Pine Valley — Hidden Paradise
I often daydream of spending Christmas in the country; sipping hot chocolate while being pulled in a horse drawn sleigh jingling with bells as church bells chime. Southern Utah hosts the perfect Christmas village for such a dream — Pine Valley.
It is the perfect place to dream of a white Christmas — a perfect place to be home for the holidays. In 1859, the church from which bells srill ring was built in 1859. Experienced English shipbuilder Ebeneezer Bryce constructed this building similar to the hull of an upside down ship. This log edifice was built from logs harvested from the town’s own mills. Mills which initially stirred the economy of this small village. The church was also used as a school for nearly fifty years until only a few families remained in the valley throughout the winter months.
During the summer months the church is still used for meetings making it one of the longest and most continuously used buildings by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.The Pine Valley Chapel continues to be one of the most attractive structures in the state of Utah. The structural beams used to construct the building are most unique and its exterior continues to lull visitors to this scenic wonderland. In the past this chapel was the centerpiece of this small town, as was it the centerpiece of the Mormons’ religious life. It was here members took part in priesthood and Relief Society activities, Sunday meetings such as monthly fast and testimony meeting, the dressing of members for burial, and primary activities for the children. This meetinghouse was also the overall centerpiece for Pine Valley’s other activities including weddings, births, missionary farewells, deaths, sewing bees, quilt making, and visiting. Life here was rich and communal.
It was only happenstance that this unique gem, Pine Valley, was even found. In fact, as the stories go, it was a cow that brought the community of Pine Valley into existence. In the summer of 1855 Isaac Riddle and William Hamblin were searching for a lost cow which had wandered from the church herd. The two had been following the Santa Clara river in search of the cow when they came upon the most beautiful green valley. They were amazed by the lushness and the thick blanket of grass. In fact, grass rose as high as their horses’ knees. Pines and aspens lined both sides of the valley making it a marvel to behold.
News of the discovery spread fast and in 1855 Robert Richey, Lorenzo Roundy and Jehu Blackburn built a sawmill. Charles Dalton was the first to seek timber and water rights in Pine Valley in September of 1856. John D. Lee presided over the probate court at the time. It was under his jurisdiction that land allotments were made legal. While milling continued over the years, it was gardening which eventually turned into serious agriculture that kept the community thriving. The agriculture flourished thanks to the ample water supply to the valley. At its peak Pine Valley grew to a community of 300 people as well as a summer retreat for Southern Utahns. It was the closest thing to “air conditioning” offered in Utah’s Dixie.
Today Pine Valley continues to be a spillover community, a summer retreat and a vacation spot. The valley’s beauty is transcended only by the encircling Pine Valley mountains. Whether it be summer or spring, winter or fall, it is a great place to stop and dream, as for me and my dreams we will be home for the holidays in Pine Valley humming the melody “I’ll be home for Christmas” while gazing out the window for the horse drawn sleigh and listening to the bells of the historic Pine Valley chapel.