become a reality, after which the river project was dropped completely.
SETTLEMENTS ON THE MUDDY
When Anson Call was called at the October general conference of 1864 to proceed to the Colorado River to select and build a warehouse and landing, he was also instructed to "form a settlement at or near the landing." From his party's exploration of the river and adjacent country, they knew the only area capable of supporting a settlement of any size would be at the lower end of the Muddy. So at the same conference that called Anson Call, the order went out for "missionaries to strengthen the Southern Mission and especially to settle on the Muddy."
This proposed settlement on the Muddy River very likely had a twofold purpose. It was a part of the Southern Utah Cotton Mission; and the Muddy Valley, at a lower elevation, possessed ample water for irrigation, a warmer and much longer growing season, and was much better adapted for the cultivation of cotton than Utah's Dixie. Also the settlement could provide food and forage for those living at the warehouse and for the freighters traveling to and from there.
On January 8, 1865, the first of the missionaries arrived on the Muddy. Brigham Young had called Thomas S. Smith of Davis County to preside over this first settlement. The party consisted of 11 men and 3 women. Within a matter of days after the first party arrived, additional settlers came and the colony soon numbered 45 families.
A typical Mormon village was laid out — dwellings in the center of town and farmland surrounding the area. The streets ran north-south and east-west — "85 lots of one acre each and about the same number of vinyard lots of two and a half acres each, and the same number of farm lots of five acres each. Ten lots formed a block. The streets were six rods wide, including a 12 foot sidewalk." The town was given the name of St. Thomas after their leader Thomas S. Smith.
As soon as the land was surveyed and apportioned out, settlers commenced the hard work of clearing the brush, grubbing out the mesquite, and planting gardens and fields. The Mission report that summer showed 55 acres of wheat were planted as well as considerable oats and barley.
The August irrigation report for the Mission showed St. Thomas with a three-mile canal, eight feet wide and two and one-half feet deep, which cost $3,840 to construct. The colonists also had another small canal in process of construction which would cost $1,160.
It was a harsh land, and to the eyes of Hannah Sharp anything but hospitable and inviting. She described it by saying,
At length, after journeying a full month, they looked out on the burnt desolation of their new home site; a little group of adobe huts with willow and mud roofs mussed together into a fort, pitiful attempts at wheat and corn fields; not a tree to impede the direct rays of the sun. Then there was the warm alkali water of the Muddy that had sickened Hannah from the first taste of it. Even now her mouth was raw with canker, yet she must drink that water, and she wondered if there would ever be anything to eat besides bread and treacle and parched corn or wheat.
On April 26, President Erastus Snow; his secretary, James G. Bleak; and Brothers Cragun and Ensign arrived on the Muddy. Along with his ecclesiastical duties of checking on the people, President Snow was looking for a place to establish another settlement. The day following their arrival on the Muddy, the Snow party with Elder Thomas S. Smith and others traveled up the valley. About two miles above the settlement of St. Thomas, they came to a "fine meadow which was estimated to contain about 1000 acres, the grass of which was then ready to cut." About two miles above the first meadow they found another "meadow of about 600 acres." In the vicinity of the second meadow they found what they considered a good mill site and a fine body of farmland suitable for another settlement.
All spring additional settlers had been arriving in the valley. In June of 1865, the town of St. Joseph, about 12 miles upstream from St. Thomas, was established. It was organized as a branch of the St. Thomas Ward, and Warren Foote was appointed to preside over it. The town was surveyed and the land apportioned to the settlers. At this time 40 families were located there.
As with the first settlement the Saints immediately set to work clearing the land. The irrigation report for August showed the settlers at St. Joseph had constructed a canal three and one-half miles long, four and one-half feet wide, and one and one-half feet deep, which cost $1,000. Another canal was planned that would be four miles long, fourteen feet wide, and three and one-half feet deep, to cost in excess of $5,000.
Some time after the town was established, Joseph W. Young in a letter to the Deseret News described the place.
