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Nisson Park in Washington, Utah.

Willard O. Nisson Park opened in May of 1999. Serving as a gateway to the city with the magnificent water wheel feature, Nisson Park also has a covered pavilion, a playground area, basketball hoops, a shaded walking path with picnic tables, restrooms and a large playing field.

There are some historic plaques on the main sign with the water wheel with the following information:

Washington City 1857

Washington City was founded by 38 southern families in the spring of 1857. Brigham Young called these families to serve on a mission to grow cotton in an area explored by John D. Lee in 1852. The mission was called the Cotton or Southern Mission. Brigham Young knew that southerners knew how to grow or at least had seen cotton grown. The city laid out on the 6 or 7 of May and the officials for the city’s operation were elected. Robert D. Covington was selected as the religious branch president, Harrison Pierce (Pearce) first counselor, and Jonathan R. Regeon (James B. Reagan) second counselor, Wm. R. Slade and James D. McCullough as Justices of the Peace, James Matthew and John Hawley as constables, Wm. Young and Joseph Adair as fence viewers, G.R.Coley was stray pound keeper, and Wm. R. Slade, Geo. Hawley and G.W. Spencer as school trustees. They immediately started to dig ditches, clear land and build a dam on the Rio Virgin so that they could plat crops. Cotton and corn were the main crops planted that first summer. Since they were Southerners they started to call thei new home “Dixie.” This name soon spread to the rest of the area so Washington City is Utah’s Dixie birthplace.

The area where the Willard O. Nisson park now stands was used as a campground in the latter part of the 1800’s. It was known as camp Washington and as Hall’s campground or pasture. Calvin Hall was the owner and operator of the campground. This provided for a place where visitors could come and stay in the small wooden cabins that were located on the property He also had a store located on the southeast corner of 200 W. and Telegraph St. This campground was the first place on Washington that had drinking water delivered in a pipe. A pipe was run from the northeast corner of 200 N. and 200 E. known as Hal’s Head House. This provided clean water to the campground. The water system to provide water to the homes in Washington was built in 1931.

The Antone and Leroy Nisson Families wanted to honor their father, Willard O. Nisson so they arranged for the building of this park. Through an exchange of properties, this property became available to that Washington City could construct this facility. Willard was known as a great schoolteacher, school principal, city mayor, and a talented musician. Willard’s sister Annie, the wife of Hans Peter Iverson, also came to Washington at this time. The Willard Nisson family home was located on the northwest corner of Main St. and Telegraph St.

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Telegraph Street

When Washington was laid out in May, 1857, there was not a street named or located where Telegraph Street is today. It was not until the resurvey of January, 1873, ordered by Wm. Snow, Judge of the Probate Court dated December, 1872, that Telegraph Street was shown on a city map. The Telegraph was completed between St. George and Logan, Utah on January 10, 1867, and the wire for the telegraph was located about where Telegraph Street is today; therefore the name Telegraph Street.

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Millcreek Mills

Machine Creek was the original name of Millcreek. John M. Chidester sold the water rights from Machine Creek to Brigham Young in 1864 so that the cotton factory could be built. It must have been after all of the mills were built along the creek that the name Millcreek came into existence. There were at least 8 mills built along the creek: #1 James Richey’s cotton gin was built in May, 1858. The first cotton gin built in the area. #2 Thomas W. Smith’s corn cracker mill was built in 1857 about halfway between Telegraph Street and the mouth of Millcreek where it enters the Rio Virgin. #3 Theodore Turley had a gristmill a few hundred yards below where the cotton factory is. John D. Lee purchased this mill and later sold it to Henry Barney of Grafton before 1860. #4 John D. Lee’s grist and lumber mill was finished Telegraph Street / Millcreek Mills Markers image. Click for full size. By Bill Kirchner, August 30, 2012 2. Telegraph Street / Millcreek Mills Markers in the fall of 1861 on the east side of the reek near the Turley’s mill site. #5 Snow’s gristmill on the west side of the creek opposite Jon D. Lee’s mill was built in 1866. #6 Hawley’s cane mill near the mouth of Millcreek was built before 1859. This mill was obtained by John D. Lee and his new replacement mill #7 was finished in September 1859. #8 The Cotton Factory was started to be built in 1865 and completely finished in 1870.

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There is also a “Pioneer Cotton Mills” historic marker with the following text:

As early as 1851 cotton was raised in northern Utah. In 1855 it was cultivated on a small scale at Santa Clara, nine miles west of here. In 1864 the nearby communities had 140 acres under cultivation, and the product was said “to be equal in every way to that grown in Tennessee.” The first extensive manufacture of cotton cloth was begun in 1865 when a cooperative cotton factory, organized by Brigham Young, was established immediately south of this marker. Machinery was freighted from the Missouri River, more than 1300 miles away. Shortly after the opening of the factory, equipment to manufacture woolen cloth was also installed, the wool being provided from large flocks of sheep, also operated on a church cooperative basis. The cotton industry flourished surprisingly for a time, partly due to Civil War interference with planters in the south. Part of the raw product went to California and some was freighted to New York where it sold as high as $1.90 a pound. After the cotton industry revived in the south, following the close of the war, the industry in Utah was abandoned.

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