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[Detail] Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, ca. 1890's

The Church of Latter-day Saints: Settlement in Great Salt Lake City

Levi Jackman was a part of the Pioneer Company led by Brigham Young from Winter Quarters to the Great Salt Lake Valley. According to Jackman's diary, on July 22, 1847, part of the company emerged from a narrow, wooded canyon into the valley "like bursting from the confines of a prison." They explored the area and proceeded to plant potatoes, corn, wheat, and turnips.

Brigham Young, detained by sickness, did not join Jackman's part of the company for two days. Soon after Young's arrival, Jackman records that the company conducted a meeting:

"This evening July 28 the camp was called togeather to day where the City should be buit. After a number two sho--ken on the subject of a noat was called for unanimoseley aggread that this was the spot. After that Pres Young said the he knew that this is the place. he knew it as soon as he come in right of it and he hav seen this verrey spot before. He then gave us an idea how the city was to be built and the order of things. That the Law of God was to be kept strickley. and that we should form connections with the differant tribes of the Indians and by that means they would become a white and delightsome people"

Jackman, Levi. Diary, 1847-1849. July 1847, page 36

  • Why do you think that Brigham Young and the Pioneer Company decided to establish the Mormons' new settlement in the Great Salt Lake Valley?
  • How would you characterize the landscape of the Great Salt Lake Valley?

Search on Salt Lake City for over 100 items including diaries, photographs, illustrations, and maps, which reflect the first twenty years of the settlement's history. Jackman's diary provides information about the earliest events of the city's history, from efforts to provide food and shelter for hundreds of families, to the creation of laws to regulate the community's economy. Read accounts by other Mormon diarists, such as Job Smith, Esaias Edwards, and Appleton Milo Harmon as well as non-Mormons such as Edward Jackson, William Henry Hart, Schuyler Colfax, and Edmund Hope Verney for information about the city during the next two decades:

"The general impression given by Salt Lake City is an agreeable one. The streets divide the town into ten-acre blocks: they are all 128 feet broad, and at right angles to each other. On each side is a stream of living water, and rows of cotton-wood and locust trees border the side walks. There is but one main street, in which the houses are built close to each other; everywhere else each house stands in its own garden or orchard. Some of them are large, two or three stories high, built of burnt bricks, red sandstone, or granite, but most are of white sun dried bricks. They look clean and cheerful: the door- posts, window-sills, &c., are of wood, painted bright green, or of rich red sandstone, and creepers adorn the walls. The gardens are well and tastefully kept, and fruit-trees are particularly successful. . . . Altogether, few towns have been so judiciously designed and so perfectly built; few enjoy so great natural advantages, which have been cleverly made the most of. The barren country we passed through would have prepared us to appreciate any place where there might be a spare blade of grass, but Salt Lake City would be considered beautiful anywhere. When it is remembered that seventeen years ago, this end of the valley was a desert, like the other, one is astonished at the enterprise and perseverance of the Mormon leaders."

Verney, Edmund Hope. An overland journey from San Francisco to New York by way of the Salt Lake City, 1866. Personal History, pages 19 - 20

  • What were the physical characteristics of Great Salt Lake City?
  • How did Mormon families support themselves once they settled in the city?
  • How did the mining boom impact the city?
  • What can you infer from maps of the region about how the Mormons' establishment of Great Salt Lake City might have impacted the settlement of the region?

It was not long before conflicts between the Mormon pioneers and their Native-American neighbors arose and escalated into violence. ) In his personal history, Esaias Edwards writes about how Native Americans stole the Mormons' horses and cattle, until a "company went out to where they lived and killed about ten of them which caused them to cease their operations for awhile." Similarly, Appleton Milo Harmon gives a detailed account of a two-week campaign against the Utes:

