WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP
Travelling from St. George, Utah to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, we were looking for a place to pull over to make lunch when we saw a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument. Washrooms and maybe a picnic table – perfect!
We didn’t know anything about the site, but with hunger sated and a National Park Pass already in hand, we thought we’d pop in and have a quick look.
Two hours later we managed to pull ourselves away.
A Mormon Tithing Ranch
Pipe Spring National Monument was established in 1923, but it started as a Mormon Tithing Ranch. Mormon pioneers in the 1870s often paid their tithes to the church with livestock – not cash. The Southern Utah Tithing Office often accepted cattle as tithes and the stock was sent to Pipe Spring.
In 1870, the Mormons began building a fortified ranch house at Pipe Spring. Master stone masons Elijah and Elisha Averett and dozens of workers laboured for over a year and a half to build Winsor Castle, named after the first ranch manager.
The “castle” is made up of two separate two-storey buildings that face each other. Rock walls at either end enclose the courtyard and join the buildings together. Large wooden doors on either end are wide enough for a wagon to pull through. One building was the home of the ranch manager and the other offered extra bedrooms, cheese and butter-making rooms built over the spring, and a telegraph office.
A Telegraph Office
When the transcontinental telegraph went through Salt Lake City in 1861, Brigham Young was inspired to create a communication network owned by the Mormon Church. After 1864, Civil War-surplus telegraph materials were cheap. The Deseret Telegraph system was started in 1866.
Pipe Spring became a telegraph station in 1871. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Luella (Ella) Stewart was the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring. From 1871 to 1888 at least seven women operated the telegraph instruments at Pipe Spring.
A National Monument
The Mormon Church sold the property to a private owner in 1895. In 1920 the newly appointed Director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather, passed by the spring on a road trip. Mather believed that one day Americans would explore the West in their own cars and he believed that Pipe Spring would be a perfect stop in between Zion and Grand Canyon. It took him three years of lobbying – and money from his own pocket to help buy the Pipe Spring property – before it was declared a national monument.
If You Go:
- Don’t miss walking the Ridge Trail. It’s a short climb up to the top of the low cliffs that overlook the monument. The views are spectacular.
- Pipe Spring is 45 miles east of Hurricane, Utah on AZ State Route 389. For more information about Pipe Spring, visit the National Park Service website. http://www.nps.gov/pisp/index.htm