I remember growing up in St. George, my father in his ecclesiastical position as a counselor in the St. George East Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, would head out in a pickup truck with Stake President Truman Bowler and Stake Counselor Willard Milne to drive the 60 miles of bumpy dirt roads to get to Mt. Trumbull. I don’t remember if it was a monthly or a quarterly trip, but it was always a memorable experience, and my father would always tell me how dedicated and hardworking those ranchers were who lived and worked on the Arizona Strip during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Andrew McArthur also wrote a memory he had shortly after he returned from an LDS mission in 1936 and was asked to go to Bundyville to attend church. He asked when church started.
“I was told that it started 30 minutes after I got there. I said how could that be and they said that when I got there to go to the building where church was held and ring the bell long and good. This building was the School House and everything else,” McArthur wrote. “When I got there on that particular Sunday morning I went to the building and found the bell and gave it a lot of good rings and sure enough, in about 30 minutes, the congregation was there and read to start meeting. They came from all over.”
The Mt. Trumbull School, built in 1918 (another Bureau of Land Management press release says it was completed in 1922), was the central gathering place of those who lived there. During the 1930s, the population peaked between 200 and 250 residents “when a drier climate forced residents to switch their livelihood from crops to cattle and sheep,” the national monument website states.
The school housed grades kindergarten through 12th grade in one room until 1966 or 1968 (BLM documents list both dates). Because it was also used for various other functions. “People came from miles around to attend dances and listen to music played by local musicians which was their main source of entertainment,” a BLM press release stated in 2000.
“The first schooling in the area took place in the home of one of the local residents,” the BLM press release continued. “In order to accommodate a growing student-body, a modest schoolhouse was built. Soon it became too small and was moved to make room for the existing building which was completed in 1922, and continued to be used until 1966.”
“Lumber for the school came from the Mt. Trumbull/Mt. Logan area and was dragged by horse-drawn wagon down the Old Slide Road, the BLM press release stated. “The road was so steep that workers had to tie down the wagons wheels and skid the wagon down the incline.”
During the 1930s, residents grew a variety of crops including corn, beans, wheat, squash and other crops for family use and for market sale, according to the BLM release, which also stated that “Because of a climate change, making farming more difficult, and the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, most people moved away from Mount Trumbull into the towns of Washington County, Utah.”
Meanwhile, the school building eventually fell into disrepair until 1990, when local residents and the BLM partnered to restore the school which sits on BLM public land. The restored schoolhouse was dedicated Sept. 24, 1994, during which a crowd of about 500 persons attended.
“We’ve had people from all walks of life working on this – people who went to school out there, even people who just heard about what we’re doing out there,” BLM Arizona Strip District Public Affairs Officer Bette Arial was quoted in the Sept. 22, 1994 edition of The Spectrum by reporter Erica C. Cline.
Then on July 31, 2000, “arsonists burned the historic Mount Trumbull schoolhouse,” the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument website states.
At that time, federal investigators were also investigating a fire that destroyed the small Tuweep Church built in the 1920s, and located one mile north of the Grand Canyon Tuweep Overlook.
“It is important that vandals know they do not run the show,” BLM Field Manager Roger Taylor was quoted in an Aug. 15, 2000 news release written by BLM Public Affairs Manager Bette Arial. “Their actions hurt good people and cost time and money. This is an important interpretive site on the Arizona Strip and it deserves to be rebuilt so it can remain for years to come,” Taylor said.
Subsequently, a restoration committee decided to build a replica of the Mount Trumbull Schoolhouse. “In partnership with some of the descendants of the first settlers of Mt. Trumbull, the BLM, and contributions from the public,” the schoolhouse was re-dedicated on Oct. 13, 2001.
In 2011, a 100-year commemorative event was held at the Mt. Trumbull School house, according to BLM spokesperson Rachel Tueller. One of the highlights of that event occurred when former resident Sally Bundy rang the school bell.
I remember each time I visited the school house, I had a feeling of reverence for this building that has served so many people in so many ways for so many years.