Iron County, Utah
A Brief History of Iron County*
Iron County is a study in contrast from its arid western reaches of Escalante Desert and Great Basin ranges to the meadows and forests of the High Plateau on the east. The Markagunt Plateau is creased by the colorful formations of Cedar Breaks National Monument, a kind of miniature Bryce Canyon. Brian Head (11,307 feet), named for a profile resembling William Jennings Bryan, rises abruptly behind Iron County's major string of settlements and extracts a toll of precipitation from passing westerlies to feed the headwaters of the Sevier River.
Parowan Valley was home to the Fremont people who constructed granaries and pit houses dating from about A.D. 750 to 1250. An unusual variety of petroglyphs of different periods were pecked into the stone of Parowan Gap about 12 miles northwest of Parowan. Cedar City is the tribal headquarters of the modern Southern Paiute Indian Reservation. Their ancestors used the plants and animals of the basin/plateau environment in a complex seasonal pattern. The Dominguez-Escalante expedition traveled through the area on October 12, 1776, on its unsuccessful search for a route to central California. Fur trapper Jedediah S. Smith was the first Anglo-American to visit present Iron County during his amazing journey of 1826. Mormon settlers dispatched by Brigham Young established Parowan in January 1851 as the mother colony of the southern frontier. Cedar City (originally Coal Creek) was founded the same year. Several pioneer log homes remain in the county as well as some English two-bay log barns now very rare in the state.
Coal in the canyons east of Cedar City and iron ore in the mountains west inspired the early Iron Mission that proved marginally successful as a pioneer attempt at self-sufficiency. Modern mining and transportation turned Iron toward a new era befitting the county name. Old Iron Town still has a fine beehive coking oven among its ruins. The west end of the county also has some historic and current precious metal mining. The Escalante Desert has changed its name to Escalante Valley, reflecting the rich irrigation agriculture of hay, small grains, and potatoes.
Iron County has a more balanced and broadly based economy than most of rural Utah. Located on Interstate 15, Cedar City is 500 miles from Los Angeles, 180 miles from Las Vegas, and 260 miles from Salt lake, and about midway between L.A. and Denver via I-70. Its location and size have made it a regional trade center and supplier of services. The concessionaire for nearby national parks (an edge of Zion is in the county) has offices here, as do regional offices of the Bureau of Land Management, Dixie National Forest, and Utah Wildlife Resources. A railroad spur and regional airline still serve the city. A rocket motor fuel plant is under construction. A very good four-year liberal arts college, Southern Utah State, combined with a peerless Shakespearean Festival in the summer make Cedar City an attractive stop for some of the more than one million people who annually pass through.
*Used by permission. Beehive History 14: Utah Counties. 1988. Utah State Historical Society, 300 Rio Grande, Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1182, 801/533-3500.
- 2010 Utah County Fact Book
The information in this book describes the economic, demographic, public safety, and financial characteristics of each of Utah’s 29 counties. Published by the Utah Association of Counties (UAC). Previous versions are available from UAC as well.
- Census 2000 Demographic Profile: Iron County
General population characteristics, social characteristics, economic characteristics, and housing characteristics for the county. From American FactFinder, the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Iron County Facts
Labor force, economic and wage information from the Department of Workforce Services County and Statewide Information.
- Iron County Profile
Census, demographic, genealogy & vital records, crime, educational, economic, government, and county data. From ePodunk.
- Iron County QuickFacts
Find quick, easy access to facts about people, business, and geography from the U.S. Census Bureau's State & County QuickFacts.
- Economic Profile: Iron County
Information on county industry and employment. From the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah).
- Religious Membership Report: Iron County
Religious denomination for the county. From the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA).
- 2002 Census of Agriculture County Profile: Iron County
Census data on farms, crops, and livestock. From the Census of Agriculture, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Iron County Agriculture Profile
Data on land ownership, crops, and livestock. From the Utah State University Extension.
- Parowan Times - Archives
Available issues from Utah Digital Newspapers: 1915-1945. Search all newspapers, select a specific newspaper or browse by county. This project was funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and digitized at the University of Utah.
- Cedar City Review - Current Issue & Archives
Online version of the Review.
- University Journal - Current Issue & Archives
Online version of the Journal, the student newspaper of Southern Utah University.