Douglas D. Alder, “Introduction,” in Dixie Saints: Laborers in the Field, ed. Douglas D. Alder (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017), ix-xxv.

Dixie Saints: Laborers in the Field is the story of the common folk—the farmers and ranchers, the fruit peddlers, the road builders, the timber cutters and lumber makers, the freighters, the midwives, the mothering women and child nurturers, the quilters and gardeners, the teachers, the choir singers and band players—those whose names are on genealogy charts but are seldom in the history books. It is about agriculture before machines and hard muscle labor in gardens, farms, and ranches.

Such people in this study were not pioneers because they were not of that generation—they were of the next. Most of the thirty-plus Mormon villages in and near southern Utah had been founded by the late 1800s, with its capital in St. George. A few, like Hurricane, La Verkin, Enterprise, and Veyo, started just after 1900. The farms and town lots were already surveyed when these folks were born. The irrigation dams and ditches were mostly in use. The roads were roughed in, but there were no oiled surfaces. The outhouses were in place, but there were no sewers. Schools were well under way, but eighth grade was the end goal and many did not reach it. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were the initial curriculum, sometimes with music and drama added. Many students could only attend part of the year because they had to do farmwork in the growing season. These people were born mostly between 1880 and 1910. They lived to see an oiled road named Highway 91 end the area’s isolation in 1930. Then came a transformation with the arrival of air-conditioning in about 1955, but it was a luxury for the wealthy. The I-15 freeway did not arrive until 1973, when Utah’s Dixie became absorbed in the modern consumer’s United States.

A similar story could be told about almost all western parts of the United States, but this one is mostly concentrated on the Mojave Desert in southwestern Utah, northern Arizona, and southeastern Nevada. It is located immediately south of the Great Basin. This desert is two thousand feet lower than the Great Basin, much warmer, and definitely arid, with only five to eight inches of rain per year. People had to survive with irrigation, mainly water from the Virgin River and its tributaries.

The story of the earlier generation, the so-called Dixie Pioneers, is well known—of building a temple, tabernacle, opera house, courthouse, and town hall in St. George, the region’s capital, and a cotton factory in nearby Washington City. At the same time, whites were confining the American Indians (Southern Paiute, Hopi, Navajo) to reservations and then appropriating their hunting and gathering lands for ranches and farms. Those in construction had partly built the elaborate system of irrigation canals, and the Hurricane Canal, the La Verkin Canal, the Enterprise Reservoir, and the New Castle Project were about to be constructed. The Washington Fields Dam was already in use and had been since 1888. These engineering achievements opened a much larger area for serious farming; nonetheless, water was still scarce.

The original mission of raising cotton, sugar cane, and grapes had given way to cultivating alfalfa because in 1869, the Civil War had ended and the railroad had come to northern Utah. Cotton fabric could be imported from the South cheaper than raising it in southern Utah because it rained in the South and, because of the remnants of slavery, labor in the South was much less expensive. Meanwhile, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned using wine for their sacrament ceremony and shifted to water. There was still a market for Dixie wine among the miners, but the Silver Reef population dwindled in the late 1890s. Thus, raising grapes became less important, but it continued for domestic use and for selling in Nevada.

Alfalfa became the staple crop, with three to five cuttings a year. Both small- and large-scale cattle ranching produced this major export product, but the herds had to be driven seven days to Nevada to reach the railroad. A freighting business had grown, particularly in fruit and lumber. Dried peaches and figs were shipped north. Dry farming and mining were other alternatives.

Most people lived in villages like those that their New England and European ancestors lived in, which was quite different from many other settlers in the West. They rode out to their small five-acre farms, which were that size because irrigation water was so limited. The women raised gardens and fruit on their town lots, also supplying their family’s needs by irrigation. These families owned their property rather than being a part of a commune. For a century, the area was dominated by self-sustaining agriculture. It was relatively isolated because the railroad never came to what came to be called “Utah’s Dixie.”

