Difficult Years

By 1902, after nine years of hard labor, work on the canal came to a standstill. During the previous two winters only a few men worked on the project. Many who started working on the canal lost faith and quit, forfeiting their labor credit. Some sold out their shares to others. By this time the less difficult work had been completed, and the canal was complete except for the last mile or two in the canyon, but this stretch required a thousand feet of solid rock tunnel. To finish, blasting powder and other specialized equipment would be needed. This would take money, lots of money, but there was no money available.

James Jepson was sent to Salt Lake City to meet with the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James was given authority to make any deal he needed, to secure the Church’s help to finish the project. James rode his horse to Lund where he boarded the train for Salt Lake City. He met with Church President Joseph F. Smith and told him his purpose in coming. President Smith asked James if he could stay overnight and present the case again in the morning at the regular weekly meeting with the Fist Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. At that meeting James told them that $15,000 dollars was needed to finish the project, but that if they would furnish $5,000 dollars cash to buy blasting supplies,they could finish the canal. When asked how they could it with $5,000 dollars when $15,000 was needed, James told them that $5,000 would buy all the necessary supplies and pay 25% of the labor costs. The rest of the labor would be paid with credit on the books towards property. James told them that when the people heard of the Church’s faith in the project, the psychological benefit would be equal to the money.

James made it clear to the Brethren that he was not asking for a donation, but asking them to invest in the canal by buying $5,000 worth of stock. With or without the Church’s help, they would finish the canal, he said, but if the Church didn’t help, they would have to go to money lenders back East for the money, and when the canal was finished it wouldn’t belong to the ones who had built it. He told them they could issue the money as the work progressed so that when the last payment was made, the canal would be finished. The Brethren were impressed with the determination and labors of the good saints in Southern Utah. They had done all they could and now they needed help. The Church could not deny them that help; they subscribed to $5,000 worth of stock. A letter to canal president Ira E. Bradshaw stated their approval and James called it the happiest moment of his life.

When news of the Church involvement came, a day of celebration and thanksgiving was held by the people of Southern Utah. News that the Church had faith int he project and had sent the money needed for blasting materials soon brought back those who had quit. Renewed faith in the project caused the canal to be finished in two winters and a summer. On August 6, 1904 a celebration was held at 200 North and 300 East in Hurricane, where a monument now stands dedicated to these canal builders


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