Dixie is a nickname for the populated, lower-elevation area of south-central Washington County, the southwest corner of the State of Utah. The area lies in the northeastern Mojave Desert, south of Black Ridge and west of the Hurricane Cliffs. Its winter climate is significantly more mild than the rest of Utah.

"Utah's Dixie" usually refers to Washington County, highlighted in red on this county map of Utah.
Southwestern Utah is in the Colorado River Basin.

Originally settled by Southern Paiutes, the area became part of the United States after the Mexican–American War. In 1854, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moved to the area to establish Brigham Young's intended Indian mission in the region.[1] After arrival, the settlers began growing cotton and other temperate cash crops in and around Santa Clara, Utah. By 1860, the Paiute population had declined due to disease from and displacement by the new settlers.[2][3]

Because of the warmer climate, the importance of cotton, and the origin of some early settlers, the area was nicknamed "Dixie,” referencing Dixie, the nickname for the southern states of United States that seceded and formed the Confederate States of America, which lost the American Civil War.

The Cotton Mission edit

The area was first referred to as the "Cotton Mission", in response to Brigham Young's 14th General Epistle issued in October 1856. Although he determined that the Great Basin be self-sufficient, it was not. He criticized his fellow Mormon Saints as "quite negligent in raising cotton and flax.” His emphatic command was: "And let our brethren who have the means, bring on cotton and woolen machinery, that we may be enabled to manufacture our own goods, so fast as we shall be able to supply ourselves with the raw material...."[4]

Origin edit

"[The] first groups of settlers [arriving in Spring 1857] – the Adair and Covington Companies – were people from the Southern States, mainly from Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, Texas, and Tennessee."[5] While there is no indication that slavery was practiced in Utah's cotton farming, Robert Dockery Covington, the leader of the second company of Saints, was a former slave overseer and owned eight slaves per the 1840 Census,[6] which made "farming a very profitable occupation.” It is unknown whether Covington had grown cotton or supervised slaves who grew cotton. [7] A contemporary said: "He was a strong Rebel sympathizer and rejoiced whenever he heard of a Southern victory."[8][9] Covington was the first President of the Washington Branch of the LDS Church.[10] Covington's first counselor was Alexander Washington Collins, who the contemporary said was a former slave driver known to publicly and humorously tell horrific stories of whippings and rapes of his slaves.[8][9][11]

Andrew Larson's landmark history of the area states that it was already referred to as “Dixie" by 1857:

Already the settled area of the Virgin Valley was being called Utah's "Dixie". The fact that cotton would grow there, as well as tobacco and other semi-tropical plants such as the South, produced made it easy for the name to stick. The fact that the settlers at Washington were bona fide Southerners who were steeped in the lore of cotton culture—many of them, at least—clinched the title. Dixie it became, and Dixie it remained. ... The name "Dixie" is one of those distinctive things about this part of Utah ... It is a proud title.

— Andrew Larson, I Was Called to Dixie (p. 185) [Emphasis in original]

Early challenges edit

"[T]he harsh environment, the intense heat of summer, the continual toil, and the ravages of malaria . . . led some of the settlers to desert the place at the end of the first season."[12] In the fall of 1858, it was reported "that of approximately 400 acres planted to cotton only 130 acres could be counted a success".[13] Cultivation of cotton and food crops depended on irrigation, which was a collective activity.[14] There were regular food shortages, including "the 'starving time' when many people were reduced to eating pigweed, alfalfa, and carrot top greens in lieu of a more substantial diet".[15] The area's culture included a shared religion, shared suffering and success, and even a collective economy for a time.[16]

End of the Cotton Mission edit

The Cotton Mission did not work as well as Young had hoped. Yields in the test fields were not as high as expected, and growing cotton never gained economic viability, although a cotton mill was built and used for a few years in the Town of Washington.[17] "[C]onsistent operation of the Factory" ended in 1897.[18]

