The Mormon colonies were generally cooperative and even communal ventures. Under Young’s leadership the Mormons instituted a system of irrigation that laid the basis for subsequent irrigation laws in the West. Typically, Mormon farmers worked together constructing central irrigation ditches to draw off the water from rivers and mountain streams. Then they individually dug smaller trenches from the central trough to their own land. Irrigation water was strictly controlled by church committees, which set hours for the use of irrigation water by individual farmers according to a farmer’s needs. Similarly, land was distributed on a communal basis, with the largest families receiving the most land. Land could be sold, but land speculation was prohibited.
In general, Mormon colonies were successful. By the mid-1850s the Utah countryside, particularly along the base of the Wasatch Range, was dotted with farms. The Mormons raised a variety of irrigated crops, including wheat and fruits and vegetables. The farmers also grazed sheep and other livestock on unirrigated pastureland. Following Young’s policy of making the Mormon colonies as self-sufficient as possible, gristmills, sawmills, tanneries, and carding, spinning, and weaving mills and other small factories were built. In the 1850s the colonies of Cedar City and Parowan were established in southwestern Utah to mine coal and iron, but the enterprises were unsuccessful. Their failure was not crucial, however, for the urgency to attain complete self-sufficiency had been greatly reduced by the California gold rush. Beginning in 1849 Great Salt Lake City became a major resting point for prospectors on their way west to the goldfields.
By the time they reached Great Salt Lake City, many miners realized they could not carry what they had brought from the East over the Sierra Nevada. As a result, the Mormons bought much-needed manufactured goods at prices far below those in the East. The miners also provided a good market for surplus Mormon agricultural produce and work animals. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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