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How Did Utah Get Its Shape?

Greed, fear, a peculiar religion and political intrigue shaped the state of Utah. Congress disliked power and money entering the Mormons' hands because of plural marriage and a possible Mormon theocracy. As a result, we went from the large Deseret Territory covering multiple states to a much tinier rectangle with a notch.

Come on! Give us the Great Basin and SoCal


In 1849, Brigham Young proposed the Deseret Territory to Congress, covering the Great Basin and Southern California. The Mormon pioneers figured no one else wanted this desert wasteland, right?

California paves its way in gold

"Gold Footpath" by George Hodan www.publicdomainpictures.net

In 1849, California miners discovered gold. Congress wanted the gold and land out of Mormon hands so much, they let Californians draw their own borders--right into Deseret.

So long Southern Deseret!


During the Compromise of 1850, Deseret lost it's name as well as it's southern portion of the Great Basin. Congress renamed Deseret to Utah and divided it into several territories and the state of California.

Colorado gold pans out well


Miners discovered gold on the eastern portion of the Utah territory. Naturally, the gold couldn't fall into the wrong hands. Before President Buchanan left office in 1861, he approved the separate Colorado Territory.

Honest Abe bends the rules

"Lincoln" by Peter Griffin www.publicdomainpictures.net

To gain more votes in 1864, Lincoln and other Republicans rushed Nevada to statehood despite not having the required 60,000 residents. Nevada's silver mines had something to do with it too.

In 1866, Nevada sliced away more of the Utah Territory.

Wyoming takes Utah down a notch


Wyoming gained the southeast corner for two reasons. First, the US government preferred Wyoming to have the rich mineral resources. Second, the Uintah mountains blocked off the corner, making it difficult for Utah to govern the corner from Salt Lake City.

A mere 48 years later...Statehood!


In 1890, Mormon Prophet Wilford Woodruff announced the end of polygamy. Utah then added a ban on plural marriage to their constitution. Since polygamy no longer threatened the institution of monogamous marriage, the US government granted Utah statehood in 1896.