John Wesley Powell asking a Kaibab Paiute about water.
Mountain men and settlers had explored much of the West, but the scientific investigation of this land really began when Congress authorized exploration for railroad and wagon routes.
Captain Howard Stansbury explored and mapped Great Salt Lake Valley in 1849-1850; Lieutenant Joseph C. Ives studied part of the Colorado River in 1857-1858; Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith completed a railroad survey.
Major John Wesley Powell came in 1869 and 1871 to explore the "last frontier"-- the Green and Colorado rivers--by boat. Powell made a monumental contribution to our understanding of the arid Colorado Plateau, water resources, and the life of the area's American Indians.
Communication between the East and the West became more and more important between 1850 and 1870. The overland freight brought needed goods to Utah settlers.
The Pony Express brought both mail and news in its short 19 months of operation in 1863 and 1864.
A Pony Express rider racing past crews putting up the first transcontinental telegraph lines. Engraving from Harper's Weekly, in 1867.
Communication became much quicker with the completion of a telegraph line connecting Omaha and Sacramento on October 24, 1861. Brigham Young helped with this project. He planned the Deseret Telegraph to connect Salt Lake City with the outlying Mormon settlements.
The Central Pacific's Jupiter engine frames soldiers and dignitaries attending the ceremony joining the rails of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869.
Next came the railroad. In 1868 Brigham Young contracted with Union Pacific to build part of the transcontinental railroad through Echo and Weber canyons. Mormons earned more than two million dollars working on this project. Meanwhile, hundreds of Chinese worked on the Central Pacific line east from Sacramento. Finally, on May 10, 1869, workers joined the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroad lines at Promontory Summit, Utah.
More and more non-Mormon people came to Utah after the railroad was completed. Many of these—from many countries—came to work in the mines. Catholics, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and others came in the 1860s and 1870s to minister to the immigrants and, in some cases, to try to convert Mormons. These religious groups established schools, hospitals, and churches.
Inside the Anchor (silver) Mine in Park City, 1880s.
The early settlers explored Utah's mineral potential. They quarried stone for buildings and also used clay, lime, coal, and iron. But Brigham Young discouraged mining of precious metals. He wanted to focus on agriculture and light industry instead.
As a result, Utah's precious metal mining era didn’t begin until 1863. Colonel Patrick Edward Connor, founder of Camp (later Fort) Douglas, encouraged his men to prospect for gold and silver. These men, who had come to Utah to protect communication and transportation lines, staked several claims. By the 1870s several mines were producing. Stockton, Ophir, Mercur, Park City, Frisco, Tintic, and Silver Reef all had rich mines.
Mining brought new wealth to Utah—mostly among non-Mormons. The men and women connected with mining became influential in the territory's business, politics, and social life.
However, Mormons remained a large majority, and during the 1800s their way of life dominated politics, economics, and social life. Brigham Young was an important figure in the territory until his death in 1877.