Skip to content
Secondary Content

Category Archives: About History

Utah State Historical Society Best Book and Article Nominations

Published in 2015, awarded at 2016 Annual Meeting


Nominations for the Francis Armstrong Madsen Best Utah History Book Award

Thomas Carter, Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement (University of Minnesota Press)

Richard Francaviglia, The Mapmakers of New Zion: A Cartographic History of Mormonism (University of Utah Press)

Dave Hall, A Faded Legacy: Amy Brown Lyman and Mormon Women’s Activism, 1872-1959 (University of Utah Press)

Michael Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (University of Illinois Press)

Robert S. McPherson, Life in a Corner: Cultural Episodes in Southeastern Utah, 1880-1950 (University of Oklahoma)

Charles S. Peterson and Brian Q. Cannon, The Awkward State of Utah: Coming of Age in the Nation, 1896-1945 (University of Utah Press)

Paul Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (Oxford University Press)


Nominations for Best Utah Historical Quarterly Article Awards (Dale L. Morgan Award for Best Scholarly Article and Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Award for Best General Interest Article)

Winter 2015

Robert E. Parson, “Neither Poet nor Prophet: S. George Ellsworth and the History of Utah”

Douglas H. Page Jr., Sarah E. Page, Thomas J. Straka, and Nathan D. Thomas, “Charcoal and Its Role in Utah Mining History”

Kathryn L. MacKay, “The Chocolate Dippers’ Strike of 1910”

Emma Louise Penrod, “Tooele, Touch Typing, and the Catholic Saint Marguerite-Marie Alacoque”

Gary Topping, “Transformation of the Cathedral: An Interview with Gregory Glenn”

Spring 2015

Bruce W. Worthen, “‘Zachary Taylor Is Dead and in Hell and I Am Glad of It!’: The Political Intrigues of Almon Babbitt”

Steve Siporin, “A Bear and a Bandit”

Chase Chamberlain and Robert S. McPherson, “Desert Cold Warriors: Southeastern Utah’s Fight against Communism, 1951–1981”

Summer 2015

Marshall E. Bowen, “The Russian Molokans of Park Valley”

Kathryn L. MacKay, “The Uncompahgre Reservation and the Hill Creek Extension”

Christine Cooper-Rompato, “Women Inventors in Utah Territory”

Fall 2015

Alexander L. Baugh, “John C. Frémont’s 1843–44 Western Expedition and Its Influence on Mormon Settlement in Utah”

Ephriam D. Dickson III, “‘Shadowy Figures about Whom Little Is Known’: Artists of the Simpson Expedition, 1858–59”

Susan Rhoades Neel, “Love among the Fossils: Earl and Pearl Douglass at Dinosaur National Monument”


Nominations for Best Article on Utah History Not Published in the Utah Historical Quarterly (Suitter Axland Award)

Thomas Alexander, “Brigham Young and the Transformation of Utah Wilderness, 1847–58,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 1 (2015): 103–24.

Nancy Stowe Kadar, “The Young Democrats and Hugh Nibley at BYU,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 4 (2015): 43–73.

David Rich Lewis, “Skull Valley Goshutes and the Politics of Place, Identity, and Sovereignty in Rural Utah,” in David B. Danbom, ed., Bridging the Distance: Common Issues of the Rural West (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2015), 239–76.

Benjamin Lindquist, “Testimony of the Senses: Latter-day Saints and the Civilized Soundscape,” Western Historical Quarterly 46, no. 1 (2015): 53–74.

Michael R. Polk, “Interpreting Chinese Worker Camps on the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah,” Historical Archaeology 49, no. 1 (2015).

Samuel A. Smith, “The Cities of Zion? Mormon and non-Mormon town plans in the U.S. Mountain West, 1847–1930,” Journal of Historical Geography (October 2015).


The Circleville Massacre: A Bibliography

Secondary sources

Culmsee, Carlton. Utah’s Black Hawk War: Lore and Reminiscences of Participants. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1973. (pp. 89-91)

Church Historian’s Office. Circleville Ward manuscript history, LR 1738 2, folder 1, LDS Church History Library.

