Fort a monument to faith, fortitude

Historic Cove Fort - a monument to pioneer faith, fortitude and frontier craftsmanship - was dedicated May 21 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

An estimated 2,000 people attended the dedicatory service, conducted on a sunny but wind-whipped day that saw speakers keeping a firm grip on their texts to keep their papers - and perhaps themselves - from being blown away."I know it's hot out there and that you're miserable, but you came here expecting that," quipped President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, at the outset of his remarks. "Moreover, the whole theme of this structure is endurance. Do the best you can."

The dedication culminated several years of renovation since the fort was deeded to the Church in 1988 by the Historic Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation, an organization directed by descendants of Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, President Hinckley's grandfather. (See Church News Aug. 20, 1988.)

When Cove Fort was established in 1867, Ira Hinckley was called by President Brigham Young to spearhead construction. President Hinckley's father, Bryant S. Hinckley, spent the first 10 years of his life there. Ira was assisted in the construction by his brother, Arza E. Hinckley, and workers from LDS wards in Fillmore and Beaver. Those who labored on the project received tithing credit for their efforts.

Walls of the structure were made of volcanic rock, held together with lime mortar. Wood came from the surrounding hills. The 10,000-square-foot fort was substantially complete by November 1867. Other structures were erected adjacent to the fort to provide a self-contained community that offered respite and protection to residents and weary travelers. (See additional Cove Fort historic background in Church News June 17, 1989; May 16, 1992; and April 30, 1994.)

President Hinckley was accompanied at the dedication by his wife, Marjorie, and other members of his immediate family. Also in attendance were hundreds of other descendants of Ira N. and Arza E. Hinckley. Other General Authorities present included President Howard W. Hunter and Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve; Elders Lloyd P. George, Malcolm S. Jeppsen and Stephen D. Nadauld of the Seventy; and Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric. Elder Nadauld, executive director of the Church Historical Department, conducted the services and also spoke.

In his remarks, President Hinckley reflected: "I suppose that if Ira Hinckley were to look down on us he would be amazed and might say, `Why all the fuss?' One hundred twenty-seven years ago today, he was right here where we now are. Only three weeks earlier he 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 38 years of age and had left his family behind him in Coalville, at least a 10-day journey away. He wasted no time in sympathizing with himself, however. He had been called to build a fort, and he began. . . .

"When he arrived here it was a desert area with insufficient water, a few Indians, many snakes, rabbits and other wildlife, and the loneliness of silence."

President Hinckley recounted - as had Elder Nadauld who had spoken before him - some of the history of the fort's construction. He noted the sacrifice and faith of his grandfather and others who had labored with him, including the commitment of Ira's own family.

"Trees were planted here. Fields were plowed and crops sown. The waters of Cove Creek were carefully husbanded. This desolate place was made to bloom. It became an exciting place of activity. My father was brought here when he was 3 months old and spent the first 10 years of his life here. He has told us that these were exciting days for a little boy."

President Hinckley and his family visited the fort when his father was age 85. "He sat on a log and told us of his boyhood days. . . . Father told us of the time when Brigham Young held him on his knee. On such an occasion the president gave him a coin, which father later spent. When he grew older he regretted he had ever spent that coin."

As a boy, his father was accidentally shot in the leg when some boys were playing with a loaded pistol at the fort, President Hinckley recounted. "He carried that ball in his leg to his grave."

President Hinckley also made, with some emotion, special mention of the women who had lived and served at the fort in its early years. "For them, it was a very difficult thing. They cooked and cared for their large families. They prepared thousands upon thousands of meals for hungry travelers who stopped here. They cleaned and scrubbed in seasons of both sickness and health. They gave birth to children, nurtured, trained and educated them in this frontier and lonely outpost. They planted flowers and gardens. They graced their tables with clean linen, and their windows with laundered and starched curtains.

