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Utah Historical Quarterly Current Issue


Volume 85, Number 4 (Fall 2017 Issue):


Published since 1928, the Utah Historical Quarterly is the state’s premier history journal and the source for reliable, engaging Utah history. Join the Historical Society for your own copy.

Each issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly is accompanied with rich web supplements that introduce readers to sources, photos, interviews, and other engaging material. These “extras” are located at history.utah.gov/uhqextras.

WEB EXTRAS: See here 


IN THIS ISSUE


Utah is often known as the Crossroads of the West, and, however overused that name may
be, it’s an apt term to describe the state’s cultural and geographic position in the American
West. A crossroad is a place of intersection, but it also is “a central meeting place” or “a crucial
point especially where a decision must be made.” For Native peoples in the Great Basin
and the Colorado Plateau, a web of migration and trade routes contributed to an exchange
of people, goods, and ideas. Since Dominguez and Escalante’s expedition in 1776–1777, these
groups had to deal with how the arrival and ambition of Europeans and Americans shifted
the dynamic of power in the region. Missionaries, explorers, trappers, and overland migrants
passed through, and in some cases lingered, on the way to somewhere else. When Latterday
Saints decided on the eastern edge of the Great Basin as the place to plant their settlements,
the land had already been traversed by generations of Native peoples, as well as by
entrepreneurial trappers who relied on indigenous knowledge and who brought concrete
cartographic knowledge of the American Far West. Faint mule trails, wagon ruts, and even
the course of modern transportation corridors constitute evidence etched into the landscape
of generational movement and travels.

The post–Civil War era saw a dramatic rise in transportation technology in the West, as
railroad lines spanned the continent. Railroad men and financiers—not to be outdone by one
another—pushed lines into territories where demand had not yet coalesced. Their large corporations,
which were heavily subsidized by the American people, came to symbolize the
grandeur of the age and American progress itself. Utahns needed railroads in the same way
they needed other technologies like irrigation to move water about the landscape. For Mormons,
the arrival of the transcontinental line in 1869 signaled the loss of political and economic
hegemony in the Great Basin. Other lines soon followed, and no history of the state or region
is complete without following them—a veritable spider web showing prominent nineteenthcentury
destinations. Since railroads needed water and fuel, stations and towns cropped up
in part to provide that service. Other communities serviced the trains, some of which had a
striking impermanence on the landscape. But the threads of connection created by railroads
had a more lasting impact. Transcontinentals and the lines they inspired became part of a
network that helped to connect Utah and the American West with the rest of the country and
the neighboring nations of Canada and Mexico.

If railroads became the major arteries of the West’s nineteenth-century transportation
system, roads provided the connective tissue. Roads follow preexisting routes. Like water,
they tend to follow the easiest path—through valleys, canyons, and low-level mountain
passes—although some Utah routes cross the roughest terrain imaginable. They facilitate
movement, curating how one travels across the landscape just as an exhibition curates historical
information. Most roads are fixtures; others have outlasted their original economic or cultural
purpose and have been reclaimed by the land. Before becoming a physical presence on
the land, roads existed in imagination, revealing much about how generations, then and now,
thought about the land and acted on it. As such, roads, like railroads, are cultural sponges—artifacts
of earlier times. They are similar to what Wallace Stegner wrote of Dinosaur National
Monument in eastern Utah, as “a palimpsest of human history, speculation, rumor, fantasy,
ambition, science, controversy, and conflicting plans for use”—as “marks of human passage.”

Thinking about these “marks of human passage” is the design of this issue, a reprint of four exceptional essays previously published in the Quarterly. We begin with Dale L. Morgan’s lively essay “Utah before the Mormons,” originally delivered as a keynote address at the 1967
annual meeting of the Utah State Historical Society and subsequently published in the January
1968 issue. Morgan plays with time scale “to translate historical time into terms we can individually
find meaningful” by tracing the events prior to the Mormon’s arrival in 1847 by using
1967—the year of his address—as a baseline. We can play the same game: Morgan delivered the
keynote half a century ago, a longer time span than any of the major events he describes between
1805 and 1847. But the first half of the nineteenth century is chronicled here by one
of the West’s accomplished and knowledgeable authorities, who provides a sweeping evaluation
of the people, groups, and ideas that made an imprint on the region that became Utah. That world of explorers, trappers, and overland emigrants was marked by constant movement.

Our next selection comes from the pen of Robert Utley, an acclaimed historian of the
West. “The Dash to Promontory,” published in April 1961, is the product of a different kind of
“dash” in the years leading up to the centennial of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad:
the effort of the National Park Service, with the help of assiduous locals such as Bernice
Gibbs Anderson, to establish the significance of the Golden Spike site for its eventual
inclusion to the National Park System. Utley’s reflection on Promontory is followed by Doris
R. Dant’s “Bridge: A Railroading Community on the Great Salt Lake,” published in winter
1985. Dant, formerly an associate professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University, paints
a rich portrait of life in a town that owed its sole existence to the railroad. Like other forms
of movement, the community’s lifespan on the Great Salt Lake was short lived, and as we see
from Dant’s postscript, the town and its history now exist only in memory.

