|Boulder City History
by Roseanne Schoaff, Manager
Boulder Dam Hotel
Where Do We Go From Here...
Before there was the Hoover Dam or Lake Mead there was the small town of St. Thomas. Located between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, this small community was situated in the Moapa and Virgin Valleys near Overton; that is, before the federal government exercised eminent domain in support of the Boulder Canyon Project.
Boulder City Magazine®
| In January 1865, Mormon settlers migrated to what they believed to be Utah territory to establish a town rich in agriculture, mining, and a railroad freight center. 40 years later, the process of the federal government acquiring the small town’s land to create Lake Mead would become a 12 year mission, with the last day of the town’s existence becoming an historical story that would be told for decades into the future.
According to the writings of Elton Garrett, a Boulder City reporter, in 1926, 3 government appraisers were sent from Washington, D.C. to begin the process of determining the property value of the 266 individual tracts of land. Garrett also recorded how the appraisers spent months in the valley determining the land’s appraisal value to submit their findings to the Secretary of the Interior. Now, with the final appraisals submitted and approved, the owners of the property were compensated approximately $1,879 for each tract, and the process of flooding St. Thomas began.
With Uncle Sam having purchased the 68-year-old small town, the residents began the task of not only moving themselves, but also moving their dead loved ones. Garrett also tells the story of how it took Boulder City mortician, Howell C. Garrison, more than 3 weeks to oversee the removal of more than 87 graves. And on June 13, 1938, with the water lapping up to the doorstep, Rox Whitmore, St. Thomas’ postmaster, awoke to process his final day of letter cancellations and complete the closure of the post office. This would be the busiest day in the post office’s history with over 4,000 letter cancellations from people all over the nation desirous of having a memento from the “buried city” as it came to be known. Instead of Whitmore locking the post office doors as usual at 4:30 p.m., he simply stood outside the building and threw the cancellation stamp into the rising waters of Lake Mead. Then, loading himself into his rowboat, he rowed away into the sunset.
This buried city never really died though, as the residents for years would gather together in Overton for a town reunion. And with the currently receding waters of Lake Mead, this little town’s foundations are showing once again with archeologists and historians continuing to study and record its historical facts.
On behalf of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association.
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