Utah ( or ) (Arapaho: Wo'tééneihí' ) is a state in the Western United States. It became the 45th state admitted to the Union on January 4, 1896. Utah is the 13th-largest, the 34th-most populous, and the 10th-least-densely populated of the 50 United States. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,817,222 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City, leaving vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited and making the population the sixth most urbanized in the U.S. Utah is bordered by Colorado on the east, Wyoming on the northeast, Idaho on the north, Arizona on the south, and Nevada on the west. It also touches a corner of New Mexico.
Utah is the most religiously homogeneous state in the Union. Approximately 63% of Utahns are reported to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS (Mormons), which greatly influences Utah culture and daily life. The world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is located in Utah's state capital.
The state is a center of transportation, education, information technology and research, government services, mining, and a major tourist destination for outdoor recreation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates, Utah was the fastest-growing state in the United States as of 2008. St. George, Utah, was the fastest–growing metropolitan area in the United States from 2000 to 2005. A 2012 Gallup national survey found Utah overall to be the "best state to live in" based on 13 forward-looking measurements including various economic, lifestyle, and health-related outlook metrics.
History of Utah
Thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers, the Anasazi and the Fremont tribes lived in what is now known as Utah. These Native American tribes are subgroups of the Ute-Aztec Native American ethnicity, and were sedentary. The Anasazi built their homes through excavations in mountains, and the Fremont built houses of straw before disappearing from the region around the 15th century.
Another group of Native Americans, the Navajo, settled in the region around the 18th century. In the mid-18th century, other Uto-Aztecan tribes, including the Goshute, the Paiute, the Shoshone and the Ute people, also settled in the region. These five groups were present when the first European explorers arrived.
Spanish exploration (1540)
The southern Utah region was explored by the Spanish in 1540, led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, while looking for the legendary Cíbola. A group led by two Catholic priests—sometimes called the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition—left Santa Fe in 1776, hoping to find a route to the coast of California. The expedition traveled as far north as Utah Lake and encountered the native residents. The Spanish made further explorations in the region, but were not interested in colonizing the area because of its desert nature. In 1821, the year Mexico achieved its independence from Spain, the region of Utah became part of Mexico, as part of Alta California.
Trappers and fur traders explored some areas of Utah in the early 19th century. The city of Provo, Utah was named for one of those men, Étienne Provost, who visited the area in 1825. The city of Ogden, Utah was named after Peter Skene Ogden, a Canadian explorer who traded furs in the Weber Valley.
In late 1824, Jim Bridger became the first white person to sight the Great Salt Lake. Due to the high salinity of its waters, Bridger thought he had found the Pacific Ocean; he subsequently found that this body of water was nothing but a giant salt lake. After the discovery of the lake, hundreds of traders and trappers established trading posts in the region. In the 1830s, thousands of people traveling from the East toward the U.S. West began to make stops in the region of the Great Salt Lake.
LDS settlement (1847)
Following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, Brigham Young as president of the Quorum of the Twelve became the effective leader of the largest portion of the 11,000 Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. To address the growing conflicts between his people and their neighbors, Young, agreed with Illinois Governor Thomas Ford in October 1845 that the Mormons would leave by the following year.
Brigham Young and the first band of Mormon pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Over the next 22 years, more than 70,000 pioneers crossed the plains and settled in Utah.
For the first few years, Brigham Young and the thousands of early settlers of Salt Lake City struggled to survive. The barren desert land was deemed by the Mormons as desirable as a place where they could practice their religion without interference.
Utah was the source of many pioneer settlements located elsewhere in the West. Salt Lake City was the hub of a "far-flung commonwealth" of Mormon settlements. Fed by a continuing supply of church converts coming from the East and around the world, Church leaders often assigned groups of church members to establish settlements throughout the West. Beginning with settlements along Utah's Wasatch front (Salt Lake City, Bountiful and Weber Valley, and Provo and Utah Valley), irrigation enabled the establishment of fairly large pioneer populations in an area that Jim Bridger had advised Young would be inhospitable for the cultivation of crops because of frost. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, Mormon pioneers called by Brigham Young would leave Salt Lake City and establish hundreds of other settlements in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, California, Canada, and Mexico – including in Las Vegas, Nevada; Franklin, Idaho (the first white settlement in Idaho); San Bernardino, California; Star Valley, Wyoming; and Carson Valley, Nevada.
