Anthony W. Ivins spent 34 of his 82 years in St. George. He was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving three missions in the southwestern United States and Mexico. He was also a member of the St. George High Council, Stake Presidency, and later became a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and then became first counselor to Heber J. Grant in the First Presidency of the LDS church.
Besides his many ecclesiastical positions, he held many civil and political offices, serving as policeman, city counselor, city attorney, deputy sheriff of Washington County, County prosecuting attorney, assessor and collector for Washington County, and mayor of St. George.
As one of the largest cattle owners and frontiersmen on the Arizona Strip, Anthony Ivins had a great love for the out-of-doors. He was also an enthusiastic prospector of metals; but what he is perhaps best known for, is his love for the Indians and the Spanish people, whom he did so much for.
In addition, the town of Ivins was named for him. It happened this way.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints subscribed for a considerable amount of land and water stock, when the project of building a canal on the Santa Clara bench was started. The Church paid in cash, which was so very important in purchasing the needed materials such as cement, flume materials, and other expenses. Apostle Anthony W. Ivins was the investigating authority sent down from Salt Lake City by the General Authorities, and his report was very favorable to the Church Officials. After the town was settled and the Chapel built, it was dedicated in November 1926 by President Anthony W. Ivins. At that time he was second counselor to President Heber J. Grant. A meeting was held with President Ivins being the principle speaker. Leo Reber wrote, “I see him now, forty years later, as he spoke to us and related how he had come down to Santa Clara with his father [in 1861], when [nine] years of age, bringing the original Swiss Company that President Brigham Young had called to come to Dixie… He said he remembered…after everything had been unloaded, and his father was turning the wagons around to leave, he said to his Father, “Father, how are those people going to live?” His Father answered him thus, “I don’t know my son, but the Lord will provide for them.” (Life History of Leo Frei Reber, 1966, page 21, 26-27).
It was decided that this town should have a name other than Santa Clara bench. Several names were submitted by the new settlers, however, the name chosen was sent in by Edward H. Snow, President of the St. George Stake. He suggested the new settlement be named after President Anthony W. Ivins, who had endeared himself to the people in this part of the country through his missionary work with the Indians. A short time after this, President Ivins met with the people and when they asked him if he objected to the town being named Ivins, he said, “No, as long as they spell it Ivins, instead of Ivens.” At that time he contributed one hundred dollars in cash toward a new chapel and promised to send them a bell. This he did, and the bell still hangs in the belfry of the old church.(History of the Town of Ivins, by Myrtle L. Gubler, 1914-1966, page 3-4).
Anthony Woodward Ivins was born Sept. 16, 1852 at Tims River, Ocean County, New Jersey, to Israel and Anna (Lowrie) Ivins, according to Andrew Jensen’s LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1.
He would have grown up there had it not been for Mormon missionary Erastus Snow who began teaching the message of the Restoration. Israel and his family pondered the message, then joined the church on March 1 or 4, 1838.
Since LDS President Brigham Young was encouraging the Saints to gather to Utah, the group of LDS members in Toms River began making preparations to move West. Israel started with his wife and two children: Caroline and Anthony.
After a journey of 140 days, they reached Salt Lake City between Aug. 11-12, after having traveled 3,000 miles from the Atlantic Coast, according to author Kimball Erdman, who wrote about Israel Ivins in 1969.
On Oct. 8, 1861, President Young read the names of 309 families who were called to go to Utah’s Dixie to build up that part of Zion, among whom was Israel Ivins and his family, according to Erdman.
The family left for St. George on Nov. 3, 1861. While camped at Chicken Creek, Anthony met the daughter of Erastus Snow, who would one day become his wife.
He wrote, “I continued to see her until we had grown to man and womanhood when she became my wife. She is with me still, the same sweet girl that she was as Chicken Creek. She has shared with me the dangers, trials, and privations of pioneer life. No other has, or ever can take her place,” according to a Sept. 20, 1934 article in the Deseret News.
Their first home, and the one where Anthony grew up in, was located on the corner of 100 West 400 North.
In 1875, at the age of 23, Ivins was called to serve an LDS mission to the Indians and other residents of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico, according to historian Andrew Jensen’s LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.
This turned out to be the beginning of Ivin’s service and friendship to the Lamanites which lasted through the years.
Following his mission, Ivins married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth Ashby Snow, daughter of Erastus and Elizabeth Snow on Nov. 9, 1878 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.
In October 1877, Anthony was called on a second mission to New Mexico with Erastus Beaman Snow, Erastus Snow’s son, to labor among the Indians.
Following his mission, Anthony’s first civil service was working as a policeman in the St. George precinct. Then in 1881, Ivins was chosen to serve on the St. George Stake High Council. Then in 1882, he was called to Mexico City to do missionary work among the Mexican citizens. A year later, he became mission president and then returned home to St. George after a successful period there, according to Andrew Jensen.
In later years, he would serve as city councilor, city attorney, deputy sheriff of Washington County, county prosecuting attorney and assessor and collector of that county for six years – but not all of these positions were held at the same time, according to Jensen.
In 1888, Anthony was called as first counselor to Daniel D. McArthur in the St. George Stake Presidency. During that same period, Ivins became engaged in the land and cattle business, both privately and as manager of the Mojave Land and Cattle Company, and the Kaibab Cattle Company.
That same year, he also organized the “Sagebrush Democrats” in an attempt to move Utah away from the People’s Party (Mormon) and Liberal (non-Mormon) parties toward national parties, according to a non-bylined story entitled “Anthony W. Ivins; Pioneer Democrat and Mormon Apostle.”
Ivins was also general manager of the Mexican Colonization and Agricultural Company under which the Mormon colonies in Mexico were established in 1886, according to author James H. McClintock.
Ivins later served as superintendent over Indian Affairs for the U.S. government from 1891 to 1893, according to Andrew Karl Larson’s book, I Was Called to Dixie.
Then on Sept. 16, 1895, Ivins was called to serve in the Mexican Mission, according to Charles L. Walker’s Journal. While in Mexico, Ivins performed more than 50 polygamous marriages, beginning in June 1897. However, he refused to perform plural marriages unless the men brought letters from Salt Lake City which he considered to be authority for the ceremony, according to author Wallace Turner in his book, The Mormon Establishment.
On release from his mission in 1898, Ivins and his family settled in Salt Lake City, Utah. In October 1907, he was called to serve as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles. Then in 1921, he was called to serve as second counselor to LDS President Heber J. Grant, his first cousin and also a Democrat.
He also became vice president and later president of the Genealogical Society of Utah. When President Charles Penrose died in May of 1925, Ivins was advanced to the position of first counselor, according to LDS Church Historian Joseph Fielding Smith’s Essentials in Church History.
Ivins also served on the Board of Trustees of Utah State University and was instrumental in transferring ownership of Dixie College from the LDS church to the State of Utah.
He died June Sept. 23, 1934 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1970, he was elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.