Eugene E. Campbell
The Kingdom Threatened
[p.305]The Mormon kingdom survived the Saints’ first precarious years in the Great Basin and, later, the invasion by the U.S. Army in 1857-58. But during the years following the Civil War, four new developments threatened to disrupt Mormon programs in the Rocky Mountains. For political and economic reasons, the expanding mining industry challenged the unity and dominance of the church, while the transcontinental railroad threatened isolation and home industry.
In addition, a radical Republican Congress, having rid the nation of one the “twin relics of barbarism,” slavery, now seemed determined to rid the country of polygamy. Pursuing this objective, Congress attempted to pass laws to end church political control. Mormon responses to these developments led to serious internal dissension. A group of Mormon intellectuals and businessmen challenged the concept of a temporal kingdom of God and advocated that the church confine itself to spiritual affairs. Labeled the “New Movement” or “Godbeites,” this groundswell failed to attract large numbers of followers but served as a foreshadowing of future attitudes and developments.
The church could have acquired wealth through mining. Mormon leaders were in a position to capitalize on discoveries in the gold fields of California, but instead the church encouraged members in California to leave the fields and gather to the Great Basin (see chap. 3). Later, church leaders learned of the mineral wealth in the mountains that surrounded the Salt Lake Valley.
[p.306] As early as 1848, Thomas and Sanford Bingham, who grazed livestock in Bingham Canyon, had found outcroppings of ore which they believed contained precious metals. This discovery occurred at a time when Brigham Young and other leaders were trying to discourage people from going to the California gold fields. Not surprisingly, Young discouraged the Bingham brothers from mining and asked them to keep the discovery a secret. This policy was temporarily effective, and Mormons did not engage in mining of precious metals until the mid-1860s.
Still Young did not oppose mining as such. He recognized the need for metals and minerals such as coal, iron, salt, lead, and sulphur, all of which were sought after and used during the 1850s and 1860s. However, Utah mining moved into a new phase on the afternoon of 17 September 1863 when a group of Mormon boys, dragging logs in Bingham Canyon, on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, uncovered argentiferous galena, or silver. This group included George and Alex Ogilvie, John Egbert, and Henry Beckstead. The canyon was being used by George Ogilvie, Bishop Archibald Gardner, and units of the California Volunteers as a grazing area. Ogilvie identified the ore and took a sample of it to Colonel Patrick Connor who had it assayed. Connor had been interested in mining in California and encouraged Ogilvie to locate the mine and to join him in organizing a company which became known as the Jordan Silver Mining Company. On the same day, a party of men and women under the leadership of Captain Arthur Heitz, who were enjoying a picnic and grouse hunt in the canyon, conducted a further search. One member of the party, the wife of camp surgeon Robert K. Reed, located a second vein contiguous to the Jordan claim. A second notice was made, this one crediting Mrs. Reed with the discoverer’s share. A third claim, the Vedette, was also filed on 18 September 1863.
Following the discovery and the staking of claims, the parties, some fifty-two persons in all, went to the Jordan Ward meeting house near Bishop Gardner’s mill on the Jordan River and organized the West Mountain Quartz Mining District. Following California practice, laws for the government of the district were drawn up and approved. The boundaries of the district were defined to embrace the entire Oquirrh Mountain range. Although Mormon pioneers had previously located veins and organized mining parties, the area encompassing Bingham Canyon became the first recorded mining claim in the territory and the first mining district to be formally organized and recorded.
[p.307] Connor immediately recognized that the existence of this mineral wealth might solve what he called “the Mormon Problem.” Within a month after these discoveries, he wrote to his superior in San Francisco,
Having reason to believe that the territory is full of mineral wealth, I have instructed commanders of posts and detachments to permit the men of their commands to prospect the country in the vicinity of their respective posts whenever such course would not interfere with their military duties, and to furnish every proper facility for the discovery and opening of mines of gold, silver, and other minerals. The results so far have exceeded my most sanguine expectations.
Connor’s solution was to encourage a gold or silver rush to Utah, bringing thousands of non-Mormons and thus balancing the population in the territory and lessening the church’s influence, especially in politics.1 With Connor’s encouragement, troops swarmed over the Bingham Canyon and adjoining areas. The Vedette claim was followed by the Galena, the Empire, the Kingston, the Julia Dean, and the Silver Hill claims. Other volunteers organized the Wasatch Mountain Mining District to include all the Wasatch Mountains from Weber Canyon to Provo. This was accomplished within two months after the initial discovery in Bingham Canyon.
Brigham Young’s reaction to these developments came less than three weeks after the initial discovery in a sermon delivered during General Conference:
Who feeds and clothes and defrays the expenses of hundreds of men who are engaged in patrolling the mountains and canyons all around us in search of gold? Who finds supplies for those who are sent here to protect the two great interests, the mail and telegraph lines across the continent, while they are employed ranging over these mountains in search of gold? And who has paid for the multitude of picks and shovels and spades and other mining tools that they have brought with them? Were they really sent here to protect the mail and the telegraph lines or to discover, if possible, rich diggings in our immediate vicinity, with a view to flood the country with just such a population as they desire to destroy, [p.308] if possible, the identity of Mormon communities and every truth and virtue that remains?
