Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Utah

Plate II. UTAH, a Territory of the United States, bounded on the N. by Idaho and Wyoming, on the E. by Colorado, on the S. by Arizona, and on the W. by Nevada. The eastern boundary coincides with 109° and the western with 114° W. long. The southern boundary is the 37th parallel of latitude; the northern is on the 42d parallel between the meridians of 114° and 111°, while east of the latter meridian it follows the 41st parallel. The area of Utah is 84,970 square miles.

Physical features. The surface is greatly diversified, containing high mountains, broad arid valleys, and desert plateaus. Near the middle of the northern boundary the Wahsatch Mountains enter the Territory, and they extend southward along its middle line, finally degenerating into plateaus whose elevation diminishes southward. This is the principal mountain range of the Territory, and its position marks the highest land, from which, as a watershed, the streams flow off eastward and westward, the former to the Colorado of the West, the latter to sink in the Great Basin. Eastward from the Wahsatch, along the northern boundary of Utah, stretches a broad, massive range, known as the Uintah. These mountains are exceptional in that their trend is east and west, i.e., nearly at right angles to the other uplifts of the Rocky Mountain system. South of this range and east of the Wahsatch is a region of plateaus, horizontal or but slightly inclined, and receding step by step from the high mountains. In this region all the streams flow in cañons carved in the nearly horizontal sandstones and limestones, to depths ranging from a few hundreds to several thousands of feet. West of the Wahsatch stretches the Great Basin, a region having no outlet to the sea. Its surface presents an alternation of broad desert valleys and narrow abrupt mountain ranges, rising sharply from the valleys. The mean elevation of the Territory is 6100 feet. The lowest portion is near the southern border, where it is less than 3000 feet above the sea; but, on the other hand, many mountain summits exceed 13,000 feet in height. Of the principal peaks may be mentioned Mount Nebo (11,680 feet) in the Wahsatch Range, and Gilberts Peak (13,987), La Motte (12,892), and Burro (12,834) in the Uintah Range. The principal stream of eastern Utah is the Colorado of the West. This is formed by the junction of Green river, which rises in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, and the Grand, whose sources are in the snow-fields upon Long's Peak in Colorado. The Green and the Colorado receive numerous branches from the Uintah and Wahsatch Ranges, among them the Uintah, Price, Fremont, San Rafael, and Virgin. With the exception of the first-named, all these streams have their courses far below the general surface, in the characteristic canons of this strange region. In western Utah the climate is very arid, and, consequently, there are few living streams. The Great Basin, of which this region forms a part, consists of a large number of basins, differing greatly in magnitude. In each of these the waters from the surrounding mountains sink or collect in a lake, which, having no outlet, rises or falls with the excess of supply or evaporation. The largest of these basins is that of Great Salt Lake, which stretches along the western base of the Wahsatch Range. The lowest part of this valley is occupied by the lake, into which drain the rivers from the western slope of the mountains, the chief being the Bear, Weber, and Ogden, while the Provo, Spanish Fork, and American Fork contribute to it through Utah Lake and the river Jordan. In former geologic times Great Salt Lake had an extent vastly greater than at present, as is evidenced by the well-marked shore-lines upon the mountains around and within its basin. These shore lines have an altitude nearly 1000 feet higher than the present level of the lake. This higher stage, which has been named Lake Bonneville, was reduced to its present stage primarily by the formation of an outlet at the northern end of Cache valley, by which its waters flowed off through Snake and Columbia rivers to the Pacific, and secondarily by the excess of evaporation over supply. Since the settlement of the country, the surface of the lake rose, so that from an area of 1700 square miles in 1849 it had expanded in 1870 to about 2360. But in more recent years it has been slowly receding. Together with these general movements, slight oscillations with the changes of season are constantly going on. As Great Salt Lake has no outlet save evaporation, its water contains a large amount of saline matter in solution. The proportion varies inversely with the varying height of the water in the lake, ranging from 14.8 to 22.4 per cent, by weight. The only other bodies of water of considerable magnitude are Bear and Utah Lakes, both fresh and both tributary to Great Salt Lake. Besides the tributaries to Great Salt Lake, the only other stream of importance west of the Wahsatch is the Sevier, which, rising in the plateaus south of the Wahsatch, passes by a circuitous route into the deserts to the west, where it sinks. Formerly it flowed into Sevier Lake, whence its waters were evaporated, but the extensive use of the river for irrigation has caused the lake to disappear.

