The following is a digital reproduction of an objective history of the hot springs written by a local just as Ken was arriving at Pah Tempe. It’s long; enjoy. (We’ll continue to refine the format of the information available here on our website)
A Brief History of the LA VERKIN (PAH TEMPE) HOT SPRINGS and the LA VERKIN CANAL
Compiled by Ruby Webb, DUP President, 1986
The digital version of this booklet was scanned and published by David Anderson and lightly edited for clarity by Anika Suzanne.
The historical sketches of the lives of Joseph and Henry Gubler were submitted by Henry’s granddaughter, Patricia Gubler. Other articles in the booklet are properly acknowledged.
Our appreciation goes to all who wrote or contributed to the booklet, and to Maxine and Burt Pace, publishers, for putting the booklet together for La Verkin Camp of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
THE LA VERKIN SULPHUR SPRINGS
Bubbling from beneath the ledges of the rocky river gorge, between Hurricane and La Verkin, Utah, is the Sulphur Springs. What a tale these waters could tell, if only we could interpret their gurgling and splashing!
In the year 34 A.D., at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, it is recorded in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 8 :17-8), “The face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightenings, and the quaking of the earth. And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and cracks, upon all the face of the land.”
Upon the hill east of La Verkin, on a plateau above the bend of the river, is a place called The Cracks, which vividly portrays what could have taken place at that time. Gracing the skyline to the south and west are volcano knolls, mute testimony of a fiery upheaval.
The black rocks above Toquerville, La Verkin and Hurricane are part of the lava flow from those volcano knolls. The valleys sank, creating what is known as The Hurricane Fault. Toquerville and La Verkin nestle against the highest point of the fault. Geologists have found, by drilling along the 300-mile fault, that it goes down between 5,000 and 8,000 feet into the ground at this point. The Hurricane Fault begins at the north end of Cedar Valley and goes in an almost straight line south, across Grand Canyon, and ends at Pete Springs, east of Kingman, Arizona. Contrary to what natives believe, it is not the longest fault in the world. The San Andreas Fault in California is about 650 miles long. (Information furnished by Don Tait of Hurricane.)
Spanish Explorers and Indians
On October 15, 1776, Father Dominquez, Father Escalante, and their party of ten, with their saddle horses, pack horses and the cattle they had brought along for food, arrived at the west bank of Ash Creek, near the site of La Verkin. Father Escalante recorded that they were especially pleased at the small fields of maize and well-made irrigation ditches, and a well-made mat with a large supply of ears of green corn upon it. The Indians who lived here sustained themselves by planting maize and calabashes. Along Ash Creek, the explorers found pleasant groves of large black cottonwoods, willows and wild grapevines.
The padre and his party camped where the stream was joined by La Verkin Creek from the north-northeast, and the Virgin River from the east. The latter had hot sulphurous water, so the travelers named it Rio Sulfureo. This river was later named by Spaniards for the Virgin Mary. (Utah Historical Quarterly Vol. XVIII)
Escalante undoubtedly visited the Sulpher Springs. Just imagine the Sulphur Springs playing host to Fathers Escalante and Dominquez, and to others of their party, including Don Bernardo Pachecos, the engineer who was custodian of the Astrolabe with which he made astronomical observations; Don Pedro Cisneros, Mayor of Pueblo Zuni; and the other young explorers, including Don Joaquin Lain, Lorenzo Olivares, Lucrecio and Andres Muniz, Jaun de Aguilar and Simon Lucero. The indigenous peoples regarded the Hot Springs as sacred and healing waters, available to friend and foe, and held these grounds as a peaceful sanctuary for everyone.
Here Come the Mormons
The Sulphur Springs played an important role in the development of the surrounding towns and its story interweaves with that of the rivers, canals and canyon.
In the year 1888, while making one of his trips from Silver Reef to Canaan, Thomas Judd passed over the La Verkin Bench, at that time used only as a grazing field for cattle owned by the people of Toquerville. Judd became interested in the fertile soil and envisioned this bench becoming “the garden spot of Dixie.” He didn’t visualize a thriving town, but a big ranch, operated by a Stock Company.
Thomas Judd was the first recorded owner of the Sulphur Springs property. His dream was the beginning of a chain of events that built the La Verkin Canal and brought water through the tunnel. The La Verkin Fruit and Nursery Company was organized in 1889. The first water came through the tunnel in April 1891. 160 acres of land were brought under cultivation, mostly orchards and vineyards, with 25 acres of grain. The Sulphur Springs became one of the first recreation spots for the early pioneers.
As Rosalba Fuller described it, “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 liked to swim and play. Since we had no bathtubs in those days, we really loved the Sulphur Springs. We used to race up and down the sandy river bottom from the springs down to where the road crossed the river. A wagon cover, or tarp, was hung in front of the springs so people had a private place to dress.”
The “Spring’s Eye View of the Passing Parade”
The Springs boil from beneath the sheer canyon walls at a strategic point above the river crossing where every wagon passed in the founding of Hurricane. The rampages of the Virgin River was cutting away at the tiny fertile farms which formed the settlement of Virgin, earlier known as “Pocketville,” and these settlers were casting about for a new location. The completion of the La Verkin Canal helped materialize a dream that others had nurtured of bringing water out onto the land across the river. And so a sister canal was being chipped and chiseled along the opposite side of the Virgin River canyon. After years of heroic struggle, the Hurricane Canal came into being. During those years, the Sulphur Springs soothed and comforted the men who swung the pick and pushed the wheelbarrows on this herculean project.
My mother, Annie Crawford lsom, who grew up in Oak Creek (now part of Zion National Park) wrote: “My older brothers worked on the Hurricane Canal during the winter months . . . When the boys brought their clothing to be washed, they were a grimy gray color, and they stayed that way. No amount of washing would clear them of the lime, and when we would iron the shirts, the sulphur fumes would fill our nostrils and as long as a rag was left of them, whenever they were heated, they still smelled.”
