• Cedar City |
  • Mesquite

  • More
  • More
  • SOUTHERN UTAH MEMORIES: History of Toquerville
    by Loren Webb
    Published - 12/20/13 - 09:24 AM | 4 4 comments | 605 605 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Toquerville, Utah
    Toquerville, Utah
    (WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah) - One of the earliest settlements of Washington County was Toquerville, which was settled in 1858 by Joshua T. Willis, Wesley Willis and Josiah Reeves, according to The History of Toquerville by Rhea Higbee Wakeling.

    Wakeling wrote the history in pageant form for the Toquerville Homecoming of Sept. 3, 1949.

    Readers wanting more information about Toquerville’s history would also find Wesley Larson’s five- volume History of Toquerville quite helpful.

    As the early founders of Utah left the territorial capital of Salt Lake City to establish settlements throughout the Great Basin, they were always on the look-out for other desirable sites and routinely reported their findings to Brigham Young who was the territorial governor and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Young also kept his eye open for establishing new communities during his tour of established settlements throughout the Utah Territory.

    “As time passed, organized companies of explorers, scouts, traders, and missionaries to the Indians penetrated to districts unknown to Utahns,” Wakeling writes.

    In 1857, she stated that Cedar City resident Isaac Haight sent scouts south along what would later become known as Ash Creek. They returned with a favorable report of the area.

    Then in 1858, Haight called Joshua T. Willis, who was living in Ft. Harmony, to colonize what would become Toquerville, along with Wesley Willis and Josiah Reeves. A few days later, John M. Higbee and Samuel Pollock would follow, Wakeling wrote.

    They had been at Ash Creek only a few days when the Charles Stapley family arrived from San Bernadino, Calif. At that time, Joshua T. Willis was appointed president of the company which became a branch of Old Fort Harmony.

    Lower on Ash Creek, they found a small piece of ground being cultivated by Indian who called themselves Piute or Toquite, meaning black. “The name is very appropriate when we consider its surroundings. Toquerville is at the base of a large mountain of black volcanic rock on the east separating Ash Creek from LaVerkin Creek,” she stated.

    “Roads were built, ditches dug and water conveyed to the parched land that had been cleared of brush. These people had the spirit of devotion, determination and obedience to the principles to make the desert blossom as a rose,” Wakeling added.

    Because of its semi-tropical climate, residents were able to plant grapes, figs, squash and melons. Meanwhile, Stapley furnished the first alfalfa seed and the first sweet potatoes were planted and raised by Joshua Willis and John Nebeker.

    On Nov. 16, 1861, Joshua Willis called as bishop of the newly created Toquerville Ward. Residents there began to raise cotton and took their cotton to the cotton mill in Washington, Utah, where it was made into cloth.

    Also, by the spring of 1859, a mail route was extended to Toquerville with John McFarland as postmaster. Wakeling stated that Toquerville became the first post office south of Cedar City.

    The first homes in Toquerville were constructed of logs filled with mud. Because of flooding in the area, Wakeling notes that a number of families got discouraged and moved to Kanarraville.

    By 1865, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City reported that a number of acres had been planted into wheat, corn, cane, lucern, vineyards, peaches, cotton, tobacco and vegetables and that 41 families and 259 residents were living in Toquerville.

    In 1866, the cornerstone for the Toquerville Church was laid. It later became known as Toquerville Hall. A year later, streets were laid out throughout the community.

    Wakeling also notes that in 1887, Toquerville was raided by U.S. Marshals who were searching for polygamists.

    By Dec. 31, 1900, there were 50 families living in Toquerville, Wakeling writes, with nearly all residents being Mormon, “although the Presbiterian honor this place with a teacher, Fanny Rosilia Burk who was also postmaster. For years, she rang her bell (which stood on her porch) every Sunday, but no one came, still she sent in her reports and drew her salary,” Wakeling wrote.

    Toquerville residents also tried raising silk worms to promote the silk industry. Brigham Young also sent Edwin R. Lamb for coopers to make barrels of wine and molasses.

    “The produce from the farms found a ready market among the northern towns and flourishing mining town of Pioche, Nevada, 100 miles distant,” she writes. “Later in the new mining town of Silver Reef, five miles west, opened a ready market and furnished employment in various ways.”

    When Toquerville was first settled, it was located in Washington County, but when a division was made, Toquerville was placed in Kane County and Toquerville became the county seat. In 1883, Toquerville was taken out of Kane County and placed back in Washington County.

    Wakeling also notes that four Mormon Battalion families settled in Toquerville: Augustus E. Dodge, Levi Savage, John Steel and John C. Naegle.

    Dodge was a horticulturist while Steel was a boot and shoemaker. Savage was an early pioneer and builder. Naegle was called by church leaders to make wine for the LDS sacramental services.

    Wakeling also paid tribute to the wives of many of the men who settled Toquerville as the women engaged in drying fruit, “planting seeds, weaving, spinning, making the clothes for the entire family, administering to the sick, mid wives and caring for the dead. Praise to their courage, love and devotion.”

    At the 1949 homecoming in Toquerville, Wakeling wrote this tribute of her town:

    “This is our town. Land of our birth. This is our town. Grandest spot on earth. We pledge thee our alliegiance. Our town the bold. This is our town. To have and to hold.”

    Comments-icon Post a Comment
    T. E. Willis
    June 14, 2016
    Hello to my Willis cousins! Joshua was my g.g.grandfather (m. Sophia Fryer). He brought the family to Taylor Arizona and is buried there.
    minta clyde
    October 10, 2016
    I am trying to find out about a book either a bout or by Joshua Thomas Willis. I have been told that he speaks of a time when he helped his nephew John Henry Willis after the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Do you know anything about this book?
    Keevin Willis
    January 07, 2014
    I am a descendant of Joshua Thomas Willis, and also of John Steele who lived in Toquerville also. The author called John Steele- Levi Steele which is wrong
    Karen J Lewis
    November 19, 2014
    I to am a descendant of Joshua Thomas Willis he is my 3rd great grandfather from his marriage to Sarah Melissa Dodge.
    Submit an Event