At present, the inhabitants of this place are living in a fort built on a high bluff about midway between the upper and lower ends of the lower Muddy. The town is laid out on a level, sandy bench, laying west and north from the fort, and it is to be hoped that most of the people will get out on their lots this fall. In consequence of the people having to fort up, very little has been done in setting out trees and vines. Yet there is no doubt but this place will equal any settlement in the south in the production of the grape. This settlement is greatley [sic] blessed with an abundance of excellent hay land. I suppose one hundred and fifty tons have been cut and stacked this season and this is but a small portion of what could be had, if there was sufficient labor to get it. The wheat crop at St. Joseph is generally good, some pieces being very fine, while some later sowing is very light. Wheat in this country must be sown in the fall to do anything.
By December 1865 enough people had arrived in the valley that still another settlement was established. President Erastus Snow appointed Orawell Simons to preside over this new colony and it became known as Simonsville. By spring a grist mill had been constructed at Simonsville and was being used to grind wheat, corn, and salt. Bleak in his history commented,
A cotton gin is also being worked by the same power and has been ginning the cotton raised last year. Over five thousand pounds of cotton lint was obtained on the Muddy from 1865 crop. Rhodes obtained 695 pounds of first class lint from one acre.
The first year was a hard one. Along with clearing the land, building irrigation ditches, planting crops, and constructing homes, many of the people came down with malaria and dysentery. In the town of St. Joseph there were four deaths. Many settlers were discouraged, could not take the hardships, gave up, and moved out. By fall, out of the 40 families when the town was organized, only 25 remained.
By spring of 1866 the Indian depredations that had become so prevalent in southern Utah had spread to the large Indian population along the Muddy and the Virgin rivers. In February the Indians killed several head of stock and drove off about 60 more. One Indian, Co- Quap, who had been branded an outlaw by the Indian chiefs in the area, was taken prisoner and executed at St. Thomas. A few weeks later a miner was murdered near Panaca. An Indian, forced to admit his guilt of this crime, was brutally treated and hung. Four other Indians were killed for participation in the miner's murder.
With their every success, the Indians became more brazen in their stealing. According to Andrew Gibbons, during the latter part of March all the Upper Muddy Indians "have pulled up their wheat, some 30 acres and have left for the mountains," taking with them 32 head of horses, mules, and cattle from St. Joseph and Simonsville. A posse of about 25 men, including 10 from St. Thomas had gone in pursuit but were unsuccessful in finding the stolen stock.
By May Indian-white relations in the Southern Utah Mission had deteriorated to the point that Brigham Young wrote President Snow a lengthy letter counseling him on the subject. The letter told the Saints to abandon all the small communities they were unable to defend and to collect in the larger settlements. The following are excerpts from Brigham Young's letter.
To save the lives and property of people in your counties from the marauding and blood-thirsty bands which surround you, there must be thorough and energetic measures of protection taken immediately.
.... There should be from 150 to 500 good and efficient men in every settlement; ....
When it may be necessary for wood, poles or timber to be hauled, one or two persons should not venture into the Kanyons, but a company should be formed who, well armed themselves, should also be accompanied by an armed escort....
When settlements are abandoned measures should be taken to bury the house logs and fence poles, &c. to prevent their destruction by the indians [sic] ....
The careless manner in which men have traveled from place to place . . . should be stopped, . . .
Adopt measures from this time forward that not another drop of your blood, or the blood of anyone belonging to you, shall be shed by the indians [sic] and keep your stock so securely that not another horse, mule, ox, cow, sheep, or even calf shall fall in their hands and the war will soon be stopped . . .
