When the Mormons first settled in Utah in 1847, the region was part of Mexico. The following year, ownership of the region was transferred to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which formally ended the Mexican War. Eager to preserve the independence of the Mormon colonies, Brigham Young called a convention in Great Salt Lake City in 1849 to draw up a constitution for a new state, to be called Deseret. Deseret, a name taken from the Book of Mormon (one of the sacred scriptures of the Mormons) and meaning “honey bee,” was to include all or part of the areas of eight present-day western states, as well as an outlet to the sea at San Diego, California. The convention also elected a slate of state officials, and Brigham Young was elected governor. However, the Congress of the United States refused to recognize the state of Deseret.
Congress dealt with the Utah issue in the Compromise Measures of 1850, a series of acts passed by Congress. In addition to dealing with the question of slavery in the regions acquired from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War, the measures created the territories of New Mexico (now New Mexico and Arizona) and Utah. Considerably smaller than the proposed state of Deseret, Utah Territory included all of present-day Utah, most of Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. The size of the territory was decreased and finally, in 1868, was reduced to the area of the present state. United States president Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) appointed Brigham Young the first territorial governor and Great Salt Lake City was made the capital. The city remained the territorial capital until Utah became a state in 1896, except for the years 1851 to 1856, when the colony of Fillmore was the capital.
Although non-Mormons were appointed to some territorial offices, the leaders of the Mormon church, headed by Brigham Young, ruled the Utah Territory. Initially the federal government did not intervene, but in 1857, non-Mormon judges returned to Washington with stories of authoritarianism and disregard of federal authority by the Mormon leaders. In addition, federal officials feared a union of church and state in Arizona. By that time hostility against the Mormons had dramatically increased because of the Mormon practice of polygyny, in which a man has more than one wife (see Polygamy). Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Mormons, had written about the doctrine of polygyny as early as 1843, but the Mormons had not publicly proclaimed the practice until 1852. Responding to the rising outcry against the Mormons, in May 1857, United States president James Buchanan terminated Young’s governorship of the territory. Buchanan also ordered federal troops to Utah to enforce federal authority over the Mormons, which started what was called the Utah War. When news of Buchanan’s action reached Great Salt Lake City in July, Young sent a company of scouts to harass and delay the federal troops, which were moving west from Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas. Young’s scouts did their work well. Burning supply trains, destroying animal feed, and stampeding U.S. Army cattle, they delayed the federal troops long enough to force them to camp for the winter in Wyoming, short of their destination.
During the following winter, President Buchanan, eager to avoid further bloodshed and to stem nationwide criticism of the Utah military expedition, changed his tactics. He dispatched Colonel Thomas L. Kane, a friend both of Young and of the Mormons, to Great Salt Lake City to try to negotiate with Young. Kane persuaded Young to relinquish the territory to Alfred Cumming, Buchanan’s appointee, on April 12. When federal troops under Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston passed through Great Salt Lake City in June, they found the city nearly deserted. Most of the 8,000 inhabitants had joined more than 20,000 other Mormons at Provo. Had trouble developed, the Mormons were prepared to burn their settlements and move en masse from the territory and even from the country. The federal troops marched southward from Great Salt Lake City and camped at Camp Floyd, west of Utah Lake. After no fighting occurred, most of the Mormons called an end to The Move, as the encampment at Provo was called, and returned to their land. Federal troops remained at Camp Floyd until shortly after the start of the Civil War in 1861. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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