Men were chosen for their skills and capital equipment. The first calls included: ten families under the leadership of Samuel Adair left Payson
3 March 1857; twenty-eight families were called at April 1857 conference and came under the direction of Robert Covington; fifty families arrived at Washington
from San Bernardino. They had been told to return to Utah because of the Utah War
in 1857. Most stayed for the winter and left in the spring for other locations in Dixie and elsewhere. Three hundred families were called in October 1861 conference. That year the Civil War cut off cotton supplies. Thirty families of Swiss converts were included in the call; and they were directed to settle in Santa Clara
and provide supplies for the cotton farmers. In 1862 220 families were called. Fifty or sixty families were called in October 1864 to settle south of St. George
on the Muddy River
. At least 300 additional families (upwards of 1,000 persons) were called in the late 1860s and 1870s.
The Covington company arrived in May 1857. Isaac C. Haight, who was presiding over the Parowan Stake, organized the new settlement as a branch of the Harmony Ward. It was at this time that the name Washington was chosen for the new town. Civic and religious leaders were sustained. The pioneers prepared the ground for corn and went to work making dams and ditches. They lived in tents, wagons, or dugouts.
Many problems were encountered as they struggled with nature. Most of the early colonists were converts from the South and were familiar with cotton but were not familiar with irrigation. They had to cope with the alkali in the sandy soil. They had an unending battle with the Virgin River. Their dams, built on quicksand bottoms, were washed out yearly, sometimes several times. One year there was a drought, and grasshoppers and worms consumed their crops. They had night watches to protect their crops from hungry animals.