Nine-year-old Tony Ivins was playing at a friend’s house in Salt Lake City when John M. Moody, the friend’s father, returned from attending a session of the Church’s general conference. He had startling news. The Moody family had been called to settle in southern Utah. For Tony, this was exciting information. Not taking the time to go around the block, he “cut cross lots,” climbed a fence, and ran through the family garden. Entering his house, he saw his mother and sister talking quietly. “Brother Moody is called to go to Dixie to raise cotton,” Tony blurted. It was then that the boy noticed his mother’s tears. “So are we,” she replied.Ivins later wrote, “Present plans, future hopes and aspirations, ties of kindred, the association of life long friends and neighbors were all to be shattered and swept aside as we started on this new adventure, the outcome of which no one could even surmise.”
What makes a man or a woman? What are the forces that shape a personality, determine a life, or, in the biblical language of Ivins’s generation, brings at death “a shock of corn . . . in his season” (Job 5:26)? For Anthony “Tony” W. Ivins (1852–1934), a prominent Dixie pioneer, an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a member of his church’s First Presidency, there were several answers to these questions, which included family and friends, religious values, and the place of his boyhood. Each mingled in Tony Ivins’s early life.
One molding influence was Tony Ivins’s heritage, which included a long history of civic prominence and merchandising. His family came from New Jersey. His earliest New Jersey progenitor, Isaac Ivins, settled at Georgetown in the 1690s, where he prospered by trading with Indian trappers and white hunters. Later members of the family used the bonds of marriage and the flow of commerce to achieve financial success in their own right. The Ivinses counted among their marriage relations at least half a dozen families from New Jersey gentry.Generations of Ivins men thrived as merchants at Upper Freehold, Monmouth County, thirty miles south of New York City, and at Toms River, twenty miles southeast of Upper Freehold on the Atlantic seaboard. (See map on p. 72.) Related to each other as first, second, or third cousins, the New Jersey Ivinses were “considered wealthy, and stood high in the community.”
Tony’s father, Israel Ivins (1815–97; fig. 1), was something of a sportsman. Expert with a hunting gun and a fishing rod, he also had a serious side. His avid reading gave him a reputation of being a great student. As a young man, Israel worked in the family businesses and learned the skills of a surveyor on the side; in his later years, he turned to medicine and the healing arts.Some of these interests were passed on to Tony.
Israel was also fond of travel, being remembered as a “sea fairing man,” who was “as much at home on the water as on the land.”His wanderlust seems to have carried over into religion. During the late 1830s and early 1840s, wave after wave of religious excitement rolled across the central New Jersey countryside, with Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians vying in their ministries. But none of these denominations attracted Israel as much as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon elders had come to Monmouth County as early as 1837, and in March of the following year, Israel was one of the first baptized. A cadre of some the Church’s most able missionaries—including Joseph Smith the Prophet—preached in the area with considerable success. By the late 1830s, the Church had several hundred converts spread across congregations at Cream Ridge, Greenville, Hornerstown, New Egypt, Recklesstown, and Shrewsbury.
Tony’s father was not the only Ivins who was drawn to Mormonism. This family had a history of running against the popular religious grain, and many other family members soon followed Israel in baptism. Tony’s mother, Anna Lourie Ivins (1816–96; fig. 2), and her sister Rachel Ridgway Ivins were among the early converts.Anna and Rachel were soulmates and confidantes and would remain so to the end. Cheerful and uncomplaining in the face of adversity, deeply religious, and self-disciplined, both women also had the Ivinses’ quiet, but firm, belief in what they viewed as the family’s proper social position.
Israel and Anna continued the tradition of marrying within the family. They were distant (perhaps second) cousins, both surnamed Ivins at birth. In their late twenties, they were married on March 19, 1844, about six years after they had embraced Mormonism. Elder Jedediah M. Grant, one of the early missionaries in New Jersey, performed the service.
After baptism, some Ivins family members migrated to Nauvoo,but Israel and Anna remained in central New Jersey as loyal Mormons. Israel presided over the Toms River Branch and at times entertained visiting Church leaders. There Israel and Anna were blessed with two children: Caroline Augusta (“Caddie”), born in 1845, and Anthony “Tony” Woodward, born on September 16, 1852, and named for Israel’s father. Georgiana (1846), who failed to survive the winter of 1846–47, was born in New York.
By the early 1850s, Israel and Anna had obtained a comfortable life, several years of which included living in cosmopolitan New York City. Yet, for these ascetic believers in the word, New Jersey Mormonism in the 1850s was a pale copy of the fervor that had once burned through the area. Besides, Mormon missionaries told Israel and Anna that they must gather to the newly built Zion in Utah. Seeking to comply with the religious demands of their faith and to secure the grace coming from full fellowship, Israel and Anna decided to immigrate.