On May 30, President Erastus Snow and a company of 10 men with two wagons and 13 animals started from St. George for the Muddy for the purpose of organizing the defense of these colonies, At St. Joseph a meeting took place between President Snow, the valley leaders, and the Indians. The Indian chiefs present were Tut-se-gavitz, chief of the Santa Clara Indians; To-ish-obe, principal chief of the Muddy Indians; William, chief of the Colorado band and 17 of his men; Farmer, chief of the St. Thomas band and 20 of his men; Frank, chief of the Simonsville band and 12 of his band; Rufus, chief of the Muddy Springs band above the California road and 14 of his men; and Thomas, chief of the Indians at the Narrows of the Muddy and one of his men. A total of 7 chiefs and 64 of their men were at the council.
President Snow addressed the Indians, with Andrew Gibbons as interpreter, assisted by James Pierce and Indian "Benjamin." A very good feeling prevailed, and the white settlers on the Muddy felt that much good was accomplished.
It was considered wise at this time to organize a battalion of the Nauvoo Legion for the protection of the settlers. This was done under the guidance of Brigadier General Erastus Snow. Thomas S. Smith was given the rank of major and placed in charge of the Muddy River group. The battalion consisted of 93 men, rank and file.
Several days after President Snow arrived back in St. George, he received the following letter from General Daniel H. Wells of the Nauvoo Legion.
Brigader Gen'l Erastus Snow at St. George Dear Sir: —Your favor of the 21st ult. came to hand yesterday and was read to the President and duly considered.
If the brethern of the settlements on the Muddy build good and sufficient forts and otherwise take energetic measures to protect themselves and property, it would not be objectionable for them to remain; at least at the most of those respective places ....
On June 12, Brigadier General Snow sent an express to Major Thomas S. Smith giving such extracts from the above letter as applied to the settlements on the Muddy. Following these extracts General Snow stated,
In the exercise of the discretion extended by the above, and in consideration of keeping a guard for the protection of the Mill at Mill Point [under the hill from Simonsville], I deem it best to divide the settlements, as nearlly [sic] equally as may be, between St. Thomas and that place, leaving the brethren of St. Joseph at liberty to choose, each for himself, whether to stop at Mill Point, and take hold with energy this fall and winter in putting the water as high onto the bench at that place as can be conveniently done, and building a permanent and commodious fort there, — or go on down to St. Thomas, as may best suit their several circumstances and feelings.
Those choosing to stop at Mill Point, will select a suitable place near the Mill, move their wagon and temporary dwellings into as compact and convenient positions as possible, so as to afford thereby as much protection to their families and property as the nature of the circumstances will permit; using all precautions in their power to guard against surprise or repel attack.
The brethren moving from St. Joseph to Mill Point can plant their corn and cane on lands in that vicinity instead of St. Thomas.
I would recommend that their crops be all gathered and secured at Mill Point and diligent preparations made at that place for the winter making adobes &c. for their fort, houses, granaries, and etc. Their adobes should be made of such clay as will wash the least; and if no more suitable place be found, I think they would do as well to make them on the bottom above the mill; as those made there seemed to be of fair quality.
The military protection of the settlements and the responsibility of maintaining guard and taking such other measures as may be necessary for the safety of the brethren and their property, together with affording necessary escort to moving families, &c. we will place, under your direction, upon Captain Alma Bennett, — and require of him the strictest watchfulness and care, that life and property be not sacrificed.
Whether to appoint Brother Bennett or some other person to the Presidency of the place in spiritual matters, I leave to your discretion and the choice of the people.
Your brother in the Gospel, Erastus Snow.
Following the counsel of President Snow, most of the people of St. Joseph moved down to Mill Point. Here they built an adobe fort for their protection. The Mission census for that fall listed 167 settlers at Mill Point, 35 of them men. Their crop report showed 89 acres of wheat, 25 acres of corn, 23 acres of cotton, 9 acres of cane, and 4 acres of orchard and vineyard. A total of 151 acres was under cultivation. The wheat crop had yielded better than 31 bushels per acre, and the colonists had 2,793 bushels of threshed wheat.
The census report for St. Thomas gave a population of 129, 40 of whom were men. Their crop report showed 152 acres of wheat, 30 acres of corn, 24 acres of cotton, and 24 acres of cane; making a total of 231 acres under cultivation. The settlers had 3,812 bushels of threshed wheat, an average of 25 bushels per acre.
