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COVE FORT

By Larry Porter

Cove Fort

Cove Fort is located immediately northeast of the junction of I-15 and I-70, in the southeast corner of Millard County, twenty miles south of Kanosh and twenty-four miles north of Beaver. Cove Fort was constructed in 1867. Prior to its construction, the site was occupied by a ranch-fort erected by the Charles William Willden family in 1860.

This site on Cove Creek was the natural location for a night's encampment between the communities of Fillmore and Beaver. The abandonment of Fort Willden in 1865 left travelers without a sanctuary from hostile Indians (the Black Hawk War commenced in 1865), or from severe weather conditions. In addition to private parties traveling that route, it was also necessary to afford some degree of safety to carriers of the U.S. mail, operators of the Deseret Telegraph, agents of the stagecoach line, and freighters who sought the refuge and convenience of that place.

Recognizing the necessity of a permanent facility at this strategic midpoint, Brigham Young directed Ira Nathaniel Hinckley to both superintend the LDS Church ranch at Cove Creek and to build a substantial fort at that place. In company with Brigham Young, Ira went to Cove Creek, arriving there on 29 April 1867. Other workmen were called to the site, including Ira's brother, Arza Erastus Hinckley. The building crew occupied Fort Willden during the construction phase of Cove Fort. Between April and November 1867, the primary structure was completed. The walls of the fort form a square which is 100 feet on each side. The walls are comprised mainly of black volcanic rock and dark limestone laid up in lime mortar, and are eighteen feet high.

From its construction in the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, a number of families occupied the fort, sometimes on a lease arrangement with the LDS Church. On 21 August 1919 President Heber J. Grant as Trustee-in Trust for the LDS Church signed over title to Cove Fort to William Henry Kesler, who had leased the land since 1903. In 1988, the Ira and Arza Hinckley families purchased Cove Fort from the descendants of William H. Kesler, and in ceremonies conducted at the fort on 13 August 1988 donated the structure back to the LDS Church for restoration as a historic site. On 9 May 1992 LDS general authority Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the newly restored fort. Plans for the reconstruction of outbuildings such as the blacksmith shop and barn are now in process. Cove Fort remains today one of the very few pioneer fortifications still standing in good condition, of the scores built during territorial days.