The 145th anniversary of the Settling of Bunkerville, NV
The 145th anniversary of the settling of Bunkerville was celebrated on Saturday, January 8, 2022 with a program of music and stories shared by descendants of the settlers with a backdrop of the American flag, Nevada State flag and the cemetery headstones of the early settlers.
It was on Sunday January 7, 1877, that Edward Bunker, Sr. called everyone together and lifting his hands to the sky - with wheat in one hand and soil in the other hand, letting the wheat and soil sift through his fingers onto ground as he dedicated the land that it might be fertile and rich and that water would be applied to the land and that there would be peace in the valley. Mike Waite introduced the program observing “With determination they dug the ditches, with bent backs and callused hands plowed the fields; we want you to meet some of the people with great faith that created this valley and community.”
Paula Bunker Perez shared a brief history of Edward Bunker Sr. who traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Nauvoo and on to Garden Grove and Winter Quarters. He joined the Mormon Battalion and in 1847 mustered out and returned to find his wife, Emily, and baby son in Garden Grove living in a half-finished cabin. Together they traveled to Ogden and later to Santa Clara. He and brought his family with 2 wagons, 2 teams and a tent. To Bunkerville. Due to the heat, they traveled in the early morning and in the cool of the evening. Not long into their journey, Edward Bunker Sr. stopped suddenly and said that they were not going any further that day even though it was much earlier than when they usually stopped for camp. As setting up camp took a lot of time, the children complained that they had just packed the wagons. The next day they came to the place they had planned to camp and found the still smoldering wagons and the teamster who had been killed by Indians.
Edward and others began work January 8, 1877, to clear the land of heavy scrub trees using scrapers and looking forward to the land becoming very productive. He was referred to as “father” Bunker because he had the pioneering spirit and helped so many people.
Edward Bunker’s son, Edward Jr., followed his father’s example of service. He was called to the office of bishop in 1883 and served for 23 years; he farmed, had bees, fruit trees, grapes and a general store. They rarely dinned alone as travelers who passed through were always welcome at their table. His house served as a hospital or hotel for weary travelers.
Marlene Leavitt Duty shared a brief history of Lemuel Leavitt. They all valued their neighbors and everyone treated each other as family; the children referred to everyone as aunt or uncle even if they were not related. Lemuel was able to find the hiding places of outlaws and by persuasion and by his honest and trustworthy reputation get them to come with him and stand trial by a traveling judge. Marlene said he had a magnificent voice; he sang so well that he was offered a contract with the New York opera but, as his family needed to be grounded in the valley, he declined. He always wore blue bib overalls and had pink mint candy treats in his pockets for the kids and could play the harmonica.
David Leavitt spoke about Dudley Leavitt’s history that is presented in the book, Living on the Ragged Edge, by Juanita Brooks. David told about the long journey that started in Canada in 1880 when they sold everything they owned and traveled 800 miles to join the church in Nauvoo, Ill. Dudley, age 16, went with his father out of town to work and earn money for the family. His father became ill and shortly before he passed, he sang “Come Let us Anew” our journey pursue”. This hymn has been an anthem to his posterity. In 1848 his family found an empty house in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and his mother said it was the nicest place they had lived since Canada – an empty house! One day Dudley found a wallet with a sizeable amount of money and tried to find the owner but after several months he used the money to buy animals and a wagon and with his mother and siblings traveled with the Milo Andrus wagon company to the Salt Lake Valley arriving on Dudley’s 20th birthday. They settled for a while in Toole and then moved to Santa Clara, then Hebron and Gunlock and finally settling in the area now known as Bunkerville. Dudley became good friends with Jacob Hamblin and Dudley was well respected by the Indians. He saved the lives of a wagon train by talking with the Indians. The unusual title of the book, The Ragged Edge, comes from his mother saying that all she wanted was to live in a town with a nice house and a library but she said she had lived on “the ragged edge” ever since they had left Canada in 1830.