However, the prime crop for the area was cotton, and in 1866 3,000 pounds of lint were raised in St. Thomas which was an average of 222 pounds per acre. At Mill Point 17 acres of cotton had yielded 6,000 pounds of lint.
The harvest in the fall of 1867, found the cotton crop a huge success; 23 men at St. Joseph had produced over 14,600 pounds of first-class cotton lint, in addition to their other crops. The cotton culture on the Muddy was proving so successful that at the October conference of the church in Salt Lake it was decided to call additional families to strengthen this part of the Cotton Mission. As a result 158 new families received a call to proceed to the Muddy.
There were other changes in the valley also. Alma H. Bennett, who was the presiding elder at the settlement of St. Joseph, was now sustained as bishop, succeeding Warren Foote. In St. Thomas, Thomas S. Smith, bishop of that settlement had been released and gone north because of ill health. Elder James Leithead, one of the first settlers on the Muddy and assistant to Thomas Smith, was sustained as bishop.
The Saints called at the October conference began to arrive at their new home. By the middle of February between 75 and 80 men out of the 158 called were there. The settlers at St. Joseph had been generous in sharing their land with the newcomers, but many were dissatisfied and talked Andrew Gibbons, the Indian interpreter, into going with them to the Upper Valley to establish a new settlement.
Hardly had the wagons arrived at the site of the proposed new settlement when they were approached by a large band of Indians with blackened faces and armed with bows and arrows. The Indians demanded that the new settlers pay for the land. Interpreter Gibbons addressed them, telling the Indians of the advantages arising from having their Mormon friends settle near them. This did not appear to satisfy the natives. The fact that the newcomers were all well armed appeared to pacify the Indians more than any argument.
President Erastus Snow in Salt Lake City was sent a report telling him of the new colony and the trouble with the Indians. This in turn was relayed to Brigham Young. Brigham was annoyed. The colonists were called to strengthen the present settlements, not to start a new one. On Monday, February 17, the following telegram was received in St. George and immediately relayed to the Muddy. "Bishop Gardner: —The brethern who are on the Upper Muddy must return to the place where they were sent, or else return home," signed Brigham Young. The result was that quite a number of the willful settlers left the Muddy for their homes in the north.
It is not recorded if the attempt to colonize the Upper Muddy at this time was abandoned or whether the colonists defied Brigham Young and stayed. Shortly thereafter, there was a settlement on the Upper Muddy. It became known as West Point and had 20 families. It was a very desirable location. Here the creek ran almost on the level of the surrounding land. To get water in the ditches, it was only necessary to cut through sod banks. With the first harvest, these people reaped 2,000 bushels of wheat and raised a good cotton crop.
In May at the quarterly conference held in St. George, Bishop Bennett reported the affairs of the valley settlements. They were good and bad. Bad because of the 158 families called at the past October conference, only 25 or 30 now remained. Good because the crops had produced so well. In the coming year it was estimated that 80 men could produce from 200 to 250 acres of cotton with an average yield of 400 pounds of lint per acre or 80,000 to 100,000 pounds, but the cry was "send us more help." Following Bennett's appeal, President Snow noted that "any one in St. George or surrounding settlements was at liberty to go and settle on the Muddy, and such should have his blessing."
On the afternoon of August 18, a devastating fire broke out in the tule-thatched roofs of some of the buildings in St. Joseph. Before it was over most of the settlement was destroyed. Bishop Bennett reported to President Snow in St. George by express.
St. Joseph, Aug. 19th, 1868.
Brothers E. Snow and J. W. Young: —
Yesterday between one and two o'clock P.M. a fire broke out in our place, doing great damage; burning up nine rooms and nearlly [sic] all of the contents. It commenced on the East side of the Fort at Bro. O. P. Miles' and Wm. Streepers', destroying everything of theirs in their houses; also one wagon of Brother Streepers, loaded with clothing, flour etc. they saved nothing but what they had on. Brother Thomas and Billingsley lost all with the exception of their beds.
