Orson B. Adams Home



Harrisburg, Utah


Get off I-15 at Exit 22. Go south on the Frontage Road (Old Highway 91) along the east side of the freeway for 1.9 miles. Then turn right/west onto the road toward the Red Cliffs Recreation Campground. Go about a half mile and the Orson Adams Home is on the right (north side) of the road.

The property is owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

For a 2012 schedule of when docents will have the Orson Adams House open for visiting, click here.




This home was built between 1862 and 1865 when Harrisburg was a Mormon farming community of at least sixteen families. It is believed that the stone work was done by stonemason Glover McMullin and his two sons who did much of the stone work around Harrisburg.

The Adams home is of special historical interest because of a prospector by the name of John Kemple who boarded there during the winter of 1866-1867. Although there are many legends of the discovery of silver in sandstone, most knowledgeable historians credit John Kemple as being the first to find silver. He is believed to have found traces of silver just southwest of the Adams home, and by 1871, Kemple filed mining claims in the area, which would become the mining boomtown of Silver Reef.

William M. Emett was the last person to inhabit the Adams home until his death in 1945.

The Adams house is the only intact structure that remains of the short-lived Mormon pioneer settlement of Harrisburg.

In 2001, the BLM acquired the 215-acre property from private owners using Federal Land and Water Conservation money (some documents say it was a land swap). It includes the home, terraced fields, relict orchards and vineyards, irrigation ditches, and extensive rock-walled livestock corrals. Since then, various survey, stabilization, and restoration projects have have been performed. A rehabilitation of the home was performed in 2004-2005. This process is still ongoing and will eventually result in the building being opened for visitors.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hired Dr. Edward Larabee and Dr. Susan Kardas in 2001 to research a history of the Orson Adams Home. They subsequently produced several other reports for the BLM. They also directed the archeological data recovery that was completed at the house, prior to the start of the construction work, and prepared a 300 page report/artifact catalogue for that work. The St. George Field office of the BLM and the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) have paper copies of all these reports. They are not currently available on the web.

In 2004, Utah State University landscape architecture students, under the direction of Prof. Mike Timmons, prepared large scale maps of Harrisburg, the historic rock walls, Adams house, movie set, vegetation communities, historic gardens, orchards, etc. as part of the first Historic American Landscape Survey ever completed in Utah. The BLM St. George Field Office has maps and other data collected by that project.


Orson B. Adams was a Veteran of the Mormon Battalion and in the spring of 1862, Adams moved his family to Harrisburg.


Orson B. Adams Home around 1880
WCHS-01208     Orson B. Adams Home around 1880

Orson B. Adams Home

Orson B. Adams home before restoration
Before restoration
        Orson B. Adams home after restoration
        After restoration
Rock wall on the Adams property
Rock wall on the property
        Orson B. Adams home during restoration
        WCHS-01190     During restoration

Other WCHS photos:
WCHS-00708     7th annual Pioneer Courthouse Invitational Art Exhibit poster
WCHS-01191     Photo of the Orson B. Adams house being restored
WCHS-01192     Photo of the Orson B. Adams house during restoration
WCHS-01193     Photo of the Orson B. Adams house footings being reinforced
WCHS-01194     Photo of the Orson B. Adams house footings being reinforced
WCHS-01195     Photo of artifacts found at the Orson B. Adams house
WCHS-01196     Photo of artifacts found at the Orson B. Adams house


11/29/2001 report of a college project to help restore the Orson B. Adams Home

Report on the Orson B. Adams Home

BLM 9/2004 report including a description of the planned Orson B. Adams Home rehabilitation

BLM 11/30/2005 report including a description of the Orson B. Adams Home rehabilitation
and adaptive re-use project

BLM description of the Orson B. Adams Home

BLM description of the Orson B. Adams Home rehabilitation and adaptive re-use project

BLM brochure: "The Adams House & Harrisburg, Utah"

Article: "The Landscape Tells Stories: Preserving the Orson Adams House and Farmstead"

Red Cliffs day; reserve of the ancients, a Mexican village and Harrisburg
by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News, October 22, 2017