Connor even dispatched troops as far as Raft River in southern Idaho to search for mineral outcroppings. Some were sent to southeastern Nevada, others to the Uintah Basin. He instructed them to look especially for placer mines. The soldiers discovered numerous bodies of ore throughout the territory. Even loose placer gold was discovered in Bingham in 1864. The following spring, gravel washing was initiated, and late the same year extensive load mining was conducted with profit. The value of gold production in the territory rose from virtually nothing in 1860 to $55,000 in 1865, $165,000 in 1868, and $300,000 in 1870. By the end of 1871, about $1 million in gold had been recovered from the Bingham Canyon gravels.
The search for silver was conducted in a similar way. Outcroppings and veins of silver-bearing ore were found in several locations. Rather than being abundantly located in a free condition, however, silver was found mixed with several other metals (usually lead, copper, and zinc) in either oxide or sulphide ores. Oxide and carbonate ores were located close to the surface, and the rock was already partially broken down due to oxidation. Sulphide ores, on the other hand, were located below the water table, in sulphur-bearing solutions. The mining of silver required a complementary process of milling and smelting in order to recover the metal.
The first significant find of silver lead ore was made by the volunteers in East Canyon, Tooele County. There had been legends that Treasure Hill was sacred to the Indians, who gathered there each year to hold council and to obtain metal for bullets. Attracted by these stories, volunteers located an outcropping of lead ore which became known as the Hidden Treasure Mine. Other finds were discovered in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the summer of 1864 and afterwards. Another group of volunteers, the Second Cavalry, established a camp on the western slope of the Oquirrh Range called Camp Relief and surveyed the town of Stockton, named after Connor’s hometown in California. Prospecting success came quickly. In April 1864 the Rush Valley deposits were discovered by men of Company L. Early assays proved to be rich in silver, and the Rush Valley Mining District was organized on 11 June 1864. The new district embraced the western slope of the Oquirrh Range, the West Mountain District the eastern slope.
By the fall of 1865 over 500 mining claims were located in the Rush Valley District. Most of these were within two miles of Stockton, [p.309] which by 1866 had forty families and 400 inhabitants. So promising were the finds that Connor invested an estimated $80,000 of his own funds in the claim and persuaded friends to advance additional sums. One result of these efforts was the erection of the Pioneer Smelting Works at Stockton in 1864. A reverberatory furnace was completed a short time later. Several other trial furnaces were built, and $100,000 worth of machinery was purchased by the Knickerbocker and Argenta Mining and Smelting Company of New York to separate gold and silver from lead.
But Connor and his Californians, whose experiences had been limited to mining and milling gold ores, found the art of smelting the Stockton ores beyond them. Moreover, charcoal was scarce and transportation rates were high. After a year they suspended their work, but their experiments proved that the ores could be reduced and smelted profitably with improved technology. All of these activities—prospecting, mining, and furnace building—were, according to Connor, executed “with great energy, my officers and men have prospected the country and succeeded in discovering rich gold- and silver-bearing rock. It is now a settled fact that the mines of Utah are equal to any west of the Missouri River and awaits only the advent of capital to develop them.”
The end of the Civil War led to the disbanding of the volunteers, and army-sponsored mining in Utah ceased. The troops sought to preserve their rights by amending district bylaws to permit each locator to hold his claim indefinitely provided a specified minimum amount of work be done. This action effectively prevented the development of the Rush Valley District for some years. With the departure of the volunteers, little mining or smelting occurred in the territory until the completion of the railroad in 1869.2
Connor and his associates tended to ascribe their failures to Mormon opposition. President Young advised Mormon farmers and craftsmen to remain on their farms and in their shops and not aid the miners. Young thought that Connor’s efforts were doomed anyway and that there was no advantage in putting time and energy into a failing enterprise. Connor himself remained in the army until April 1866, then returned to Stockton, Utah, to resume his mining and smelting ventures, intending to make Stockton a great mining center.
[p.310] The coming of the transcontinental railroad insured Utah’s future as a mining state. Ironically, Mormons had colonized a region rich in metallic wealth yet were determined not to take control of that resource. Connor’s plan to bring into Utah huge numbers of Gentiles did not materialize. Miners never threatened the Mormon advantage in the Utah territory. Nevertheless, many of those who subsequently became wealthy as a result of Utah mines would exert during the 1880s and 1890s a strong political, social, and cultural influence on the territory and state, and profitable mining would no doubt encourage Gentiles to immigrate. The railroad would thus end Mormon isolation, further threatening the church’s goal of self-sufficiency. Nevertheless, Young wanted to aid Mormon immigration and to facilitate trade, and he thus helped to build the railroad. But he also tried to ensure that his people would not be overwhelmed by its coming.
When the territorial legislature was organized in 1852, one of the first measures to be considered was a memorial to the U.S. Congress petitioning that it take under advisement a bill promoting a transcontinental railroad. Several years later a mass meeting generated another petition to Congress asking that a route be approved to pass through Salt Lake City. The Mormon petition obviously had no effect on the congressional decision. The Saints were viewed as one more special interest group trying to further their own ends.
Young’s association with the Union Pacific Railroad began shortly after that company was organized. When the company began selling stock to finance construction, Young became one of the initial subscribers, purchasing five shares valued at $1,000 each. Several years later in 1865, he was appointed to the board of directors.
Union Pacific officials began to survey their proposed route in 1863, and by 1864 engineers had reached the Utah territory. Division engineer Samuel B. Reed called on Young for men and supplies to assist in the survey work, which Young agreed to furnish. Reed visited Young on several occasions as work progressed, once speculating that construction through the Rocky Mountains would cost less per mile than the road built across Iowa.3 Young’s assistance with the survey netted him $4,692, which he applied to his stock subscription. Reed reported his favorable impressions of Young and his followers to associates in the East.