Brother Farmer saved some little of his clothing, Bro. Day lost house, and some little of his things; he is absent on a trip to St. George; this is the number of the East side that has sustained any loss. The Meeting House is burned down. On the West line Bro. Chaffin, Gibson, Watt and Cahoon are left nearly entirely destitute: — Clothing, flour, dishes, and in fact everything in fact with the exception of what they had on their backs was consumed by the flames. Ferguson saved the most of his things. Moyes lost nothing but his house. The amount of damage is great; several thousand dollars. Those who were in the best circumstances are the greatest losers.
The wind blew a stiff gale from the N.E. and every thing being dry it made quick work; only lasting about 30 or 35 minutes. All the men, with the exception of two, were out at work consequently, could not render any assistance. Fortunately no lives were lost.
It has left us in a critical condition. Some are moving out on to their city lots, Several of the brethern [sic] who are on visits North are heavy losers.
Bros. Wiler, Pratt, Clayton, Rydalch and others have lost everything. Cause of the fire: — Some small boys went out to make a fire to roast potatoes back of Bro. Miles and Streepers houses.
Alma H. Bennett.
Not mentioned in the letter was the fact that Brother Chaffin's cotton gin was also consumed in the flames.
The following morning, after receipt of the letter, President Snow called an early meeting to discuss the catastrophe. An appeal was sent to the towns of Washington, Toquerville, and Santa Clara and also to the people in St. George to donate anything in the way of food, clothing, and household goods that could be spared to the settlers in St. Joseph. As a result of the appeal for help, several wagon loads of the necessities of life were collected and dispatched to the burned-out people on the following Sunday.
By this time the mines in Pioche, Hiko, and farther west in Nevada were going full force. The mines in Arizona and El Dorado canyons were also very active. The most logical place for people traveling to and from these mines was down the Virgin River and across the Colorado at the confluence of the two. Consequently, it was desirable that the Saints hold the crossing or ferry site.
Early in 1869 Brigham Young issued orders for a settlement to be established at the mouth of the Rio Virgin. Jacob Gates of the First Council of the Seventies was appointed to select suitable persons from St. George and adjacent settlements for this purpose. Joseph W. Young, who had now been appointed by President Snow to preside over the Mission on the Muddy, was appointed to make selections from the settlements there.
On February 22, 1869, Joseph W. Young wrote from St. Joseph to President Brigham Young telling him of the establishment of the new colony: "We have five men at the mouth of the Virgin, and will at once send more and carry out your instructions." The new settlement was given the name of Junction City.
On August 30, a Mr. Asay and his two sons were out on the Colorado River fishing with a seine when out of the canyon floated Major John Wesley Powell and his exploring party. Major Powell recorded in his journal that
... As we came near, the men seem far less surprised to see us than we do to see them. They evidently know who we are, and on talking with them they tell us that we have been reported lost long ago, and that some weeks before a messenger had been sent from Salt Lake City with instructions for them to watch for any fragments or relics of our party that might drift down the stream.
Our new-found friends, Mr. Asa [sic] and his two sons, tell us that they are pioneers of a town that is to be built on the bank. Eighteen or twenty miles up the valley of the Rio Virgin there are two Mormon towns, St. Joseph and St. Thomas. To-night we dispatch an Indian to the lastmentioned place to bring any letters that may be there for us ... .
August 31. — This afternoon the Indian returns with a letter informing us that Bishop Leithead of St. Thomas and two or three other Mormons are coming down with a wagon, bringing us supplies. They arrive about sundown. Mr. Asa treats us with great kindness to the extent of his ability; but Bishop Leithead brings in his wagon two or three dozen melons and many other luxuries, and we are comfortable once more.
