In 1867, Brigham Young sent Ira N. Hinckley to settle the southeast corner near Cove Creek (Millard County). The area did not have enough water to establish a town but Young wanted Hinckley to oversee the construction and operations of a fort that was approximately halfway between Fillmore (then the territorial capitol) and Beaver, Utah. It would also serve as a way station for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, miners, traders, and others who traveled along the settlements from Idaho to California.
Cove Fort was also a daily stop for two stagecoach lines. It offered protection, a place to rest and eat; a blacksmith for wagon repairs; a farrier for horse and oxen care; fresh water and feed for livestock; a telegraph office; and a Pony Express stop. It served these purposes until the early 1890s when the leaders of the Church decided it was no longer needed. The property was leased out and then sold.
The fort is made of volcanic rock, which workers hauled from west of the property. Most western forts of that era were constructed of wood. The fort is 110 square feet with a center courtyard and walls 18.5 feet tall. The walls are four feet thick at the footings and 2.5 feet thick at the top. Two sets of large wooden doors occupy the east and west ends. They were originally filled with sand to stop arrows and bullets. The fort contains twelve interior rooms. The fort took seven months to build.
Ira Hinckley and his family lived at Cove Fort until 1877. In 1988 the Hinckley family bought the fort and deeded it to the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church restored the fort, and the outbuildings—which include a smokehouse, a blacksmith shop, and a barn—have been re-created. Gardens have also been added. Ira Hinckley’s Coalville, Utah, cabin was moved to the site and a visitor’s center was built adjacent to the fort. President Gordon B. Hinckley, a grandson of Ira Hinckley, dedicated it on May 21, 1994. He said that the fort stands as a reminder of the faith and fortitude of the early Latter-day Saints.
- One hundred and twenty-seven years ago today, [Ira Hinckley] had arrived at this place, which was totally strange to him. He had come with Brigham Young, and President Young had left. Ira must have felt extremely lonely. He was thirty-eight years of age and had left his family behind him in Coalville, at least a ten-day journey away. He wasted no time in sympathizing with himself, however. He had been called to build a fort, and he began.
Cove Fort is the only Utah fort still standing. It now serves as a museum and a glimpse into Utah’s pioneer past. The fort is nestled near the junction of Interstate 15 and the western end of Interstate 70.