INTRODUCTION TO ST. GEORGE
During the October 1861 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Pres. Brigham Young gave a call to settle in this area. Three hundred and nine families answered the call and headed for what was to become St. George. The LDS Church had already established small colonies in several other locations in the Washington County area. Individuals in the nearly eight hundred member group came from a devout religious background.
St. George, as a community, was unique right from the beginning. Most towns were built on rivers, near railroads, in large cattle areas or in areas where industry could help the establishment of new settlements. St. George really had no immediate way of obtaining any material wealth. It was established to provide cotton and other goods for the early Mormon settlers.
This first encampment of the St. George Dixie Saints, arrived on November 24, 1861, and according to A.K. Hafen in “Beneath Vermillion Cliffs”, was about half a mile west of the existing Dixie College Campus; about 600 East and below Tabernacle Street.
On December 4, 1861, just 10 days after their arrival, Elder Erastus Snow called the people together with the first matter of business being the organization of a school for all the children. The new tent and wagon city of St. George selected members of a committee whose responsibility it became to organize a school system and to hire the schoolteachers.
Beginning with that first meeting and continuing for 40 years, school was conducted on a regular basis in four ward schoolhouses, the top floor of the courthouse, the basement of the Tabernacle, and in private homes. Only about half of the eligible students could be taught in the space available.
The Woodward School, which was begun May 18, 1897, was the answer to these needs for additional school facilities.