Utah Territory Primary Source Set

Educator Resources

About the Territory of Utah

From 1850 to 1896, Utah existed not as a state but as an official territory of the United States. This period of over forty years in Utah was marked by conflict between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and nonmembers, conflict between white settlers and various American Indian groups, and debates over founding the government and issues like suffrage and polygamy. This primary source set is designed to help students learn about the Territory of Utah from a government and politics perspective as well as through the eyes of average Utahns and their experiences.

Murphy, Miriam B. “Territorial Governors.” Utah History Encyclopedia. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/t/TERRITORIAL_GOVERNORS.shtml.

Clip of 19th century court document with handwriting
Image: Utah State Archives and Records Service. District Court (Second District) Criminal case files, Series 24291. Case 31 in Box 4 Folder 62.

Resources for Historical Context

Elementary School Students

Secondary School Students

Discussion Questions

After reading through these primary sources, discuss these questions in groups to better understand the history of the Territory of Utah.

Elementary School Students

  1. Were there conflicts between different groups in the Territory of Utah? If so, why?
  2. What are some of the ways that life in Utah is different today than it was in the 1800s?

Secondary School Students

  1. How was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints involved in the Territory of Utah’s government?
  2. How were the experiences of Asian immigrants different from Anglo-Americans in Utah?
  3. Why was the Territory of Utah repeatedly denied statehood? (See the list of Resources for Historical Context for information on this issue.)

Teaching and Learning

Tags: Utah History, American Indian History, Mormon Settlement, Western Expansion.

Utah Core State Standards for Social Studies

  • Third Grade Standard II, Objective 1 and 2
  • Fifth Grade Standard IV, Objective 1
  • Utah History, Strand 2: Utah’s Diverse Peoples
  • United States History I, Strand 6: Expansion

Written by Mariah Todd
Originally published in September 2020

Primary Source 1

Series 328, Reel 1

Description: This pardon application from 1895 consists of a letter that was written by Eliza Beardall’s 13 year old daughter Polly.

Analysis Questions

  1. What does this source show about the role of women in Utah at this time?
  2. Has the Utah government changed since 1895 in regards to child welfare? If so, in what ways?

Primary Source 2

Photograph of a mayor from Ogden, Utah

Series 27746

Description: This is a collection of photographs of various mayors in cities throughout the Territory of Utah and later once Utah gained statehood.

Analysis Questions

  1. What role did race and gender play in who could be a mayor during the 1800s?
  2. How might have the characteristics of these people influenced what they did as mayors?

Primary Source 3

Firefighting equipment

Series 23526

Description: These sources are photographs of firefighters and fire equipment from the mid-1800s.

Analysis Questions

  1. What do these photographs show about occupations in Utah in the 1800s?
  2. How has technology changed since this time?

Primary Source 4

Proclamation document

Series 24205, Box 1

Description: This is a proclamation from 1884 from Governor Eli H. Murray.

Analysis Questions

  1. What was the purpose of this proclamation?
  2. Are proclamations like this still made today?
  3. What does this document reveal about life during this time period in the Territory of Utah?

Primary Source 5

Series 328, Reel 1

Description: A pardon application from a young man regarding a murder in 1893.

Analysis Questions

  1. What does this source reveal about racial tensions in the Territory of Utah?
  2. Why had some Asian immigrants come to Utah in the 1800s?

Primary Source 6

Indian war serivice affidavit

Series 2217, Box 1 Folder 2

Description: These documents are Indian War service affidavits, which provide information on people who fought in the Indian Wars in the Territory of Utah.

Analysis Questions

  1. What do these documents show about life in Utah during the late nineteenth century?
  2. Why were these documents created (by the government?)?
  3. Why was there conflict between American Indians and Mormon settlers?