Ira Hinckley left his home in Coalville in 1867 for his new assignment,
his family to come later. Tradesmen from central Utah settlements
worked together, along with Hinckley to construct the fort in seven
months. The fort is built of black volcanic rock and dark limestone
quarried nearby. The walls are one hundred feet long, eighteen feet
high, and taper from four feet thick at the base to two feet thick at
the top. The roof, twelve interior rooms and the massive doors at the
east and west ends of the fort were constructed of lumber. The doors
were originally filled with sand to protect them from bullets passing
through the doors. However, the doors have been emptied of the sand
because of extreme weight and awkwardness.
The fort bustled with activity for years. Daily, two stagecoaches
arrived with a variety of weary travelers who were anxious for rest and
food. On the many trips of President Brigham Young back and forth from
Salt Lake City to St. George and the southern settlements, Cove Fort
was always a stopping place. The kitchen and dining room bustled with
activity. It was not unusual for Mrs. Hinckley to feed 75 people daily.
Cowboys tended to the Church’s tithing herds and a blacksmith was
kept busy reshoeing the horses and oxen of travelers and repairing
wagon wheels. With a telegraph office at the fort and the Pony Express
riders passing through, news of the great, growing West kept the
Hinckleys from feeling isolated.
The fort served an important function for nearly twenty years, but as
times changed, so did the need for the fort. After 1900, the Church
sold it to a private owner and in 1989 the Hinckley family purchased
the fort and made a gift of it to the Church as a historic site.
Shortly thereafter efforts were begun to restore the fort to it’s
original condition. In 1994 President Gordon B. Hinckley (grandson of
Ira Hinckley) dedicated the Historic Cove Fort Complex. Visitors are
welcome free of charge.
The fall of 1849, Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, called fifty men to explore the regions
south of the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Parley P. Pratt.
This Southern Exploring Company passed through the Cove Creek area
before returning home to recommend the settling of locations north and
south of here. Within the next few years many of the familiar towns
that now dot the map of southern Utah were established. The pioneers
who built these towns traveled through the Cove Creek region, as did a
growing number of travelers on Church and government business and
immigrants traveling to further destinations such as California.
On 12 April 1867 President Brigham Young wrote a letter to Ira Hinckley
asking him to take charge of building a fort on Cove Creek, located in
central Utah a day’s journey from the town of Fillmore on the
north or the town of Beaver on the south. This Fort, built instead of a
town because of the scarcity of water, was to be a way station for
pioneers traveling along the “Mormon
Corridor”—settlements stretching from Idaho to Nevada
connected by a network of roads, telegraph lines and postal routes.
Being a man of action, Ira left his home in Coalville, Utah, on April
17th for his new assignment, his family to come latter.
Between April and November 1867, quarrymen, stonemasons and carpenters
from central Utah settlements labored together to construct the Fort.
Built of black volcanic rock and dark limestone quarried nearby, the
walls are one hundred feet long and eighteen feet high. Lumber, mostly
cedar and pine, was used for the roof, twelve interior rooms and the
massive doors at the east and west ends of the fort.
For years the Fort bustled with activity. News of the great, growing
West throbbed over the lines into the telegraph office at the Fort and
postal riders delivered the news of the new western empire to the post
office. Daily, two stage coaches with a variety of weary travelers
rumbled up to the Fort. Travelers unhitched their teams from their
heavily loaded wagons and led the horses to the barn. Cowboys tended
the tithing herds and a blacksmith fashioned metal into horseshoes with
his hammer. Evening conversation was lively around the long table where
each night a new variety of visitors joined the Hinckley family for
For more than twenty years the Fort served an important function, but
as times changed so did the need for the Fort. By 1890 the Church
leased out the Fort and after the turn of the century, sold it to the
Otto Kesler family. Nearly one hundred years later in 1988, the
Hinckley family purchased the Fort from the Keslers and made a gift of
it to the Church as a historic site. Shortly afterward, efforts to
restore the Fort to its original condition were begun, and on 21 May
1994 President Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the First
Presidency, dedicated the Historic Cove Fort Complex.
“It is our hope that Cove Fort will serve as a modern way
station—not as a shelter from physical fatigue or protection from
the elements,” said Elder Stephen D. Nadauld of the Second Quorum
of the Seventy who also spoke at the dedication. “Rather we hope
it will serve as a spiritual way station where we can be reminded of
the faith of our forefathers, where we can refresh our sense of
sacrifice and obedience and our dedication to duty, where we can be
reminded of the values of work, provident living, self-sufficiency and
The Fort contains 12 rooms, 6 on the north and 6 on the south. Each
room has a fireplace.
Originally located in Coalville, Utah, this cabin was the home of Ira
Hinckley and his family. Here they lived a life of simple devotion that
included family prayer and scripture reading. While living in this
cabin in April of 1867, Ira received a letter from Brigham Young asking
him to leave Coalville in order to supervise the construction of a fort
at Cove Creek. He was advised to leave his family in this home while
the fort was being built. He then moved his family to the newly
completed fort where he managed the forts operations for the next
decade. It is not known whether Ira built the cabin himself.
pictures of Ira Hinckley’s cabin.
The barn was the second largest structure on the old Cove Fort complex
site. It was built with heavy timber construction 60 feet square and
30 feet high. The timber was squared and held together with hardwood
oak pegs that were imported from outside the territory. Homemade pine
shingles were hammered onto the roof with square nails.
The main purpose of the barn was to care for the stock and equipment
used by the occupants of the fort and others who maintained operations
at the site. However, the barn proved an excellent lookout post
because of its height. The barn sheltered horses owned by the Hinckley
family and also by visitors to the fort. Well cared for horses were
essential to mail carriers and stage coach passengers. The barn was as
necessary for nineteenth century travelers as gas stations and auto
repair facilities are for the modern traveler. The barn was also
indispensable in the day-to-day operations of the fort.
pictures of the barn.
The blacksmith shop
Ira Hinckley, who learned the trade of blacksmithing as a young man
living in Nauvoo, established and ran a blacksmith shop at Cove Fort.
His skills were essential in providing shoeing services for the horses
of the stage coach lines and postal express riders. Freighters and
settlers who passed through Cove Fort were also in need of the skills
of a blacksmith for making wagon and equipment repairs. Ira was
prepared and willing to help any and all who could benefit from his
service. Because of the large demand for smithing work, Ira probably
employed other blacksmiths at various times.
pictures of blacksmith shop.