Since Mesquite is one of the Nevada communities where my articles are sent, I have decided to write an article about this historical Southern Nevada community.
It has been said that the third time is a charm. That’s just the way it was for the proud families who fought to create a life for themselves in a place called Mesquite Flats. Between 1878 and 1882, 15 families and a total of 71 people had moved to Mesquite and were successfully farming the area. The lifeblood of this high desert community was the Virgin River. However, a heavy rainstorm at any time of the year can turn the Virgin River into a raging torrent. Those first settlers found this out in June 1882 when six miles of irrigation canals were broken in 50 places by torrents of the afternoon thunderstorms. For a community dependent on this canal, it was a devastating loss.
Work began immediately to repair the damage, but it was not long until the river had forced everyone out. In 1887, Dudley Leavitt with his wives and children tried to settle Mesquite Flats again. After a four-year struggle against the elements they, too, were forced to leave. When I was an employee of the Nevada Department of Transportation, I knew some members of the predominately Mormon Leavitt family who worked for NDOT.
Finally, in 1894, hearty pioneers attempted a third time to tame Mesquite Flats. Six young families from Bunkerville rebuilt the canal and established themselves permanently along the bank of the Virgin River. In 1898, the town changed its name from Mesquite Flats to Mesquite. Farming has taken place in Mesquite for over 100 years. Success of agricultural development in Mesquite is the result of the Virgin River and the innovative irrigation system created by the early settlers to water their crops. In 1894 many crops were planted in Mesquite. These crops were cotton, grapes, alfalfa, wheat, and cane. Also, pomegranates and figs were planted and produced very well. For a time, cotton and raisins were the main cash crops in the community. For much of the late 20th century dairies dominated the landscape. At one time there were five dairies in Mesquite.
As the automobile grew in popularity, Mesquite entrepreneurs opened motels and campgrounds for travelers and tourists. Tourists increased the demand for agricultural products, such as milk and eggs, and surpluses soon made their way to markets in Las Vegas. The old rock house was among the first dwellings built when Mesquite Flats was originally settled in 1880. This lone surviving home of the original town is an example of the rugged existence of those early days on Mesquite Flats. The house was made by stacking rocks on top of each other and filled in with clay and sand mortar. The walls were 20 inches thick in places depending on the size of rocks. This helped insulate from outside temperatures especially during the extreme heat of summer
In the 130-plus years of existence the rock house has been changed, remodeled, and added to several times. Each family that has occupied it has attempted to make it more comfortable and accommodating for their needs, but the basic structure is still clearly visible. The old rock house is now owned by the City of Mesquite and is kept as a tribute to those hardy early settlers. Over the years the small pioneer town of Mesquite has grown and changed. With all of the advancement, it is now a thriving community. Visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided walking tour of the community.
Visit the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum to learn more and to experience a taste of the rich pioneer heritage that makes up this great city. The museum is located at 35 W. Mesquite Blvd. and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com