thumbnail of Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 4; 45 Stars
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<v Narrator>Tonight on Utah, the struggle for statehood, the darkest days of conflict in the Utah territory yield to the first light of compromise. Early days of the new decade of the 1990s produce a series of dramatic events that jar the people and institutions of the nation's most populated territory after years of social and political isolation. The people of Utah turn a corner in their history and press for the nation's 45th star. <v Announcer>Utah, the struggle for statehood was made possible by a major grant from Thiokol, a pioneer in the development of solid rocket motors for aerospace and precision fastening systems for aerospace and industrial markets worldwide. Thiokol symbolizing the American spirit of exploration.
<v Narrator>At the dawn of 1890, over 200000 people called the Utah territory home. It was a population that dwarfed the size of North Dakota, South Dakota or Montana, all admitted as states in 1889. And the reason that Utah remained outside the union was reflected in the census process. Utah was the only territory where religious affiliation was a mandatory disclosure. Nearly 70 percent of the population belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. And the government's assault against the Mormon Church over polygamy and political control of Utah was in full force. More than 1000 polygamy convictions have ground through the federal courts, deputies were seizing the property of the Mormon Church under the federal Edmunds Tucker Act. Utah society through the 80s had been deeply and angrily divided by religion affecting the economy, social life and the political heart of the territory. In their role as political referees, the Federal Utah commission had used a heavy handed to route some 15000 Mormons from the voting rolls. Each year the commission proudly reported to the national government the number of Mormons imprisoned on polygamy and the number barred from voting. The non Mormon liberal political party clearly benefited from the commission's rulings.
<v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>And they have the advantage because the Utah commission set up by Congress is charged mainly to oversee the elections and they're all Liberal Party members and they will favor the Liberal Party and when the Mormons appeal. It's usually on deaf ears. <v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>So by various means, you get those voting rolls shrunk pretty drastically by eighteen eighty nine, then add a little touch of fraud here and there and got quite a different kind of election. <v Narrator>Mormon political control in the territory, a foregone conclusion since 1847 was shattered in Ogden in 1889. The Liberal Party won control of Ogden City government amid Mormon charges of railroad workers stuffing the ballot box. <v The Ogden Standard read aloud>An hour before the polls closed, all the locomotives in the railroad yard began to whistle. How many Irish clamored down from cars and roofs and tendered? History does not estimate, but they streamed uptown and began to vote. They voted the payrolls of the Union Pacific, then reversing first and last names, they voted again. The Ogden Standard.
<v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>Well, 1890 comes along and there's an election in Salt Lake. Well, obviously, they knew what was going on in Ogden. And so the Mormons began to make statements about if you're going to hire some extra people, why don't you hire them now and bring them in? In other words, young farm boys from the country. <v Abraham Cannon actor>It is proposed that those states who could spare a young man and come to this city and acquire residence so as to be able to vote do so, and that we here provide employment and pay for such. Abraham Cannon. <v Narrator>Hundreds of young Mormon men were brought to Salt Lake City to work on construction projects like the new city and county building and to vote. Miners and rail workers made their way to the capital city and found their way to the polling booth. <v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>Everyone who studied that election just says, you know, there was just so much fraud on both sides. It's a sign of the desperation of the times because liberals were gaining in strength. <v The Salt Lake Tribune read aloud>We have met the enemy and they are ours. By a majority of 41, the city is redeemed from the hands of the Mormon Church that has squatted like a blight over the face of their fair land for 40 years. The Salt Lake Tribune.
<v Narrator>The non Mormon wins in Salt Lake City and Ogden were the most dramatic moments of political change in the Utah territory. To the leadership of the Mormon Church and President Wilford Woodruff, it was another indicator that their world was hanging by a thread. On December 23, 1889, the leadership of the Mormon Church called for a day of fasting and prayer among its members, the faithful were asked to pray for deliverance from the blows of the federal government aimed against polygamy and Mormon control of the Utah territory. Across the gulf that was religion in Utah, Non Mormons marked the end of the year with prayer services as well, urging Godspeed to the federal crackdown. In January of 1890, the federally appointed Utah Supreme Court ruled polygamist children could not inherit from their fathers, creating the sting of illegitimacy. Other federal courts refused to grant citizenship to Mormons moving beyond polygamy. But courts used religious affiliation as the basis for rejecting applications. But a more telling blow was delivered in February when the United States Supreme Court announced in its chambers that the new state of Idaho was perfectly free to strip all Mormons, polygamists or not, of their political rights.