Geology. The Wahsatch Range is in general terms a great monoclinal uplift, although in detail it is a complicated system of uplifts and faults. The general dip of the beds is towards the east, while the fractured edges face the Great Basin. The core of the range is composed of Archæan rocks, while sedimentary beds, as high as the Jurassic, are found upon its eastern flank. The Uintah Range is a broad anticlinal, surmounted by rocks of the Carboniferous age, with more recent formations lying upon its north and south flanks. The rocks of the plateau region are almost entirely sedimentary and lie horizontally, or nearly so. The ranges of the Great Basin are of diversified character, a large proportion of them being monoclinal uplifts, exposing the Archæan rocks, with sedimentaries tilted upon their slopes. The valleys have in all cases a floor of Quaternary deposits, which effectually cover the rock formations that underlie them.

Fauna and flora. The animal and vegetable life presents variety corresponding with that of the topography. Upon the mountains and high plateaus are forests of Coniferæ, with groves of aspen skirting them at their lower limit. Here are found bears of different species, the mule deer, and occasionally the elk (wapiti) and the antelope. Upon the lower plateaus and in the desert valleys of the Great Basin life is not abundant. Piñon pine and cedar, Artemisia, cacti, and yucca characterize the vegetation; while of animals there are few except the coyote, prairie dog, rattlesnake, and scorpion.

Population. The settled portion of Utah lies mainly along the western base of the Wahsatch and in the valleys of that range, particularly in the northern part of the Territory. There are also considerable settlements near the southern boundary, in the valleys of the Virgin river. The population numbered 143,963 in 1880, showing an increase of 65.8 per cent, since 1870. The population is at present (1888) probably not far from 175,000. In 1850 the total was only 11,380; in 1860 it had risen to 40,273, and in 1870 to 86,786. Probably four-fifths of the population are adherents of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” or Mormons, as they are popularly designated (see Mormonism). This proportion is steadily diminishing as the mining industries, the manufactures, and transportation increase, thus bringing in a constantly-increasing “Gentile” element. Of the aggregate population males are decidedly in excess of females: in 1880 there were 100 of the former to 93 of the latter, showing that polygamy was not generally practised. The proportion of foreign-born inhabitants is exceptionally large: in 1880 there were 44 foreign-born to 100 natives, i.e., nearly one-third of the population were immigrants. Of this foreign element there came from England, 19,654; Denmark, 7791; Sweden, 3750; Scotland, 3201; Wales, 2390; Ireland, 1321; Norway, 1214; Switzerland, 1040; Germany, 885. Thus England supplies nearly one-half and Denmark nearly one-fifth, while Germany and Ireland, which furnish the great bulk of the immigrants to the United States at large, are but feebly represented among the Mormons.

Utah is divided into twenty-four counties, enumerated, with their population in 1880, in the subjoined table.

County. Pop.

 Beaver 3,918 
 Box Elder 6,761 
 Cache 12,562 
 Davis 5,279 
 Emery 556 
 Garfield[1] .. 
 Iron 4,013 
 Juab 3,474 
 Kane 3,085 
 Millard 3,727 
 Morgan 1,783 
 Pi Ute 1,651 
 Rich 1,263 
 Salt Lake  31,977 
 San Juan 204 
 San Pete 11,557 
 Sevier 4,457 
 Summit 4,921 
 Tooele 4,497 
 Uintah 799 
 Utah 17,973 
 Wahsatch 2,927 
 Washington   4,235 
 Weber 12,344 
  1. Formed since the census of 1880 was taken.

The principal cities, with their populations in 1880, are,—Salt Lake City, the capital of the Territory, 20,768; Ogden, in the Salt Lake valley, at the confluence of the Ogden and Weber rivers, 6069; Provo, in the valley of Utah Lake, 3432; and Logan, in Cache valley, 3396. There are numerous other smaller places, making a large aggregate of city and village population. This is a result of the policy of the Mormon Church, which has favoured the grouping of the farming population in villages.

Climate. As everywhere throughout the western United States, with the altitude above the sea there is a gradation of climate with respect to aridity. Upon the higher mountains there is sufficient rainfall for the needs of vegetation. But upon the low country the precipitation is slight, so that irrigation is almost universally practised by the agriculturist. The annual rainfall at Salt Lake City, which is very favourably situated, being south-east of Great Salt Lake and at the immediate base of the Wahsatch Mountains, is about 30 inches. In all other habitable parts of the Territory it is less, being not greater than 10 inches in the southern and western portions. Temperature, also, has a wide range in different parts of the Territory. The mean annual temperature at Salt Lake City, which may serve as an average of the habitable parts of Utah, is about 45°. The range of temperature between summer and winter and between day and night is very great, and the changes of temperature are often startling in their magnitude and abruptness.


