The Utah War

The Utah War was a 19th century armed conflict between Mormon settlers in Utah Territory and the United States federal government.


The Presidential Election of 1856 was a contest between James Buchanan of the established Democratic party and John C. Frémont of the newly organized Republican party. Buchanan eventually prevailed, but the credibility of the Democratic party had been shaken. The Republicans charged the Democrats with being soft on the “twin relics of barbarism”—polygamy and slavery. To regain credibility for the Democrats, Buchanan needed to address the charge, but was also concerned with maintaining the integrity of the union between the states. The only politically viable option for Buchanan was to take the hard-line on polygamy and depose Brigham Young as governor of the Utah Territory. Buchanan chose to appoint Alfred Cumming as the new governor and ordered the U.S. Army to escort Cumming to the Utah Territory.

Troop movements

The U.S. troops marching toward Utah were originally led by Gen. William S. Harney, but Harney was forced to return to Kansas to deal with a conflict there. Because of Harney’s unavailability, Col. Edmund Alexander was charged with the first detatchment of troops headed for Utah, only to later rendezvous with and relinquish command to Col. Albert Sidney Johnston. The Nauvoo Legion, a Utah militia commanded by Lot Smith and under Young’s leadership, harassed the federal mission while under Alexander’s command. It was only days after Col. Johnston took command of the combined U.S. forces that he decided to settle in at the burned out remains of Fort Bridger for the winter. In spring, reinforcements arrived to resupply and strengthen the military presence in Utah, but negotiations were already underway. In 1858 Young accepted his replacement and peace returned to Deseret.

Timeline of events

  • July 24, 1847: Mormon Pioneers found Salt Lake City as the first city of Deseret.
  • February 2, 1848: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed by the U.S. and Mexico, granting the region of Deseret to the U.S.
  • September 9, 1850: The Great Compromise of 1850 is signed into law, creating the Utah Territory and appointing Brigham Young governor.
  • June 29, 1857: U.S. President James Buchanan declares Utah in rebellion of the U.S. government. Buchanan appoints Alfred Cumming as governor of Utah. Cumming is to be escorted by a regiment of the U.S. army, initially led by Col. Edmund Alexander.
  • July 18, 1857: Two Mormons, Porter Rockwell and Abraham Owen Smoot, learn of Buchanan’s declaration in Kansas City while on a mail run. The same day, Col. Alexander and troops begin the jouney to Utah.
  • July 23, 1857: Rockwell and Smoot arrive in Salt Lake City and inform Brigham Young of the government’s plans.
  • August 28, 1857: Col. Johnston is ordered to replace Gen. Harney in command of the U.S. troops.
  • September 15, 1857: Brigham Young calls out the Nauvoo Legion to fight the U.S. Troops if they enter Utah Territory.
  • September 18, 1857: Col. Johnston and troops leave Fort Leavenworth, Kansas headed for Utah.
  • October 5, 1857: Lot Smith leads the Nauvoo Legion on a guerrilla-style attack on the provision wagons of the U.S. Army. Fifty-two wagons are burned.
  • November 3, 1857: Col. Albert Sidney Johnston catches up with Col. Alexander and replaces him as commander. Johnston orders the regiment to spend the winter in Fort Bridger and to delay the move to Salt Lake City until next spring.
  • March 23, 1858: Brigham Young implements the “Sebastopol Policy.” All faithful are ordered to move south to Provo and to prepare their homes in Salt Lake City for burning.
  • April 12, 1858: The U.S. Army and Cumming arrive in Salt Lake City. Brigham Young surrenders the title of governor to Alfred Cumming.

A Brief History of Utah

Mormon Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, and immediately began planting and irrigating. Under direction of the church organization, the settlers cooperated to tame the land and its natural resources. At this time, present-day Utah was in Mexican territory.

By 1850, the outlying regions of Bountiful, Farmington, Ogden, Tooele, Provo, and Manti were settled.

Two kinds of colonizing efforts took place: directed settlements and undirected settlements. In directed settlements, colonies were planned, organized, and dispatched by the Church. Companies were appointed and equipped to explore the area, people were appointed to colonize it, and a leader was appointed. The Church gave instructions on the mission of the colony, whether to raise crops, assist Indians, mine coal, or serve as a way station for groups on the trail to California.

