Mines and Minorities

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.

Jews were among the first non Mormons to take up permanent residence in Utah. As merchants, salesmen, and businessmen they stimulated the territory’s economic development. However, the immigration and settlement of large numbers of non-Mormons began in earnest with the building of the transcontinental railroad and the subsequent development of mining. Catholics, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and others came in the 1860s and 1870s to establish schools, hospitals, churches, and to minister to the large number of non-Mormons who had found employment with the railroad or in the mines. The contributions of these ethnic and religious groups to Utah society have been great.

The early settlers had scouted Utah’s mineral potential, but Brigham Young discouraged exploitation of precious metals until agriculture and industry were firmly established. The Mormons did quarry stone for building. Clay, lime, coal, coke, iron, and lead were also needed by the pioneers. Ordered to Utah to protect communication lines during the Civil War, Colonel Patrick Edward Connor, founder of Camp (now Fort) Douglas and commander of the California Volunteers, encouraged his men to prospect, and Utah’s precious metal mining era dates from 1863. Many claims were staked, and by the 1870s ore was being processed. Mines at Stockton, Ophir, Mercur, Park City, Frisco, Tintic, and Silver Reef were opened in the 1870s and 1880s. Mining brought new wealth to Utah, and those connected with the mines, primarily non Mormons, became influential in the territory’s business, politics, and social life.