[p.311] In 1865, further survey work was undertaken to determine the feasibility of several alternate routes through Utah, and the Union Pacific again availed itself of Young’s services. In mid-1865 the Union Pacific began laying track west of Omaha, and by early 1868 tracks were into present-day Wyoming. Company officials were certain they would reach Salt Lake City before winter. Thomas C. Durrant, vice-president of the Union Pacific, wrote to Young about the availability of men to work on the road. Young reported that men could be obtained for $1.00 to $2.25 per day, plus room and board. Several weeks later, Reed telegraphed Young to ask about obtaining oats, barley, and flour from Utah communities. Young replied that these commodities were available but that prices were high because of the demand for such items at the gold mines. After another inquiry, Young again contacted Reed to inform him that flour would be available in July.
The following month Thomas Durrant telegraphed Young asking if he would take a Union Pacific Railroad contract to grade the roadbed from the head of Echo Canyon to the Great Salt Lake. He made it clear that Young and his followers were to be given the first option for all work done near their communities if terms could be reached and called on Young to name his price.4 Durrant required that the work be completed before winter. If his labor force permitted, Young was also requested to send a number of hands to Green River. Young did not favor sending church members so far away, preferring that they work under their own contractors, but was happy with this opportunity to add to the wealth of Zion and so made hands available.
Young asked Union Pacific officials to calculate the fairest rates for all parties and proposed to accept their estimate plus 10 percent. He asked that his contract extend west from the mouth of Echo Canyon to the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake via Salt Lake City if the southern route were chosen. If the alternate northern route were chosen, he required that he have the contract from Echo to the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake and as far west as the Union Pacific might extend itself. This was satisfactory with Union Pacific representatives Samuel B. Reed and Silas C. Moore, and a contract was drawn up and signed on 21 May 1868.
[p.312] Still uncertain of the size of the labor force needed to meet his obligations, and not wanting to bring in Gentiles, Young immediately made preparations to augment the domestic force with new immigrants. He wrote to church representative Franklin D. Richards about the difficulties that might arise in Utah if a large number of laborers were suddenly taken out of the domestic farming and manufacturing labor pool and proposed that Richards get immigrants to the terminus of the railroad by mid-July. Young suggested that they could travel more quickly by steamer than by sailing vessel, marking a new turn in Mormon immigration. These immigrants were to be met at the end of the line by wagon trains from Utah to transport them to the valley. The Union Pacific had agreed to transport laborers, tools, and supplies to the western end of the line, so Young not only eased his financial situation by bringing in immigrants at a reduced rate but provided the necessary hands to increase his labor force, as well.
Although Young signed the contract with the Union Pacific he did not supervise the work personally but turned the project over to his sons, Joseph A, Brigham Jr., and John W, who found subcontractors to handle the masonry and grading jobs required on the road. The subcontractors were Mormon bishops or other Mormons, about a hundred in all, whose contracts ranged in length from a few hundred yards to several miles. The largest single contract was let to Joseph A. Young and Bishop John Sharp. These two men, who had organized the firm of Sharp & Young, contracted for the tunneling and rock work no one else was willing to assume. Sharp ultimately became the real leader in the promotion of railroad activities in Utah and was labeled “the railroad bishop.” His major problem was that he could not find enough men for the work. With the contract period one half over and most contractors behind in their jobs, every available man had been hired. Although additional men in Utah communities could have worked on the line, Joseph Young specified that Sharp not endanger the food supply by allowing too many to leave their farms to work on the railroad.
Sharp had 1,400 men employed in Weber Canyon by mid-December 1868. Even after winter set in, the work continued, and by mid-January 1869, the group had advanced into Echo Canyon. By this time Union Pacific officials, feeling that the Mormon employees could not complete the tunnels on time, asked if the Mormons would withdraw their men in favor of railroad employees. Young agreed, but within a month Reed decided that the railroad employees were making less progress than the Mormons under Sharp and Young and asked the Mormons to resume work on the tunnels. A [p.313] temporary track was laid around the tunnels until they could be completed. By this means, Young’s contract for the road was essentially completed by 1 March 1869. Sharp continued to work in Weber Canyon, completing the last tunnel in mid-April.
All that remained was the uniting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines. Congress decided that this should take place at Promontory Summit north of the Great Salt Lake, some fifty miles west of Ogden. This was to become the official dividing point between the two lines. Festivities took place on 10 May 1869, and the last rail was laid at 11:45 a.m. A distance of 1,882 miles between San Francisco and Omaha had been spanned, linking the nation from east to west.5
Mormon leaders had been concerned that the railroad might bypass Salt Lake City. Two possible routes were considered: a southern route through Weber Canyon, south to Salt Lake City, then skirting the southern end of the Great Salt Lake, west across the Nevada desert; or a northern route from Weber Canyon to Ogden, then north to Promontory and the northern end of the Great Salt Lake to Humboldt Wells, Nevada, leaving Salt Lake City completely off the main line. Church officials lobbied for the southern route. Mass meetings were held, petitions were circulated, Congress was memorialized, and church writers and politicians were pressed into service. Despite these efforts, Union Pacific officials decided on the northern route because it was shorter and better supplied with timber and water.6
The Central Pacific, which had decided on the northern route, kept this information from the Mormons in order to secure their assistance in speeding up the construction of their line. Young urged more [p.314] and more of his followers to take contracts for the grading of the Central Pacific line, in part, to impede the progress of the Union Pacific road west from Weber Canyon. He hoped to force UP officials to connect with Salt Lake City.
