Formerly known as Little Pinto, Old Irontown is a ghost town with ruins of buildings and charcoal kilns in Iron County, Utah.
This historic marker reads:
Established 1868 by Ebenezer Hanks and others who organized the Great Western Iron Manufacturing Co., a cooperative enterprise. Officers were E. Hanks, President, Homer Duncan, Vice President, Seth M. Blair, Secretary. 800 pounds of iron of good quality produced each eight hours, the plant running day and night.
The story of Utah’s iron and steel industry begins soon after the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
First of all, because of geographic isolation and because of their desire for ideological insolation, Mormon pioneer leaders early adopted a policy of economic independence and self-sufficiency. Coupled to this policy was a belief in their earthly stewardship; namely, “the earth is the Lord’s . . .” to be subdued by his chosen people. The Saints could make Zion flourish by applying themselves. The resources were there to be exploited.
As early as the fall of 1849 an exploring party, led by Apostle Parley P. Pratt, discovered Iron Mountain in Southern Utah and the coal beds nearby at Cedar City. Within two years settlements had been established at Parowan and Cedar City in Iron County. Those settlers called to Cedar City were designated “Iron Missionaries.” They formed the Pioneer Iron Company in 1851-1852. It was suceeded by the ill-dated and costly Deseret Iron Company, both located near Cedar City, which operated between 1852 and 1858 This latter company was an attempt by the L.D.S. Church to raise British capital to finance the development of the industry and to employ skilled English workmen to operate the furnaces and plants. However, although nearly $150,000 were expended over a ten-year period, only about 400 tons of iron were produced. Several factors, including cold weather and floods, destroyed the project.
Yet the resource remained as did the need for iron. A renewal of interest began in 1868. Seth M. Blair, Chapman Duncan and Ebenezer Hanks, Directors and President, respectively, of the new Union Iron Works, organized the new company and employed David B. Adams of Beaver to run the furnaces. They reported in August of 1871 that they could now produce up to 2,500 pounds of iron per day. Both church and government monies subsidized this operation.
Their plant was located on Pinto Creek about 22 miles southwest of Cedar City, near the southern tip of Iron Mountain. They built several charcoal furnaces, one of which remains. (The coal near Cedar City contained so much sulfur that it was difficult to make a good coke; consideration was even given to moving the operation to Wales in Sanpete County.) They also constructed an “Arastra” for preparing fine sand for molds, a foundry and furnaces. Stoves, irons and milling equipment made at the site were sold to the miners in Nevada and elsewhere.
In 1873 the company was reorganized as the Great Western Iron and Manufacturing Company, which expanded the plant to include an engine house, two furnaces, a foundry, a pattern shop, and a business office. It remained active for three years, but could not compete on such a limited basis, and became inactive. This site preserves remnants of this 1868-1876 period of production.
In 1881 the Board of Trade and the leaders of the Mormon Church again sought the development of this major resource. The Utah Iron Manufacturing Company was organized but, as their mineral claims were “jumped,” litigation was required to clear title to them. By 1884, the properties were cleared and production was planned by the new Iron Manufacturing Company of Utah, consisting of the same interests basically as the 1881 company. However, by 1884 the United States Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of the 1882 Edmunds-Tucker Act prohibiting polygamous cohabitation in the case of Rudger Clawson. Consequently “Feds” descended on Mormon leaders, driving them “underground” and, in this particular instance, putting an end to the cooperative, church-supported development of Utah’s iron industry.
Later, of course, these resources were developed and became a part of the national iron and steel complexes.