Fullmer, Rollo L. A History of Circleville, Utah. Self-published, Rollo L. Fullmer, 2003. (pp. 16-23)

Martineau, LaVan. The Southern Paiutes: Legends, Lore, Language, and Lineage. Las Vegas: KC Publications, 1992. (pp. 58-59)

Newell, Linda King. A History of Piute County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1999. (pp. 82-87)

Peterson, John A. Utah’s Black Hawk War, 1865-1872. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998. (pp. 243-49)

Weeks, Sue Jensen. How Desolate Our Home Bereft of Thee: James Tillman Sanford Allred and the Circleville Massacre. Melbourne: Clouds of Magellan Press, 2014. (pp. 137-61)

Winkler, Albert. “The Circleville Massacre: A Brutal Incident in the Black Hawk War.” Utah Historical Quarterly 55 (Winter 1987): 4-22.

Primary sources (arranged chronologically)

Journal History, February 18, 1865, letter from Edward Tolton to Deseret News, LDS Church History Library. Tolton provides an update on the Circleville settlement after its first year.

Edward Tolton letter to George A. Smith, March 21, 1865, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library.

Tolton informs Smith that he was elected Probate Judge of Piute County and requests record books and supplies.

Deseret News (Weekly), June 28, 1865, vol. 14: 309. Tolton provides update on the settlement and crops.

Deseret News (Weekly), November 9, 1865, vol. 15: 37. Tolton provides an update on the settlement.

William J. Allred letter to Orson Hyde, November 25, 1865, Brigham Young incoming correspondence, Brigham Young collection, LDS Church History Library. Reports that two-thirds of the cattle in Circleville were stolen by a band of Indians. Men pursued the thieves, and the Indians shot one boy and possibly killed a man that had not been found.

George A. Smith letter to William H. Dame, February 26, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Instructs Dame to have 50-60 men ready at all times to ward off hostile Indians. We wish you to use due diligence to ascertain if a band of hostile Utes is in the vicinity of Circleville or that line of settlements, and if so report the same to us as soon as you can.”

Warren S. Snow letter to George A. Smith, March 14, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Informs Smith of his threats to shoot Sanpitch and his band “for we could not Put up with Killing and steeling enny longer.”

Silas S. Smith letter to George A. Smith, March 29, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Update on his movements in Circleville area.

Silas S. Smith letter to George A. Smith, April 10, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. “Black Hawk is reported to be at East fish lake—if he could be struck before he comences his summer raids he would I think be crippled for the season.”

William H. Dame letter to George A. Smith, April 11, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. “I have just received this by the hand of Bro John Wimmer, and thought it might be of some interest so I forward, it to you.” [The material Dame refers is previous letter from Silas Smith to Dame dated April 10]

Erastus Snow letter to Daniel H. Wells, April 25, 1866, Territorial Militia records, Series 2210, reel 6 item 1524, Utah State Archives. Report on Indian hostilities in southern Utah.

Jesse N. Smith letter to George A. Smith, May 2, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Mentions that “six Indian prisoners at Circleville made a rally on the guards by whom they were all shot down, and none escaped.”

William J. Allred letter to George A. Smith, May 5, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Detailed letter by Allred recounting the massacre and events preceding.

William J. Allred letter to George A. Smith, May 8, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Discusses instructions received from the First Presidency “that every settlement should be vacated” unless they had more than 150 to 500 families. Many of those from small settlements in the county have moved to Circleville.  Wrote to seek counsel about vacating Circleville.

Jesse N. Smith letter to George A. Smith, May 9, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Discusses the option of evacuating Circleville.

Deseret News (Weekly), May 10, 1866, vol. 15: 183. Letter to Deseret News from Edward Tolton requesting additional settlers and improved mail service.Tolton letter to Deseret News dated April 15, 1866. Discusses efforts to build defenses against Indian raids and also requests additional settlers to increase their safety.

Jesse N. Smith letter to George A. Smith, May 14, 1866, George A. Smith papers, LDS Church History Library. Visit to Circleville; plans to hold meeting to encourage Panguitch settlers to move to Circleville.

