Although settlers came to Washington County as early as 1852, St. George was settled in 1861. Mormon leader Brigham Young sent a group of pioneers to the far reaching corner of the Territory of Utah to grow cotton and wine grapes and harvest silk for export to the Civil War-torn northern states. Today the cotton fields are gone, the wineries are closed and the silk industry has given way to modern, more prosperous businesses.
St. George, the county’s largest city, lies along interstate 15 with a host of smaller communities that make up Utah’s Dixie. The advantages of the county’s position along one of the nation’s key north-south routes between California and places such as Salt Lake City, Denver and Albuquerque is making Washington County one of the nation’s fastest growing communities. The scenic area not only provides easy access to major markets of the western United States, it has become a destination point for countless people and businesses looking for a better way of life and more fruitful atmosphere for growth and prosperity.
From 1990 to 1995, Washington County grew a staggering 50 percent and St. George grew 61 percent, while the rest of the state tallied up a total growth rate of 16 percent. The tiny farming community of St. George had grown up and surrounding cities followed suit.
By the end of the decade, the St. George – Zion National Park areas of Washington County were rated among the best communities in the country to retire by Rand McNalley, Prentice Hall, Money and the American Association of Retired People. As a result there was a large amount of construction of new homes in the Washington County area.
The unprecedented growth experienced in the county has not been limited to retirees, however. Young working families joined the migration to Utah’s Dixie to establish one of the most stable and reliable work forces in the nation. They came for the climate, the scenic beauty, the family atmosphere and explosive job opportunities. Much of the growth is due to the area’s competitive construction rates and low crime.