Another classic essay reprinted here is “Nine Mile: Eastern Utah’s Forgotten Road” by Edward
Geary, published in the winter 1981 issue. His familiarity with the locale and, like Dant,
his considerable literary talents combine to make a pleasurable read: part history, part personal
history, Geary’s article blends the canyon’s regional history with the experiences of
his own grandfather driving the rough canyon road a century earlier. One virtue of the essay
is the sense of place, Geary’s attention to Nine Mile as “one of the most colorful and little-
known areas in Utah” that “does not quite belong to any of the state’s usually recognized
regions.” This canyon, he argues, was central to the region’s development even though modern
infrastructure and memory have obscured that fact.

Our final offering is a new selection on a welcome subject, the archaeology of the transcontinental
railroad grade in Box Elder County, Utah, and especially the evidence of Chinese
rail workers. “Rolling to the 150th” explores the story of Promontory after the driving of the
Golden Spike on May 10, 1869, and the archaeological efforts to reconstruct the area’s past
in anticipation of the sesquicentennial of 1869. In so doing, this article provides a fascinating
coda to Robert Utley’s prelude to the events of May 1869.

The classic articles reprinted in this issue are nearly verbatim reproductions of their originally
published forms, with only minor necessary editorial changes. The major difference is
with images: some are duplicates; others are new, from our collection. We are pleased that
each piece is followed by a postscript either from the authors or, in the case of Dale Morgan’s
essay, from Richard L. Saunders, dean of the library at Southern Utah University and the
foremost scholar of Morgan’s life and work. We thank Bob Utley, Ed Geary, and Doris Dant for
returning to their essays after many years and offering commentary to a new generation of
readers.

These essays offer a sampling of the work published in the Quarterly over the years and remind
us of important themes that have graced the journal’s pages. It’s appropriate to return
to them a second time for inspiration, for, as the postscripts suggest, these articles still have
something to offer. From them we have case studies that show how attention to movement
and transportation in Utah history offers a sweep of topography and terrain—the physical
space—and of systems and networks that originated in the nineteenth century. On a more
granular scale, the concept of movement allows us to reflect on experience and memory: from
one man’s experience nearly freezing to death on a freight run through Nine Mile Canyon to a
woman’s memories growing up surrounded by the sights and sounds of diesel engines.

The essays are only a start, a few selections from the region’s nineteenth-century history.
The possibilities inherent in the ideas of movement and transportation potentially force us
to reconsider Utah history. The centrality of movement to exploration, industry, and travel—
major themes in Utah history—is obvious. Less so is the way movement can be seen on a more
conceptual level as a way to evaluate change over space and time: the variation and transformation
of the landscape, the flow of ideas and people into and out of the state, the mobility
of groups and individuals, the development of transportation-related infrastructure, and the
transportation and communication networks connecting the state to regional and national
systems. The flow of ideas and people is now more global than ever before, rendering traditional
boundaries that confined physical movement less operable.

We hope that intimate stories of movement and transportation, combined with attention
to broader trends and analysis, will continue to be shared. This issue marks the Utah State
Historical Society’s commitment to this theme, culminating with the 66th Annual Utah History
Conference to be held September 27–28, 2018. This is both a call for papers and a call
for community recognition of the centrality of transportation and movement to Utah and the
western region.

 


CLASSIC REPRINTS

Utah Before the Mormons (Winter 1968)
By Dale L. Morgan. Postscript: Dale Morgan and the Elements of Utah History, by Richard Saunders

The Dash to Promontory (April 1961)
By Robert M. Utley. Postscript: The Golden Spike and Me, by the author

Nine Mile: Eastern Utah’s Forgotten Road (Winter 1981)
By Edward A. Geary. Postscript: No Longer Forgotten Road, by the author

Bridge: A Railroading Community on the Great Salt Lake (Winter 1985)
By Doris R. Dant. Postscript: Bridge, an Extreme Example of Railroad Control, by the author

DEPARTMENTS

Rolling to the 150th: Sesquicentennial of the Transcontinental Railroad
By Christopher W. Merritt, Michael R. Polk, Ken Cannon, Michael Sheehan, Glenn Stelter, and Ray Kelsey


BOOK REVIEWS

Robert S. McPherson and Susan Rhoades Neel, Mapping the Four Corners: Narrating the Hayden Survey of 1875. Reviewed by John L. Kessell

Laurie J. Bryant, A Modest Homestead: Life in Small Adobe Homes in Salt Lake City, 1850-1897. Reviewed by Robert A. Young

Silvio Manno, Charcoal and Blood: Italian Immigrants in Eureka, Nevada, and the Fish Creek Massacre. Reviewed by Nancy J. Taniguchi

Kerry William Bate, The Women: A Family Story. Reviewed by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel