It was common for Latter-day Saints to be called to settle new area’s, however, what surprised William Bell was Heber City was already established. Why then was he being called there on a mission?
a. As a Walker War Minute man
c. Open a furniture shop
d. Ward Organist
Iosepa, an early settlement in Tooele County, Utah, was founded in 1889 and was one of the most unusual ventures of colonization in western United States history. Today, little remains of Iosepa to remind the casual observer of the historic role that this community once played. Pronounced “Yo-see-pa,” Iosepa was the Hawaiian equivalent for “Joseph,” named for Joseph F. Smith who served first in 1854 as a missionary in the Hawaiian Islands.
It had been the desire of some Hawaiian converts to come to Utah to “gather with the main body of the Church” and do temple work, and by 1889, about seventy-five of them had settled near Beck’s Hot Springs. But with customs in Utah so foreign to them, it was deemed necessary to relocate these saints to an area in Utah’s desert where they could obtain year-round employment and continue to enjoy their own unique culture.
After much contemplation, the ranch of John T. Rich in Skull Valley was selected and purchased by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and on August 26, 1889, fifty Hawaiians departed for the site that would be their home for the next twenty-eight years. There, they laid out a town in the shape of the State of Utah that included a town square and had straight, perpendicular streets with names like Wailulu, Laie, Waimea, and Pa’ahao.
After purchasing a sawmill from Edwin Booth, they began the construction of homes, a meetinghouse, a schoolhouse, and even a store. Their one-room school housed eight grades with as many as thirty-five students enrolled at one time, and they made other improvements on their small portion of “God’s brown acres.” They set up a post office, constructed concrete sidewalks, and brought in a telephone line. They also undertook a huge water project where five streams of water were collected in a reservoir that was used for swimming and irrigation. The crops they harvested were hay, beets, wheat, oats, barley, corn, potatoes, and squash.
Dramatic proof of their attachment to Iosepa surfaced in 1894 when the Hawaiian government twice offered free passage to all Hawaiians desiring to return to the islands. There were on takers of those most generous offers.
In 1899 a group was sent to Iosepa on Arbor Day to plant three hundred walnut trees, three hundred fruit trees, and one hundred ornamental trees—part of Brigham Young’s promise to make the desert “blossom like a rose.” The Hawaiians also planted lawns, flowers, grapevines, currants, and raspberries, and in 1911, Iosepa won the state’s prize as the “best-kept and most progressive city in Utah.” At its peak, Iosepa was home to 228 Hawaiians.
Unfortunately, Iosepa harsh climate took quite a toll on islanders used to mild sea breezes. Deaths in the community were from pneumonia, smallpox, diphtheria, childbirth, and heart attacks, and in 1896, a few were stricken with the dread leprosy. After being isolated from others in the community (about a mile and one-half from town), those infected would raise flags when something was needed. Relatives would then come to their aid. Although these saints were provided the best of medical care available at that time, all with leprosy had expired by the year 1900.
In 1915 when President Joseph F. Smith announced plans to build an LDS temple on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Church leaders encouraged the Hawaiian saints, with help from the Church, to return to their beloved homeland to aid in the building of the Hawaiian Temple and participate in its ordinances. By January of 1917, most of the Hawaiian families had made the decision to return to their native land.
Nevertheless, it was with mixed emotions that they left the area that had been their home for twenty-eight years. After the wagons were all loaded and they were ready to leave Iosepa, the women decided to walk the fifteen mile distance to the railroad at Timpie. With tear-streaked faces, they kept looking back while uttering, “Good-bye, Iosepa! Good-bye, Iosepa!”
Lesson Committee, Museum Memories-Daughters of Utah Pioneers, (Salt Lake City, Talon Printing, 2010), 2: 200-201.