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Utah State Historical Society
Construction takes place on St. Christopher's Mission of the Episcopal Church in the Utah section of Navajo Nation.

SALT LAKE CITY — As one of the largest parades in the nation winds its way through downtown streets this morning, thousands of Utahns from various faiths will note the tribute to Mormon pioneers, despite the fact that their own religious heritage here is not tied to covered wagons or handcarts.

The annual Days of '47 celebration has always been focused on the memory of hardy Latter-day Saints, who trudged across the Great Plains in the mid-19th century, seeking freedom from religious persecution and a land to call their own.

But their quest to find relative isolation in the valley of the Great Salt Lake lasted only a few years, as military outposts, the lure of mining and eventually, the railroad, brought newcomers whose religious beliefs differed widely from those of the Mormon majority.

More than 150 years after Brigham Young's declaration that "This is the right place," when looking over the Salt Lake Valley, Utah's political, social and educational landscape has beenshaped by a variety of religious leaders and faith communities whose roots grew in the same soil as the Latter-day Saints.

Their histories are less familiar to most longtime residents, yet Catholics, Presbyterians, Jews, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Baptists all had a presence in the Utah Territory before statehood in 1896. Their ministry included the establishment of dozens of free parochial schools, which attracted large numbers of LDS students until free public education was established in 1890. Their continuing legacy includes major hospitals, schools and charitable agencies, most along the Wasatch Front.

While efforts to promote interfaith harmony have historically met with varying degrees of success, most Utahns would agree that religion deeply shapes not only politics, but personal identity in the Beehive State.

So on this Pioneer Day, the Deseret News offers a glimpse into the early history of some of the state's little-known religious pioneers, most of whom arrived after the first covered wagons.


The Rev. George W. Dodge was appointed superintendent of Indian Affairs by the federal government in 1871, and he began holding religious services in private homes. Leadership changes in the first few years meant evangelism efforts began slowly, but a district missionary arrived in the 1880s and organized a church in Ogden. First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City was built at 200 South and 200 West and dedicated in 1884.

Baptist evangelizing was most heavily concentrated in railroad and mining towns, but congregations gathered in Salt Lake City and Ogden, because the workers tended to be transient and moved wherever work was available.


Two Spanish priests, Fathers Dominguez and Escalante, explored the Territory in 1776 while seeking to expand missionary work among Native Americans. Their stay was temporary, and it would be almost 80 years before the Rev. Bonaventure Keller came to Camp Floyd in 1858. The Rev. John Foley was appointed Catholic pastor of the Territory in 1870, and the first church, St. Mary Magdalene, was built in 1871 in downtown Salt Lake City.

That was a forerunner of what Utahns now know as the Cathedral of the Madeleine, mother church of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, dedicated in August 1909 under the direction of Utah's first Catholic bishop, Lawrence Scanlan. During his 42-year tenure, Bishop Scanlan became one of the most influential leaders in Utah.

He not only oversaw construction of the cathedral, but the establishment of Holy Cross Hospital in 1875, St. Ann's Orphanage, Judge Memorial High School, St. Mary's of the Assumption Church in Park City as well as numerous schools.

Catholicism is now the state's second largest religious denomination, and Catholic Community Services plays an integral role in outreach to Utahns in need.


The Rev. Norman McLeod arrived in Salt Lake City in January 1865, dispatched by the American Home Missionary Society to evangelize among the Mormons, and preached the first non-LDS sermon in Daft's Hall at the invitation of the Gentile Young Men's Literary Association. His anti-Mormon preaching drew crowds to the Hall and to Fort Douglas on Sundays.

He collaborated with other non-LDS leaders to build Independence Hall on 300 South west of Main, and Catholic services began there in 1866, followed by Episcopal worship in 1867. Jewish and Masonic leaders also would use the building as their efforts expanded in the Salt Lake Valley.

The Rev. McLeod went east to raise money for his evangelism efforts, and testified before committees on territories in Washington, D.C., as well as lecturing on the alleged "Mormon problem" including polygamy.

Congregationalists found a segue into community life through education, establishing 28 schools that were free and open to all children.


The Right Rev. Daniel Tuttle arrived in 1867, two months after missionaries held their first services in May. Though he was Missionary Bishop of Montana, he spent 20 years in the Utah Territory, overseeing the opening of the first non-LDS school, St. Mark's Episcopal, in 1867, in a half-ruined adobe bowling alley. Rowland Hall, a boarding school for girls, was added in 1880.

Missionaries whom Tuttle had dispatched opened the first non-LDS church in Corinne, now northern Utah, in 1869, making it the "Gentile" center of the territory for several years.

St. Mark's Cathedral held its first worship services in 1870, and two years later, Bishop Tuttle opened St. Mark's Hospital at 500 East and 400 South, built specifically to care for miners, railroad workers and their families. Both institutions continue to serve Utahns today, though the hospital has been relocated several times and was sold to a private corporation. Rowland Hall continues as a private college prep school.


Business opportunities brought Julius Gerson Brooks and his wife, Fanny, to the territory in 1854. They were followed by German immigrants, also interested in commerce. In 1866, the first Jewish auxiliary had been formed and LDS Church President Brigham Young donated the initial portion of what became B'nai Israel Cemetery to the group.

The first synagogue was built by Congregation B'nai Israel west of Main Street in Salt Lake City. Over time, different factions of Judaism were introduced as the congregants pursued various interpretations of their faith.

In 1868, Simon Bamberger came to Utah and began investing in the railroad, mining and hotels, building a business and community reputation that would lead to his election as the state's first Democratic and non-Mormon governor in 1916.

In a unique act of communal agriculture, 150 Russian-Jewish families were dispatched from New York City and Philadelphia in 1911 and settled in what became known as Clarion, Sanpete County, to farm. The challenges were larger than expected, and the colony went bankrupt in 1917.


The Rev. A.N. Fisher preached the first Methodist sermon in Utah Territory in the newly completed Salt Lake Tabernacle at the invitation of Brigham Young in 1868. He opened the Utah Mission the following year, and shared space in Independence Hall with other Protestant faiths. Within four years, there were more than 100 Presbyterians and four churches in the area.

The Women's Home Missionary Society was founded in 1880 to establish schools, provide teachers and nurses, and lead a fight against polygamy. The founders received help in their efforts from America's first lady, Lucy Hayes.

By 1890, 67 percent of all youths attending secondary schools in the territory were enrolled in non-LDS schools, and a large number of those were Methodist-sponsored.


Seeking a Gentile base in the territory, the Rev. Sheldon Jackson arrived in Corinne in 1869 to establish a mission, holding his first worship service in the shadow of both Congregational an Episcopal churches, which had previously been built. Within five years, there were Presbyterian churches in Corinne, Salt Lake City and Alta.

Dr. J.M. Coyner arrived in 1875 and opened a school in the basement of the newly completed First Presbyterian Church on 200 South and 200 East, which became the forerunner of what is now Westminster College.

By 1883, church members had constructed 41 buildings in the Territory, including schools that enrolled nearly 1,800 students. When free public education was organized in 1890, the principal of the Presbyterian Salt Lake Collegiate Institute became the first superintendent of schools.