Territory of Utah
Organized incorporated territory of the United States
Territorial coat of arms (1876) of Utah Territory
Territorial coat of arms (1876)

The Utah Territory upon its creation, with modern state boundaries shown for reference
 • TypeOrganized incorporated territory
• 1851–58
Brigham Young
• 1858–61
Alfred Cumming
• 1875–80
George W. Emery
• 1880–86
Eli Houston Murray
• 1886–89, 1893–96
Caleb Walton West
LegislatureUtah Territorial Assembly
• Utah Organic Act
September 9 1850
• Colorado Territory formed
February 28, 1861
• Nevada Territory formed
March 2, 1861
• Wyoming Territory formed
July 25, 1868
• Statehood
January 4 1896
Preceded by
Succeeded by
State of Deseret

The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850,[2] until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah,[3] the 45th state. At its creation, the Territory of Utah included all of the present-day State of Utah, most of the present-day state of Nevada save for Southern Nevada (including Las Vegas), much of present-day western Colorado, and the extreme southwest corner of present-day Wyoming.


The territory was organized by an Organic Act of Congress in 1850, on the same day that the State of California was admitted to the Union and the New Mexico Territory was added for the southern portion of the former Mexican land. The creation of the territory was part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to preserve the balance of power between slave and free states. With the exception of a small area around the headwaters of the Colorado River in present-day Colorado, the United States had acquired all the land of the territory from Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848. After passing the Senate, the House of Representatives voted in favor of organizing the Territory of Utah, 97–85.[4]

The creation of the Utah Territory was partially the result of the petition sent by the Mormon pioneers who had settled in the valley of the Great Salt Lake starting in 1847. The Mormons, under the leadership of Brigham Young, had petitioned Congress for entry into the Union as the State of Deseret, with its capital as Salt Lake City and with proposed borders that encompassed the entire Great Basin and the watershed of the Colorado River, including all or part of nine current U.S. states. The Mormon settlers had drafted a state constitution in 1849 and Deseret had become the de facto government in the Great Basin by the time of the creation of the Utah Territory.[5]

Following the organization of the territory, Young was inaugurated as its first governor on February 3, 1851. In the first session of the territorial legislature in September, the legislature adopted all the laws and ordinances previously enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret.

During Brigham Young's governorship, he exerted considerable power over the territory. An example being that in 1873, the territory legislature gave Young the exclusive right to manufacture whiskey.[6]

Mormon governance in the territory was regarded as controversial by much of the rest of the nation, partly fed by continuing lurid newspaper depictions of the polygamy practiced by the settlers, which itself had been part of the cause of their flight from the United States to the Great Salt Lake basin after being forcibly removed from their settlements farther east.

Although the Mormons were the majority in the Great Salt Lake basin, the western area of the territory began to attract many non-Mormon settlers, especially after the discovery of silver at the Comstock Lode in 1858. In 1861, partly as a result of this, the Nevada Territory was created out of the western part of the territory. Non-Mormons also entered the easternmost part of the territory during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, resulting in the discovery of gold at Breckenridge in Utah Territory in 1859. In 1861 a large portion of the eastern area of the territory was reorganized as part of the newly created Colorado Territory.[5]

In 1869 the territory approved and ratified women's suffrage.[7]

46 years elapsed between the organization of the territory and its admission to the Union in 1896 as the State of Utah, long after the admission of territories created after it. In contrast, the Nevada Territory, although more sparsely populated, was admitted to the Union in 1864, only three years after its formation, and Colorado was admitted in 1876.[citation needed]

The evolution of the Utah Territory from its creation by Congress in 1850 to 1896, when statehood was granted

Coat of arms

The Utah state coat of arms appears on the state seal and state flag. The beehive was chosen as the emblem for the provisional State of Deseret in 1848 and represents the state's industrious and hard-working inhabitants, and the virtues of thrift and perseverance. The sego lilies on either side symbolize peace.[8][9]


Historical population
Source: 1850–1890[10]

In 1850, 9 churches with regular services in the Utah Territory were unclassified by historian Edwin Gaustad in his Historical Atlas of Religion in America (1962), but were probably LDS churches.[11][12] In the 1890 United States census, 25 counties in the Utah Territory reported the following population counts (after 7 reported the following counts in the 1850 United States census):[10]

County 1850
1 Salt Lake 6,157 58,457
2 Utah 2,026 23,768
3 Weber 1,186 22,723
4 Cache 15,509
5 Sanpete 365 13,146
6 Summit 7,733
7 Box Elder 7,642
8 Davis 1,134 6,751
9 Sevier 6,199
10 Juab 5,582
11 Emery 5,076
12 Millard 4,033
13 Washington 4,009
14 Tooele 152 3,700
15 Wasatch 3,595
16 Beaver 3,340
17 Piute 2,842
18 Uintah 2,762
19 Iron 360 2,683
20 Garfield 2,457
21 Morgan 1,780
22 Kane 1,685
23 Rich 1,527
24 Grand 541
25 San Juan 365
Indian reservations 4,645
Utah Territory 11,380 210,779

See also


  1. ^ "FlagTerritorial.jpg". pioneer.utah.gov. Archived from the original on June 23, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  2. ^ Stat. 453
  3. ^ "Utah". World Statesmen. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  4. ^ "Friday, September 6, 1850". The National Era (Washington, D.C.). Newspapers.com. September 12, 1850. p. 3.
  5. ^ a b Alford, Kenneth L. (2017). Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 801. ISBN 978-0-8061-5916-4.
  6. ^ Vance, Del (2008). Beer in the Beehive (2 ed.). Salt Lake City: Dream Garden Press. p. 32.
  7. ^ Lemay, Kate Clarke; Goodier, Susan; Tetrault, Lisa; Jones, Martha (2019). Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence. Princeton University Press. p. 270. ISBN 9780691191171.
  8. ^ Utah State Coat of Arms State Symbols USA.
  9. ^ Utah State Emblem: Beehive eReferenceDesk.
  10. ^ a b Forstall, Richard L. (ed.). Population of the States and Counties of the United States: 1790–1990 (PDF) (Report). United States Census Bureau. pp. 162–163. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  11. ^ Selcer, Richard F. (2006). Balkin, Richard (ed.). Civil War America: 1850 to 1875. New York: Facts on File. p. 143. ISBN 978-0816038671.
  12. ^ Gaustad, Edwin (1962). Historical Atlas of Religion in America. New York: Harper & Row.

Further reading

39°50′N 113°30′W / 39.833°N 113.500°W / 39.833; -113.500