The cemetery in Leeds, Utah.
From Native American Trail to Interstate Exit
A local history of passage
The earliest desert routes in the West followed water. Having drinking water for person or pack animal was critical in negotiating the extreme heat and rugged terrain. Springs of water are located near where you stand and elsewhere in the vicinity of Leeds. Until the 1900s, these springs were significant features in defining early travel routes for travelers in this part of the West.
Native Americans, the Paiutes or Pah-utes, lived in the Leeds area along Leeds Creek. Pah is the native word for water. The Paiutes were somewhat nomadic, traveling along routes where life-giving water was available. The earliest pathways in the Leeds area were those of the Paiutes and their ancestors.
Fur traders, trappers, and explorers used the trails as well. In the 1860s, as the Mormons began settling southern Utah, the area that would eventually become Leeds was known as Road Valley. The springs were the site of a wagon rest stop. After Leeds was settled in
the 1860s, its main street became part of the route connecting Salt Lake to St. George and other Mormon settlements in southern Utah.
When silver was discovered in the early 1870s at nearby Silver Reef, a symbiotic relationship between the new little farming community and the mining town was born.
Farmers sold their produce to the residents of Silver Reef. Residences, a church, dance
hall, mercantile, boarding house, and other businesses sprang up along the main road in Leeds. For several decades, the economy of southwestern Utah thrived as a result of this
interdependence of farming and mining.
With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900s, long-distance travel became more common. In the early days of the automobile, the road through Leeds became part of a route known as the Arrowhead Trail. In 1926 the federal system of numbered highways was initiated, and the Arrowhead Trail became known as U.S. Highway 91. In 1931 the final stretch of Highway 91 from Harrisburg through Leeds to Toquerville Junction was paved. The highway became the major route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Well into the 1950s, travelers continued to pass through Leeds. The small Main Street businesses were utilized by residents and travelers alike.
In 1956, with a good paved highway and faster automobile travel, the residents of Leeds started sending their children to St. George to school. Many Leeds residents worked and shopped in St. George as well. In 1964 the section of Interstate Highway 15 was completed parallel to Leeds, officially retiring Highway 91 as the major route. Leeds was reduced to just another interstate exit. The change brought more residential tranquility to the center of town but produced an economic coma for the local businesses. Over the
next several years, Main Street became almost exclusively a residential street with only a few businesses.
This building, built in 1891-92, was the Leeds Tithing Office. The building was most likely constructed by the renowned stone masons of the era, Willard McMullin and Sons.
The settlers of Leeds were almost exclusively members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons. Tithing, a pivotal expression of Mormon religious devotion, consists of donating 10 percent of a family’s income to the church.
In pioneer times, a settler’s wealth was not typically interpreted in terms of cash. For tithing purposes, wealth was commonly measured in terms of produce, products, or even service. Many families paid tithing “in kind” with peaches, corn, figs, apricots, bottled meat, etc. In many communities a tithing office was established to collect, store, and redistribute the donated goods to those in need. The Leeds Tithing Office was equipped
with bins and barrels for storage and a set of scales for weighing produce.
Of the several early tithing offices built in the region, the Leeds building is the only remaining example of a stone tithing office that still stands with its original stone walls.
The in-kind tithing system was retired in the early 1900s.
Water is life… The shovel is divine
From Ditches to Pipes
The use and control of water controls the future
The earliest settlers in Leeds used innovation and hard work to divert water from Leeds Creek to their homes, fields, and industry. The town pioneers carefully studied the lay of the land between the creek and the settlement and selected a route that would transport the water to Leeds. The lowly hand shovel was their “divine tool.” Digging ditches with pick and shovel and teams of work horses across the rocky terrain was hard and seemingly endless work. Ingenuity was required in keeping the path of the ditch in a
downhill direction to maintain water flow. Building a good ditch system took clever minds, strong backs, and great determination.
The Leeds Water Company was established in the late 1800s to legally secure and organize rights to use local water, a historically controversial and difficult task in the arid West.
The main ditch carried Leeds Creek water to the northeastern edge of the town. From that point, ditches conveyed the water to town lots and beyond to the nearby agricultural fields. Prized lots in Leeds were those that fronted the ditch, especially lots that were closest to the beginning of the ditch, where pollutants from upstream use of the water were fewer.
Built c. 1876 of red brick by Samuel Worthen and sons for William Stirling, one of the first settlers of Leeds. Fine example of “Dixie Dormers” unique to Southern Utah. Marker placed 1973 by Mrs. David Stirling and Family.