Just above the Sulphur Springs was the most discouraging section of the canal building project. Here, tragedy struck, when a rock rolled, killing one of the workers, John Isom, a lad of only sixteen. And here, just below the springs at the wagon crossing, a raging flood capsized Frank Isom’s wagon. Trapped by the wagon cover, he was unable to swim free, and was drowned.
Albert Stratton and his wife Emily lived in the canyon by the Sulphur Springs, cooking and caring for the canal workers. Their only bedroom was a wagon box. How grateful they were for the soothing comfort of hot baths.
On Saturday nights, the women from Virgin and other up-river towns came to pick up their husbands at the Sulphur Springs Camp and everyone enjoyed soaking and swimming.
The first water came through the Hurricane Canal in 1904, and the first families arrived in 1906, some of them hauling their houses from Virgin. As Mamie Workman Hinton recalls, James Jepson of Hurricane let her father’s family live under his wagon cover, while he (Amos) took his house apart at Virgin and hauled it to Hurricane. Delsey Workman Leaney remembers her father, Charles Workman, hauling their house from Virgin on a wagon, behind the one the family rode in. (Footnote: The first child born in the town of Hurricane was delivered in this “mobile” home. That child was Carl Workman and his mother was Josephine Pickett Workman, a sister to Susanna Picket Gubler, mother of Rosalba, the first child born in La Verkin.)
How rugged and jostling the hauling must have been, creaking and swaying down the steep grade to the river, then following up the rocky wash on the climb to Hurricane. The only bridge across the river at that time was the swinging footbridge at the Springs.
Rosalba Fuller recalls going to Hurricane to visit Aunt Josephine, when a flood came down the river. Her father, Henry Gubler, had to crawl onto the wagon tongue, then upon one of the horses’ backs to coax the team across. The flood continued to rise and they had to spend the night in Hurricane. When the Hurricane canal broke, as it often did, the people drove to the river and up above the springs, to fill their water barrels. Their barrels were mounted on horse-drawn sleds. A third of the water spilled on the way home and the rest had to be settled before they could dip off the clear part.
A fair sized spring used to bubble up just above the river crossing. Sheep men dammed it off for a dipping vat. This was before the days of sheep-dip. The mineral water was good for the scabies. Sheep don’t like water, and are poor swimmers, because their wool becomes too heavy, but they will blindly follow the leader, even if it means jumping off a cliff. So, with a goat in the lead, it was no problem to push the herd through the water.
The early settlers baptized their children in the river. George and Annie lsom were living in Virgin when their daughter Annie turned 8. It was January and a thin crust of ice lined the edges of the river, so her Uncle Ren Spendlove drove his team from Hurricane to get her, bringing her back to the Sulphur Springs. She recalls crawling on her hands and knees across the swinging bridge. Her uncle baptized her in the river where the mineral water formed a pool beneath the rocks. The Hurricane aunts, uncles and cousins were there to watch.
A year later, Rosalba Gubler and Moroni Sanders, the first girl and the first boy born in La Verkin, were baptized in this little pool in February. Rosalba also crawled on her hands and knees across the swinging bridge, because her brothers jumped up and down on the end of it. Moroni was frightened and he cried.
Finally, the county built a wooden bridge across the river below the springs, but floods washed it away. A second time, a sturdier bridge was built, and again the floods came. The roar of it was so great that people came to watch from both sides of the river. Again the bridge was washed away. By 1916 the county had replaced the wooden bridge with the steel one that is still in use today.
Up to this time, the waters of the Sulphur Springs were as free to the traveler as asparagus along the ditch bank. The fumes, at the bend of the road that linked Utah’s two infant towns, were an open invitation.
A Sanitorium and Resort Company is Born
But now the days of the open range and free hot baths were drawing to a close. This was a vanishing frontier. After all, the hot springs were privately owned.
Following are notes taken from the old minute book of the La Verkin Sanitorium and Resort Company.
On December 30, 1914, the following persons met in the County Court House in St. George at 5:00p.m.: A.B. Christenson, Brigham Jarvis, Morris Wilson Jr. and John T. Woodbury. A.B. Christenson outlined a plan for establishing a sanitorium at La Verkin in connection with the hot sulphur springs. He had already made an agreement to purchase the springs and 170 acres of land in the vacinity, from Thomas Judd.
A corporation was organized, which was to be known as the La Verkin Sanitorium and Resort Company. The following officers were agreed upon: Andrew B. Christenson, President and director; Brigham Jarvis, Vice President and director; Morris Wilson Jr., director. Sarah B. Christenson, director; John T. Woodbury, secretary and treasurer and director.
At subsequent meetings, plans for the construction of a bathing pool 15′ x 45′ were made, and Pres. Christenson was authorized to sell 5,000 shares of capital stock. There was much to be done, such as securing the water fillings, driving a tunnel to collect the waters of the upper springs, developing the lower large springs and making roads necessary to the property. Brigham Jarvis was appointed foreman for the company with a salary fixed at $4.00 a day. By 1916, the workers at the springs had purchased a tent to live in.
At a meeting held in St. George, April 20, 1918, the new officers of the company were: Morris Wilson, Jr., Pres. and director; Joseph E. Gubler, vice pres. and director; Wilford Thompson, dir.; George Judd, director; Roland E. Fletcher, director; George M. Martineau, Jr., secretary and treasurer. It was decided that the company should establish an office at La Verkin and the business of the company be transacted there.
A New Swimming Pool
The preliminary work was completed, the pool constructed, as well as dressing rooms, and an order of bathing suits had been received from ZCMI. The water was turned into the pool for the Grand Opening on May Day, 1918.
After that May Day celebration, it was decided to canvass the town of La Verkin to sell stock.
At the meeting held on May 4, the board reported on the canvass of the town and it was found that twenty men would subscribe $100 each. Bids for the operation of the resort for the coming year were received and George Judd’s bid was accepted. A motion was made by J.E. Gubler and seconded by Wilford Thompson, that Pres. Morris Wilson act as a committee to confer with the bishops of Toquerville and Hurricane for the purpose of selecting a ladies committee to select bathing suits suitable for ladies.
