Summer Travel Series: St. George, Utah's Dixie

St. George is at the center of a lot of rich pioneer history located in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

It is home to a Latter-day Saint temple and tabernacle, Brigham Young’s winter home, the Jacob Hamblin home and a high mountain building that served as a school and continues to serve as a house of worship.

Historical Background: Brigham Young’s Winter Home

The moderate winter weather was a significant reason Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chose to spend part of the year in what has been called “Utah’s Dixie.”

He moved south, out of the cold wintry weather of Salt Lake City, for health reasons. While there, he took care of the business of the Church and monitored the progress of the St. George Temple, which was dedicated 6 April 1877. The temple was the first to be completed in the Church after the Saints were forced out of Nauvoo, Illinois.

The city was named after a Church apostle who never actually lived in St. George. His name was George A. Smith. As a counselor to President Young in the First Presidency, he selected many of the pioneers to settle the area.

During the Church’s 1861 general conference in Salt Lake City, about 300 families were asked to go to St. George to promote the cotton industry. Families were selected to ensure that there would be the right number of farmers, masons, blacksmiths, businessmen, educators and carpenters. Cotton grew well in the warm climate; however, it did not bring the financial benefit President Young had hoped for, and the project was shut down.

The prophet’s St. George winter home served as his residence and office. Brigham Young purchased the finished west end of the James Cheney house in 1871 and then had the east end added in adobe and native pine. A father and son, Miles and Miles P. Romney of St. George, served as the contractors.

The Brigham Young Winter Home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now a Church visitors’ center and is open daily to the public free of charge. Knowledgeable guides give tours of the home. Each of the seven rooms is fashioned in period decor with many original artifacts. Some of Brigham Young’s own possessions are in the home, including furniture, a lithograph of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and an architectural rendering of the Salt Lake Temple. On the north side of the home is President Young’s office.


67 West 200 North

St. George, Utah


Brigham Young Winter Home

Driving Directions to the Brigham Young Winter Home


Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Historical Background: St. George Utah Temple

Not far from Brigham Young’s winter home is the first Utah temple and the oldest still in use by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An aerial view of St. George directs attention to the pristine white St. George Utah Temple, a prominent landmark. The city’s natural red hills contrast the beauty of the pure white temple.

Brigham Young chose the temple site, and in spite of how wet and swampy the area was, the Church leader maintained that the site had been chosen by inspiration, and there it must stand. To ensure a solid foundation, water was channeled away from the site and an old cannon was filled with lead to pound volcanic rock into the foundation similar to how a pile driver does the job.

The cannon, made in either Mexico or South America, was purchased in California by a Latter-day Saint named Jesse Crosby in about 1865 and brought to St. George. The cannon was used in the 1860s mainly during patriotic or pioneer celebrations. In 1871 construction workers used it as a pile driver. The cannon is now located in the south side annex of the temple.

The first tower of the temple had to be replaced when lightning struck it just a year following the dedication. Several years later, a new tower was completed, and it is taller and more majestic than the original one.

The St. George Utah Temple was dedicated by President Young 6 April 1877. It underwent remodeling in 1975 and was rededicated by President Spencer W. Kimball.

Visitors can learn more about the temple, including the information about the cannon and other interesting stories, inside the visitors’ center located on the temple grounds. Missionary couples and sister missionaries for the Church give daily tours. While the temple is not open to the general public, the temple grounds are. Only members of the Church in good standing may enter the temple.


490 South 300 East

St. George, Utah




Driving Directions to the St. George Temple Visitors’ Center


Open daily 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Historical Background: St. George Tabernacle

The St. George Tabernacle was originally commissioned by Brigham Young as a public works building as an economic benefit for the residents. The structure served as a church for worship services and as a place for community events. It can seat up to 1,200 people. The clock was originally used by the city residents to tell time. An organ was eventually added.

