LDS Moapa Stake Office Building/Virmoa Maternity Hospital, Overton, Clark County
Mormon settlers built the LDS Moapa Stake Office Building/Virmoa Maternity Hospital as a concrete symbol of the Church's principals of community management. An administrative unit, called a "stake," oversees several geographically related groups of churches, called "wards." Each "stake" represents a stake in the tent of Zion, or the Promised Land.
The Moapa Valley, a dubious promised land, had sweltering summers and malaria, and the only water came from the aptly named Muddy River. But with irrigation the valley became extremely fertile. The first missionaries entered the valley on January 1, 1865. More settlers soon followed. They established a string of communities, including Overton, that became known jointly as the Muddy Mission.
The Mormons received an unpleasant shock when the 1870 boundary survey placed them in Nevada, not Utah. When Nevada demanded payment of back taxes, all but one Mormon family abandoned their homes and fields, returning to Utah. Ten years later, Mormons returned to reestablish several of their communities, including Overton, which was centrally located among the other settlements. Soon the area became a ward and, in 1912, a stake under President Willard L. Jones. Services were held in schoolhouses, but the Stake officers and High Council needed an office where they could meet and carry out church business.
Church members, donating their labor, constructed the Stake Office Building between 1917 and 1919, using locally made, split-faced, textured concrete block. The small vernacular building has no high style embellishments, but the concern for symmetry, with a central door flanked by four windows and a chimney at each end, implies a familiarity with Classical Revival aesthetics. For twenty years the building provided meeting space for the Moapa Stake High Council, and for genealogy classes and training workshops in both secular and spiritual management. A community-wide charity program that was run from the office distributed locally grown food to needy church members and non-church members alike; that service became especially important with the onset of the Great Depression. By 1939, when President Jones retired, most Stake officers lived in Las Vegas, and the administration transferred there.
In 1940, Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital leased the empty building. Following a Mormon folk custom of combining names, the Virmoa Maternity Hospital, named for the Virgin and Moapa Valleys whose communities it served, opened on January 9, 1941. The first baby was born on January 29. Previously women had traveled sixty-five miles to a hospital in Las Vegas or seventy-five miles to St. George, Utah. They also gave birth at home attended by a local doctor. In the 1960s, with a hospital now available in the nearby town of Mesquite, the Moapa building became first an auxiliary emergency unit, and then a monthly well-baby clinic.
In 1970, the building, again vacant with an uncertain future, became the headquarters of the local chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. To purchase the building, the Daughters conducted book and bake sales and quilt auctions, and marketed their book One Hundred Years on the Muddy. Today, these new stewards of the building, which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, use the Moapa Stake Office for meetings and as a museum of pioneer life.