William Stirling, a prominent and early settler of Leeds, came into what seemed, for
the times, a fortune. Stirling, a farmer and winemaker, was also the chief executive
officer for the Leeds Water Company. In 1872, on a cold winter day while riding his
horse through Silver Reef, he observed that the Christy Mill, a five-stamp silver ore
processing mill, was overheating as a result of the routine water supply freezing solid.
An explosion was inevitable. He moved swiftly into action, opening head gates which
directed water from the Leeds ditch system to cool the overheating mill. A disaster was
averted. The owners of the Christy Mill demonstrated their gratitude to Stirling by placing him on the payroll with a handsome salary for a year with no expectation that he
work for the wage. Stirling used the wage to build this two-story brick home.
The Stirling home was built in 1876 by Samuel Worthen and Sons at a cost of
about $5,000. The house exemplifies well the “Dixie Dormer” upper floor
windows, which were a popular architectural design of the day. Eldon Stirling,
grandson of Sarah Ann and William Stirling, lived in the home during the latter
part of the twentieth century. He updated the woodwork on the porch and
balconies in the early 1980s, hand turning on a lathe all the balusters for the
William Stirling played an important role in the history of early Leeds and the
short existence of Silver Reef (1875 to 1889). After the silver boom declined,
Stirling realized that many of the empty wooden buildings still standing in
Silver Reef could be “mined.” In 1895 he purchased and moved the vacant St.
John’s Catholic Church of Silver Reef to Leeds. He converted the building into
the Leeds Social Hall or “Old Stirling Hall.” Plays, variety shows, dances, and
many festive activities took place in the building. People came from a wide
area to enjoy the performances. The building, which was located on Main
Street, no longer stands today.(*)
Honoring early Harrisburg Pioneers and their infants and children
Surname Given Name Middle/Maiden Birth Death
Cox Willard Glover 13 Feb 1887 7 Aug 1887
Daily Sarah Jane Wilson 21 Dec 1830 22 Oct 1873
Earl Eliza 1 May 1864 (Died as Child)
Earl Wilbur Joseph 29 Mar 1817 6 Aug 1874
Fuller Anne Belle Campkin 12 Aug 1841 11 Sep 1878
Fuller Elizabeth Vaughn 3 Oct 1845 7 Jan 1865
Fuller Elizabeth Vaughn 4 Jan 1865 4 Jan 1865
Fuller Orrin Eugene 8 May 1872 8 May 1872
Goddard Mary Ann Pace 20 Oct 1835 1915
Goddard William Pettibone 10 Jan 1827 1903
Hamilton Abel 28 Jan 1974 11 Oct 1874
Harris Bernice 4 Aug 1897 11 Feb 1898
Jolley John Bryant 1 Feb 1868 8 Feb 1868
Jolley Mary Ann Harris 25 Feb 1851 10 Feb 1868
Leany David 29 Dec 1877 10 Jun 1879
Leany Edwin 22 Apr 1876 28 Apr 1876
Leany Elizabeth Scearce 4 Jan 1822 9 Jun 1908
Leany Ellen 19 Dec 1878 21 Aug 1879
Leany Elmer 9 Dec 1906 14 Dec 1906
Leany Mary 19 Dec 1859 22 Jan 1915
Leany Mary Elizabeth 3 Nov 1869 3 Nov 1869
Leany Thomas Jefferson 4 Jul 1865 11 Dec 1896
Leany William Condie 19 Dec 1876 22 Mar 1877
Leany William 19 Dec 1815 29 Dec 1891
McCleve John Taylor 27 Mar 1845 5 Jun 1867
McMullin Martha Richards 2 Oct 1814 11 Jun 1867
McMullin Mary Ann Holmes 2 Jul 1836 12 Dec 1895
McMullin Willard Glover 21 Feb 1823 17 Oct 1884
Meeks Charles Mason 31 Mar 1872 25 Oct 1873
Meeks John Priddy 29 Sep 1863 11 Oct 1863
Mulford Furman 27 Jul 1812 23 Jan 1865
Newton Ann Jacques 16 Nov 1813 1 Nov 1892
Newton Elizabeth Ann 12 May 1860 30 Mar 1866
Newton John 1 May 1815 16 Jun 1864
Robb (Baby Boy) 26 Apr 1873 26 Apr 1873
Robb Albert 18 Sep 1866 21 Apr 1868
Robb Susannah Drummond 13 Nov 1837 26 Apr 1873
Robb Susannah 4 Jan 1864 Oct 1864
Note: After more than two year’s research in co-ordination with the Harrisburg Estates Homeowners Association (owners of this cemetery), this plaque was erected honoring early Harrisburg Pioneers and their infants and children.
