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The history of Parowan, as far as the white man is concerned, is traditionally attributed to the 1850 visit of Parley P. Pratt, who was commissioned by Brigham Young to "raise a company of 50 men with the necessary teams and equipment to explore southern Utah."

After exploring various areas of southern Utah, the company camped at what is now known as Heap's Spring, on the outskirts of modern day Parowan. Pratt was so impressed he named the valley the future site of "the City of Little Salt," and on Jan. 8, 1850, erected a U.S. flag and engaged in hearty celebration - a tradition that continues in Parowan to this day.Pratt's favorable reports prompted Mormon Apostle George A. Smith to call for 100 volunteers to join him on a settlement expedition. The company left Provo on Dec. 15, 1850, and arrived at Parowan on Jan. 10, 1851, an arrival marked by the firing of cannons.

The task of building a large adobe fort was soon undertaken, as was the construction of the Log Council House, school buildings and a church. Remnants of some of those earliest buildings have survived.

By 1851, settlers had already begun splitting off to settle other lands, including St. George, Cedar City, Las Vegas, Panguitch, Beaver, Snowflake (Ariz.) and Bluff. The latter resulted in the famous Hole-in-the-Rock expedition to southeastern Utah.