Utah enters the Union

Utah enters the Union

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Six years after Wilford Woodruff, president of the Mormon church, issued his Manifesto reforming political, religious, and economic life in Utah, the territory is admitted into the Union as the 45th state.

In 1823, Vermont-born Joseph Smith claimed that an angel named Moroni visited him and told him about an ancient Hebrew text that had lost been lost for 1,500 years. The holy text, supposedly engraved on gold plates by a Native-American historian in the fourth century, related the story of Jewish peoples who had lived in America in ancient times. In 1827, Smith receives the gold plates from Moroni and, over the next 85 days, Smith dictated an English translation of this text to his wife and other scribes. In 1830, The Book of Mormon was published. In the same year, Smith founded the Church of Christ, later known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Fayette, New York.

The religion rapidly gained converts and Smith set up Mormon communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. However, the Christian sect was also heavily criticized for its unorthodox practices and on June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother were murdered in a jail cell by an anti-Mormon mob in Carthage, Illinois. Two years later, Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, led an exodus of persecuted Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois, along the western wagon trails in search of religious and political freedom.

In July 1847, the 148 initial Mormon pioneers reached Utah’s Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Upon viewing the valley, Young declared: “This is the place,” and the pioneers began preparations for the tens of thousands of Mormon migrants who would follow.

In 1850, President Millard Fillmore named Young the first governor of the territory of Utah, and the territory enjoyed relative autonomy for several years. Relations became strained, however, when reports reached Washington that Mormon leaders were disregarding federal law and had publicly sanctioned the practice of polygamy. In 1857, President James Buchanan removed Young, a polygamist with over 20 wives, from his position as governor, and sent U.S. army troops to Utah to establish federal authority. Tensions between the territory of Utah and the federal government continued until Wilford Woodruff, the president of the Mormon church, issued his Manifesto in 1890, renouncing the traditional practice of polygamy, and reducing the domination of the church over Utah communities. Six years later, the territory of Utah was granted statehood.

Golden Spike National Historic Site

On 10 May 1869 from Promontory Summit northwest of Ogden, Utah, a single telegraphed word, “done,” signaled to the nation the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Railroad crews of the Union Pacific, 8,000 to 10,000 Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, had pushed west from Omaha, Nebraska. At Promontory they met crews of the Central Pacific, which had included over 10,000 Chinese laborers, who had built the line east from Sacramento, California.

Actually, the construction crews built several miles of track parallel to each other. The federal legislation chartering the transcontinental project had not provided that the tracks join. There was nothing to prevent each line from continuing to build and thus increase the subsidies it might receive from the federal government. Therefore, Congress acted to set the meeting point at Promontory.

The ceremony that day to mark the completion of the last set of ties and spikes was somewhat disorganized. The crowd pressed so close to the engines that reporters could not see or hear much of what was actually said, which accounts for many discrepancies in the various accounts.

Union Pacific Railroad under construction, Promontory Point, May 10, 1869

Union Pacific’s No. 119 and Central Pacific’s “Jupiter” engines lined up facing each other on the tracks, separated only by the width of one rail. Leland Stanford, one of the “Big Four” of the Central Pacific, had brought four ceremonial spikes. The famed “Golden Spike” was presented by David Hewes, a San Francisco construction magnate. It was engraved with the names of the Central Pacific directors, special sentiments appropriate to the occasion, and, on the head, the notation “the Last Spike.” A second golden spike was presented by the San Francisco News Letter. A silver spike was Nevada’s contribution, and a spike blended of iron, silver, and gold represented Arizona. These spikes were dropped into a pre-bored laurelwood tie during the ceremony. No spike represented Utah, and Mormon church leaders were conspicuous by their absence.

At 12:47 P.M. the actual last spike—an ordinary iron spike—was driven into a regular tie. Both spike and sledge were wired to send the sound of the strikes over the wire to the nation. However, Stanford and Thomas Durant from the Union Pacific both missed the spike. Still, telegraph operator Shilling clicked three dots over the wire: “done.” Meanwhile, with an unwired sledge, construction supervisors James H. Strobridge and Samuel R. Reed took turns driving the last spike.

For several weeks Promontory continued to be a town of tents and crude shacks. The land speculators, petty merchants, saloon keepers, gamblers, and prostitutes who had followed these tent cities stayed only as long as there were workers to entice. But, unlike many of these “hell on wheels” camps, Promontory never became the site of a permanent city.

In 1901 the Central Pacific steam engine “Jupiter” was scrapped for iron. The Union Pacific’s No. 119 was scrapped two years later. The 1903󈝰 construction of the Lucin Cutoff siphoned most of the traffic from Promontory’s “Old Line.” The last tie of laurel was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. One of the supporting ties had been used as a roof beam in a barn that Edgar Stone, the fireman on the Jupiter, had built in North Ogden. Only the “Last Spike” remained—ensconced at Stanford University.

In 1942 the old rails over the 123-mile Promontory Summit line were salvaged for war efforts in ceremonies marking the “Undriving of the Golden Spike.” Artifact hunters picked over the area for ties and materials. The event of the completing of the transcontinental railroad, which some historians had compared in significance to the Declaration of Independence, seemed to fade from public consciousness.

However, a memorial marker of the “Last Spike” had been placed along the

Copy of an old woodcut showing juncture of first transcontinental rail line at Promontory, Utah, May 10, 1869. Central Pacific’s “Jupiter” at left, and U.P.’s No. 119. The woodcut appeared in Crofutt’s “New Overland Tourist Guide Book” 1878-79.

right-of-way in 1943, and in the years after World War II local residents began marking the event. In the 1948 reenactment of the driving of the last spike, miniature locomotives were furnished by the Southern Pacific. In 1951 a monument to the event was dedicated and placed in front of the Union Station in Ogden. In 1957 Congress established a seven-acre tract as the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Bernice Gibbs Anderson of Corinne organized the National Golden Spike Society in 1959 to promote the site. In 1965 Congress enlarged the site to encompass 2,176 acres and be administered by the National Park Service. That same year Weber County extended the highway from 12th Street to Promontory, which made access to the site easier.

The enthusiasm to mark the centennial of the transcontinental railroad grew during the next few years. Searches were made for old engines, a commission to plan the reenactment was organized, the Golden Spike Monument was moved 150 feet to the northwest, and the National Park Service began the reconstruction of the two railroad grades, the lines of track, and two telegraph lines, as well as switches and siding connections.

This is the pulling of the golden spike by L. P. Hopkins, left, division superintendent, Southern Pacific Railroad, Herbert B. Maw, Governor of Utah and E. C. Schmidt, assistant to the president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Digital Image © 2008 Utah State Historical Society.

The engines used in the 1969 ceremonies were modified to resemble the originals. From 1970 to 1980 the annual reenactment used two vintage locomotives on loan from Nevada. But, in 1980, with water from Liberty Island in New York Harbor and Fort Point in San Francisco Bay, two replica steamers constructed by Chadwell O’Connor Engineering Laboratories of Costa Mesa, California, were dedicated. Built with $1.5 million in federal funds, these were the first steam engines constructed in the United States in twenty-five years. They now run daily from May to August and from Christmas to New Year’s Day. Park Service personnel at the Golden Spike Information Center, also dedicated in 1980, can direct visitors to walking and driving tours along the old grades, as well as to photo and other exhibits celebrating the transcontinental railroad.

