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  • SOUTHERN UTAH MEMORIES: A Brief History of Short Creek on the Utah-Arizona line to 1952
    by Loren R. Webb
    Published - 12/26/13 - 03:30 PM | 4 4 comments | 410 410 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    (SHORT CREEK, Utah) - The first settler to establish a ranch in the mouth of the canyon on the Utah side of Short Creek near the Arizona State line was William B. Maxwell in 1860, according to Martha Sonntag Bradley, author of Kidnapped From That Land; The Government Raids on the Short Creek Polygamists.

    Maxwell’s ranch “was a stopping place for other travelers through that area,” according to the Short Creek Historical Calendar, published by the Twin City Courier, Inc., Hildale, Utah. The Historical Calendar states that Maxwell, an LDS Church convert, had three wives and 27 children.

    The Maxwells were living in the area when in 1866 Indians killed Dr. James Whitmore and Robert McIntyre, who owned the neighboring Pipe Springs ranch.

    “William Maxwell, a major in the militia, gathered a search party to hunt for their bodies and track down the Indians. Several Indians were executed for the evil deed,” the Short Creek Historical Calendar states.

    Eventually, the Maxwells moved to Mexico to avoid federal prosecution of plural marriage, and “Except for roving cattlemen, and travelers passing through, the ranch was abandoned for over thirty years,” according to the Historical Calendar.

    In his book, The Polygamists; A History of Colorado City, Arizona, author Benjamin Bistline quotes Stephen V. Jones, assistant topographer with John Wesley Powell’s second Colorado River expedition, who wrote in his diary for April 6, 1872, of the Short Creek area, “We made Short Creek at 1 p.m. A dirty little stream not fit to drink.”

    Bistline notes that from 1867 to 1900, Short Creek Valley was used as a herding area for cattle owned by the LDS Church.

    After the Maxwell family left the area, there was no permanent settlement in the area until about 1911 when Jacob Marinus Lauritzen left Richfield, Utah for the Arizona Strip, Bradley states.

    Lauritzen and his sons began digging a ditch to bring water onto their farm land, according to the Historical Calendar. Bistline adds that James Black and his family moved to Short Creek from Ferron, Utah in April 1918 and helped the Lauritzens construct the ditch.

    “The Blacks traded their water rights in the ditch to the Lauritzens for land and water rights to springs in the mouth of the main Short Creek Canyon, just above the junction of Water Canyon. They established a small farm there and called the spot The Garden of Eden,” Bistline wrote.

    Bistline states that the first permanent settlers on the south side of Short Creek were Frank and Elizabeth Colvin, who moved from Pipe Springs in the summer of 1914. The Historical Calendar states that the Colvins moved there in the summer of 1913.

    Meanwhile Bistline notes that the Black family moved from Short Creek Canyon to the south side of the creek. Two of Elizabeth Colvin’s brothers also settled at Short Creek; Leroy Johnson in 1926 and Elmer Johnson in 1932. Another brother, Price Johnson and his brother-in-law, Carling Spencer, also moved to Short Creek about the same time.

    “These two were probably the first polygamists to move into the area since the Mormon Church outlawed polygamy. Price Johnson and Carling Spencer embraced polygamy under the sanction of John Woolley, a man who claimed he had been given a commission to continue to marry people in polygamy after the church outlawed it in 1890,” Bistline wrote.

    Meanwhile, public education came to Short Creek when classes were taught by the town’s first teacher, Charles Hafen of Santa Clara in September 1912. Classes were taught in a nine-by-twelve-foot tent located near the Arizona state line, according to Bradley. Eventually, a school house was constructed under the cottonwoods near the wash and classes were later taught by Robert P. Woodbury of Hurricane, Utah.

    Also, in 1913, Jacob Lauritzen sent a petition to the government seeking establishment of a post office and a mail route between Hurricane and Short Creek, according to the Short Creek Historical Calendar. Following approval of the petition, Lauritzen carried the mail by horseback once a week for six months.

    Then in 1916, Elizabeth Colvin became the town’s first postmistress, Bradley states. That same year, Mohave County Supervisors in Kingman, Ariz., granted the town’s request to organize a justice precinct and Jacob Lauritzen became the first justice of the peace and Issac Carling became constable, according to a publication entitled, “Short Creek – Colorado City”by Mohave County Historian Roman Malach.

    In the spring of 1916, Jacob Lauritizen was appointed deputy assessor which duties took him across the entire Arizona Strip.

    In the early 1920s, the Short Creek Historical Calendar notes that a road was built from Hurricane up and over the Hurricane Cliffs to Short Creek, thus shortening a route that previously went to Rockville, then up a mountain and then south to Big Plains Junction before heading south to Short Creek.

    About 1924, a member of the Mormon Fundamentalist sect who had settled in Short Creek, “took a second wife and shortly thereafter he converted other residents,” according to John Marshall Day’s master’s thesis at the University of Utah, entitled, “A Study of Protest to Adaptation in June 1963.

    “Early in the 1930s, two independent influences caused the population of Short Creek to increase from 61 persons to 180. The first of these was the onset of the depression. Many past residents, including the Lauritzen family, returned and renovated their abandoned homes…The other influence was the resurgence of plural marriage which had reached such proportions in Short Creek and elsewhere as to cause alarm and provoke action in both Arizona and Utah,” Day states. “The Mormon Church in 1933 excommunicated members of the Sect. In the autumn of 1934 with legal action threatening in Northern Utah and elsewhere, a number of leaders of the movement visited Short Creek and made plans to move there.”

    Bistline writes that “It is a popular misconception that Short Creek was chosen as a gathering place for the polygamists because it straddled the State line. This is not true! Short Creek was chosen because the people there offered their property to the Priesthood Council, and John Barlow, senior member of the Council, was looking for a place to start a United Order.”

