“President Hinckley Dedicates Restored Cove Fort,” Ensign, Aug. 1994, 74–75
With its four-foot-thick walls of volcanic rock standing as firmly today as they did 127 years ago, Cove Fort—located in southern Utah between Fillmore and Beaver—was dedicated 21 May 1994 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, grandson of the fort’s builder.
Standing in front of an estimated two thousand people, President Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, gave remarks and a dedicatory prayer, calling the fort and surrounding area a sacred site that serves as a reminder of the faith and fortitude of the early Latter-day Saints. One of those early pioneers was Ira Hinckley, President Hinckley’s grandfather and the man Brigham Young commissioned to build and care for the fort.
The fort served as protection against Indian attacks on the telegraph offices and mail stations and as a refuge for weary travelers during the mid-1800s. It is the only pioneer fort in Utah still standing.
“This place was constructed to provide safety and rest, nourishment and comfort. … Those who built and lived here believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. More solid than the foundation upon which these rock walls stand was their quiet faith,” declared President Hinckley.
During his remarks, President Hinckley made mention of his grandfather’s and father’s involvement in the fort’s early years.
“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,” said President Hinckley. It took Ira and the other builders a mere seven months to finish the fort, which still stands today because of its fine craftsmanship.
Switching his thoughts to his father, President Hinckley continued, “My father was brought here when he was three months old and spent the first ten years of his life here. He told us [children] that these were exciting days for a little boy.
“Father told us of the time when Brigham Young held him on his knee. On one such occasion the President gave him a coin, which Father later spent. When he grew older, he regretted he ever spent that coin,” recalled President Hinckley.
However, President Hinckley’s praise for the founders of Cove Fort was not limited to his ancestors nor to the men who were involved. He also lauded, with emotion, the brave women who served at the fort.
“It was a frontier and lonely outpost, but they brought beauty to this desolate place,” he said. “They 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. I bow my head in solemn and sacred gratitude,” he concluded.
Others who spoke at the service were President Howard W. Hunter, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Stephen D. Nadauld of the Seventy, executive director of the Church Historical Department; and Sister Colleen Hinckley Maxwell, wife of Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve and great-granddaughter of Ira Hinckley. Music was provided by the combined choirs of the Fillmore and Beaver stakes.
President Hunter expressed his gratitude to the Historic Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation, an organization directed by descendants of Ira Hinckley, which deeded Cove Fort to the Church in 1988.
“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,” said President Hunter.
Included in the restoration project is an authentic barn, a blacksmith shop, a smokehouse, gardens, and orchards. Located just off the junction of highways I-70 and I-15 between Fillmore and Beaver, Cove Fort is open to the public from 10:00 A.M. until dusk. Admission is free. Missionaries are on hand to welcome visitors and answer their questions.