Topic(s): History of the Church: Early Utah Era, 1847–77
What kind of government did Utah Territory (1850–96) have?
Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley a few months before the transfer of the American Southwest from Mexico to the United States. Though the Saints petitioned for statehood in 1849, Utah Territory was created instead as part of the national Compromise of 1850. The 1850 act provided for a territorial legislature and a delegate to congress, and established offices to carry out governmental activities. The U.S. president filled these offices by appointment. Brigham Young was appointed as the first territorial governor and the superintendent of Indian affairs. Difficulties arose, however, as Brigham Young's forceful methods and local popularity rankled non-Mormon appointees and as non-Mormon appointees offended local sensibilities. Conflicts also developed between territorial judges and locally elected county officials. In 1856, U.S. President James Buchanan, in addition to sending troops to Utah to put down a supposed Mormon rebellion, removed Brigham Young as territorial governor. Following the peaceful conclusion of the "Utah Expedition," federal troops established Camp Floyd in Utah, and Alfred Cumming became governor. During the ensuing years, eleven individuals were appointed territorial governor. Most were sincere in their efforts, and all were challenged by the task of enforcing federal laws that went against the beliefs and practices of Utah's majority population. After Church President Wilford Woodruff's 1890 Manifesto ended polygamy, Utah was granted statehood in 1896.
Written By:
Allan Kent Powell -
Allan Kent Powell has worked for the Utah State Historical Society in Salt Lake City.
  • "Utah Territory," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 4:1503–5.