Naming the City

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(This is an excerpt from All that was Promised. by Blaine M. Yorgason.

While this planning was going forward, Brigham asked frontiersman and fellow Apostle George A. Smith if he, Brigham, might give the new city its name. Elder Smith, who had been involved in the southern colonization ever since he led the mission that settled Parowan, of course assented, whereupon Brigham declared, “We shall name it St. George.” It seems, though, that there is more to this story. According to Smith’s descendant George M. Peacock, “Little consideration has been given to [a tragic] event which took place less than a year previous [to this announcement], which deeply involved those who chose the proposed name [and which is why the name is little celebrated]. . . . In 1860 George A. and Bathsheba Smith’s . . . 18 year old . . . son and namesake[, George A. Smith Jr.,] . . . was sent on a mission to the Moqui [Hopi] Indians. He was interested in [his mission] and in learning a new language . . . , start[ing] Sept. 4, 1860 . . . in the company and under the direction of Jacob Hamblin and other missionaries. [They] had traveled about seven hundred miles when, on Nov. 2, 1860, the young missionary was killed by [two] Navajo [warriors, one of whom was called Peokon or Peokaan].

“Recorded [for posterity] by Jacob [Hamblin] himself, George [A. Jr.’s] death was far from an accident. He was shot three times with his own revolver, at close range, and then shot with arrows in his upper body. He lived for a short time [in great agony as] the others knew they were trapped and didn’t see any easy escape. . . . Young George told the others to leave him and try to escape, but they . . . held him on a mule [and struggled on]. When [the young man] died they wrapped his body in a blanket and tried to seclude it in a depression just off the trail. In the days of the journey back . . . Jacob’s mind and feelings were torched with the knowledge that he would have to report the death, its manner, and its story, to George’s parents and to Brigham Young. . . .

“Attempting to ease the pains encountered by the loss of his friend’s son [and] namesake . . . Brigham . . . saw a way to do it by naming the proposed settlement in Southern Utah for his friend . . . and also for his deceased son [who had died] a martyr. . . . Hence the full significance of the appellation, St. George.”

All That Was Promised, Blaine M. Yorgason, pp. 25-7.

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