An essential part of any public building is the windows. Most St. George residents didn’t have a lot of cash, but the lack of money didn’t prevent Church members from assisting with the Tabernacle’s construction. Window glass was one of the items, for the building, that could not be made locally. Latter-day Saints, like Scandinavian immigrant Peter Nielson, sacrificed to help pay for the windows which were made on the east coast of the United States and then shipped to Utah.

The tabernacle has earned the nickname “jewel of the desert.” It underwent restoration in 1993 to help it resemble its original state. The building is open to the public and hosts church services and local events, such as public concerts.

Free daily tours are available from knowledgeable guides.


18 South Main Street

St. George, Utah


St. George Tabernacle

Driving Directions to the St. George Tabernacle


Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Historical Background: Jacob Hamblin Home

Jacob Hamblin played an important role in the Mormon pioneers settling peacefully in Santa Clara near St. George. He had moved his family from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Tooele, Utah, west of Salt Lake City, and then as a missionary to southern Utah.

Native Americans trusted him because of his integrity, bravery and friendliness. He later became president of the Southern Utah Indian Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his home may have served as mission headquarters.

In 1871 Jacob Hamblin moved his family to Kanab (about 60 miles east of St. George) on a Church assignment, and the house changed owners three times before it fell into disrepair. In 1959, Utah State Parks and Recreation took it over. Between the work of the state and the Church, the home was restored and is open to visitors. One of the few personal items on display in the home is Jacob’s saddle. In addition, there is period furniture of the time. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Jacob Hamblin home sits in Santa Clara, a quaint part of Washington County, not far from St. George.

Church missionary volunteers, familiar with the history of the home, conduct the tours. They will show you what the home might have looked like at the time the Hamblin family lived there.


3325 Hamblin Drive

Santa Clara, Utah


Jacob Hamblin Home

Driving Directions to the Jacob Hamblin Home


Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Historical Background: Pine Valley Chapel

Mormon pioneers started arriving in the Pine Valley area in 1856. They were impressed with the natural resources in the high mountain valley and could see a way to make money by operating sawmills.

The population of Pine Valley grew steadily in the last half of the 19th century as people moved to the area to work in the many sawmills or to homestead. At its peak, the area was home to about 250 people.

The people desired a place to gather. Residents started to build the meetinghouse in about 1872 with plans to use it as a schoolhouse, for community events and for Sunday worship services.

The Pine Valley Chapel is a heavy timber frame building, explained Emily Utt, Church historic sites curator. “Its method of construction was typical for the 1870s and was finished in the Greek revival style at a cost of $1,000. The style and quality of construction reflects the skill and diligence of these early Latter-day Saint settlers.”

The meetinghouse continues to be in operation by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is one of the oldest chapels still in use in Utah. The local congregation is small, but during the summer visitors increase attendance at the Sunday meetings.

The chapel and the adjacent tithing office were both listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The 10-foot by 15-foot tithing office was constructed of red brick and continues to be used today as a church classroom.

“It’s quiet,” said Allen Cannon, president of the Latter-day Saint Pine Valley Branch, about the beautiful valley. “It’s serene being surrounded by the history of this area and the people. There is a peace here that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of life.” He said when people come to visit they often comment on the wonderful pioneer spirit they feel.

The attic has been turned into an artifacts room. Here visitors will see old photos of the chapel and the area as well as other interesting items.

A trip to the Pine Valley Chapel should also include a tour of the town nestled in the majestic mountains of the Dixie National Forest. There are also campgrounds and areas large enough to accommodate multiple family reunions.

The pioneer building is located about 40 miles northeast of St. George in the Pine Valley Mountains—elevation at 6,500 feet. Local Latter-day Saints conduct tours of the church throughout the year.


52 W. Main Street (at Grass Valley Street)
Pine Valley, Utah


Pine Valley Chapel

Driving Directions to the Pine Valley Chapel


Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Worship services are held each Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. year-round.

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