UTAH is a newly-organized territory among the distant western possessions of the United States, deriving its name from that of the Pah-Utahs, a numerous tribe of native Indians, heretofore and still, with other tribes, occupying large portions of the country. It formerly composed a very considerable share of the wide-spread wilderness known as Upper or New California, and was consequently considered a Mexican dependency. Very few settlements have ever been made or attempted within the present limits of this region; in fact, it has scarcely been deemed habitable by civilized beings. The territory, together with that of New Mexico, and of the lately-formed State of California, fell to the United States by right of conquest, during the war with Mexico, and was duly transferred by the latter, under the treaty of 1848.
By the act of Congress passed September 9, 1850, establishing a territorial government for Utah, the limits of the territory are defined as follows : Bounded on the west by the State of California; on the north by the Territory of Oregon; on the east by the summit of the Rocky Mountains; and on the south by the parallel of 37° north latitude, which forms the dividing line between this territory and that of New Mexico. It extends from the 37th to the 42d degrees of north latitude, and lies between the 107th and 120th degrees of west longitude; having a breadth of 300, and an average length from east to west of some 600 miles, containing an area of about 180,000 square miles.
It is provided by the same act, that this territory, when admitted as a state into the Union, shall be received with or without the toleration of slavery, as may be prescribed by its own constitution. All free white males, residents in the territory at the date of said act, were empowered to vote at the first elections, and made eligible to any office in the territory; after which the legislative assembly shall fix the qualifications of electors. The governor holds office for four years, and receives his appointment from the executive of the United States. He must reside within the territory, act as superintendent of Indian affairs, and commission all territorial officers. He may pardon crimes against the laws of the territory, and reprieve offenders against the United States laws, until the president's will be known. The President of the United States also appoints a territorial secretary for a like term, who administers the government in case of the governor's disability. A Council of 13 members, and House of Representatives, 26 in number, compose the legislative assembly. The former serve two years, the latter one year, and are elected by plurality of the popular votes. They are to be chosen in appropriate districts, and a due apportionment thereof is to be made by law. Legislative sessions are not to continue beyond 40 days. No laws interfering with the primary disposal of the soil, imposing taxes on United States property, or requiring extra taxes on property of non-residents, can be passed by the legislature. No law is valid until approved by Congress.
A Supreme Court, District and Probate Courts, and justices of the peace, constitute the judicial power of the territory. The former comprises a chief and two associate justices, to sit annually at the seat of government, and to hold office four years. A District Court is held by one of the supreme judges, at times provided by law, in each of the three judicial districts of the territory. Justices of peace cannot try cases involving land titles, or debts exceeding $100. Both the Supreme and District Courts have chancery powers, and common law jurisdiction. Appeals from a District to the Supreme Court cannot have trials by jury. An attorney and marshal are appointed by the United States government for a term of four years.
After a survey of the lands under authority of the general government, two sections in each township, equivalent to one eighteenth part of the whole territory, are to be set apart for the support of public education. It is trusted that the sinister disposal, in some of the new states and territories, of similar liberal provisions for this object, will in due time be guarded against, in this territory, by the friends of common schools.
Regarding the finances of this newly-formed territory, there are as yet no authentic reports. Those who have explored the northern part of the country, the number of whom is not great, describe it as mountainous, rugged, and generally barren, without forests, and destitute of valuable indigenous vegetation. Spots occasionally are presented which yield good grass for pasturage; and here and there may be found valleys of small extent, which are tolerably fertile. Towards the western boundary, near the bases of the Sierra Nevada, the soil is generally good. Numerous lakes, emitting streams of moderate size, lie along this region, affording convenient means for irrigation. But the central portion of the country, judging from the imperfect accounts which are at present accessible, is a wide sandy waste, producing, it is true, for a short season after the winter rains, a profusion of grasses and beautiful flowers, all which the succeeding summer heat reduces to an ashy desert. In other quarters, the country exhibits a rolling surface, with tracts of considerable fertility, often well wooded and watered, with frequent and extensive openings of prairie lands, and tracts of low grounds composed of a rich and loamy soil. Upon the whole, although a very large portion of the territory has never been subjected to cultivation, and still seems unfit for the permanent abode of civilized human beings, it is nevertheless susceptible of unlimited improvement; and the efforts of industry and science may yet convert it into "a land flowing with milk and honey."