Non-directed settlements were founded by individuals, families, and neighborhood groups without direction from the Church. Most of the Wasatch Front communities were non-directed. Although Church leaders did not commission these settlements, they encouraged them, and quickly established wards when the population was great enough to justify them.

When the Mexican War ended in February 1848, the land became part of the United States. The Mormons proposed creating the State of Deseret, but Congress would not admit them to the Union. Instead, the federal government created the Territory of Utah, with Brigham Young as the first territorial governor.

In 1857, President James Buchanan sent a military force to Utah based on false reports of a Mormon rebellion against federal authority. The Utah Expedition was led by General Albert Sidney Johnston. This was part of a conflict known as the Utah War, which ended with only limited bloodshed.

More than 60,000 Mormons had come to the territory by the time the first transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory, Utah in May of 1869.

After the Church announced the abandonment of polygamy in 1890, Congress finally granted statehood to the people of Utah on January 4, 1896.


Brief History of Utah, Utah History to Go, by Ron Rood and Linda Thatcher
History, by S. George Ellsworth
Colonization of Utah, Utah History Encyclopedia, by Leonard J. Arrington

The People of Bountiful Are Extremely Friendly

My family recently moved into a new neighborhood in Bountiful, Utah. We are in a bigger house now, the drive to work is much shorter, and we have lots of fruit trees. My wife and I made a lovely pie from our fresh backyard peaches on Sunday. I couldn’t be happier.

One thing that has pleasantly surprised me is just how warm and friendly our neighbors are. I feel like my family has received a very warm welcome into the local community. I have experienced this sense of hospitality in other places where I have lived, but never quite as strongly as in Bountiful. When we were moving in, my mother told me how happy she was for us, because “the people are so polite and courteous there.” I haven’t been disappointed.

I’ve lived in four different neighborhoods in Bountiful and the people have been friendly in each of them. This begs the question: Is this a trend, or a coincidence? Are the people of Bountiful really friendlier than in other places, and, if so, why?

My theories are thus:

  1. The low crime rate makes people feel safe opening up to others in the community.
  2. The homogeneity in religion, culture, and heritage help people feel at home with one another. People feel comfortable around people who are like them.
  3. The very family-oriented lifestyle here helps people to love one another.
  4. The slower pace of life makes people more relaxed and less in a hurry.
  5. The people here are older (Bountiful’s median age is 32 compared to Utah’s 27, making it the 9th oldest in the state), and old people are friendlier.

Or, perhaps I am just starry-eyed. It’s impossible to determine something like this quantitatively, so I think I will never know for sure. But of all the places I’ve lived in Utah, this place feels the most like Zion.

Little House on the Freeway

Last night, my wife and I finally signed the papers to sell our first home.

We bought the place in October 2005, and moved in during General Conference. We were a young married couple expecting our first child, and we wanted a place of our own to raise him in. After a couple of months searching for a place we could afford, we found this one and fell in love with it. We negotiated the price and the terms with the previous owners over the kitchen table.

Compared to the other places we had looked at, it seemed wonderful. In our price range, we had been stuck looking at old houses in bad condition in questionable neighborhoods in Layton, Utah. So when my mother-in-law told us about this for-sale-by-owner house in Kaysville that she discovered, we were pleasantly surprised. It was newer (only 8 years old) and less expensive than the ones we had been looking at, and it was closer to Bountiful, which is were we both grew up and were living at the time.

There were only two problems. First, that it was small (1,213 square feet), although it was rather bigger than the one-bedroom basement apartment we had been living in. Second, it abutted Interstate 15, which was very noisy. I-15 is the major thoroughfare for Davis County residents going to and from Salt Lake County, so it gets a lot of use.

Easy Freeway Access

We decided to go through with it anyway, and were happy with it. I planted strawberries and had my own lawn to mow. I felt like I had more roots in the community because I was a landowner. The local ward had lots of young families like us, and we made very good friends with a couple of those families, even sharing Family Home Evening with them. After a couple of days, I didn’t even hear the freeway noise, but it bothered my wife the whole time we lived there.

Eventually, I changed jobs from a software company in North Salt Lake to one in South Jordan, which changed my commute time from 20 minutes to 60. The long drive came to wear on me and so we decided to move closer to work. We fixed up and decorated the house, put it on the market, and spent a few months keeping it spotless. It all finally came to a close yesterday.