Union Pacific also chose to bypass a promising business center because of time constraints. UP officials were anxious to finish their road and to lay as much track as possible before the Central Pacific arrived. A branch line to Salt Lake City would be simple to construct. Young finally relented.
While laborers and bosses were being recruited to work on the Union Pacific contract, Leland Stanford, representing the Central Pacific, had also approached Young. He hoped the church would assume responsibility for constructing the Central Pacific road from Humboldt Wells, Nevada, to Ogden, Utah—a distance of about 200 miles. This contract was signed in the fall of 1868 in the names of Apostle Ezra T. Benson, Lorin Farr, and Chauncey W. West. Benson was the ecclesiastical leader in Cache Valley, and Farr and West were prominent church figures in Weber County. The contract was for approximately $4 million. Young’s letters during the summer and fall of 1868 reflect great satisfaction at this favorable turn of events.7
Although the motive was profit, the actual hiring of workers was handled much the same as other church projects: workers either volunteered or were called, and each was expected to consult his bishop before leaving. The usual arrangement was for a ward or group of wards to form a company resembling the colonizing companies of previous years with a church-appointed president to look after their interests. These companies were almost invariably constrained by church standards: no swearing, no work on Sunday, no drinking, and each man was to pay a faithful tithe. In some cases, the profits on the contracts would go toward the building of a meetinghouse or some other religious purpose. Various ward companies vied with one another in the speed and excellence of their work.
[p.315] A major controversy developed about whether Ogden or Corinne should be the main junction of the railroads. Anticipating the problem some five months before completion of the line, Young met with property owners in the western part of Ogden and conditionally proposed to buy their property for a railroad town and depot. Church members sold him the land at less than market value, and Young in turn offered the land to Union Pacific and Central Pacific officials free of charge on the condition they locate their depot and shops there. The amazed railroad officials, who had not counted on this boon, agreed to recommend the junction of the two roads be located at Ogden rather than Corinne. Within ten years, the budding Gentile capital of Corinne was virtually a ghost town, and Ogden became the main railroad center.
Mormons had difficulty collecting on their contracts. By August 1869, the Central Pacific still owed a million dollars, and the Union Pacific even more. Central Pacific agreed to pay within the month all but $200,000 of its indebtedness, but the Union Pacific failed to make a similar concession, causing a near-panic in Salt Lake City. Laborers were destitute, and contractors were heavily in debt to the merchants and other creditors. Worry over his financial status was listed as a direct cause of the death of Apostle Ezra T. Benson. Church officials were faced with the dual task of pressing railroads to keep faith with the Mormons and of quieting their followers with assurances that everything would be done to resolve the debts.
In an attempt to obtain satisfaction from the Union Pacific, Young sent John Sharp to Boston to confer with UP officials. After an interview with Vice-President Thomas Durrant and others, Sharp wrote, “They had no flattering news for me as far as money is concerned in the settlement.” They did offer him various construction materials, including iron from the surpluses on hand at Echo and elsewhere, which could be used in building the Utah Central Railroad the church was planning to construct from Ogden to Salt Lake City. By September 1869, Sharp was able to telegraph Young that the railroad was settling the indebtedness with $600,000 worth of iron and rolling stock to be forwarded as soon as possible and another $200,000 to be paid later, presumably in cash.8
[p.316] The railroad unquestionably opened a new era for the church and territory. Mormon leaders went ahead with the Utah Central Railroad connecting Salt Lake with the Union Pacific, and before many years they extended the railroad beyond Salt Lake. The Utah Northern Railroad was built from Ogden to Brigham City and Logan, intentionally bypassing Corinne, and from Cache Valley to Idaho Falls and Dillon, Montana, where it could tap the trade of the mining regions around Butte and Helena. The railroad enabled Mormon immigrants to come to the Salt Lake Valley more easily and less expensively and to freight in needed supplies. Despite these benefits, the prospect of increased mining activity, the loss of isolation, and the threat to home industry led church leaders to institute programs to diminish the impact of the railroad.
Mormon leaders instituted three programs to counteract the negative effects of mining and the railroad on the Mormon kingdom. The first, a cooperative program of buying, transporting, and selling merchandise, had been anticipated earlier. The Farm Price Convention called in 1864 has been discussed in conjunction with selling goods to the California volunteers. This convention was superseded in 1865 by collective buying and marketing. Church leaders had repeatedly warned members and Gentile merchants that profiteering would prove their undoing and hinted, in the words of Heber C. Kimball, that unless merchants reduced prices, “we shall turn merchants ourselves.” In August 1865, Young said,
Why not appoint in every ward in the territory a good businessman who is filled with integrity and truth to make contact for the people of the ward and let the convention prices be the rule or not sell. Why not draw money for our grain and spend it ourselves instead of allowing those who have no interest with us to handle it for us and pocket fortunes which we shall enjoy and lay out in redeeming the earth and building up the kingdom of God in all the world. We can do this if we will.
Later, during the October conference, Young wished “the brethren in all of our settlements to buy the goods they must have and freight them with their own teams. And then let every one of the Latter-day Saints, male and female decree in their own hearts that they will buy of nobody else but their own faithful brethren who will do good [p.317] with the money they thus obtain.” This became the fundamental program of the cooperative system that developed, that the Mormons would organize themselves to do their own buying and transporting and that they would not trade with Gentiles.
While trade with Gentile merchants never completely ceased, the non-Mormon merchants were classified as either friendly or as enemies. The Deseret News declared in July 1866,
We have two classes of merchants in this community. Distinctions that we venture to say cannot be found anywhere else for it is presumable that in no other community could a class of traders be found who would professedly and practically be open about [being] enemies of the people among whom they reside and from whom they draw their wealth, actively endeavoring to injure them before the nation and the world and striving to bring evil upon them. There is such a class here who have no interest in common with the people here, who hate the Mormons and are not slow to declare it. There is another class whose interest are critically and avowedly identified with the interests of the community.
Young added in December 1866 that he wanted the Saints to “build up the Kingdom of God unitedly and let our open and secret enemies alone. Let the saints spend their money with those merchants who pay their taxes and seek to build up this place and develop the country. Let our enemies alone. What? All outsiders? Not by any means. I trade with outsiders all of the time.”
When twenty-three leading Gentile merchants either from fear or cunning made a public offer to sell out to the Mormons and withdraw from the territory, Young’s reply was prompt and direct:
Your withdrawal from the territory is not a matter about which we feel any anxiety. So far as we are concerned you are at liberty to stay or go as you please. In business we have not been exclusive in our dealings or confined our patronage to those of our own faith. But every man who has dealt fairly and honestly and confined his attention to legitimate business whatever his creed has found friendship in us.
As Congress began to pass acts designed to injure Mormon financial stability, a wave of indignation followed, and Young changed his tone, saying that he wished “our friends to lift their voices against the vile wretches who are seeking to destroy our innocent and industrious people. Sustain those who sustain the Kingdom and fight those who fight against it. Cease to sustain them.”
The first step in the direction of church-sponsored cooperative merchandising was taken in September 1868 when Young recommended that Mormons not trade another “cent with a man who does [p.318] not pay his tithing and help gather the poor and pray in his family.” He suggested that those who traded with outsiders be excommunicated. Cooperative merchandising was to substitute for trading with “enemies.” Church officials proposed to the October 1868 General Conference “that we sustain ourselves and those who sustain us.” The motion was “approved unanimously,” and the groundwork for organizing cooperative merchandising was laid out.
The success of the cooperative movement hinged on the formation of a successful parent store, or cooperative wholesale establishment. A number of meetings were held in Salt Lake City about forming such an institution in October 1868, and a tentative organization was completed on the 16th. Young was elected president, and other positions were filled with local church and business leaders. “The purpose of the new institution,” Young said, “is to bring goods here and sell them as low as they can possibly be sold and let the profit be divided among the people at large.” The constitution and bylaws of the association were approved on 24 October 1868 and provided that the organization be called Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, or ZCMI, with an authorized capitalization of $3 million consisting of 30,000 shares valued at $100 each. On 1 December 1870, the association was incorporated for a term of twenty-five years.
Under the cooperative plan, each ward was to have a branch of ZCMI, which could buy from the parent store. Also, Mormon merchants were expected to give up their own establishments and trade their inventory for capital stock in the new company. Young threatened to set up a church-backed wholesale establishment in Provo in order to get some of the Mormon merchants to cooperate.
Three of the largest Salt Lake City firms, William Jennings, Eldredge and Clawson, and Sadler and Teasdale, offered to serve as the central wholesale establishments for Zion’s Cooperative. Henry W. Lawrence, a prominent merchant, said he could not understand how people were going to benefit from the change since it would merely concentrate the trade into a few stores and the rest would be empty and the men out of business. Lawrence thought that either the parent store should go into retailing (as it eventually did) or that retailers should retain their inventories for the convenience of the customers. Young replied that the region needed big department stores to which people could come and get their goods cheaply, and that there were too many people in the retailing business. Two-thirds of them ought to find other work, such as preaching, Young asserted.
ZCMI finally opened for business in the Eagle Emporium, formerly the site of William Jennings’s store, a block south of church [p.319] headquarters. It handled dry goods, clothing, hats, caps, boots, shoes, and similar goods. Another store was opened in the old Constitution Building where Eldredge and Clawson had been established. Six weeks after the opening of ZCMI, seventy-eight cooperative stores were in operation and plans were well advanced for many others. By the end of the 1860s, all wards or settlements had at least one such store; Salt Lake City had seventeen. At least 115 such cooperatives were founded during the decade after 1869.9
The cooperative movement expanded to include such organizations as the Deseret Tanning and Manufacturing Association and the Deseret Agriculture and Manufacturing Society and to encompass such enterprises as woolen mills, herds of sheep, and lumber mills. There were cooperative iron works, cooperative banks, and cooperative textile factories, including the Washington cotton factories and the Provo woolen mills. Many other activities began to function on a cooperative basis under the direction of the local church leadership. However, the retailing and industrial cooperatives, which formed an important part of this system in 1869, did not flourish as did ZCMI. With local cooperatives, periodic depression in trade brought about failures; with others, liberal credit policies with individual customers were decisive. Poor and discontinuous management, particularly during periods of harassment by federal authorities, caused difficulties.