Slavery in Utah

Although the practice was never widespread, some Utah pioneers held African-American slaves until 1862 when Congress abolished slavery in the territories. Three slaves, Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby, came west with the first pioneer company in 1847, and their names appear on a plaque on the Brigham Young Monument in downtown Salt Lake City. The Census of 1850 reported 26 Negro slaves in Utah and the 1860 Census 29 some have questioned those figures.

Slavery was legal in Utah as a result of the Compromise of 1850, which brought California into the Union as a free state while allowing Utah and New Mexico territories the option of deciding the issue by “popular sovereignty.” Some Mormon pioneers from the South had brought African-American slaves with them when they migrated west. Some freed their slaves in Utah others who went on to California had to emancipate them there.

The Mormon church had no official doctrine for or against slaveholding, and leaders were ambivalent. In 1836 Joseph Smith wrote that masters should treat slaves humanely and that slaves owed their owners obedience. During his presidential campaign in 1844, however, he came out for abolition. Brigham Young tacitly supported slaveholding, declaring that although Utah was not suited for slavery the practice was ordained by God. In 1851 Apostle Orson Hyde said the church would not interfere in relations between master and slave.

The Legislature formally sanctioned slaveholding in 1852 but cautioned against inhumane treatment and stipulated that slaves could be declared free if their masters abused them. Records document the sale of a number of slaves in Utah.

African Americans were not the only slaves bought and sold in the territory. The arrival of the pioneers in 1847 disrupted a thriving trade in Native American slaves. Utah-based Indians, particularly Chief Walkar’s band of Utes, served as procurers and middlemen in a slave-trading network that extended from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles, California, and involved Spanish, Mexican, American, and Native American traders.

The Spanish settlers of the Caribbean and Central and South American relied heavily on native slave labor in their mines, fields, and households. In their settlements along the upper Rio Grande in New Mexico and their explorations northward, the Spanish made contact with many native peoples, including the Shoshonean speakers of Utah. The Spanish brought horses that the Utes, like the Sioux on the northern Plains, quickly adopted and used to establish dominance over surrounding tribes. The Spanish and, later, the Mexicans, wanted Native American slaves as domestic servants and field and ranch hands, and the Utes helped to obtain them.

The Mexicans and Utes generally preyed on the weaker Paiute peoples, seizing women and children in raids or trading horses to the Paiutes for captives. The Navajos also participated, sometimes raiding the Utes for slaves. The Indian slave trade was banned in New Mexico in 1812 and in California in 1824 because officials feared the practice would provoke intertribal warfare, but lax enforcement and high profits kept it going throughout the first half of the century. At its peak in the 1830s and 40s, Mexican trading parties regularly traveled the Old Spanish Trail, trading guns, horses, and trinkets for Native American slaves and selling the captives at trail’s end. Women and girls, prized as domestic servants, brought the highest prices–sometimes as much as $200.

In November 1851 eight Mexicans led by Pedro Leon were arrested for attempting to sell Indian slaves at Nephi. When Gov. Brigham Young arrived to confront the men they displayed an official trading license signed by New Mexico Gov. James Calhoun. Young denied the validity of the license and refused to grant them another. The men were tried before a justice of the peace at Manti and then brought before Judge Zerubbabel Snow of the First District Court in Salt Lake City. The traders claimed that Indians had stolen and eaten some of their horses and that when restitution was demanded the Paiutes gave them four girls and five boys in payment. The court fined the traders $50 each and let them leave for New Mexico.

Ironically, in an attempt to halt the Indian slave trade, Governor Young asked the Legislature in 1852 to pass an act that allowed the white possessor of an Indian prisoner to go before the local selectmen or county probate judge and if judged a “suitable person, and properly qualified to raise or retain and educate said Indian prisoner, child, or woman,” he could consider the Indian bound to an indenture not to exceed 20 years. Children had to be sent to school for set periods.

The act had the unintended effect of encouraging the slave trade. Ute traders brought children to Mormon settlements and reportedly threatened to kill them if they were not purchased. In 1853 Young warned all slave traders out of Utah and mobilized the territorial militia to enforce the ban. The Utes, angry over the disruption of the trade as well as white encroachment on their territory, reacted violently. An incident at the James Ivie cabin on July 17, 1853, triggered the so-called Walker War that disrupted the central Utah settlements. With the end of the war in 1854 and Chief Walkar’s death shortly thereafter, the trade in Native American slaves was largely subdued.

Sources: Ronald G. Coleman, “Blacks in Utah History: An Unknown Legacy,” in The Peoples of Utah, ed. Helen Z. Papanikolas (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1976) Dennis L. Lythgoe, “Negro Slavery in Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly 39 (1971) Lynn R. Bailey, Indian Slave Trade in the Southwest (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1966) Carling and A. Arline Malouf, “The Effects of Spanish Slavery on the Indians of the Intermountain West,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology l (Autumn 1945) Daniel W. Jones, Forty Years among the Indians (Salt Lake City, 1890) Kate B. Carter, comp., Indian Slavery of the West (Salt Lake City, 1938).

The Civil War in Utah

Governor Alfred Cumming left Utah quietly on 17 May 1861. Officially, Cumming was on a leave of absence, but the citizens of Utah knew that his hasty departure meant that he did not intend to return. General Albert Sidney Johnston, another leading figure in the territory, also left the area during the same period. Both men’s actions were a result of events in South Carolina on 12 April 1861, when the Confederate Army attacked the federal garrison at Fort Sumter. This incident ignited one of the greatest tragedies in United States history, the American Civil War (1861-65). Both Cumming and Johnston were Southerners and chose to return to the South as the nation began to divide.

Many Mormons in Utah viewed the events in the east as fulfillment of statements made by their prophet/founder Joseph Smith nearly thirty years earlier: “Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina.” In a later statement made in 1843, Smith added: “The commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina. It may probably arise through the slave question.”

Even while the Latter-day Saints believed that the dissolution of the Union vindicated their prophet’s statements, they also had profound regard for and belief in the divine nature of the U.S. Constitution. Such potentially conflicting emotions created a unique atmosphere in Utah.

Because some Saints construed Smith’s words to mean that the Second Coming of Christ was near at hand, they also had mixed emotions about the Civil War. In addition, they still were insecure in the aftermath of the Utah War. While they were interested in self-rule and state’s rights questions, it is apparent that the people in Utah never really seriously considered supporting the Confederacy. In fact, on numerous occasions they affirmed their loyalty to the Union. Although the majority were suspicious of Lincoln’s policies during the early days of his presidency, the Saints changed their attitude, especially after a reported favorable statement made by Lincoln about them gained general circulation in Utah.

President Abraham Lincoln, it was reported, said that when he was a boy there was a lot of timber to be cleared from his farm. Sometimes he came to a log that was “too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move,” so he plowed around it. That, Lincoln contended, was exactly what he planned to do about the Mormons in Utah. “You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone.”