This colony on the banks of the Colorado River had problems — the Indians pestered and pilfered from them. Finally in desperation and to reinforce their ranks, Brother Asay induced three Gentiles to settle there and go in partners with him. This so disturbed Bishop Leithead that he sent a telegram to President Snow, who was in Salt Lake. Snow's reply was to hold Junction City till President Young came in March, and to send help if Leithead could.
Early in 1870 Brigham Young, George Albert Smith, and others did come to the Muddy and on down to Junction City arriving there on March 16. Apparently President Young was not favorably impressed with the valley. One settler quoted him as saying it was a "God Forsaken place and the people would have to redeem it."
During the early years of these settlements, the creek did not run in a channel as it does now. The present channel is the result of floods and man's containing them. Joseph W. Young described the valley as it was in their day in a letter to the Deseret News.
. . . the creek runs into a deep and narrow canyon [Lower Narrows] which is passable only to those good at climbing and is about five miles in length. When the creek puts out of this rugged canyon it breaks over all restraint and spreads into a tule swamp some two or three miles wide and five or six long.
The first land farmed by the Saints was the land around the edge of the swamp where the water was easy to get upon the land. The irrigation of this marginal land caused the alkali and other mineral salts to rise so much that the land could be used for only one year. If the swamps were drained the rich bottom land, free of alkali, would be available. Also there was a health factor — the settlers would be rid of the huge swarms of mosquitos that persistently bothered them from warm weather in spring to the first frost in the fall. On June 3, 1869, Bleak made the following entry in his journal.
. . . This season they [settlers of St. Thomas] have made a water ditch, 10 miles long, 6 feet wide and 2 1/2 ft. deep, to drain the swamps above the settlement and to convey water from St. Joseph to St. Thomas.
Early in June, President Snow and a party of men left St. George on a visit to the Muddy settlements. This was a twofold mission, to sell the Saints living there stock in the newly established cotton factory at Washington, and to sound out the people on the advisability of extending the telegraph line to these colonies. A meeting was held at St. Thomas. Both programs were "viewed with favor by the people," and they passed a resolution to build their portion of a telegraph line to St. George. Andrew Gibbons, with Joseph Young and such others as the Upper Muddy settlements might choose, was to locate the line. Seven hundred dollars was subscribed at the meeting to purchase stock in the cotton factory.
Snow and his party then proceeded to St. Joseph. The people were assembled and told of the telegraph and cotton factory proposals. Here also the people gave a "unanimous vote to build their pro rata share of the telegraph line."
The party went on to West Point. As in the other settlement, the colonists voted to construct the telegraph line and subscribed $400.00 in capital stock in the Washington cotton factory.
With the continued arrival in the valley of new settlers, another colony was established southwest of Simonsville about two miles. In the fall of 1869 it was organized into a branch of the church and given the name of Overton. Heleman Pratt was called to preside over this settlement of 20 families.
Early in 1869 a valley cooperative was organized among the settlements. Its purpose was to enable the people to become, in effect, their own merchants and share in the profits of the business by wide distribution of shares of stock. It was also used as a means of marketing their cotton. Joseph W. Young was elected president, James Leithead, vicepresident, and a board of directors consisted of Brothers Stark and Elmer at St. Joseph, Foote and Johnson at St. Thomas, and Johnson at West Point.
Brigham Young again visited the Muddy River Mission early in 1870, and following his visit a feeling of doubt and uncertainty seemed to prevail over the entire valley. Many settlers were discouraged as indicated in James Leithead's letter to President Erastus Snow.
St. Thomas Nov. 24, 1870.
President E. Snow, Dear Brother: Since my arrival home I have visited all of the settlements on the Muddy. I found in all the settlements a spirit of uncertainty and doubt as to the permanency of the Muddy Mission. Very many feel since the visit of Pres. B. Young that there is little or no interest felt for the future of this country. The breaking up of the Upper Muddy settlements has helped to confirm this opinion. There are many, however, in all the settlements what wish to remain. They feel as though it would be hard, after so many years toil to abandon now what little progress they have made towards a home. I have tried to encourage the Saints, those who feel this way to perservere [sic]. I have also tried to encourage the raising of cotton as the only means to obtain clothing. If our present crop of cotton would bring us goods, such as hoes, shirts, pants and other articles of common wearing apparel, it would be a blessing to many now destitute.
