By Louise Crosby
For Iron County Today
On April 12, 1867, Brigham Young sent a letter to Ira Hinckley asking him to leave his home in Coalville and travel 220 miles south to supervise the construction of this fort. Between April and November 1867, quarrymen, stonemasons, and carpenters from nearby settlements labored to construct the fort of black volcanic rock and limestone native to the area. Although the Fort was built to provide safety for travelers during the Black Hawk Indian war, it was never attacked, certainly in part because of its uniquely solid construction. But Ira and family also made friends with the Indians, traded with them and even employed them in the Fort.
Cove Fort was a hub of activity. News of the west and the nation throbbed over the telegraph lines, pony riders delivered the mail, and each day two stagecoaches, with a variety of travelers, rumbled up to the fort. Guests were provided delicious meals and comfortable accommodations. The Hinckleys saw their daily, practical activities, including interactions with visitors, as expressions of their faith.
As times changed so did the need for the Fort. In 1890, the Church leased the fort out, and in 1911 sold it to the William H. Kesler Family, who ran the Fort as a motel, and a museum with a souvenir shop. They also added a gas station, a small grocery store, and a cafe. From 1904 to 1962 at least four generations of Keslers lived at Cove Fort.
In 1988 descendants of Ira and Arza Hinckley acquired Cove Fort from the Kesler family and gifted it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a historic site. The Church then spent seven years restoring it to as near as possible its original state, and on May 21, 1994, Ira Hinckley’s grandson, President Gordon B. Hinckley, of the Church’s First Presidency, dedicated the completed Historic Cove Fort complex as a Church Historic Site. It is open year-round, and is famous for its immaculately kept rooms and outbuildings with authentic period pieces, its beautiful gardens, picnic areas, clean restrooms, and friendly missionaries.
Cove Fort Days 2017 is coming up on August 4-5. During this annual celebration guests enjoy continuous free entertainment throughout the day, featuring many outstanding performers including the famed story teller and singer of Utah history, Clive Romney, and Southern Utah’s Heritage Choir; a pioneer village with free demonstrations of pioneer arts and crafts; free horse-drawn wagon and stage coach rides; free hotdogs, chips, punch, and soft ice-cream till it runs out. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony and visitors from Cove Fort’s past, and end by 7 p.m. both days.
There is something for the whole family, so step back in time 150 years and be reminded of the faith, sacrifice, hard work, charity, service and devotion to God and family of our pioneer forefathers.