Because there was not enough land in Adventure to expand the town and because the town was situated too close to the Virgin River where flooding occurred regularly, settlers decided a higher, larger tract of land above Adventure was better suited for settlement.
So on Nov. 20, 1862, the John Langston and William Crawford families settled at what is now known as Rockville, so named because “of the many boulders along the hill above it,” according to an undated Works Progress Administration history of “Rockville,” a copy of which is maintained in the Special Collections section of the Washington County Library in St. George.
I found that this WPA history, covering a period from 1861 to 1949, was nearly the exact same history as that found in Under Dixie Sun; A History of Washington County By Those Who Loved Their Forebears, pp. 281-290.
During the winter of 1862-63, about a dozen families wintered at Rockville. Because the settlers were too late to put in crops, they spent the winter months preparing their land for spring planting and building roads, ditches, fences and shelter for their families, the Rockville history states.
While a ditch had already been dug for Adventure, another ditch was needed farther up the Virgin River. Rockville settlers went up the river as far north as “Northup” where James Lemmon and Isaac Behunin had built a ditch. Lemmon consented for the Rockville residents to use his ditch provided “they would always leave him the amount of water that he had when he used the ditch alone. John R. Crawford recalls that what when he saw the large stream of water running into “Brother Lemmon’s” ditch, he asked his father, William Crawford, why it was that “Brother could have so much water and everyone else had to take turns.”
The first crops grown in Rockville consisted of cotton, corn, cane and a small amount of wheat, the WPA history states. And because fences had not been erected during that first year, the task of keeping cows out of the crops was given to young children.
Gradually, increasing amounts of land were cultivated and many farmers also grew crops in Zion Canyon “until the farms of Springdale and Rockville stretched some ten miles up the river,” the WPA history states.
Because of various hardships and the isolation associated with living in Rockville, some LDS families left the area, even without permission from LDS President Brigham Young. In 1864, LDS Church records showed 18 families and 95 people were living in Rockville.
The WPA history describes some of the materials people used during this time.
“Soap was non-existent so oose root was dug and used in its place. Clothing was made by hand. The women took the raw cotton and wool and corded, spun, and wove it into cloth. They colored it with dock root and set the color with copper as that they had obtained from an outcropping in a ledge in Shonsburg [Shonesburg]. Open fires and fireplaces took the place of cook stoves. Barrels were made for the molasses and to hold the culinary water that had to be hauled from the river or dipped from the ditches.”
In addition, many residents went barefoot. Because cash was scarce, most people resorted to bartering for food and other necessity items. When the railroad came to Milford and later Lund, Rockville residents went there to take goods for shipping to Salt Lake City, the WPA history states.
Gradually, as the demand for cotton lessened, more grain such as wheat, and corn were raised in Rockville. Because Albert Petty had a corn cracker at Springdale, residents took their corn and buckwheat to him to be ground for bread. As more wheat was grown, it was also taken to Springdale to be ground into flour. The cotton mill in Washington later served Rockville and other upriver communities.
“In 1863, a large water wheel was built and put in the ditch, here a cotton gin mill, sorghum mill, and corn grinder were installed, and run by water power. It was never very successful as there was not sufficient water to run the wheel properly. Fire destroyed the mill in the fall of 1863,” The WPA history states.
Residents also began planting fruit trees, grape vines, melons and mulberry trees. The trees were used with the intent to raise silk worms, but it was not profitable.
Finding suitable household furniture was also a problem. Residents traditionally had to rely on crude tables, beds, benches and other things they made themselves. Because S.K. Gifford ran a chair shop in Springdale, many residents purchased their chairs from his store.
James Jennings noted that one of the keys to the success of Rockville, as with other early communities in Washington County, was that “Everybody worked hard and was happy and congenial toward one another. There was no scandal in the town for the first twenty years,” the WPA history states.
The “Rockville” history also notes that when the first Mormon settlers arrived in the area, there were 200 to 300 Piute Indians living in the vicinity of Rockville. At first the Indians were suspicious of the whites, but by following the advice of Mormon leader Brigham Young to feed the Indians instead of fighting them, “the people of Rockville and surrounding communities were able to make friends with them and for some years they lived in peace together. Sometimes, the Indians would attend the ward gatherings.”
However, the killings of two settlers near Pipe Springs resulted in William Crawford being placed in command of the defense of Rockville and other upriver communities. About 30 men were recruited from Rockville, Shonesburg, Grafton, and Springdale, to work under Crawford’s command. Meanwhile, “All the communities in the valley were ordered to move into Rockville for better protection so there was a fairly large group of people to be cared for,” the WPA history states.
One of the other major developments to occur in Rockville was the organization of a United Order in Rockville and other Southern Utah towns in 1874 by Mormon leader Brigham Young. However, only about one half of the wards or people living in the area joined the United Order.
The United Order lasted about one year in Rockville.
During the 19th century when LDS members were counseled by church leaders to take more than one wife, LDS members felt that under the U.S. Constitution they were entitled to live their religion and that a law passed in 1862 against polygamists was unconstitutional.
When U.S. marshals came into the area to arrest polygamists, it became a “time of terror for the people. The children were so frightened that it was almost impossible for any stranger to get any information from them as to the whereabouts of any of the men or the second or third wives. They did not want to see their parents taken off to prison,” the WPA history states.
When the law against polygamy was upheld by the Supreme Court, members were commanded to obey the law.
The first school built in Rockville was in 1863-64, with Samuel Kenner assigned to teach the students. Other later teachers included Henry Jennings and Henretta Stout. In 1935, ninth grade students were transported to Hurricane schools by bus. Later, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students were also transported, according to the WPA history.
Bishop Charles Smith operated the first store in Rockville. He also operated a post office and telegraph from the store, the WPA history states. The first telegraph office in Rockville was operated in the home of Zenure Drapers Sr. Some of the telegraph operators included: Thomas Farnes, Mrs. Smith, Mary Jane Stout and Ida Flanigan. In 1885, the telegraph was abandoned and replaced by the telephone.
For recreation in early Rockville, members held dancing parties in a dugout. After the log church house was built, dances were held there. There were also public celebrations on July 4, July 24, and May Day. Residents also enjoyed listening to a martial band organized by Edward Duzette.
When the log house was destroyed by fire in 1869, a new meetinghouse was built in 1871, with a building addition completed in 1902. Then it burned to the ground in 1930, according to the WPA history. A two-room school building was then erected on the site of the old building.
By 1930, 361 people were listed as members of the Rockville LDS Ward, which included members from Cane Beds and Short Creek, Ariz., and from Grafton, Utah.
By 1949, Rockville LDS Ward members numbered 164.
Other modern conveniences coming to Rockville residents was the installation of electric lights On Jan. 29, 1928. A modern water system for Rockville was also installed in 1927.