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.
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