William B. Pace letter to A. F. Macdonald, May 27, 1866, Territorial Militia records, Series 2210, reel 26 item 855, Utah State Archives. Military movements and strategy in Circleville region.

Erastus Snow letter to Daniel H. Wells, May 28, 1866, Territorial Militia records, Series 2210, reel 6 item 1527, Utah State Archives. Snow reports on what he has learned about the massacre. He writes: “rumor however has reached me only a few days ago of the slaughter of 15 or 18 Piede prisoners at Circleville. Which I suppose must be those, who were arrested and disarmed by Major Allred of which I acquainted you in my letter from Parowan on the 25th inst., which if the reports, which have reached me, be correct, must have taken place about the time I wrote to you, and though it was at that time in my district and part of Col. Dame’s regiment. I know not to this day, why and wherefore they were slain, nor have I ever learned of any accusation against them beyond suspicion of complicity, or of harboring spies from hostile bands, but whether those suspicions were well founded, I know not.”  Said that he left instructions with Colonel William Dame to see that the prisoners were treated kindly.

William J. Allred letter to Jesse N. Smith, June 1, 1866, Territorial Militia records, Series 2210, reel 6 item 1530, Utah State Archives. Discusses having Panguitch settlers moving to Circleville and the anxiety of many Circleville settlers to leave the area.

Jesse N. Smith letter to Warren S. Snow, June 3, 1866, Territorial Militia records, Series 2210, reel 6 item 1530, Utah State Archives. Recommends that a “force should be stationed at Circleville.”

  1. F. Cownover letter to William B. Pace, June 1, 1866, Territorial Militia records, Series 2210, reel 26 item 859, Utah State Archives. Describes the “unsettled condition” amongst Circleville residents and felt that a directive needed to be issued, from a proper source, to prevent a mass evacuation.

John Franklin Tolton, Memories of the Life of John Franklin Tolton, 1887, typescript, MS 4922, LDS Church History Library. Recounts events of the massacre.

Oluf Christian Larsen, Biographical Sketch of the Life of Oluf Christian Larsen, 1916, MS 1646, LDS Church History Library. Recounts events of the massacre.

Miscellaneous sources

Photo of David Monson


Circleville Massacre

Memorial Dedication

Please join us on Friday, April 22, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. for the dedication of a memorial to the Paiute men, women, and children massacred in Circleville on April 22-24, 1866. The dedication will take place in Circleville Memorial Park in Circleville, Utah, where a memorial has been erected to remember the massacre victims.

CONDUCTING/MASTER OF CEREMONY Michael Haaland, Mayor of Circleville
BLESSING AND REMARKS Arthur Richards, Cedar Band, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
SONG Mark Rogers, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
STATEMENT ON HISTORY Jedediah Rogers, Senior State Historian, Utah Division of State History
REMARKS Richard E Turley Jr., Assistant Church Historian, LDS Church History Department
REMARKS Dorena Martineau, Tribal Cultural Resource Officer, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
REMARKS Toni Pikyavit, Koosharem Band, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
CLOSING Mayor Haaland

Governor Declaration

A declaration issued by Utah Governor Gary Herbert recognizes April 22, 2016, as Circleville Massacre Memorial Day.

Brief History of the Massacre


In April 1866, Mormon settlers in Circleville massacred as many as thirty men, women, and children belonging to the Koosharem band of the Paiute tribe.

The massacre occurred in an atmosphere of fear and conflict known as the “Black Hawk War,” a conflict staged primarily between Mormons who, by settling on the best farmlands in central and southern Utah, had cut off Ute access to resources on their traditional homelands. Settlers newly arrived in Circle Valley found themselves in the heart of this conflict. Late in 1865, some Utes raided the town of Circleville—which was ill prepared to defend itself—killing four citizens, including two thirteen-year-old boys, Orson Barney and Ole Heilersen.

