The History Of Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, or SLC for short, is the capital of Utah, and its most populous city. It is known for its strong outdoor recreation industry and for being the industrial banking center of the US – but there’s a lot more to it than that. Both Utah and Salt Lake City have a rich history that’s quite interesting to hear about.
Hundreds of years ago, Utah was inhabited by a variety of Native American Groups. The Anasazi, also known as Pueblo People, built very large communities in the southern region from about year one to 1300 AD, and the Ute Tribe – a group from which the states inherit the name, arrived later in the location with the Navajo Indians.
Salt Lake City itself was founded by a group of Mormon pioneers in 1847, more specifically on July 24. These pioneers were the first non-Indians who settled in the Salt Lake Valley permanently. Led by Brigham Young, the group consisted of 148 people – 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children.
The Mormons sought a region where they could freely practice their religion, without being persecuted or chased by hostile mobs. As soon as their leader saw the valley, he said it was the right place.
On the day the pioneers arrived, they began planting crops and tilling the soil. A few day later, they had plans drawn for the Great Salt Lake City, named after a large salty inland lake on the desert west of the location. Out from the dead center of the city – which is now Temple Square – they arranged blocks on a grid pattern in large 10-acre squares separated by 132 feet wide streets.
In 1848, more immigrants arrived in the valley. A late frost, a drought and a cricket plague threatened the harvest. Flock of seagulls then consumed most of the crickets, saving crops and enabling settlers to survive that winter. In gratitude, they chose the seagull as Utah’s state bird.
Utah’s state symbol is a beehive – a close association with the location’s previous name “State of Deseret” – Deseret means honeybee, which symbolizes industriousness.
Many of the pioneers who founded the city were Europeans who had converted to Mormonism, and they brought their language, skills and culture to the valley, making SLC into a somewhat cosmopolitan center. The region was part of Mexico when they arrived – but they ceded it to the US in a treaty signed in 1848.
While the Mormon temple’s construction started in 1842, the capstone of the structure was only put in place in 1892. The temple was built using granite blocks that were individually hauled by ox and wagon all the way from Little Cottonwood Canyon, until a branch railroad line was run into the canyon.
During the California gold rush, more emigrants got to Great Salt Lake City. Soldiers were stationed there by the 1850s as well as during the Civil War – and trade with all these temporary residents resulted in quite a lot of prosperity for the Mormons – even though agriculture remained their mainstay.
By 1869, the transcontinental railroad got completed, and it crossed about 80 miles northwest of SLC. Utah was then connected to both the West and the East – and many traveled by rail to visit the “City of the Saints”. Many stained to make – or lose – their fortunes in mining.
From about 1860 to the 1920, a large number of lead, copper, silver and gold mines were opened in canyons nearby, including Bingham Canyon. Large smelters were built there to refine ores – and many prosperous mine owners had large, beautiful homes in South Temple, known as Brigham Street at the time.
“Great” was dropped from Salt Lake City’s name in 1868, and in the early 1900s, the city began to assume its present character. Many historic buildings were constructed, including the State Capitol. Electric trolleys were installed to transport inhabitants downtown. Street lighting and sewer systems were installed, city parks were built, and the streets were paved. The population nearly tripled between 1900 and 1930 – and continued to slowly grow its way to what it is today.