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LaVerkin’s Background

LaVerkin’s birth differed somewhat from other towns in the area. It was conceived as a company farming operation rather than as a city of homes and families.  Only when difficulties with the new canal tunnel nearly drove the stock company into bankruptcy, were parcels of land offered for sale and settlers welcomed.  It's first religious leader, a man who was to have a huge impact on the town, hadn't planned to move in.  His intention was to settle in the new city of Hurricane.  But he answered the call to become LaVerkin's first bishop.  Finally, the name for the new city has no meaning.  It probably started out as some other term entirely.  Spelling of the city’s name has also undergone a small change.  In early documents, it’s always spelled “La Verkin”.  Current maps show the name as just one word. From this inauspicious beginning though, a remarkable little city has developed; one whose community spirit is in some ways unequaled by that of other towns in the area, and that has had a strong positive impact on the lives of LaVerkin residents.

LaVerkin's development in the last quarter-century more closely parallels that of its neighbors.  Gone is the canal and the network of irrigation ditches that once loomed large in every resident's consciousness and that claimed the lives of at least two children.  Gone are the dirt lanes, the sorghum cane fields, the orchards, the commercial turkey and chicken operations, the milk cows grazing along ditch banks tended by barefoot children.  Gone is self-sufficiency.  A typical family of 1930 might have gone thirty days without suffering serious shortages if all transportation to and from the town were cut off.  Three days on their own would severely deplete the larder of many current families. Grocery stores spew out more food in a day than the one little store of 1925 may have done in a year. Homes now occupy what was once precious farmland.  Commuting to work in St. George or Cedar City is a common practice. The summer night air hums with the sound of air conditioners and automobiles rather than the chopping of wood, the bleating, mooing, clucking, or neighing of farm animals.  Gone is the sound of children playing some other now dimly remembered game in the empty dark streets. 

The objectives of this book are to present the history of the city's development, the emergence of the quite unique social bonds the community afforded, and to provide interesting glimpses into the lives and activities of those who lived there.

 Geological Foundation

LaVerkin, Utah, occupies an alluvial, or waterborne, bench that abuts the Hurricane Hill to the east and that drops off to LaVerkin Creek and its neighbor, Ash Creek, on the west.  The hill is the scarp-face of the Hurricane Fault and is composed of very old Paleozoic Era Kaibab limestone that, as the early canal builders learned to their dismay, is riddled with gypsum and other easily dissolvable components.  The same Kaibab limestone is encountered at the rim of the Grand Canyon and along the freeway where it enters the Virgin River Gorge. 

Traveling eastward from the LaVerkin Bench, one sees the colorful layers of Mesozoic, dinosaur-age strata, including those that make up the Zion ledges.   The Triassic period is represented by layers making up the Hurricane Mesa and on up into the main Navaho Sandstone cliffs of Zion.  The upper Zion ledges date from the Jurassic Period, while the first Mesozoic Period, the Cretaceous, is encountered on upper Kolob.   The layers or strata of rock tilt gently upward towards the west.   The tilting began after the current streams were in place and caused the streams to cut the dramatic narrow canyons that we now enjoy.  Had the tilting to the west been downward, there would be no dramatic cliffs; Zion National Park today would just be somebody's cattle ranch. 

Going westward from LaVerkin, one encounters these same layers of rock now thousands of feet lower than their counterparts-- dramatic evidence of the Hurricane Fault's large vertical displacement. 

 Immediately south of the LaVerkin bench, is the Timpoweap canyon and the hot springs just upstream from where the canyon emerges from the Hurricane Hill.  Close by the town are volcanic outcroppings that resulted from recent geological  eruptions.  

Dominating the north by northwest horizon is the Pine Valley Mountain, a huge block of igneous porphyry rock4that, like the lava, is of recent geological origin.  In the winter, an ominous serpent-like cloud along its top announces that fierce north winds will blow. In summer it provides a cool alpine beacon to the hot, thirsty, sweaty youth hoeing an endless row of young sorghum cane.  For everyone, the mountain is an orientation point that creates a sense of place. Whisk a LaVerkin lad or lass to some less favored flat place such as Kansas and he or she will feel disoriented, and a little sorry for those who must endure such a bland featureless environment. 

The soil by which LaVerkin is nurtured was deposited probably by both LaVerkin Creek and by the Virgin River in an earlier time before the river  cut down below the level of the Hurricane and the LaVerkin benches.  The LaVerkin Bench and the LaVerkin Creek bottomlands together provide approximately six hundred acres of arable land.