Besides organizing merchants and cooperative industries, church leaders decided to organize members to resist the anticipated evil effects of the mining and railroad intrusions. Men were organized into local units called the School of the Prophets, and women into the rejuvenated women’s Relief Society, an organization founded in Nauvoo but largely inactive thereafter. Young convened the first School of the Prophets, named after a similar organization Joseph Smith had established during the 1830s in Ohio, in Salt Lake City in December 1867. Under Young, the school functioned as an extension of the Council of Fifty (which continued to play an important role in shaping Mormon economic and political policy). The central, or Salt Lake City, school was composed of over 900 leading men and [p.320] was parent to branch schools in the principal settlements. Approximately 5,000 priesthood members belonged to the branch schools.
These were not schools in the usual sense—the organization was more of a forum or town meeting of leading priesthood holders in which theology, church government, and church and community problems were discussed and appropriate action taken. The First Presidency and other general authorities directed these meetings and instructed local leaders. The School of the Prophets sometimes resembled an economic planning conference. Members discussed economic problems posed by the coming of the railroad and adopted measures to accomplish their objectives. Admission was by card only, and sessions were closed to the public.
The school attempted to prevent or minimize the influx of new migrants and businesses, which might threaten the morality of the community or undermine its basic economic structure and function. School members voted to minimize the influx of railroad workers by constructing the railroad themselves. The group thought it better for the Saints to work for nothing, if necessary, than let outsiders come in.
The school wanted to further minimize the influx of undesirable outsiders by deflating reports of Utah’s mineral wealth. When mining expanded, requiring additional workers, Mormon laborers were urged to do the work rather than make it necessary for the mining industry to import outside labor into the territory. The school supported the Utah manufacturing company which was organized to manufacture wagons, carriages, and agricultural machinery, and endorsed a furniture manufacturing enterprise, an association to further the development of the silk industry, the $300,000 Provo Woolen Mills, and a number of minor projects, including a wooden bucket factory and ink and match factories.
School members criticized Mormon suppliers and buyers who refused to patronize local Mormon enterprises. Consistent trading with competing eastern firms made a member persona non grata and endangered his fellowship in the church. Investment in cooperative enterprises, though risky, was urged on all Mormon capitalists. Young, as trustee-in-trust, also invested part of the common fund of the community in the manufacturing cooperatives. The School of the Prophets actively tried to solve the land problem since no land office had been established in Utah and the title to the land was problematic. The school also participated in drives to raise cash for the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. Members pledged to observe the Word of Wisdom. (The 1867 Word of Wisdom campaign was the first major [p.321] step in eventually making abstinence from tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol as much a test of faith as colonizing or missionary work.)
At the same time the School of the Prophets was instilling dedication and solidarity in the men, the women’s Relief Society was being rejuvenated in each ward and settlement. Eliza R. Snow, plural wife of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, was appointed by the First Presidency to take charge of the womens’ movement. Snow had been secretary of the first female Relief Society in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Young now asked her to organize the sisters to meet the challenge posed by the coming of the railroad.
The Relief Society was organized to visit the sick, helpless, and needy, and, under the bishop, to collect the means necessary to assist them. They were also to begin clothing themselves in the work of their own hands. In fact, all women of the territory were expected to minimize purchases from stores and find employment in their own homes, to diminish female extravagance and thereby relieve hard-pressed husbands to devote a larger share of their time and money to building the kingdom. In this same context, Young personally organized the young women of the church into a cooperative retrenchment association and called on them to avoid following current fashions and purchasing unnecessary items. This organization ultimately led to the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, which would become prominent in the following century.
The Relief Society was also to help with the cooperative general stores. Sisters were advised to take stock in the stores, patronize them exclusively, and prepare to set up retail outlets for their own handiwork. In many cases the Relief Society took over the management of cooperative stores originally established under the priesthood and operated their own establishments, as well. They also promoted the home industry movement, including a local silk industry. However, much of the promotion of silk came after the 1860s.
A number of Mormon merchants and intellectuals, attuned to the laissez-faire currents of the post-Civil War era, reacted negatively to Young’s new programs. Privately, they viewed Young as a fanatical, ignorant despot who employed a subservient priesthood for unworthy purposes. These men believed that church policy was intentionally building a wall between Mormons and Gentiles and that the church was unduly concerned with material rather than spiritual matters. They were upset with Young’s opposition to the mining industry, as well.
[p.322] The two key players were E. L. T. Harrison and William Godbe. Harrison, an architect by profession but a literary man by avocation, was the intellectual leader of the movement. Converted in England by the logic of Apostle Orson Pratt, Harrison had worked in responsible assignments in England, heading the church bookstore, working in the church’s business office in London, contributing to the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, and serving as church immigration agent in Liverpool and president of the London Missionary Conference. He was regarded as genial and pleasant, was witty, light-hearted, friendly, and faithful in his duties during the early days. However, in Utah he became critical of church policies and teachings, especially the idea of a temporal kingdom, and began publishing a journal called Peep O’Day, which offered mild criticisms of the Mormon program but which discontinued in December 1864.
About this time Harrison became involved in a working partnership with Eli Kelsey, William H. Shearman, and most importantly William S. Godbe. Godbe and Harrison seemed to complement each other. While Harrison may have been the intellectual stimulus of the movement, Godbe provided the balance, weight, and activity. The two shared much in common; both were British converts, had profound religious experiences in their youths, were intellectual and sophisticated, and possessed literary talent. Godbe was a successful merchant and by the late 1860s was one of the ten most wealthy men in the territory. He had served as city councilman, as president of one of the local Seventies quorums, and as a bishop’s counselor in the Thirteenth Ward. He was a friend and protege of Brigham Young and possessed social position, talent, and influence. Edward Tullidge, another associate, and Shearman were both British converts and also had literary abilities. All three men had served in the British mission and held positions in the presidency of the London Conference.
