Centuries before the first Spanish Explorers ventured into the Salt Lake Region, the "High Plains" and deserts of Utah were the home of the Shoshoni, Ute, Goshute, and Navajo Indian Tribes. The wide open deserts and mountains ranges stretching out from Northern Utah to Nevada and Eastern California were a vast territory the Spanish referred to as "La Sierra Nevada" or Snowed Country.
In 1776, Fathers Francisco Antanasio Dominguez, and Sylvester Velez Escalante two Catholic Spanish Priests are said to have been among the first Europeans to travel and explore Northern Utah. They were part of a contingent of nine Spanish Officials and explorers from New Mexico who were on a expedition to search for a viable and direct route to San Francisco and the California coast.
In 1821, after two decades of political struggles, Mexico heroically won its independance from Spain. At the time, the state of Colorado as well as the whole Southwestern United States became part of the Mexican empire.
During this period, Mexico encouraged commerce and welcomed immigrants from the United States. Hence, a large influx of American traders, businessmen, farmers, and families who came from as far as away as New York and New England ventured West to the Sierra Nevada. While some settled down in the Salt Lake Valley, others continued on to Nevada and California.
In 1847 some of the settlers who decided to remain were a group of courageous Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young. The group consisted of 143 men, women and children, who traveled all the way from Ohio and Missorri looking for religious freedom.
When the Mormon pioneers reached emigration canyon they stopped to gaze over the magnificent, and vast Salt Lake Valley. It was then that a triumphant Brigham Young uttered the momentous and memorable words "This is the right place."
The new Mormon settlers quickly set out to establish and layout a village in and around the vicinity where the Mormon Temple now stands, and named it the Great Salt Lake City. In 1848 more immigrants arrived from the East, and established numerous other prosperous settlements around the Salt Lake Valley area.
As a result of the war between the United States and Mexico in 1848, and the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, Mexico lost half its territory which included the current states of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, California and even parts of Kansas.
There is even today great controversy and debate as to the questionable, and perhaps unethical political means, the United States used to acquire this vast territory from Mexico. This issue was best addressed by Ulysses S. Grant when he said,
"I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the U.S. on Mexico."
A few Spanish land grants still survive today , and Hispanic land grant heirs still argue the United States should be forced to honor land rights they were promised in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War. (See a copy of the original Treaty.)
In 1848, Utah's request for Statehood was denied by the United States. The region remained the Utah Territory until 1896, when Utah was admitted to the Union. The practice of polygamy which had caused a lot of controversy, ill will, and perhaps antagonis m between Utah and the United States was officially discontinued by the Mormon Church in 1890.
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