The name "Dixie" edit

Sugarloaf in St. George Utah with 1914 D

Local residents and others in Utah used “Dixie" to refer to the area. In 1915, St. George Stake Academy officially became Dixie State College.[19] Shortly thereafter, "Dixie" was painted on Sugarloaf, the red rock hill above St. George. “Dixie Rock,” as it became known, previously had been painted with the year of the graduating class and a "D.”[20]

The wider option of Dixie occurred during a period of nostalgic Civil War revisionism, including the Lost Cause of the Confederacy myth. Dixie and the South became idealized "by the many attentions of northern artists to southern mythology, the North's fascination with aristocracy and lost causes, the national appeal of the agrarian myth, and the South's personification of that ideal, to say nothing of the North's persistent use of the South in the manipulation of her own racial mythology."[21][22]

Dozens of institutions and businesses in the area adopted and used the name "Dixie".[23]

20th century links to the Confederacy at Dixie State College edit

Links between Utah's Dixie and the Confederacy re-emerged in 1952, when "Dixie Junior College sports teams adopted 'Rebel' as their nickname and the school made its mascot a Confederate soldier in 1956. By 1960, the Confederate flag was flown as a school symbol."[23] These changes were contemporaneous with the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s (UNLV) adoption of the "Rebel" name and mascot, "a cartoon wolf with a Confederate uniform.”[24] They also occurred during the emerging civil rights era, between President Truman's integration of the Armed Services in 1948 and Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.[25]

On a "parade float called 'Gone With the Plow', dating from the late 1960s, a man with his skin painted black pushe[d] a plow while a white student, formally dressed with a top hat, [held] what appear to be reins or a whip".[26]

John Jones and Dannelle Larsen-Rife wrote on behalf of the Southern Utah Anti-Discrimination Coalition, listing many Confederacy-related activities at Dixie State College, including “black-face minstrel shows (through October 2012), mock slave auctions (through the early 1990s),[27] Confederate flags (continuing to the present), and numerous other associations to the Confederacy prevalent on this campus (The "Rebel" mascot as recently as 2008, True Rebel Night is ongoing; The Dixie Confederate Yearbook into the 1990s)."[28]

The Salt Lake Tribune recounted photos in Dixie College yearbooks, called The Confederate. "[A]s late as the early 1990s [w]hite students sing in black face, dress as Confederate soldiers, stage slave auctions and affectionately display the Confederate battle standard."[26][29] The local newspaper The Spectrum reviewed and published excerpts from local newspapers and Dixie College publications that contained Confederate related activities, photographs, and references.[30]

In March 1987 and 1988, the community held a festival called a Secession, presided over by Governor Norman Bangerter in 1987 and Wilford Brimley, the actor and Utah native, in 1988.[31] Events included a grand Southern-style ball presided over by a costumed Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara, who also participated in many publicity photos.[32] A 40-foot Confederate flag was hung over St. George Boulevard.[33] Smaller Confederate flags were displayed widely by city, county and school officials in promotional photographs. The Washington County News masthead included the Confederate flag and stated it was published in “St. George, Confederate State of Dixie".[34]

"Dixie" controversy edit

Controversy over the use of "Dixie" has repeatedly arisen in the larger Southern Utah community.

Dixie State University edit

The Confederate flag was removed as a Dixie College symbol in 1993. The Confederate soldier 'Rodney the Rebel' was eliminated as the mascot in 2005 and the nickname 'Rebels' was discontinued in 2007.[23]

That same year, Dixie State College considered affiliation with the University of Utah, and “U. officials said dropping the 'baggage' of Dixie would be mandatory." "'Dixie' has connotations of the Old South, the Confederacy, and racism,’ Randy Dryer, then the U. trustees' chairman, wrote to The Chronicle of Higher Education."[26] The affiliation with the University of Utah did not happen.