Reports had swirled that Paiutes, or Piedes, as they were sometimes called, were in alliance with Utes. A Ute-Paiute alliance seems unlikely; the Ute had long abducted Paiute women and children as part of their slave trade. In 1866 Parowan militia officers decided to “take in all straggling Indians in the vicinity”—Paiutes included—eventually requesting several to come to Fort Sanford, where they were questioned. Fort Sanford, located between Panguitch and Circleville, had been constructed earlier that year as additional protection on the road over the pass to Parowan. The colonizers at Circleville, however, remained ill-prepared to defend against attacks; unlike Marysville to the north, Circleville had no fort or stockade and the houses were too scattered to provide effective protection.

On April 21, an express sent from Fort Sanford to Circleville stated that two formerly friendly Paiutes in the area had shot and wounded a member of the Utah militia. What the dispatch did not report was that one of the Paiutes had already been injured, while the other had been shot and killed by a soldier’s long-range rifle. The fort’s military commander advised settlers at Circleville and Panguitch to disarm the Paiutes encamped near those settlements.

Settlers ​ in Circleville met to decide what course to pursue. They decided to take the Koosharem Band prisoner and sent a messenger to them, directing them to come into town to hear a letter read by the local LDS bishop. Those who complied were directed into the log church meetinghouse. When the settlers told the Paiutes to disarm and they indicated reluctance, the settlers forcefully disarmed them. The local militia quietly surrounded the remaining Paiutes who had refused to come in the first time and directed their prisoners to the meeting house. The men were bound under guard in the church meetinghouse, while the women and children were held in the cellar.

LDS church apostle Erastus Snow received a report from Circleville and returned instructions that the prisoners should be treated kindly and let go unless “hostile or affording aid to the enemy.” The dispatch arrived too late. Unnoticed by the guards, the Paiute men managed to unloose the ropes that bound them. In evening the men sprang upon their captives. In the struggle that followed, the militia men shot and killed all of the Piede Indians. They then proceeded, one at a time, to bring the women and children up from the cellar and to slit their throats. Reportedly, the bodies were taken to the cellar of an unbuilt mill and buried in a mass grave. Three or four children of the Koosharem Band thought too young to bear witness were spared and adopted by local families.


For more information about the massacre, we invite you to this annotated bibliography, which provides both secondary and primary sources of various historical perspectives leading up to the event.



NHPA 50 Year Anniversary

Join the nationwide celebration for the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 2016. This Act transformed the face of communities throughout the United States and Utah by establishing a framework and incentives to preserve historic buildings, landscapes, and archaeological sites.  Coordinated through, the nationwide celebration is designed to inform and engage all ages and backgrounds in this significant law’s effects on local communities and history. Since 1966, the NHPA has shaped preservation efforts on America’s history and culture while generating positive social and economic impacts. In 2015, the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (formed in 1973) gathered stakeholders to organize a year of events and to gather engaging stories and media for the celebration.

This website is a portal to a year of events and activities that cover all corners of Utah.

Events Calendar     Media     Preservation Apps     Links     Partners


Shipwreck at the Great Salt Lake



Our Encore series features reprints of classic works published by the Utah State Historical Society. These essays originally appearing in the Utah Historical Quarterly and other publications give a new generation of readers access to engaging historical accounts and histories of the state.

To support research and writing in Utah history and to receive your own copy of the Utah Historical Quarterly, the state’s premier history journal, please consider becoming a member of the Society.

To comment on our Encore series, please contact UHQ co-managing editor Jedediah Rogers at or 801.245.7209.





First published in the fall 1981 issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly, an early account of a winter Brimhall Timpanogosascent of Mt. Timpanogos. Two local men reveled in the challenge and danger of scaling the mount’s face in the snow. After reaching the peak, they slide down the glacier on the mount’s east side, continue to Stewart Ranch (now the location of Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort), and camp at a small resort called Wildwood in Provo Canyon. Accompanying the account are photographs taken by Brimhall and his companion LeGrand Hardy, a 3-D interactive map showing their approximate route, and contemporary photographs of the summit of Timp in winter, courtesy of John Judd.





