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


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


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

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

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