Rules and Regulations
The committee met and presented the design for bathing suits as follows: A lady’s suit must have elastic in the sleeves below the elbow, and elastic in the legs below the knees, and a skirt. Men were permitted to swim in a shirt and overalls, the shirt sleeve to be elbow length and overalls cut off below the knee. The boughten suits for men were sleeveless, but had small arm holes and wide shoulders and snug legs below the knee.
George Judd was put in charge of having two dozen suits for ladies made at home. He purchased material and hired a woman to make them for 15 cents apiece. The suits were to sell for $1.50, or could be rented, along with the swim ticket, for 25 cents. Rubber caps and ladies stockings were purchased from ZCMI. Rules of conduct were established. No naked bathing was to be allowed on the property, and no ducking or throwing of water was to be allowed, and no diving from the walls or girters was to be allowed. People entering the pool or building were to do so on their own responsibility.
These rules were presented in the parent’s class in Sunday School in the three nearby wards. R.E. Fletcher presented them in Toquerville, Pres. Morris Wilson in Hurricane, and J.E. Gubler in La Verkin. They were accepted, with the stipulation that the resort be closed on Sunday.
At a board meeting held May 14, 1918, Pres. Morris Wilson reported that he had investigated the Hurricane Charter, and found that the Hurricane Township covered the company property on the south side of the river, including the springs and pool. He was appointed by the board “to wait upon the town board of Hurricane to find out what concession they were willing to grant the company.”
In the minutes of June 7, 1918, Fletcher was authorized to purchase a “glass and comb” for the pool. (Mirror, that is, and a comb for the customers to pretty up with.)
The Stuff Dreams are Made Of
The board met on July 12 to consider the mining of sulphur beds. Mineral rights and a mill site and option to the Beaver Sulphur Company was discussed. The board also discussed getting “some Hotel Company to erect on the ground a large hotel.”
BIG SIGH OF RELIEF
On July 6, 1919, the city of Hurricane released the Sulphur Springs property.
In the summer of 1920, a cloud burst came and gully washers swept oil tanks from the Virgin Oil Fields, and big trees down the river. Horatio Gubler recalls the excitement of it. He remembers racing into the flood waters that had risen above the bridge, half way to his knees, and how the bridge trembled under the vibration of it. With friends, he climbed the hill on the Hurricane side and watched. Tall trees sailed upright in the boiling turbulence, then tumbled over, heaving and crashing. ”It was a beautiful sight,” he remarked. The flood carried so much silt that the springs were plugged up solid with sand, and the waters were diverted internally. Until men dug them out, there was no water for hot baths or for the swimming pool.
In the minutes of August 19, 1920, Manager A.J .T. Sorenson was instructed by the board, “to make all possible haste to repair damages done by the flood. If possible to have resort ready for business Saturday, August 21, on account of the Stake MIA rally to take place at Hurricane.” (Hurricane belonged to the St. George Stake at that time.) The Hurricane Canal Company was notified to repair damages done on the company road.
MERT – You Shouldn’t Have!
The La Verkin Sanitorium and Resort Company came into existence at the same time the Goulds Shearing operation did. The only road from Goulds to the railroad at I.und, where the wool was hauled, was down through the canyon past the Sulphur Springs. Teams and wagons were being used, but automobiles were becoming more common. In the spring of 1920. while the sheep shearing was at its peak, one of the wool haulers lost a wheel while coming down the Hurricane hill. Leaving his wagon partly tipped on the dugway, he unhitched his team and drove to town toget another wheel. Four sheep shearerscame chugging along in their jitney, anxious to get to the Sulphur Springs. They had been boozing and could see no reasonwhy a load of wool in the middle of the road should delay them, so piling out, they finished tipping the wagon over, spilling the wool down the hillside. When they arrived at the swimming pool, a plump fellow in a fine wool suit was leaning over the pool watching some youngsters swim. Mert, one of the tipsy shearers, helped the gentleman on over the edge, the sameway they had helped the wagon. The man couldn’t swim and had tobe rescued. Hot sulphur water didn’t help his dress suit either. This little episode cost Mert $40.00.
The Sulphur Springs became a popular recreational resort. Municipal, motel and private swimming pools were non-existent. The springs attracted boy scout troops from as far away as Salt Lake City, and swimming parties came from neighboring colleges. Sunday School classes, and Relief Society women, with their husbands, had parties at the pool. These were the days of hay rack rides, and of young people singing their hearts out as they jogged along under the stars. Fern Slack Stratton recalls the young folks from Toquerville singing all the way to the springs, of swimming to their heart’s content, and then singing their way home, getting there sometimes as late as one or two in the morning. She remembers the 4th and 24th of July celebrations when young folks from the three nearby towns had swimming matches at the pool.
“We didn’t pair off in those days, but went in a group, like brothers and sisters,” she said.
Privilege cards, held by the stockholders, kept the place lively. The swimming pool was something like a family affair, where town folks met. There was a warmth, besides that of the water — a happy-hearted warmth, of friends and neighbors, splashing and diving together.
One early morning during the summer of 1923, Owen Sanders came to the springs to bathe. East of the pool, he saw a man kneeling on a blanket, coughing. Owen stopped to see if he needed help, and ended up carrying him piggy-back up to the springs. After Owen finished his bath, he found the man where he had left him. He had died there, without any identification on him, and was buried by the county.
In August, 1923, a fire destroyed the bath house and it had to be rebuilt by assessing the stockholders 10 cents a share. The Board of Directors went to Virgin to see Al Bernum about jip (gypsum) to sec whether to use it instead of cement, getting four sacks of it to experiment with. Ten days later, they met to look at the tests and decided to use cement.
In 1924 the company built a residence al the springs for the manager. This replaced the boarded-up tent that had been used up to this time. They also built three private hot baths east of the pool, making five private baths in all.
