UTAH'S DIXIE HISTORICAL SITES
Where is it? South end of St. George where Sun River Community is presently located
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|Picture of ATKINVILLE VILLAGE today, April 2004, known as SunRiver Community, an active development for those over 55 years of age. The picture was taken by Ross M Peterson, a resident of SunRiver. This summary of Atkinville was prepared by him for EXCLUSIVE use by the Sons of Utah Pioneers and the recently created camp of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers known as the ATKINVILLE Camp.|
Atkinville Village was the original homestead of William and Rachel Thompson Atkin. This small village was located about eight miles south of St. George, Utah near the Arizona border. The Atkins family were born and raised in the county of Ruthandshire, England. William was born March 27, 1835 and Rachel on March 31, 1836. Rachel was baptized in 1849, William in 1852. Two years after William and Rachael married they left for America, arriving In Philadelphia April 20, 1855. Four years later they left the East and went to Florence on the Missouri River where Saints were gathering to go to Salt Lake City, Utah in the Eighth Handcart Company and arrived in Salt Lake on November 10, 1859. The Atkin family lived in Salt Lake City for about nine years. His occupation was both a stonemason and butcher.
In the fall of 1868 Brigham Young called a group of Saints to help strengthen the Southern Utah settlements. Although reluctant to leave Salt Lake, William was obedient and responded to the calling. He and his family settled in St. George in a four room adobe house where they lived about nine years. William assisted in building the Tabernacle and the Temple. In the summer of 1877 they moved about eight miles south which grew into a one-family village, known as Atkinville. The family consisted of six sons and two daughters.
The site of Atkinville was explored by William when he was working in Price City (now Bloomington) about two miles upstream on the Virgin River. It was here that he laid up the rock walls for a building used for church, school and recreation. Price City was also the first experiment in the United Order in Utah in 1874 and functioned until 1877.
The farm site was about 160 acres. It took William and his sons two more years to get the land in shape. This required site selection, clearing and plowing the land, planting crops, building a dam on the river, irrigation ditches and building the house. He built a stone house for his family and a smaller home for his younger brother, Henry. Henry and his wife, Selena did not like the place and soon moved back to St. George. A third house had been built for his sister, Adelaide and William Laxton. A forth house was started and these constituted the one family village.
A more foreboding place, to build homes was difficult to find, as the land was ripe with mosquitoes. The summer sun beat down on the fields. There was little vegetation around the house except two small tamarx trees, a small flower garden watered by hand. Wind often blew through the gap leaving dust over everything, sand in the water buckets, milk pails and pans.
In addition to all these discomforts there was difficulty getting enough water to bath and do washing? Drinking water was hauled from St. George in barrels covered with canvas. Household water was brought from the river a mile away in a barrel on a horse drawn sled. Despite all these discomforts the family found peace in isolation, restfulness in silence and an absence of neighbors. There was a sense of ownership and a day*s work brought the luxury of wholesome fatigue without weariness. At night fall there was a cool breeze from the river, fragrance of willows and sounds of cattle and dogs barking in answer to the coyotes. After chores and supper a pleasant walk was taken to the orchard, the garden and duck pond a full moon glorified the hills, fields and river.
The space between the houses opened into land boarded by tamarx, leading to the marsh. On the other side there was pastures, hay and grain fields. Between the large cottonwood trees, William put up iron bars and swings. These along with the pond were great attractions to people in Price and St. George. On Saturday afternoons visitors came with their picnic dinners, which weresupplemented by watermelons and peaches from the garden and orchard. After dinner the picnickers rested or visited in the shade, went boat riding, fishing or swimming in the fifteen acre pond. The pond was stocked with chub from the river and carp was imported. The pond was a source of Dixie*s ice supply in winters. This settlement became a ‘Dixie Oasis*.
After the crops were harvested William and sons took varied jobs in other parts of the State. William followed his stone cutting and butcher trades. The products he marketed in St. George. Sometimes he took his produce i.e. pigs, chickens, fruit and sorghum to mining camps in Utah and Nevada.
Atkinville was a sanctuary for Elder Willford Woodruff, an APOSTLE AND LATER President of the Latter Day Saints Church. Wilfred began practicing polygamy in Nauvoo before the exodus to the West. When the Federal Government attempted to eradicate polygamy Elder Woodruff was forced into "Underground" or self exile. Between 1885 and 1887 he found sanctuary in Atkinville. Woodruff frequently used the pond for fishing and hunting as well as a hiding place from the Marshals. He used an incognito name, "Lewis Allen".
Willford Woodruff was a guest in the Atkin home numerous times for different lengths of time. The Atkins added on to the house a special room for the Apostle. The Atkln home became de facto Church headquarters. In addition to Elder Woodruff, several notable brethren and church leaders habituated the Atkin home as a hiding place. Elder Woodruff*s last visit to Atkinville was July 12, 1887. It is depicted on the attached picture of a painting by Roland Lee, called "The Last Visit." This picture and much of the history was provided through the kindness of J Ralph Atkin, great great grandson of William and Rachel Atkin.
The Final Years
In 1890 William and Rachel moved back to St. George. They were soon followed by his brother and sister and their families. They became very active temple workers. William died in May 1900 and Rachel in June 1903.
In 1906 a major storm and flood practically destroyed Atkinville. The buildings were dismantled and the lumber was used for new homes in the Fort Pearce area. A son John operated the farm until 1922 when Atkinville was totally abandoned for twenty years. The ruined walls were used for dams in the river. The rubble filled fireplace was standing in 1956. By 1998 some foundation stones were still visible but were removed and some were used by the Atkin Foundation to build a replica of the original Atkin home in Heritage Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sun River Development Company has graded the land and constructed a golf course and housing development on much of the land that was Atkinvlllel A historical plack has been erected on the grounds of the Community Center.
The major source of the above comes from; "From Green Hills of England to the Red Hills of Dixie"written by Reid L Neilson Copyright 2000 and "The Story of AtkinviIIe a One-Family Villiage by Grace Atkin Woodbury and Angus Mumm Woodbury, April 1957. The Picture "The Last Visit" by Roland Lee courtesy of J. Ralph Atkin.
Submitted by Ross Peterson
27 Sep 2007