In 2012, many articles appeared as the school was about to make "the leap to university status next year".[26] The Salt Lake Tribune editorialized that the school needed a new name based on the pioneer origin of the name, and Confederacy-honoring practices of the students.[35] An African American student told the Tribune he was shocked to find old yearbooks with photos "of students in blackface, holding mock slave auctions, dressed in Confederate uniforms and staging parade floats and skits that seem to ridicule blacks, such as a crowd in black face behind a white student dressed as a Col. Sanders-type figure. 'In 1968 they were still doing minstrel shows,'" he said.[36] The college student body president said in 2012 that when "on recruiting trips to California that he encountered students unwilling to consider studying at a place called Dixie. "One said, 'Your name makes me shudder,' and walked away ..." Faculty members who raised the issue complained about being asked to leave the community.[37]

In 2015, following the Charleston, South Carolina, shootings by Dylann Roof, Dannelle Larsen-Rife again editorialized for renaming Dixie State University.[38] She was interviewed on an episode of RadioWest (KUER) with professors from the University of Utah and University of Wyoming.[39] A substantial statue of rebel soldiers and a horse, with a Confederate flag displayed, was returned to its sculptor.[40]

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, the issue again returned. Jamie Belnap, a former resident of St. George, wrote "Now, seven years after the vote at DSU [to retain the Dixie name], murmurings about the name 'Dixie' have begun again. There's a new petition and, unsurprisingly, online detractors from the community have already begun to emerge.... Isn't it time DSU sends a message to its students of color that it cares more about equality than nostalgia?"[41] On December 14, the University's board of trustees voted to recommend removing the word Dixie from the school's name. The 2021 Utah Legislature voted to take the recommendation, starting a year long process to solicit input and consider alternative names.[42][43] The Board of Trustees of DSU and the Utah Board of Education both voted unanimously voted to move forward with "Utah Tech University". Earlier than expected, after in November 2021, the Utah State Legislature was called into a special session by Governor Spencer Cox. While the primary purpose for that session was to approve redistricting maps, The name change bill for Dixie State was included on topics to be discussed.[44] While the issue continued to be contentious, the decision to bring the issue early in special session was made because leaders felt no more information was needed, only a vote and decision. Both bodies of the legislature voted on November 10, 2021 to change the name of the university to Utah Tech University effective July 2022.[45]

Dixie Convention Center edit

In 2020, controversy affected the Dixie Convention Center. After a rebranding study, the governing board voted to change the Dixie Center name to Greater Zion Convention Center, consistent with the area's Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, which had a name change in 2019.[46] "The vote to change [the Convention Center name] to Greater Zion on June 23 led to a flood of social media posts and an online petition that gathered over 17,000 signatures in favor of keeping Dixie as the name." [47] "[A]fter a public comment period in which multiple community members expressed strong support of the Dixie name, the Interlocal Agency amended the motion to temporarily revert to the Dixie Center name and to meet again on the issue in six months."[48]

In the community edit

A substantial number of citizens gathered at the St. George City offices July 2, 2020 to advocate for retaining the "Dixie" names.[49][50] Joey Sammons Ashby, who organized the event as part of the Protect Dixie effort,[51] said "People in St. George are not racist.... We were never racist — never...." "You're not going to get rid of racism, but, instead of complaining, think about the blessings black people have." "Because of their ancestors, they're able to be an American, they were able to be born here, they're able to do something for themselves because this is America. This is America, and they can pull up their bootstraps and do it if they want to. There's plenty of people to help the blacks right now so instead of complaining, do something." "We used to have minstrel shows here in St. George. It was in fun, it was nothing racist." "I used to dress up with a blackface for Halloween. I think actually it was a compliment to want to look like a blackface."[52]

Dixie Regional Medical Center edit

On July 16, 2020, Intermountain Health Care announced Dixie Regional Medical Center’s name would become Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital effective January 1, 2021. Mitch Cloward, hospital administrator, said "The meaning of Dixie is not clear for everyone. For some, it only requires explanation; for others, who are not from this area, it has offensive connotations.... Our hospital name should be strong, clear and make everyone we serve feel safe and welcome." [53]

