Sitting in front of the fireplace at my in-law’s this evening, I began chatting with my wife’s 93-year-old grandmother about her life growing up in San Juan County, Utah. She began by telling me again about the hole-in-the-rockers, the original Mormon settlers of the Bluff, Blanding, and Monticello region in southeastern Utah who had hacked their way through the desert in one of the most incredible colonization missions in Western history. Her family were Perkins, who came with the first group to come through the Hole-in-the-Rock trail. Her husband’s family were Youngs, however; descendants of John R. Young, nephew of Brigham Young. During the polygamy raids and federal harassment of the late 19th-century, John R. and clan moved from Orderville down to the Old Mexico colonies and settled mostly in or near Pacheco. In 1909 or thereabouts the group left the Mexico colonies, due mainly to the Mexican Revolution. They settled in Blanding among the already established Hole-in-the-Rockers.
Both groups had historic Mormon heritage. Both groups had sacrificed greatly–either by fleeing the country and braving the desert to keep alive the principle, or by hacking out a grueling trail and a colony in the arid desert in response to a call from the prophet. Interestingly, when the Pachecoites, as the Old Mexico colonists came to be called, settled amongst the Hole-in-the-Rockers, who had (or whose ancestors had) carved their way into the valley, there began to develop somewhat of a class distinction between the two: the Hole-in-the-Rockers as the established colonists and the Pachecoites as the newcomers.
There was never any real serious tension between the two groups, and, as my wife’s grandma’s own life attests, there were plenty of young Romeos and Juliets to bridge any lingering clannishness. (She said she wasn’t even aware of it until after they were married and moved from Monticello to Blanding where she began to see traces of it, even learning that one of her husband’s friends–a Pachecoite–wagered a Stetson hat that he couldn’t get that Perkins girl–a Hole-in-the-Rocker–to marry him.) But I find it nonetheless a fascinating dynamic–the class tension that could occur when even such an elite group of Mormon bluebloods as the Pachecoites were moved into a new colony and encountered an already established elite, subsequently inheriting, even if only mildly so, a somewhat relegated status (at least in the perceptions of some few) to the original inhabitants who had carved the colony out of the sandstone.