 Prehistory

The LaVerkin area has long been the scene of human habitation.  An Anasazi site downstream from the confluence of Ash Creek, the Virgin River and LaVerkin Creek was restored and studied some years ago by a team from Southern Utah University.  

The area was rich with Indian artifacts when white settlers arrived.  During the 1930’s, a children’s outing wasn’t complete unless a couple of arrow or spear points were found.  A metate, or grinding stone, that was exposed when ploughing, served as a cat dish in the writer’s backyard.  Caves yielded the greatest treasures.  A shallow cave a few yards above the east entrance to the LaVerkin Canal tunnel gave up its contents early.  A cave of unknown depth above the hot springs contained two pots in perfect condition and a broken bowl.  A cave  located downstream from the springs on the north side of the river, contained the most varied trove, including a war club with two stone points cemented to the wood handle.  There was also a wood-handled dagger, a “tump strap” or head band made of braided hair and rawhide for carrying loads, a digging stick used for gardening, lots of bone awls, and a “duck jar” made by hollowing out a sandstone rock. 

The above items are in possession of the University Of Utah.  The hot springs were considered sacred by Indians and  were a neutral zone.  If enemies met there, they avoided conflict while together.  Presumably, Navajos respected the sacredness, and wouldn't steal a child if they encountered a Paiute family. 

The confluence of the three streams, Ash Creek, LaVerkin Creek, and The Virgin River, coincides with other topographic features to create a natural passageway from north to south.   It was a stopping point of the Old Spanish Trail.10  The Dominguez-Escalante party went through in 1776.  They recorded the first historical account of Indians utilizing irrigation to grow food and named the river, "Rio Sulfureo".  Jedediah Smith stopped by in 1826, and other trappers and explorers followed him.  Mormons led by Parley P. Pratt first visited December 31, 1849.  Pratt's journal states:

"From the Basin rim thirteen miles of rapid descent brought us to milder climate and first cultivation. (Indian)  A mile or so farther brought us to the bank of the Virgin." 

John D. Lee led an exploring party through in the late winter of 1852.   Lee along with J.C.L. Smith and John Steele visited again that summer.  Steele reported that:“We then got some Indian guides, who brought us to the jerks (confluence) of the Virgin, Levier Skin (LaVerkin) and Ash Creek where we found a number of Indians raising grain.  Their corn was waist high: squashes, beans, potatoes, etc. looked well.”

He also mentions looking for the Indians' farming tools but finding none.   Obviously, they depended on digging sticks and their bare hands.

Toquerville was settled in 1858 and cattlemen soon began using the LaVerkin and Hurricane benches as part of their winter cattle range.  All travel between Toquerville and the Hurricane Bench continued to use the confluence as the crossing point.

 Name

The name "LaVerkin", as mentioned earlier, doesn't mean anything in English or, as one might suppose, in Spanish or French.  One theory is that it is derived from "The Virgin".  If that term is spoken in Spanish it comes out sounding quite like “LaVerkin”.   A problem is that no Spanish or French speakers other than those of the Dominguez-Escalante party are known to have been in the area who might have influenced place names.  The Escalante party apparently didn’t use the term.   They called the Virgin River, “Rio Sulfureo”.  Note also that had they bothered to name what is now the LaVerkin Creek, they would have said “Rio Virgin” or possibly “a quebrada de Virgin”, not “La Virgin”.  Another difficulty stems from the improbability of switching the name of the main river with one of its minor tributaries. Had there been a continued Spanish presence in the area though, the theory could be quite compelling. 

One theory that at first appears far-fetched actually carries more weight.  Keeping in mind that the stream had a name long before the city was founded, and that the new community took its name from the creek, this second theory holds that it started out as "Beaver Skin Creek."  Note that John Steele recorded it as "Levier Skin Creek".  Far back in the dark days prior to computers, word processors or even typewriters, people wrote in longhand.  Anyone who has puzzled through old handwritten material will agree that a capital "B" could easily be interpreted as a capital "L", and that, within a word, it's frequently difficult to identify an "s" when it follows an "r".  Spelling skill wasn't a prerequisite for wilderness pathfinding.  Some harried map maker may have puzzled through alternate spellings left by these fellows and chose the one that looked best to him:  “LaVerkin”.   Placement of a name on a map carries great weight, particularly when there is no local opposition.  Some of the various spellings taken from 1856 Washington County Court Records, and from John D. Lee's and John Steele's diaries are: Leaverskin, Levier Skin, Leaversking and Lavinskind. There is no proof, of course, that the name started out as “Beaver Skin”.   The DUP monument in front of the old white chapel states that LaVerkin is Indian for “beautiful valley”.  The subject remains open for debate by those who are so inclined.  The door remains open for a totally new theory.