Echo City Pulpit Rock Union Pacific Railroad 1In an award-winning essay, Robert S. Mikkelsen paints a colorful portrait of life in his hometown, a key refueling railroad stop for locomotives traveling between Ogden, Utah, and Evanston, Wyoming. He revisits childhood memories of playing outdoor games on soot-packed platforms, getting in trouble with track torpedoes instead of fireworks, building forts out of railroad ties, and passing the time “celebrity watching” at the station. Overall, his account provides an interesting insider look at how the Union Pacific steam engine station defined Echo’s cultural, social, and economic experience for nearly a century.





This account by Josiah F. Gibbs is characteristic of the first-person accounts frequently published From left to right: Charles Kelly, Josiah F. Gibbs, Frank Beckwith - at Marysvale, Utah. Josiah F. Gibbs authored a book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Frank Beckwith was the editor of the Millard County Chronicle, an archeologist, geologist, and authority on Lake Bonneville. Charles Kelly was a printer, artist, author, historian, the first superintendent of Capitol Reef National Park. in some of the first issues of the Utah Historical Quarterly describing events in Utah’s frontier history. Gibbs’ remembrances are one man’s recollections of a complex and sometimes strained relationship between Mormon white settlers and the Indian peoples who had long inhabited the Great Basin. Note that some language in this piece–for example, “savage,” “redmen”–are dated and offensive, and simply reflect Gibbs sensibilities at the time of his writing.

Creating Greater Salt Lake: History, Landscape, Urban Design


Save the Date
Friday, May 13, 2016, 9–4 p.m.
Salt Lake City Public Library
Nancy Tessman Auditorium
210 East 400 South



This one-day interdisciplinary event aims to examine the historical dimensions, design elements, power relationships, and legal and bureaucratic scaffolding that have shaped Utah’s capital city and urban corridor.


We invite practitioners of history, historic preservation, urban planning, land and water management, and other related fields, as well as activists, neighborhood and city councils, planning commissioners, journalists, and the public, to join us for a free symposium exploring the Greater Salt Lake landscape and built environment.


  • We will consider the role of ideas, laws, bureaucracies, and intellectual designs on urban design and transportation;
  • The impact of architecture and design on political, cultural, racial, and other power structures
  • The design, alteration, management, destruction, regulation, and sustainability of a valued natural resource on the landscape; and
  • The challenges and promises of re-imagining and recreating a place where we live, work, and play.


Needham photoWe are very happy to announce Andrew Needham of New York University as the symposium’s keynote speaker.

Beyond the Metropolis: Remapping American Urban History

What are the boundaries of metropolitan America? Scholars have long used the Census Bureau’s unit of Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) to understand the historical changes and social dynamics associated with metropolitan growth. In his talk, Andrew Needham, an award-winning urban and environmental historian, will map the effects of metropolitan growth beyond the expected borders of urban history. His address will suggest how expanding the geographic scale of metropolitan history produces new stories about the far reaching changes to human and natural landscapes wrought by the urbanization of the American West and the United States at large.


Transportation and Urban Design: A discussion of the factors—such as laws, technology, population growth, economic pressures, and underlying assumptions—that have affected the development of transit and urban development in Salt Lake City’s greater downtown area.

Water and the Unsustainable Landscape: An exploration of the role of a dwindling natural resource on the built environment. From the lofty Wasatch Mountains to the Great Salt Lake, water has shaped and dictated human interaction on the eastern edge of the Great Basin, contributing to large-scale and perhaps in some cases unsustainable manipulation of the landscape.

Architecture and Power: An examination of the power dynamics reflected in Salt Lake City’s historic and modern architecture. The panel will juxtapose the Salt Lake Temple and the City and County Building, the LDS Conference Center and the Salt Lake City Library, City Creek and the Gateway—buildings and campuses that visually and geographically reflect religious and secular forces at play in Utah’s capital city.

This symposium, presented by the Utah State Historical Society and Utah Historical Quarterly, is free and open to the public but registration is requested. There is a cost for parking in the library parking garage.




The program acknowledges the centennial anniversary of Utah’s State Capital building and the fiftieth anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.