Immigration to Utah
Leaving Toms River on April 5, 1853, were a party of Mormons comprising “a large number of persons from Toms River and other places in the state.”The fifteen years of gospel winnowing had taken its toll, and only a small number of the original group of Mormon converts were willing to go west. These included the last and most staunch of the Ivinses: Israel and Anna; Anna’s sister Rachel, who after migrating to Nauvoo had returned to New Jersey; Israel’s brother Anthony; Israel’s mother, Sarah; and Israel’s nephew Theodore McKean. The party made its way to Philadelphia, boarded a train to Pittsburgh, and then floated on steamers via St. Louis to Kansas City. After visiting sites of interest in Jackson County—the old Mormon headquarters in Missouri—they purchased mule-and-wagon outfits and began the trek west.
The Ivinses’ train was remembered as “one of the best equipments that ever came to Utah in the early fifties.”Anna and Israel traveled with a milch cow and two heavily provisioned wagons. One of these was furnished as a portable bedroom, complete with chairs, a folding bed, and stairs descending from its tailgate. When the group paused during the day or stopped in the evening, Anna and Israel mounted the stairs and entered the wagon to rest. Despite these unusual and perhaps unnecessary provisions for comfort, the company made good time. On August 10, 1853, after about a 130-day journey, the New Jersey pioneers arrived in Salt Lake City. The party traveled up Main Street where the Ivinses found short-term housing with their old preacher-friend, Jedediah Grant, now mayor of the city. During their next few years in Zion, old New Jersey friends like Brother Jedediah helped find a place for the family in Utah’s frontier and uncertain society.
Years in Salt Lake City
Israel found it difficult to prosper in Utah. He was by experience a merchant. But Brigham Young’s Zion was bone and sinew—it placed more value on the agrarian labor of pioneering than on the urban exchange table or business counter. To President Young, merchants brought profit margins and social distinctions and threatened to be potentially hostile to the Mormon theocracy. He therefore lashed out at merchants: “Taking that class of men as a whole, I think they are of extremely small calibre.”Because of such fulminations, proper churchmen like Israel tried other kinds of work, often beyond their taste, their training, and their ability to succeed. Israel became a Salt Lake City policeman and on the side farmed a small plot on the outskirts of the city.
However, Israel’s failure to make money was not just a matter of his choice of occupations. Pioneering made most people poor, particularly Utah pioneering, which was based on small-village landholding. For the first thirty years of Utah’s settlement, the territory’s citizens distantly trailed their fellow American citizens—even those living in the Intermountain West—in the wealth owned by each household. In 1850 the worth of Utahns was only a fifth of the national average ($201 to $1,001), and by 1870 the ratio had closed only to a third ($644 to $1,782).
For some Utahns, there was a silver lining. If a family arrived early in Utah and remained in one place for several decades (“persisting,” to use the demographer’s word), their situation usually improved. The maturing Utah economy increased the value of their holdings as well as their social standing.But the family of Tony Ivins did not realize even this benefit. By accepting the Church’s call to settle Dixie, Israel and Anna were required to sell their Salt Lake City property to free resources for their new home and to provision themselves. In his autobiography, Tony recorded the family’s sacrifice in accepting the 1861 call to Dixie: Some years after Israel and Anna sold their home on South Temple Street between Third West and Fourth West Streets, the property became “worth a fortune.” It sat on the location where a railroad company built its freight department.
Starting once more would mean not only losing their stake in Salt Lake City, but it also would require the Ivinses to submit to an exacting future. Life in Dixie would mean the Ivinses would have to feed and clothe themselves in a setting that lacked grocery stores, currency, merchants, investment capital, and wages for labor performed. Such a situation, historian Charles S. Peterson has observed, “requir[ed] voluntary ‘subsidies’ of human effort and a willingness to accept austere economic standards.”In fact, settling a new land on the Mormon frontier might require a full generation to get beyond the survival stage of living.
Journey to Dixie
An inventory of the Ivinses’ travel outfit, which may have included much of the family’s assets, showed how poorly the family fortunes had fared since they had arrived in Utah eight years before. In contrast to their splendid Great Plains equipage of 1853, the best the family now could do was to secure an old and worn “heavy” wagon (for hauling goods), a “light wagon with shafts” (for transportation), a bay horse, two yoke of oxen, and a single harness—and apparently they incurred some debts to make the trip possible.