Today edit

St. George, founded in 1861[54] when Brigham Young selected 300 families to take over that area and grow cotton, grapes, and other crops, is the largest community in the area.[54]: 3  Other communities in Washington County include Ivins, Santa Clara, Hurricane, LaVerkin, and Toquerville. The population is nearly 180,000 in the metropolitan area.[55][56]

“Dixie” is almost exclusively used to refer to Washington County. However, it sometimes is used to refer to a larger area, including nearby Kane and Iron counties, or even broader southern Utah. The term Payson-Dixon Line implies that everything south of Payson and the Wasatch Front generally is "Dixie."[57][58]

References edit

  1. ^ Bradshaw, Hazel; Jenson, Nellie (1978) [1950]. Under Dixie Sun: a History of Washington County. Daughters of Utah Pioneers Washington County Chapter. p. 23. OCLC 4831960.
  2. ^ Utah History To Go, Paiute Indians from historytogo.utah.gov accessed December 4, 2015.
  3. ^ Arrington, Leonard J. (August 1956). "The Mormon Cotton Mission in Southern Utah". Pacific Historical Review. 25 (3): 221–238. doi:10.2307/3637013. JSTOR 3637013.
  4. ^ Neilson, Reid L. (2017). Settling the Valley, Proclaiming the Gospel: The General Epistles of the Mormon First Presidency. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190600891.
  5. ^ Larson, Andrew K. (1957). The Red Hills of November: A Pioneer Biography of Utah's Cotton Town. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press. p. 9. ASIN B0007JCUQ6.
  6. ^ "R. Covington", United States census, 1840; Noxubee, Mississippi; roll 218, page 13, line 9, National Archives film number M704 218.
  7. ^ "History of Robert Dockery Covington". p. 2. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Family Record and History of George A. [sic] Hicks". p. 32.
  9. ^ a b Aird, Polly (2011). Playing with Shadows: Voices of Dissent in the Mormon West. Arthur H. Clark Company. p. __. ISBN 978-0870623806.
  10. ^ Larson, Andrew (1992). I Was Called to "Dixie:" The Virgin River Basin: Unique Experiences on Mormon Pioneering. Dixie College Foundation St. George, Utah. p. 68.
  11. ^ Maffly, Brian (December 10, 2012). ""Utah's Dixie was steeped in slave culture, historians say" and Correction". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  12. ^ I Was Called to Dixie, p. 71.
  13. ^ I Was Called to Dixie, p. 70.
  14. ^ Fuller, Craig. "Irrigation in Utah". Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  15. ^ I Was Called to Dixie, p. 75.
  16. ^ I Was Called to Dixie, pp. 290-313.
  17. ^ "Washington Cotton Factory". wchsutah.org. Washington County Historical Society. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  18. ^ I Was Called to "Dixie' p. 232.
  19. ^ I Was Called to "Dixie' p. 563.
  20. ^ Passey, Brian (November 6, 2015). "Call 'Dixie Rock' by its real name". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  21. ^ Gerster, Patrick; Cords, Nicholas (November 1977). "The Northern Origins of Southern Mythology". The Journal of Southern History. XLIII (4): 567–582. doi:10.2307/2207006. JSTOR 2207006.
  22. ^ Cox, Karen L. (2011). Dreaming of Dixie: How the South was Created in American Popular Culture. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807834718.
  23. ^ a b c Wilkins, Terell (July 2, 2020). "The argument returns: How St. George kept its 'Dixie' name and what happens now". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  24. ^ "Hey Reb! and 'Rebels' Nickname". University of Nevada Las Vegas. June 21, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  25. ^ "Civil Rights Movement Timeline". The History Channel. December 4, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  26. ^ a b c d Maffly, Brian (December 20, 2012). "Should Dixie's new name honor tradition or change for the future?". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  27. ^ "Slave Sale Planned at Dixie College". Washington County News. St. George Utah. May 10, 1962.;"Dixie Hilites". Washington County News. St. George Utah. December 2, 1976.;"College Selling Slaves". Washington County News. St. George Utah. November 6, 1980.;
  28. ^ Jones, John (November 30, 2012). "The Dixie in Dixie State College". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  29. ^ "Dixie College Yearbooks". Washington County Historical Society. 1941–1999. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  30. ^ Bancroft, Kaitlyn (July 17, 2020). "Confederate flags, mock slave auctions, minstrel shows: Can Utah's 'Dixie' be separated from past associations?". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  31. ^ "Brimley to preside over secession". Washington County News. St. George Utah. February 16, 1988.