The Saints did not send men to the battlefields in the east to fight in the war, nor were they invited to do so. Some Utahns did go, but on an individual basis. Brigham Young believed that the dissolution of the Union would possibly be the end of the nation. The war was also seen by many Mormons as divine retribution upon the nation that had allowed the Saints to be driven from their homes, unprotected from the mobs, on several occasions. Following the departure of Cumming and Johnston, the troops at Camp Floyd also left by July 1861. This allowed the Saints to demonstrate their loyalty to the Union. Members of the Nauvoo Legion, the local militia, performed short-term volunteer service guarding the mail line. Another significant act of loyalty occurred when Brigham Young was given the privilege of sending the first message from Salt Lake City on the newly completed transcontinental telegraph in October 1861. His message to Lincoln: “Utah has not seceded, but is firm for the Constitution and laws of our once happy country.”

In April 1862 President Lincoln asked Young to provide a full company of one hundred men to protect the stage and telegraph lines and overland mail routes in Green River County (now southern Wyoming).

In 1863 the people of Utah made their third attempt to achieve statehood. The Mormons chided their critics by reminding them that while many states were trying to leave the Union, Utah was trying to get in. This third petition was denied, however. In the meantime, a constitution was drafted for the proposed state of Deseret and a full slate of officers was elected with Brigham Young as governor. This “ghost” government of Deseret met for several years and, in many cases, made decisions that usually became law when the territorial legislature met officially.

To the surprise of the citizens of Utah, the local militia was eventually replaced by the Third California Volunteers, who had been ordered to take over the guard duty from the Saints. In October 1862 General Patrick Edward Connor arrived in Salt Lake City at the head of the 750 volunteer soldiers from California and Nevada.

It was apparent from the time Connor arrived that he believed earlier accusations of the disloyalty of Utahns. The Saints were mortified when his army did not occupy abandoned Camp Floyd. Instead, Connor chose a site which overlooked the city in the foothills directly east of Salt Lake City. This new military post was named Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas).

In his position as military leader, Connor’s main assignment was to suppress Indian attacks against the overland telegraph and mail. A skirmish between the army and Indians occurred shortly after the troops’ arrival when three Indians were killed and one wounded on 24 November 1862.

The most significant clash between federal troops and Indians took place on 29 January 1863, in what has become known as the Battle of Bear River or the Massacre at Bear River. Connor’s force of 300 troops attacked a Shoshoni encampment on the Bear River and killed more than 250 men, women, and children. They also burned the village and thus broke the strength of the Indians in the area.

Connor also attempted to influence Utah’s economics and politics. He established the Union Vedette, an anti-Mormon paper, which became a vehicle to criticize the Saints. Another consequence of the U.S. Army’s presence in Utah, directly related to Connor’s intentions of curing the Latter-day Saints’ influence in Utah, was the opening of mining operations in the area. Connor hoped that this would attract more non-Mormons to the area and thus curtail Mormon hegemony.

Shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, Governor Stephen S. Harding replaced acting governor Frank Fuller. Harding, along with Connor, sought to mitigate Mormon influence in Utah affairs. The new governor accused the Saints of disloyalty. After he attempted to set aside the powers of local probate courts and the territorial militia, the Saints petitioned the president for Harding’s removal. Lincoln responded, in what can be seen as an act of reconciliation, by replacing Harding. The president, however, in an effort to placate non-Mormons, also replaced officials liked by the Saints, including Judge John F. Kinney and territorial secretary Frank Fuller.

Harding’s replacement, Governor James Duane Doty, gained the Saints’ support and cooperation by showing the genuine impartiality advocated by Lincoln. Utahns showed their respect for the President during the celebration of his second inauguration. Salt Lake City authorities and LDS church leaders organized a joint patriotic celebration on 4 March 1865.

News of Lincoln’s assassination caused a deep sense of loss among Utahns, and they joined in the national mourning. Businesses and the Salt Lake Theater were closed, flags were hung at half-mast, and many homes in the territory were decorated with emblems of mourning. Even Brigham Young’s personal carriage was draped in black crepe. Mormons and non-Mormons alike met in the Tabernacle, which had also been draped to eulogize the fallen president. A Mormon authority and the army chaplain from Camp Douglas spoke to those gathered.

Another sad event soon followed. Governor Doty, who was considered by Saints and non-Mormons alike as a judicious executive and perhaps the best the territory ever had, died in June 1865.

As the war was coming to an end and it was apparent that the Union would be victorious, Young still hoped that the crisis in the East would allow the Saints to achieve statehood, removal of the army from Utah, protection of the Saints’ rights, and election of local officials.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, General Connor was honorably mustered out of the volunteer army on 30 April 1865. In the immediate postwar years, he remained a leader of the anti-Mormon movement and became involved in Utah politics.

While Utah did not achieve statehood, the withdrawal of the army, or the ability to influence the appointment of federal officials, the LDS church generally thrived during the Civil War period. Converts still gathered and settlements continued to be established in the Great Basin. Brigham Young remained the respected leader of the Saints, and the church remained a viable, independent power. Utah Territory and its people, however, were inevitably less isolated. Compromise by both federal officials and church leaders during the Civil War helped to bring about a period of more peaceful coexistence in Utah.

See: E. B. Long, The Saints and The Union: Utah Territory during the Civil War (1981).


T he Union Pacific Railroad has been an essential link in the transportation network of the West for more than one hundred twenty years. The Union Pacific Railroad was the eastern segment of the first transcontinental railroad completed in 1869. After years of agitation for a railroad link to the Pacific coast, in 1862 the United States Congress authorized such a venture. When the original legislation failed to attract sufficient capital for undertaking the project, a new law was enacted in 1864 doubling the federal land- grant offerings and making generous thirty-year loans for much of the building costs of the road. The Union Pacific Railroad Company was authorized to begin construction from Omaha, Nebraska westward, while the Central Pacific, was to commence building at Sacramento, California and cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains heading eastward. In general, the corporate competition to build the most miles of railroad and thus garner the greater share of land grants and bond money did nothing to enhance the quality of construction.

Nevertheless, each company did an impressive job of meeting their respective obstacles as the project got under way. From the time the Union Pacific began serious work in 1865, the company averaged over a mile a day, accomplished largely through the arduous labor of recently arrived Irish emigrants with picks, shovels and mule-drawn scrapers. Supplying these workmen with the necessities of life gave several men long-lasting reputations as buffalo hunters, and otherwise taxed the ingenuity of the company providers. There were others who inevitably followed the work crews to provide the liquor, feminine companionship and gambling facilities documented in dozens of photographs-the "hell on wheels" that crossed the plains adjacent the construction camps.

As the railroad stretched inexorably westward, it opened portions of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming to more extensive development. Mining, cattle raising and agricultural activity were generally enhanced by providing more effective transportation of goods to eastern markets. Perhaps no area was more heavily impacted by the Union Pacific than the Intermountain domain settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young, leader of these isolated colonists, recognized the advantages and liabilities of the approaching railroad, and unable to stop it, he attempted to make the best of its coming. It would make the large annual emigration of converts from Europe and the East faster, less dangerous and less expensive. And it promised to provide good paying work for numerous Mormon men and draft animals. However, on the other hand, the railroad would bring into the midst of Mormondom all the ills of the outside world Young and his associates had long denounced and abhorred. The coming of the railroad also immeasurably enhanced the profitability of mining in the territory and stimulated a large influx of semi-permanent Gentile residents into the region.

