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Utah State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1776—Father Escalante and Father Dominguez explore Utah

1821—Mexico gains independence and claims land that includes Utah

1824Jim Bridger discovers the Great Salt Lake

1832—Antoine Robidoux builds the first trading post in the Uintah Basin

1847Brigham Young led the first Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake

1848—Utah came under U.S. control at the end of the Mexican War

1849—The State of Deseret is created

1850—The Utah Territory is established; The Deseret News begins publication

1853—The LDS Church begins construction of the Salt Lake Temple

1854—Grasshoppers threaten Utah crops

1861—Telegraph lines connect in Salt Lake City to form the first transcontinental telegraph service

1863—Discover of silver and lead in Bingham Canyon

1869—The first transcontinental railroad system was completed at Promontory

1875—Holy Cross Hospital opens their first hospital in the U.S.

1896—Utah became the 45th state

1914—Auto racing begins on the Bonneville Salt Flats

1919Zion National Park is created

1952—Large uranium deposits were found near Moab

1964Flaming Gorge Dam and Glen Canyon Dam were completed

1985Jake Garn is the first U.S. Senator to fly in space

1995—Salt Lake City is announced as the site for the 2002 Winter Olympics

1996Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is created by President Clinton.

1996Utah celebrates its 100's birthday of Statehood.

1997Utah celebrates its Sesquicentennial anniversary (150 year) since the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. This event included a variety of local activities plus the reenactment of the pioneer wagon trail from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley.

1999—A tornado causes over $100 million in damage in downtown Salt Lake

The first Spanish explorers entering the Utah region in 1776 found Gosiute, Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute Indian tribes living there.  Other Spanish explorers also arrived, but Spain chose not to settle the area.  In 1821, Mexico gained independence of Spain and took control of Utah.

The first American explorers entered Utah during the early 1800s.  In 1824, Jim Bridger was the first white man to reach the Great Salt Lake.  Hundreds of fur-traders created trails through the Wasatch Mountains.  By 1840, many were crossing central Utah on their way to California.

The first permanent settlers in Utah were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).  Joseph Smith organized the church in Fayette, New York in 1830.  Members were severely persecuted for their beliefs, and were forced many times to relocate.  In 1844, Joseph Smith was murdered.  Brigham Young, the next president of the church, led a small group into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  Many others soon followed.

Although Utah is mostly desert, irrigation allowed the land to be farmed.  In 1848, swarms of grasshoppers entered the valley and began eating the settler’s crops.  Seagulls from the Great Salt Lake ate many of the grasshoppers and saved the crops.  Today the seagull is the state bird and there is a monument built in Salt Lake City to honor them.

At the end of the Mexican War in 1848, Utah came under control of the United States.  In 1850, the Utah Territory was created with Brigham Young as the governor.  Indians lived peacefully with the settlers until 1853 when Ute Chief Walker declared war.  Peace resumed the following year.  Ute Chief Black Hawk also led attacks against the settlers in 1865.  Many settlers were killed and damages reached almost $1 million.  By 1872, most of the Indians were moved to reservations in eastern Utah.

The U.S. government wished to take control of the Utah Territory away from the Mormons.  Alfred Cumming was sent in 1857 to replace Brigham Young as governor.  In fear of a rebellion, Federal troops accompanied him to Utah.  This action started the Utah War (1857-1858).  Soldiers remained in Utah until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

The pony express began in April 1860.  Riders crossed Utah in their journey to deliver mail from Missouri to California.  In Oct. 1860 the first transcontinental telegraph line was completed in Salt Lake City.  This encouraged the pony express to close two days later.  The first U.S. transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory.

By 1880 the Utah Territory had enough settlers for statehood, but some Mormon practices were against federal laws.  During the 1880s, about 1,000 Mormons were fined and sent to prison.  In 1985, Utah proposed a new constitution that outlawed polygamy and prevented control of the state by any church.  Utah became the 45th state on Jan. 4, 1896.

During the early 1900s, railroad expansion opened new markets for Utah’s industries.  Farmers raised increased numbers of beef cattle and sheep.  Copper production increased in Bingham Canyon with the development of surface mining.  Irrigation projects on the Strawberry River opened new areas for growing crops.  The smelting industry also increased greatly at this time as large smelters were built in the Salt Lake Valley.

The Great Depression (1929-1939) caused many to lose their jobs and their land.  Utah had one of the highest percentages of unemployed workers in the nation.  Manufacturing and mining industries increased production as the United States entered World War II (1941-1945).  Military bases were also established in Utah.  The crew that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, trained at Utah’s Wendover Army Air Base.  During the 1950s, missile plants were built in Brigham City, Ogden, and Salt Lake City.

Utah changed from an agricultural to an industrial state during the 1960s.  Utah’s manufacturing and mining businesses grew.  Uranium and oil fields were discovered and steel production increased.  Many dams were constructed.   The completion of the Glen Canyon Dam opened Lake Powell, the nation’s second largest artificial lake.

Tourism grew into an important industry during the late 1960s.  Ski resorts and national parks in the Wasatch Mountains began to attract people throughout the nation and around the world.  Cultural attractions such as the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir also grew in national acclaim.

Environmental concerns arose during the early 1970s.  Many questioned the safety of storing and testing nerve gas in western Utah.  State leaders established programs to fight increased air pollution caused by mining and coal production.  The Central Utah Project began in 1967.  This project was designed to increase water to parts of Utah that had large population and industrial growth.

Utah has become a leader in research and technology.  Many technological industries including WordPerfect, Novell, and Corel have employed people in Utah.  Medical research at the University of Utah has developed many historic landmarks including the artificial heart.

Recently, Utah is preparing for the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Transportation has improved dramatically with the reconstruction of highways and the addition of light rail and TRAX (street railroad for Salt Lake City).  However, debates regarding Utah’s land use and education costs remain major problems in Utah.