The larger story of the American West often focuses on the movement of Anglo-Americans to the vast areas beyond the Mississippi River. Many Americans considered the West as a wasteland, but others saw it as an opportunity. Most went there in search of free land and a new start for their lives. They knew little about the Native Americans, whose land they intended to occupy. They carried American and European culture with them and planned to implant it in the West as their forefathers had done in the eastern half of the continent.

The Mormon movement to the West was similar to this larger American effort, but there were distinct differences. The village system of the Mormons was a contrast to family life on dispersed farms, ranches, and homesteads in places like Oregon, the American River in California, Colorado, or Montana. Annual rainfall in Utah’s Dixie was less than ten inches. Those living in that area adapted to that reality by establishing cooperative communities based on a regulated irrigation system like those in northern Utah. They lived in villages rather than on their farms, as was the norm for Mormons in the American West and Midwest. They became part of a cooperative religious movement to create their vision of Zion. It was a tightly organized and highly disciplined group effort. Those who settled in southern Utah and its neighboring areas did the same, but they had to adapt to the aridity, which required even more discipline.

Establishing a relationship with the Indians was central to the effort. Indians did not accept the concept of private property or fences. They lived mainly off of hunting and gathering in a pre-agricultural society that changed with the seasons. Some raised corn, but they had never herded cattle. The coexistence of the two societies was tenuous and often led to conflict.

That pioneer period throughout the West has been the subject of endless writing, folklore, music, and art. It is central to western American identity, as evidenced by western-themed movies. For example, many of those movies were made in southern Utah. However, interest in the middle period—about 1900 to 1950—has been much less impelling than the stories of the earlier decades.

Population growth was very slow in those middle decades. The high birthrate was offset by continuing emigration of many young people who went away in search of land or jobs. By 1960, there were only ten thousand people in Washington County. Few people visited the region, even though Zion National Park was available nearby. Highway 91, built over Utah Hill in 1930, was steep, and trucks found it daunting, especially in the winter. There was practically no industry to export products or attract capital. Generally, the years between 1900 and 1950 could be described as follows:

