PINE CHAPEL VALLEY, UTAH
Pine Valley Chapel, oldest LDS chapel in continuous use.
Built by Ebenezer Bryce, its interior looks like an overturned ship. It's said that if the 'ship' is righted it will float.
Pine Valley--People of Purpose
A large and ever widening group of scholars, educators, doctors, engineers, researchers, bankers, college presidents, church, civic, and business leaders and a group of fine citizens proudly relate their ancestry to the early settlers of Pine Valley. Whatever produced such a people might easily be traced to an inherent quality that enabled those early colonizers to confront harsh winters with courage, be productive in the glorious cooler summers, hold fast to their faith, teach and live high principles on the frontier, encourage a love of education, set goals of substance and be bonded together by an undying faith in God. To practice their belief they built a marvelous church building that would tie the community together for years to come and earn a reputation of being one of the oldest, continuously used buildings in the church.
Still loved and used by members today, the Pine Valley Church which has been beautifully restored is now in use year round. It is interesting to note that summer residents of Pine Valley and others from surrounding areas belong to other wards but faithfully attend this branch from about May to September, many even hold leadership and teaching positions during these months. They appreciate this fine old structure and the sacrifice that made it possible. Pine Valley Brach now holds meetings year round with only a small number during the winter months. Here is a brief history of Pine Valley, its discovery, the settlement, the actual building and a mention of a few of the many people who made it happen. It all began with a lost cow.
Pine Valley Discovered
Following a direct call from Brigham Young, a group of settlers were sent to Southern Utah to colonize the Washington and Santa Clara areas and serve as missionaries to the Indians. Jacob Hamblin who would become the great peacemaker to the Indians and his brother William (Gunlock) Hamblin and Issac Riddle and their families were part of this group. But first, it was important they provide food for themselves and their families to keep alive. Long experience had taught them the value of taking some cattle along to safeguard against starvation. In the heat of the summers it meant driving their herds into the cooler valleys north of Santa Clara. After one long, very hard day in the summer of 1855, Issac Riddle and William Hamblin stopped for the night by a clear running stream, ate a meager supper, spread out their blankets and welcomed deep sleep. Upon awakening at dawn the next morning a quick glance over the cattle herd brought alarming news. One precious cow was missing.
Immediately, Issac mounted his horse and followed the stream to search for the lost cow. As he rode on, the territory was unfamiliar to him. Then, up over another rise and he beheld a spectacular sight. The early sun was beginning to spread light into the valley outlined by tall mountains with thick groves of Pine and Spruce trees. And there, standing deep in the tall grass, contentedly eating away was the missing cow.
According to legend, Indians were in Pine Valley long before the settlers to send smoke signals, to worship the Great Spirit and hunt deer, rabbits, fur and pine nuts. On the summer morning that Issac Riddle discovered Pine Valley there was no indication that anyone had been there before.
Issac herded the reluctant cow back to join the cattle drive. He couldn't wait to tell William and Jacob about his remarkable discovery. But, this was just the beginning.
Lumber Mills of Pine Valley
As Issac Riddle herded the cow down Pine Valley in 1855 to rejoin the cattle drive it seems certain his mind was already contemplating the economic potential of the valley and its stately trees. There would soon be a serious need for lumber in Southern Utah and Nevada areas and a need for work among early settlers. Would not this valley be an ideal place to build and operate a lumber-mill ?
Apparently, Issac and others thought so. With two partners he purchased a lumber mill in Salt Lake City. It was to become the first one to be operated in Pine Valley. Soon others appeared, workers moved in to run them and families followed. As the industry increased, the stage was set to supply lumber for the eventual building of the St. George Temple and Tabernacle.
In no time the noise of sawing lumber became a welcome sound in the early valley, while the trails were managed by hard-working settlers driving their ox-teams through all kinds of weather to carry the lumber to building sites in Utah and Nevada.
Even with all their activity there was one goal they had not yet achieved. They desired a permanent structure, similar to the style of the churches they had left in New England, where they could worship God. Brigham Young gave his approval, local church leaders Erastus and William Snow were in agreement, there was plenty of lumber and building materials and many willing workers but what they
didn't have was an experienced builder and architect to plan and supervise. Then, someone suggested Ebenezer Bryce.
The responsibility to plan and construct the Pine Valley Church finally rested with Ebenezer Bryce, faithful convert to the church from Scotland and a shipbuilder by trade. He had good reason to be in Pine Valley. His wife was related to the Gardners, one of the original families to move into the new settlement. He agreed to build the church, but he would have to do it in his own way, using shipbuilding techniques. After working out final plans with local church leaders, Ebenezer went to work with a faithful, willing and excited group of workers standing by. He had a congenial spirit. The men on the project enjoyed working for him and the children loved watching. After the foundation was solidly in, they formed the sides of the building first, on the ground, then with the use of ropes and pulleys and lots of manpower hoisted up the sides. His signal to hoist was a little shipbuilder's rhyme
which everyone loved and repeated often for years after. Even though the attic of the church was built like the bottom of a ship, it was rock solid and has gained the admiration of people even today.
Later, as a special honor to Ebenezer, Bryce Canyon was given his name.
The Church Building Is Underway
There was an upper and a lower town site in Pine Valley. The lower site was chosen for the church and immediately men went up into a grove of trees called, "The Gulch", where they found great old trees to cut, trim, mill and haul to the building site.
Under Ebenezer's supervision huge granite boulders were placed at the corners of the foundation with limestone blocks along the four sides. Surely the Lord had prepared this valley ahead with the rich resources readily available. Even this experienced builder was amazed to find such a treasure store. Had the Lord prepared this blessing just for them?
After workers had hoisted the building sides into place, in unison, the corners were wrapped with strips of green rawhide that tightened as they dried and formed solid corners. The outside of the building was covered with shiplap made of half-inch boards about six inches wide, fitted over each other at the edge. The building would be two and one-half stories tall with the rafters for a roof put on and braced with huge timbers 10 to12 inches in diameter. A later generation would climb steep, narrow stairs and look with awe through the glass partition to marvel at the attic built to resemble the bottom of a ship. The ground floor of the two-story church was made into two rooms to be used for teaching school with two outside entrances. The second and main floor was a multi-purpose room. It would serve as a chapel for Sunday worship, at other times a stage outlined by a curved arch for dramas during the week and when the slat benches were moved back they could enjoy dances, parties and branch dinners. They were proud of a curved ceiling that was suspended from a frame in the attic. It perfectly matched the arch over the stage. The members were delighted. Originally, the chapel was heated by a large wood-burning stove, six feet long and four feet high that could handle large pine logs. The heat was appreciated and the smell of the burning pine would create lasting memories. The chapel was lighted by two brass chandeliers with four kerosene lamps on each, ordered especially from New York. Each of the eight windows held a brass lamp bracket. The chapel seemed to glow with the sixteen lamps in the windows, giving the building a special appearance from the outside which could be seen over the valley. School was held in the building until 1919, when it was moved away from the Valley. Until 1966 a ladder was the only access to the attic and a tiny prayer room which was originally built for teachers to have short, inspired meetings before their classes. It was seldom used. In 1966, narrow steps were built, leading to the attic and the prayer room. Bessie Snow, former resident, restored the school room and the prayer room to their original appearance, filling the prayer room with pictures and treasures of early Pine Valley.
As the building was finished, Ebenezer Bryce was heard to remark, "If a flood should come, it would float and if a wind came strong enough to blow it over, it still would never crash to pieces." Visitors today are warmed by the spirit of those hardy folks, as they enjoy the timeless beauty of the Pine Valley Church, built with love and sacrifice.