Kelsey also became an important member of the group. Kelsey, an American, was older than the others, who were in their thirties. He had known Joseph Smith, came to Utah early, and had been the first mayor of Tooele. All of these men were active in their priesthood quorums and held important positions in their communities. Godbe and Shearman, along with Thomas Stenhouse, a later Godbeite dissenter, had helped found the Juvenile Instructor, which became the voice of the Mormon Sunday schools.
These five men were talented, well educated, literate, and attuned to the intellectual currents of their age. By the time the church began its cooperative economy movement these men had already become [p.323] disenchanted with many of the fundamentals of Mormonism.10 Having left orthodox Mormonism, they were searching for another source of faith, which they believed they found in nineteenth-century spiritualism—communication with the dead through a medium.
In January 1868, they organized the Utah Magazine, with Godbe as publisher and Harrison as editor. Godbe and Harrison were in New York on business in October 1868 when the church announced in General Conference that it would organize a commercial cooperative. Apparently, Godbe was aware that this was coming and that he would be expected to join. While in the East, both men discussed their feelings about the church. During their three-week stay in New York, they apparently participated in spiritual seances, probably with the renowned medium Charles Foster. They came to believe that Mormonism was a preparation for something higher. Joseph Smith had been an imperfect spiritual medium, Brigham Young far less. Young had performed his mission by shepherding the Saints west where they might be molded to a new heavenly purpose. Godbe and Harrison decided that their magazine should advocate evangelical spiritualism grafted onto Mormon roots. Mormonism would provide the system—the priesthood—to vitalize the world with a new spiritualism. The higher truths were secured only by seeking the most worthy spirits, usually through the use of mediums or seers. Biblical figures, deceased Mormons, celebrated intellects of the past could thus return and convey religious and philosophical truth. The key lay in a purified priesthood which would unite the mortal and immortal worlds and provide spiritualism for the first time with a system capable of self regulation and proselytizing.
Returning from New York in mid-November 1868, Harrison and Godbe secretly organized active opposition to church rule. Their intimates included Kelsey, Tullidge, and Shearman, as well as T. B. H. Stenhouse, editor of the pro-Mormon Salt Lake Telegram; Fanny Stenhouse, his wife; John Tullidge, musician brother of Edward Tullidge; Fred Perris, a surveyor and engineer; Joseph Silver, a labor [p.324] leader and writer; George Watt, a church recorder and former secretary to Brigham Young; and Henry Lawrence, partner in the Kimball-Lawrence company, a leading Salt Lake City firm.
The Utah Magazine began to attack the church’s wage policies and finally in October came out with an important article titled “The True Development of the Territory.” This article argued that Utah, given its questionable agricultural endowment, could achieve increased prosperity by developing its mineral resources. Within four years Brigham Young was advocating similar logic. However, in 1869, the article seemed subversive, and the authors and publishers were called before the School of the Prophets only hours after the appearance of the article. All seven men were disfellowshipped from the school pending an explanation of their conduct. Church leaders called on Orson Pratt, whom the Godbeites most admired, as well as Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon to council the Godbeite leaders. Harrison and Godbe refused to compromise. As a result, Young announced that Harrison and Godbe would be tried for their membership and called upon members of the School of the Prophets to refrain from reading the Utah Magazine.
Ultimately, most of the Godbeites were, at their own request, excommunicated. They then organized their own Church of Zion, which met for a time in the old Thirteenth Wardhouse but failed to attract many adherents—probably no more than 200. One of their most important converts was Amasa Lyman, a longtime apostle who had been relieved from his church calling in 1867 for false doctrine. He sympathized with the Godbeite movement and was especially attracted to spiritualism. Some of his daughters were also involved in the spiritualist movement. Acting as a medium between 1870 and 1873, Lyman travelled from town to town holding seances. When Orson Hyde and Frank B. Richards called on him to inform him of his excommunication in 1870, he said, “Well, my dear brethren, you are now simply, as it were, at the foot of the mountain whereas I have been where you are now but unlike you I have gone to the summit of the mountain. And traversed this plateau and gone far beyond making the heights of another mountain far beyond and removed from this one.”11
[p.325] While the church was dealing with both internal and external threats, a reforming congress in Washington, D.C., was busily engaged in passing legislature to rid the nation of polygamy. Slavery had been outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment (passed in 1865), which Southern states were required to adopt to regain admission into the Union. The 1867 Reformation Acts allowed blacks to vote and to become members of state legislatures.
Among the measures considered to eliminate polygamy was the Wade Bill proposed by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio in 1866. This bill would have placed the Nauvoo Legion, which still functioned in Salt Lake City as a territorial militia, under control of the federal governor, prohibited church officials from solemnizing marriages, given authority to the U.S. marshal to select all jurors, given authority to the governor to appoint county judges, taxed all real and personal property of the church in excess of $20,000, and required the trustee-in-trust to make a full report under oath each year to the governor of all financial operations, including property acquired and disposed of, bank deposits, and investments. This bill failed to pass, but most of its features would be incorporated in the bill presented by Senator Abram H. Cragin of New Hampshire from 1867-69. The Cragun Bill also proposed to abolish trial by jury in cases arising under the anti-bigamy act of 1862. However, the Cragin Bill was withdrawn in favor of the Cullom Bill.