  1. The people were mainly born into large families, often with as many as a dozen siblings. However, not all stayed in the region as adults.
  2. Of that number of births, almost all families buried some of those offspring, either as babies or as young children.
  3. Those who survived worked on the farms and ranches as children, gaining valuable experience.
  4. They went to school in their villages, often in one-room schools. Those schools usually offered eight grades, but some children dropped out to work on the farms as their parents faced health problems or even died rather young.
  5. Many were expected at age sixteen to enter the workforce full-time, having worked part-time in the family enterprises before then. Some were hired out to neighbors, and some roamed widely seeking work and land.
  6. Some were able to continue on to high school, but not in their village. This became more common after about 1930, but the Great Depression also limited education.
  7. A few even went away for a year or two of college at Cedar City, Provo, Salt Lake City, or Logan. They were a select few. After 1911, St. George Stake Academy attracted some high school students. After 1916, it became Dixie College and had a small college enrollment but a larger number of high school students.
  8. Those who went into the workforce were mainly unskilled workers. However, they had worked with animals, crops, and tools for several years before they reached sixteen. They usually couldn’t inherit their father’s farm if he was still alive because he had to farm it nearly until his death to support his younger family members without retiring. Being dependent on jobs meant that they couldn’t control their lives, and they often had to move in search of employment—building roads, working timber, laboring on the railroad, mining, homesteading, or whatever they could find.
  9. Most of these people married young, at about age eighteen. Despite their limited incomes, they began having children and some nearly equaled their parents by bringing eight or more offspring into the world. The wives often maintained the small farms and sought part-time employment, and some had to take over the family’s support when their husbands were injured, sick, or when they died young. There were many deaths of husbands or wives and that often led to second and even third marriages.
  10. Through this struggle, the couples focused loyally on their children and the priority of family. The interviews later in this book include hundreds of memories of happy childhoods. All their community neighbors were experiencing essentially the same challenges. They were very helpful to one another and were not despondent about their plight. They did not describe themselves as poor. They produced their food but functioned by barter and largely without cash.
  11. The majority of these people were active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was central in the meaning of their lives. It drew them together in a “saintly” community. They held callings as teachers of youth, musicians, and pastoral servants to one another. Some of them were called on full-time missions to distant parts of the United States, Europe, or even the South Sea Islands.
  12. Families and friends rallied to support the men financially while they were away and help their families who stayed in the village during their two- or three-year absence. Such mission calls were common, but only a portion of the families needed financial help. The temple in St. George was a big influence on these people. Many went there to be married, while many prepared and then went after a civil marriage. Others did proxy work for their deceased relatives. These ceremonies gave those who experienced the ordinances a conviction that their marriage would be eternal and that their family would have eternal links. Some people did not value that idea and did not participate. The Church standards of paying tithing (mostly in kind) and avoiding the use of alcohol and tobacco were a challenge for many, especially ranchers who lived away from the villages and often associated with cowboys who were roamers and not Mormons.
  13. There was always a portion of these people who did not participate in religion. Nevertheless, they were part of the community. They worked on the ranches, participated in water companies, danced at the town celebrations, and were accepted by everyone else. Most families had at least one member in this “inactive” lifestyle. There were very few people of other faiths. The Presbyterians maintained two small congregations and two fine elementary schools with certified teachers. The Catholics were organized in Silver Reef, but that became a ghost town by 1900. Until 1950, the region was almost without religious diversity. Some Native Americans aligned with the Mormons, but many did not. Very few of them lived in the villages. The Shivwits Indian Reservation was the home to a few hundred of the Shivwits Band of the Paiute Tribe of Utah. The Navajo lived east of Washington County with the Hopi in nearby northeastern Arizona. The arrival of the Americans was a huge challenge for them.
  14. Virtually all of the interviews in this book include stories of health difficulties, such as accidents, broken bones, and disease epidemics such as influenza. Children often died of these diseases and accidents. Boys were involved with horses a lot, even with rifles, and accidents involving either or both sometimes led to deaths. Childbirth was often critical, because deaths of both children and mothers at birth were common. Almost all families buried one or more newborns.
  15. There was a problem with medical care. Those in villages away from St. George or Hurricane seldom had access to a doctor and hardly any ever used the small hospital in St. George. Midwives were very important and some even helped with sickness not related to births. Herbal remedies were the main tool to overcome sickness. County school nurses inspected children for illnesses, administered vaccinations, and referred some to doctors. They even performed physical examinations. Seeking religious blessings during illness was virtually universal. Family fathers were expected to be priesthood holders and be worthy to give blessings. Sometimes families sent for a bishop or other elders to perform this ritual.

These fifteen statements are but generalizations. The actual words of these four hundred people are more important. They give the reader the opportunity to be the historian, to consider the document, and to read the actual words of those involved in this period, this landscape, and this lifestyle, most of it before the industrialization of life and the absorption into the wider American landscape.

The main point of this book is that the Mormon village system is what distinguished these people from the rest of the western United States. The concept of the Mormon village began with Joseph Smith. He had established Kirtland, Ohio, and then a few towns in Missouri. They were short-lived, and soon the Mormons gathered at Commerce, Illinois. They purchased nearby land and created Nauvoo. That community and its satellite nearby towns became the Mormon communal achievement.

In the St. George Tabernacle, Susan Easton Black gave an address titled “Joseph Smith, Architect.” The title caused the attendees to think of the Kirtland Temple and the Nauvoo Temple, which Smith architecturally conceived. Professor Black, however, meant much more. She described how he designed Nauvoo to be a tight, communal society where the Mormons lived and gardened in town and went out to their nearby farms to work each day, returning at night to be at home in the town. Nauvoo was also successful at developing three mills and promoting crafts which allowed them to transport goods for sale from their port on the Mississippi River.[1]

Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith and used his plans to design the five hundred communities the Mormons established in the Great Basin and adjoining areas. This plan differed fundamentally from the way most settlers in the US West lived, who came west hoping to settle on large farms. In the 1860s, the US Federal Government established the homestead system, enabling people to claim a whole section of land (640 acres) and live and farm there. This scattered the people widely. The result was that they were a long way from schools, churches, and neighbors.

The Mormon village, in contrast, envisioned tight communities that could be defended. Each village maintained a locally led school and church located on the town square. Because the towns were established in semi-arid regions, they depended on irrigation systems, which were also managed by town regulations. The central Church leaders in Salt Lake City were deeply engaged in promoting this tight communal system throughout what came to be known as the “Mormon Corridor.” Villages were founded as far north as Alberta, Canada, as far south as northern Mexico, and everywhere in-between.

The interviews in this book came from people whose parents settled in the Mojave Desert, the arid land south of the Great Basin (see the map). Those villages began with Fort Harmony in 1852, which was soon followed by Santa Clara and other small towns in Pine Valley and Gunlock in 1854. Then, John D. Lee convinced Brigham Young to let him establish Washington City in 1854. The upper Virgin River Valley soon welcomed Virgin, Grafton, Rockville, and Springdale. The Paiutes convinced people from Fort Harmony to join them at Toquerville. Brigham Young then decided on a major effort in the southern region. He called 309 families to found a capital city, St. George, in 1861–62. Jacob Hamblin was then instructed to proselyte and found towns in Arizona, east of Kanab. Mormon villages were also founded south of St. George—Bloomington, Bunkerville, Las Vegas, and Muddy Valley, to name just a few. Some Mormons undertook ranching on the Arizona Strip. Altogether, there were some thirty-plus communities in Utah’s Dixie. Then, after 1900, more came into being as the result of major water projects—Hurricane, La Verkin, Enterprise, and Veyo. These new efforts also continued the communal village system. This information lays a framework for understanding the interviews included in this book.

Fortunately, some scholars have written about the village system that the Mormons implemented throughout the Intermountain West. One of the most interesting writers, Nels Anderson, actually lived near St. George in the decade before he became a soldier in World War I. His story is unusual because he traveled alone and did not arrive to the area until 1909. His personal story is detailed later in the book in the testimony of Joseph Terry. After attending high school in St. George, Nels went to Brigham Young University with the intention of becoming a lawyer. He was not impressed with the school, so he returned to Dixie to get two years of college. Then he returned to BYU, where his interest shifted to sociology. He obtained a job teaching high school at St. Johns LDS Academy in Arizona.

One year later, Nels volunteered to serve in the US Army in World War I. After short basic training in the US, he was shipped to England for more training. Then, he was sent to France, near the front lines. Following the war, he returned to BYU and graduated at the head of his class. Then he went to the University of Chicago and did his master’s thesis, which was later published by the University of Chicago. After this, he went to New York University and did a doctorate in sociology and worked for the Governor of New York, who at that time was Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Roosevelt was elected as US president, Nels became part of his administration in the National Labor Relations Bureau.

He decided he wanted to write a sociological study about the place on earth he loved most: southern Utah. The Library of Congress was at his disposal. He went to work, but one of his teachers at Dixie College heard what he was doing. She contacted him and told him that he must come back to St. George to write the bulk of the book. Her name was Juanita Brooks, and she was deeply interested in southern Utah history and would later become the major historian of the area. Nels did come back for a few months and worked in the local records, and then he used the Church History Library archives in Salt Lake City. The book, Desert Saints, was published in 1942 by the University of Chicago. It included key insights to the very generation of the interviewees in this book.

Here is one insightful excerpt:

The Mormon frontier differed radically from other frontiers in its method of recruiting population. Utah did not have an open-door policy, as did California, during the first decade of the westward rush. Utah used every device to discourage random migration. Just any individual migrant was not welcome in Zion, not even if he could pay his way. Missionaries were sent out to every ‘kindred, tongue and people’ to select the emigrants Zion wanted and could use. They wanted emigrants who could accept the Mormon Gospel and make sacrifices to establish the new society.

