St. George failed as a Western cotton capital

Published: Monday, April 26 2010 11:31 a.m. MDT

Brigham Young believed Utah's Dixie could be the Intermountain West's

solution to a cotton shortage created when the Civil War broke out in

1861 — hence the nickname.

Cotton never caught on as a cash crop in the

St. George area, but the area's mild winters and trademark red bluffs

created a refuge from the snow and provided a safe location for the

first LDS temple completed in Utah.

For more than a hundred years the area grew

gradually. An article in the Nov. 13, 1971, Church News commemorating

the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the St. George Temple

described the area like this: \"Today St. George is a thriving city of

some 9,000 persons, a stopping place between Salt Lake City and southern

California.\"

Not long after that, St. George began a

transformation into Utah's hottest retirement destination. Today the St.

George metropolitan area boasts a population of nearly 120,000 and

growing.

Throughout the years, Deseret News

photographers have taken many photos of the St. George area. Photo

researcher Ron Fox has uncovered many of these photos, which can be seen

now on the newspaper website at www.deseretnews.com.

An unidentified writer detailed the

community's founding in that 1971 edition of the Church News:\"In May 1861, President Brigham Young was visiting in the area, and

was in the little settlement of Tonaquint, which was to the south of the

present city of St. George.

\"As the great colonizer

looked northward up the valley, he said: 'There will yet be built

between those volcanic ridges a city with spires, towers and steeples,

with homes containing many inhabitants.'\"

Six months later, 390

families from Salt Lake were \"called\" to establish the \"Cotton Mission.\"

Selected for their different abilities, those early pioneers brought a

vast array of skills to the task of settling the area, and while the

cotton industry didn't thrive, the settlers did.

The historic St. George

Tabernacle, built in 1875 of native red sandstone, was 13 years in the

building and has been in continuous use since its basement was completed

in 1869, according to a story by correspondent Nelle S. Allen in the

May 12, 1988, Deseret News.

\"It was begun as a public

works project, to give employment in the new settlement. It was a trade

school for many young men who labored on it under the supervision of

skilled builders from Europe, Canada and the eastern United States. They

learned to be stone masons, carpenters, painters and artisans of all

kinds,\" Allen wrote.

The St. George Temple,

completed in 1877, was a study in pioneer ingenuity.The Nov. 13, 1971, Church News described how the foundation for the

temple was filled with black volcanic rock from nearby mountains.

\"An old cannon, one that was taken by

Napoleon for his siege of Moscow, and which had found its way out west,

was used as a piledriver,\" the article reads.

\"The cannon was filled with lead, a frame was

built with a pulley. The cannon, weighing several tons, was pulled to

the top of the frame by teams of horses and then it was dropped upon the

rock fill to solidify it into a strong base. It was reported that

Brigham Young told the workmen that when the cannon was dropped and it

bounced three times, then the foundation was solid enough.\"

Many Washington County residents were

victimized in the 1950s and '60s when the area received the brunt of the

fallout of above-ground nuclear testing in the Yucca Flats/Nevada Test

Site northwest of Las Vegas. Winds routinely carried the fallout of

these tests directly through St. George and southern Utah.

Nowadays, St. George is home to the 13th

largest marathon in the country and is a gateway to Utah's color

country.


E-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com

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