The journey from Salt Lake City to southern Utah set a pattern for the toil that was to follow. Leaving Utah’s capital city, the pioneers of St. George found the trail mired, and several horses were lost. Later the wagons faced wind, rain, and snow since they were traveling in November. The Dixie pioneers did not go as a group; wagons were spread along the southern road, united only by their destination. At nightfall, smaller parties probably coalesced, permitting socials, especially the reels and square dancing that the Mormons were so fond of. For most of the Dixie settlers, the three-hundred-mile trip took a month.One woman remembered, “There were meals to prepare, tents to pitch, beds to make down and take up, washing to do, bread to bake in a bake skillet. All this made our progress slow.”
At first the Ivinses traveled alone with their drivers, Alex Mead and John Lloyd (known as Sailor Jack). Israel needed help with the two wagons and apparently recruited these two Dixie-bound settlers to lend a hand. The first night out, the family stopped at Porter Rockwell’s house at the Point of the Mountain (the divide between Salt Lake and Utah Valleys), and the legendary Mormon scout sold them supplies that were “of great benefit to us after we reached our destination.”As the family traveled farther, they visited two families they had known in New Jersey who had already settled in southern Utah and who extended hospitality. The climax of their trip came as the wagons drove up the grade from present-day Washington and passed over a “rough volcanic ridge” that at first concealed their view.
Then they saw.
“It was a barren uninviting landscape,” Tony said.
These same words were used by another 1861 pioneer, Elizabeth Snow. When her party entered the St. George site, she saw Anna and Caddie Ivins standing and looking over the land. Perhaps there was something in their manner that appeared forlorn. “I have often wondered since what these two women must have been thinking as they looked over the barren, uninviting country that was to be their home,” she later wrote.
St. George as a “Mormon Village”
Although the family of Tony Ivins had fallen on difficult times—and things grew worse in coming years—the boy would have the advantage of being raised as part of the St. George community—Dixie’s version of the Mormon village. Outwardly, the Mormon village put a peculiar stamp on the land. It had rectangular streets often laid off at the cardinal points of the compass. It fostered grouped living. At the center of the village was the schoolhouse, the Church meetinghouse (in early years often the same building), and later an assembly hall or tabernacle. There the people worshipped as a community, especially in good weather. Also at the center of the village were the homes of the villagers. These dwellings sat on large lots that might exceed an acre. This pattern allowed room for a setback from the street and beautifying flower gardens as well as practical and life-sustaining vegetable gardens. In Dixie the acreage near the house also permitted vineyards and fruit trees. Outside the village lay small agricultural fields of thirty to fifty acres and places where the boys might drive a few head of livestock to and fro each morning and evening. Giving further pattern to the land were unkempt outbuildings, irrigation ditches for home and garden use, and poplar, locust, or cottonwood trees lining the streets, providing shade and a sense of order(fig. 3).
The Mormon village was not designed to promote wealth, nor did it. One author found that a typical villager had no more than five cows or hogs, owned no machinery, and earned no wages. Crops were so limited that some settlers were unable to get through a winter without help from the local Church storehouse. In economic terms, village life was based on labor-intensive subsistence farming, which provided little margin for gain or abundance.
Basically, religious and social ideals were more important than money, as early Utahns set aside the quest of wealth for the cultural values of small, compact, and largely agrarian settlements. On this level, the Mormon village worked well. According to one authority, it was “perhaps the most elaborate mechanism for socialization to be found in any small community of the country,” offering opportunities for cradle-to-grave schooling, recreation, leadership training, and other social experience. It made pioneer life easier by conveying the Mormon ideals of unity, cooperation, and equality.
In one respect, St. George was cut from a different pattern than some Mormon settlements. After sampling pioneer diaries, one study found that “individual choice” and not Church direction “played an overwhelming role” in determining where and how Mormons settled; newcomers learned where friends or relatives had earlier settled and then traveled to that location on their own.In contrast, St. George was one of more than a half dozen “hub” settlements founded by the Church in the nineteenth century. These hub communities were usually established in new or virgin territory or where Mormon influence was small. Once established, hub villages became the centers from which new villages could be built, radiating outward like the spokes of a wheel. They were, in short, Church outposts. To be chosen or “called” to participate in these communities was an act of faith comparable to a religious sacrament. By traveling south to St. George and becoming citizens of the new village, the Ivins family had embarked on the Lord’s errand.
What did such an arrangement mean to Tony Ivins? While denied the ease of inherited wealth, he had the advantage of being a child of the Mormon frontier, which was peculiar to the general experience of most American western settlers. Elsewhere in the West, Tony might have come of age living in a mining camp or, still more likely, working on a large but isolated farm, a circumstance of U.S. land policy. But instead of helping to homestead a quarter section of 160 acres, Tony Ivins was the son of a Mormon village—that institution which left its most lasting imprint, not on the landscape, but on individual lives. Thus, young Tony Ivins’s life mixed heredity, first-generation Mormon values, and the bequest of the red-clay soil of pioneer Dixie.
