We moved boondocking spots and found a doozy. It didn’t take very long so we had time to do a short hike out and around St. Thomas. Mormons founded St. Thomas in 1865. The thing is, they thought they were in Utah and in 1870 a land boundary survey determined they were actually in Nevada. Tax collectors demanded the settlers pay several years of back taxes. The townspeople turned to Brigham Young for advice and then voted to abandon St. Thomas. The Mormons burned down their homes, abandoned their crops and moved to Salt Lake City.
Never fear, the attractiveness of the area meant new settlers arrived shortly. The peak population of St. Thomas was around 500 people. There was a school, post office, grocery stores, church, soda fountain, and hotel. St. Thomas was a major stop along the Arrowhead Trail. This was the first designated automobile route between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles and brought a lot of travelers to town.
Life was good until the Boulder Dam Act of 1928 authorized the construction of the Hoover Dam meaning the end for St. Thomas. The residents of St. Thomas were told to relocate and that the government “reimbursed” them for their property. I’m not sure how fair the prices were. The filling of Lake Mead started in 1935 and as the waters rose, slowly the town was overtaken by the lake. Lake Mead inundated the valley and covered St. Thomas under 70 feet of water. 70! On June 11, 1938 the town officially ceased to exist.
Today the town is completely exposed and the lake is miles and miles away. We took the 2.5 mile walk down into the old town to check out the building remnants. Information sign boards dot the trail and have some pretty neat old time pictures of what the town looked like. The two story school looked like the most impressive building with four rooms, an auditorium and a place upstairs for plays and dances. The school only went through 8th grade so older students had to ride “the Churn” to a nearby town for school. Check out the picture of “the Churn”, what they called the bus. Pretty amusing.
Located throughout town, we say a bunch of cisterns for water. This allowed people to draw buckets of water for their daily use. Each cistern held several months’ supply of water which was filtered through charcoal and sand. A quote from one of the settlers talked about how the water was never clear no mater how much you filtered it. Oh the things we take for granted. Once a year the smallest member of a family was lowered down into the cistern to scrub the walls.