November 28, 2022

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Old Irontown in Cedar City, Utah

Known as Utah’s first ghost town, the ruins of Old Irontown can be found 22 miles from Cedar City. Southern Utah saw a population boom in the 1850s as Mormon pioneers were called to populate the area by Brigham Young after iron was discovered there. 

The pioneers of this ghost town needed iron as part of their daily lives, and they used it in everything from Dutch ovens to wagon wheels. The Great Western Iron Company built two charcoal ovens to help meet the pioneer’s needs. In 1870 Old Irontown had a population of 97, but as demand grew for iron the Great Western Iron Company brought in outside labor. These laborers were often not part of the conservative Mormon religion and with them brought alcohol. The town saw its peak in 1871 when it grew to include a schoolhouse, post office, and boarding house. At its peak, the town produced five to seven tons of pig iron a day, supplying ore for the Utah Western Railroad, mining companies in Pioche, Nevada, and for use at the St. George Latter Day Saints temple.

The combination of high shipping costs and small orders from the local pioneer community made it hard for the Great Western Iron Company to stay profitable. This was compounded by the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which sought to restrict Mormon practices. The church was too busy fighting legal battles and thus their need for iron dropped drastically. The Ironworks closed in 1876 and the town was abandoned shortly after. 

Today the ruins are part of the Frontier-Homestead State Park. The site was made a historical landmark in 1971. Visitors today can still see one of the charcoal ovens, a furnace, and foundries of many of the buildings. The ruins are located in the Dixie National Forest.

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