In similar fashion, a lost cow led to the discovery of the mountain oasis now known as Pine Valley, Utah according to authors Bessie Snow and Elizabeth Snow Beckstrom in their book “O Ye Mountain High; The Story of Pine Valley (1980).
In June 1855, Jacob Hamblin’s brother, William Haynes “Gunlock Bill” Hamblin and Isaac Riddle were moving the cattle from the winter to summer range when one cow strayed away and couldn’t be found. They had traveled from Fort Harmony in Washington County, Utah, up the Old Spanish Trail to Mountain Meadows. So, with one cow lost, like a good shepherd, Riddle set out to find the cow.
He followed the cow’s tracks up the creek higher and higher into the hills when suddenly topping a hill he stopped and gazed in silent awe at the scene spread before him.
It was Sunday morning and the sun was just sending its first rays over Gardner Peak where the Forsyth Canyon cliffs caught the radiant light as the towering peak at the head of Lloyd Canyon loomed into the clear blue sky, the authors wrote.
To use Isaac’s own words, he said, “There stretching before me was the most beautiful sight I had ever beheld on God’s green earth.” Huge pines grew down to the floor of the valley which was carpeted with dew drenched grass waving as high as a horse’s knees; quaking aspen bordered the creek on either side the full length of the valley. The only sign of life in the whole valley was the lost cow peacefully grazing out in the virgin meadow, blissfully unconscious that she was making history.
Though Riddle had visited 38 states, he liked to say later he never saw a sight to compare with the one of that summer morning, a rich pine-laden valley with rich green grass shimmering in the sunlight.
Riddle said he rode out after the cow following trails through the grass made by deer; grass so tall it drenched his stirrups with dew as he rode through it.
That fall, Riddle and others settled in the valley and named the place Pine Valley after the ponderosa or western pines that grew on the mountains.
As more people settled in the valley, the need for a permanent place of worship became evident.
Many of the settlers had been raised in New England and knew the kind of church they wanted to build. They were surrounded by an ample supply of building materials. All they needed was someone to oversee the building program.
The only one in the group with any building experience was Ebenezer Bryce from Scotland, where he became a ship's carpenter, joined the Mormon faith and left for Utah at the age of seventeen. Bryce married Mary Ann Park in Salt Lake City in 1854 moved to southern Utah settling in Pine Valley in 1862 where he was approached by William Snow, bishop of Pine Valley, about designing and supervising the construction of a chapel. Bryce finally agreed to take on the project, provided the chapel “could be built like a ship upside down.”
Local granite and red limestone were used for the basement and foundation. The best pine trees in the valley were selected for lumber, cut and shaped by hand.
The frame was put together with wood pegs and bound with green hides which became strong as steel when dried. It was constructed on the ground and then lifted upright for the walls to be affixed. The building has two stories. The bottom was used for school and recreational functions and the second floor was the chapel. Immediately over the dais is a small prayer room.
When completed in 1868, Bryce proudly affirmed to Mormon Church president Brigham Young that although he couldn’t promise the church would stand upright during a severe flood, “If a flood should come, it would float and if a wind came strong enough to blow it over, it would still never crash to pieces."
The chapel, 52 West Main at Grass Valley Street in Pine Valley, Utah, is the oldest in continuous use by the LDS church today. It’s used from Memorial Day to Labor Day.