I mention this so that you might inform us on this point. The crop of cotton is small but if we could realize even 20 or 25 cents per pound in the most necessary articles of clothing it would be a blessing, present as well as a stimulant to more extensive cotton culture. I have urged and encouraged the extensive cultivation of cotton on a co-operative principle and I am satisfied instead of twenty thousand pounds a year there might be seventy or a hundred thousand pounds produced every year. We have grain sufficient for the present population and perhaps some to spare, but at present, there is no market, outside, nor in. The breathren are very anxious to sell the present crop of cotton for goods. Please communicate what the factory will do in this matter.
Conditions continued to be critical among the Saints all fall. They lacked the necessities of life, and many were disheartened. Finally Leithead wrote to James G. Bleak, the Mission secretary, what almost amounts to a prayer for help.
St. Thomas, Dec. 1 1870.
Bro. James G. Bleak:
Dear Brother: I am pleased to say that all is quiet on the Muddy. No apparent evil resulting from our little Indian trouble. I think a contrary effect will be the result.
Today some 25 or 30 Wallapies from over the Colorado came in with their head chief Che-Rum, they say they are friendly and have come on a visit to see the Mormons. I suppose they will stay a few days then leave for their own country.
In my letter of last week to Pres. Snow I said something about our cotton. I wish now to say or rather propose to the Rio Virgin M. Co. that if they will furnish us, I mean our Co-op institution with goods such as we will select, or rather such as we are really in need of, such as shoes, clothing partley [sic] homemade goods, shovels, spades, ploughs and articles of this kind that we are destitute of we will agree to* deliver our cotton some 20 or 25 thousand pounds, at the company factory at Washington at the average price of 25 cents per pound providing we get the goods at about the same rate that we have purchased from Southern Utah Co-op. We will freight our goods down and deliver the cotton at the factory.
I make the offer because we are destitute of such articles and our cotton is all our dependence to get them.
If the Rio Virgin Co. cannot accede to something of this kind, we must try and find some other market.
Besides it would encourage and stimulate the brethren here, in cotton culture.
We care less about the price, could we only obtain the articles needed.
Many are nearly naked for clothing.
We can sell nothing we have for money and the cotton, what little there is seems to be our only hope in that direction. We might take quite an amount in the products of the factory, providing the cloth was good; but still there are many articles we are more in need of than cloth, such as boots and shoes and tools of various kinds to work with.
Please ascertain the company's mind on the subject as early a date as possible and communicate to me and you will much oblige,
Your Brother in the Gospel. James Leithead
This area of the country is subject to very violent and devastating thunderstorms — storms that come up suddenly and end suddenly, but literally pour out rivers of water while they last. Such storms usually come during the months of August and September. One of the violent storms struck the settlement of West Point. Bleak recorded the following from a letter to the Saints located there.
We sympathize with the brethren at West Point on account of the disasterous floods that have injured their crops and bred disease in the settlement.
After conferring with President Young on the subject, we are authorized to say to the brethren of that settlement, that if they prefer to vacate that place, they are at liberty to do so and seek locations at St. Joseph, Overton, or St. Thomas or any where else they may choose among the Saints.
Erastus Snow, Jos. W. Young.
But while a natural storm may have prompted the abandonment of West Point, storms of a political nature were responsible for the collapse of the other colonies along the Muddy. As in other parts of Utah, there was considerable uncertainty as to the exact location of Utah's border. A careful survey line had not been run, and then the boundaries were altered in 1861, 1862, 1866, and 1868.
Three of these boundary alterations occurred in the area of the Muddy Mission. The one of 1866 actually cut the Mormons off from Utah and made them part of the new State of Nevada. But the Utahns did not know where the boundary was — maintaining that it lay to the west of the settlements in the Upper Muddy country.