"In February 1850 the Utah Indians commited some depredations Stole Some cattle in Utah Valley and be came so troublesome that it was thought lest to Chastise them. accordinly a * company of one Hundred men was Selected to go to Utah for that purpose . . . The Indians perceived our purpose and geatherd them Selves to geathr in a conspickuous place on the Provo and resisted our people they fought desperate for two days keeping up a constant fire which was sent back as warm by our people. . . . 7 of our horses ware killed 11 of our men wounded some severly and others but slight and one killed . . . the indians sufferd the loss of about 13 Kild several wounded and the rest drove in to holes that they had excavated in the deep Snow drifts . . . The next day. our men being Joind by the reenforce ment from the City repaird early to the field of Battle but on ariveing at the Spot found it vacated by our ene- -mies who had from one of the Horses killed the day before taken 2 quar- ters of Beef and taken their flight to the mountains. they ware followed to whare they assended Rockey Canion. . . . they seeing all prospects of escape guarded. they gave them selves up as priseners. during this time other bands ware chastised. in all a bout 40 of them killed who would not enter in to a treaty of peace. and agree to Seace taking our Cattle and Horses."

Harmon, Appleton Milo. Autobiography and Diary, 1850-1853 (vol 1). May 1849, pages 44 - 47

  • Why did the citizens of Great Salt Lake City fight campaigns against Native Americans?
  • Why might Native Americans of the Great Salt Lake Valley have stolen the Mormons' horses and cattle?
  • What do diary entries such as Levi Jackman's description of Native Americans suggest about Mormons' attitudes towards Native Americans? Where might these attitudes have come from?
  • What was the impact of the Mormons' campaign against the Utes? Why would other bands of Native Americans have been chastised and killed during this campaign?
  • How effective was the Mormons' solution for ending conflicts with Native Americans?

In the fall of 1857, the Mormon community of Great Salt Lake City found themselves on the receiving end of an aggressive campaign as the U.S. military marched into the valley to quell a supposed "Mormon rebellion." Diarists, including Esaias Edwards, write of the Mormons' mobilization of 2000 men to defend their city in the fall of 1857 and winter of 1858.

In his August 1858 entry, Edwards explains how tensions rose when President James Buchanan appointed someone to replace Brigham Young as Governor of Utah Territory, remarking, "it seems harrd and unjust for us to have a stranger forced upon us as Govnor and Also Judges and other officers who have no interest in the Territory And have them backed up by an armed force without any Just cause what ever."

The Mormons prepared their own army of 1,500 men, but violence was averted when the president sent an investigating committee into Great Salt Lake City with a proclamation of apology for false accusations. Nevertheless, Edwards closes his entry with the news that settlers have followed the military into the region, seeking to kill Brigham Young and discriminating against Mormons "so that Zion languishes at present."

  • Why would President Buchanan have sent his military to Great Salt Lake City in 1857?
  • How were the Mormons prepared to meet this aggression?
  • Why do you think the military eventually backed down?
  • How did tensions between Mormons and other citizens of the United States influence the development of Utah Territory and the establishment of the State of Utah?

Edwards' diary also provides other information about Great Salt Lake City. An account of a business dispute sheds light upon the church organization and how it governed its members, while descriptions of anniversary celebrations of the founding of Great Salt Lake City reflect the significance of the city to its founders. Edwards also places the history of Great Salt Lake City within a larger historical context:

"Oct. 20, 1862

This is truly a time of great events while many of of the Saints as wel as my self is trying to purify ourselves by endeavering to keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father - The Gentiles are waring and Slaying each other by tens of Thousands in a day and are bringing desolations upon the land from whence they have driven the Saints We have the news by the Telegraft fron the States every day and the war spirit increases daily and no person knows where or when it wil end and we feel to rejoice that we are here faraway in this land were peace reigns in the state of Deseret"

Edwards, Esaias. Autobiography and diary, 1856-1882. October 1862, pages 63 - 64

  • What does this passage suggest about Edwards' sense of the Mormons' relationship to the United States?
  • How do you think that the Mormons' establishment of Great Salt Lake City contributed to their sense of identity?
  • What do Edwards's descriptions of anniversary celebrations of Great Salt Lake City indicate about the significance of the city to its Mormon founders?