In 1847, Brigham Young led Mormon settlers fleeing persecution to Utah. The Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once in Utah, the Mormons worked to change the desert valley into fertile land. They were different from other American settlers because they decided to feed the Indians they met instead of fighting them. Because of this, they experienced a relatively peaceful relationship with the Native Americans. Over the next few years, thousands of Mormons migrated to the region.
During the first ten years, there was conflict between the United States government and the Mormons. This was because the federal government disagreed with some of the Mormon's social practices including polygamy, the practice of having more than one wife at a time. In fact, Utah was denied statehood several times because the state's churchmen practiced polygamy. In 1857, President Buchanan sent Army troops to ensure that his order to replace Young would be followed. In 1862, Congress began a push to ban polygamy in the state. The Mormons officially abandoned polygamy in 1890 and Utah became the 45th state on January 4, 1896.
After the last tracks of the world's first transcontinental railroad were laid in Promontory in 1869, a steady migration of non-Mormons to Utah began. In addition, the introduction of manufacturing at the end of the 1800s attracted many non-Mormons to the state. However, Mormons are still the largest group in the state. Presently about two-thirds of the population is Mormon and the church plays a major role in people's lives.
Utah is named for the Ute Indians, one of many tribes that lived in the region before the Mormons settled there. The state has several nicknames. It is known as the "Salt Lake State." Utah was once named "Deseret," meaning "honeybee," symbolizing the appreciation that the state's residents have for hard work. Another of the state's nicknames is the "Beehive State," which is a tribute to its people's industrious spirit. The abbreviation for Utah is UT.
Utah is a Rocky Mountain state bordered by Idaho and Wyoming to the north, Colorado to the east, Arizona to the south, and Nevada to the west. The state is located in the center of the Rocky Mountain region and is halfway between Canada and Mexico. With an average elevation of 6,700 feet, it is the third highest state in the country. Utah's landscape includes snow-covered mountains, lakes, valley oases, salt flats, deserts, and a plateau country with interesting rock formations and multicolored canyons.
Most of Utah's population live in urban areas and work in service industries like banking and medicine. Manufacturing is also an important industry. Transportation and computer equipment, as well as metal products are produced in the state. In addition, factories in the state process many farm products including fruits, grain, meat, milk, poultry, and vegetables.
Utah's location in the middle of the West, its good transportation facilities, and its communications systems have made the state an excellent site for the defense industry. The state has an abundance of minerals, including petroleum and coal. The water supply still remains limited, but man-made reservoirs provide irrigation water for the state's farmland.
Tourism is also important to Utah's economy. Float in the state's Great Salt Lake, the largest salt-water lake in the Western Hemisphere. Water in the lake is saltier than ocean water and, because of this, people can easily float in it. Listen to the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, the state's capital. Salt Lake City is also famous because, in 1861, the world's first transcontinental telegraph message was sent across wires that met there.
Many people visit the state for its natural landmarks. See oddly shaped and beautifully colored rocks at Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Witness an automobile racing trial at Bonneville Salt Flats.