<v Stephen Field actor>Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. Few crimes are more pernicious to the best interests of society and received more general or more deserved punishment. In our judgment, the statute of the Idaho territory is not open to any constitutional or legal objection. Stephen J. Field, Justice. <v Narrator>To Mormon observers, the court's decision in the Idaho case sent the chilling signal that any government could do anything it wanted to target the Mormon people. <v The Salt Lake Herald read aloud>A different decision than the one rendered would have been a surprise. The judgment in the Idaho case fully prepared. Everybody here to believe the Supreme Court was ready, willing and eager to go to any length to destroy the Mormon Church, The Salt Lake Herald. <v Narrator>But the 1890 Supreme Court was not finished with wide ranging opinions impacting the Utah territory. Attorneys for the Mormon Church had asked the court to block the government's seizure of church property. The seizures were viewed as an unconstitutional attack on a religion without precedent in the American experience. The court left little doubt where it stood on the matter.
<v Joseph Bradley actor>The existence of such a propaganda is a blot on our civilization. The organization of a community for the spread and practice of polygamy is, in any measure, a return to barbarism. It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world. Joseph Bradley, justice. <v Narrator>In two decisions handed down within weeks of each other in 1890, United States Supreme Court, in effect, freed government to do whatever was deemed necessary to break the Mormon Church, and Congress accepted the offer. As soon as the decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court reached Utah, a delegation of non Mormons raced from the territory to Washington to demand a new national law, stripping the Mormon people of their political rights. They found a willing ally in Senator Shelby Cullom of Illinois.
<v Shelby Cullom actor>Polygamy has gone hand in hand with murder, idolatry and every secret abomination. Instead of being a holy principal receiving the sanction of heaven, it is an institution founded in the lustful and unbridled passions of men devised by Satan himself to destroy purity. Senator Shelby Cullom of Illinois. <v Narrator>Cullom viewed his bill as the hammer to strike against the anvil provided by the Supreme Court. It sought for the first time in American history to take away voting and political office from a class of people because of their religious affiliation. A penalty for beliefs, not action. Religious leaders and the Utah commission endorsed the Cullom bill, and Territorial Governor Arthur Thomas, a former member of the commission, traveled to Washington to plead for stripping political power from three quarters of the people in his territory. <v Arthur Thomas actor>Personally speaking, for all the loyal citizens of Utah. I favor any legislation which will crush Mormon power. The government could not too soon take decisive action. Governor Arthur Thomas.
<v Narrator>The clamor for the bill became so frenzied that the newly formed a nondenominational Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce petitioned Congress and the president to stop Shelby Cullom. <v Fred Simon actor>To punish your man and make him an outcast because he happens to belong to a religious sect which teaches certain things which he himself may not believe is making a precedent so far reaching that it can only terminate by gradually disenfranchizing the Catholic for believing too much and the infidel for believing too little. Fred Simon Vice president Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. <v Narrator>With Congress and the White House under the control of the Republican Party, the Mormon Church realized it would have to make a dramatic change in political direction if it were to stop the Cullom bill. <v Abraham Cannon actor>The Democrats, when they had the power to do us good, were afraid and betrayed us so that we feel as though the Republican Party should be tried to see if they will be fair to us. Abraham Cannon.
<v Tom Alexander, Historian>So you have this opening into the Republican Party, something that the Mormons had not done before. They'd worked almost exclusively with the Democrats because most of these pieces of Mormon legislation had been passed by by Republicans. But Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon realize that before Utah can achieve statehood, they are going to have to get support from the Republican Party. <v Narrator>When George Q. Cannon served as Utah's delegate to Congress, he insisted on sitting with the Democrats. But with the future on the line, Cannon started working back channels to the Republicans. <v George Q. Cannon actor>The Republican Party are becoming more favorably impressed with regard to the importance of securing Mormon votes and influence. George Q. Cannon. <v Narrator>A dependable, if somewhat unscrupulous guide to Republican votes was Isaac Trumbo, part of the California based lobby run by railroad baron and Senator Leland Stanford. <v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>He is a very persuasive lobbyist and totally committed to the church leaders. And for eight years, he is the chief lobbyist for Utah statehood. Some of his methods are a little rough and uncouth. Those would be more blatant subsidization of newspapers and maybe blocks of votes that needed to be bought. George Q. Cannon understands it. I think he brings the others into it far enough that they appropriate the money that gets them fully involved in that Leland Stanford led lobby. But it is dirty.