St. George Routines
“You may pass through all the settlements,” said Apostle George A. Smith, “and you will find the history of them to be just about the same.”Elder Smith, who had a special responsibility for southern Utah and was honored by the new village being named after him, might well have been speaking of the first months and years of St. George. According to one scholar, the Mormon settlement process followed a pattern:
• The group left for the new settlement site after the fall harvest.
• Church officials selected or approved a president for the settlement, whom the settlers also voted to sustain.
• Settlers first worked on water systems, farmland preparation, community fortifications, and public buildings such as schools and meetinghouses.
• The next spring, settlers cultivated and planted crops and built fences to keep cattle out of the newly sown fields.
• That same year, surveyors laid out streets and lots for the townsite, usually following or adapting the Salt Lake City pattern.
• Presiding officers in the community assigned house lots and farm plots.
• In the late spring and summer, settlers farmed in earnest, built houses, planted gardens.
• Settlers participated in Mormon wards that provided religious, educational, and social activities for the community.
When Tony Ivins and his family arrived in Dixie, they along with the rest of the settlers camped on land southeast from where the new village was intended. Here the flow of East Spring meandered, but the settlers deepened it with the same plow that reportedly had turned the first furrow in the Salt Lake Valley. On both sides of this ditch, the settlers placed wagons and tents, with Asa Calkins’s large Sibley tent serving as headquarters. For toilets, men walked to the right and ladies to the left, the usual Mormon wagon-train pattern.
By the third week of December 1861, more than seven hundred people were in camp, and the settlers were already becoming involved in the routines of Mormon village life. An open-air Christmas dance was arranged for children in the afternoon, with another to follow in the evening for adults. Perhaps no activity was more quintessential of Mormon village life—certainly no other recreation. Dancing united the people without distinction and was a passion.Unfortunately, just as the festivities began that Christmas day, it started to rain. However, the people refused to adjust their plans. “It began to rain and [we] began to dance, and we did dance, and it did rain,” recalled Robert Gardner, whose retelling of the event showed the settlers’ ideals:
We danced until dark, and then we fixed up a long tent, and we danced [some more]. The rain continued for three weeks, but we did not dance that long. We were united in everything we did in those days, we had no rich and no poor. Our teams and wagons and what was in them was all we had. We had all things in common and very common too.
Israel Ivins’s call to Dixie came partly because of his special skills as a surveyor. Shortly after arriving, he was appointed head of a six-man committee to remove water from the Virgin River for irrigation. In January 1862, under the direction of the head of the colony, Erastus Snow, Israel began to chart St. George’s streets and village lots, and by the end of the year, he completed a map of the new community.This was a job that young Tony could help with: “I was frequently with . . . [my father] while he was engaged in laying off the city and surveying the field lands,” he later wrote (fig. 4). As Israel continued to survey the Dixie area beyond St. George, Tony likely remained at his side. We do know that when Brigham Young commissioned the building of the Washington cotton factory in the mid-1860s, Tony, then thirteen, manned one end of the surveyor’s chain. It was necessary to survey the surrounding land in order to bring water to the factory’s water wheel.
Surveying was the kind of work the boy enjoyed—being outdoors, doing men’s work, and helping to sustain the family. His enjoyment of the open air perhaps explains why Tony never confused schooling with education. His record as a pupil was short and spotty. During the winter of 1861—when the rains were unremitting—Tony attended school in a tent on the old campground. While the girls were reportedly well mannered, some of the boys refused to be disciplined and left the tent at will. The next year, Tony (fig. 5) and about ten classmates met in a structure made of willows. Two large, square openings served as windows, but, inexplicably, there was no framed door—at least that was Tony’s memory. The teacher’s desk was a packing box, while seats for the children were slabs of elm “so high that their feet hardly reached the ground.” The students shared a single McGuffey’s reader, and two slates were passed around for writing.
Perhaps by the third or fourth year, Tony had the advantage of going to school in one of the community’s first well-built structures. The St. George pioneers had commissioned a stone building (21′ × 40′) a month after arriving for “educational (school) and social (dancing and other recreation) purposes.”But, whatever their hope, it was several years before the community’s temporary shanties—dugouts, tents, willow lean-tos, and “made-do” wagon beds—began to give way to a more permanent landscape.
