White missionaries struggled to create a permanent settlement in Moab. They faced armed resistance from the local Ute tribe and abandoned their efforts until nearly 1875.
In 1855, the first white settlers of the region around Moab left Salt Lake City for a new life in southeastern Utah. Barely a month before, Mormon prophet Brigham Young had called them to go to what was then called Spanish Valley and convert the Ute Indians to Mormonism. Calling themselves the Elk Mountain Mission, the settlers traveled to Manti where they paused to outfit themselves before striking out across the Wasatch Plateau and the San Rafael Swell.
It took a little more than a month to travel all the way to Spanish Valley where Moab now sits. Once the settlers arrived and set up camp, plans turned to constructing a fort and planting crops. But as was often the case when Mormons moved in and occupied lands claimed by local Native Americans, disagreements soon arose and boiled over into armed conflict. People on both sides were shot down in a series of gunfights in September, leading the Mormon settlers to abandon their fort and a portion of their horses and cattle. Some of the Utes who had attacked the white settlers had only recently been baptized into the LDS Church.
It would be almost another twenty years before whites tried to create a permanent settlement in what is now Grand County. The Black Hawk War in the 1860s kept the Mormons from trying to resettle the Moab area. It was only after tempers cooled that a new crop of colonizers began filtering into the area and putting down roots. Within a decade and a half, a county government had been established and Moab became the county seat.
See Grand County Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Grand Memories (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing Company, 1972), 5-37; Fawn McConkie Tanner, The Far Country: A Regional History of Moab and La Sal, Utah (Salt Lake City: Olympus Publishing Company, 1976), 45-72; and Richard A. Firmage. A History of Grand County (Salt Lake City: Grand County and Utah State Historical Society, 1996), 73-124.