10 Facts About Utah By: Ellie Porter

Life in a new place.

At first, the new settlers built log cabins—or they lived in dugouts or even in their wagons for a while. When the communities got more settled, they could build houses and buildings out of stone, adobe brick, or brick

When the “Mormon Village” of Salt Lake City began to thrive and later groups of pioneers arrived, Brigham Young sent settlers to other places or areas of the state. brigham sent a variety of skilled people to each community, so that each individual town would have people who could farm, work with iron, wood, leather, weave cloth, and other different things.

Brigham Young directed that Salt Lake City (and other towns) be set up on a grid system. The streets were to run north-south and east-west. Brigham Young wanted the streets to be wide enough for two wagons to easily pass each other without wrecking the sides or wheels of the wagon. We should be grateful for this, because of all the cars, bicycles, buses, and trains that share the streets today!

Because they had left behind their lands, buildings, and many possessions, the Mormons asked the federal government for financial help. The U.S. had declared war on Mexico in May 1846, so President James K. Polk agreed to enlist a battalion of Mormon men, who would receive pay for their service.

Today, when most people travel to a place, they stay in a hotel or with friends, and they go out to eat at restaurants or buy food from a grocery store. But when the first pioneers arrived in Utah, the only people in the region were American Indians and a few explorers, traders, and mountain men scattered around. Basically, these new immigrants had to make or grow everything they would need in their new lives.

The Great Basin lay far away from any government—in fact, this land belonged to Mexico at the time. (When Mexico lost the war, the United States took possession of the Great Basin.) Here, the Mormons hoped, they could live their faith in peace.

We have no idea who “discovered” the Great Salt Lake. Because whoever it was, lived a long, long time ago. Maybe 10,000 years ago. And she or he didn’t write about it.

The first non-native people to visit and describe places did make a difference for the people who followed--when they described the places in journals, maps, or books for others to learn about. Old wagon wheels left on the Great Salt Lake Desert in 1846 by the Donner Party. They were found in the 1930's by another group of explorers who wanted to trace the Donner Party's route.

Northern Utes lived from central Utah to western Colorado, and from southern Wyoming to northern New Mexico. Different bands were centered in Utah, Juab, Sanpete, and Pahvant valleys; the Uintah Basin; the Moab area; and the high plateaus of central Utah. Many lived in Utah Valley, which had a rich supply of fish and other resources. Once the Utes acquired horses, they ranged farther, even riding to the Great Plains to hunt bison.

The Northern Ute bands, along with Utes from Colorado, were forced to move to a reservation in the Uintah Basin. There they felt confined and unhappy and could not easily adjust to a life of farming, as the whites thought they should. Utah’s Southern Utes also had to move to their own reservation. Today a group called the White Mesa Utes live on a reservation south of Blanding. Today the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation is one-fourth its original size. The U.S. Congress took the land back for different purposes. For instance, it opened the reservation to Anglo homesteaders and used parts of the reservation for Strawberry Reservoir and national forest lands.

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