The principal rivers within the territory, so far as they have yet been traced or partially examined, are named Rio de los Animas, Grand, White, Tampa, Vermilion, St. Mary's, Vintan, and Duchesne Rivers, most of which, with their smaller branches, flow from the northeast, and ultimately unite with the Great Colorado of the West. The latter appears to take its rise in the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, near the north-east angle of the territory, and, taking a south-western direction, passes through New Mexico, forming part of the boundary between that territory and the State of California, and finally discharges itself into the Gulf of California. Great Salt Lake, a vast body of water lying near the centre of the northern boundary, is the source of numerous watercourses flowing north and east. Humboldt's River flows in a north-east direction, from a lake of that name near the mountains on the west. A river of some extent is connected with Nicollet's Lake, a large sheet, lying in the central part of the territory. A chain of lakes extends northerly from Humboldt's Lake, the principal of which are Carson's and Walker's Lakes. Pyramid Lake, which is of considerable magnitude, and several smaller collections of water, lie at the foot of the great mountain range which separates Utah from California. From each of these, several rivers stretch out in various directions, and are finally lost in the sands of the desert.
No regular mineralogical survey of this region has yet been undertaken, and its mineral resources, which are doubtless great, remain of course undeveloped. Coal, alum, and salt, are said to have been found in some localities. Excellent clay for the manufacture of pottery abounds in the central and northern parts; and satisfactory indications of iron ore have been discovered.
Besides the rude utensils and habiliments fabricated by the natives, there are no manufactured articles, of any note, produced within the territory; unless, indeed, the operations of the Mormons be considered an exception. This unique and erratic people, at their large settlement on Salt Lake, have erected various manufacturing establishments, including grain and lumber mills, woollen factories, potteries, &c. and are able to construct most of the farming or domestic implements, including fine cutlery, required for their own use. This settlement, prior to the organization of the territory, was called by the colonists " the State of Deseret." The only railroad yet projected in that country is to be forthwith commenced here, to extend from Mormon city eastward, to the base of a mountain, where are extensive stone quarries. The chief purpose of the road is to convey stone and other materials into the city, for building.
But little is known of the present condition and numbers of the native tribes that are constantly roaming through this and the neighboring regions. The character of these wanderers,generally, is no better than that of the wildest Arabs or Hottentots. Attempts are in progress to treat with some of the more approachable among them; and, where they can be reduced to a state less inconsistent with the true objects of human existence by no other means, large bounties in lands, or " tribute money," will doubtless be resorted to by the general government.
Excepting the colony composing the Mormon settlement, and the occupants of the few armed stations established by the United States, with perhaps an occasional ranchero occupied by Roman Catholic missionaries, there are no white or civilized inhabitants among the population of Utah. At all events, the enumeration is not yet completed; for Congress, by a supplement to the act for taking the seventh, census, foreseeing the difficulty of completing the same within the State of California, and the Territories of Oregon, New Mexico, and Utah, by the originally specified time, has authorized an extension of the period, at the discretion of the secretary of the interior. Years may therefore elapse before the completion of this work.
The climate of Utah is in general more mild than that of the states on the east included within the same latitudes. Upon the sterile deserts in the central and southern parts, the summer heats are intense, and the climate sickly. Nearer the more fertile districts on the west, the temperature is equable, with less difference between the extremes of heat and cold than is usually the case on the Atlantic coast. The elevated lands, to a certain height, are considered very healthy ; but travellers upon the mountain summits have frequently been attacked by fatal fevers and other alarming maladies. In the north, the winters are sufficiently moderate
to admit of hydraulic operations throughout most of the season.
The only religious organization, if it can be so called, which is now maintained in the territory, is that of the Mormons, or " Latter Day Saints." Besides their establishment at Salt Lake, they have formed a colony in Iron county, about 250 miles south, among the high lands near the boundary of New Mexico; a position, around which the country is well wooded and watered, abounding in iron ore, and promising plenty of coal.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America… (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 142-144.