Zion did not grow on the principal of individualism; in fact, it would have failed had it been built on the individualism of California. Had the emphasis been place on such a principle, Brigham Young’s following would have fled to California, even before the forty-niners. Zion had to be built by cooperative effort, and it was.[2]

This point was especially valid for settlers in the Mojave Desert. They were the closest to California, but they had learned to value the cooperative society and the village system and most chose to remain in their villages. Nels Anderson was an example of those who chose to depart, and this choice did not always please him. In his later years, he felt abandoned by the United States Government, so he moved to Canada. In the book, he suggested that the Mormons were justified in staying with the village system and the Mormon faith.

Near the end of the book, Nels quoted a letter from the President of the Church, John Taylor. It was dated 26 December 1882 and read:

In all cases in making new settlements the Saints should be advised to gather together in villages, as has been our custom from the time of our earliest settlement in these mountain valleys. The advantages of this plan, instead of carelessly scattering out over a wide extent of country, are many and obvious to all those who have a desire to serve the Lord.

By this means the people can retain their ecclesiastical organizations, have regular meetings of the quorums of the priesthood, and establish and maintain day and Sunday schools, Improvement Associations, and Relief Societies. They can also cooperate for the good of all in financial and secular matters, in making ditches, fencing fields, building bridges, and other necessary improvements.

Further than this they are a mutual protection and a source of strength against horse and cattle thieves, land jumpers, etc., and against hostile Indians, should there be any; while their compact organization gives them many advantages of a social and civic character which might be lost, misapplied or frittered away by spreading out so thinly that inter-communication is difficult, dangerous, inconvenient and expensive.[3]

Taylor’s letter is a fine summary of the purpose of the village system. What is fascinating is that the villages continued well into the twentieth century. Even the new towns stayed with the system. Therefore, the stories the people tell in this book are consistent with the lifestyle of their parents and grandparents. Once modern technology arrived—electricity, machines, telephones, radios, and automobiles—the rural areas stopped growing and urban centers became dominant. Anderson’s book was published just as that change was under way.

Another major scholar who focused on the Mormon village system was Lowry Nelson. In 1925, he published a study of Escalante, Utah, in Garfield County. It is part of a series sponsored by Brigham Young University. In the introduction he says:

Utah [and its neighboring regions] is one of the few spaces on this continent where the farm-village type of community is found. It existed in the early days of New England, but with the coming of improved methods of transportation and other factors, it disintegrated. Although the agricultural village has never developed extensively in America, in the countries of Europe it is rather common. . . . The ‘Mormon’ village was definitely planned and established before the farm land was developed. That is to say, the first settlers laid out the village site and apportioned the lots, as their first act. They then surveyed the fields and apportioned them. The vast rural areas of the United States, on the contrary, grew up in practically the opposite manner; that is, the farms were established first, and the village or hamlet came as a secondary growth.[4]

He went on to give a detailed account of Escalante. It was settled in 1875 as a spillover from towns at higher elevation. It is 5,700 feet in elevation whereas Panguitch, the county seat, is 1,000 feet higher. Land and water were available and 11.3 inches of rain fell per year. About 123 family heads chose to come rather than being called to come by Church authority. By 1876, they had constructed a log building for a school large enough for ninety pupils and two teachers. An LDS Church branch was organized in 1877. Town planners surveyed five-acre town blocks and divided them into four-family lots. On those lots, families constructed farm buildings such as a barn, a corral, pens, and a root cellar. Eventually, the town built a canal and each family got one acre-foot of water for their garden. Livestock was their main effort and alfalfa was the farm crop. Nelson reported that frost ended around 22 May and returned around 27 September. There were 124 farms within 3 miles from town, covering 5,000 acres. Thirty or more other villages in the desert region were much similar in their layout. Nelson’s study goes on to include many details about crops, economics, and social structure.