Schoolmarms and schoolmasters were by no means alike. Many students liked the slightly deaf Orpha Everett (she had “a profound regard for her students, and was proud of their success”). Using the established pedagogy of her time, Everett refused to allow picture drawing on the children’s slates and had the children learn by “reading around.” When Everett’s home was torn down years later, a book that had belonged to Tony was found among her keepsakes, perhaps a gift to her because of her influence.Richard S. Horne’s methods were more “scientific.” “We were not known by our names in his school, but by numbers,” Tony recalled. “My number was 12.” Horne’s regimen—and Tony’s attraction to the outdoors—apparently ended the boy’s formal schooling in early adolescence after several years at the primary level. He had, according to a family friend, been “going down and down until he left school” —probably a reference to Tony’s grades, attendance, or both.
Perhaps, however, the boy left school to help out the family. “The first indispensable necessities of the pioneer,” Tony later wrote, “are food to sustain his body [and] clothing with which to cover it.”Israel had entered into plural marriage before leaving Salt Lake City, and about the time that Tony left school, Israel brought Julia Hill and her child, Julia Ann, to St. George. The enlarged household meant even more chores to do, including driving to the canyons for kindling, chopping wood for the family stove, and milking the cows. Tony’s chores also included driving the cows to pasture each morning and bringing them back in the evening. It was a task that the boy completed on foot only until he could go on horseback: “From the time that my legs were long enough to reach across the back of a horse I was in the saddle.”
Herding was a job that left the boys unsupervised, and sometimes the result turned out badly. “Our herd boys are studying all kinds of vice, nearly without exception,” one concerned bishop said in Salt Lake City. “If he herds three months, he is then a perfect rascal.”Tony used his freedom on the range to mix with the local Shivwit Indian boys, thus beginning a lifelong fascination with Native Americans. From them, he learned how to make an Indian “bow of beautiful proportions,” with arrows to match. According to Tony’s son, in later years his father would sit before a slowly smoldering fire, “thrusting a crooked squaw bush branch in and out of the hot ashes” before it straightened. Then, using “the sinew from the loins of a venison and feathers from the wing of a hawk,” he attached feathers to the arrow. Tony’s “Indian skills” involved more than manufacturing. It was said that he learned to outshoot many of his Shivwit tutors and that he used his bow to hunt rabbits and quail for the family’s table, sometimes with enough left over for neighbors.
Tony was equally adept with a gun. According to a memory he related late in life, he had done well while still a young man on his first “official” hunting trip—an excursion with his father and his uncle Anthony Ivins. After his father had flushed two deer from a ravine, Tony and Uncle Anthony fired at the same time, and the first deer went down. Believing he had killed the animal, Uncle Anthony allowed the boy to shoot the second. But Tony had no question about his marksmanship and insisted that he had killed both. The ensuing dispute was settled by a study of the animals. Since the two hunters’ shotguns used different gauges and different shot, young Tony was able to verify his success.
We have another testament to Tony’s skill—from no less than the showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody was escorting a party of English investors into the Arizona Strip, south of St. George, and hired Tony as one of his guides (fig. 6). After watching his skill with a bow and a rifle, the showman challenged Tony to shoot a silver dollar out of Cody’s hand at thirty feet. Tony did just that, and Cody, impressed with his aim and no doubt relieved because of it, offered him a job on the spot with the Wild West Show.While Cody’s invitation, which was declined, took place after Tony reached manhood, Tony’s skills originated in his youthful activities.
Tony and Cousin Heber J. Grant
A staple of Tony’s early days was visiting with his mother’s sister Rachel Grant, the widow of Jedediah M. Grant, and with her son Heber (fig. 7). The Grants made frequent visits to the Ivinses’ home, and the Ivins family reciprocated. Young Heber remembered especially the first time he and his mother went to St. George during the fall and winter of 1865–66. Tony, himself, drove them. For twelve-and-a-half days, the seasoned and self-assured thirteen-year-old navigated the “wonderfully bad roads.” The citified Heber, raised in Mormonism’s Salt Lake City, was in awe. “I looked upon him at that time as a man,” Heber recalled, “and he did a man’s work.” Not only could Tony manage a team and wagon, but upon reaching St. George, he and Heber went to the canyon to gather wood, which Tony then bundled and transported home.
More than a Dixie rural culture divided the two boys. Tony was four years older than Heber, and both of the boys, by personality, were “very positive characters.” As a result, the two often disagreed, and Anna and Rachel had to intervene to prevent the “flow of gore.”Amid the conflicts, the two sisters retained their serenity. They agreed the boys were both “leading spirits” who naturally wanted to be “boss.” They also assumed that their sons would outgrow their quarrels, which one incident may have helped along. When a man declared Heber a “sissy and no good” (city boys may not have been warmly received in St. George), Tony stood up for his cousin. “Take that back, or you’ll get a good licking,” Tony said, as he knocked the man down and offered him more. It was not the last time that Tony bloodied a nose, for, according to Heber, he “had no modesty about hitting back.”