"They brought beauty to this desolate place. They also brought gladness when their voices were lifted in laughter. Their prayers reached to heaven, not only in behalf of their families, but also for the many who came this way who were impoverished, hungry and sick unto death. Their tears fell on the hard, dry ground on which we stand today."

President Hinckley credited the many people and parties who had cared for and maintained the fort through the years, recounting the details of its acquisition by the Hinckley family and subsequent donation to the Church. He also praised the many people involved with the restoration project.

"What you see today represents a very substantial expenditure by the Church of time, talent and money, to bring about this magnificent restoration," he said. "This place, this

fortT and its associated buildings, stands as a remarkable monument to the great faith, dedicated skill and undivided loyalty of those who in response to calls from leaders of the Church, left dear places and more comfortable homes and came to this area to build and live. . . ."

"This place was constructed to provide safety and rest, nourishment and comfort. It was operated by good Samaritans who gave succor to those in need. Hunger was satisfied here; wounds were dressed; comfort and hope were spoken; and there was prayer. Each morning and each night there was prayer. Gratitude was expressed for the gift of life; gratitude was expressed for the challenges of life. . . .

"Those who built and lived here believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They believed in family, they believed in the nation whose flag flew over this fort. They believed in the Church which they loved and honored and served. . . . They read together the sacred books they loved. In solemnity they gathered their families about them and spoke with their eternal Father in the name of His beloved Son, the Redeemer of the world.

"More solid than the foundation upon which these rock walls stand was their quiet faith. Today I feel deeply grateful to all who have gone before us. I am grateful for all who have labored to restore this reminder of the past. . . . I extend thanks to all who have worked long and hard to bring this wonderful accomplishment to completion."

At the conclusion of his remarks, President Hinckley pronounced a prayer of dedication on the fort and surrounding complex, dedicating it as a sacred site that will serve as a reminder of the faith and fortitude of those who have gone before.

Prior to President Hinckley's address, and after Elder Nadauld had recounted a detailed history of the fort and explained the purposes of its restoration, President Hinckley expressed special delight at the presence of President and Sister Hunter. He then asked President Hunter to say a few words to the group. He also called upon Sister Colleen Hinckley Maxwell, wife of Elder Neal Maxwell and great-granddaughter of Ira N. Hinckley, to share her feelings.

"I'm grateful to be here on this occasion," said President Hunter. "I know President Hinckley has looked forward to this day and this event. I think we owe a great deal to the Hinckley family, those who have had the vision to accomplish the thing that has been done here, which will long live as a memorial to those early Saints who we have heard about this morning.

"How grateful we should be for them and what they have done for us, and the heritage that they have left. . . . May the Lord bless us, and may we catch the vision of what has been done in years gone by to establish what has become a far-flung empire around the world, the kingdom of God here upon the earth. May the Lord bless us as those who preceded us have been blessed."

Sister Maxwell told of trying to see the rugged yet scenic surroundings through the eyes of her great-grandfather as she was seated with others at the foot of the fort's lofty gates. "I truly feel humble to be a descendant of these great and faithful and noble pioneers."

Music for the dedication was provided by a combined choir from the Beaver and Fillmore stakes. Prayers were offered by Pres. David Christensen of the Fillmore Utah Stake and Pres. B. Noal Robinson of the Beaver Utah Stake.

Included in the restoration project was the historically accurate reconstruction of accompanying facilities including an authentic barn, blacksmith shop, smokehouse, gardens, orchard, grain fields, pond, horse and cattle corrals, small animal pens, hay derrick, cabin and multiple types of fencing. The Ira N. Hinckley cabin was moved from Coalville, Utah, restored and is located across the street from the fort. It was in that cabin that Ira lived when he was called by Brigham Young to go to southern Utah. The rebuilding and moving of the cabin were paid for by private donations and not tithing funds, President Hinckley noted.

The complex is located in southern Utah just off the junction of I-70 and I-15 between Fillmore and Beaver. It is staffed by missionaries and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to dusk. For the convenience of travelers, rest rooms and a picnic area have been built as part of the project.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed