As President's Day weekend takes off like it has done for the past 30 years in the area of Washington County, Utah, with the St George Area Parade of Homes, I reflect on how much this area has grown. This Parade of Homes draws in over 37,000 people each year with visitors from all over Utah and throughout the country. If you've never visited this Parade of Homes, know that it always starts Friday on President's Day weekend and runs 10 days straight. 30 new homes will be visited with an influx of thousands of visitors!
I attended the Parade Banquet kickoff and it was a celebration of how far we've come since this area had been settled and our pioneers built homes such as the Jacob Hamblin home.
Did you know St. George has a home named after Benjamin Franklin Johnson's seven wives?
The Seven Wives Inn consists of two neighboring homes and a cottage in St. George's historical district. Edwin G. Woolley, who built the larger house in 1873, hid polygamists in the attic via a secret door, after polygamy was outlawed, by the U.S. government in 1882. One of these polygamists was Benjamin F. Johnson, an ancestor of the innkeepers, who really did have seven wives, hence the name Seven Wives Inn. (https://www.sevenwivesinn.com/inn-history.htm)
In 1981 it was purchased by Jay and Donna Curtis who immediately began to restore the house to its former grandeur. Their careful and loving attention to detail and accuracy have made it once again a mansion to be proud of. The many balconies have been preserved as has the woodwork, the high ceilings and the glass transoms over the doors. It is furnished with antiques of the period. After the restoration, the Curtis's opened the home to the public as the Seven Wives Inn, St. George's first Bed and Breakfast Inn. To step into this house is to step back one hundred years and see how prosperous and refined people lived. It engenders in us more respect for our ancestors. (Courtesy of Washington County Historical Society)
If you're ever in the area, you definitely want to at least drive by and admire this lovely home. If you're lucky they may let you look around, or if you really want a treat, rent out one of the 13 guest rooms. My youngest daughter, Kiaya Tolleson, did a history report on it when she was in middle school years ago and was led on a private tour. She was also thrilled to receive a lovely copy of a picture of the home.
If you want to read more about BFJ's seven wives, visit an earlier blog post with a bit of history on each wife. https://www.bfjfamily.org/post/bfj-and-his-wives
Southern Utah is filled with a rich history which includes our beloved Benjamin Franklin Johnson. As we go through our days, be mindful of who we are, where we came from and how we can instill a love of our ancestors within our families.
Culture has changed. Livelihoods have progressed. Family dynamics are being redefined. But what can you do to keep a strong sense of family? A sense of belonging? A sense of right and wrong?
Study your ancestors. Learn from them. As you look back on our ancestors, keep their lives in mind as you move forward in your own personal life. The future is up to you.
And if you're in town during the St George Area Parade of Homes, just know that traffic is nuts! Certainly not as busy back in the day as this old postcard depicts.
Howdy from St George, Utah!