Mormons Enter the Salt Lake Valley: 1847

The first members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (historically known as Mormons) arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  They immigrated to what is now Utah, which was then a part of Mexico, to plant fields, build homes, open businesses, and establish a religious community. 

More of the story

Artist’s view of the Mormons entering Salt Lake Valley, from a painting by William Henry Jackson.

Members of the LDS church had searched for a permanent home since its first leader, Joseph Smith, organized the Church in 1830. Many citizens of the United States disagreed with the practices of the new religion, and sometimes they attacked members of the LDS church.  Until 1847, the main body of the church moved several times, hoping to find a place where they could practice their religion in peace.

Moving Westward

In 1844, president Brigham Young led a group of members westward from Illinois to find a new home in Mexican territory. They hoped to find a place to practice their religion free from persecution. 

While Mexico claimed ownership over the Great Basin, there were Native American groups who lived in what is now Utah.  In fact, they had lived there for thousands of years. When Mormons arrived, they were one of many groups to make a home for themselves in the Great Basin.

Settlers in Coalville, Utah

The first group of Mormon immigrants arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847, after 111 days on the trail. They immediately began planting crops and establishing homes. Brigham Young came two days later and also started to make plans. In 1848, the Mexican Ameican War ended, and the Great Basin became a part of the United States.  Once again, members of the LDS church found themselves on American soil.  As members of the LDS church built settlements in Utah, their choices influenced the territory’s political, cultural, and economic make-up for years to come.

Mass migration

Most members of the Mormon church took a train to Utah. A small percentage traveled by horse and wagon, pulled handcarts, or walked. Many Mormon immigrants came from around the United States and western Europe, while others migrated from the Pacific Islands and other regions.  Not everyone settled in what is now Salt Lake City.  Some moved across the Great Basin to establish communities where they could practice their religion and make a home for themselves and their children.

Keep Exploring!

Return to the Immigration and Expansion page here
Return to the I love Utah History home page here.