BRIEF HISTORY OF UTAH
Ron Rood and Linda Thatcher
Utah’s thousands of years of prehistory and its centuries of known recorded history are so distinctive and complex that a summary can only hint at the state’s rich heritage. The synopsis offered here follows major themes in Utah history and includes some of the significant dates, events, and individuals.
In the thirty years from 1860 to 1890, Utah’s population jumped from some 40,000 to more than 200,000. Although there was a tendency toward urbanization along the Wasatch Front, Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders continued to direct the settlement of remote areas of Utah. In the 1860s and 1870s many new places were settled: Cache, Sevier, and Sanpete valleys; the back valleys of the Wasatch Mountains; and southern Utah. This expansion, at the expense of Indians, led to the most serious of Utah’s Indian wars, the Black Hawk War, 1865–68 and the subsequent removal of many Indians to reservations. Following the war, white settlers moved into southeastern and eastern Utah.
As many as 90 percent of the total population were Mormon at this time, and their way of life dominated politics, economics, and social life. Brigham Young was, of course, the principal figure in the territory’s life until his death in 1877. Some of the significant developments in the 1860–90 period include: the Mormon cooperative stores, begun in 1868 with the founding of Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI); the mastery of irrigation agriculture and the development of large sheep and cattle herds; communal living and economic experiments, called United Orders, announced at St. George in 1874; the building of more enduring structures such as homes, churches, tabernacles, theaters, and business offices; and the flowering of a full cultural life with music, drama, higher education, and newspapers and magazines.