The Cemetery in Kanab.
Segments of the old Indian trails between St. George and Long Valley were used by Mormon pioneers to settle Long Valley in 1864 and for its resettlement in 1871 following Indian conflicts. This trail scaled the Hurricane Fault on the Johnson Twist. One segment went south from Virgin City and then east and the other went east to Rockville-Crafton and then south to Big Plains where they merged. The desert trail, about 85 miles long, traversed deep sand, sandstone ledges and lava faults and was the primary transportation route, including mail and heavy freight, for half a century. It took four days for loaded wagons drawn by horse or ox teams to travel the distance.
When first conceived, the Hurricane Canal seemed like an impossible dream. Beginning at a point seven miles up the Virgin River, water had to travel through flumes, tunnels, and over deep ravines. The canal had to hang on steep, unstable cliffs and be tunneled through sections of mountain. To make matters more difficult, money was virtually non-existent for the local residents. Engineers said the canal could not be built.
Upriver, the little towns suffered from the flash floods of the wild Virgin River that devoured half their farmland. The men were desperate. More cultivated land was needed to support their growing families. In the fall of 1893, James Jepson of Virgin and John Steele of Toquierville envisioned and promoted the plan for the water to be brought to the “Hurricane Bench.” With a simple carpenter’s spirit level, they figured a feasible route, and men were recruited from neighboring towns. Isaac McFarlane, county surveyor, surveyed and estimated the construction cost at $53,000. The only tools available were picks, shovels, crowbars, and a homemade wheelbarrow. Over 100 hopeful me worked on the canal project the first few winters.
By 1902, long after the expected completion date, only eight to ten men were left working. Many of the men had sold their stock and quit. Expensive portions remained undone, and the few remaining men were broke and discouraged. Life was injected back into the project when Jepson went to Salt Lake City and convinced the LDS Church to buy $5,000 worth of canal stock. The influx of money restored morale; and now, giant powder to blast through tunnels and lumber to build the flumes could be purchased.
Two years later, August 6, 1904, the impossible dream came true as water flowed onto the Hurricane Bench from the canal, giving life to 2,000 acres of fertile land. The valley could now be settled. After twelve years of sacrifice, incredibly hard work, and true grit, a community was born, complete with real heroes.
The vision of two men, James Jepson and John Steele, along with the faith, dedication, and tenacity of many others, changed forever the lives and dreams of thousands of people in Utah’s Dixie. They did all this for their families. And they did it for us. We give thanks to these men of valor.
Duncan’s Retreat was inhabited about 1861–1895.
From Wikipedia, Chapman Duncan came here in 1861, settling with a few others on Mukuntuweap Creek, a small tributary of the Virgin River. The colony was part of a southern Utah cotton-growing project ordered by Brigham Young.That winter the Virgin River, unpredictable at even the best of times, experienced the Great Flood of 1862, which destroyed most of the settlement along with such other nearby towns as Grafton. Chapman Duncan and most of the other original settlers fled in early 1862 in search of a more stable home, and the families who stayed behind named their village Duncan’s Retreat.
A local legend claims that Duncan’s real reason for retreating was a botched surveying job. Duncan, so the story goes, was assigned to survey a canal to bring water from the Virgin River, but when it was dug, the canal was found to be useless as its route ran uphill.Another version of the story says it happened in Virgin, and that Duncan retreated to Duncan’s Retreat.
More settlers took the place of the departing pioneers, and by the end of 1862 Duncan’s Retreat had a population of about 70. They planted crops and orchards, producing large harvests in the years the river did not flood. Cotton, corn, wheat, and sorghum grew particularly well. A post office was established here in 1863, and a schoolhouse in 1864. In 1866, when the Black Hawk War caused widespread fear of Indian attacks, the town was evacuated to Virgin, although farmers returned to Duncan’s Retreat each day to work their fields. Residents moved back permanently in 1868.
Farming in Duncan’s Retreat was a difficult life. The fertile land yielded bumper crops in good years, but could be washed away by torrential floods at any time. Of the 11 families living here in 1870, 9 remained in 1880. The next decade was much harsher; by 1891 Duncan’s Retreat was all but deserted. The last known birth in town was in 1895.
All that remains of Duncan’s Retreat is some dead fruit trees, an irrigation ditch, and a few graves on the north side of Utah State Route 9 between Virgin and Grafton.
