Hands-on for all

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.

  • 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.

The Wool Harvest

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

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.

Next Time: Hands-On activities for all

Beginning with Sheep

Welcome to the first edition of the Homestead Telegraph.  Through this blog we will keep you up to date on current happenings at Frontier Homestead, provide you with a look into our collection, and provide a look into the history of our area. Please feel free to comment on our posts and don’t forget to share them with your friends. Now, let’s talk about sheep. The mining of iron ore drove the settlement of Southwestern Utah. From 1851 to 1857 settlers operated a productive iron foundry. Due to difficult times, poor technology, and some circumstances beyond their control, production ceased in 1858. The population of the area dropped from over one thousand to 301.  A majority of these early residents came from industrial centers of Europe and knew little or nothing about sheep. However, the sheep industry became a focal point for community survival until the mines reopened in the early 1920’s. The Willden family first brought sheep into the area in 1852. The Willdens brought ten head and soon many other locals sought to own sheep to produce wool for spinning and weaving family clothing. The sheep were valued at thirty dollars a head and most were kept in pens at home and fed by hand, much like pigs.

The flocks in Cedar City began to grow and soon the sheep population became a burden to care for on the small lots most residents owned. Many families began to drive their flocks out in the morning and then back home in the evening. The sheep could then pick out their own living off the land. Eventually, a community herd developed and a local co-op organization was created. The sheep would only be brought into town once a year to be shorn and the excess wool would be sold. The individuals who owned sheep in the co-op would be distributed the profits in the form of merchandise from the “sheep store.” These herds grew into a strong business concern, which paid dividends that ranged from twenty-five to sixty percent.

An old photo from the Branch Agricultural College.

The Cedar City Cooperative Sheep Company dissolved in 1917. As the local community began to establish itself as a destination for miners, tourists, and Hollywood, sheep ranching no longer served as the business of the community at large, but continued with a few families, some which still carry on the “saving grace” of sheep ranching. Next Time: Moving the Sheep

Sheep grazing on Cedar Mountain in the fall.