By the age of eighteen, perhaps because of such events, Heber was taking another look at Tony and was impressed. In fact, he questioned if he measured up to Tony’s standard. “It was just as natural for me to play second fiddle, figuratively speaking, to the superior judgment of my dear cousin as it was to eat,” Heber said of this stage of their relationship.But the admiration was not one-sided. As the men grew older, their respect became mutual and deepened, and in time they became confidants and best friends.
Tony the Outdoorsman
The 1860s were a time when boys in their middle teens were often at work. But the St. George economy offered few chances for a youth like Tony to find employment. One study found that less than ten percent of the Dixie boys between the ages of ten and fourteen had jobs. Even when the young men reached their late teens, almost half remained unemployed.With jobs hard to find, the teenager worked in the Pine Valley lumber camps, about thirty miles to the north. Still more wide-ranging, he became a teamster, running freight from Salt Lake City and doing at least one circuit into Montana. The profession had a way of toughening a driver, and Tony, at the very least, learned to be plainspoken and bold.
He remembered a run-in with a fellow driver, who carried a double-barrel shotgun to enforce his rule of the road. “He never was without it, and he was a terror wherever he went,” said Tony, who explained the incident in some detail:
One day, when I was pulling up a grade, in the mud, after a rain storm, I saw the ears of his big mules flopping over the top of the hill, and when he came in sight about the first thing I noticed was the shotgun. . . . The etiquette of the road required him to turn out, [but] when our teams came close together [and] stopped[, h]e looked at me . . . and said, “Young man, are you going to get out and give me the road?” I said, “I can’t very well get out.” He said, “Do you know what I will do, if you don’t?” “No sir,” I said, “I don’t know . . . [but] if you will just pull your mules’ heads around a little, I will make my horses pull . . . out of the road if they can.”
Tony’s idea was a compromise, and each of the drivers gave up a part of the road in order for their wagons to pass. Later, the shotgun-toting teamster praised the steel-nerved, soft-spoken teenager, who had refused to be bullied and who had talked him into a draw.
The outdoor, athletic life—the life of the rugged sportsman of the frontier West—was later celebrated in U.S. culture, both in nonfiction such as Theodore Roosevelt’s Hunting Trips of a Ranchman (1886) and in fiction such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) and Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage (1912). Tony Ivins might well have been the prototype of these western heroes. His bow shooting, his rifle shooting, his herding, and his driving as a teamster were only the beginning. The young man boxed. He fished. He rode the range. As he grew older, he became a lawman and an expert stockman. Departing from his usual western ways, he was also the captain of his local baseball team. In Tony’s time, baseball was a hardy game without softening body pads, masks, shin guards, and mitts and gloves.
There seemed something primordial or latent deep within him that called him to an active life; it just required an event or person to call it forth. When only five or six years of age, he watched his father mold bullets for the Utah War and later return shoeless and ragged from his duty in the canyon. “How it inspired me with a desire to bear arms and learn their use,” he said.He remembered walking with his father to the family field in Salt Lake City and hearing about the New Jersey Ivinses’ “fine horses and hounds.” Such times also allowed him to hear about his father’s experiences as an expert shot, hunter, and fisherman. “I naturally, at a very early age formed a strong attachment for dogs and horses, and the out of doors,” he said. After watching Elder Wilford Woodruff catch a basket of fish on the Jordan River (Tony, casting beside him, got only an occasional bite), he was convinced that fishing was an art that needed to be learned.
When Tony traveled to St. George in 1861, there were similar epiphanies. He watched his father shoot a greenhead mallard as it flew overhead. This “wonderful” event left him with “an almost uncontrol[l]able desire to be able to do a similar thing.” While just outside of Fillmore, he watched James Andrus spur his mount into the herd of horses and cast a lariat over the head of one of the animals. “I marveled that it could be done, and my admiration for the man who could accomplish such a feat was boundless.” Although Tony later became “something of an expert” with the lariat himself, he believed he never equaled Andrus’s technique.
The boy performed frontier tasks and by most accounts he did them well. His St. George neighbor and future wife, Elizabeth Snow, probably little exaggerated when she said that Tony “always carried off the honors in everything he did. He won all the prizes.”Another St. George citizen, Harold Bentley, called him “the top hunter and the top fisher. . . . He was good at everything.” However, Tony did not simply master the routines of frontier life; frontier life and especially his cowboy friends helped to make him what he became. “They were men of few words, these silent riders of the hills and plains,” he recounted. They were
men of unsurpassed courage, but with hearts as tender as the hearts of women where acts of mercy and service were required, as often was the case. Profoundly religious, they held in reverential respect the religion of others. Not many audible prayers were said by them, but when the day’s work was finished and the blankets spread down for the night, many silent petitions went up to the Throne of Grace in gratitude for blessings received.
