Brief History of Kane County

Southern Utah has some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. The land is gouged by deep river gorges and the largest collection of slot canyons in the world. The geologic history of the Grand Canyons region is remarkable as this area has been impacted significantly by earthquakes, volcanoes, and the erosion of lakes, rivers, wind and time. In Kane County, you can find towering sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, plateaus, mountains, and lots of sand. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 4,109 square miles, of which 3,990 square miles is land and 118 square miles is water. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers much of the county. A rugged and inhospitable country of deserts, mountains and cliffs makes up the terrain, with breath-taking scenery in every area. Parts of Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park extend into the northern and western portions of the county. The eastern part of the county is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. In Kane County, you can find towering sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, plateaus, mountains, and lots of sand.

Native Americans have lived in this region for thousands of years. The Paleo and Archaic people hunted animals like deer in the uplands and desert sheep and rabbits in the desert. They learned how to gather and use a variety of desert plants. The Ancestral Pueblo culture developed as people learned to farm corn, beans, and squash. Ruins and other evidence of these ancient people dot Kane County. Archaeologists have recorded hundreds of sites on Fifty Mile Mountain, but few have been excavated because of their remoteness. The hunting-gathering Paiutes replaced the Ancestral Pueblo people. After the coming of Europeans to the Southwest, Navajos, Utes, and later Spanish explorers and traders felt free to take Paiute women and children and sell them into slavery in the Spanish settlements. Spanish Explorer Silvestre ‘lez de Escalante was a Franciscan missionary who ventured into this region with his group of explorers in 1776.

The next main group of explorers to this region came as the Mormon Pioneers entered the region in the 1850’s and 60’s. Jacob Hamblin and other Mormons first dug a few little dugouts in 1858.  More settlers trickled in. Cattle owners began running cattle in the region and settlers founded more towns. The community of Kanab was first settled in 1864, by 1866 killings and raids by some American Indians mostly Navajos forced them to abandon their new farms. Friendly Paiutes cared for the crops after they left. When the settlers began to return, Paiutes and Mormons worked together grow crops and develop farmland. In the meantime, Jacob Hamblin worked hard to establish peace between the Navajos, Hopis, Paiutes, and settlers.
The area was re-established by Mormon pioneers in 1870. Kanab remained an isolated southwestern town for many years but now attracts visitors from around the world.

The county was named for Col. Thomas L. Kane, a friend of the Mormon settlers. Its county seat and largest city is Kanab witch had the first all-woman mayor and city council in the United States. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, most of Kane County’s residents got their living by farming and ranching. But a new industry came in 1922 when Fox Film Corporation filmed The Deadwood Coach. In the 1920s and 1930s Kanab also become a tourist center for visitors to Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s Hollywood fell in love with the authentic Old West flavor of Kane County. If you’ve ever seen an old western, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of this area. More than 100 movies and TV shows have been filmed in this region. Movie buffs will want to experience Paria, Johnson Canyon, and Kanab Canyon movie sets. Kanab became known as Little Hollywood because so many movies were made there.

Notable residents of Kane County include Mormon pioneers Jacob Hamblin, Levi Stewart, and William Thomas Stewart, famed western novelist Zane Gray, contemporary jazz musician Kelly Sweet, and artist Maynard Dixon.

Ancestral Pueblo Dwelling East of Kanab
Petroglyphs in South Fork Indian Canyon
First All-Woman Mayor and City Council
Johnson Canyon Movie Set
Maynard Dixon Home in Mt. Carmel