    Meanwhile, the federal government in 1935, appropriated $20,000 for construction of a bridge across the Short Creek wash, according to Mohave County Historian Roman Malach. Malach also stated the federal Civilian Conservation Corps was established in 1939 after which CCC employees completed construction of about 3 miles of pipeline. Bradley adds that the pipeline ran from Jan’s Canyon into town. The CCC camp included several barrack buildings and a gas generator to supply electricity. After the CCC camp left the area, the town used the barracks for community activities.

    Also in 1935, Malach quotes Jacob Lauritzen as stating that Mormon Church officials from Hurricane, Utah, came to the Short Creek Branch of the Rockville Ward, and asked them to sign a written declaration part of which stated, that “I denounce the practice and advocacy of plural marriage as being out of harmony with the declared principles of the church at the present time.”

    Anyone refusing to sign the declaration was excommunicated. Lauritzen wrote that 12 persons refused to sign the document and were excommunicated. The Short Creek Historical Calendar states that 22 persons from Short Creek were “severed from the church in a mass excommunication.”

    The Short Creek Historical Calendar states that during the 1930s, the Short Creek community “was split by those who signed the oath and those who didn’t. Those who signed the oath were saved in the Church and continued to hold meetings in the School House. Charles Hansen was appointed the Presiding Elder. Those who didn’t sign the oath were no longer welcome there, so they began holding meetings in the Rock House…. Eventually most of the signers moved away, and folks began holding meetings in the school house again.”

    Following that incident, "Malach also stated the federal Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established in Short Creek in 1939 after which CCC employees completed construction of about three miles of pipeline."

    Lauritzen also wrote that a common store house provided food and clothing while milk cows of the group were kept in one barn. Milk, food and clothing were then distributed regularly through the town to members of the group.

    “And then to test their integrity, the Lord blessed them with poverty, crop failures, droughts, floods, sickness, accidents, persecutions, and apostasy,” the Short Creek Historical Calendar states. “They went through many hardships in this place and some folks couldn’t endure it and moved away. Others kept their shoulders to the wheel and continued to push the work along.”

    Also in 1935, Mohave County Attorney Elmo Bollinger issued warrants and arrested six Short Creek citizens, according to Bradley, who noted that polygamists from throughout Utah were united in their criticism of Mohave County officials’ actions.

    Then on March 7, 1944, FBI agents and U.S. marshals raided the polygamists in both Short Creek and Salt Lake City, according to author Ben Bistline. Forty-six people were arrested on charges of conspiracy and the Mann and Lindberg Acts. It was also alleged that the mailing of the Fundamentalist group’s Truth Magazine, came under the federal statute. But in March 1944, a federal judge quashed the conspiracy indictment against the Truth Magazine.

    Back in Short Creek, in 1948, Sarah Lavina Black sold the Short Creek Supply Company to her son, Warren Black, who changed the name to The Standard Supply Company. His wife, Ruth Black was appointed postmaster on June 29, 1948, and she ran the store and station, according to the Short Creek Historical Calendar.

    In 1950, Carl O.N. Holm purchased the store and station from Warren Black for the storehouse. It was turned over to Fred Jessop and the store and storehouse became one and the same, the Historical Calendar states.

    In 1952, a new store and new service station were built on the present location. The name was changed back to the Short Creek Supply Company, according to the Historical Calendar.

    Comments-icon Post a Comment
    Diane Taylor
    September 13, 2014
    I live in Las Vegas, but have not driven over there because I was under the assumption that as an outsider I would be run off in a not-so-polite manner. I am desperate to get more information about this community, or to speak to a historian specializing in this community. I did some past-life work on myself last year and found that most recently I was a Mormon woman living in Utah, had between 13-16 children, and lived in one of those communes. This was the only place I could have lived. I was born in the late 1800's, died around 1945 in my mid 50's. I think my last name may have been Brown, and I don't know if that was my married name or maiden name. I was 13 or 14 when I married my 35 year old husband. I left him a widower. My cause of death is a bit hazy. My body just gave out on me. Something about the hard life I had, making babies at such a young age, and working the fields very hard. There was a pedophile in the community, he routinely raped little boys and girls alike. Two of my sons were sodomized by this monster. There was nothing we could do. My husband confronted the elder and he threatened to kill my husband if he told anyone. Secretly we started talking and more an more stories of child sexual abuse surfaced. We were told that there was nothing we could do, that this was "just the way it is." I would love to verify my identity, to see if there is some record of me somewhere. I've hit a glass ceiling and have found nothing on the Internet. Does anyone know who I could talk to?
    Brad Lauritzen
    March 18, 2016
    Sorry I just stumbled on this article because I have a book I wanted to recommend to my sister by Benjamin Bistline. My great grandfather was Jacob Marinum Lauritzen.My father was born in Shortcreek and was the last of the Lauritzen's to be born there before moving to California after the 1953 raid. My Cousin Karen Barlow is married to Truman Barlow who's father was the prophet John Barlow.Not sure I could help but my grandmother did mention the Brown family in a kind way. My email address is BradLauritzen55@gmail.com if you need more information
    CCC Resource Page
    January 01, 2014
    One small correction/clarification regarding the CCC. The article states the CCC was established in 1939, however it was established during FDR's first 100 days in office in 1933. Local CCC presence in the Arizona Strip may have started in 1939.
    December 26, 2013
    Anyone know the history of the old, long-abandoned structure (looks like a small ranch house) that's located at about AZ-389 mile marker 5, on the W side of the highway & about 1/rd of a mile away from it?
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