Dean L. May published an important summary of the research by many scholars who study the Mormon village.[5] One of his key points was that scholars studying Mormon towns can gain insight by studying colonial New England towns. May was especially impressed by the work of Clyde Kluckholm and Talcot Parsons, which dealt with cultural groups in the Colorado Plateau—Zuni, Navajo, Spanish, Mormon, and Texan. Thomas O’Dea was a member of that team and that work led to his important book, The Mormons. Nelson’s large project supports the work of Donald W. Meinig and Richard V. Francaviglia that concludes that there is a Mormon culture region. May says:

The varied body of converts from England and other parts of western Europe was not primarily agrarian but consisted of large numbers of skilled craftsmen, tradesmen, and factory workers. For many their only common experience as Mormons to the time they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley was their conversion and their long journey to the Rocky Mountains. After a brief stay in Salt Lake City they generally settled in small farming villages. There, cast into close association with other Mormons, in formal church gatherings and in less formal daily associations, they began in earnest the process of becoming Saints—of developing the unique character later scholars described in Ramah and in other Mormon villages. In detailed studies of life in Mormon villages of the past, one has a rare opportunity to discern and analyze the processes that contributed to the building and perpetuation of a distinctive subculture.[6]

Recently, a major study was published by the University of Utah Press.[7] It surveys works by many scholars, including Nels Anderson, Lowry Nelson, Andrew Karl Larson, Edward C. Banfield, Henri Mendras, Alma A. Gardner, and Nancy Taniguchi, among others. Banfield is cited in more detail in chapter 7, which discusses civic service.

The breadth of Bahr’s study is amazing. He considers articles, theses, and dissertations on scores of Mormon communities over a period of 150 years. For example, he reports on the work of Joseph Earle Spencer in the 1930s. His 1935 dissertation at the University of California, “The Middle Virgin Valley, Utah: A Study in Cultural Growth and Change,” focuses on the areas near St. George. He points out that some of the villages were unable to achieve the standard grid square because they were located in narrow river valleys. Gunlock, Virgin, Veyo, Santa Clara, Leeds, Rockville, and Springdale are examples. Spencer focuses on the adaptation to new developments in the 1900–30 period. Transportation and highways were improved, new equipment became available for farms and homes, more interaction with visitors happened, and uniformity declined. Modern readers will quickly realize that this was the beginning of a diversity that characterizes much of the region today.

Bahr quotes diverse authors about the nature of social class in Salt Lake City during the pioneer times. Regarding the status of women, he focuses on Jules Remy, who decries what he perceives as the suppression of women. Then he cites John William Gunnison, who says Utah women’s education is “quite as free and liberal as to the other sex,” and the Mormons “Give, or profess to allow, all the freedom to the females that is found in any Christian nation.” Nonetheless Gunnison admits that the glory of the women is to be a mother in Israel.[8] Reading Bahr causes one to be grateful for scholars who do exhaustive research and provide it to the world.

Ronald Walker wrote an article about daily life in Mormon villages during the period 1850–1900, the era just prior to the era of these interviewees.[9] That early period was much more difficult since it involved breaking the first ground, moving newcomers into the village, and helping the desperate neighbors who needed a cup of flour to survive. Serving the sick was also difficult, because no doctors were available. Midwives had to travel very long distances and treat many illnesses. Meanwhile, men had to build the original canals and ditches as well as roads—all without heavy equipment. Building forts and the first homes was that generation’s job. They even had to retrieve cattle stolen by Native Americans. Women had to weave thread into cloth. This generation dried fruit and their children and grandchildren kept that up. Essentially, it was a generation that set the tone for all subsequent generations.

An article by Joseph Earle Spencer[10] tells the details of the local geography and of the rainfall, which gave eight to thirteen inches per year. It emphasizes “the unified church leadership of community action.”[11] It describes the similarities and differences of the villages, but it says that they were “designed to give everyone an equal division of available land.”[12] It mentions how the early emphasis on cotton, silk, sorghum, and wine gave way to alfalfa, as well as how the population of 3,270 in the 1800s was surpassed in the 1920s.

In his 2014 MHA Presidential Address in San Antonio, Glen Leonard focused on historic Mormon communities. He emphasized the role of Joseph Smith in setting the design for the later Mormon villages and his impact on Brigham Young, who implemented the plan. He mentioned that Young’s experience in the Zion’s Camp trek to Missouri influenced how Young organized the trek west in the 1840s and 50s. Then he told how Joseph Smith gradually developed the town layout plan after his experiences in Kirtland. Those plans were set up for Jackson County, Missouri, and then implemented more in Nauvoo. Brigham Young was involved with it all. Leonard goes on to talk about the initial communities all close to Salt Lake in 1847 and 1848, until Parowan was undertaken. He points out that there were several self-directed settlements that did not follow the plan for square blocks and wide streets.

