Archaeology Month is here!

Throwing the Atl Atl.


May is Archaeology and Historic Preservation month in Utah, and Frontier Homestead, along with Southern Utah University, Project Archaeology, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest service have teamed up to provide a slate of activities that all ages can enjoy.

The fun begins on Saturday, May 2 from 10am to 3pm, with the fourth annual Archeology Day at Frontier Homestead. Learn how to throw an Atl-Atl, build an ancient dwelling, and make your own rock art and rope. Boy Scouts will be able to earn their Indian Lore merit badge. Bring some stuff from home and “Ask and Archaeologist” to give you some insight into your family treasures. Park entrance fee is $1.50 per person or $5.00 per family.  We will also be offering a guided tour of Parowan Gap led by BLM archaeologist Jamie Palmer. The tour leaves at 9am from Frontier Homestead and will return in time to enjoy the activities at the museum. Carpool or drive yourself, the choice is yours.

Building a Wikiup for the Indian Lore merit badge.

Building a Wikiup for the Indian Lore merit badge.

On Monday, May 4 from 6-8pm the SUU archeology repository will be open for tours. This is a rare opportunity to see artifacts from a variety of archeological sites around southern Utah. Curator Barbara Frank will be offering these tours every half hour.

Old Iron Town is next tour stop during this month long celebration of the past. Museum staff member Stephen Olsen will be leading this tour. Olsen is full of knowledge and lore about this often overlooked site in Iron County. The tour leaves at 10am from Frontier Homestead. Bring water and sunscreen.  Once again, you can carpool or drive.

Wednesday, May 27 from 6-8pm, Frontier Homestead hosts the final event of the month. Come and mix and mingle as you look around the museum and then stay for the presentation by David Maxwell, Director of Geosciences at SUU, who will be talking about ancient rock symbols on the Arizona Strip.

For more specific information and directions, please give us a call at (435) 586-9290.


A young archaeologist in training.

Next Time: Exploring the new Native Heritage Exhibit


Top 5 Reasons to Volunteer at Frontier Homestead State Park

#5: It’s good for you.

Volunteering at Frontier Homestead State Park provides physical and mental rewards. It:

  • Reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on something other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
  • Makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like the optimism and joy you will feel when you are on the grounds of Frontier Homestead will strengthen your immune system.
Museum volunteer working our rope station.

Museum volunteer working our rope station.

#4: It saves resources.

Volunteering provides valuable service so more money can be spent on Park improvements.

  • The estimated value of a volunteer’s time = $15.39 per hour.
  • Volunteering at FHSP = Priceless

#3: It brings people together.

As a volunteer you assist with special events that bring the community together:

    • Sheep to Shawl
    • Archaeology Day
    • Iron Mission Days
    • Christmas at the Homestead
    • School Groups
Volunteer teaching spinning.

Volunteer teaching spinning.

 #2: You learn a lot.

You will learn traditional living skills and fun activities such as:

    • Candle Dipping
    • Spinning and Weaving
    • Rope making
    • Making adobe brick
    • Cow roping
    • Printing press
    • Throwing the Atl Atl
    • Panning for Gold

#1: You will make a difference.

According to Frontier Homestead State Park Manager Todd Prince, “With limited paid staff, our volunteers are integral to the success of the Park.  Our volunteers make it possible to host major community events such as Iron Mission Days and Christmas at the Homestead.  They also work closely with staff to provide outreach programs to area schools, and deliver living history experiences to our visitors. The modest benefits of volunteering at the Park are enhanced by the satisfaction one receives of making a difference in the quality of people’s lives.”

To learn more, please call us at (435) 586-9290

We also have opportunities for tour guides.

We also have opportunities for tour guides.

Hands-on for all

Ready for a checkers match?

Ready for a checkers match?

Spring has arrived at Frontier Homestead and with the warmer temperatures comes the annual opening of our self-directed activity stations. These very popular hands-on, interactive activities allow visitors of all ages to personally connect with the past like never before. Currently we have twelve stations including:

    • Playing dominos
    • Washing clothes – Frontier Homestead style
    • Building a miniature log cabin
Build your cabin or your castle.

Build your cabin or your castle.

  • Writing your name in the Deseret Alphabet
  • Challenging your friends and family to a game of checkers
  • Taking home your own handwritten postcard
  • Designing your own sheep brand
  • Learning to tie a variety of knots
  • Loading our full-size covered wagon
  • Panning for gold
  • Grinding sand in our Arrastra
  • Roping our Homestead cattle

Our self-directed activities allow you to spend as much time as you want at Frontier Homestead, engage with the past in an entertaining way, and above all, choose your own adventure.  Stop by and see if you have what it takes to be a Homesteader.

