This post brings to and end our series on the influence of cotton on the early Preston church. This fluffy little plant put people in bondage in the growing fields in the USA and in the ‘satanic’ mills of England. It is curious how the production of a white bit of cloth helped humble hundreds of oppressed English souls and made them ready for something better – a restored gospel message.
To bring things full circle I thought you might be interested to see how this cotton legacy made its way to Utah.
As the saints arrived in Salt Lake in their thousands church leaders recognised the need for careful planning for food and clothing supplies. As part of that planning Brigham decided to create a cotton industry.
In 1852, the first settlement was established in southern Utah and was named Harmony. Over the next few years small settlements grew up along the Virgin River as part of this cotton mission. The longer season in the warmer, southern part of the state was more conducive for the growing of “King Cotton“, but even so the initial crops between 1855 to 1860 were humble. With the outbreak of the Civil War (April 1861) and the blockade of cotton traffic the need for independence became even more apparent. In October 1861 three hundred families were called to settle what was to be a central city for the Cotton Mission – subsequently named St. George.
Some of these settlers were from the Southern states so knew how to raise cotton, some were from cotton areas like Lancashire and brought with them the skills of spinning and weaving, but the majority didn’t have a clue, yet “were willing and anxious to learn” (under p.79). Despite the enormity of the challenge they successfully produced some sizable amounts of cotton. In their second year of operation they had such a surplus they were able to take 74,000 pounds of cotton to the Mississippi markets. In 1867 they constructed their first cotton mill in Washington (near St. George) which became the largest mill west of the Mississippi (Garrp.254). That same year the industry began to decline due to the ending of the Civil War which allowed cheaper cotton from the East. Two years later the transcontinental railroad was completed which made competition even greater. The industry struggled on until the factory was closed in 1910. Even though the mission failed in terms of creating an independent cotton industry, it proved invaluable in creating settlements and avenues for commerce.
So…my Cotton sermons are done. Unless of course you discover anything else ‘cottony’ that you think I should include. If anyone from Southern Utah reads this post I’d be very interested in seeing photos of any cotton related sites. Many moons ago I lived in Cedar City (Southern Utah) for five years, but that was before my interest in church history really kicked in, so I missed the opportunity to go snooping around.
Now…what shall we discover next…?
– Arnold K. Gar, Donald Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan. “Cotton Mission” Encyclopedia of LDS History, Deseret, SLC 2000. P.254
– Under Dixie Sun: A History of Washington County by Those Who Loved Their Forebears, Washington County Chapter of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, p. 65-66
Quoted in Pioneer Sesquicentenial 1847-1997, Olympus Publishers, Midvale Utah, 1997, p.78-9