Utah State History

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General State History
Historic Figures

General Utah State History

During the Mesozoic Era (230 to 65 million years ago(, many types of dinosaurs lived in the eastern and southern parts of what is now known as Utah. Their fossilized remnants are still being discovered and unearthed.

Ancient Pueblo cultures, known as the Anasazi and Fremont Indians, had an agricultural lifestyle in southern Utah from about 1. A.D. to 1300. Utes and Navajos lived across what is now Utah for centuries before the arrival of explorers, mountain men, and pioneers.

While residents of the eastern United States were declaring independence from England,, Catholic Spanish Explorers and Mexican traders drew maps and kept journals documenting Utah's terrain, and the native people, as well as plants and animals.

In the 1820's mountain men roamed northern Utah, taking advantage of abundant fur trapping opportunities.

During 1847, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) migrated to the Salt Lake Valley seeking religious freedom. Before the first Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Promontory, Utah in May of 1869, more than 60,000 Mormons had come to the territory by covered wagon or handcart.

After decades of conflict and misunderstandings, Utah became America's 45th state on January 4, 1896. During the last century, people of many ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds made Utah their home, drawn by the state's beauty, and by an abundance of economic opportunities. Together, this diverse populace made, and continues to make, great contributions to Utah's quality of life.
Utah Historic Figures

Jim Bridger
1804-81: One of the most famous mountain men was Jim Bridger. As a trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur company, he was in Cache Valley when he was only twenty years old. He floated down the Bear River and in 1824 became the first known white man to see the Great Salt Lake. Upon tasting the salty water, he spat it out and reportedly declared, "Hell, we are on the shores of the Pacific Ocean."


Miles Goodyear
1817-49: As the fur trade declined and the trappers showed a disposition to settle down, the site of Ogden continued to be an occasional camping place for Indians and trappers, until the arrival of Miles Goodyear. A native of Connecticut, who built a cabin here in 1846. He was the earliest white settler in Ogden,, and probably the first in Utah to plant a garden. Coming west from present Kansas with the Whitman Party in 1836, he assisted in pioneering an untried wagon road as far as Fort Hall, Idaho, out of which he worked as a hunter, trapper, and trader until he had gained sufficient experience to open a trading post of his own. To the original cabin, intended for the use of Goodyear, his Indian wife, and the two children, was added a stockade for livestock and other cabins for his partners, on of whom was Jim Baker, noted mountain man. The arrival of the Mormons in 1847 induced him to sell out, claiming that he held a Mexican grant, existence of such a grant has not been found, but the Mormons probably considered it worth about $2,000 to establish a clear title to all of the Utah region.


Bringham Young
1801-77: Religious leader, colonizer of Utah; born in Whitingham, Vt. He was an undirected farmer and house painter in upstate New York until he was baptized into the Mormon church in 1832. He led converts to Kirtland, Ohio, and was recognized as a successful missionary when Joseph Smith chose him as one of the Twelve Apostles in 1835. He directed the Mormons' move to Nauvoo, Ill., and led a successful mission to England (1839--41). After the death of Joseph Smith (1844), he became the leader of the Mormons and directed the move to the valley of the Great Salt Lake (1846--48). A tireless and efficient administrator, he instituted irrigation systems, agricultural programs, and construction projects, all the while encouraging a steady flow of immigrants to the colony the Mormons called Deseret. Appointed by the U.S. Congress as the first territorial governor of Utah (1850), he refused to step down when the Federal government replaced him in 1857, leading to the "Mormon War" (1857--58); he remained the Mormons' effective leader until his death. More the founder of the economic and social structures of the Mormons than a spiritual leader, he was a virtual despot in his administration, but a congenial in his private life; he had numerous wives and 56 children.


Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker)
1866-1909: Outlaw, born in Beaver, UT. As a youth he learned cattle rustling and gunfighting. After serving time in Wyoming State Prison (1894--6) he joined the infamous Wild Bunch and was partner with the Sundance Kid. Together they roamed America, robbing banks, trains, and mine stations with the law in constant pursuit. From 1901 they lived mainly in South America, where (according to one theory) they were trapped and killed.


Robert Redford
1937- Present: Movie actor, director, producer; born in Santa Monica, Calif. He started out wanting to be a painter, studying art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but turned to studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He had some small roles on television and the stage, with Barefoot in the Park (1963) being his only real Broadway success. Meanwhile, he had begun his movie career in War Hunt (1962). His All-American good looks at first threatened to typecast him as another matinee idol, but he began to use his status as a superstar to become a director of serious films such as Ordinary People (1980), which won him an Oscar as director. He also became a generous investor in new and untried movie makers through his Sundance Festival, and was an outspoken supporter of liberal causes and environmental campaigns.