The History of St. George, UT

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The history of St. George, Utah began about 6000 B.C.

That was a little before there was a St. George, or a Utah

There is still evidence of some of the early inhabitants around if you know where to look. If you wander the desert around St. George, you will likely encounter petroglyphs dating back 600 to 1,000 years.

Researchers think the Anasazi (Ancient Ones), or Ancestral Puebloans, inhabited parts of southern Utah from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300. You can see some of their rock art on the Anasazi Ridge Trail.

David Lee, of Western Rock Art Research has discovered through research in Australia that the petroglyphs here in Santa Clara may have been arranged along a trail that tribal elders would walk the youth of their tribes along. The very young would be taught age appropriate knowledge. The elders would walk the same youths along the same trail and use the same glyphs to teach them progressively deeper lessons as the youth grew older.

St. George hadn’t become the heart of a thriving retirement community yet

“In 1854, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church, or Mormon Church) established an Indian mission in Santa Clara, two miles northwest of present-day St. George. The church set up experimental farms in the St. George Valley in 1857-1858. In October 1861, church leaders called 309 families to establish the Cotton Mission. After the outbreak of the Civil War that same year, LDS Church President Brigham Young felt it necessary to grow cotton, if possible. Many of these families assigned to settle the area hailed from the South and possessed the necessary skills to grow cotton and establish a community. Paying homage to the nickname of their former home, these settlers called the region, “Utah’s Dixie.””

In addition to cotton, the pioneers experimented with growing silkworms with the intention of making locally grown silk. Another more successful experiment was the wine mission. The pioneers planted many vineyards in St. George and surrounding areas. Nels Anderson’s book, Desert Saints, (University of Chicago Press, January 1966) listed that the bishop’s tithing office had collected more than 7000 gallons of wine by early 1887.

Life was more difficult in the arid St. George region in those days. The settlers needed to be close enough to water to survive, but not so close the floods washed away their homes. They learned the rivers flooded when gorged by infrequent rains.

Jacob Hamblin was an early settler and missionary. The historic Jacob Hamblin home still stands in Santa Clara and sits high above the river where it was built after the Santa Clara River rose and washed away the initial fort.

Living in St. George was more like primitive camping for the first pioneers. As difficult as survival was, in addition to eking out the necessities of life, the stouthearted Mormon settlers invested the time to build a town. The harsh beginnings did not deter those early settlers. They built not just homes, they built the St. George LDS temple and dedicated it on April 6, 1877. The temple still stands and is in active use by LDS members today. You can learn more about the St. George temple at the temple visitors’ center located on the temple grounds.

It would still take a few years for people to discover St. George

More recently, St. George was a small stopover town on the I-15 corridor. A place where parched tourists on their way to Salt Lake City or Denver stopped for water and a meal after crossing the Nevada desert from Las Vegas.

“Since the 1960s, St. George has continued to grow as a retirement location and as a haven for “snowbirds” seeking to escape from the colder winters in the rest of the state. Tourism and recreation have become primary industries for St. George. The population of the city has grown at a rapid pace during the last quarter of the twentieth century. In 1950 the population stood at 4,562; it nudged up to 5,130 in 1960, moved up to 7,097 in 1970, climbed to 13,300 in 1980, and exploded to 28,500 in 1990.”

St. George still maintains much of that small town feel thanks to local government leader’s commitment to keep it that way. The names of many of the pioneer families that first settled here are still prominent in St. George one-hundred fifty-five years later. Ayres, Foremaster, Staheli, McArthur, Brinkehoff, Seegmiller, Hafen, and many more are all pioneer family names you will still see and hear about around St. George. Their decision to stay is a testament to how great life is here.

Golf arrives in St. George

In the late 1960’s, northern Utahns tired of the snow began to discover golf in St. George. “In 1969, the Bloomington Country Club was the second golf course built in Southern Utah and the first private country club. It has been a member-owned golf and country club for families of Southern Utah and many snowbirds from Northern Utah and other states for over 40 years.”

It wasn’t long before people outside Utah started learning that the golf, the feeling of community, and the weather made St. George, Utah an ideal place to retire.

The intitial growth spurt of the 90’s blossomed as people began to realize what an amazing place this is to live. St. George of today is home to 75,000 residents. Education, medical, cultural and social growth has accompanied our increase in population.

As more people began to choose St. George for their retirement home, the more apparent it became that we needed an award-winning master-planned active retirement community. SunRiver Development stepped up to the challenge, and today over 4,000 residents call SunRiver home.

If you are looking for a place to call home after retirement, come and visit with us at SunRiver. You can become part of tomorrow’s history of St. George, Utah.