Pres. Laren Abbott told the story of Myron Abbott and Laura Josephine Allen who came to Bunkerville to a hostile climate and new social order. They had a large family of 8. They had to work hard on watering from the ditches, plowing the fields, gathering cane seed, hauling hay and making adobes to build a house. Myron was a teamster and would travel to St. Thomas to get salt and haul it to St. George to sell – the round trip would take 10-12 days to get the salt, sell it and return home.
When Myron was eight and they were still in Nauvoo his father, Stephen, died of pneumonia leaving Abigail with nine children. They had no money or food. Abigail and the children knelt in prayer, then got up and went outside. While working in the garden the day before, they had burnt and old bush. Myron, sifting through the ashes, found ten cents and was so very excited. His mother was able to buy a sack of flour and along with the milk they had from their cow, they had breakfast and gave thanks for the food.
The Adams and Hardy families are the ancestors of Vern Pollock who told the story of Heber Herbert Hardy. It was an Easter picnic when Betsy Leavitt, Dudley’s daughter, met and fell in love with Heber the first time she saw him. She and 2 other girls needed a ride home after the picnic and Heber, having a 3 seated buggy invited to take them home. Betsy had to sit in the front seat with Heber and she was so mad that the others girls got the back seat. He offered her some candy and she refused because she was so taken with him, she was afraid to say anything. Later Heber asked Dudley if he could marry his daughter and Dudley laughingly said, “I’ll bring a load of them on my next trip down and you can have your choice!” Heber boldly replied, “I know which one I want.”
Heber bought one acre close to the town for a barrel of molasses and built a two-room home and later a two-story home. He also worked on the St. George Temple hauling black rock for the foundation. Heber was known as “Honest Heber” because he could be trusted measuring the grain from the thrasher. His daughter, Emerene, said he paid his tithing twice – he paid it on the grain, then he paid on the cream from the cow that ate the grain, and he paid on the pigs that ate the grain!” He had so much grain he bought the house across the street and they stored the grain there but, his daughter said the grain was flowing out the door! What would they do with all that grain! Her dad replied, “Did not the Lord say he would open the windows of heaven and there would not be room enough to contain it all.”
Thomas Adams and his wife Mary built the stone house in Bunkerville where David and Nancy Leavitt live. One day he and his sons went home at noon and saw the raw eggs, raw potatoes, and bread dough were on the table and Mary lying on the bed resting!
What is going on? Mary calmly said, “Look at the wood box!” It was empty. Thomas went directly to the barn where the boys were and made sure they knew that the wood box was to be filled before they left for the fields next time!
Rebecca Gibbons Waite Leavitt is the great grandmother of Gail Waite Frehner. Rebecca and her husband and 4 children left England and traveled by ship and then traveled across the country to Utah and St. George to work on the temple. Her husband died in an accident leaving her with 6 children. She remarried and moved to Bunkerville. She had faith, fortitude and in spite of all her hardships and loss of family, she found ways to have fun. She cooked, baked, sewed and did beautiful handiwork. She enjoyed hayrides with the whole community and swimming in the big ditch or the river with her children. She loved singing with family and friends in the evenings after the work was done. She knew they would need to remember the fun times when once again the floods, disasters, and other tragedies came.
Jonathan and Susan Hunt, the ancestors of Joy Hunt Noel, first settled in Gunlock raising cane, corn and melons. When Jonathan died leaving Susan with six children, Bishop George Crosby invited her to move to Bunkerville about 1885. They were able to buy a few acres with a one room frame shack just above the cemetery. They farmed but because there were no fences, the cows would eat the hay and wheat. Grandpa George worked doing many things to make extra money from running cattle on the Mormon Mesa, working at Key West mines, Bonelli’s Ferry and freighting all the while still farming in Bunkerville. The people in Bunkerville loved one another and helped anyone in need in those days of hardship and they became one big family.
Everyone enjoyed Adam Anderson on guitar singing, “When It’s Night Time in Nevada.” Many thanks to Mike Waite and Andrew Jensen for organizing the program and to the family members who shared stories of their ancestors.
By Cheryl Jensen