It was the example and teaching of such men . . . which left indelible impressions upon my mind. . . . These are some of the characteristics of this pioneer man which I so much admired. . . . He knew that other men found the Lord in temples built with hands just as he felt him near, here under the stars. . . . He was not a Pharisee, who magnified the faults of his fellowmen while blind to his own shortcomings, but one who, acknowledging his own imperfections, spread the mantle of charity over those of his neighbor.
Tony the Scholar
Other influences worked on the young man, too. Like his mother and especially his father, from whom he learned so much, he became “an avid reader of all books available,” notwithstanding his poor showing as a student in school.Practicing frontier self-learning, Tony carried books in his saddlebags and read whenever he could, as he fished, rode his horse, or drove a team. He liked travel books, American history and law, and books dealing with Native Americans. He also mentioned reading William Prescott’s six volumes on the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Peru. He later claimed that there was no mountain he had not climbed, no important river he had failed to cross, and no country he had not visited—all in books. This proxy touring was aided by his exceptional memory.
Nor was his bent for reading and culture solitary. In 1873, when twenty years old, Tony became a member of St. George’s Young Men’s Historical Club. Like youth self-help culture clubs elsewhere in the United States and in Mormon country (Salt Lake City’s more famous Wasatch Literary Society was not organized until 1874), the St. George group was started and run by the youth themselves and had a written constitution and bylaws. It met at the Fourth Ward social house on Friday evenings (later changed to Wednesday), devoted itself to debate and recitations, and issued a biweekly newspaper called the Debater. A “great blessing to all the members who attend,” was how the St. George Enterprise described the club. “Their efforts are praiseworthy.”
At its peak, the Historical Club had twenty-five members, and it could have had more if the serious-minded young men had not precluded women—ladies were invited only to socials. Two weeks after joining, Tony and his partner successfully debated the resolution “water has done more damage to Dixie than fire.”In later meetings, he delivered recitations (Catiline’s “Defense” and William Pitt’s reply to Sir Robert Walpole); readings (excerpts from Mark Twain’s Roughing It and Joseph Smith’s “History”); and lectures (topics included “the Pacific Slope,” “Mormon History,” “Scottish History,” and “the life and travels of Parley P. Pratt”). This was ambitious fare for a rural St. George youth, but Tony must have found the activities compelling. In addition to the club’s usual activities, he took time to edit the Debater. He also served several times as the club’s president.
About the same time as he was a member in the Historical Club, Tony joined the St. George Dramatic Association (fig. 8). With the exception of dancing, no recreation was more a part of Mormon village life than drama, which in St. George began almost from the outset of settlement. Tony’s sister, Caddie Ivins, was among the first troupe of players; she created a sensation by appearing in the title role of The Eton Boy—in trousers. When Tony joined the company almost a decade later as a young man, some said that his motives had less to do with theater than with the handsome daughters of Southern Utah Mission President Erastus Snow, also players. Moreover, it was claimed that the young man was usually at his best when playing opposite one of them. Whatever his original motives, Tony became stagestruck. In later years, he became one of St. George’s leading actors and a manager of its dramatic society.
Tony and Testimony
Tony’s participation in the Historical Club and the Dramatic Society suggest that as he began young manhood he had taken another path from that of some of his contemporaries. One of his closest friends—a neighbor and schoolmate—also had become a teamster. This young man found work in the mining town of Silver Reef, “learned to swear,” and followed the rough life of his teamster brothers—“two of the most profane men I ever knew,” said Tony. In effect, the three brothers exchanged Mormon St. George for the surrounding “wild and lawless” mining frontier, and because of this decision, the body of one of the three was later returned to the village for burial. He had been killed in a scrap with another man. Less dramatic was the life of another of Tony’s friends. Tony and the boy grew up together, and for a time their interests were identical. “There was nothing wild nor rough in his character,” Tony recalled. “We traveled together, we rode the range together; we went out for days and sometimes weeks together, sleeping under the same blankets.” Yet, as Tony’s religious faith began to mature, the other boy had no similar interest in the religion of his father and mother.
Tony gave few details about his stirring religious feeling. None of his recorded memories speak of “going to meeting” as a young boy. Presumably, he did. In 1868, his mother, Anna, was called as the first president of the Relief Society in St. George, and she served for almost two decades in various Relief Society leadership positions.Because of these activities and because of her unusual personality, she became one of the leading ladies in St. George, and Tony, a dutiful son, would have been expected to attend his meetings.