The Cullom Bill, proposed by Representative Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois, 1869-70, would have placed in the hands of the U.S. marshal and the U.S. attorney all responsibility for selecting jurors, confined polygamy cases to the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal judges, deprived plural wives of immunity as witnesses in cases involving their husbands, and declared cohabitation a misdemeanor. This bill also authorized the president to send a portion of the U.S. Army to Utah and to raise 25,000 militia in the territory in order to enforce the law. The property of all Mormons leaving the territory to evade prosecution was to be confiscated and used under Gentile jurisdiction for the benefit of Mormon families. This bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. Another bill was also proposed in 1869 by Congressman James Ashley of Ohio. The Ashley Bill provided for the dismembering of Utah by transferring large portions of the region to Nevada, Wyoming, and Colorado. This bill also failed to pass.
Such bills demonstrated what little sympathy existed for the Mormons in the nation’s capital. The bills passed by the House were defeated in the Senate, often with the vote of Southern senators who, [p.326] oppressed by the federal government, were sympathetic to the Mormon plea for self-determination. However, even the southerners did not condone plural marriage.
By the end of the 1860s, the Mormon concept of the Kingdom of God was being threatened on virtually all fronts. External challenges, such as mining, the railroad, and federal legislation, and internal threats, such as the Godbeite movement, left the church in a precarious position as leaders began contemplating the coming decades. [p.327]
1. To publicize the Utah discoveries, Connor founded a daily newspaper called the Union Vedette in November 1863. In the first issue, he warned the Mormons that miners and prospectors would be provided with the fullest protection from the military in his district. “The mountains in their hidden mineral wealth,” Connor wrote, “did not belong to the Mormons but were the sole property of the nation whose beneficent policy had ever been to extend the broadest privileges to her citizens and with open hand invite all to seek, prospect, and possess the wonderful riches of her widespread domain.”
4. The work was to be priced per cubic yard, according to the materials used in grading—dirt, shale, rock. Tunnel work was to be priced in the same manner according to the type of material encountered.
5. In spite of the national celebrations, Brigham Young did not attend festivities at either Promontory or Salt Lake City. The celebration conflicted with his annual trip to the southern part of the territory, and faced with a choice, Young chose the latter. Sharp was appointed to act as Young’s personal representative at the driving of the last spike.
It was our desire and the demand of all the Mormons that we should build through Salt Lake City, but we bent all our energies to find a feasible line passing through the city and around the south end of the Great Salt Lake and across the desert to Humboldt Wells, the controlling point in the line. We found the line so superior on the north of the lake that we had to adopt the route with a view of building a branch to Salt Lake City. But Brigham Young would not have this and appealed over my head to the board of directors who referred the question to the government directors who finally sustained me. Then Brigham Young gave his allegiance to the Central Pacific, hoping to bring them around the south end of the lake and force us to connect with them there. He went even so far as to deliver in the Tabernacle a great sermon denouncing me and stating the road could not be built nor run without the aid of the Mormons.
Work on my railroad tracks are progressing rapidly. Several jobs are already completed, and nearly all of the light work would have been done ‘ere [before] this had the work been staked out in time. The western company, that is Central Pacific, are wishing me to contract to grade 200 miles for them which I expect to begin as soon as the stakes are driven. These contracts give us many advantages besides furnishing money for labor to those whom the grasshoppers have left but little …
8. Young did not receive the profits on the venture some have claimed. Orson F. Whitney, a Mormon historian and church leader, uncritically repeated the assertion that Young realized a profit of about $800,000 on the Union Pacific contract alone. This would have been almost 40 percent of the gross contract receipts. Actually 10 percent of the first $1 million paid by the Union Pacific, or $100,000, is more realistic, and out of this would have come the cost of the contractor. After Young’s death in 1877, the clerks and administrators going over his accounts found the profits on the railroad contract to have been about $88,000. In settling Young’s estate, administrators accepted the church’s proof that the contract was a church project rather than a private arrangement and placed the $88,000 to the church’s credit rather than to Young’s heirs.
9. In general, ZCMI and its member cooperatives were agents of the church in accomplishing desired social and economic objectives above and beyond those connected with producing, importing, and marketing the merchandise at reasonable prices. However, this movement was in direct opposition to the laissez-faire philosophy dominating the nation and became the object of considerable ridicule, although the Brigham City Cooperative flourished so well during the depression of 1873 that it gained some national recognition and favorable comment.
10. Tullidge claimed that he had for many years doubted virtually everything about Mormonism save the mission of its founder. Kelsey said that he had long since discarded the dogma that God had ever chosen one individual, family, race, or sect to hold the oracles or keys to salvation to the exclusion of the rest of the human family. Shearman had become alienated from local church authorities and barely escaped excommunication because of his opposition to the doctrine which the Godbeites described as blind obedience to the priesthood.
11. Part of the appeal of spiritualism to Mormons was that it allowed them to see Mormonism as the first phase of a greater movement. Such teachings and actions by a leading apostle and other leaders must have been discouraging to traditional church members, but the overall impact of the Godbeite movement seems to have been slight. Ironically, several of the economic principles advocated by the Godbeites would be adopted by the church within the next few years.