It isn’t feasible to separate church and community affairs during LaVerkin’s first years, and we have already gotten the LaVerkin Ward organized as part of the St.George Stake. It became part of the newly organized Zion Park Stake December 8, 1929. One ward was sufficient for seventy years. It was split in two in 1973. By 1981, LaVerkin was the nucleus of a stake, the Hurricane North. In 1984, the new stake chapel was completed, and the LaVerkin Stake was born. This chapter will chart the development of church activities and building projects.
Ward leaders from 1904 until creation of the LaVerkin Stake are as follows: ( the bishop is named first, followed by all who served as counselors.)
1904 - 1928: Morris Wilson, Jr., Henry Gubler, Allen Stout, Loren Squire.
1928 - 1931: Ovando Gubler, Loren Squire, Lafell Iverson.
1931 - 1942: Vernon Church, Lafell Iverson, Wickley Gubler.
1942 - 1945: Loren Squire, H. Winferd Gubler, Leonard Hardy.
1945 - 1949: Horatio Gubler, Roland Webb, Karl Church.
1949 - 1956: Wayne Wilson, Ervil Sanders, Walter Church.
1956 -1962: Lafell Iverson, Walter Segler, Kent Wilson, Wickley Gubler, Gerald Gifford.
1962 -1965: Loren Squire, Wickley Gubler, Gerald Gifford, Sheldon Demille.
1965 - 1973: Reed Wilson, Sheldon DeMille, Thell Gubler.
1973 - 1978: Lloyd Howard, Kerry Gubler, Max Richan, Devar Gubler, Edward Reber, Craig DeMille, Lyman Gubler.
(Additions to the chapel were made, including a spire on top of the cultural hall)
Ovando Gubler’s three-year term as bishop was unusual in that he was a bachelor at the time. By the end of Bishop Howard’s term, LaVerkin’s population had grown to over a thousand, and two Wards were created: the LaVerkin First, with Kerry Gubler, Bishop; Ben Wilkin and Lyman Gubler as counselors, and the LaVerkin Second, with Walter Church, Bishop; Antone Hinton, and LaMar Gubler as counselors. The creation of two wards marked the end of an era. The town family was split in two and many tears were shed.
The difficulties and sacrifices required for a small rural ward to build a chapel are hard to appreciate at the present time when, the LDS Church hires contractors to build chapels and pays all the construction costs. This wasn't the policy for most of the century. The Church helped with funding, but much of the cash, and practically all the labor, came from local members. The usual ratio was sixty percent of construction costs were paid by the Church and forty percent came from local donations. Money was scarce then. People grew much of what they ate, of course, but the typical family sees as much cash in a week now as they did then in a year.
The Church lacked the resources to give more assistance for chapel construction. In the late 1800's, the Church was financially "on the rocks". Persecution of the Church because of polygamy had devastated its finances. The Manifesto of 1890 ended that problem, but two nationwide economic crises struck--the Panic of 1891 and the Panic of 1893. Apostle, Heber J. Grant who was a nationally known businessman was able to obtain loans from New York bankers that kept the Church solvent.
The burden was on local wards, but there were also blessings. The hundreds of money raising events, the sacrifices of time and money made by people working together, brought a kinship that probably comes in no other way. That kinship is fondly remembered by people who experienced it in their various capacities as ward members, as bishops, as relief society presidents and as other ward leaders.
The building known as the White Chapel was built one segment at a time beginning in 1925. The final project was completed almost fifty years later, just a few years prior to the building being sold to the city in 1993 to house the LaVerkin City offices.
The recreation hall was built first. It hosted every kind of activity from sacrament meetings to basketball games beginning in 1926. The chapel itself was next, and was first used Sunday, February 11, 1962. Additional classrooms and office space were added later. The first two building phases took years of sacrifice and ingenious fundraising schemes to be paid off. The little ward had just two hundred and thirty one men, women and children in 1930. When you look at the building, think “dime-a-dip” dinners, fund-raising stage dramas, and families going without even minor luxuries so they could donate to the building fund. Even luxuries such as lavatories were an avoidable expense. Two outhouses, one for boys and one for girls, served both the little rock school house, and later the White chapel, until into the 1940’s.