Next Time: Volunteers

There's gold (painted rocks) in them hills.

There’s gold (painted rocks) in them hills.

The Wool Harvest

Early days of shearing

Early days of shearing

Shearing and wool handling methods in the early days of Iron County were crude and time-consuming compared with the modern process.  Shearers were paid five cents per head and the fleece averaged only four or five pounds. The early shearer would run out to a large corral, catch a sheep and drag it to shearing. Using manual shears, similar to large scissors, he would deftly trim the wool off the sheep. When completed, he would tie the fleece up and throw it for collection by the bagger.  All this completed, the shearer walked over to a piece of cardboard hanging on the wall, checked a tally mark under his name and went out to the big corral for another sheep.  Speed and delicacy were the skills needed for success. Many a shearer lost a day’s wages after slicing a vein and killing a sheep.

Sheep ranchers would take their entire herd to a central location for shearing. Iron Springs soon became an ideal place for this process. Shearing at Iron Springs in the early days was one of the big community events in which nearly everybody played a part.  The men camped in tents and wagon boxes along the creek, while the women at home cooked the food and sent it out once a week. William R. Palmer notes: “Some women sent lots of pies, cakes, and pastries, but the man who received them almost had to stand guard with a shotgun to get a taste. On one pretext or another he would be enticed away from his camp and return to find all his dainties consumed.”

The Ras Jones shearing shed at Iron Springs

The Ras Jones shearing shed at Iron Springs

As the number of sheep increased in Cedar City shearing time became exceedingly busy.  Some relief came in the 1920’s when portable motors became readily available for use in the area. Erastus Jones built a large shearing shed and corral with nine shearing stations powered by an engine west of Cedar City.  With the new mechanical clippers the work could be performed in one-third the time, although the skill of the shearer still proved essential for success. Each man could shear approximately 150 sheep in an eight hour period, and soon the operation maintained a swing shift to ensure that all the sheep were taken care of. The Jones shearing operation continued for twenty years, until portable shearing became cost effective and more convenient. The Rass Jones Shearing Shed is on exhibit here at Frontier Homestead.

A sheep is shorn in the Ras Jones Shearing shed.

A sheep is shorn in the Ras Jones Shearing shed.

Next Time: Hands-On activities for all

Moving the sheep

The herder's home away from home.

The herder’s home away from home.

Sheep ranching in Iron County is often a transhumant operation. This means that the sheep are moved seasonally to different locations. The summer finds them on the mountain while the winter range is the desert.  The sheep are rotated between different pastures in an effort to maintain effective feed. While on government land, a sheepherder is required to be with the sheep to keep them from overgrazing an area, wandering into dangerous and protected areas, and privately owned land. Sheep ranchers are assigned an allotment of land that is used solely for their flock.

Sheep were first taken to the Cedar Mountain in 1870. Local historian William R. Palmer recorded that two men were sent with the herd. They had strict instructions to keep the sheep out of the timber. The owners were afraid that the sheep would get lost, wander away, or get eaten by a predator. One hot summer day, the sheep were determined to get into the shade, where they would have lain all day until evening when they could be driven at will. However, remembering their instructions, the two sheepherders spent the day battling the sheep to keep them away from the shade. Finally, the herd scattered and ran for the timber. One of the men quickly rode to town to report the disaster. A number of residents return to help gather the flock. Palmer states; “Riding and yelling through the forest like madmen they rounded up the wayward woolies and forced them back to the naked sunburned hillside. Then with many admonitions to the careless herdsmen they returned to town feeling they had done a good and heroic days work.”  Fortunately, sheep ranchers today have a much better understanding of the nature of sheep.

Sheep head for greener pastures on the mountain

Sheep head for greener pastures on the mountain

The Ted Nelson family has been sheep ranching in Iron County for over six generations. Their ranch is centrally located between winter and summer range. Each season the sheep are driven to their ground on the mountain, then back to the ranch, then to the desert, and finally back to the ranch for lambing. The sheep move along trails created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  All local commercial sheep operations work their herds in this manner. Moving the sheep is essential for the survival of the herd, the financial success of a sheep ranch, and the ecological health of the rangeland.

The winter range west of Cedar City


Next Time- Shearing