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Area History


The history of Utah begins long before settlers arrived and long before the Mormon prophet Brigham Young brought his people to Salt Lake City in search of freedom from religious persecution. It begins 10,000 years ago, with the Pueblo dwellers, and continues on to the Ute Indians (from which the state derives its name. Shoshoni tribes may not have left their mark since they chose to move to Idaho, but they, too, had a part in this wonderful landscape's history.

Eventually, the fur trade would leave an indelible mark on Utah, which was still a part of Mexico at that time. Somewhere in the 1700's, a man named Lecarne was trapping and trading in the mountains near what would become Salt Lake City. The French, it would seem, had been actively trading in the region as early as the 1790's. As time passed, British trappers and those with an interest in what would become British Columbia happened through Utah on their way while expanding their routes through to the Pacific Northwest, but none stayed long enough to explore it well or become significant until 1824.

Traders out of Taos and Santa Fe (licensed by the Mexican government), Hudson's Bay Company expeditions under the direction of Peter Skene Ogden, and American interests out of St. Louis, each began harvesting fur in earnest in the first quarter of the 1800's. The English, French, and Americans would all vie for the right to these fertile mountains, but the matter would be decided by politics, rather than force or debate.

Changes in fashion and economics back east and in Europe brought the fur trade to a sudden close about 1840, but the trading posts had been established along those routes continued on and Northern Utah was just showing the barest beginnings of settlement interests.

The arrival of the Mormons led by Brigham Young would herald the first real settlement of consequence in northern Utah. Theirs would be the one to triumph but not before considerable confrontations. The Mormons proposes a new state be formed, called Deseret (as it had been called by Mexico) but the U.S. Congress thought them far too presumptive, as the boundaries they suggested included all of Nevada, as well as a large portion of southern California. Instead, they established the Utah Territory, after reducing the size dramatically.

In the years that have come since, Salt Lake City has continued to be governed, expanded, and driven by Mormon leadership. It enjoys myriad rich natural resources, and prosperity. In keeping with the previous acquaintance, the population today is roughly 19 percent Hispanic, and many of them are converts to the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) religion.

Selected for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake showed itself well before the world. The area's natural beauty and proficient management continue to make it a prized destination, and one of the best mountain state vacation destinations in the nation.