January 6, 2014

“Dixie” How St. George got the Nickname

When you come to visit southern Utah, and specifically St. George, you will notice two predominant features on the surrounding hills.  The first is a very large “D” lit up on the Black Hill and a “DIXIE” painted on the sugar loaf or the Red Hill.  Obviously, the “D” stands for Dixie; but why?

How does "Dixie" fit in to St. George?

How does “Dixie” fit in to St. George?

Here’s how the story goes…

When the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) Pioneers left the United States to go out west and settled what is now Salt Lake City they the began to establish settlements about every fifty miles to the north, south, east and west.  The reason it was every fifty miles is because that was about how long the signal on a telegraph wire would extend.  This expansion of what was then called the Territory of Deseret is most notable when looking at a map and the settlements that extend north into Canada and as far south into Mexico.  In fact it is interesting to note that the cities of Mesquite and Las Vegas, Nevada were created due to this expansion effort.

Geographically there is a mountain range between St. George and Cedar City, Utah…fifty miles north.  This is the reason for the drastic difference in weather between northern Utah, which has great snow skiing, and southern Utah which has great golf – year-round.

The warmer weather alone still doesn’t account for the nickname “Dixie”.

When the American Civil War broke out it became extremely expensive to find cotton and have it shipped to the western territories.  Thought the Mormons did not actively participate in the Civil War fighting they claimed faithfulness to the Union and had strong antislavery sentiments.  To find remedy to this lack of cotton several of the Mormon Saints were sent to establish the Cotton Mission.  They were charged to grow cotton and other warm climate crops.  Today one can still tour the Historic Cotton Mill which currently houses the Star Nursery Business.   Some of those Saints were from the southern United States and had the special skills and knowledge in growing cotton.

Other products that are known to come out of the area included Dixie Wine, silk and tobacco.   Grapes grow well in the area and one will notice Mulberry trees that abound in the historic areas of Downtown St. George.  The leaves from these trees was harvested to feed to the silk worms.

So, for the warmer climate, the growing of cotton by some Southern Saints, the area  became known as Dixie, and later Utah’s Dixie.

Since 1998, Star Nursery has owned the historic Cotton Mill Factory in Washington City, Utah. For many years during the 19th century, the factory was at the center of cotton production in Washington County. (Photo by Loren Webb)

Since 1998, Star Nursery has owned the historic Cotton Mill Factory in Washington City, Utah. For many years during the 19th century, the factory was at the center of cotton production in Washington County. (Photo by Loren Webb)