See other historic markers in the series on this page for SUP Markers.
Named here are the Heads of the Families who settled in Harrisburg between 1859 and 1928:
James Lewis Hosea Stout
William Leany Dr. Priddy Meeks John Brimhall
Orson Adams Elijah K. Fuller Samuel Hamilton
William Robb Rufus Allen Allen J. Stout
Mosiah L. Hancock Alfred J. Randall
Willard G. McMullen Samuel Gould John Newton
David Ellsworth John McCleve Allen Taylor
Henry E. Harrington Milton Daily Wilson Daily
Thomas Adair Willbur Earl William Stirling
AL Carpenter Jerome Asa
Robert Richardson Frank Owens
See other historic markers in the series on this page for SUP Markers.
A Tale of Three Towns
The history of three towns—Harrisburg, Silver Reef, and Leeds—is
intricately connected. Harrisburg and Silver Reef are ghost towns today, while Leeds persists. Like many locations in the arid west, water and its availability and accessibility was the determining factor in whether a town lived or withered away.
The first settlement in the area was Harrisburg, founded in 1861 by Moses Harris and a few Mormon families who settled along Quail Creek. Despite their efforts in digging a 5-mile-long irrigation canal along what is now known as Leeds Creek, growth was hampered by rocky soil and limited land available for farming. By 1876 Harrisburg was losing population and essentially failing. Today, remnants of a few pioneer homes and the restored Adams House are all that remain of Historic Harrisburg.
About the same time Leeds was settled, silver was discovered on the White Reef. This reef, an upturned sandstone ledge, parallels I-15 from Harrisburg to a point north of Leeds. Miners and immigrants, including many of Irish, Cornish, and Chinese origin, rushed to the area with the hope of making their fortunes. The boomtown of Silver Reef sprang up about a mile north of Leeds, and by 1878 was a considerably larger community than either diminishing Harrisburg or the growing farming community of Leeds. At its height, Silver Reef boasted nearly a dozen mines and six ore processing mills, plus retail stores, saloons, hotels, banks, a school, Wells Fargo express office, theater company, and other urban amenities. Leeds and Silver Reef were a study in contrasts. Despite great differences in ethnicity, religion, and culture, the mining boomtown and its agricultural neighbor formed a mutually dependent relationship. The miners at Silver Reef were sustained by produce from Leeds, and Leeds farmers flourished with cash from the miners for their crops. By 1900 Silver Reef had died as the most easily accessible silver ore had been mined and the price of silver plummeted; however, the farming community of Leeds survived.
By 1867 the Harrisburg pioneers realized that a place called “Road Valley,” just to the north, was more suitable for diverting water and cultivating farmland. Amidst controversy, but with direction from Mormon leader Erastus Snow, many families moved from Harrisburg to Road Valley. An irrigation ditch was dug and water was brought to the site. The town was organized on December 1, 1867, and named Bennington, in honor of the town’s bishop, Benjamin Stringham. Bishop Stringham later requested that the town be named after Leeds, England, where he had served as a Mormon missionary. In May of 1869, Bennington became Leeds.(*)
FROM SCHOOLHOUSE TO TOWN HALL: A BUILDING ON THE MOVE
The building to your left was originally built as a schoolhouse in 1880 in nearby Silver Reef. It also served in the mining boomtown as a place for community dances and other gatherings.
Soon after the schoolhouse was built, Silver Reef began to decline in population, and by the early 1900s the building was no longer in use. At that time, the building was divided into two parts and moved on logs pulled by horses along the road, 2 miles from Silver Reef to its present site in Leeds. For more than five decades, until 1956, it served as the Leeds Schoolhouse. During most of that time, its two classrooms housed students in eight different grades.
After the school closed, the building was leased to and used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a recreation center. Eventually it was remodeled and turned into a town hall and community gathering place for Leeds. The old school was reroofed and the small porch on the original building was expanded across the full length of the new town hall’s front.
LEEDS PEACHES: DID YOU KNOW? In the 30s, 40s, and 50s when the peach farming was booming in Leeds, peaches from the community were shipped throughout the West via rail from Cedar City. The local people working in the orchards and packing the bushel baskets with ripening peaches became curious about the cost consumer’s were paying for their peaches. So they began writing notes in the bottom of the baskets asking for people to write them back and let them know what they were paying. It was common to receive replies from as far away as Texas and Michigan. Compliments about how good the peaches tasted were often included with the replies.