Mormon pioneers were instrumental in settling the vast Utah Territory for the first time. Between 1847 and 1869, about 70,000 Mormons journeyed by wagon train from the Midwest to the newly established Salt Lake City beside the Great Salt Lake.
The founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith, originally established communities in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. However, persecution due to polygamy and other controversial practices caused a mob to murder Joseph Smith. His successor, Brigham Young, led the Mormons westward, fleeing the persecution and looking for a land in which to settle. While most of the congregation remained behind in Iowa, in 1847 Young and a vanguard arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, and Young proclaimed it the new Mormon homeland.
Almost immediately, the Mormons began the construction of homes, schools, churches, farms, and irrigation systems. From Salt Lake City, Young sent out scouting parties to other sites, and the Mormons established Ogden, Fillmore, Provo, and other towns. Eventually from their base in Utah the Mormons spread out to create settlements in California, Idaho, Nevada, and Canada.
Due to his status as the original settler of Utah and founder of Salt Lake City, President Millard Fillmore appointed Brigham Young the first governor of the Utah Territory in 1850. Young responded by building roads, establishing businesses, organizing a militia, and planning other activities to make Utah stronger and more self-sufficient. However, the Federal government began to receive reports that only Mormons were allowed to hold public office and that Mormons continued to practice polygamy despite a legal ban on the practice. A small army of federal troops was sent out to depose Young and install a non-Mormon governor. Young relinquished his position as governor on April 12, 1858, and the Mormons were pardoned for their insurrection.
We can see, then, that despite persecutions, severe hardships, and even opposition from the federal government, the Mormons played a vital role in the settlement of the Utah Territory in the West.