When the first settlers came to this area, they found signs of a great Indian population. Pottery, moccasins, arrowheads and spears were found along the Virgin River, both on top of and down in the canyon, especially near the Sulphur Springs. These findings lent intrigue to probing among the cliffs and caves. One day, Owen Sanders played hooky from school to go exploring. He went alone into a cave above the springs, with a pocket full of matches. After finding two pots, his matches burned out and he was lost in the dark for three or four hours.
In the minutes of April 24, 1925 it is recorded that Walter Ruesch, a Park Superintendent of Zion National Park, asked the privilege of digging in this cave and that “we let him have one of the jugs.” Supt. Ruesch found a broken jug. The pieces were skillfully put together and for years it was on display in the original Visitor’s Center in the park, with an attached card that read “Found by a lad named Sanders, who was lost in the cave.”
It was on April 9, 1925 when the first exciting event in my life, connected with the springs, occurred. In my diary I wrote, “Saturday, after scrubbing the front room floor, I put on my overalls and middy and Edith (my sister) and I went Eastering with Venona Stout, Kate Humphries, Lawrence Stout and Marcus Campbell. We hiked up the canyon above the Sulphur Springs. The air was sparkly spring and the river a clear trickle. After we had eaten our picnic, we hoofed it back toward the bridge … From the La Verkin side of the canyon we heard galloping horses, the clatter of a wagon and a man frantically yelling, “Whoa.”
“It’s a runaway,” Marcus shouted.
Racing to the middle of the river to get a better view, we saw the horses tearing around the bend, their tails and manes flying.
“Whoa, whoa,” the driver wildly cried, yanking back on the reins.
The wagon bounced and leaped at the horses’ heels as they bolted down the dugway. Instead of making the turn at the bridge, they crashed through the railing. The wagon, with its few bales of hay, literally exploded on the river bank below, and the dazed horses clopped out into the water and stood silently subdued, their broken harnesses and reins dangling. The man had leaped to safety on the bridge.”
Little did I dream at that time of how many other exciting events in my life would take place at the Sulphur Springs.
I Sit Up and Take Notice
In June, I927, Winferd Gubler became manager of the springs. This is the point when the place took on personal significance to me, for Winferd was the most desirable bachelor in these parts, and I was almost seventeen. How well I recall the class parties we had at the springs. Winferd had an eye for the extra frills that made the pool more exciting — like a rope swing that hung from the rafters, which really didn’t last long, for what swimmer wants his head knocked by someone in a swing, swooshing by. Above the cold shower stall was a high diving hoard which was reached by climbing a ladder. And a low diving board was anchored at the deep end, at pool’s level. Stacks of inflated inner tubes were available, and a rope hand rail was laced through steel pins around the entire edge of the pool. The swimming pool was as “La Verkin” as the Saturday half-holidays and ball games on the square, and the Saturday night dances in the recreation hall that drew crowds from the nearby towns. There was a robust, rousing heartiness, and a close knit happiness about it all. La Verkin! How subtly its tentacles were closing around my heart! And it had its beginnings at Sulphur Springs.
In the minutes of April29, 1929, is recorded “At a board meeting it was moved and seconded to collect $1.00 from Edward Bradshaw for a little piece of ground he is occupying.” Edward had taken up a homestead on the springs property, by building a tiny shack among the tamaracks on the north side of the river. He became a permanent fixture to the springs, hobbling up the canyon in the early mornings with his stubby straw broom to sweep the ditch that carried the water to the pool. After sweeping, he luxuriated in a long hot soak in the main “hot pot.”
Ln June of 1932, Winferd Gubler’s third term as manager of the swimming pool was accepted. His bachelor days were a year and a half behind him now, for I was his wife. If the Sulphur Springs had ever meant anything to me before, they meant everything to me now, for this was home. What fun we had painting the interior of the little two-room house, plus the bedroom lean-to. Our only tree was an umbrella tree at the southeast corner of the kitchen. The windows commanded full view of the canyon and the river, for the house was the only building on its little plateau. From our dining table in front of the west window, the world became a stage, and the traffic of actors, because the dugway down into the canyon was the main highway then.
One day, a man’s anxious cry, above the sound of a motor, caught our attention. A truck was speeding from the La Verkin side, unable to slow down for the turn. It crashed into the bridge at the same place where the team and wagon had gone through years before. Timber kept the truck from going on through, but the man, who had been standing back of the cab, was pitched headlong onto the bank below, killing him instantly. A boy of scarcely 18 was sobbing at the steering wheel when we reached him. The truck brakes had failed.
Another time, a little sports roadster came rick-racking merrily down from La Verkin, seeming to deliberately flirt with the edge of the dugway, and then with the bank of the hill. “Uh, oh,” I gasped, each time it almost went over the edge. At the bridge, it did not hesitate, hut went through the flimsy, temporary railing, and butterfly like, flew out in the air, landing upright in the trickle of the river. Like wooden images, the two occupants sat with their cowboy hats firmly on their heads.
“They’re dead, Winferd, they’re dead,” I cried. “They don’t even move!”
Uproariously he laughed, “They’re drunk.”
And they were. A tow car pulled them out. What they had to repair, besides four flat tires, I do not know, but they were unhurt.
The depression of the 1930′s was at its very best (or worst) at the time we took over the springs. No one had a dime. Each spring, the stockholders of the La Verkin Sanitorium Company received privilege cards of 100 baths each. Some stockholders owned a number of cards. Free swims made it possible to do a lively business, but supplied no cash.
The mineral water ran in an open ditch about 175 yards from the springs to the pool. Once exposed to the air, the heavy mineral coagulated in ragged gobs along the bank, and unless the ditch was constantly swept, greenish black and yellow jelly-like masses floated like sea monsters into the pool. There was always a ditch sweeping job for anyone who wanted to work for a swim. Winferd never turned anyone away because of lack of money. We also learned to barter. People often paid for their swims with garden stuff, or eggs. However, taking eggs from children backfired. Unhappy mothers complained when they found their egg cartons empty, after they had just returned from the grocery store. We scratched this off our list.
