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St. George is a city located in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Utah on the Utah-Arizona border, and the county seat of Washington County, Utah. It is the principal city of and is included in the St. George Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is 117 miles (188 km) northeast of Las Vegas, and 303 miles (488 km) south-southwest of Salt Lake City on Interstate 15.
As of 2012 St. George had a population of 75,561. St. George was the second fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States, only after Greeley, Colorado in 2005, this trend continued through 2007, when growth slowed substantially due to the economic recession. In 2012, the St. George metropolitan area (defined as Washington County) had an estimated 144,809 residents.
The hub of southern Utah and Utah's Dixie, a nickname given to the area when Mormon pioneers grew cotton in the warm climate, St. George is the seventh-largest city in Utah and the largest city in the state outside of the Wasatch Front. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it had the distinction in the late 2000s of having the fastest white population growth in the nation. It has been observed that the conservative social culture of the region shows, on the one hand, friction between "business-driven conservatives" and "anti-illegal immigration social conservatives," and on the other, some tensions between Mormons (by far a majority of the population) and non-Mormons.
St. George was founded as a cotton mission in 1861 under the direction of Apostle Erastus Snow, called by Brigham Young, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)—part of a greater church effort to become self-sufficient. While the early settlers did manage to grow cotton, it was never produced at competitive market rates; consequently, cotton farming was eventually abandoned.
At the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Brigham Young organized the settlement of what is now Washington County, Utah.
Fearing that the war would take away the cotton supply, he began plans for raising enough in this western country to supply the needs of his people. Enough favorable reports had come to him from this warm country below the rim of the Great Basin, that he was convinced cotton could be raised successfully here. At the general church conference in Salt Lake City on October 6th, 1861, about three hundred families were “called" to the Dixie mission to promote the cotton industry. Most of the people knew nothing of this expedition until their names were read from the pulpit; but in nearly every case, they responded with good will, and made ready to leave within the month’s time allotted to them. The families were selected so as to ensure the communities the right number of farmers, masons, blacksmiths, businessmen, educators, carpenters, as needed.
The settlement was named after George A. Smith, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints