The History of Fort Harmony
  What did Fort Harmony look like in 1860? Click Here for a first hand account

News Articles

Deseret News
Oct 3, 1855

Report on the
area conditions

Deseret News
Sept 19, 1855

Report on
Indian Burning

Forestry in the
American States

Fire Restrictions

The China/Dish
Tragedy at

Fort Harmony




Piaute Inhabitants

For thousands of years before the white settlers arrived there was vast population of Southern Paiute Indians . They occupied the areas of what we now call the Southern sections of Utah and Nevada. The valleys of Cedar City and Harmony Valley were the homes and the hunting grounds for thousands of these ancient dwellers. The Mormon pioneers when they arrived in the mid-1800s found these Indians friendly. They lived a simple primitive life in their small wickiups made of tree branches and grasses.

The new home owners now residing in the Harmony Valley occasionally come across artifacts on their property of the past paiute occupation . These artifacts range from small arrow heads, to petroglyphs etched in the volcanic rock and on cliffs surrounding the valleys.

Was Harmony Valley the first to be settled in Southern Utah ?
Click HERE to view the time line.

Piaute Occupation map of 1850, click HERE

The earliest record of explorers of this area was the Escalante Expedition in 1776. They made camp at the present Harmony Valley at Ranch Exit 33. However before the Escalante Expedition the Old Spanish Trail was very actively used by Indians and the early Spanish traders. This trail entered through the South West part of Cedar Valley and exited through the canyon north of present day Parawon.

In 1849 President Brigham Young of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ordered an expedition to explore the regions of Southern Utah. Based on the reports of the 1849 Parley P. Pratt expedition President Young called on John D. Lee and others to settle the present New Harmony Valley in 1850.



President Brigham Young

John D. Lee

In 1851, George A Smith, John D. Lee and others were called by Brigham Young to make a new settlement in Southern Utah.

Although John D. Lee has a controversial history he played a historical role in the settlement of Southern Utah. That of a loyal Mormon leader and as an appointed U.S. Government Indian Agent. He was a great assistant to the Paiute Indians in the areas of farming. His expertise and instruction greatly increased the quality of life of the Paiutes. He was regarded as a true friend to the Paiutes.

John D. Lee lived in various locations in Southern Utah including occupation inside Fort Harmony itself. He was a practicing Polygamist and to prevent capture and prosecution by federal marshals, he led an allusive life style later in his life . He often camped high on the mountain ridges east of the Fort where he had a good view of the fort. If Federal Marshals were in the area his wife could signal Lee by hanging white bed sheets on the clothes lines.

On March 1, 1853 the first wooden fort (called Harmony) was built by John D. Lee and his entourage. It was located on or very near the present Ash Creek Reservoir. Over a dozen homes , corrals, and a school were enclosed within this first fort.

Latter he was instructed by President Young to move the fort four miles north and to build a new fort out of adobe bricks. It was to be the finest fort built in the territory. This is the site that is now under renovation by the Fort Harmony Historical Society.

On May 20, 1854 President Young marked off the site for the New Fort. It was built over the next two years with families from Harmony moving in one at a time until February, 1855 when all the families were moved into the bigger more protected fort. They continued improvements on the fort for another year.

The new fort was 200 feet square with gates on the north and south. There were two outer walls with a space in between, the outer wall being three feet thick, the inner wall eighteen inches thick. The Foundation was three feet thick as well. Inside the walls were rooms 15 feet square (twelve to a side) on the east and west walls at least, with bedrooms serving the west rooms on a second story. A well, 100 feet deep provided drinking water. A large oven in the southeast corner some ten feet or so out from the rooms provided a central baking area. A chapel and school existed in the fort by combining several rooms into one.



Frontier forts provided a welcome safe haven for early settlers


The fort served as a stopping place to most travelers headed for Arizona, Nevada and California. It served Mormons and non-Mormons alike and was a key historical site for Western U.S. expansion and development. It was the Washington County seat and was the mission and stake headquarters for the Mormon Church for the southern part of the territory. See the list of missionaries here

The fort had a relative short life. In 1862 the area experienced a deluge of rain and snow which lasted for several Winter months. This caused the fort to literally melt down. It was a stressful time for John D. Lee and his wife, their two children were killed when the west side of the fort collapsed upon them.

At this time the towns of New Harmony and Kanarraville were developing. Some of the old settlers had already gone into the Upper Virgin and Santa Clara. Most of the others moved to New Harmony, Kanarraville or onto the Mountain Meadows.


Headstone of George and Margret Lee - The children who perished in the fort wall collapse

Related Links

New Harmony Field Trip Sites
by Lin Floyd

Missionaries who were assigned
land plots for farming

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