Two Native American groups, the Anasazi and Fremont reside in the region. Corn, beans, and squash are cultivated. The Anasazi also domesticate the turkey as a source of food.
By the time Europeans arrive in Utah, Native American tribes are present: Ute, Paiute, Navajo, Goshute, and Shoshone. They range across the Great Basin and Intermountain West. The Ute tribe claims much of Utah and all of western Colorado. Historically, there are at least 11 different bands of the tribe; each band claims their own territory. The state is eventually named after the Ute. During the late 1800s, the Ute lose most of their lands and are restricted to reservations in southern Colorado and northeastern Utah.
Utah is part of New Spain. Spanish explorer Juan Maria Antonio Rivera leads at least two expeditions into the area, partly in search of gold but also to thwart the expansion of other European powers in the region. He and his companions are the first non-Native Americans to see the Colorado River.
Seeking a new route from the regions of present-day New Mexico to California, Franciscan priests Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Father Francisco Atanasio Dominguez explore Utah. The journals and diaries they keep on the expedition become the first written documents in Utah history.
1800-1849 WESTWARD EXPANSION
(September 27) New Spain wins independence from Spain, and Utah becomes part of the new country of Mexico.
General William H. Ashley sends trappers to northern Utah, and guide Jim Bridger discovers the Great Salt Lake, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere and a defining feature of Utah's geography and future industry.
Explorer Jedediah Smith leads the first overland expedition to California. His expedition crosses the Mojave Desert and the San Bernadino Mountains from Utah.
Antoine Robidoux builds Fort Uncompahgre, a trading post in the Uintah Basin. It provides a means for local Native Americans to trade goods without making the long journey to Santa Fe or Taos.
Captain John Bartleson leads the first wagon train of settlers across northern Utah to California.
John C. Fremont and Kit Carson explore the Great Basin. They establish that the entire area is land-locked, which contributes greatly to the understanding of North American geography at the time.
Fur trader Miles Goodyear builds Fort Buenaventura on the Ogden River. Goodyear is the first recorded white settler in the Weber Valley of Utah.
(July 4) The first party of Mormon pioneers—a company of 143 men, three women, and two children—arrives in the Salt Lake Valley.
(July 22) Brigham Young and 17,000 Mormon pioneers establish the first permanent settlement in Utah. Young designs Salt Lake City to match Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s plans for the storied city of Zion.
(August) The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is founded. Since July 15, 1929 the choir has performed in a weekly radio program called "Music and the Spoken Word," the longest-running broadcast in the world. In 2003, the 360-member group receives the National Medal for the Humanities.
(February 2) The U.S. wins the Mexican-American War. The Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo cedes Utah and all or portions of six other future states to the U.S. The area becomes unorganized territory.
1850–1899 THE STATE OF UTAH
The Compromise of 1850 results in the admission of California to the Union. As a result, half of the remaining unorganized territory is divided into Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory. Utah Territory consists of all of the present state of Utah, most of Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
The Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City's Temple Square is constructed. Finally completed in 1892, it is the largest and best-known temple in the Mormon Church. While the temple grounds are open to the public—over five million tourists visit annually—a temple "recommend" is required to enter.
The Walker War pits Ute Native Americans against U.S. settlers. Many Mormon settlers and Utes are killed in the yearlong conflict.
(May) Brigham Young and Ute Chief Walkara hold meetings and agree to end the Walker War. However, feelings of anger and resentment lead to continued disputes between the groups.
Grasshopper plagues and droughts endanger crops, bringing settlers in Utah to the brink of starvation.
The Utah War, a months-long armed conflict between Mormon settlers and the federal government, begins. President James Buchanan replaces Governor Brigham Young Alfred Cumming, who is accompanied by a 2,500-man military force. Fearing the military had been sent to strike against them, the Mormon militia bars their entry into the Salt Lake Valley. No actual battles are waged between the two forces, although Young's militia does seize cattle and burn supply wagons.
(September 11) Mormon Church patriarch John Doyle Lee offers safe passage through Utah Territory to nearly 150 men, women, and children on the Fancher wagon train bound for California from Arkansas—but only if they leave their weapons, livestock, and wagons behind. Once unarmed, all but 17 children under the age of 7 are killed. Lee is excommunicated and tried and executed in 1877 for his role in what becomes known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Some consider this the only major battle of the Utah War, while others view it as an isolated incident.
The Utah War ends when Young agrees to step down as governor. President Buchanan offers a full pardon to all Utah Territory citizens on the condition they except U.S. Federal authority.
(September) Galena is discovered in Bingham Canyon, shortly followed by the discovery of copper and gold. Bingham Canyon becomes the largest copper mine in the world, producing more copper than any other mine in history. The cumulative value of Bingham Canyon metals exceeds the total worth of the Comstock Lode and the California and Klondike gold rushes combined.