In the second half of his address, Leonard focuses on the second generation. Many of them were from large families and the younger sons could not inherit the father’s land. They often migrated to nearby lands that could be made into farms. They did not go as an organized company but on individual initiative. Leonard focuses on the towns of Davis County and its neighboring towns and shows that many communities were founded gradually. Several of these families had established farms before an actual village plan and ward were established. This situation was somewhat similar in Washington County. St. George, Washington City, and Santa Clara were done as an original plan. Then, other villages sprang from them. After 1900, like in Davis County, several Dixie communities came from individual initiatives—Enterprise, Hurricane, and LaVerkin. Leonard explains that the coming of the railroad was a big influence in the Davis and Weber County expansions and diversification. Washington County was different. No railroad ever came. The first highway in that area was built in 1930 and then Interstate 15 was built in 1973. Thus, Washington County didn’t become absorbed into capitalism until much later than northern Utah. Similarly, it didn’t become religiously diversified until a generation or two after northern Utah.[13]

All of this information helps give context and background to the interviews included in this book. These people lived in the many Mormon villages located in the Mojave Desert. Those who lived in the village rode out to the farm every day. The communal nature of the village had a huge impact on family life; on childhood; on the work of both children and adults; on the nature of the schools; on the life of work for adults and children, men and women; on the health challenges they had to deal with; on the service they gave to their communities; on their interaction with Native Americans; and on their reception of fellow Mormons who fled Mexico at the time of the 1912 Revolution. We have focused on this topic of the Mormon village because it has impact on all these matters.

We can now look at brief excerpts from some of the whole group, in their own words. We will do so by category, but we will include many stories of selected individuals. The ones included here were chosen because a descendant had signed a release form, they illustrated the point of the section in which they were placed, and they told interesting tales. The categories we divided the stories into include the following: Family Life, Childhood, and Teenage Years; Schools; Work for Youth and Adults; Health and Sickness; Mormons Colonists of Mexico Who Moved to the US; American Indians; and Military, Church, and Civic Service Efforts. There is a final section that lists statistics regarding the interviews. To make reading easier, capitalization and punctuation were standardized, and words in brackets were added by the transcriber.


[1] See Susan Easton Black, “The Economic Sacrifice of the Nauvoo Exodus,” in Far Away in the West, ed. Scott Esplin, Richard E. Bennett, and Craig K. Manscill (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 59–79. In this article, Professor Black describes Nauvoo’s economic success and the exodus from the city.

[2] Nels Anderson, Desert Saints: Mormon Frontier in Utah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 116.

[3] Anderson, Desert Saints, 427.

[4] Lowry Nelson, A Social History Survey of Escalante Utah (1925), 3.

[5] Dean L. May, “The Making of Saints: The Mormon Town as a Setting for the Study of Cultural Change,” Utah Historical Quarterly 45, no. 1 (Winter 1977): 75–92.

[6] May, “The Making of Saints,” 82.

[7] Howard M. Bahr, Saints Observed: Studies of Mormon Village Life, 1850–2005, (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014).

[8] Bahr, Saints Observed, 108–9.

[9] Ronald W. Walker, “Golden Memories: Remembering Life in a Mormon Village,” BYU Studies 37, no. 3 (1997–98), 191–218.

[10] Joseph Earle Spencer, “The Development of Agricultural Villages in Southern Utah,” Agricultural History 4, no. 4 (October 1940), 181–209.

[11] Spencer, “The Development of Agricultural Villages in Southern Utah,” 182.

[12] Spencer, “The Development of Agricultural Villages in Southern Utah,” 184.

[13] Glen M. Leonard, “Seeking an Inheritance: Mormon Mobility, Urbanity, and Community,” Journal of Mormon History 40, no. 2 (Spring 2014): 1–57.