For additional information, contact Jedediah Rogers (, co-managing editor, Utah Historical Quarterly.

Sponsors for this event are Utah Humanities, American West Center at the University of Utah, and Department of History at the University of Utah


Questions? Comments? Contact Jedediah Rogers at 801-245-7209 or


State History – Internship

YMCA_Gym_GroupInternship Opportunities

The Utah Division of State History (UDSH) and the Utah State Historical Society (USHS) offer internship opportunities for select university or college students. Hours for interns are dictated by the sponsoring institution, but the schedule of those hours can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.  Applicants are encouraged to be at least in their third year of undergraduate work. Recent college or university graduates or master’s students are also encouraged to apply. Interns are not paid but may receive college credit.

To apply for an internship at the UDSH, please submit your application.


Candidates must submit their information by December 1st for the winter term (January to April), by April 1st for the summer term (May to August), and August 1st for the fall term (September to December).

For more information or to answer questions, please contact Kevin Fayles at 801.245.7254 or


Commitment and Reliability

UDSH/USHS internships can substantially benefit from a professional internship experience; State History depends greatly on interns to enhance the programs of the UDSH. Once you have accepted an internship, you become an integral part of State History. It is important that you commit to the internship.

Essential Functions

  • Work closely with and assist UDSH staff and other interns.
  • Plan and implement assignments or projects.
  • Regularly recording and reporting of your activities.
  • Interact with staff, interns and the public in a courteous, prompt ad professional manner.


  • Commitment to the many fields and professions in and around history, archaeology, historic preservation, library and archives.
  • Flexibility to make changes and support the programs as needed.
  • Strong communication and organizational skills.
  • Commitment to the state schedule.
  • Maintain a professional appearance and attitude.

Brief Descriptions of Internships

Archaeology Section: Interns for this program are generally limited to those students interesting in pursuing a career path in archaeology or anthropology. Past intern projects included summarizing the known archaeological information for select counties into a publishable paper, pulling together and summarizing thematically linked archaeological information (such as Uranium mining in Grand County or prehistoric use of the Great Salt Lake islands), assisting with archaeological National Register nominations, records management, and a host of other topics.


Interns for this program will provide support to State History’s administrative staff in a wide variety of tasks and special projects. Examples include assisting with meetings and special events, including the annual history conference. Interns will also assist in gathering historical information and photographs to enhance communicating State History’s programs.

Cemeteries & Burials

Interns for this program will help gather data from cemeteries through approved sources.

Historic Preservation

Interns for this program will help develop resources related to researching, surveying, designating and treating historic buildings and structures.

Library & Collections

Interns in this program will assist  staff in using resources to answer customer questions, refilling collection materials, update records, assist with collection processing, and preparing materials for public access.

Utah Historical Quarterly

Interns will assist with fact-checking and researching historiography for articles, drafting book notices, developing online resources, pursuing marketing and partnership efforts for the UHQ, and assisting with special events.

Utah History Day

Interns will assist with preparing materials and problem-solving for regional and state student competitions as well as the state competition.

State History – Annual Themes

Bingham_Canyon_Utah2016 – Rural Utah and Western Issues (1896 to 2016 anniversary)

2017 Utah Pioneers and the Value of Local Museums

2018 Utah’s Archaeological Past

2019 Transportation and the Utah Landscape (We will celebrate the 150th anniversaries of both the transcontinental railroad and John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River.)

2020 Water and the Utah Environment

State History – Annual Goals

Forest_SchoolAnnual Goals 2015-2016

  • Annual Statewide History Focus: Document rural life, local governance, and public lands in Utah
  • Improve E-workflow, digitization and databases to increase information sharing
  • Re-envision the role education plays in State History’s programs
  • Evaluate the possibility of a proposed Center for History, Heritage and Arts

State History – Geographic Names Committee

State_of_DeseretUtah Committee on Geographic Names

The Utah Committee on Geographic Names role is defined by the 2005 Governor’s Executive Order for the State of Utah.  The Committee is tasked with reviewing and providing recommendations regarding geographic name proposals in Utah submitted to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.  The Committee is composed of eleven members, including five Ex-Officio and seven-at- large members.