In 1858, Nephi Johnson, one of Brigham Young’s scouts, with a party of Indian guides arrived at the mouth of the canyon. Due to superstition, the Indians refused to enter the canyon. Nephi Johnson, alone, followed up river to the Narrows, a place “where the sun is seldom seen,” returning to the mouth at nightfall. Isaac Buhannin, an early settler, seeing the spires remarked, “surely this is God’s first temple and should be called Zion.” William Heaps helped to build homes for the early settlers in the canyon.
The Rockville Bridge spans the east fork of the Virgin River in Rockville. The bridge was built for the National Park Service in 1924 to provide a link between Zion National Park and the North Rim area of Grand Canyon National Park. The new bridge allowed motorists to take a circular tour of the national parks in southern Utah and northern Arizona. The Rockville route was superseded in 1928 by the construction of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.
The bridge was designed by the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads for the Park Service, fabricated by the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company, and erected by Ogden contractor C.F. Dinsmore. The bridge spans 217 feet in a single span, using a steel twelve-panel Parker through-truss.
The Rockville Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 4, 1995.
Archbishop Joseph S. Alemany of the Diocese of San Francisco asked Father Lawrence Scanlan to settle in the mining town of Silver Reef and minister to the miners and their families. Father Denis Kiely arrived in Utah in 1874 and assisted Father Scanlan in Silver Reef. Fathers Henry T. Hyde, P. O’Conner, and P. Galligan also also served the people in Silver Reef from 1880 to 1882.
In 1879, Father Scanlan established the St. John’s Catholic Church, the Silver Reef Hospital, and St. Mary’s School in Silver Reef.
When the church was first constructed, it didn’t have a tower. But Father Hyde collected money and eventually the tower was erected and a 400 lb bell was installed.
St. John’s Church was closed in 1885.
In 1895, William Stirling purchased and moved the vacant St. John’s Catholic Church from Silver Reef to Leeds. He converted the building into the Leeds Social Hall or “Old Stirling Hall.”
Silver Reef Posts:
Silver Reef is a “ghost town” in Washington County, near Leeds. Silver Reef was established after John Kemple, a prospector from Nevada, discovered a vein of silver in a sandstone formation in 1866. At first, geologists were uncertain about Kemple’s find because silver is not usually found in sandstone. In 1875, two bankers from Salt Lake City sent William Barbee to the site to stake mining claims. He staked 21 claims, and an influx of miners came to work Barbee’s claims and to stake their own. To accommodate the miners, Barbee established a town called Bonanza City. Property values there were high, so several miners settled on a ridge to the north of it and named their settlement “Rockpile”. The town was renamed Silver Reef after silver mines in nearby Pioche closed and businessmen arrived.
By 1879, about 2,000 people were living in Silver Reef. The town had a mile-long Main Street with many businesses, among them a Wells Fargo office, the Rice Building, and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant. Although adjacent to many settlements with a majority of Mormon residents, the town never had a meeting house for Latter-day Saints, only a Catholic church. In 1879, a fire destroyed several businesses, but the residents rebuilt them. Mines were gradually closed, most of them by 1884, as the worldwide price of silver dropped. By 1901, most of the buildings in town had either been demolished or moved to Leeds.
In 1916, mining operations in Silver Reef resumed under the direction of Alex Colbath, who organized the area’s mines into the Silver Reef Consolidated Mining Company. These mines were purchased by American Smelting and Refining Company in 1928, but the company did minimal work as a result of the Great Depression. The Western Gold & Uranium Corporation purchased Silver Reef’s mines in 1948, and in 1951, they began mining uranium in the area. These operations did not last long either, and the Western Gold & Uranium Corporation sold their mines to the 5M Corporation in 1979. Today, the Wells Fargo office, the Cosmopolitan Restaurant, the Rice Building, and numerous foundations and walls remain in the town site, and a few dozen homes have been constructed in the area.(*)
Between 1875 and the end of 1876, Silver Reef boomed with development, going from a boulder-strewn flat to a town of 1,500 people, one of the largest in Washington county.
Silver Reef soon became the center of permanent development, and many stone and wooden buildings were erected along a mile-long Main Street. Among the many businesses and buildings were six saloons, nine grocery stores, two dance halls, a brewery, billiard hall, the Wells Fargo Express Office, post office undertaker, citizens hall, jail, Masonic and Oddfellows halls, telegraph office, barber shop, physicians office, Chinese laundries (the walls are standing today), and a Catholic church with a hospital included. The Wells Fargo building, which you stand before, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.