George, the county seat of Washington County, is the largest
of all the towns founded during the LDS Church's Cotton
Mission of 1861. Located in the southwest section of Utah
at an elevation of 2,880 feet above sea level, St. George
has an average annual temperature of 59.9° F with summer
temperatures well into the 100s and the average maximum
winter temperature around 55° F. The average annual rainfall
is 8.30 inches, and the normal growing season is 196 days.
All these factors made the area a suitable location for
the early settlement.
Earlier Native American inhabitants of the St. George
area included the Virgin River Anasazi, who left evidence
of their presence in the rock art and archaeological sites
that remain. The first recorded Euro-Americans to visit
the area were the Dominguez-Escalante Party in 1776; they
were followed by fur trappers, including Jedediah Smith,
and still later by government survey parties.
By 1854 the LDS Church had established an Indian mission
at Santa Clara, two miles north of the St. George Valley.
In 1857 and 1858 experimental farms were set up to the
east and west of where St. George was to be built. While
touring the experimental desert farms in May 1861, Brigham
Young predicted the settling of the area. Five months
later, in October 1861, 309 families were called by church
authorities to the what was called the Cotton Mission.
Most of those sent had abilities that were deemed essential
to establishing a successful community.
the Civil War broke out in 1861, Brigham Young thought
it would be necessary to raise cotton, if possible. Many
of the early settlers of St. George originally came from
the southern states. They came to the "Cotton Mission"
to grow cotton, but they also brought with them a phrase
for the area which has become widely adopted--they called
the St. George area "Utah's Dixie."
St. George itself was named in honor of George A. Smith,
who, although he did not participate in the town's settlement,
had personally selected most of the company of the pioneers
of 1861. The first years in the new outpost were difficult.
Great rainstorms almost destroyed the farmlands, and intense
summer heat and lack of culinary water made life far from