A farmstead was established along with a station on the Deseret Telegraph line to connect this remote location with other Mormon settlements. This was the first telegraph office in Arizona territory. From 1871 to 1879 the ranch prospered. They managed for a while, making bimonthly deliveries of butter, cheese, and cattle to St. George, Utah to feed the workers building a new Mormon temple there, but drought and overgrazing eventually damaged the range. Although no longer able to support the large tithing herd - 2,000 head of cattle in 1879 - Pipe Spring continued to serve as a church ranch and way station.
The remote fort at Pipe Spring became a hideout for polygamous wives. Federal laws made polygamy a felony. Several men hid their "plural" wives at Pipe Spring to avoid detection by federal marshals. In 1895, faced with confiscation of church property under anti-polygamy laws, the Mormon church sold Pipe Spring ranch. Its doors remained open to travelers - cowboys, traders, salesmen, and neighbors.
Mormons also found themselves in a difficult predicament regarding the Spanish-Indian slave trade and their own religious views of Indians. Having heard stories of Indian slave children being killed by their captors if not purchased, Mormons took to buying them. The Mormons justified the purchase a and holding of Indians by defining the practice as "indentured servitude" rather than slavery. The Utah Territorial Legislature authorized indentured servitude when it enacted "An Act for the Relief of Indian Slaves and Prisoners" in 1852. This legalized the possession of an Indian by a "suitable person ... to raise, or retain and educate ... for the term of not exceeding twenty years."
The Kaibab Band of Paiutes continued to face starvation and continued to struggle to survive as new settlements displaced them from their traditional lands, and as overgrazing by livestock reduced their native foods. The Kaibab Indian Reservation, formed in 1907, returned a small portion of their traditional lands. Pipe Spring remained a private ranch, surrounded by the reservation.