What Are the Best Principles for Naming a Geographic Feature in Utah?

The most appropriate geographic names are ones that have evolved organically over time from local usage.  Names which describe the feature often garner the most support, while commemorative names are often the most problematic.  Both the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and the Utah Committee on Geographic Names follow the BGN’s Principles, Policies, and Procedures document which defines the protocol used in the Committees decision making process.  Included in this document are constraints regarding naming in designated wilderness areas, limitations on commemorative naming, limitations on derogatory names, and guidelines for changing existing names.  Please review this document closely if you plan to move forward with a proposal. 

How to Propose a Name

Any natural geographic feature in the United States can have a name proposed.  The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) has outlined key principles, policies, and procedures for naming geographic features (found here).  These guidelines should be followed for any geographic name proposals or risk denial by vote.  Proposals are submitted online through the BGN website (found here).  You will be provided with a temporary login to the BGN database where you will be walked step by step through the submission process.  Be prepared with background research on your submission, including:

  • Location (Latitude and Longitude)
  • Landowner name (e.g. Bureau of Land Management)
  • Documentation of local support (if any)
  • Documentation of landowner support (if any)
  • Historical use of the name (if any)
  • Names in local use
  • Detailed biography of person being commemorated (see below)

Please note – if the feature is being named for a person, please include evidence of direct association with the feature as outlined in the BGN’s Principles, Policies, and Procedures document (found here).  Also note, the person for whom the feature is being named must be deceased for at least five years

The process following the proposal can be followed through this chart here (link to GeoNames_WorkFlow_20151119.pdf).  Once submitted, the BGN will review your proposal and, if no issues are found, forward it to our Committee.  Our Committee will then review the proposal at the next quarterly meeting and begin efforts to research and verify key aspects of the proposal, including landowner, tribal, and county support.  As the Committee only meets quarterly, proposals can take significant time in review.

Once research and vetting is complete, the Committee will vote whether to support the proposal and then forward the results of the vote to the BGN.  The BGN then again reviews the proposal and makes a final, binding vote.  If you encounter trouble with your proposal, please contact the BGN (contact information here).  Proposals can also be made directly to our Committee but are directly forwarded on to the BGN for review.

How to Research Existing Geographic Names

There are some limited resources available for researching existing geographic names.  John Van Cott’s 1991 book Utah Place Names is a valuable reference.  This includes names in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) and background on non-geographic feature names (such as cities).  For geographic names found on USGS maps, a great resource is the GNIS query tool (found here).  Certain results will include the original name proposal documentation or original survey documentation where the name officially originated.

Current Committee Membership

The Committee is composed of eleven members who include five Ex-Officio and seven at large members.  Members are reviewed and appointed by the Governor and generally serve a four-year term.  Interested in becoming a Committee member?  Please apply here.   Current members can be found below.  Membership expiration dates can be found here:

Dan White                           Committee Chair, at large
Kelli Bacon                          Ex-Officio, representing Utah Department of Transportation

Zachary Beck                      at large member

Dina Blaes                           Ex-Officio, representing the Utah Board of State History

Gen Green                         at large member
John Larsen                        at large member

Arie Leeflang                     Ex-Officio, representing Utah Division of State History, Executive Secretary
Katherine Staley               at large member
David Vincent                    Ex-Officio, State Cartographer, U.S. Geological Survey
Grant Willis                        Ex-Officio, representing Utah Geological Survey
Quarterly Meeting Minutes and Agenda

The Committee posts upcoming agendas and past meeting minutes to Utah’s Public Notice Website (found here).  Please reference this site for upcoming agenda and previous meeting minutes.  Or please contact the Executive Secretary for additional information at 801.245.7246 or

Outside Resources

U.S. Board on Geographic Names website
U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ Principles, Policies, and Procedures document
U.S. Board on Geographic Names recent meeting minutes including Board vote results
How to apply for Utah Committee on Geographic Names membership
Utah Committee on Membership’s Executive Order and current membership