WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
WILLIAM & RACHEL ATKIN FAMILY
(early pioneers, butcher, stonemason, rancher)
BIOGRAPHYWilliam was born in Empingham, Rutlandshire, England.
Rachel was born in Barrowden, Rutlandshire, England.
While in England, Rachel joined the Mormon Church on 4/25/1849 and independently, William on 9/12/1852. They were both part of the Leicestershire Conference (similar to a Stake), he in the Empingham Branch and she in the Barrowden Branch. They undoubtedly met at church functions and eventually married on 12/18/1854.
In 1855 (2/24/1855-4/20/1855), William & Rachel emigrated from Liverpool to Philadelphia on board the Siddons. They stayed in Pennsylvania for some time earning money to make the trip west.
They were also delayed by The Utah War during which emigration to Utah was curtailed.
William, Rachel, and their first two children crossed the plains with the Eighth Handcart Company consisting initially of about 235 Saints and led by George Rowley. On 6/9/1859, they left Florence (Council Bluffs) Nebraska. The company suffered the trials and tribulations that were common among the immigrants of that period. At Green River, they left the handcart company to work at a government fort and replenish their supplies for the final leg of their journey. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 11/10/1859, two months behind the rest of the Rowley Company.
They lived in Salt Lake from 1859 to 1868. William worked as a laborer and earned enough money to buy a vacant lot on the northeast corner of 300 South and 800 East. He then subdivided the lot and built several homes there. The Atkins lived in one of the houses and rented out the others. William opened a butcher shop near his new home as another source of income. Apparently he also worked as a policeman and spent some time as a bodyguard to Brigham Young. He learned the stonemason trade and spent his final year in Salt Lake as a road supervisor.
At the Church's General Conference on 10/8/1868, 155 men (including William Atkin) and their families were called to serve missions in the "southern settlements" in Utah's Dixie. It was likely William was chosen because of his skills as a stonemason and the need for such men to help build the St. George Tabernacle. They sold their property, making them better off than most of the people in Dixie, and moved south.
The Atkin family initially settled in St. George. On February 3, 1869, William bought two lots from James Brinkerhoff for $650 (Plat A, Block 4, Lots 3 and 6 on the old pioneer map of St. George. There he built a crude home by stacking rectangular pieces of sod in a bricklike fashion. Although not ideal, that dwelling was sufficient for their first year in St. George. The following year, he replaced it with a 4-room adobe home.
William farmed to help provide for his family. The year after he arrived, he helped raise sugar cane for molasses at Cooper Bottom. On June 6, 1873, the Atkins purchased Lot 2, Block 3, Plat ? of the Heberville Town Survey, containing 24 rods of land. They farmed there over the next two years. Then he traded his interest in Heberville to a Brother Baker for 12 acres on land in the Santa Clara Fields.
The Atkins accepted the call to join the "United Order" on February 15, 1874. Along with a number of other families, they moved to Price City where they already owned land. They helped construct sheds, corrals, and a commual eating hall. They also helped plant 500 apple trees, 200 peach trees, and fields of alfalfa. They enjoyed unprecedented crop yields in 1874 despite flooding from the Virgin River. However, problems started to rise almost immediately and the movement only lasted a few seasons. On March 5, 1877, stockholders of the order met and decided to dissolve the St. George United Order.
William was called to work as a stonemason on the St. George Tabernacle and later (along with his son, William III) on the St. George Temple.
With the dedication of the Temple on April 6, 1877, the Atkins had fulfilled their mission call of 1868 and were free to leave St. George.
In 1877, William & Rachel moved their family and possessions from St. George to an uninhabited stretch of arable land on the east bank of the Virgin River, eight miles south of St. George. As they were the first ones there, the area became known as Atkinville. They owned about 160 acres on which they built a large limestone home and cultivated the surrounding soil. Since their property was on a bench above the Virgin River, yhey dug a 1.5 mile long ditch from upstream and dammed the river with brush and other objects to divert water into the ditch and onto their land. They were also fortunate to have a flowing spring on the north end of their property. Eventually, the ditch and spring accumulated and created a shallow pond on the property that attracted a menagerie of waterfowl and animals to claim the pond as their own.
Since the Atkin homestead was surrounding by wide-open spaces, William and his sons grazed their cattle and horses without having to worry about city restrictions or property lines. Their herds flourished on the lush grasses and sage in the spring and early summer, which yielded dry grass for feed in the fall and winter. Water was very scarce in Dixie and whoever controlled the water controlled the surrounding grazing. The Atkins eventually acquired rights to Lizard Springs, Upper and Lower Atkin Springs, Deer Springs, Quacking Asp Spring, Upper Pilot Springs, and Pilot Creek. At one point, a rancher and his nomadic sheep herd passed Atkinville on its way to Pearce's Ferry on the Colorado River. A few of the Atkin sons helped the rancher on return for a few sheep of their own. The boys returned from the Colorado River with a few sheep of their own plus a number of motherless lambs. From this start, they grew a herd of over 1700 sheep. They also expanded their summer grazing range to include the Bull Valley Mountains, about 50 miles northwest of St. George, and by 1890, to the free grazing areas atop Cedar Mountain. They also expanded their cattle business which was run by sons, Joseph and Henry, for many years. They bought the Sullivan Ranch located near the west end of Black Rock Mountain about 30 miles south of St. George from John Sullivan.
William was a temple worker from 1892 to 1900.
REFERENCES"From the Green Hills of England to the Red Hills of Dixie:
The Story of William and Rachel Thompson Atkin"
Book by Reid L. Neilson
with a Forward by Susan Easton Black
Atkin Family Historical Organization
Provo: Red Rock Publishing, 2000
See the information page.
William Atkin's 2-part autobiographical sketches appeared almost weekly in St. George's newspaper, The Union.
2/8/1896-5/7/1896 "A Youth's Experience"
5/14/1896-11/22/1896 "Handcart Experience"