History of Washington County, Utah
Taken from the Utah History Encyclopedia (Links Added)

In an attempt to establish an overland route to the Pacific and southern California (the so-called Mormon Corridor), the Mormons founded a string of settlements running southwest from the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young sent small groups into southwestern Utah as early as 1852 to test the agricultural potential of the warm climate. Fort Harmony was established in 1852, Santa Clara, 1854, Washington, 1857; Toquerville, 1858; Grafton, 1859; and Adventure (Rockville), 1860. But until 1861--when several hundred families were called by church leaders to go to the area to raise cotton, figs, olives, grapes, sugar, almonds, and tobacco--colonization remained chiefly an experiment. St. George, settled in 1861, became the center of the area, nicknamed Dixie because of its southern location, climate and agricultural produce, and the colonists succeeded in producing sizable amounts of cotton, wine, and molasses. The demand for cotton lasted until after the Civil War. The wine industry also grew during this period, as did mining, but when mining decreased so did the demand for wine. From 1875 to 1880 Silver Reef, northwest of Leeds, was a booming mining town, and Wells Fargo reportedly shipped more than $8,000,000 in bullion from the mines there.

The boundaries of Washington County, formed in 1852 by the territorial legislature, stretched the entire width of the territory (at that time some 600 miles). After several changes, the county achieved its present size and shape in 1892.

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