The deed to historic Cove Fort, the only pioneer Utah fortress still standing, will be presented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a noon ceremony Aug. 13 at the fort.
The stone fort, located next to U.S. Highway 91 in Millard County near the I-15 and I-70 interchange, was built in 1867 by Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, then of Coalville. Hinckley was given the assignment by Brigham Young, who had been the first governor of the territory and was then serving as church president.The property has changed hands over the years, but descendants of Ira Hinckley recently organized the Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation and acquired the fort and 11 surrounding acres with water rights, all to be deeded to the church.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, is expected to represent the church at the ceremony. His grandfather built the fort and his father, Bryan S. Hinckley, spent his boyhood years there.
A brief program will include remarks by President Hinckley, other representatives of the family and state officials. Members of the Utah National Guard will be on hand to post the colors and music will be provided by a choir composed of Ira Hinckley descendants.
Arza A. Hinckley, speaking for the foundation, said that Brigham Young very early decided on a policy of feeding rather than fighting the Indians. Nevertheless, as settlements spread from the Great Salt Lake Valley, it was deemed desirable to build forts for protection in many of the outlying colonies.
In a letter to Ira Hinckley, dated April 12, 1867, Brigham Young told the young colonizer: "We wish to get a good and suitable person to settle and take charge of the church ranches at Cove Creek Millard County. Your name has been suggested for this position, as it is some distance from any other settlement, a man of sound practical judgment and experience is needed to fill the place."
In the letter, the church leader said one of the reasons the fort needed to be built was "to afford protection from Indians to the Telegraph and mail stations and to the travelers . . . "
The concern over the potential indian threat was reasonable - U.S. 91 was known in the early days as the Arrowhead Trial - even though the fort never suffered an attack.
The Cove Fort location, on Cove Creek, was ideally situated between Fillmore on the north and Beaver on the south, which were two days apart back then. It became a welcome sight for travelers, as well as a mail and telegraph station.
For a decade after the fort was built, Ira Hinckley managed it and raised his family there. The church maintained ownership until the early 1900s when then President Joseph F. Smith sold the property, which had grown to several hundred acres, to the William H. Kesler family. The fort for many years continued to be a major way station and hostelry between Salt Lake City and St. George and Los Angeles.
Each of the four walls is 100 feet long and 18 feet high from the foundation. A gateway on the east is 14 feet wide, and there is a smaller one on the west.
Among other early Utah forts were those built in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Vernal, Union, Tooele, Grantsville, Clover, Springville, Mount Pleasant, Deseret, Cedar, Paragonah, Enoch, and Harmony. Only Cove Fort remains.