Utah History

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Timeline[edit | edit source]

The following events affected Utah's political boundaries, record-keeping practices, and settlement patterns. For changes in specific counties, see Utah: Index of Counties and Equivalents Newberry Utah Atlas of Historical County Boundaries.

  • 1776: Spanish explorers Dominquez and Escalante visited the Utah area.
  • 1820–1840: Fur trappers, including Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger, worked in the area and held rendezvous in Utah. They also built some forts.
  • 1822–1848: The area known as Utah was part of Mexico until the end of the Mexican War. At the end of the Mexican War, the region that included present-day Utah and parts of several surrounding states became part of the United States.
  • 1846: The Donner-Reed party blazed a trail through the Utah mountains into the Salt Lake Valley. This was the same trail later used by Brigham Young
  • 24 July 1847: Brigham Young led the first wagon train of pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. These were the first white settlers in Utah.
  • 1847–1869: About 69,000 Latter-day Saints crossed the plains into Utah by wagon or handcart before the coming of the railroad.
  • 1847–1857: Latter-day Saint settlers founded approximately 100 towns in present-day Utah, Nevada, Idaho, California, and Wyoming.
  • 1849: The Latter-day Saints organized the Provisional State of Deseret, with a constitution and a system of government. The State of Deseret included parts of present-day California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
  • 1850: The US federal government rejected the Provisional State of Deseret and organized the Territory of Utah, which originally included parts of present day Nevada, Wyoming, and Colorado.
  • 1849-1853: Indian Wars - Stansbury, 1857 Provo Canyon,1853-4 Walker War, 1853 Gunnison massacre,1854-55 Steptoe Expedition. 1857-61 Utah Expedition, 1860 Utter and VanOrman Wagon Train.
  • 11 September 1857: Mountain Meadow Massacre
  • 1858 Latter-day Saints met with the Navajos, Utes, and Piutes to form an alliance to oppose Johnson's army
  • 1857-1858: President James Buchanan ordered United States States Troops to the Utah Territory to challenge an alleged Latter-day Saint rebellion. Brigham Young recalled settlers from outlying communities. The crisis was settled peacefully, and in June 1858, federal troops established Camp Floyd 40 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
  • 1856-1860: Approximately 3,000 immigrants came to Utah with the handcart companies. Four farms established in Millard, Sanpete, Utah and Toolele counties to work with the Indians
  • 1858-1868: Another wave of Latter-day Saint settlement saw communities established in Utah and what is now southern Idaho, southeastern Nevada, and northern Arizona.
  • 23 April 1860 - 24 October 1861: Pony Express
  • 1861: The territory of Utah was reduced by the creation of the territories of Nevada and Colorado.
  • 1862-1865: Fort Douglas was established in 1862 when 750 volunteer soldiers came from California during the Civil War.
  • 1862: The first of a series of federal laws was passed to discourage the practice of polygamy. The first was the Morrill Act which defined plural marriage as bigamy and declared it a crime.
  • 1863: Mining began in earnest. Recurrent mineral discoveries brought prospectors to Utah throughout the latter part of the 1800's and into the 20th century. Mining attracted minority communities to Utah.
  • 29 January 1863: Bear River Massacre Soldiers went across the border into Idaho.
  • 1863:Chiefs Bear Hunter, Sanpitch and Sagwitch arrest by McGary's Troops.
  • 1866: Circleville - sixteen Indians killed
  • 1865: The forced removeal of Utes from Utah Valley to the Uinta Basin.
  • 1865-1867: Approximately 100 settlers and an unknown number of American Indians were killed during the Black Hawk Indian War. Attacks primarily occurred in the Sanpete and Sevier valleys, causing the temporary abandonment of a number of settlements.
  • 1868: The territory of Utah was reduced by the creation of the territory of Wyoming.
  • 10 May 1869 The first transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point near Brigham City, bringing an influx of settlers to Utah, including Chinese.
  • 1870s: Latter-day Saint settlers established additional communities in the adjacent states of Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona. The coal mining industry that began in the 1870's and steadily increased until the 1920s attracted thousands of new immigrants to eastern Utah.
  • 1874: A second anti-polygamy bill, the Poland Act, was passed, limiting the jurisdiction of probate courts, thus forcing members of the Church to be tried in federal courts including those being tried for polygamy and those seeking divorce.
  • 1879: White River Ute
  • 1862-1887: The most far-reaching act, the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, was passed to stop the practice of polygamy. This act had a tremendous impact on the people of Utah and their record-keeping practices. This act:
  • Abolished woman's suffrage.
  • Authorized the administering of an oath of obedience to anti-polygamy laws for all prospective voters, jury members, and office holders.
  • Disbanded the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company.
  • Eliminated some civil rights to more harshly prosecute polygamy laws through the court systems.
  • Gave the federal government control over territorial schools, probate courts, and the Utah Militia.
  • Required that all marriages be publicly recorded.
  • Disincorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • 1880s-1890s: Latter-day Saints primarily from Utah, Idaho, and Arizona established communities in Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, and Alberta, Canada.
  • September 1890: Wilford Woodruff, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a proclamation that became known as the Manifesto. This advised Latter-day Saints "to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land".
  • 4 January 1896: Utah was admitted as the 45th state. At this time the probate courts were abolished and the responsibilities of the federal district courts were transferred to state district courts
  • 1941–1945: 70,000 Utahns enlisted to serve in World War II. Over 3,600 died and 2,800 were wounded.
  • 1942: As part of World War II, Topaz concentration camp for relocated Japanese Americans started first large Japanese community in Utah.
  • 1953: Termination of the Paiute Tribe.
  • 3 April 1980:  Paiute Tribe Restoration
  • 2006 35 Indian tribes with population of 33,000