Prominent settlements in Utah included St. George, Logan, and Manti (where settlers completed the first three temples in Utah, each started after but finished many years before the larger and better known temple built in Salt Lake City was completed in 1893), as well as Parowan, Cedar City, Bluff, Moab, Vernal, Fillmore (which served as the territorial capital between 1850 and 1856), Nephi, Levan, Spanish Fork, Springville, Provo Bench (now Orem), Pleasant Grove, American Fork, Lehi, Sandy, Murray, Jordan, Centerville, Farmington, Huntsville, Kaysville, Grantsville, Tooele, Roy, Brigham City, and many other smaller towns and settlements. Young had an expansionist's view of the territory that he and the Mormon pioneers were settling, calling it Deseret – which according to the Book of Mormon was an ancient word for "honeybee" – hence the beehive which can still be found on the Utah flag, and the state's motto, "Industry."
Utah was Mexican territory when the first pioneers arrived in 1847. Early in the Mexican-American War in late 1846, the United States had captured New Mexico and California, and the whole Southwest became U.S. territory upon the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848. The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on March 11. Learning that California and New Mexico were applying for statehood, the settlers of the area (originally having planned to petition for territorial status) applied for statehood with an ambitious plan for a State of Deseret.
Utah Territory (1850-96)
The Utah Territory was much smaller than the proposed state of Deseret, but it still contained all of the present states of Nevada and Utah as well as pieces of modern Wyoming and Colorado. It was created with the Compromise of 1850, and Fillmore, named after President Millard Fillmore, was designated the capital. The territory was given the name Utah after the Ute tribe of Native Americans. Salt Lake City replaced Fillmore as the territorial capital in 1856.
Disputes between the Mormon inhabitants and the U.S. government intensified due to prejudice against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Northeast and the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy, among its members. The Mormons were still pushing for the establishment of a State of Deseret with the new borders of the Utah Territory. Most, if not all of the members of the U.S. government opposed the polygamous practices of the Mormons.
Before troops led by Albert Sidney Johnston entered the territory, Brigham Young ordered all residents of Salt Lake City to evacuate southward to Utah Valley and sent out a force, known as the Nauvoo Legion, to delay the government's advance. Although wagons and supplies were burned, eventually the troops arrived in 1858, and Young surrendered official control to Cumming, although most subsequent commentators claim that Young retained true power in the territory. A steady stream of governors appointed by the president quit the position, often citing the traditions of their supposed territorial government. By agreement with Young, Johnston established Camp Floyd, away from Salt Lake City, to the southwest.
Salt Lake City was the last link of the First Transcontinental Telegraph, completed in October 1861. Brigham Young was among the first to send a message, along with Abraham Lincoln and other officials.
Because of the American Civil War, federal troops were pulled out of Utah Territory in 1861. This was a boon to the local economy as the army sold everything in camp for pennies on the dollar before marching back east to join the war. The territory was then left in LDS hands until Patrick E. Connor arrived with a regiment of California volunteers in 1862. Connor established Fort Douglas just 3 miles (5 km) east of Salt Lake City and encouraged his people to discover mineral deposits to bring more non-Mormons into the territory. Minerals were discovered in Tooele County and miners began to flock to the territory.
Beginning in 1865, Utah's Black Hawk War developed into the deadliest conflict in the territory's history. Chief Antonga Black Hawk died in 1870, but fights continued to break out until additional federal troops were sent in to suppress the Ghost Dance of 1872. The war is unique among Indian Wars because it was a three-way conflict, with mounted Timpanogos Utes led by Antonga Black Hawk exploited by federal and LDS authorities.
On May 10, 1869, the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake. The railroad brought increasing numbers of people into the state and several influential businesspeople made fortunes in the territory.
During the 1870s and 1880s laws were passed to punish polygamists due, in part, to the stories coming forth regarding Utah. Notably, Ann Eliza Young—tenth wife to divorce Brigham Young, women's advocate, national lecturer and author of "Wife No. 19 or My Life of Bondage" and Mr. and Mrs. Fanny Stenhouse, authors of "The Rocky Mountain Saints" (1873 by Mr. T. B. H. Stenhouse) and "Tell It All: My Life in Mormonism" (1875, Mrs. Fanny Stenhouse) . Both of these women, Ann Eliza and Fanny, testify to the happiness of the very early Church members before polygamy began to be practiced. They independently published their books in 1875. These books and the lectures of Ann Eliza Young have been credited with the United States Congress passage of anti-polygamy laws by newspapers throughout the United States as recorded in "The Ann Eliza Young Vindicator", a pamphlet which detailed Ms Young's travels and warm reception throughout her lecture tour.