The Nevada officials, however, were sure that the settlements of Pioche, Panaca, and those on the Lower Muddy were indeed in Nevada and included them in Lincoln County, whose county seat was at Hiko.
Furthermore, they attempted,to collect taxes and in at least one instance at the point of a gun.
Meanwhile, the Utah Legislature on February 18, 1869, created Rio Virgin County to include the Muddy settlements. St. Joseph was designated the county seat by the county court on April 3, 1869. Joseph W. Young had been named probate judge and Royal J. Cutler was named clerk of the probate and county courts. The court set the tax, most of which was paid in produce ($20.00 worth of flour, $12.45 worth of wheat, and $28.55 in cash) ,
Nevada, on the other hand, required the payment of all taxes in "United States Gold and silver coin."
The stage was set for a real struggle. However, the law was on the side of the Nevadans. And despite pleas and petitions to Carson City, to Washington, D.C, and to Mormon friends elsewhere, the case was decided against the Mormon colonists. A survey line, run by Isaac James and Captain Monroe in the summer of 1870, proved that the 114 degree latitude was 30 miles east of the Mormon settlements. They were officially Nevadans not Utahns.
There was small liklihood that the taxes already paid in Utah would be recognized by the Lincoln County officials. This double tax burden, along with the many other already suffered by the Mormons, prompted Brigham Young to write the following to the leaders on the Muddy.
. . . You have done a noble work in making and sustaining that out post of Zion against many difficulties, amid exposure and toil.
We now advise that you gather together and take into consideration your future course and if a majority, after fairly canvassing the subject, conclude to remain and continue to develope [sic] the resources which abound with you, all abide by the result. But if the majority of the Saints in council determine that it is better to leave the State whose laws and burdens are so oppressive let it be so done; but it will not be prudent to reduce your numerical strength much and attempt to remain.
May the blessings of Iserael's [sic] God rest upon you and guide you in your decision.
It would be adviseable, whether you conclude to leave the State or not to petition the Legislature for an abatement of all back taxes, setting forth the disadvantages under which you labor, being entirely an agricultural, instead of a mining people and far removed from market.
It would also be well to petition for a new county, with all it's [sic] priveleges [sic].
If perhaps the authorities of Lincoln County should see proper to enforce the collection on their old assessment, or a new one, it might be well to forestall the seizure of property as far as possible by moving your stock and other property out of the jurisdiction of the State.
At St. Thomas, the vote for abandonment was 61 for, two against — with Daniel Bonelli and his wife choosing to remain. In the Upper Valley all but three (S. M. Anderson, Joseph Asay, Sr., and James Jackson) chose to leave.
Most of the settlers in the Upper Valley around Pioche stayed on and found a cash market from the mines of Pioche for their produce. In February of 1871 the more than 600 colonists of the Muddy Valley were once more in exodus — this time eastward from Nevada where they left behind 150 homes, 500 acres of cleared land, 8,000 bushels of wheat in the "boot," and an irrigation system valued at $100,000.
Moving back along the route which had brought them to the Muddy Mission, the colonists, for the most part, settled in Long Valley east of Utah's Dixie. Here they founded the towns of Glendale and Mount Carmel. Descendants of these Muddyites are still living along the approaches to Utah's national parks. Here they reminisce of what life would have been for them had their ancestors remained to be removed at a later date by the rising waters of Lake Mead.
UTAH, 100 YEARS AGO
April 20, 1867 — Richfield, Sevier Co., was deserted by its inhabitants because of Indian trouble. About the same time the other settlements in Sevier and those in Piute County were abandoned by the same cause, as well as the settlements of Berryville, Winsor, Upper and Lower Kanab, Shunesberg, Springdale and Northup, and many ranches in Kane County; also the settlements of Panguitch and Fort Sandford, in Iron County. [Church Chronology: A Record of Important Events Pertaining to the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, compiled by Andrew Jenson [Salt Lake City, 1914])
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