On Nov. 26, 1866, a group of people gathered at East Temple (now Main Street) and 300 South in Salt Lake City to dedicate an adobe building. It had cost $5,000 to build and could seat 200 people. At 33 feet wide and 53 feet long, the building, known as Independence Hall, was neither the largest nor the most adorned in the valley.
But it was one of the most important religious buildings in Utah — and it was not built by or for Mormon pioneers.
While pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were the first non-Native American settlers in the Salt Lake Valley, several other pioneers of faith sacrificed to come to Utah to establish their religion.
The first religious figures to arrive in Utah after the Mormons settled in 1847 were traveling Catholic priests who came to serve U.S. troops stationed in Utah. Bonaventure Keller of Philadelphia offered the first known Mass in Utah at Camp Floyd in 1859, according to Bernice M. Mooney's "Catholic Church in Utah." The priests only stayed for a few months and made no effort to form a permanent settlement in Utah.
The first permanent, non-LDS church formed in Utah was the First Congregational Church. The Rev. Norman McLeod first preached in Daft’s Store on Main Street on Jan. 16, 1865. The religious services continued each week, with regular attendance of more than 100 worshipers and a Sunday School established within a month after the Rev. McLeod’s first sermon, according to “Non-Mormon Religious Denominations in Utah,” a booklet compiled by Kate B. Carter of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in December 1945.
The First Congregational Church bought property at Main Street and 300 South and built Independence Hall, according to Mary Dawn Coleman’s “The First Congregational Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.” Independence Hall was an important place for religious services and social gatherings not only for the First Congregational Church but also for other religious assemblies whose members did not have a place of their own to worship. Methodist ministers and Catholic priests preached sermons and served their congregations in the building until they could build structures of their own.
Father Edward Kelly of the Catholic Church celebrated Mass in Salt Lake City at Independence Hall in 1866. Later that same year, Father Kelly purchased land where the first Catholic church, St. Mary Magdalene, opened in November 1871. Four years later, Holy Cross Hospital opened.
In 1891, the Diocese of Salt Lake was created with Lawrence J. Scanlan as the first bishop. In 1909, the Cathedral of the Madeleine was dedicated.
"The first bishop, the Right Reverend Lawrence Scanlan, whose centenary of death we will observe May 10, 2015, undertook the building of the Cathedral of the Madeleine," said Colleen E. Gudreau, communications liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake. "The Catholic miners raised funds to pay for it and for the building of local churches and schools. The early Catholic pioneers were the foundation stones for future growth."
“Today, Catholics in Utah number well over 300,000, including 63 parishes and missions and 17 Catholic schools,” according to the Diocese of Salt Lake’s website at dioslc.org.
The arrival of Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle in 1867 marked the beginning of the Episcopal Church in the state. Bishop Tuttle had traveled from New York to take charge as missionary bishop of Montana with jurisdiction in Idaho and Utah, according to “Non-Mormon Religious Denominations in Utah.”
Bishop Tuttle preached his first sermon in Utah at Independence Hall on July 7, 1867. He supervised the construction of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral and schools and hospitals in Salt Lake.
The Episcopal Church and the LDS Church, while having theological and philosophical differences, got along well together.
"Coming out here as a very minority church, the Episcopal Church started working very well with the community at large in the area of outreach and still does," said Craig Wirth, communication director for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. "The Episcopal Church became a place of outreach but outreach with the cooperation of others. In 1870, (the Episcopal Church) built the cathedral church of St. Mark and actually Brigham Young was one of the major contributors to the building fund."
Today, “the Episcopal Church in Utah is a diocese of the Episcopal Church USA, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The diocese consists of 22 parishes and over 6,000 members across Utah and one parish in Northern Arizona,” according to the Episcopal Diocese of Utah’s website at episcopal-ut.org.
The first Jewish community in Utah began with a small group meeting together in an LDS meetinghouse in 1854. The first formal congregation was incorporated as B’Nai Israel (Children of Israel) in 1881, according to the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society’s website at ujgs.org.