So, this is adieu to my first bit of soil. I’m happy for the memories and hope to make many new ones in our next place.

Home Again

My little family has been living with my wife’s parents in Bountiful for the past couple of months, because my wife had some complications with her pregnancy of our second child, William. (They are both doing fine now.) Her parents have been very helpful and supportive and I am very grateful that they helped take care of us while Chelsea was incapacitated. It was a good experience and I enjoyed getting to know her parents better.

We moved back into our house in Kaysville last night. It is good to be in a place of our own again, with all our familiar furniture, utensils, and appliances. Still, it doesn’t feel quite like home. We put our house up for sale about the time we moved in with her parents, and it hasn’t sold yet. It has been getting a lot of showings, but no offers. I understand this is pretty typical of the market right now. As part of our preparation to sell the house, we gave up our emotional attachment to it. So, it feels kind of like we are living in a hotel.

I am looking forward to when we can sell the place and buy our next house, and start that new chapter of life. It will be nice to finally settle down again. For now, though, I am just happy to be able to walk around the house in my underwear again.

Jaywalker Sighting

My wife and I were driving up to the University Hospital in Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon. As we were heading up South Temple street in the Avenues neighborhood, there was a man staggering lackadaisically in the middle of the road. He loosely waved to us as we changed lanes to avoid hitting him. He must have been stoned.

Only in Salt Lake.

Tree-Lined Streets

When I visit the old neighborhoods of Salt Lake City or Farmington, I am impressed by the magnificent trees which have grown up alongside the streets. When I travel on those streets, I feel a certain kind of excitement and a connection with nature. I imagine what it would be like to live on such a street.

Besides being beautiful, tree-lined streets are shady in the summer, making for a pleasant walk or stroll. An ancient tree with its roots deep in the ground also acts as a symbol of the dignity and tradition of a neighborhood.

I wonder why more streets aren’t lined with trees. I understand that sometimes, the roots of a tree can disrupt the sidewalk. However, if the homeowner selects the right kind of tree, this will not be a problem.

I suppose I am feeling sentimental not only for tree-lined streets, but for the communities they represent. Modern suburban developments tend to be devoid of trees except perhaps for tiny saplings. New developments, like the trees that are in them, lack maturity and “roots”.

Perhaps with time, these new developments will also have great green trees towering gently over the quiet street, when today’s new developments become tomorrow’s old neighborhoods.

Salt Lake County House Prices

I have been watching the local real estate market a lot lately, as I am planning on moving from Kaysville further south, to be closer to my job in South Jordan. As I am trying to sell my house and find another one to buy, here are some of my observations about the Utah market (particularly the Wasatch Front:)

  1. Houses are still way overpriced. Home prices are dropping a lot in other parts of the country, but not in Salt Lake County. The Deseret News reported today that house prices have stayed virtually the same since the same period in 2007, but sales have gone down 42.21%.
  2. The median income for a family in Salt Lake County is $54,470. The median house price is about $240,000. This works out to be about 4.4 times a family’s annual income, which is higher than historical norms. Traditionally, home prices have a ratio of no more than 3 times a family’s annual income.
  3. That means that the median home price in Salt Lake County ought to be more like $164,000. That is a long way to fall before house prices reach an equilibrium based on market fundamentals.
  4. Many REALTORS® are lying about market conditions to trick people into paying too much for a house. I think I may have got the only sane one. One clueless REALTOR® posted the following on the Deseret News website:

The economy is fine in Utah, just not in CA, AZ, and NV. You’ll see that this summer will be a big year in Utah real estate and if you don’t buy a house this summer, you’ll miss the perfect buying opportunity. Get in now while the gettin’ is good!

I think the market will correct itself with time, but that doesn’t help me out much in my personal situation, since I want to move this year. It will be interesting to continue to watch the market and see how it irons out. With prices falling so sharply, a lot of people are going to get hurt if they were left holding the bag.

Local Limericks

Hi folks, here are some limericks I came up with the other day:

There once was a man from Salt Lake,
Who hated to shovel and rake.
His wife made him work,
But his work he did shirk,
So in kind she stopped cooking him steak.

There once was a gal from Woods Cross,
Who married the son of her boss.
She came to work tired,
And soon she was fired,
And she blamed Dad-in-Law for her loss.