In 1933, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt took office, and penniless as people were, our country began singing “Happy days are here again,” and “The road is open again.” With the “New Deal” came the CCC’s. Things became lively when the camp, under Luther Fuller’s supervision, was built north of La Verkin. Ward activities accelerated, especially MIA and drama, for Mr. Fuller was a great director. But cash business at the pool didn’t pick up. After all, CCC meant Civilian Conservation Corps. Unemployment was so critical, we struggled to take in enough to pay to light the swimming pool. The Power Company came to the rescue, but giving Winferd the job of ditch-walker, which he did every morning before breakfast.
Early one morning in August, a cloudburst came while Winferd was still up the canyon. A flood roared down the river, rising higher and higher, until it slapped against the bridge, some of the waves breaking over it. The water level swelled above the pathwalk and into the ditch, sending mud into the pool. The rumbling of boulders being swept along under the flood, and the sight of uprooted trees, were frightening. Will Hinton, the Hurricane ditch rider, turned the canal down the hill, thundering into the rock-walled ditch at the edge of our house. The flood level was higher than the Hurricane Canal intake, so to keep the canal from breaking, he had to open the headgate above us. I was trapped between the river and the canal. My only pacing place was between the pool and the house. I paced and watched for Winferd’s return. Sinister shapes floated by. A bobbing roll of denim could have been somebody. Was it Winferd? I began to cry. Over and over I prayed, pleading for his safety. Tortuous hours dragged by into midday. Our telephone had gone dead. I became hysterical. Surely Winferd had been swallowed by the flood. In the afternoon, Wilford Thompson came on horseback and shouted across the din of the canal.
“Alice, Winferd is all right. He said to tell you he has a crew of men forking trash off the screen to keep the water going through the tunnel. The flood is above the sand trap, so he can’t turn the water out.”
Waving my thanks, I ran into the house and crumpled in a heap. Let the canal thunder and the river roar! I was submerged in my own flood — a flood of grateful tears.
It was almost night before the waters receded and Winferd came home to breakfast.
Living at the swimming pool wasn’t always that dramatic. There was the solemn, the sweet and the funny. It was gratifying to see arthritics soothed and limbered and to see happy families gather for baptisms, and to see the total displacement of water by bodies at Easter time, the one cash-paying day of the year. It seemed that the entire state of Utah came for a dip on that special Saturday. Sort of a renewal. But the most picturesque and delightful of all were the Relief Society parties. Many of the original bathing suits were still being flaunted. Women in suits flapping around their knees like skirts, and men in queer long legged creations. Youngsters may summersault through the air from a high dive or plummet from the rafters, but nothing ever equaled the Relief Society sisters and their husbands playing “back-out” by running in and out of the pool. Aunt Pearl Webb was a party delight. The hearty laughs she gave us, and her own happy disposition, had as great a healing power as the sparkling mineral water. Once, after everyone in the “back-out” line had plunged into the pool, Aunt Pearl was still frozen at the end of the diving board. Shivering and clowning, she couldn’t be coaxed in. As she started to retreat, someone ran toward her, dangling a mouse by the tail. Aunt Pearl screamed and dove, neat as a penguin.
One night, when the moon rode high, we were awakened from a sound slumber by squeals of laughter and splashing echoing from the pool. Getting into his slippers and robe, Winferd said, “Give me time to get to the pool, then flip on the lights.” The light switch to the pool was by the kitchen door. When lights flooded the pool, the squeals turned to frenzy, and a half-dozen pink bodies fled out the back door. Although Winferd waited, no one came back for their clothes. The following afternoon, a sheepish young man came after them. Like scared rabbits, those young people had climbed without even the protection of shoes, up the hillside tothe Hurricane Canal and had gone all the way home in the nude. Some of them lived on the opposite side of Hurricane.
Private dressing rooms formed a “U” around three sides of the pool. Winferd always washed out the rooms between customers, by dashing buckets of mineral water from the pool, over the floor and the cement seat. The wash water drained off in a little gutter.
One evening, a slick haired little dog, looking like a fat wiener, stuck his muzzle in the gutter, lapping at the water as it ran by. He drank until his sides swelled. The dog owner stood patiently by. ”It is very good,” he observed. “All anyone needs to do to make chicken soup, is just add pepper to this water.”
Our first child, Marilyn, was horn in the house at the springs in January 1934. Those January days needed her, with the canyon so deep and so dark. The sun was so far south it only shone on the house through a gap above the canal between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
On June 1, 1934, John Larson took over the managership, and we moved to La Verkin. By June 10, 1936, Morris Wilson had accumulated enough stock to get the controlling vote at the stockholder’s meetings. Since the beginning of the corporation, the question of selling out had kept popping up. Now with Morris Wilson in control, he proposed that the stockholders either sell to him or buy him out. Eventually they sold to him, and the resort went into private ownership. The minutes of the La Verkin Sanitorium and Resort Company came to a finish. The minute book is presently owned by Wayne Wilson.
The managers who were the genial hosts, who had kept the resort clean and inviting, and who punched the privilege cards for the stockholders through the years were: 1918-1920 June to June) George Judd; 1920-21 H.J.T. Sorenson; 1921-22, George E. Porter; 1922-23 (the minutes failed to tell who); 1924-25-26, John Larsen; 1926-27, Webb and Davis. Roland and Rodney Webb and their Uncle George Davis ran the place. Still vivid in Roland’s memory is an experience similar to that of Owen Sanders’. Instead of taking a man up to the hot pots piggy back, Roland had to bring a dead man down the narrow trail in a wheel barrow.
1927-28 J. Edward Gubler; 1929-30 Winferd Gubler; 1930-32 J.H. Larson; 1932-34 Winferd Gubler; 1934-36 John Larson.
In 1937 a bridge was built across the ledges between La Verkin and Hurricane, so now, the main highway bypasses the hot springs. But the hot water still flows from beneath the cliffs at the rate of 11 cubic feet per second, at a temperature of 108 degrees F., and is still considered sacred water by the Indians, and many white people as well.