Samuel and Frederick Auerbach became prominent citizens of Salt Lake. They established a department store in downtown Salt Lake in 1864 that, according to Debra Winkler, administrative assistant of Congregation Kol Ami, "became second only to ZCMI in Salt Lake."
The first synagogue, located at 100 W. 300 South, was dedicated in 1883. Rabbi Leon Strauss became the first Utah rabbi in 1884, though he stayed for only 10 months, according to the website.
After the first synagogue proved to be too small, the B’Nai Israel Temple was constructed and dedicated in 1890.
A second congregation, Montefiore, was incorporated in 1895.
"Congregation Kol Ami, where we are now, is a combination of Congregation B'Nai Israel and Congregation Montefiore (that) came together in the (1970s)," Winkler said.
The Utah Jewish Genealogical Society notes that exact numbers are imprecise but that a good estimate is 5,000 Jews currently reside in the “Land of Zion.”
The Presbyterian Church’s roots in Utah began with the arrival of the Rev. Josiah Welch to Salt Lake City on Oct. 1, 1871. The Rev. Welch preached to 12 people in Faust's Hall, an old hayloft over a stable, on the Sunday after he arrived. One month later, he organized the First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City, according to the First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City’s website at fpcslc.org.
The Rev. Welch supervised the construction of the First Presbyterian Church building, which was dedicated Oct. 11, 1874. In April 1875, professor John M. Coyner established the Collegiate Institute in the basement of the new church. The Collegiate Institute later became Westminster College and moved to its present location in 1911, according to Westminster College’s website at westminstercollege.edu.
“The biggest impact (the Presbyterian pioneers) had in the state in those days was the school system that emerged," said Jeff Silliman, interim executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Utah. "They started over 40 schools in this state, beginning in 1875. Churches grew up beside the schools. Most of (the schools) ran for 20, 30, sometimes 40 years and then they closed."
As membership in the church grew, the First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City built a new building at the corner of C Street and South Temple. The first service in the new building was April 16, 1905, and the church was formally dedicated a year later on May 12, 1906, according to the church’s website. That church building still stands today and is used for not only worship services but also community events such as concerts and recitals, according to the church’s website.
The first Methodist missionary in the Salt Lake Valley was the Rev. Lewis Hartsough, known as the “Father of Methodism in Utah,” according to the First United Methodist Church’s website at firstmethodistslc.org. The Rev. Hartsough preached his first sermon in Utah at Independence Hall in December 1869.
The Rev. Hartsough went back East and returned with the Rev. Gustavus M. Pierce, who became the founder of the First Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, according to the website.
The church met in rented haylofts and halls until the first Methodist church was dedicated in 1875. That building served the members until 1905, when it was sold and the members moved to a new building at 203 S. 200 East.
George W. Dodge, the superintendent of Indian affairs for the territory and appointed by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, was a practicing Baptist and the first person to organize a Baptist church in Utah. The initial congregation lasted until 1875, two years after Dodge had been recalled to Washington, according to “Baptists in Utah” by David L. Schirer.
It wasn’t until 1881 that the Baptist Church regained its footing in Utah. The Rev. Dewight Spencer established the Ogden Baptist Church in 1881 and the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake in 1883, according to “Baptists in Utah.”
The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy to “reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing," according to a link provided on Christian Science USA’s website at christianscienceusa.com/ut.html.
By 1891, Christian Scientists had arrived in Utah to organize a branch. This organization would eventually be known as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Salt Lake City. The local members first met at various locations but in 1897 voted to build their own church at 352 E. 300 South.
On Nov. 27, 1898, at least 1,000 people crowded into the building to witness the dedication. The church served the Church of Christ, Scientist until 2002, when members voted to sell the building. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.Comment on this story
For more information about Mormon and other religious pioneers in Utah, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, located at 300 N. Main in Salt Lake City, has artifacts and hundreds of documents relating to the history of religions in Utah. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with hours extended on Wednesday until 8 p.m.
Ben Tullis is a Deseret News intern and a freelance writer and copy editor. He graduated from Utah Valley University in April 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English. He lives in Pleasant Grove with his wife and 2-year-old son.