As cotton growers they were successful, but they quickly found that to survive they had to grow their own food and "make do." Many were beset with chills and fever and were unaware that they had contracted malaria from the mosquitoes that bred in the seeping springs and along the streams' edges. This robbed them of much productive energy.
Many quit the mission. By June 1861 only twenty families remained in Washington. Late that year, the community received quite a number of new settlers, most of them from Sanpete County. Their spirits rose. One historian said, "Just to have a few fresh arrivals to share their miseries must have made the burden lighter." In 1862 the arriving cotton missionaries settled in what is now St. George.
Most of the early ginning was on a home basis, but there was a problem processing and selling the "lint." One-tenth was sent to Salt Lake as tithing, and as much as possible was shipped east by freight. One year some was freighted to California. Brigham Young objected and arranged for the purchase of much of it.
Brigham Young then had machinery imported. Factories for processing cotton and wool were set up in Salt Lake City, Springville, and Parowan. When it was determined that the Cotton Mission had a deteriorating economy and needed support, Young had the equipment operating in Salt Lake City dismantled and shipped south in 1866. The cotton factory was built in Washington because of its adequate water supply and its central location for the cotton growers. The colonists were asked to contribute their labor and materials to help build the factory. More missionaries were called.