The tale of the Sulphur Springs under private ownership is another story. Morris Wilson eventually sold the resort to Penn Smith. Penn’s daughter, Salli Smith West picks up the story as follows:
LA VERKIN SULPHUR SPRINGS BECOMES PAH TEMPE
by Salli Smith West
Pah Tempe isthe name the ancient Ute Indians gave the sulphur springs at La Verkin. Translated into English it means, water from the rock. The red man considered this place when the water poured freely from within the mountain, spilling into the river which cut this deep, rocky, canyon gorge, sacred ground. It was here that the tribe’s medicine man practiced his healing art with assistance from the hot waters of the sulphur springs.
My parents, Elias Penn and Louie Harris Smith, who purchased what was then, in 1952, known as Dixie Hot Springs Resort, felt the same way that the Ute Indians did about the place; to them it was holy land and henceforth, was to be called, Pah Tempe Hot Mineral Springs.
My brothers, Jesse and Penn Harris and I, were delighted as youngsters when our family spent the summer months at the hot springs. We saw our job in running the springs as a stewardship of the land and water rather than merely a commercial, money-making venture. My father, knowing the mineral water belonged to the Indians first, charged them half price admission to the springs, which for years cost them fifty cents. And, if someone needed the water to treat a health condition and had no money, he gave them free baths. Over the years, I have seen some miraculous cures take place at Pah Tempe. Conditions that had defied conventional medical treatments were magically cleared up with the use of these waters.
During the 1960′s, Dad perfected a technique to extract and dry the mineralized sulphur contained in the water. Using this process, he developed formulas for various cosmetic applications. The most popular was a face pack applied to the skin, left to dry and then washed off, leaving the skin smooth and soft. I remember seeing numerous acne skin conditions healed in this manner. Other products he developed using the sulphur as a base was a shampoo, a toothpaste and a lotion. Sadly these formulas were lost when Penn Smith died in 1976, as he never wrote them clown, preferring to keep them in his head.
Recently, having spent some time at Pah Tempe, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the many moods of this canyon. How varied and lovely are the changing light and seasons here. And though development and building structures have come and gone — due mostly to the numerous floods of the Virgin River — the stone formations along the rim of the canyon walls have remained pretty much intact. Viewed in any direction, I can still locate my ‘rock people’ friends, as I called them when I was small. The formations most easily seen are the two camel heads protruding from the ridge above the rock house, across the river from the grotto pools.
There have been several managers and lease holders at Pah Tempe over the years. A couple who managed the springs and were well liked by its patrons were Ted and Norma Lerwill, who later moved to Toquerville. For a time, Lewis Barlow and his family operated the place. Then in 1975, Don and Grace Bjarnson, along with their silent partner, Myke Applebee, took over the operations of the springs on lease.
Today, in January 1985, as I write about the Smith family participation in the history of the hot springs, a drama, based on man’s shortsighted greed, is unfolding in Pah Tempe canyon. The springs are closed and the water is running from the mountain at less than one half the flow and several degrees cooler than the consistent 110 degrees that it has maintained since recorded history. It’s heart wrenching for me to see the big earth-moving equipment and hardware that the Quail Creek Project engineers have brought into the canyon to tear up the river bed and lay their pipe, violating this incredible natural resource; resulting in the loss of the full water flow and shutting down the facility to those people who need the springs most.
Perhaps the final chapter will be written this year on the history of La Verkin’s sulphur springs and the hot, soothing waters will choose a more peaceful spot along the river to surface, giving its healing to those who can more fully appreciate this God-given resource. Man’s ignorance and greed may be left to another day to face and vanquish, meanwhile, the blessed, hot, sulphur water which has a life and spirit all its own, will continue to flow on, from an intelligence only it can know.
By Alice Stratton, September, 1985
Salli West, at the conclusion of her Pah Tempe story, wrote, “Perhaps the final chapter will be written this year on the history of La Verkin’s sulphur springs.” On the January day in 1985 when she wrote this, it appeared that this may well be so. The hot springs had ceased to flow into the grotto pools and the resort was closed.
The short-sighted drama that was unfolding in the Pah Tempe canyon that Salli West refers to had its beginning in October, 1983, when the proposal for the Quail Creek Project was first presented to the people in the area. This came hot on the heels of a disruptive utility project for the Hurricane and La Verkin area. A series of bad engineering and management errors were made while installing a local sewer system, and that too coming hand-in-hand with the imposition of a mandatory solid waste disposal contract.
However, a harassed and pressured people shook the dust off their feet (or scraped the mud off, depending on what the weather had done to the torn-up towns), and listened. Something good seemed to be appearing on the horizon, and when a special bond election was called and the ballots counted, the Quail Creek Project was officially born. Then came the labor pains.
In 1984 heavy equipment began to rumble and roll in all the way from the Virgin Narrows above the La Verkin hill, on down the river and across the Harrisburg flat. Roadways bulldozed their way over sage and chaparral. A diversion dam was built at the Virgin River Narrows. The solid granite wall on the west river bank below the dam was blasted away. Concrete and steel pipes were stockpiled in strategic places, and extensive land surgery began, digging trenches along the river, across the flat and through the brushland to where the little low hills north of Purgatory Flat were being leveled for a reservoir site.
Unfortunately however, with the accelerated business of construction, all eyes seemed to be focused on the final goal instead of paying attention to what was happening along the way. The river bed past the hot springs was torn up, and for a time all of the hot springs water was diverted directly into the Virgin River. The grottos dried up. Blasting in the canyon cracked the swimming pool, and Pah Tempe was out of business.
Cathey Quinn and her children were living in the little house on the north bank of the river at this time. Ceaselessly the cinder trucks rumbled past their window. The canyon vibrated with the gouging of earth-moving equipment and the upheaval of blasting. Caught in the midst of this, Cathey wrote in a letter dated February 7, 1985: “Dear Alice … I too have a five-year history of the springs. Mine, however, I fear will, or could become, the closing history. Power of government and construction are at present taking their toll on this glorious canyon and springs. When it rains, huge boulders slide from the canyon walls, all due to the blasting and gouging that has recently occurred. When the boulders fall, I imagine the canyon crying huge boulder tears for the pain that it suffers. The springs themselves are now dry, due to the giant pump placed in the hole in our vein. Dear God, what a pity progress has made of our beloved spring. As always, Quinn.”