Loren Squire (6) described the process of initiating construction as follows:
April 6, 1925, the LaVerkin Ward bishopric met on the ground where the recreation hall now stands for the purpose of making plans to build what our Bishop Wilson called an ‘all purpose building’. We measured out a building large enough to play basketball, with a good size stage at one end, and plans for a basement that would accommodate classrooms. The plans were sent in to the Church Office for approval. At bishop’s council meeting two weeks later, Bishop Wilson read the letter from the authorities in which they stated we were wanting to build all out of reason and much too large. I stated that maybe we were asking for too large a building. I remember so well that Bishop Wilson put his hand on my knee and said, ‘My dear brother, you will live to see over six hundred people living in LaVerkin. I won’t, but you will’.
The bishopric decided that we did need that large a building. We started to dig the basement with teams of horses, plowing and scraping the basement, [they would have used horse-drawn earth moving implements known as fresnos], pulling most of the dirt out on the road all across the front of the building. In the center of the basement a furnace room eighteen feet square was dug eight foot deep. Picks and shovels were used to toss dirt out where scrapers couldn’t reach.
Several teams and wagons went to Mt. Trumbull for lumber. (Owen Sanders helped haul lumber from Kaibab to make the roof trusses.) Cement was hauled from the railhead in Cedar City by wagons and by trucks. Nathon Porter and George Elder did most of the building over the next two years, with others helping. Ward members contributed almost all the food they and their families needed during this time.
The fifteen-inch thick walls are of concrete. Generous quantities of limestone were added to make the aggregate go further. Woven fencing gave added strength to the concrete. Roof trusses were made up of one-inch by fourteen-inch pine lumber fastened together with sixteen-penny nails. Owen Sanders describes Nathon Porter as being a genius of design and of innovation. Nathon was unschooled but he knew how to correctly design and build the trusses so that would do their job indefinitely. Only the crudest tools and machinery were available for mixing the concrete and for pouring it down into the walls. As the walls got too high to easily get the concrete up by human power, Nathon devised an elevator to do the job powered by an old car motor.
Owen, as a teenager, like other ward members donated many hours of labor. His contributions weren’t entirely voluntary. His father, Will, driving by the construction site
on the way to the farm, would ask, “Do you need any help today?” They always did, and Owen would get elected to do it.
Maude Judd gives the following report concerning the building:
“A new meeting house, a concrete building; was erected in LaVerkin in 1925-1926, having a seating capacity of six hundred. It also has five classrooms and a Relief Society room in the basement. In the rear of the main auditorium is a recreation stage twenty by forty feet. The erection of the building represents an outlay of $15,000.00.”
It was truly a multipurpose building-- serving as a chapel on Sunday, a drama theater or a dance hall on Friday or Saturday nights, and a gymnasium for basketball.
A grievous oversight, as far as future basketball stars were concerned, was that no foul lines were marked on the floor--at least not at first. Implorings by the youth to rectify the problem fell on deaf ears. So one night, young Thell Gubler and a couple of friends, eased themselves into the building. (They probably didn’t have to pick a lock as the building was rarely locked.) After careful measurements, they went to work using liquid black shoe polish. They were soon apprehended and were summoned to a meeting of the bishopric where they were duly reprimanded for their misdeeds. What did not happen, however, was any suggestion that the line be removed. The good-natured bishop, Vernon Church, who always upheld law and order, had observed the well-made line and knew a good thing when he saw it.
Maude Judd reported that January 16, 1955, the church building was finally dedicated; even though it had been in use since 1925. A chapel was to be built later.
Summer “cooling” was accomplished by opening windows and having hand-fans availble, that displayed a religious motif when opened out. Two wood or coal-fired heaters in the basement kept winter’s cold at bay. A chute on the north side of the building eased the task of bringing in fuel. When asked about her childhood fears, one LaVerkin native said she was afraid of going near the crude doorway that opened to the fuel chute. She was sure the Devil lived down there. Vents provided for convectional air circulation; there was no forced-air provision.
