Pine Valley: A Mountain Home and Child's Paradise
In the summer of 1855, Gunlock Bill Hamblin and Isaac Riddle were herding cattle in the mountains of Southern Utah. One day, as Riddle followed a stray cow, he stumbled upon a beautiful valley seemingly untouched by man. The valley
was filled with lush green meadows, pine trees and fauna. It was named Pine Valley.
Not long after the discovery of Pine Valley, Jehu Blackborn and Company built a sawmill and set to work. In 1860, Brigham Young called 300 members of the church to move to St. George and grow cotton as part of the Dixie Mission. Many of those who migrated grew tired of the heat and other challenging living conditions in the area and moved to Pine Valley. Pine Valley, 35 miles north of St. George, had a higher elevation and a milder summer which attracted many St. George families to seek refuge there. As a result, Pine Valley grew in size and popularity.
Robert Gardner Jr. and Erastus Snow were two of the settlers sent to the Dixie Mission. In 1862, on a trip from Cedar City to Saint George, they took a path through Pine Valley. They saw the operating sawmill and recognized room for growth. After telling Brigham Young of the potential for the area, Young assigned them to build an additional sawmill in the valley. This project, known as the Pine Valley Mission, produced lumber for the Dixie Mission settlements and beyond. In Salt Lake, the timber was used to fashion the organ pipes for the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
The secluded nature of Pine Valley fostered a tight-knit community. At the center of town stands the Pine Valley chapel, built in 1867. The chapel housed religious services, school, dances, and other events. Laura Gardner Snow said of her childhood in the valley, “Pine Valley was a child’s paradise. Summers were the most delightful.” Winters were full of sledding, sleigh rides and a magical Christmas Eve party in the chapel.
After the sawmills shut down in the 1920s, many families remained to farm the valley and raise cattle. Although Pine Valley has remained a small town, it continues to be a favorite summer destination for descendants of Pine Valley pioneers, as well as other residents from nearby communities.