Mr. T. B. H. Stenhouse, former Utah Mormon polygamist, Mormon missionary for thirteen years and a Salt Lake City, Utah Newspaper owner finally left Utah and wrote, "The Rocky Mountain Saints". His book gives a witnessed account of his life in Utah, both the good and the bad. He finally left Utah and Mormonism after financial ruin occurred when Brigham Young sent Stenhouse to relocate to Ogden, Utah, according to Stenhouse; to take over his thriving pro-Mormon "Salt Lake Telegraph" newspaper. In addition to these testimonies, "The Confessions of John D. Lee" written by John D. Lee—alleged "Scape goat" for the Mountain Meadow Massacre—also came out in 1877. The corroborative testimonies coming out of Utah from Mormons and former Mormons had an impact on Congress and the people of the United States.
In the 1890 Manifesto, the LDS Church banned polygamy. When Utah applied for statehood again, it was accepted. One of the conditions for granting Utah statehood was that a ban on polygamy be written into the state constitution. This was a condition required of other western states that were admitted into the Union later. Statehood was officially granted on January 4, 1896.
Beginning in the early 20th century, with the establishment of such national parks as Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, Utah became known for its natural beauty. Southern Utah became a popular filming spot for arid, rugged scenes, and such natural landmarks as Delicate Arch and "the Mittens" of Monument Valley are instantly recognizable to most national residents. During the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, with the construction of the Interstate highway system, accessibility to the southern scenic areas was made easier.
Beginning in 1939, with the establishment of Alta Ski Area, Utah has become world-renowned for its skiing. The dry, powdery snow of the Wasatch Range is considered some of the best skiing in the world (thus the license plate, "the Greatest Snow on Earth"). Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in 1995, and this has served as a great boost to the economy. The ski resorts have increased in popularity, and many of the Olympic venues scattered across the Wasatch Front continue to be used for sporting events. This also spurred the development of the light-rail system in the Salt Lake Valley, known as TRAX, and the re-construction of the freeway system around the city.
In 1957, Utah created the Utah State Parks Commission with just four parks. Today, Utah State Parks manages 43 parks and several undeveloped areas totaling over of land and more than of water. Utah's state parks are scattered throughout Utah; from Bear Lake State Park at the Utah/Idaho border to Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum deep in the Four Corners region, and everywhere in between. Utah State Parks is also home to the state's off highway vehicle office, state boating office and the trails program.
During the late 20th century, the state grew quickly. In the 1970s growth was phenomenal in the suburbs. Sandy was one of the fastest-growing cities in the country at that time. Today, many areas of Utah are seeing phenomenal growth. Northern Davis, southern and western Salt Lake, Summit, eastern Tooele, Utah County, Utah, Wasatch, and Washington counties are all growing very quickly. Transportation and urbanization are major issues in politics as development consumes agricultural land and wilderness areas.
Note: Utah was acquired from Mexico in 1848 and established as a territory in September 1850, including most of present-day Nevada and western Colorado. Colorado and Nevada were separated in 1861, with further transfers from Utah to Nevada in 1862 and 1866. Utah acquired its present boundaries in 1868, and was admitted as a State on January 4, 1896. Utah's 1850 census was taken as of April 1, 1851 and included almost no population outside the present State. The 1860 population includes some persons in present-day Wyoming, but excludes counties located in present-day Nevada. The 1870 population excludes Rio Virgin County, which was part of Nevada although enumerated as part of Utah.. The census date for the 1850 census in Utah was April 1, 1851. Total for 1860 excludes population (6,857) in counties that subsequently became part of Nevada. Total for 1870 excludes population (450) of Rio Virgin County, in Nevada though enumerated as part of Utah. Total for 1890 includes population (2,874) of certain Indian reservations not reported by county.
Births, Marriages, and Deaths
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
For Salt Lake County, FamilySearch also offers:
Outstanding guide to Utah family history and genealogy (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Birth, marriage, and death records, wills, deeds, county records, archives, Bible records, cemeteries, churches, censuses, directories, immigration lists, naturalizations, maps, history, newspapers, and societies.