Friday, March 28, 2008

The End of Fort Harmony

From the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks monument on this site: "Established May 9, 1854 by John D. Lee, Richard Woolsey, William R. Davis and others who founded Harmony in 1852, county seat of Washington County until 1859.Headquarters of Mormon Mission to Lamanites 1852-1854. The fort was finally abandoned in February 1862, following heavy storms that caused the walls to crumble and fall., the settlers founding New Harmony and Kanarraville. The wall was 300 feet square. Houses on the east side were one story and wall was 10 ft. high; on the west side two stories and wall 16 ft high. Kanarra and Harmony Creeks supplied water for irrigation." [Note-Harmony was the original Mission headquarters not Fort Harmony and according to Sheldon Grant, Brigham Young designed the fort to be 200 feet square which is what the ruins measure not 300 feet square.]

Old Fort Harmony Excavation

Our family living in Fort Harmony - Elizabeth Ann DAVIS PARKER her parents James George DAVIS and Polly WILLIAMS. James DAVIS had been called to the Indian Mission in 1854. James' parents William Reese DAVIES and Rachel MORRIS. William Reese DAVIES was the Presiding Elder of the area. Polly's parents Marcy Jane LUCAS WILLIAMS BARNEY and her second husband Henry BARNEY. Henry BARNEY was a counselor to William R. DAVIES as was William's son John Rees DAVIES. (Elisah Groves was the Welch father in law of John Rees DAVIES)

The Historical Guide to Utah Ghost Towns by Stephen L. Carr, FORT HARMONY, page 143.

FORT HARMONY Washington County
Fort Harmony has one of the saddest histories of any town in Utah, culminating in its literal dissolution. Whereas most of the early towns were flooded out by rivers, this one was flooded out from the sky.

In 1854, …several…men established the town site along Kanarra Creek, a few miles above the previous location named Harmony (presumably named after Harmony, Pennsylvania, predominant in earlier L.D.S. Church history) which had been settled on Ash Creek in 1882 and contained a few huts. The town was actually a fort built on rock footings three feet wide and 300 feet long, forming a square. Thousands of adobe bricks were used to build the walls which formed one side of the houses within. Houses on the east side, one of which was designated as the school, were one story against a ten-foot high wall; on the west side they were two stories with a sixteen-foot high wall. Adobe formed much of the structural supports with log roofs. Barns outside the fort were also of adobe and log construction, and farms stretched away on all sides. Water was ditched in from Ash, Red Butte and Karnarra Creeks.

Fort Harmony became the largest white settlement in the area and was named the county seat of newly-formed Washington County. It was headquarters for the Indian Mission and an Indian school was established there…peaceful Indians gathered from hundreds of miles around.

In 1859, the territorial legislature changed the county seat from Fort Harmony to Washington, where the bulk of the county’s population now resided, but the town continued to thrive as always.

In early 1861 Pres. Brigham Young, on his tour of the southern Utah colonies, praised the industrious folks in Fort Harmony and stated that it was the best fort in the territory….

On Christmas day, 1861 the skies clouded over and train started falling. Heavy winds came up turning the falling rain into millions of tiny chisels biting into the adobe walls and soon the residents knew they were in fro the fiercest storm ever known in southern Utah, only they didn’t know for how long the storm would last. On New Years day, 1862 the temperature cooled enough so that the rain turned to snow which, instead of running off, piled up against the walls, then during a warming spell in the next few days, as the rain continued, the snow melted and the heavy standing water penetrated the walls. The underground rooms became flooded and the fort walls began crumbling away under the driving relentless rain. Outside the fort, the barns collapsed one by one and still the rain fell. By the middle of January, there were many large gaping holes in the walls and roofs and the inhabitants of the wall houses, where the damaged was most sever, had moved in with other more secure families. As the days slogged on, with their fort town dissolving around them, the specter of being buried alive by mud, snow and roof timbers was uppermost in the everyone’s mind.

Finally on January 18th, with no end in sight of the storm and destruction, all the families except the Lee’s were moved from the fort and did the best they could in their wagons placed against any windbreak they could find. Mrs. [John D.] Lee was in a still fairly dry area and had been in the middle of some spinning and so stayed with her family.

The sun was seen for the first time in twenty-nine days on January 31, 1862, but only briefly, as a blizzard set in and some of the strongest winds of the month battered the forlorn and almost forsaken fort. More walls crumbled, more roofs came crashing down and the Lee’s dwelling filled with three feet of water. On February 7, some forty-four days after the beginning of the storm, the mother gathered up her children to get them out of this overwhelming mud pile. At this exact moment a particularly strong blast of wind came charging through the ruins and blew down a section of wall, killing two fot eh children and barely missing two others.

After the storm, the mourning settlers decided not to rebuild, half of them moved five miles west on Ash Creek, founding New Harmony, the other half moved farther up the valley and founded Kanarraville.

Seventeen miles south of Cedar City on Interstate Highway 15, at the Iron-Washington county line, is paved State Highway 144 leading west to New Harmony, Along this road, 1.2 miles, two hundred yards south of the road are the foundation stones of Fort Harmony. The rocks forming the three-foot wide foundations are still in place imbedded in the ground and have laboriously been cleared for viewing. The Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association has considerately located the four corners and erected some three-foot high markers on them, then has built a monument on the noticeably depressed, sagebrush-covered ground in the center of the fort, a tribute to a heart-breaking page of Utah history.

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