  32. ^ "Boat to be sold at 'Ball'". Washington County News. St. George Utah. February 27, 1987.
  33. ^ Mellor, Pat (March 13, 1987). "Dixie kicks off two day 'secession'". Washington County News. St. George Utah.
  34. ^ Olbert, Rae Dawn (February 15, 1988). "Area about to leave 'Union' again". Washington County News. St. George Utah..
  35. ^ "Dixie State College:It is time for a new name". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. January 13, 2013. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  36. ^ Maffly, Brian (December 24, 2012). "Student, faculty dissent a new challenge for Dixie, community". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  37. ^ Maffly, Brian (December 24, 2012). "Student, faculty dissent a new challenge for Dixie, community". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  38. ^ Larsen-Rife, Dannelle (July 15, 2015). "The time is now to rename Dixie State University". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  39. ^ "Utah's "Dixie"". RadioWest. July 15, 2015. NPR. KUER. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  40. ^ Maffly, Brian (January 13, 2015). "Dixie State University returning controversial 'Rebels' statue to artist". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  41. ^ Belnap, Jamie (June 24, 2020). "Racism is ingrained in Dixie State's history". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  42. ^ Jacobs, Becky (December 14, 2020). "Dixie State University trustees recommend removing 'Dixie' from school's name". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on December 15, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  43. ^ Vigdor, Neil (December 15, 2020). "Dixie State University in Utah Says It's in Need of a Name Change". The New York Times. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  44. ^ McKellar, Katie (November 5, 2021). "Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has called the Utah Legislature into special session. Here's what's on the agenda". Deseret News. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  45. ^ "Dixie State gets final approval from Utah lawmakers to drop contentious name". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  46. ^ Richardson, Ryann (May 23, 2019). "Washington County tourism office changes its name as part of rebranding strategy". St. George News. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  47. ^ Peery, Lexi (June 29, 2020). "Local Leaders Vote To Keep Dixie Center Name, For Now, After Receiving Backlash". KUER. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  48. ^ Bancroft, Kaitlyn (June 30, 2020). "Accused of political correctness, officials keep 'Dixie' name over 'Zion' for center". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  49. ^ Caldwell, Chris (July 2, 2020). "Protesters gather downtown to oppose talks to change 'Dixie' names". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  50. ^ Wilkins, Terrell (July 2, 2020). "St. George 'Protect Dixie' rally: Name defended as preventing racism". The Spectrum. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  51. ^ Protect Utah's Dixie on Facebook.
  52. ^ Williams, Ryne (July 2, 2020). "'You're not going to get rid of racism': 80-year-old woman organizes protest to 'Protect Utah's Dixie'". St. George News. St. George, Utah. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  53. ^ Williams, Carter (July 16, 2020). "Intermountain to rename Dixie Regional Medical Center". KSL.com. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  54. ^ a b Logue, Larry M. (1988). A Sermon in the Desert: Belief and Behavior in Early St. George, Utah. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 025201474X. OCLC 16709942.
  55. ^ "Public Data Population Washington County, Utah Population". Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  56. ^ "Resident Population in St. George, UT (MSA) (STGPOP)". Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. January 1, 2019. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  57. ^ Chris, Bre, Jeremy, Jessica. "Episode 193 Cross the Payson/Dixon Line to the Jello Belt". The New Utah Podcast (Podcast). The New Utah Podcast. Retrieved June 26, 2022.{{cite podcast}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  58. ^ "2021 State Of The State: Full Text Of Gov. Spencer Cox's Address". KUER. January 22, 2021. Retrieved June 26, 2022.

Further reading edit