Confirming reports of the existence of extensive and easily worked iron ore deposits in the southern part of the Utah Territory, Brigham Young issued "Mission Calls" to a predetermined cadre of approximately 120 frontiersmen and iron manufacturing tradesman, mostly from the British Isles, to establish an iron manufacturing plant there. Although it was unapproved, several took wives and families along. Originally called the Iron County Mission, the name of the enterprise was shortened by common usage to the Iron Mission.
This colony, under the direction of George A. Smith, departed Provo on 15 December 1850 and after a perilous winter journey arrived at the present site of Parowan, 250 miles distant, on 13 January 1851. Here they built a small fort and began farming operations needed to support themselves during the iron-manufacturing attempt.