WASHINGTON CITY – In 1859, Robert Dockery Covington established a house in what is now Washington City, known as the Robert D. Covington House, a property listed in the National Register of Historic Places since April 20, 1978.
On March 22, 2012, Washington City, in an effort to preserve the property, located at 181 East 200 North (at the northwest corner of 200 North and 200 East), then being foreclosed, acquired it at a trustee’s sale.
“The purpose for purchasing the home was simply to preserve it,” Washington City Councilman Jeff Turek said. “This home is the oldest pioneer home still standing in Washington County. It is also a great piece of Washington City’s history.”
Turek said his recollection is that the city paid $169,000 for the property.
How the Covington House will be used by the city is still under consideration by the city council. The council has discussed historical renovation of the home and use for tours like the Brigham Young home, use as a community event venue similar to the City of St. George’s historic Opera House and availing it to use as a reception location for weddings and like events.
In the interim, Turek said that the city has allowed the Washington City Youth Council to use the basement as a meeting place, in return for which the youth council has cleaned and maintained the inside of the home.
The city and the youth council have also hosted open house tours at the Covington Home during Christmas in Dixie 2012 and Cotton Days 2013, complete with youth councilmembers dressed in period costumes portraying Robert D. Covington and his family.
“They took people through the home and told the family’s story,” Turek said. “This was a great experience for both the youth and the community.”
The Robert D. Covington House
The Covington House sits on less than one acre and was constructed in 1859, two years after the area was settled by the Mormon pioneers sent by Brigham Young to Southern Utah to grow cotton.
According to the National Registry filing, it was probably built by twin brother rock masons, Elijah Averett and Elisha Averett, and was likely one of the first and largest buildings in Washington City. It served both as a home to the Covington family and as a church and community recreation center until the Washington meeting house was built in 1877.
Covington also hosted many authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveling through the area, including Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, Amasa M. Lyman, Jacob Hamblin and George A. Smith.
Historic highlights on Covington, from the National Registry filing, indicate that Robert Dockery Covington was born Aug. 20, 1815, in Rockingham County, N.C. At age 22 he married Elizabeth Thomas and they had three children after moving to Summerville, Miss. While in Mississippi, Covington served as overseer of a large plantation.
After converting to Mormonism in 1843, Covington moved to the Mormon center in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1845, moved to Winter Quarters, Neb. and in 1847 to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, by which time his family had grown to four children. Covington’s wife died at the end of 1847, apparently from the travails of travel and childbirth.
In 1857, Covington was called by Brigham Young to lead a group of settlers to Southern Utah to develop cotton. His experience as a plantation overseer in Mississippi equipped him to take a failing cotton crop and effectively develop what became known as Young’s cotton mission.
According to the National Registry filing, quoting an 1861 Journal History of George A. Smith quoted by Andrew Karl Larson:
“Robert D. Covington, who was appointed Bishop of this place (Washington) has cultivated cotton every year since and he has preserved specimens from each year’s crop up to 1860 and doubtless will save this year’s too. Every year these samples have improved and the seed is becoming more natural to the climate and improvements thus made appear to give manifest evidence of success as well as encouragement for the continuation of the enterprise.”
Washington County Historical Society webpage on the Covington Mansion
UDATED May 15, 2013, common address added.
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