Electa’s Life in Washington City

In this video we visit the grave of grandmother Electa Westover, matriarch of the pioneering Westover family in Utah of the 19th century. We focus in particular on the later years of Electa’s life and what it was like for her:

This is an image from the 1870s showing the Cotton Mill that was built in Washington City, near to St. George. Men such as Joel Hills Johnson and James Willard Bay oversaw the farming efforts that did indeed produce cotton in Utah’s Dixie. It took a few years, but they did it. The mill in Washington City was certainly the focal point for families living there, including the Westovers.

Washington Cotton Mill

Charles Westover Sr, a local farmer, had his hand in it from time to time. He was, like many other men, a water master. Getting water to support crops and life was vital to every community but particularly to this area near the Virgin River where water was closer and soil was better for growing. The story of water in the St. George area from the 1860s through 1900 is really one of constant battle. The iron-rich red soil was terrible for building dams that would last. As summer monsoon season would begin entire dams would be washed away in an instant.

As a result there was a constant effort to build and re-build, as well as long periods of redirecting water sources just to keep things working.

These communities were also growing. Building of a county courthouse, the St. George Tabernacle and then the St. George Temple, would be projects that affected and drew from the resources of nearly every local family. Not only was money needed but so too were labor and resources such as lumber and stone. Here’s load of lumber brought to St. George in support of one of those projects from the mid-1860s:

Timber Load

What was normal life like? There were church and school gatherings. Even though many of the local residents were pioneers, like Electa and Charles, they celebrated on July 24th a Pioneer Day every year. This is an image from the 1870s and a community celebration of July 24th in Washington City:

Pioneer Day 1870s

This picture is what it all looked like – this is St. George from somewhere near Washington City in the 1880s:

St. George 1880s

When someone died and needed to be buried, it was usually noted in newspaper publications. Here is what was published about Edwin in 1878 after he died:

Edwin's death notice

A funeral would be held, presided over by local Church authorities, then a hearse would take the body to the cemetery. Here’s what the hearse looked like in St. George and Washington in the 1880s:

Hearse

The heat of the summer, the lack of water, the constant battles to grow crops and the details of day-to-day living sure make these pioneer generations of family living in Southern Utah a wonder. We owe them a great deal. Their great works of temple building, of crop growing, of just sustaining life deserve our respect.

Jeff Westover
Jeff Westover

Husband, father, Latter-day Saint, 11th generation American, and web geek currently residing in Smithfield, Utah. Please visit my website at JeffWestover.com

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