Fort Deseret was erected in 1865 to protect settlers during the Blackhawk Indian War. The U.S. Army said they could not protect settlers against Indian threats because of their commitments in the Civil War. They advised the pioneers to either move to a larger, safer city or build a fort. With a great sense of urgency they chose to build a fort.
It was completed in 18 days by 98 men. William S. Hawley and Isaac W. Pierce were foremen and John W. Radford was superintendent.The men were divided into two teams who competed against each other to see who could do their part fastest. The winners were to be treated by the losers to a dance and supper. One group completed their wall in nine days while a second group finished theirs a few hours later. Since part of the first team’s wall fell down, it was considered a tie by those two groups and an opening celebration was held July 25, 1865.
The fort was 550-feet square with bastions at the northeast and southwest corners. It had gates in the middle of each side and portholes along each wall. The walls were made of adobe mud and straw mixed by the feet of oxen. A ditch was dug to carry water around the walls. When completed, the walls were 10-feet high, 3-feet wide at the base and 1.5-feet wide at the top. Rough-hewn lumber was used to make portals through which guns could be fired. The walls rest on a three-foot wide lava stone foundation.
In the spring of 1866, the fort proved its worth when Blackhawk and his warriors showed up. They had recently killed several settlers in San Pete County about 60-70 miles to the east, and when they came to Deseret, they stole some cattle and threatened the community. The fort provided security for the settler’s livestock while negotiations took place which settled the matter peacefully.
Fort Deseret serves as a landmark of Mormon pioneer history and is the only remaining example of the many adobe forts built in Utah. It’s communal construction using materials at hand exemplifies the cooperative and resourceful nature of Mormon settlement.
Fort Deseret is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A historic marker is located in front of the fort. Since 1988, a group of local individuals have cared for the site by patching and rebuilding walls, planting trees and giving tours to groups.
Fort Deseret Interpretive Site. “Discovering Millard County” magazine.
Delta, Utah 10 miles.
Southwest from Delta on paved Highway 257 two miles south of the community of Deseret.