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Economy of Utah in the 19th century


Bingham Canyon
Bingham Canyon

In October 1861 telegraph lines from the East and the West met at Great Salt Lake City, creating the first transcontinental telegraph line. One of the first messages it carried was from Brigham Young to President Abraham Lincoln, promising Utah’s loyalty to the Union in the Civil War (1861-1865). To ensure the continued loyalty of the Mormons, Colonel Patrick Connor led federal troops to Utah from California in 1862. Connor established Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas) near Great Salt Lake City.

The major importance of the dispatch of federal troops to Utah, however, was economic. Connor urged the development of the mining industry in Utah Territory. The Mormons had built only small-scale mines and then only for nonprecious metals. They feared that major ore strikes would upset their economy and, even more important, would bring many non-Mormons into the region.

Connor began promoting the development of mining in Utah in the 1860s. Largely as a result of his initiative, a number of rich ore deposits were discovered in the Utah Territory by the end of the 1860s, including those at Bingham Canyon, Park City, and Alta, as well as in the Tintic mining district.

Despite the discovery of major deposits, mining in Utah remained a relatively minor activity throughout the decade, largely because of poor transportation facilities. This began to change in May 1869, when the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad joined tracks at Promontory, Utah, creating the first transcontinental railroad. During the 1870s and 1880s, branch railroad lines connected major Utah settlements with the transcontinental line and with one another. Also, lines to haul ore were built into the mountains. As transportation facilities improved, the total value of the minerals produced increased greatly.

As the Mormons had feared and as the strongly anti-Mormon Connor had anticipated, the growth of the mining industry brought more gentiles into the Utah Territory. The population of the territory rose to 143,963 by 1880 and to 210,779 in 1890. Although still very much a minority, gentiles became an increasingly wealthy and influential community. They almost completely controlled mining in the territory while Mormons generally contented themselves with keeping the gentiles out of agriculture and merchandising. Gentiles also sought a voice in territorial politics through the Liberal Party, organized by Connor in 1870. The Liberal Party vigorously but unsuccessfully tried to compete against the People’s Party, which was controlled by the Mormons. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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