Walter and Warren Church had the job of stoking the heaters. They got fires going at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday. After services were over, they mixed a little coal oil with sawdust, applied it to the floor, and swept up. They received four dollars a month each, which put them among the big money earners of the day.
In January 1960, Bishop Lafell Iverson reported the new chapel would cost around $111,000.00. The Ward’s share would be $55,000.00,and $22,228.00 would need to be on hand before starting. Joseph Gubler was called on a mission as the clerk for keeping track of the building project. Groundbreaking ceremonies were conducted in February, and fund raising activities such as “dime-a-dips”, birthday calendars, and county fair booths, were begun. In March, though, the cost was revised upward and the Ward’s share was raised to $68,310.00. This was a most discouraging time for the little group. One shot in the arm was provided by the Hurricane South Ward. One or it’s ward’s dinners yielded $500.00 that was donated to the LaVerkin Ward. Additional money was also raised at home, and in May of 1960, construction began. An accounting in November of 1961 showed that over $34,000.00 was still needed. Also, that $12,000.00 worth of labor had been promised, but only $5,000.00 worth had been done.
Women did much of the inside labor. The account showed 1,270 hours of women’s work doing painting and laying both floor and ceiling tile. The construction foreman was very particular about the quality of painting and varnishing that was done. When he became satisfied that Genevieve (Heaton) Gubler had the proper skill, she got to do just about all the varnishing. Fortunately, she was both skilled, and fast.
The first church services held in the new chapel, were on February 11, 1962, although they were still paying off the ward’s share of the costs. In fact, during Reed Wilson’s term of office that ended in 1973, about $20,000 was raised to finally pay off the debt.
Additional segments were built in the 1970’s, again financed by combined Church, and local efforts. As indicated above, population growth had necessitated the creation of two wards, and population planners knew that growth would continue. A new stake, the Hurricane North, was created in 1981 with the two LaVerkin wards as its nucleus. The new stake offices were housed in Virgin after a short stay in Hurricane.
The LDS Church had now become strong enough financially to take over all construction costs so that when a new stake center was planned it didn’t mean a new round of squeezed family budgets. A major contribution was required though--that of land. Both Horatio and Ovando Gubler owned property on the north end of town where the new building was proposed to be located. The two brothers and their wives met with the stake presidency and, with the wholehearted support of their families, offered whatever land was desired. The three and one-quarter acre piece of prime real estate that was finally chosen, was cheerfully donated by Ovando and Edna Gubler.
When the building was completed in 1984, Stake President Leon Lewis handed the contractor a check for one million and five hundred dollars. Now the Stake had its own home and no longer had to find temporary quarters in the Virgin chapel. The LaVerkin Utah Stake was born. Besides those in LaVerkin, there were the Toquerville, Virgin and Springdale Wards. The white chapel continued to house two of the LaVerkin wards. The new stake center housed the stake offices and in 1987, became the house for the newly formed Third Ward also.
Excess irrigation water very nearly did to the white chapel what it had done to the little rock schoolhouse. Slumping, caused by saturated soil, meant either expensive repairs or abandonment. The Church Building Department refused to spend money for its rehabilitation and the wrecking ball loomed in the building’s future. A new chapel was constructed in Toquerville to take pressure off the stake center, and later when a second Toquerville ward was formed, it included the north end of LaVerkin.
Cleared of buildings, the original site would have had considerable resale value, but fortunately, the wrecking ball never swung. The growing city entity needed housing, and after polling ward members, the decision was made to sell the building and lot to the city for the sum of $38,000.00. The sale was consummated in 1993. After making structural modifications, removing the steeple as specified in the contract, putting on some new roofing, and doing some internal remodeling, the city had a home. A most important historical landmark had been preserved. Since pressurized, rather than flood, irrigation is now used in LaVerkin, saturated subsoil should never again imperil the white chapel.
Two other organizations who appeared later on the scene are the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Mountain View Bible Church. Both currently have chapels and offer religious services in LaVerkin.