Young arranged with the railroad company for extensive grading contracts through the difficult mountain canyons from Evanston, Wyoming to Ogden, Utah. In the final year of the construction project, Salt Lake City newspapers advertized for anyone wishing employment or subcontracts to apply to Joseph, John W. or Brigham Young Jr., all sons of the church leader. They and Bishop John Sharp worked as intermediaries between the Union Pacific and the local work crews thus recruited. Many of the Mormon workmen were present at the momentous event of the driving of the golden spike on 10 May 1869, celebrating the completion of the transcontinental railroad. However, the church president was absent from the occasion and was represented in official circles by Sharp, who in later years served on the Board of Directors of Union Pacific Railroad.

Brigham Young was unhappy at not being able to persuade either the Union Pacific or Central Pacific to direct the route through Salt Lake City. But soon after completion of the main line, with close and continuing cooperation from Union Pacific, a Mormon-controlled Utah Central Railroad finished a branch line from Ogden to Salt Lake City. For the next generation, southern Utah citizens and mining promoters sought construction of a railroad stretching through the largest region in the United States yet untapped by such transportation facilities, between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, California. Although many such schemes were projected, none came to fruition, largely because Collis P. Huntington, of Central Pacific and associated railroads, aimed to maintain a monopoly on transportation into California.

The Union Pacific Railroad consistently demonstrated interest in building the Salt Lake and Los Angeles line, and subsidiary companies did gradually extend tracks all the way to the Nevada border, near Caliente. But burdened by scandal, financial depressions and finally bankruptcy, the larger company could not do more at that time. However, after Huntington died in 1900 and independent Montana financier, William A. Clark, began extending the railroad through the Nevada and California deserts, the resurgent Union Pacific, under powerful New Yorker, Edwin H. Harriman, forced Clark to relinquish control and the Salt Lake and Los Angeles line has remained an essential segment of the Union Pacific Railroad ever since.

Disclaimer: Information on this site was converted from a hard cover book published by University of Utah Press in 1994.

Utah Railroads In "The Beehive State"

Utah railroads are recognized for their historic role in being the site of the completion of our country's first transcontinental railroad.

This event took place at Promontory on May 10, 1869 between the meeting of the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad (today the site is home to the Golden Spike National Historic Site).

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History aside, Utah's traffic has typically been natural resources like coal and copper although with Union Pacific's main line running through Salt Lake City don't be surprised to see a little bit of everything traveling through the state!

During its height the Beehive State was once home to four Class I railroads although today the state's trackage is mostly under the control of Union Pacific the rest operated by BNSF Railway and a few short lines like the historic Utah Railway.

Utah is often overlooked as a place where electrified interurbans were once found.  The state was actually home to one of the more successful and well-managed such operations, the Bamberger Railroad. 

It was successful it even maintained its own signaling system.  After the family-run business was sold in 1956, new ownership promptly abandoned the line in 1959.

Roger Puta captured this beautiful scene of Western Pacific's train #17, the westbound "California Zephyr," boarding at Salt Lake City, Utah around 10:40 PM on the night of November 15, 1968.

A Brief History Of Utah Railroads

While Utah railroads date back to the connection of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory just a year later in 1870 the Utah Central Railway completed its main line from the transcontinental connection at Ogden with Salt Lake City, a distance of some 40 miles.

Following the Utah Central other important lines to traverse Utah include the:

  • Southern Pacific (through its purchase of the Central Pacific Railroad)
  • Union Pacific's Overland Route (which ran through northern Utah)
  • Western Pacific's main line which would terminate in Salt Lake City
  • Rio Grande's main line to Salt Lake City and extensive branch line service throughout the state, largley to handle coal traffic

Classic Railroads And Interurbans To Serve Utah

What appears to be one of the Rio Grande's powerful 4-6-6-4's works its way over Soldier Summit within Utah's Wasatch Mountains in a snowy scene dating to the 1940s.

With two main lines along with operating most of the state's trackage today, perhaps the UP is the most-recognized and influential railroad ever to operate in Utah.

The Union Pacific Railroad's original main line (that is still in use today and quite busy) is the Overland Route, which runs between Ogden, Utah Omaha, Nebraska and Chicago.

Today's Union Pacific is much different from the system prior to 1980 as it operates as far north as Seattle, as far west as Los Angeles/Long Beach, as far east as Minneapolis, and as far south as Dallas, Brownsville, and New Orleans.

A Rio Grande PA/PB/PA set is eastbound with the new Budd-built, stainless-steel equipment for the "California Zephyr" near Ironton, Utah on March 16, 1949. The train officially launched a few days later on March 20th. Otto Roach photo.

While UP dominates the Beehive State one shouldn't forget about the historic Utah Railway.

The railroad is still based in its original headquarters located near Martin, Utah and is nearing its 100 birthday in 2012 having been incorporated in early 1912.

Union Pacific's train #104, the eastbound "City of Los Angeles," kicks up the snow as it passes through Unitah, Utah on December 19, 1970. Bringing up the rear is 10 roomette/6 bedroom sleeper "Pacific Emblem" (#1413), built by Pullman-Standard in February, 1950. Roger Puta photo.

Today it continues to carry on in much of the same way as it was originally intended, hauling coal. For more regarding the Utah Railway please਌lick here. 

Along with the Utah Railway and UP, BNSF makes a brief appearance in the Beehive State, operating a single line through the northern half of the state and reaching Salt Lake City.

Union Pacific caboose #25715 brings up the rear of a freight passing through Utah's Echo Canyon in December, 1984. Roger Puta photo.

Along with BNSF a few shortlines also operate in Utah and include the Deseret Western Railway and Salt Lake Garfield & Western Railway. 

Abandoned Railroads Of Utah

Utah, of course, is best known as being the location of the Transcontinental Railroad's completion.  In time, however, the state hosted many other through lines, important coal branches, and even a successful interurban.

Today, the interurban (Bamberger Railroad) is long gone, branches of the Rio Grande have been removed, and Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad (Union Pacific) routes have been removed.

This constitutes the bulk of the 800 miles removed across Utah since the 1920's.  The state was also home to its fair share of narrow-gauge operations (all 3 foot).

Most of these wound up as part of the Denver & Rio Grand Western system, which included the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad, Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad, and Utah & Pleasant Valley Railroad.

Others to operate here included the American Fork Railroad, Salt Lake & Fort Douglas Railway, Salt Lake & Eastern Railway, San Pete Valley Railroad, Summit County Railroad, Utah & Northern Railway, Utah Eastern Railroad, and Utah Western Railroad.

Finally, be sure and look for the never-used grades during the Transcontinental Railroad's construction.  These would be located west of Ogden and were built by both Union Pacific and Central crews around 1869.

They actually passed one another in the process as the parties could never agree upon a meeting location, partially in an effort to continue obtaining government subsidies.

