Parowan’s Old Rock Church

A symbol of Pioneer accomplishment, Parowan’s Old Rock Church functioned as a Church meetinghouse, community recreation center, and schoolhouse for fifty-two years. Today it continues to preserve the history of Parowan as a Daughters of the Utah Pioneers museum.

On 17 November 1861, the Parowan City Council discussed building a new meetinghouse for their community. This new meetinghouse would replace the original Log Meeting House built by the Iron County Missionaries a decade earlier. A plan was presented to the city council by community members, in which they determined that the building would be 54 by 44 feet and built of locally quarried rock. It would consist of three stories: a basement divided in half to serve as a place for school and other community activities, a middle floor for a meeting hall, and an upper story balcony. On 24 November Parowan residents were asked to make subscriptions to fund the building. Eighty-two men offered financial assistance, and they raised a total of $7, 495. The construction of the Rock Church began in December of 1861 at a site chosen in the middle of the town square.

The small settlement of Parowan in which the Old Rock Church was built had been founded on 13 January 1851 by a group of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in the Iron County Mission led by Elder George A. Smith. This group worked to establish the first settlements in Southern Utah, and were joined over time by incoming settlers. Now the community, a decade after the original founding, came together to build a house of worship and a place of gathering. The varied skills and crafts possessed by these men and women came together in this large project. Some men quarried stone, plastered, did wood working, and a few molded wagon wheel shaped ceiling ornamentations. The women contributed through making rag carpet for the floors of the meetinghouse. In January of 1868 the basement was completed and meetings and dances commenced in it. Finally, in April 1870 construction on all stories finished and the first meeting was held in the upper story of the meetinghouse, which Brigham Young attended on a return trip from Southern Utah.

After its completion, the Rock Church served as a meetinghouse for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a town meeting place, a community recreation center, the first Latter-day Saint seminary in Parowan, a school house, a dance hall, and for a time it housed the Parowan State Academy and Parowan High School. A stage was added to the basement, and for several years the Parowan Dramatic Association put on plays there.

After fifty-two years of use, a new church building was erected nearby in 1919, causing the Old Rock Church to go out of use. Then, in 1927 the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers obtained the site. They worked to restore it to its original condition and converted it into a museum and meeting place for their organization. It remains a museum to this day, filled with photographs, clothing, household items, tools, books, and histories that preserve and tell the story of Parowan and its pioneers.

Images

Map