Welcome to the first edition of the Homestead Telegraph. Through this blog we will keep you up to date on current happenings at Frontier Homestead, provide you with a look into our collection, and provide a look into the history of our area. Please feel free to comment on our posts and don’t forget to share them with your friends. Now, let’s talk about sheep.
The mining of iron ore drove the settlement of Southwestern Utah. From 1851 to 1857 settlers operated a productive iron foundry. Due to difficult times, poor technology, and some circumstances beyond their control, production ceased in 1858. The population of the area dropped from over one thousand to 301. A majority of these early residents came from industrial centers of Europe and knew little or nothing about sheep. However, the sheep industry became a focal point for community survival until the mines reopened in the early 1920’s. The Willden family first brought sheep into the area in 1852. The Willdens brought ten head and soon many other locals sought to own sheep to produce wool for spinning and weaving family clothing. The sheep were valued at thirty dollars a head and most were kept in pens at home and fed by hand, much like pigs.
The flocks in Cedar City began to grow and soon the sheep population became a burden to care for on the small lots most residents owned. Many families began to drive their flocks out in the morning and then back home in the evening. The sheep could then pick out their own living off the land. Eventually, a community herd developed and a local co-op organization was created. The sheep would only be brought into town once a year to be shorn and the excess wool would be sold. The individuals who owned sheep in the co-op would be distributed the profits in the form of merchandise from the “sheep store.” These herds grew into a strong business concern, which paid dividends that ranged from twenty-five to sixty percent.
The Cedar City Cooperative Sheep Company dissolved in 1917. As the local community began to establish itself as a destination for miners, tourists, and Hollywood, sheep ranching no longer served as the business of the community at large, but continued with a few families, some which still carry on the “saving grace” of sheep ranching. Next Time: Moving the Sheep