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. (Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2almThis book provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2adIncludes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.
  • Van Doren, Charles Lincoln; Robert McHenry, Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. (Springfield, Mass.: G and C Merriam, 1971.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 973 H2v Includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

State Histories[edit | edit source]

The Utah State Historical Society, universities, and public libraries often have good collections of local histories. Some Utah history sources are:

  • Alter, J. Cecil. Utah, the Storied Domain. Three Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: American Historical Society, 1932. FHL film 1000613; book 979.2 H2a This three-volume set has good detail from the Indians to the industrialists of 1932. Volumes two and three have biographical sketches of prominent men and some women. It is indexed.
  • May, Dean L. Utah: A People's History. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1987. FHL book 979.2 H2md This is a one-volume comprehensive history of the state. It is indexed and has a good bibliographical section.
  • Utah: A Centennial History. Three Volumes. New York, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1949. FHL book 979.2 H2s This includes a brief history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Milton R. Hunter and a good section on Utah history. Volume three contains personal and family records.
  • The Pony Express
    Pony Express riders carried the U.S. Mail on horseback. There were approximately 80 of them. There were support personnel as well that numbered over 400. The Pony Express Route Covered Parts of: California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
    Pony Express Riders Biographies By name, includes some photos.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

County and town histories often include biographical sketches of local residents or mention military units in which they served. This may be one of the best sources of information for some families. During the centennial celebration of statehood, each Utah county was to produce a history of their county. Many of these have been published recently. Some of the county centennial histories, The Utah Historical Quarterly, Beehive History, and the Utah History Blazer have been issued in:

Utah State Historical Society. The Utah Centennial History Suite. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: Utah State Historical Society, 1998. (Family History Library compact disc no. 109). This compact disc has photographs and maps as well as 18,000 names of people and places. It also has a word-search capability.

You can locate these and other local histories in the FamilySearch Catalog under:

  • Utah - History
  • Utah - History - 1847-1896
  • Utah - History - 19th century
  • Utah - History - 19th century - Biography
  • Utah - History - Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Utah - History - Emigration and immigration
  • Utah - History - Indexes
  • Utah - History - Inventories, registers, catalogs
  • Utah - History - Maps
  • Utah - History - Periodicals
  • Utah - History - Periodicals - Indexes
  • Utah - History - Personal narratives
  • Utah - History - Societies - Periodicals
  • Utah - History - Sources
  • Utah - History - Sources - Indexes
  • Utah - History - World War, 1939-1945 - Personal narratives
  • Utah - History - Yearbooks
  • And also under Utah, [County]