However, when Tony recalled the early spiritual events in his life, he talked less about church routines and more about the nurture of his neighbors. “These [tillers of the soil and silent riders of the hills and plains] were my teachers, the guardians of my youth,” he recalled. “They taught me, both by precept and example, that I must defraud no man, though the thing may be small. They taught me the fundamentals of integrity, industry, and economy. . . . This is the heritage which the ‘Mormon’ Pioneers bequeathed to me, and all others who would receive their teaching.”In still another passage, he spoke of the “Saints of Christ” as “just simple folk . . . who are clothed in frailties, . . . but who are striving to overcome and thank the Lord are doing it.” For Tony, to be a part of this community and to do his daily duty was a “grand calling.”
The elders of St. George must have known Tony well. The home of Anna and Israel was on the southwest corner of First West and Second North Streets, two blocks from the residence of community leader Erastus Snow and an equal distance from the center of the town. The center square was where the Saints gathered for their dances and meetings and where they would build their tabernacle. Proximity seems to have worn well: Church leaders called the young man to a series of Church priesthood offices at an unusually early age. He was ordained an elder at thirteen years of age and a seventy shortly before he turned seventeen.
Three weeks after Tony’s nineteenth birthday, Patriarch William G. Perkins gave the young man a patriarchal blessing.Being admitted to the Mormon lay priesthood and receiving a prophetic blessing about his future sobered Tony. In a “modest sense,” these experiences made him feel a part of the Church, and he concluded that “he could not talk as he had talked before” and that he should now “submerge himself in the Church” and prepare for the future. Accordingly, he began to pray and to read the scriptures and Church books. He even sought to convert a wayward chum. Full of religious feeling, he now understood that in the past he “had not been as careful to seek the Lord and honor him as I should have been.”
As the boy came of age, his father was often away surveying. Israel laid out several locations in southeast Nevada and southern Idaho, and after the passage of the homestead and preemption laws, he also completed a new survey of land near Salt Lake City.Then in the early 1870s, peripatetic Israel sought his bonanza in northern Utah’s mines. These activities lessened his profile in St. George and seemed also to reduce his role in Tony’s life. In contrast, Anna’s influence remained constant and perhaps increased. “She was a woman of remarkable character, kind, charitable, slow to anger and never speaking evil of anyone,” Tony said. “She had lived in plurality of wives, under very trying circumstances, but I never heard a word of complaint, never heard her speak an unkind word to a man[,] woman[,] or child . . . and all who were acquainted with her loved her.” Tony’s mention of plurality broke a family taboo. While Israel’s two families lived in the same small St. George home, the physical arrangement did not translate into close family ties. For some reason, he and his mother seldom spoke or wrote of Julia or her children.
By the time Tony reached his early twenties, much of what he was to become was in place. He stood 5’10” and weighed a wiry 160 pounds.His finely etched features suggested his northern Europe ancestors: thin eyebrows, a narrow nose, precise lips, blue eyes. He was a handsome man. However, beneath his genteel exterior, a toughness mixed with an easy-going manner. This combination of strength and grace made people like him. They recalled the “thrill” of watching him maneuver a horse at the roundups, the manner in which he carried a gun on a hunt, or his presence on the judges’ stand at the racetrack. As one of his contemporaries recalled, “While yet a youth he had his horse races, his contests, his friendly rivalries,” yet he was known as “a square shooter, a real man. Most of the old-timers call[ed] him Tony.”
This, then, was the beginning of one of Dixie’s leading men. Through the influence of his parents and especially his mother, he inherited the Ivinses’ religious and social values, including the family’s sense of position: the Ivinses were used to being leaders. Moreover, Tony had talent. His future held many roles: missionary, lawman, Indian friend, actor, stage manager, husband and father, cattleman on the Kaibab Plateau, politician, attorney, prosecutor, assessor and collector, mayor, churchman, and delegate to Utah’s constitutional convention. Dixie’s son would promote roads, education, and water management. Finally, he would serve as the leader of his church’s Mexican colonies, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, and a counselor in the Church’s First Presidency (fig. 9).
In all these roles, the Mormon village and southern Utah frontier were never far away. The mature Anthony W. Ivins embodied such things as religion, community, and social conscience as well as such sturdy and time-tested values as courage, honesty, and independence. And despite his high-profile public roles, he remained an outdoorsman: the rifle, the fishing rod, and the fine horse continued to compel him. Looking back on his life and on all activities that had ensued, he understood the importance of the time and place of his youth. “My habits of life were, to a certain extent, forced upon me,” he said revealingly before his death. “From my childhood I have lived upon the frontier.”