The principal industries of Utah are agriculture and mining. At Salt Lake City and Ogden some manufacturing is done, and in the remote parts of the Territory cattle and sheep raising is carried on to a limited extent. Agriculture is confined mainly to the Mormons, while mining enterprise is carried on almost exclusively by Gentiles. In 1880 the area of land in farms was 655,524 acres, or 1.2 per cent, of the total area of the Territory. A little over two-thirds of this was classed as improved, and nearly all the available water in the Territory was used to cultivate it. The average size of the farms was 69 acres, which was less than in any other State or Territory. The total value of the annual agricultural produce was valued at $3,337,410. The number of manufacturing establishments was 640 and the value of the product $4,324,992. The principal mineral products are silver and lead, which are found associated in the same ores. The mines are situated almost entirely in the Wahsatch Range, east and south east of Salt Lake City. During 1885 silver to the value of $6,750,000 and 23,000 tons of lead were mined. Of the latter metal Utah, next to Colorado, produces the largest quantity of any State or Territory of the Union.


Utah is well supplied with railroads. The Union and Central Pacific Railroads cross it near the northern boundary, the junction of these two lines being at Ogden. From this place a branch of the Union Pacific runs northward to Montana and another south ward to Salt Lake City and thence to the southern part of the Territory. The Denver and Rio Grande Western connects Salt Lake City with Pueblo, in Colorado. In addition to these, there are

numerous short branches in the mountains, making a total length of 876 miles in operation at the close of 1885.


The executive is administered by a governor and a secretary, appointed by the president of the United States, and by a treasurer, nominated by the governor. There is a legislature, the members of which are chosen by the people. The judiciary consists of a chief justice and two associate justices, together with a United States district attorney and a marshal, all appointed by the president of the United States. The Territory has no debt. The taxable property was assessed in 1885 at $34,821,957. The rate of taxation was $1.20 per $100. One-fourth of the sum raised is for the support of common schools.

Recent legislation.

While in some respects the influence of the Mormon Church upon its communicants is for good, in promoting industry, economy, and sobriety, there are other features of it which are not only objectionable but dangerous. Polygamy is but an incident of the system, and the only objectionable one which can be successfully combated. The all-powerful influence of the church in things temporal as well as in things spiritual is a dangerous feature, and one which can only be corrected by slow-moving social influences. For many years Congress has been trying to frame legislation which would destroy polygamy in Utah, but until recently the action of the courts was frustrated and the laws nullified by the power of the Mormon Church. All elective offices were filled by Mormons. Juries were necessarily made up mainly of Mormons, whose obligations to the church were superior to any Gentile oath. The Edmunds Bill, passed in 1882, was the first efficient piece of legislation. This measure declared all elective offices vacant, and constituted a commission to oversee elections and appoint the judges and other officers of election. It disfranchised all polygamists. It annulled the action of the Territorial legislature in extending the ballot to women. It disqualified from service on juries all who accepted the dogmas of the Mormon Church regarding polygamy. Under the operation of this Act the leading polygamists have either been sent to jail or have gone into hiding. A bill of a still more drastic nature was passed by Congress in 1887. It annulled all Acts of the Territorial legislature designed in the remotest degree for the protection of polygamy. It provided that in trials for polygamy the wife may be a competent witness, that every marriage ceremony shall be made a matter of public record, and that all illegitimate children shall be disinherited. It annulled all Acts of the legislature incorporating and continuing the charters of the Mormon Church and of the Perpetual Emigration Fund Co., and confiscated their property, with the exception of the church buildings and parsonages, devoting it to the support of common schools in the Territory.


The area of Utah was acquired by the United States from Mexico in 1848, under the provisions of the treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo. It was organized as a Territory in 1850, and at that time it comprised all the country lying between the eastern boundary of California and the western border of the Great Plains. The subsequent creation of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming reduced it to its present limits. In 1847 the Mormons, under the leadership of Brigham Young, had commenced to make settlements in Salt Lake valley, and they rapidly extended themselves over the fertile valleys of the Territory. Prior to the advent of railroads very few Gentiles settled in Utah; but in recent years, as this once remote region has become easily accessible, the Gentile element has greatly increased. For further details of the history of the Territory, see Mormons. (H. G*.)

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W. & A. K. Johnston