The pending doom of Pah Tempe aroused the indignation of its patrons. Perhaps the Washington County Conservation District directors were oblivious to the destruction that had taken place, but there were others who were not. A meeting was called in March of ’85 where emotions ran high. At this meeting, the district’s attorney, Ron Thompson, said they had decided to purchase by condemnation the Pah Tempe property so that the district would have complete future control. He announced, “We’re going to do what we have to do to secure a right-of-way and access to our facilities.” The district had moved to condemn the entire 107 acres of hot springs property owned by Genevieve Smith and her step-children, Jesse Smith and Salli Smith West. The property was at that time under lease to Charles (Myke) Appleby and Grace Bjarnson.
The prospect of the district becoming sole owners was not too reassuring to the people who loved the springs. The outcry of the people to preserve this natural resource had its effect, and other alternatives came into being.
In April 1985, Grace sold her lease hold interest and Charles (Myke) Appleby and Ken Anderson became equal partner lessees. Mr. Anderson had not been exposed to the pressures and growing pains of the area, so he came to the Pah Tempe Springs with a refreshing, new approach. As Jeanette Rusk, Spectrum reporter put it, “A resolution of the conflict — short of total condemnation of the whole resort parcel — became possible when reason, instead of emotion, started to prevail.”
In an interview with Mr. Anderson, he said, “I first knew about this place from soaking here when I was passing through in the fall of last year (1984). I began talking with Cathy Quinn who was the manager, and met Myke Appleby. Shortly everything seemed to fall together to fulfill a longtime dream of mine, to have a part in the sensitive development and conservation of a beautiful hot springs. I’ve been looking for such a spot for ten years or more. Not just in this area, but in various areas around the world. This is really a great fulfillment to me.”
Ken said, “When I first came here, I got the impression that people thought the springs were possibly going to be dissolved or closed off, completely destroyed by the Quail Creek project. However, I became convinced that the Washington County Conservation District has no intention to destroy the hot springs. The directors really want the ancient springs to survive.” Continuing, he said, “The Directors of the District have done a number of positive things to make it right with the springs. I don’t think they’ve done enough, and there are certain things that, over a long term, need to be re-evaluated to make sure that what the contractor did in breaking into the springs in a couple of major places, does not have a long-term detrimental effect upon the full flow of the natural hot water. There are problems that may not surface until some considerable time has passed. The district hasn’t really fully accepted, in my view, that obligation, and I think they need to. I think the District needs to say, ‘Yes, we are responsible for any detrimental changes in the Pah Tempe Hot Springs. We will keep an eye to properly monitor those changes, and then do whatever is necessary to restore the springs to their pre-project status.’ There are some important benefits to Pah Tempe Hot Springs from the WCWCD Project, such as the availability of better quality irrigation water. Now we can realistically plant large numbers of shade and fruit trees, shrubs and flowers compatible to the canyon. Plans are to plant native trees, shrubbery and fruit trees, and to landscape and beautify the entire resort area, especially along the river bank.” Mr. Anderson continued, “The District has committed insurance money for the reparation of the pool where it was cracked in the dynamiting. There are some other items that need to be done. The District should clean and stabilize the river channel, and put the large boulders back along the side of the stream to return the riverside environment to its natural condition. When future floods roar down the canyon, the channel needs to be clear of man-made debris.” The operators of Pah Tempe are presently cleaning up the river at their own expense in the belief that the District will reimburse the Hot Springs Resort for this.
A problem of grave concern is the corrosive effect of the hot mineral water on the steel-concrete pipe that is buried in the riverbed beneath its flow. This may eventually require a half million dollar project to reroute that portion of the pipeline that is on Pah Tempe property. Mr. Anderson believes although some of the engineering and construction practices were short sighted and at fault, there is little reason to “cry over spilt milk” but best to solve the problems that are evident now and in the future in the best intent of both the District and the Hot Springs and of the entire community that is beneficial.
To correct that corrosive influence, they’ve put in some electrolytic protection which is intended to take the ions, which eat up the concrete and the steel, away from the pipe, and absorb them in magnesium cathode. Regarding the corrosive impact of the springs on the pipeline, the engineers will check periodically to determine if the pipeline is likely to fail over a period of time. If so, an alternate pipeline will be built. The engineers have said that the cheapest way to put in a pipeline as an alternate would be to just hang it on the cliff above the grottos and not cross the river at all. Jesse Smith observed, ”It is also possible that vapors from the springs below would attack the pipeline if it was routed over the hot springs.” That is a real possibility.
Mr. Anderson said, “To hang the pipe on the cliff would be severely damaging, and would destroy the quality of the canyon and the springs. So far as I’m concerned, I think the community would not allow that route to be used.”
At a meeting with the District in July 1985, attorney Ron Thompson said that if the pipeline eventually had to be rerouted because of corrosion, the District would agree to place it on the north side of the river in order to leave the grotto and springs area on the north side intact and undamaged.
Whatever the future of the Quail Creek pipe may be, it is hopeful that engineering by that time will have acquired a more comprehensive design approach. Mr. Anderson believes that a broader focus on the problem will be taken that will be a composite of good engineering, good design and good aesthetics where all aspects of the alternate pipeline route will be considered and the result, a reasonable solution.
During the “dry” period, when no water was running in the grottos, a transformation took place. Taking advantage of the absence of the mineral water, seven attractive, comfortable little pools were built. The water is back in now, sparkling and blue and the grotto hot pools are a lovely spot. A drinking fountain and a fresh water shower have been installed. Dressing rooms and rest rooms are provided and are being improved. The swimming pool, a little shallower than before, is clean and the water inviting. The dwelling at the resort has been completely refurbished and is being made ready for a small Bed and Breakfast overnight facility for families who want to enjoy a vacation for a day or a weekend in the canyon. Future camp grounds are planned, located west of the springs on both the south and the north sides of the river between the two bridges.
