After spending the night in Cedar City, Tom and I continued our exploration of the area with a visit to Old Iron Town. Because Old Iron Town is billed as a ghost town, I thought all we would find down the dirt road would be abandoned buildings. But there are modern homes in Old Iron Town also. The town is still living.
Brigham Young, the leader of the Latter Day Saints, sent out several families to establish an iron mission. He wanted the Latter Day Saints to be self-sufficient and not have to rely on “gentiles” – people who aren’t LDS. So he wanted the Latter Day Saints to mine their own iron and make steel. Old Iron Town sits at the base of a mountain that contains iron and next to a creek that provided the water necessary for processing it.
Old Iron Town prospered for a time. Buildings there included a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a foundry and a charcoal kiln. But the mission eventually failed and was abandoned in 1874. Iron production in the area gained ground again once the Union Pacific built a spur railroad to transport the ore.
Old Iron Town is in Dixie National Forest so Tom and I drove down a National Forest Road to get there. When we arrived we found one other couple just leaving. Other than that, we had the historic grounds to ourselves. We saw the charcoal kiln, the chimney from the foundry, and a furnace hood. We followed a clear path with many helpful waysides and signs. Tom and I also walked the short nature trail down to the (dry) creek.
We stayed less than an hour, but thoroughly explored the ruins of the town and read all the signs. I wondered about the people still living there. Maybe they are employees of the Dixie National Forest. Or maybe the homesites were excluded when the National Forest was established. At any rate, seeing the modern homes in the “ghost town” was weird.