Historic Sites


Saint George is the population and commercial center of Utah's Dixie, a nickname given to the area when Mormon pioneers grew cotton in the warm climate. St. George was founded as a cotton mission in the 1850s under the direction of Brigham Young, and for the time, as the current President and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) or LDS Church. Saint George is the population and commercial center of Utah's Dixie, a nickname given to the area when Mormon pioneers grew cotton in the warm climate. Settlement took place as part of a greater church effort to become self-sufficient. Today the area's population is about half LDS or Mormon. The newly rennovated St George historic district downtown reflects this early presence with the presence of the tabernacle, fine arts and other early educational buildings.

One of the first early buildings was a temple- and it definitely stands out in the center of the city. Part of LDS beliefs are that, that which is temporal (or of the earth) can combine and unite (with Christ's help and grace) with the heaven's, in a grand work, to include temple ordinances done for both the living and the dead. Mormons would use temples to answer difficult questions like, "If baptism is required to enter heaven, than what about those never having received the opportunity?" In temples all receive those ordinances by proxy, or in other words, in behalf of those who are now dead (1 Corinthians 15:29), whereby all have the opportunity to accept or reject those ordinances from the after-life, or rather, whether it be in life or in death that opportunity is there. They believe this proxy work is viable in Gods Kingdom, but only as underpinned by the grandest of all proxy work being done by Jesus Christ himself in taking upon himself not only all the sin of all, but all forms of human suffering whereby he might know how to succor his people in their need.

For more information see St George Temple- other theological underpinnings and a YouTube video with a couple Harvard religious professors comments.

Another unique belief is mentioned regarding early settling being done under the direction of Brigham Young a prophet. Mormons believe in modern prophets that are Gods connection to his people at large, to bear witness of Christ and to bring attention to covenant relationships involving God and fundamental ordinances to be performed. In April 1877, the LDS Church completed construction of the St. George Utah Temple, the Church's third temple and its first temple in the Rocky Mountains. Official Church Site

While the early settlers did manage to grow cotton, it was never produced at competitive market rates; consequently, cotton farming was eventually abandoned.

St. George was the location of the 1998 United States Academic Decathlon national finals.

The city began booming in the mid-1980s, first as a retirement hotspot and also as a touristgateway to Southern Utah's color country, and then as a transportation center. 

General Area History

Saint George has a strong sense of history, tracing back to its first residents in 200 BC. Historic buildings and archeological sites are well preserved and a great source of interest. Evidence of inhabitants from 200 BC can still be seen, as the area was well populated by Indians continuously through the arrival of the first Europeans in 1776. The Virgin River Anasazi (native American) inhabited the area, leaving evidence on rock formations in the area in the form of petroglyphs. There are many sites in the area that are accessible. The Dominguez-Escalante Party were in this area in 1776 - they explored the area and many of their trails are still marked.  Famous fur trader, Jedediah Smith, later visited the area.

Washington county was first visited by settlers in 1852, but it wasn't until the Mormons came in 1Original Cotton Mill
861 to start the Cotton Mission, that it really became a settlement. They particularly focused on agriculture. Because of the warm climate the agriculture produced and it took on the nickname "Dixie".  The first LDS (Mormon) Temple in the west was completed in 1877.The Mormons were a group of the time that sought shelter from early persecution and were kicked out of Missouri, having out of necessity to leave house and home to settle the west. A line of prophet leaders succeeded early founder, Joseph Smith, from which Mormons claim (Official Church Site) a restoration of the early Christian church from the time of Christ with apostles and prophets.

George A. Smith picked 309 families for this mission (in St George), and the town was named after him, even though he did not come to St. George. Brigham Young's vision for Washington County was to grow cotton, wine grapes, and silk for shipping to the Northern States, which were at war with the Confederate states. Because of the cotton production, the area was named "Utah's Dixie".  Now, about all that remains is the old cotton mill, which now houses Star Nursery in Washington City. There was a small group of Mormons that did settle Santa Clara in 1854, to establish the Indian Mission.

Historic St. George Tabernacle

In 1863, construction of the St. George Mormon Tabernacle began, and St. George was named the county seat that same year. The Tabernacle was then completed in 1875.  In 1871, the construction for the St. George LDS temple had begun at a cost of $800,000.
Historic St. George LDS Temple

You will find many mulberry trees in St. George area, because they were brought in to feed the silk worms; however, the silk industry never became profitable. Other products that were made by the early settlers were: wine, dried fruits, and molasses.

Canon that was hoisted and dropped to compact the foundation for the St. George Temple

The Dixie Academy Building was built in 1911 for the fiftieth anniversary of St. George. It is now the campus of Dixie State College since 1960. The LDS Church owned the building from 1911 to 1933.

Population Growth

Brigham Young's Winter Home
The city population has grown tremendously over the years from 309 families in 1861 to a population of 4562 people in 1950.  In 1960, the population was 5130 - today it continues to grow at rates not seen by any other city in Utah. In fact, for 2003, St George was named the second fastest metropolitan area in the nation.

In 1995, there were approximately 35,000 in St. George and 50,000 in Washington County.  Today (10 years later), there are approximately 75,000 in St. George and over 125,000 in Washington County (more than doubled in county population). With low crime rate St George enjoys a central location. The population growth can also be partially traced to many publications reporting St. George as one of the top places to retire in the West.  Its location along I-15 connecting with California, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Denver makes it somewhat central. Not only have retirees accounted for the population growth, but many families, couples and individuals continue to pour in. A large immigration flux come from both to the north, Utah and Idaho, and to the south, Las Vegas, Arizona (mild climate as well) and California.

St. George has an airport with daily commercial flights to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and other destinations. A newer International Airport is coming soon in the Little Valley (south St George) area with its main purpose to run and carry larger commuter jets and passengers.

Historical Sites In Washington County

The following are a few of the more commonly known of Washington County historical sites in the area or historical buildings.

The St. George Tabernacle construction started in 1863 and was completed in 1875. It has continued to be used for LDS meetings, concert s, choir recitals and more.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' St. George Temple started construction in 1871 and was dedicated on April 6, 1875. For Temple information, go to LDS St. George Temple site.This is the oldest Temple owned by the LDS Church.
This is Brigham Young's winter home. Brigham Young would bring his family to St. George for the mild winters. For more information and pictures of Brigham Young's winter home, click here.


The Jacob Hamblin home in Santa Clara (just northwest of St. George) was built in 1862. Jacob Hamblin was the leader of the Santa Clara Indian mission. Jacob Hamblin did a lot to establish peace with the Native Americans in the area. He was sent by Brigham Young, as a missionary, to convert the Native Americans. There are many Native Americans that are LDS today. The LDS Church's Book of Mormon is a spiritual history of these people.


This is the Orson Pratt House built in 1862. Orson Pratt along with Erastus Snow were asked by Brigham Young to lead 309 families from Salt Lake City to St. George Area to establish the Cotton Mission in 1861. This is where St. George received its name - Utah's Dixie. About three years later, Orson Pratt went on a mission to England and Richard Bentley moved into the house. The home is now used as Inn- The Green Gate Village... book your reservations!


The Thomas Judd's Store was originally owned by Richard Bentley as the Bentley Mercantile. It was purchased by Thomas Judd and opened in 1911 as a clothing and shoes store.  Now it is a sweets shop. For decades, children from the school across the street have made that a stop on the way home. 


St. George was founded as a cotton mission in 1861 under the direction of Brigham Young, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons or LDS Church)— part of a greater church effort to become self-sufficient. While the early settlers did manage to grow cotton, it was never produced at competitive market rates; consequently, cotton farming was eventually abandoned.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Brigham Young organized the settlement of what is now Washington County, Utah.

Fearing that the war would take away the cotton supply, he began plans for raising enough in this western country to supply the needs of his people. Enough favorable reports had come to him from this warm country below the rim of the Great Basin, that he was convinced cotton could be raised successfully here. At the general church conference in Salt Lake City on October 6th, 1861, about three hundred families were “called" to the Dixie mission to promote the cotton industry. Most of the people knew nothing of this expedition until their names were read from the pulpit; but in nearly every case, they responded with good will, and made ready to leave within the month’s time allotted to them. The families were selected so as to ensure the communities the right number of farmers, masons, blacksmiths, businessmen, educators, carpenters, as needed.

The settlement was named after George A. Smith, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In April 1877, the LDS Church completed the St. George Utah Temple. It is the Church's third temple, and, currently, its longest continually operating temple.

The pioneers planted mulberry trees throughout the valley to be used to feed the silkworms that they used to produce silk. The last line of these trees exist on Pomegranate Way in Bloomington.

St. George was the location of the 1997 United States Academic Decathlon national finals.