By Kalani Morse
A trip south on I-15 to Las Vegas or southern Utah brings adventurous travelers right past a little known attraction.
“It”s definitely worth taking the time to pull over and have a look,” said recent visitor Richard Mckinley from Vista, California.
A popular piece of church history sits in southeast Millard County, twenty miles south of Kanosh.
Built between April and November 1867 by quarrymen, stonemasons, and carpenter from central Utah settlements, Cove Fort has become a popular visitors center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We get 700 – 900 people a day coming to visit us,” said Sister Nadine Nelson, a volunteer missionary who gives tours to visitors.
Sister Nelson”s husband, A. Tom Nelson is the director of the Cove Fort Visitor”s Center. The couple, from Salt Lake City, live in the fort while on their missions there.
Cove Fort is second only to Temple Square in the number of visitors to church history sites of the Church of Jesus Christ. “We”ve had 37,333 visitors so far this year,” said Sister Nelson.
The Nelson”s have become experts on the history of Cove Fort while serving there and say they have learned a lot about service from the sacrifices made by those who built and operated the fort.
According to the Nelson”s, Cove Fort was built to protect the telegraph and mail stations in Cove Creek as well as to offer travelers food, rest and protection from bad weather and hostile natives.
President Gordon B. Hinckley”s grandfather, Ira N. Hinckley, at the direction of Church President Brigham Young, directed the construction of Cove Fort in 1867 and operated it for over 20 years.
The fort was designed with walls that measured 100-by-100 feet, 18 feet high and four feet thick at the base and have stood firm for more than a century and a quarter.
Cove Fort was the only fort built during the Utah Territory settlement in the mid-19th Century that still stands with its walls intact.
During Ira Hinckley”s service the fort became an oasis for travelers, mail carriers, church leaders and stagecoaches going between Salt Lake City and St. George.
According to the Nelson”s, Ira Hinckley and his family served travelers at Cove Fort until advances in travel methods changed, making the fort obsolete.
In 1890 the Church leased the fort out for a while until just after the turn of the century when it was sold it to the Otto Kesler family.
Almost a century later, in 1988 the Hinckley family purchased the Fort from the Kesler family and returned it to the Church for use as a historic site.
The Church quickly began its efforts to restore the Fort to its original condition, and on May 21, 1994, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the Historic Cove Complex as an official Church history visitors center.
With restoration efforts complete, Cove Fort is once again attracting interstate travelers.
The Cove Fort Historic Complex is open daily from 8:00 A.M. to sunset except in bad weather. Free picnic areas and rest rooms have recently been installed adjacent to the fort for the convenience of travelers.
Cove Fort is located near the intersection of I-70 and I-15-one mile north of exit 1 off I-70 and two miles south of Exit 135 off I-15.