My Views of Utah

Historic St. George

Page Two

Photos taken Spring 2004

NOTE: A major reference for information on this page is "Utah's Dixie, the Cotton Mission," Utah State Historical Society, Edited by A. R. Mortensen, Reprinted from Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume XXIX, Number 3, July, 1961. © 1961, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Photos by Venita*

Scan of cotton mill

Before the 308 families were sent on the "Cotton Mission," smaller groups had already settled in the desert area and had shown that cotton and sugar cane could be sucessfully grown there. It appeared that the production of cotton might not only be a benefit to the Mormon exiles, but might also be exported to the states along the Mississippi River and to California. The crop of 1863 produced such a surplus that 74,000 pounds was hauled back to the states. In 1864 the crop was smaller, but there was enough surplus to send 11,000 pounds to California. It was clear that a local mill was needed.

A place was chosen in Washington, a village about five miles east of St. George where there was water available to power the mill machinery. The mill was ready for production of cotton cloth in 1867. By 1870 a second story was added to the building and machinery was installed to produce woolen cloth and a woolen/cotton blend. The future was bright for the largest mill west of the Mississippi River. (The photo above was taken in about 1870 when the mill was at its height of production. (Ibid, p. 23)Cotton Mill

With the end of the Civil War, cotton production resumed in the southern states . The Dixie mill couldn't compete economically with the much larger companies to the east. Weather and labor problems added more challenges. The mill closed and re-opened several times until it 1910 when it finally closed for the last time.

The building has been restored as a historical site and is now used by a landscape business.

Temple under construction

Above: On a day in late 1870, Brigham Young met with the leaders of the Cotton Mission at the home of Erastus Snow. He asked them what they thought of the idea of building a temple there. The men were enthusiastic in their support of the idea. Snow and others immediately began exploring the area for the needed materials and designed roadways to their sources. Groundbreaking took place on November 9, 1871 at the site chosen by President Young. The building was to be 142 feet by 96 feet on the outside. (Photo: Ibid, p.50)


Above: While excavating for the foundation of the temple it was discovered that the soil was wet and soft just a few feet down. Drains were dug and lined with rock and, following Pres. Young's instructions, readily available volcanic rock was pounded into the soft ground to create a firm foundation. The pile driver was a cannon (shown above) which was filled with lead, wrapped around with rawhide, and fitted into a hoist. It was then raised and dropped by ropes and pulleys powered by a harnessed horse. The cannon now hangs over a sample of lava in an honored spot on the temple grounds.


Above: The temple was built of red sandstone quarried from the mountains north of town. Later it was covered with plaster and painted white so that it stands "like an iceberg in a desert." (Ibid, p. 63) All of the interior and exterior work was done by local craftsmen and those from the surrounding communities. It was finished and dedicated on April 6, 1877, nearly fifteen years before the Salt Lake Temple. It remains the oldest LDS Temple still in use today.

When Brigham Young first saw the completed temple he complained that the tower was wrong. Shortly after the dedication, he died. Not long after that, a bolt of lightning hit the temple and burned away a portion of the tower. It was rebuilt to "Brother Brigham's" specifications.

Woodward School

Above: Education and culture have been an important part of Mormon society from the beginning. "Before there were houses in St. George there were schools. The first of these was held in a wagon box while they were still camped on the 'dobe yard, then came the tent, then the willow huts and finally the adobe ward schoolhouses. Sometimes...the classes met on the ditch banks under the cottonwood trees." (Ibid, p. 66)

The Woodward School was built in 1901 for students in first through eighth grade. It was named for George Woodward, chairman of the School Board and generous contributor. Last used as a school in about 2001, the building has recently been restored by the Historic Preservation committee. (The Tabernacle can be seen behind the school.)

Dixie Academy

Above: "Dixie Academy was constructed to provide advanced courses of study. The St. George Stake Academy officially began in 1888 and moved into this building in 1911. A four year program was recognized as two years of Senior High and two years of College. The college program grew into the institution known as Dixie Jr. College and eventually Dixie College." (Quote from the plaque in front of the building.) The building is now the St. George Arts Center.

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*Unless otherwise noted, all photos on this website were taken by Venita, who also holds the copyright. Should you wish to download any of them for any reason (other than your own enjoyment), please credit  Venita  as the photographer and add my URL:

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