LaVerkin or Pah Tempe Hot Springs

The LaVerkin, or Pah Tempe, hot springs are the southernmost of approximately twenty-four similar springs in Utah that are associated with the Hurricane, the Wasatch, and other faults. The LaVerkin springs are about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  Some Utah hot springs are more than double that.4

Thomas Judd, the first owner of the hot springs, acquired them about 1889.1 No attempt to exploit the springs commercially was made at first, but they were frequently utilized by early settlers of the area for recreation and for performing baptisms. Baptismal fonts were far in the future. 

The springs were a real boon to builders of the Hurricane Canal both for soaking sore muscles at days end and for frolicking, when wives came to visit on weekends.  The early settlers of LaVerkin made frequent use of them.  Rosalba (Gubler) Fuller recounted that: 

"The men made a little cement wall, damming up the springs enough so people could bathe, but mostly the water fanned out from there over the mineral formation, sort of like an umbrella and splashing into the river, formed a little pool.  That's where we like to swim and play.  Since we had no bathtubs in those days, we really loved the sulfur springs.  A tarp was hung in front of the springs so people had a private place to dress."

Sheep were also beneficiaries of the springs. They were doused in the sulfur water to prevent scabies. 

Hundreds of baptisms were performed there from about 1915 until into the 1940's.  Annie Isom whose birthday fell in January is the first known person to have that honor.   Her thoughtful family brought her down from Virgin to the only warm water in the area.  Early baptisms such as Annie's, as well as  the first two children born in LaVerkin, Rosalba Gubler and Moroni Sanders, took place in the river where it is warmed by the hot water.  Later, after bathing and swimming facilities were in place, many baptisms were performed on Sunday mornings in the main enclosed pool.  Sometimes the young person got to swim for a few minutes afterward. There is additional zest to the pleasure of swimming when it's done at a time that's normally forbidden.

A swimming pool fifteen feet wide and forty-five feet long was completed in l918 by the LaVerkin Sanitarium and Resort Company that had been organized for that purpose.  Morris Wilson and Joseph Gubler were then president and vice president of the company.  

Two immediate tasks were to sell additional company stock and to establish a code of decency for bathing suits. Bishop Wilson involved the bishops of Hurricane and Toquerville in reaching a decision.  The code for ladies, called for elastic in sleeves and legs that reached below elbows and knees, plus a skirt.  Men's suits could be sleeveless, but legs were to fit snugly and reach below the knee.

George Judd, who was put in charge of procuring the women's suits, purchased cloth and paid a local seamstress fifteen cents a piece to make two dozen suits.  They were sold for $1.50 each, or rented for 25cents.  Rubber caps and ladies' stockings were purchased from ZCMI.  Rules of conduct prohibited naked bathing, dunking, throwing water, and diving from the walls.  The pool was closed on Sunday. 

In 1918, the pool's LaVerkin developers were startled to learn that the budding resort was actually part of Hurricane.  Morris Wilson met with the Hurricane town board and got them to release the property.

The pool was a popular attraction for individuals, families, school, scout and church groups.  A wagonload of young people might set out from Toquerville. They would sing all the way over, swim, then sing all the way home; arriving home at one or two in the morning. 

In l924, a permanent house was built for the pool manager, and small bathing enclosures were built east of the pool.  Later, the pool was enclosed.  

The pool was more of a public service than a cash cow. Stockholders' passes meant lots of business but no revenue.  Pay for the manager was also meager.  Even such perks as switching the lights on late at night to surprise some nubile skinny-dippers, didn't buy groceries.  The LaVerkin Canal Company helped out by giving the job of "canal-walker" to Winferd Gubler, the pool manager.  Morris Wilson bought the other shareholders out in 1936 and since then, the pool has  been in private hands.  Elias Smith gained ownership in 1952 and gave it the name, "Pah Tempe Hot Mineral Springs".

The Springs suffered major dislocations during construction of the Quail Lake project.  Repairs restored regular flow, but the earthquake of 1992  caused the hot water to again discharge directly into the river channel.  The second problem appears related to the first, but nothing has yet been proven. 

The current owner, Ken Anderson, has restored much of the flow to its original outlets.  He has created an inviting tree-lined spa that offers camping and bed-and-breakfast facilities, that welcome day-use visitors.  It features a swimming pool, both natural and indoor hot tubs, and various services based on the therapeutic qualities of the hot sulfur water.  The Springs appear to be better known internationally than they are locally.  There were eighteen thousand guests from thirty-five countries during 1997.  Future plans call for a four hundred acre resort zone with multiple-accommodations for long-term, and temporary guests.

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