The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869
by Eugene E. Campbell
Unlike previous writers, for whom early Utah was an enlightened, genteel New England society displaced by religious persecution, Eugene Campbell describes a rugged people at the frontier of the nineteenth-century American West. Like other immigrants, Mormon pioneers fought Indians—sometimes taking scalps—battled mountain men, and supported vigilante justice. Responding to what he believed was harassment from federal judges, Brigham Young wrote to Utah’s representative in Washington, D.C., “Tell Mr. Franklin Pierce that the people of the territory have a way—it may be a very peculiar way but an honest one—of sending their infernal, dirty, sneaking, rotten-hearted, pot-house politicians out of the territory, and if he should come himself it would be all the same.”
In the late 1850s, United States president James Buchanan sent 2,000 troops to the desert territory to subdue the reportedly rebellious Mormons. Angry Utahns responded by waging guerrilla warfare and adopting a scorched-earth policy. After the military campaign, Mormon settlers continued to assert their independence in other ways—by refusing to associate with Gentile outsiders, by fixing wholesale and retail prices, and by capitalizing on the homogenous, regimented structure of their community to import half a million immigrants to the new zion.
Eugene E. Campbell was a professor of history at Brigham Young University until his retirement in 1980. He is the co-author of Fort Bridger: Island in the Wilderness, Fort Supply: Brigham Young’s Green River Experiment, and The Life and Thought of Hugh B. Brown. His articles on Western American and Mormon history won awards from the Utah State Historical Society and the Mormon History Association. Dr. Campbell helped found the Mormon History Association and also served as a consultant to the National Endowment of the Humanities. He completed work on Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869 shortly before his death in April 1986.