As the book, "Railroads In The Days Of Steam," notes the government was paying upwards of $96,000 for every new mile the Transcontinental Railroad constructed, which included a 400-foot-wide right-of-way. 

Utah's railroads today operate nearly 1,500 miles of trackage with the state's peak mileage topping out at 2,161 during the 1920s. Because Utah has historically always featured through main line routes with few secondary and branch lines it still retains about 68% of its original rail infrastructure.

For more information on Utah railroads, in terms of route mileage over the years please take a look at the chart below.

* Utah's first railroads were, of course, Union Pacific and Central Pacific which officially completed the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869.  To read more about this endeavor please click here

In the end, UP built 70 miles from the Wyoming border to the meeting point while CP constructed 159 heading easterly from Nevada. 

In an ironic twist of fate, UP's section west from Omaha, Nebraska was relatively easy in comparison to CP's crossing of the rugged Sierra-Nevada's.  However, in Utah roles were reversed as it was essentially a straight shot across the desert for CP while UP crews were forced to carve out a right-of-way through the Wasatch Mountains' Echo Canyon.

Utah railroads are also home to the famed California Zephyrਊs Amtrak has been continuously operating the train over much of its original route dating back to the days of the CZ's ownership under the D&RGW, CB&Q and Western Pacific.

A Union Pacific track worker hustles through the Echo Canyon in his speeder during December, 1984. Roger Puta photo.

And, Utah is now home to the highly anticipated Frontrunner commuter rail system operating between Salt Lake City, Pleasant View and Ogden, Utah which opened in 2008.  

State Map (1891)

Southern Pacific FP7 #6447 has Rio Grande's train #18, the "Rio Grande Zephyr," at Becks, Utah on May 19, 1970. Roger Puta photo.

Other interesting museums include the Ogden Union Station Railroad Museum and the Western Mining and Railroad Museum. 

In all, not only is the exquisite natural beauty of Utah alone worth a trip to the Beehive State but also seeing its interesting and unique railroad operations make a visit quite rewarding as well. 

Utah enters the Union - HISTORY

By Richard Klobuchar

Very few among the throngs of visitors to Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu are aware of an anomaly, but it definitely exists in the case of the USS Utah.

On the east side of Ford Island in the middle of the harbor lies one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions. A gleaming white, architecturally unique memorial straddles the submerged hulk of the U.S. battleship Arizona. The memorial was constructed in 1962 to honor the Arizona’s 1,177 sailors who died when the ship exploded during the surprise attack by Japanese aircraft on December 7, 1941. Visitors to the Arizona Memorial from around the world number over a million annually.

On the western shore of Ford Island, a scant mile away, is a second memorial. This, too, honors the dead members from the crew of a U.S. battleship, sunk during the same attack, and almost to the minute of the USS Arizona. Both ships rest on the harbor bottom with part of their superstructure exposed, and both still entomb many of their deceased crew within their hulls.

However, the contrast between the elegance of the Arizona Memorial and the starkness of the open concrete platform and walkway of the other memorial could not be more profound. Although U.S. Navy launches carry hordes of visitors to the Arizona Memorial daily, the general public does not enjoy similar access to the second memorial. Most visitors to the Arizona Memorial are not even aware that there is another memorial—the USS Utah Memorial—in Pearl Harbor.

Therein resides the paradox of Pearl Harbor. The Utah (BB-31) enjoyed a noble career that spanned more than three decades and included considerable international service. Like other U.S. battleships of the early 20th century, its design was greatly influenced by the first all-big-gun British battleship, HMS Dreadnought, which revolutionized naval warfare. (Read about the greatest naval war battles throughout history inside the pages of Military Heritage magazine.)

The USS Utah‘s First Conflicts: The Mexican Revolution and the First World War

The Utah, one of the two-ship Florida-class, was laid down on March 9, 1909, at the New York Shipbuilding Yard in Camden, New Jersey. It was an imposing design for its time, with a length of 521.5 feet, a beam of 88.2 feet, a displacement of 21,825 tons, and a speed of 20.75 knots. It was comparable to any battleship in the world and could operate on either coal or oil.

Although designed for 14-inch main batteries, because of supply problems it was fitted with 10 12-inch/45 guns. Secondary armament consisted of 16 5-inch/51 guns and two 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Utah was launched on December 23, 1909, with Mary Alice Spry, 18-year-old daughter of Utah Governor William Spry, christening the ship. The Utah was completed in 1911, and after sea trials off the coast of Maine, was commissioned on August 31, 1911. Utah then took her place in the battle line of the U.S Navy.

After several years of maneuvers, exercises, and midshipman cruises, Utah participated in her first major action in 1914. With a revolution sweeping Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson embargoed arms and military supplies to the country’s dictator, General Victoriano Huerta. When Germany agreed to furnish arms to Huerta, a task force including Utah was ordered to Vera Cruz to intercept the shipment.

Converted to a target ship in 1930 , the battleship USS Utah is shown during World War I in a camouflage scheme intended to confuse the enemy range finders.

With Utah’s contribution of 384 officers and men, a task force brigade landed at Vera Cruz on April 21. In spirited fighting, this force captured vital warehouses and forced the rebels to surrender. Eventually, General Huerta fled to Germany and the revolution ended.

Utah continued to operate in Atlantic and Caribbean waters until the United States entered World War I in 1917. Fearing German attacks on Atlantic troop convoys, a squadron of U.S. battleships was dispatched to Bantry Bay, Ireland, in August 1918. With Utah as flagship and leading Nevada (BB-36) and Oklahoma (BB-37), this force provided protection for convoys approaching the British Isles until war’s end.

Preparing to Fight a Modern War: The Utah as a Training Ship

The USS Utah continued in the Atlantic Fleet until 1931, taking part in a number of important diplomatic missions to Europe and South America by carrying top government officials. Her days as a battleship ended on July 1, 1931, when, under the terms of the 1930 London Naval Treaty, she was designated to be converted to a noncombatant ship. Her 12-inch guns and other armament were removed, but her huge, empty turrets remained. She was also fitted with modern electronics and other equipment for her new role as a fleet target ship. She was recommissioned in that configuration as AG-16 on April 1, 1932.

For the following nine years, Utah operated with the Pacific Fleet, usually based at Long Beach, California. Her new equipment allowed her engines and steering gear to be operated either manually or by remote control from another ship. In this role, Utah provided realistic training for the fleet’s pilots in dive-, torpedo-, and high-level bombing.

All bombs and torpedoes used were inert, water-filled projectiles. However, even small inert bombs dropped from high altitudes could cause damage to the Utah’s deck and other features. Large 6-inch by 12-inch timbers were laid on the deck, giving it a foot of added protection. Crewmen who remained on the ship during target practice found refuge below deck or in the armored conning tower near the bridge. Utah also provided practice for the fleet’s big guns. She towed target sleds, which allowed battleship and cruiser batteries to hone their skills at long range using live ammunition.

In 1935, Utah became even more versatile. In recognition of the new threat posed by modern aircraft, the Navy established a fleet antiaircraft school on the ship. The fleet’s most experienced machine gunners were assigned to the Utah as instructors for the course. Utah provided .50-caliber training for the first year and added quadruple 1.1-inch mounts the following year. By 1941, the mainstay of the fleet antiaircraft weaponry had become the 5-inch gun, and during an overhaul in Bremerton, Washington, four 5/38 and four 5/25 guns were added in single mounts.

Plowing through the Pacific on December 10, 1936, the USS Utah is employed as a target ship by the navy. Her 12-inch main guns and other weaponry have been removed.

Utah was now not only a mobile target ship, but the primary fleet antiaircraft training ship as well. When the ship was in target mode, its cranes placed steel housings over the 5-inch guns to protect them from damage during bombing practice. Smaller guns were moved below deck.

Utah was ordered to Hawaii in September 1941 to help train the Pacific Fleet’s antiaircraft gunners and carrier bomber pilots. On December 4, the target completed a three-week assignment and returned to Pearl Harbor for routine maintenance and replenishment. Docked at berth Fox 11 on the west side of Ford Island, the ship occupied a berth usually reserved for an aircraft carrier. Her crews worked on December 5 and 6 to unfasten the huge timbers so they could be off loaded in the Navy yard the following week. She would never reach the Navy yard.

Sinking the USS Utah

Utah was still berthed at F-11 on the morning of Sunday, December 7, her crew anticipating a leisurely day. She had company along the west side of Ford Island, including the seaplane tender Tangier immediately astern and cruisers Raleigh and Detroit directly ahead. Like most men of the Pacific Fleet, few of Utah’s crew thought that war would come to Hawaii. It was too isolated for attack from the air, and Pearl Harbor’s destroyers and battleships were capable of dealing with any submarines or surface ships foolish enough to approach the islands. The harbor thus appeared safe from any threat.

Just before 0800, men on deck noticed aircraft circling over the south end of Ford Island. Although Sunday morning exercises were not common, they did occur. Even when explosions were heard, Utah’s observers assumed that the exercises were simply a bit more realistic that morning. That assumption evaporated at 0755, when a roar out of the southwest shattered the stillness of the new day.

Sixteen aircraft flying extremely low in squadrons of eight approached the Utah. The planes were Kate torpedo bombers from the Japanese aircraft carriers Hiryu and Soryu. Their pilots had been alerted before takeoff that they were to attack only battleships and aircraft carriers and that none were expected to be moored on Ford Island’s west side.

Moored across Ford Island from Battleship Row, the USS Utah was struck by Japanese torpedoes during the opening moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, six of the Soryu pilots misunderstood the orders and attacked. Two launched their torpedoes at Utah, two at Detroit, and two at Raleigh. Both torpedoes aimed at Detroit missed and buried themselves in the mud of Ford Island’s shore. Raleigh was hit by a single torpedo and began to list immediately. Both missiles directed at Utah hit amidships, only seconds apart at 0801, and ripped open her hull. Without watertight integrity, Utah began to list within minutes. At 0805 the list reached 40 degrees, and it was apparent that the ship would soon capsize.

The attacking aircraft were part of a force of 350 planes from six Japanese aircraft carriers, striking Oahu’s military installations in two waves an hour apart. Many of the first-wave bombers congregated on the east side of Ford Island where the fleet’s eight battleships, their principal targets, were moored. Within minutes, most of these had taken multiple torpedo or bomb hits and were settling on the harbor bottom or blazing from fires fed by the fuel and ammunition stored within them.

On the west side of Ford Island, the torpedo hits triggered a variety of reactions from Utah’s crew. Those on deck knew quickly that the ship would turn over, and their decision to leave was hastened by machine-gun bullets slamming into the ship’s deck. Many, like Radioman 3rd Class William Hughes, dove off the ship and swam to nearby concrete mooring quays where they found refuge. Others, like Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class Lee Soucy and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Warren Upton, slid down the barnacle- encrusted hull, swam to shore, and dove into a newly excavated utility trench. Even though he had left his first-aid kit on the ship, Soucy spent most of the day treating wounded men.

Trapped Below Deck

Below deck, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Dave Smith, one of the ship’s crane operators, heard the roar of aircraft engines and glanced out of a porthole in time to see the red circles on the aircraft that had just dropped torpedoes at Utah. “I suddenly realized that we were being attacked by Japanese planes,” he explained. “When the torpedoes hit and the ship began to list, I scrambled up to the main deck, climbed down the starboard side, and swam to shore.”

Seaman John Vaessen also felt the torpedo hits below deck and the ship beginning to list. He stopped to secure fans and other electrical equipment and turn on emergency lighting. As the ship capsized, Vaessen was forced to evade a rain of dislodged equipment that now became deadly missiles. As the ship settled in the mud, Vaessen was still alive, but trapped in a dark, frightening, upside-down world.

He knew that his only chance of survival was to reach the bilges, since they would be above water in the shallow harbor. He headed for the nearest bilge hatch using the light from a flashlight that he had been working on when the torpedoes hit. As he reached the hatch, he was blessed with another miracle when he discovered that the huge wrench needed to loosen the cover was still hanging in its place.

Crawling through the hatch, Vaessen could see water rising behind him. Upon reaching the hull, he began rapping with the hatch wrench he kept for that purpose. He continued rapping even after painful blisters formed on his hand. The water was now only eight feet behind him and still rising when he heard rapping and voices outside the hull.

Crewmen on shore had heard Vaessen’s rapping and returned to the hull to locate the noise. Taking a launch to the Raleigh, they returned with a cutting torch and operators. The water was only three feet from Vaessen when he noticed the red spot forming on the hull from the acetylene torch. He knew it would be a close race to see which reached him first—the water or the rescuers. Minutes later, the men outside completed the cut and knocked the circular remnant through the hole. As they pulled Vaessen out, battered and burned but still alive, water was licking at his heels. He was the only crewman rescued through the hull.

“Get Out Now. Leave Immediately!”

Peter Tomich.

Not every crewman caught below deck when the torpedoes struck chose to seek safety topside. Chief Water Tender Peter Tomich recognized that if cold water reached the hot boilers, they would explode, endangering everyone still aboard the ship. Someone had to stay behind to secure the boilers. As the Utah began to roll over, Tomich knew what he had to do. He ordered all boiler room personnel to leave at once.

“Get out, now. Leave immediately!” he yelled.

He then ignored his own order and began to work. As his men turned one last time to watch him, he was already turning valves and setting gauges. The ship continued to roll as he worked, and he knew that by the time he completed his task, escape would be impossible. That thought did not deter him, and he continued with his life-saving efforts even though he realized that his own death was now only minutes away.

Tomich was an extraordinary man. Born Peter Tonic in 1893 in Prolog, a small village in what is now Herzegovina, he emigrated to the United States at age 20. He served in the U.S. Army for 18 months, and while in the service became a United States citizen. Ten days after discharge in 1919, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served continuously for the next 22 years. He became one of the most proficient men at his position in the entire Pacific Fleet. Except for a cousin in New York, his only family was the sailors he served with, and the Navy his only home.

Finding a Home for Tomich’s Medal of Honor

For his actions in knowingly sacrificing his life to save others, in 1942 Tomich was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. A letter sent to his cousin, John Tonic, announcing the award was returned stamped “address unknown.” Tonic had returned to Europe 20 years earlier.

For the next 64 years, Tomich’s medal was displayed in a number of locations, including the USS Tomich, a new destroyer-escort named after him in 1943 the Utah State House a Navy museum in Washington, D.C. and Tomich Hall, a new academic building at the Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, Rhode Island. There it served as an inspiration to the hundreds of chief petty officers who attended the school annually.

A lengthy search through the years for a Tomich relative bore fruit in 1997, when representatives of the New York Naval Militia visited Croatia. There they located Srecko Herceg-Tonic, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Croatian Army. Tonic was the grandson of Tomich’s cousin, John Tonic. A nine-year bureaucratic and legal battle ensued over the proposal of the New York Naval Militia to have the Tomich medal presented to Herceg-Tonic.

In 2006, the knotty issue was finally resolved when the U.S. Navy agreed to relinquish the medal. In an hour-long ceremony aboard the carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in Split, Croatia, on May 18, Enterprise sailors and a contingent of its chief petty officers witnessed Admiral Henry Ulrich, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, presenting Peter Tomich’s Medal of Honor to a beaming Srecko Herceg-Tonic.

“Peter Tomich is one of only 39 chief petty officers in all naval history to receive the Medal of Honor,” explained Enterprise’s Command Master Chief, Paul Declerq. “He’s one of us.” Like Tomich himself, the medal finally found a permanent home.

An Extra Set of Remains

Although 54 Utah crewmen are still interred in the hull, in 2000 the amazing discovery was made that there are actually 55 sets of remains on the ship. Mary Wagner Kreigh, daughter of former crewman Albert Wagner, revealed an incredible story she had kept hidden for almost 60 years. She told the world that the ashes of her twin sister, Nancy Lynne Wagner, had been buried within the Utah since the ship sank in 1941.

Nancy had died at birth in 1937 at Makati in the Philippines Mary, although hospitalized for several months, survived. Wagner had Nancy cremated and later brought the urn aboard the Utah. He intended to have her ashes scattered at sea when a chaplain was assigned to the ship. That day never came. Burials at sea were a tradition in the Wagner family. In 1936, while serving aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), he had such a burial for another daughter, Helen, who had also died at birth.

While serving as a target ship off Long Beach, California, on April 18, 1935, the USS Utah lies at anchor. The aging warship’s armaments had been previously removed to comply with the terms of the London Naval Treaty.

Divers inspecting the Utah several weeks after it sank tried to enter the quarters of Chief Yeoman Wagner to retrieve Nancy’s urn. They were unable to penetrate the wreckage. It would remain there for eternity and serve as the burial at sea that Chief Wagner had intended for his daughter. Although Mary kept the secret of Nancy’s ashes for decades, she made many trips to the Utah to visit her sister’s grave. Since 1990, she has visited it annually.

Finally, on December 6, 2003, 66 years after she died, Nancy received a formal burial. Mary, her daughter Nina, friends, and reserve and active duty Navy personnel attended a service at the Utah Memorial overlooking the ship.

Mary felt relieved that a huge burden had been lifted from her shoulders. As she put it, “For 62 years the courageous crew of the Utah has watched over a tiny copper urn in my father’s locker. Nina and I are so grateful that my twin sister has finally received God’s blessing in the presence of men and women of the United States Navy. Our tears are tears of joy, not sadness. One day I hope to join her aboard our beloved ship.”

Mary has remained active in the USS Utah Association, has hosted its recent reunions, and is currently its public relations director.

Utah’s crew numbered just over 500 at the time of the attack. When it was over, 58 crewmen had been killed by strafing, flying timbers, or drowning within the hull. Only the battleships Arizona, California, West Virginia, and Oklahoma (which also capsized) suffered a greater number of fatalities. Four of the dead were recovered and buried ashore, leaving 54 to serve their eternal watch within the Utah.

A Forgotten Grave Site

Efforts to salvage the sunken ships began within days of the attack. Most of the effort centered on the east side of Ford Island where four battleships and several other ships had sunk. Little was done on the Utah until 1943 because of the low potential for returning the ship to useful service. The Oklahoma was righted that same year, floated, and moved to a drydock to make her seaworthy.

The complicated derrick system used to right the Oklahoma was then installed on the Utah after her guns, fuel oil, and other upper works were removed to lighten the ship. A righting operation began in February 1944 and was only partially successful. It did pull the hulk closer to shore and away from the shipping channel, but instead of righting, the hull merely slid along the bottom and settled deeper in the mud. Righting operations then ceased. When another attempt to free the anchorage location was rejected in 1956, the Navy declared Utah to be a permanent grave site.

A unique system of cables and pulleys was fashioned for the effort to right the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma after the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Utah was partially righted in 1944, but further salvage operations on the venerable ship were abandoned.

For over a decade, nothing further occurred at the Utah site. At the Arizona site, however, the Navy erected a wooden platform in 1950 to allow a daily flag raising to honor her 1,177 dead. A commemorative plaque at the base of the flagpole served as a memorial. On May 30, 1962, after years of planning and fund raising, a permanent memorial constructed over the Arizona’s hull was dedicated.

This gleaming white structure draws thousands of visitors daily and has become the focus of activities honoring all who died at Pearl Harbor. On October 10, 1980, a $4.5 million Visitor Center complex was opened on Pearl Harbor’s shore to service the crowds of Arizona Memorial visitors. On that day, operations of the Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center were turned over to the U.S. National Park Service.

Commemorative activities at the Utah were much more austere. A bronze plaque was attached to Utah’s deck in 1950. Its simple message was, “In Memory—Officers and Men—USS Utah—Lost in Action—7 December 1941.” Since visitors did not have access to the ship, no one could actually read this plaque. A readable second plaque was then placed on a wharf just to the north of the ship.

The plaques served as the principal memorials until 1972, when a permanent memorial was finally constructed. It consisted of a 15- by 40-foot concrete platform connected to shore by a 70-foot walkway. Neither the platform nor the walkway touches the Utah. A flagpole in a corner of the platform allows a daily flag raising. The memorial was formally dedicated on May 27, 1972.

The Utah Memorial remained basically unchanged until 2005, when a $900,000 Navy construction project provided needed structural repairs to the memorial’s foundation, as well as other improvements.

Both Utah and Arizona were destroyed in the same action and sank within two minutes of each other. Both still have crewmen entombed within them and are the only ships in the harbor remaining from the attack on December 7. On May 5, 1989, both were designated as national historic landmarks, which provides them with special consideration for preservation. Like the Arizona, survivors of the Utah are now permitted to have their ashes interred within their ship when they die. Five have chosen to do so.

The Symbolism of the USS Arizona vs the Heritage of the Utah

In spite of these similarities, comparisons between the two ships are usually one sided. Utah was not sunk by a spectacular explosion as was Arizona it capsized over a period of 11 minutes. While Arizona was a principal target of the attack, Utah was attacked by mistake. Arizona lost 1,177 men, about 85 percent of the crew on board during the attack. Utah’s death toll of 58 was 12 percent of her on-board crew. Approximately 1,002 of Arizona’s crew are still on board, while 54 of Utah’s crew still remain.

These statistics should not belittle the lives or achievements of the Utah or her crew. They fought as gallantly as men on any ship in the harbor on that morning. The sight of the incredible explosion as Arizona’s forward magazine blew up, and the huge and instantaneous death toll rightfully focused the world’s attention on that ship. It properly became the symbol of the “day of infamy.”

That symbolism was eventually responsible for creating the magnificent structure and shore facilities at the Arizona site. The greatest frustration of Utah survivors and their families is that the public has no similar direct access to the Utah Memorial.

No Navy launches stop there, and access may be gained solely from Ford Island, which is still an active military installation. Civilians are allowed on the island only with a formal permit. Although this is possible, the visitors to the Utah Memorial in recent years have numbered only in the dozens annually, a far cry from the million and a half who visit the Arizona Memorial. Most visitors to the Arizona Memorial are not even aware of the existence of the Utah Memorial less than a mile away.

Ironically, if the Navy had been successful in removing the Arizona’s hull in 1942, Utah would have been the sole attack victim remaining in Pearl Harbor. It, then, would have been the recipient of the public attention and the focus of efforts to establish a permanent memorial there.

Ending the Paradox of Pearl Harbor

It is not envy that prompts Utah survivors to seek increased public awareness of their ship’s existence. They fully understand the relationship between the two ships and are supportive of the attention given to the Arizona. They are, however, interested in seeking changes to current operations within the harbor to permit visitors to at least view Utah’s remains. This would be a logical first step in increasing public knowledge of the ship’s fate on that terrible Sunday in December 1941.

Overshadowed by the stately memorial to the USS Arizona less than a mile away, the simple memorial constructed at the grave of the USS Utah in 1972 commemorates the 54 sailors who lost their lives aboard the vessel on December 7, 1941.

A modest expansion of the USS Utah Memorial’s platform and allowing direct visitor access to it appear to be feasible and fundable solutions. Access could be provided either by water or by land using shuttle buses like those carrying visitors to the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), moored near the Arizona Memorial. Visitors would then be able to view both national historic landmarks and both burial sites in Pearl Harbor.

An additional step to improve access to the Utah would be to transfer the Utah Memorial to the National Park Service, thus placing both memorials under the umbrella of the same federal jurisdiction. The income generated by the visitor center could then be used to support both memorials. Then, the Utah might no longer be known as “the other memorial,” and the paradox of Pearl Harbor could finally cease to exist.

Richard Klobuchar is the author of the books Pearl Harbor: Awakening a Sleeping Giant, which is sold at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and USS Ward: Operational History of the Ship That Fired the First American Shot of World War II, published in March 2007.


The Colorado Plateau comprises slightly more than half of Utah. Relatively high in elevation, this region is cut by brilliantly coloured canyons.

The western third of the state is part of the Great Basin of the Basin and Range Province, a broad, flat, desertlike area with occasional mountain peaks. The Great Salt Lake lies in the northeastern part of the region. To the southwest of the lake is the Great Salt Lake Desert, covering some 4,000 square miles (10,500 square km), which include the Bonneville Salt Flats, the site of many automobile and motorcycle land-speed trials.

The Middle Rockies in the northeast comprise the Uinta Mountains, one of the few mountain ranges in the United States running in an east-west direction, and the Wasatch Range. Along the latter runs a series of valleys and plateaus known as the Wasatch Front. The Wasatch Range exhibits many glacially formed features such as cirques and moraines. Canyons have been formed by various streams.

Elevations range from 13,528 feet (4,123 metres) at Kings Peak in the Uintas to about 2,350 feet (715 metres) in the southwestern corner of the state. The Oquirrh and Deep Creek ranges of the Great Basin are important for their deposits of copper, gold, lead, and zinc.

Utah enters the Union - Jan 04, 1896 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

Six years after Wilford Woodruff, president of the Mormon church, issued his Manifesto reforming political, religious, and economic life in Utah, the territory is admitted into the Union as the 45th state.

In 1823, Vermont-born Joseph Smith claimed that an angel named Moroni visited him and told him about an ancient Hebrew text that had lost been lost for 1,500 years. The holy text, supposedly engraved on gold plates by a Native-American historian in the fourth century, related the story of Jewish peoples who had lived in America in ancient times. Over the next six years, Smith dictated an English translation of this text to his wife and other scribes, and in 1830, The Book of Mormon was published. In the same year, Smith founded the Church of Christ, later known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Fayette, New York.

The religion rapidly gained converts and Smith set up Mormon communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. However, the Christian sect was also heavily criticized for its unorthodox practices and on June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother were murdered in a jail cell by an anti-Mormon mob in Carthage, Illinois. Two years later, Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, led an exodus of persecuted Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois, along the western wagon trails in search of religious and political freedom.

In July 1847, the 148 initial Mormon pioneers reached Utah’s Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Upon viewing the valley, Young declared: “This is the place,” and the pioneers began preparations for the tens of thousands of Mormon migrants who would follow.

Utah enters the Union - HISTORY

Utah State Historical Society

Finding aid encode in EAD 1.0 by Craig Ringgenberg using XMetaL 1.0, 2004. Finding aid written in English .

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Utah State Historical Society

Copyright 2005, Utah State Historical Society. All rights reserved. Reproduction, storage or transmittal of this work, or any part of it, in any form or by any means, for commercial purposes, is prohibited without prior authorization of the Utah State Historical Society. This work may be used for scholarly and other non-commercial use provided that the Utah State Historical Society is acknowledged as the creator and copyright holder.

Steven K. Madsen Papers, 1992-1994

Organizations: Sons of Utah Pioneers Places: Union, Utah Form or Genre: Correspondence, reports, studies, master plan, research. Background Background Note

Union, Utah, located 12 miles south-southwest of Salt Lake City, began as a fort during the Mormon confrontations with Native Americans in the summer of 1853. By 1854, Union had 23 families living within the fort. Today, the area is considered an outgrowth of Salt Lake City. In 1992, the area came under development by Hermes Company of Salt Lake City.

Steven K. Madsen received his M.A. in History from Brigham Young University in 1986. He has written several books, including A Union, Utah, History (1982), the history of Union and its place within the larger framework of Utah history. He has also coauthored a number of books with C. Gregory Crampton, including the U.S. government studies The Navigational History of Bear River, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah (1975), Boating on the Upper Colorado (1975), and In Search of the Spanish Trail: Santa Fe to Los Angeles, 1829-1848 (1994).

Collection created by Steven K. Madsen, a resident of the Union Fort area as well as a historian of the area. This collection includes correspondence between Madsen and others involved in the research and preservation of the Union Fort area as it was coming under development by Hermes Company of Salt Lake City. This collection includes copies of presentations Madsen made to the county commission and various organizations. These presentations, clippings from various local and statewide newspapers, and articles that appeared in the Utah Heritage Foundation's publications are often duplicates scattered throughout the various files.

Steven K. Madsen Papers, 1992-1994, Utah State Historical Society.

Gift of Steven K. Madsen, 2004.

The Steven K. Madsen Papers are the physical property of the Utah Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah. Literary rights, including copyright, may belong to the authors or their heirs and assigns. Please contact the Historical Society for information regarding specific use of this collection.

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