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Historic Fort Sanford

Numerous fortifications were erected in Central and Southern Utah in 1865 and 1866 during the Black Hawk Indian War to protect small settlements against attack by bands of Ute, Paiute, and Navajo Indians. Most were built around the towns themselves, and generally by the local citizens, but Fort Sanford was unique in design, construction, and purpose.

By orders from the commanding officers of the Territorial Militia and the Iron Military District, Major Silas Sanford Smith was directed to raise a force of fifty well-armed men to help protect the settlements of Circleville and Panguitch and to construct a fortification near the confluence of Bear Creek and the Sevier River. This was a strategic location commanding the Ute Indian Trail as well as the north-south route taken by pioneer settlers traveling through the area and along the Old Spanish Trail. Each provided access to the western regions.

Although Fort Sanford was in operation for a relatively short period of time, it represented a unique chapter in the history of this area. This monument is a tribute to the soldiers who built the Fort and the pioneers it protected.

There are two monuments/plaques that are both Daughters of Utah Pioneers historic marker(s) #588, the first is seen above and the second, below.

There is little evidence today that Fort Sanford once existed. A land survey indicates it stood approximately 1.5 miles to the south of this marker.

The Fort was built in 1866 to protect the settlers in Circleville and Panguitch during the Black Hawk Indian War and to prevent the Indians from stealing livestock. Fort Sanford also served as a supply depot for cavalry troops.

Fort Sanford was designed, built, and named by Major Silas Sanford Smith and his troops. It was constructed entirely of cedar (juniper) pickets that stood eight feet above the ground. A deep ditch at the base of the wall encompassed the entire Fort. The dimensions were 363 feet by 363 feet, or approximately three acres with “block houses.”

Within just three months of completion, President Brigham Young directed the evacuation of smaller towns for great protection. Most Panguitch residents moved to Parowan; Circleville settlers went to Beaver. With the evacuation of these two communities, the need for the Fort also ended. Eventually farmers would salvage the poles of the stockade to build houses, outbuildings and fences.