Some other features that Mr. Anderson described are the construction of several permanent rock groins, or fingers that extend out into the river from the south side. These features make use of the flow of the river and what it will do in creating small beaches. Already three nice sand areas have formed along the river hank. Pah Tempe visitors are now able to get right down by the river on the sand and enjoy riverside picnic and sun bathing. That is such a natural thing to do.
“Essentially, we are heading for a more natural environment that is really peaceful and restful and like it might have been. We want Pah Tempe to be successful financially but we do not want a commercial atmosphere. We want groups to come and enjoy it on a very relaxed and quiet basis rather than on a kind of a major partying place. We want it very low key — not a big, fancy, exclusive resort. We want everything around here to be spotlessly clean and very comfortable for all visitors, especially attractive to families, local and vacationers,” Mr. Anderson said.
”We have quite a number of tour groups coming now,” he continued, “and they work out well, because they come for a few hours, and they enjoy the springs. A lot of Asian people from the Los Angeles area come. They love hot spring baths. We have some cross country tours that come with students, and they park here and camp overnight and they’ve been great… We have a lot of people coming for their health and we encourage it… We’re open from 7 in the morning until 11 at night, because a lot of older people want to come in the morning when there’s not so many people here. We have an exercise class for the older women right now, and hope to getone started for the older men. Wehave a handicapped group that came yesterday of 31 people from Washington County. They came in a bus and bathed in the pool and had a good time. We want that kind of group to come. We have a lot of people who come individually who have arthritis and who have all other kinds of problems. They come back and back many times because of the healthy results they get from bathing here. They say, ‘These Hot Springs have saved my life.’ ”
It has been often said that “The darkest hour is just before dawn.” This seems to have been the case with Pah Tempe Hot Springs. From what seemed, at one point, almost total destruction, has come a whole new outlook – actually, the dawning of a brighter day. This, which was to have been the final chapter in the story of the sulphur springs, seems to be the beginning. In conclusion, we will quote from Salli West’s account, “The blessed, hot, sulphur water which has a life and spirit all its own, will continue to flow on, from an intelligence only it can know.”
Pah Tempe bubbling its way back to normal activity
Resort resurfaces after 2 years of interruptions and uncertainty
by Jeanette Rusk
LA VERKIN Chuck and Ethel May Crowell enjoy a soak in one of the pools in the grotto area of Pah Tempe Hot Springs Resort. The couple honeymooned at Pah Tempe 10 years ago, and now that they are retired, have been hired to do maintenance and cleaning at the facility.
The Pah Tempe Hot Springs Resort is bubbling its way back to normal activity after two troubled years of interruptions and uncertainty caused by Quail Creek construction in the area.
Ken Anderson, a co-lessee of the springs who has been living on the property and managing its comeback since last spring, is making numerous improvements and says he has been able to turn the business around. The downhill slide had started even before the area was torn up to install the Quail Creek pipeline.
A settlement of the condemnation suit the county water district has brought to obtain property it needs for Quail Creek operations is near, Anderson thinks. “By the end of the year, it should be all put together,” he asserts. The process is taking a long time because of all the parties involved — including the lessees Anderson and Mike Appleby, the owners Genevieve Smith and her children, and the water district.
Anderson said the parties are meeting and relations are cordial, but there still are some remaining issues that need to be resolved. Among them are what exactly were the damages suffered during the time the springs were closed, and some questions about the district’s responsibility for the access road from the Hurricane side.
One indication of the turnaround at Pah Tempe is that the monthly income has doubled — from $2,000 to $4,000 — in the past six months, according to Anderson.
He said that a lot more local people and families are coming. “They’re finding we’re controlling it,” he said. “We feel good about the people who are coming. They’re finding it’s a health spa, not a place for wild blowouts.”
Anderson said he still encounters people who think the springs were put out of business by the Quail Creek fiasco in the area. “People are still saying they thought the springs were destroyed by the project,” he said.
In fact, the resort is doing better than it has for years. Anderson is building more pools in the grotto area. “There’s plenty of water and we might as well be using it,” he says. He is even considering constructing some small private pools on platforms on the cliff above the present pools.
Fresh water has been extended out to the grotto area and a fountain and shower added.
The swimming pool has been refurbished, and more hot water channeled to it. The water should be at 103 to 104 degrees all winter, Anderson says.
A new roof has been put over the dressing rooms and exercise rooms, and the roof is being turned into a patio area that will overlook the pool below.
A bed-and-breakfast facility has been opened in the main building and two cabins that are located at the entrance to the resort. The facility can accommodate 16 persons altogether, 10 in the main building and three in each of the cabins.
A refurbishing of the rock house on the La Verkin side is under way to make it a “retreat or seminar building.” Anderson said. Itwill sleep 20, and he envisions groups renting it for four or five days for seminars and “health concepts.”
Bill Rice from Salt Lake City has been hired as an assistant to Anderson. Rice has had experience in yoga and exercise programs and plans to set up some health-related programs at the resort. He said the exercise rooms could be remodeled, and he would like eventually to have continual classes going on in aerobics, yoga. stress reduction, meditation and other programs. He already is conducting private yoga classes.
A retired couple, Chuck and Ethel May Crowell, originally from Idaho, were recently hired to do the cleaning and maintenance work for the resort. The Crowells honeymooned at the resort 10 years ago, and, between 1976 and 1982, spent one to three weeks a year there. Chuck credits much of his progress in the hot mineral water.
“This year when we didn’t have much to do, we decided just to stay here,” he said.
Anderson, Rice, and the Crowells all live at the resort; Rice and the Crowells in travel trailers.
A planner and designer of major projects all over the world, as well as a hot springs aficionado, Anderson said his own plans are to continue to personally manage the resort until at least next spring. After that, he will plan to be based here but will again conduct business outside the area.
”I’ll stay here full time till it’s running smoothly,” he said. “Later I’ll plan to build a place on the site and be based here.”
Refer to our current Background Supplement to understand Pah Tempe’s challenge today.