St. George, Utah Area Early Settlers and History
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) came west in 1847 and settled in the Salt Lake Valley. Their leader, Brigham Young, was interested in establishing a trade route to the Pacific Ocean and developed settlements along this route where travelers could obtain food, water and other needed supplies. This route roughly follows parts of Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City.
One of the key players in the settlement of St. George and southern territory was Jacob Hamblin. Born in Ohio 1819, Jacob joined the Mormon church in 1842 and followed the saints West to Salt Lake City. In 1854 Brigham Young assigned Jacob to be a missionary to the Indians in the southern parts of the territory. He was considered a great friend by the Indians because of his great integrity, and was heavily involved in keeping the peace between settlers and Native Americans.
Why Do They Call Southwestern Utah “Dixie”?
During the civil war it was nearly impossible to obtain cotton from the southern states and in 1861, Brigham Young sent 309 families to the St. George area with the express purpose of growing cotton (to sell to the northern troops) and other products conducive to the climate. Many of these early settlers were from America’s southern states and the area soon became know as “Dixie” because of its inhabitants, location, climate and agricultural products. Cotton, silk, dried fruit, molasses, and pecans were just some of the many products produced in the area.
The Utah territory was officially declared a state of the United States in 1896 and the St. George area is still widely known as “Utah’s Dixie”.
Life in this arid climate was very difficult for the early pioneers. With intense summer heat and just a few inches of annual rainfall, farming was a difficult endeavor at best. Unusually heavy rains or flash floods often destroyed crops and buildings, but the settlers persevered and began to build cities, most of which are still inhabited today.