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  • Writer's pictureMesquite Nevada Stakes

Heritage Day 2023

Heritage Day Celebration was held on Saturday, January 7 at “Settler’s Point”, the location where the first home was built in Virgin Valley. Those attending were greeted by David Leavitt playing his guitar and singing folk songs of days gone by. The large crowd joined in singing “They the Builders of the Nation” followed by a prayer and pledge of allegiance to the American Flag. David and Nancy Leavitt sang a duet of the pioneer hymn, “Come, Come, Ye Saints” with David amazingly playing both harmonica and guitar.

Andrew Jensen introduced the guest speaker, Vinnie Leavitt, author of the book, Mesquite Flats, A History of Virgin Valley. “Just imagine ‘Silence’, “Vinnie said. “It was quiet back then on that first day when Edward Bunker came with twenty-eight others from Santa Clara, Utah. The hill wasn’t cut like it is today, there was no road; the hills along here came out like fingers. There was no brush along the river just some blue weed and screw beans.”

“They took the wagon wheels off and set the wagon boxes down into dirt on this hill. This spot became the central gathering place with a wood shelter and eating table outside. The men and boys would come here each morning to get their work assignments.”

Vinnie told of their leaving Santa Clara and camping the first night half-way up Utah Hill and Castle Cliffs at Camp Springs. The next night was spent at “Cottonwood” (Beaver Dam) and on to the “Flats” on Saturday night, camping on this hill.”

On Sunday morning, January 7, 1977, he said, “the men gathered in a circle around Edward Bunker, Sr. holding a handful of soil in one hand and a handful of wheat in the other, he gave the prayer of Israel and dedicated the valley for a peaceful farming place where they would be safe and raise their families.”

“These pioneers came with a purpose in their hearts – to live their religion and live together and consecrate everything they had to the Savior,” he said. Edward Bunker, Sr. was a very religious man and he and others believed they could work together to achieve the goal of living the law of the United Order. Edward Bunker had talked to Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about his desire to form a new settlement. Pres. Young told them, “Go to the Rio Virgin to the Flats and build on the south side of the river. The soil is better there and you can get water a little easier.”

Vinnie explained that in the United Order, they held things in common. “They signed their names in agreement and divided everything evenly and if someone needed a wagon or an ox – they could have it. The United Order had been tried several times before. In Bunkerville it did bring so much cooperation for two years but there came competition and feelings were hurt and it was dissolved.”

Vinnie spoke about other towns in the area and why the people came there – “Pioche and Panaca, they came for the wealth in the mines, Tonopah they settled for the gold and silver, Las Vegas – to gain control and power and riches – but the people came to Bunkerville to make a settlement!”

He ended his remarks talking about the people that have gown up in this valley and spread out using their leadership abilities to build other communities in Arizona, California, and other far-off places. He said, “The early settlers have provided strength that we still carry today. They have left us with memories and experiences of following God and this is their greatest gift to us. What is your part to preserve this? Be a good citizen and try to do good when you are in leadership positions in your community. “

Vinnie answered question at the end regarding how they built the canal to irrigate the land, “they built a straddled box about 16’ long and 4’wide wide with a plumb line to get the fall they wanted for the water. Then they would dig up the wooden box and set it again 16’ away until they finished the canal to the dam which they made of brush and rock that then diverted the water. “

A question was asked about the relations between the settlers and the Indians and his reply was, “It was mostly peaceful and friendly and the settlers agreed to give flour and food to the Indians when they came through. If an Indian made trouble he was turned over to the chief and if the white man did something wrong, he went before the bishop to determine the punishment.

With gratitude for the preservation of the remains of the foundation of the first home, Andrew Jensen told how the scared spot had been saved from the road construction crew when a cut was made in the hill to grade the road for Highway 91. Jensen said, “I saw Vinnie Leavitt on this site and stopped to visit with him. We saw the foundation but it was being damaged by four-wheelers and we wanted to preserve it. Then when the state highway road crew came to carve out a wider road, I talked to the foreman and asked him not to cut into the hill and destroy the site. He said he would try but they had their specifications for the road! They got almost too close to the foundation, but later a retaining wall was built. It was John Hall that built up the present rock enclosure with my brother, Kelly and I helping. And Dennis Hunsaker put in the poles.” Several Eagle Scouts did their Eagle projects at the site to put in a sign and steps.

Jensen said, “In days past you might have heard men and boys yelling at their teams and whipping them as they crossed the river. If they didn’t get across in a hurry, they were likely to lose their animals or wagons in the bogs in the river or quicksand.” Jensen also told of Jedidiah Smith’s travels and the Indians who stayed here for the winter and went north for the summer and how they worked out their differences. “I am grateful for the heritage they have given us; this is a sacred place!” he stated.

“Heritage, “a poem by VIlate Raile, was read which epitomizes the feelings of those in attendance about the legacy these settlers left for this valley.

They cut desire into short lengths

And fed it to the hungry fire of courage.

Long after, when the flames had died:

Molten gold gleamed in the ashes.

They gathered it into bruised palms

And handed it to their children;

And their Children’s children, forever!

Everyone was treated to the mainstay and favorite food of the settlers – homemade bread, butter, jam and honey! Thank you to Carol Leavitt for the delicious bread.

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