Historic southern Utah court records accessible to researchers

Gina Strack News and Events

For Immediate Release

Historic records from the modern-day Fifth District Court and the territorial Second District Court are now accessible to local researchers on microfilm at the State Archives and  libraries at Southern Utah University in Cedar City and Dixie College in St. George.

Grant funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) allowed the Utah State Archives to archivally process (arrange and describe), microfilm, and create finding aids for the historical records of Utah’s Fifth District Court (Washington, Iron, and Beaver Counties) from statehood in 1896 to 1955 and for the Territorial Second District Court which was seated in Beaver County from 1870 to 1896. The year-long Judicial Records Preservation and Access grant project was completed in June 2008. Libraries at SUU and Dixie, which serve as regional repositories in the state archives system, have received microfilm copies for the convenience of local users.

Court records frequently are requested by researchers. Records involved in this project include probate, civil, and criminal case files, as well as court registers of actions, minutes, and judgment books. The records include information about the administration of estates, divorces, and other civil actions as well as criminal cases brought before the court. Criminal records for the Territorial Second District seated in Beaver include the controversial trail of John D. Lee (1875-1876) for his involvement in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre. Finding aids for the Fifth District Court can be found at http://archives.utah.gov/research/guides/courts-fifth.htm.

These Southwestern Utah court records inform us of the lifestyles and challenges of the people in this area. How did the miners, farmer, and ranchers navigate the transition from the settlement ear to a more commercial economy? The records document disputes over water rights and mining claims.

The beginning of the project included an inventory of all eight district court’s historical records, which were dispersed through different agencies and locations throughout the state. The inventory is a comprehensive accounting of the state’s historical records. It may be found at http://archives.utah.gov/research/guides/courts-district.html.