(April 9) The Ute Black Hawk War, the last major Native American conflict in Utah, is waged. It becomes the deadliest conflict in the territory’s history, and includes an estimated 150 battles, skirmishes, raids, and killings among Mormon settlers and members of the Ute, Paiute, and Navajo tribes. The conflict, which ends in 1872, results in the abandonment of some settlements and postponed Mormon expansion in the region.
Chief Black Hawk makes peace with the Mormon settlers, and Natives who continue to fight fragment without his leadership.
The "Great" is dropped from the name of Great Salt Lake City. Today, the Salt Lake City–Provo metropolitan area has a population of about 2.2 million.
The Zion Cooperative Mercantile Institution opens in Salt Lake City. One of America’s oldest department stores, it is sold to Macy’s in December 1999.
(May 10) Completion of the world’s first transcontinental railroad is celebrated at Promontory where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads meet. Today it is known as Golden Spike National Historic Site, named after the ceremonial gold spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the two railroads.
(February 12) Utah Territory gives women the vote. However, the right is taken away in 1887.
Two hundred federal troops descend on Utah to put a stop to the continuing fighting between the Mormons and the Ute. The two parties eventually sign a peace treaty at Mt. Pleasant, which decisively ends the Ute Black Hawk War.
Congress passes the Poland Act, making it legal to prosecute practitioners of polygamy. In 1890, the Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff issues a manifesto ending church-sanctioned polygamy.
(January 4) Utah becomes the 45th state admitted to the Union. Statehood had previously been denied due to the practice polygamy.
Utah restores suffrage to women.
1900–1929 EARLY 20TH CENTURY
In Scofield, an explosion kills 200 men in the Winter Quarters Mine. The accident leads the state to pass important laws improving working conditions for miners.
Open-pit copper mining begins in Bingham Canyon.
(May 30) Rainbow Bridge is established as a National Monument in southwestern Utah's San Juan County. At a span of 275 feet, it is the world’s largest natural bridge.
(October 2) Utah is the 17th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, granting women nationwide the right to vote.
After conservationists become alarmed by damage caused by overgrazing and logging, Bryce Canyon National Park is created.
(December 5) Prohibition is repealed when Utah becomes the 38th state to ratify the 21st Amendment. Ironically, Utah is an alcohol control state—the sale and use of alcohol is strictly regulated and restricted.
Utah's world-renowned skiing industry is born with the establishment of Alta Ski Area just east of Salt Lake City.
The Japanese-American Relocation Camp Topaz opens near Delta. During its three-year operation, over 8,000 American citizens and resident aliens are interned at the camp.
World War II greatly increases the country's need for steel, and the Geneva steel plant begins operation in Utah County to increase national output. It stays in operation until November 2001.
1950–PRESENT MODERN UTAH
Upon completion of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, the newly flooded Glen Canyon forms Lake Powell. It takes 17 years for the lake to rise to the high water mark. It is now the second largest man-made reservoir after Lake Mead.
The Great Salt Lake roughly doubles in size. Record high water levels cause massive property damage for owners on the eastern side of the lake and start to erode the base of Interstate 80. Pumps are added in the event that the lake rises to those levels again.
Sterling Van Wagenen, a business associate of actor and Utah resident Robert Redford, co-founds the Utah/US Film Festival in Salt Lake City. The goal of the festival, which features Redford as chairperson, is to promote American film made outside the Hollywood studio system.
Robert Redford establishes the non-profit Sundance Institute in Provo Canyon to support independent filmmaking and screenwriting. In 1985, the festival moves to Park City and in 1991 is named the Sundance Film Festival. It is now the largest independent film festival in the U.S.
The Utah/US film festival relocates to Park City and changes its name to The Sundance Film Festival as the Sundance Institute takes over its management. Held annually in January, the festival makes a significant impact on the local economy and is arguably the most important annual cultural event in Utah.
Utah has more personal computers per household than any other city in the U.S., reflecting its role as a leader in information technology.
(February 8–24) Salt Lake City hosts the XIX Olympic Winter Games, which features more than 2,000 athletes from 85 countries. Members of the International Olympic Commission later resign as part of a bribery scandal that includes the buying and selling of votes in Olympic bidding. Still, the Games increase the profile of Utah as a winter sports destination, and tourism rises dramatically.
(June 5) Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart is kidnapped at gunpoint from her home in Salt Lake City. She is found almost a year later and eventually becomes a political activist, supporting federal sexual predator legislation.
Click to enlarge an image
1300: Anasazi ruins, Canyon de Chelly National Monument
1800: Ute beadwork
1826: Jedediah Smith
1843: John C. Fremont
1843: Illustration of Kit Carson on cover of 20th-century pulp novel
1847: Brigham Young
1847: Joseph Smith, Jr.
1853: Temple Square shortly after completion
1857: James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States