<v Narrator>George Q. Cannon Traveled to Washington to meet with an old colleague in an effort to head off Shelby Cullom's Bill. Secretary of State James Blaine and other Republicans viewed the Mormon people as a key to political success in the West, but Blaine told Cannon that holding off the latest anti Mormon bill was not a permanent solution. <v James G. Blaine actor>Believe me, it is not possible for any people as weak and no is yours to set themselves up as superior to the majesty of a nation like this. We may succeed this time in preventing your disenfranchisement, but nothing permanent can be done until you get into line. James G. Blaine. <v Narrator>Blain's warning in the summer of 1890, came as the Mormon Church was reeling from the blow of having its property seized and the crippling effects of a national economic depression. The federally appointed receiver added insult to injury by offering to lease the seized property back to the church at exorbitant rates. Wilford Woodruff's public statements that the Mormon Church was now discouraging, if not prohibiting polygamy had little effect on the sequence of events.
<v Michael Quinn, Historian>The last straw for Wilford Woodruff was when federal authorities told him at the end of August 1890 that they were going to confiscate the temples. And so he was faced at this point with either giving up the temples, which were the highest manifestation of Mormon ordinances, or giving up the practice of plural marriage, which God had said was immutable. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>A subpoena is issued for Wilford Woodruff to come in and testify in a case that's going to involve the confiscation of the church temple prophet. <v Narrator>Woodruff and George Buchanon slipped out of town to avoid being served with a subpoena, traveling to California and met with leading figures in the National Republican Party who told them the same thing that the secretary of state had told them just months before. <v James G. Blaine actor>The Lord give them the Lord taketh away. Wouldn't it be possible for your people to find some way without disobedience to the commandments of God to bring yourself into harmony with the law and institutions of this country? James G. Blaine, Secretary of State.
<v Narrator>On the return trip to Utah, Woodruff knew that his next public step could seal the fate of his religion and the 40 years of effort that had built the Utah territory. But before he could act, the Utah commission dropped the political bomb in its 1890 report to the national government. <v Utah Commission Report>The commission is in receipt of reports from its registration officers, which enumerate 41 male persons who it is believed have entered into polygamy since June of 1889. <v Narrator>The report, in effect, called Wilford Woodruff a liar for saying plural marriage had been discouraged. What was not investigated was the fact that the Utah commission had used unverified anti Mormon informants and newspaper obituaries to compile its error filled report. But the facts were of little consequence. In mid-September of 1890, the Utah commission and Congress were demanding even tougher efforts to break the Mormon Church and reorder the Utah territory.
<v Frank J. Cannon actor>Brother George Q. Cannon and brother John T. Cain and the other brethren who had been in Washington had found that the situation of the church was critical. Brother Franklin Richards had advised that our last legal defense had fallen. Frank J. Cannon. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>I have arrived at a point in the history of my life. As the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church. Wilford Woodruff. <v Narrator>On September 24th, 1890, a lengthy telegram was rushed in to the Associated Press news bureau in Chicago. In the statement, which was soon labeled a manifesto, Wilford Woodruff announced that the struggle was over. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>To whom it may concern. It is not just laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort. I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, to use my influence with the members of the church over which I preside have them do likewise. Wilford Woodruff.
<v Narrator>Within two weeks, Woodruff was standing before a general meeting of the Mormon people in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>The step which I have taken in issuing the manifesto has not been done without earnest prayer before the Lord. It is not wisdom for us to make war upon 65 million people. It is not wisdom for us to go forth and carry out this principle against the law of the nation and receive the consequences. <v Narrator>For some observers, the announcement of the end of polygamy was akin to announcing a reduction in the number of commandments. <v Annie Gardner actor>I was in the Tabernacle the day of the manifesto, and I tell you, it was an awful feeling. There President Woodruff read the manifesto that made me no longer a wife. It might make me homeless, but I voted for it because it was the only thing to do. I raised my hand and voted a thing that would make me an unlawful wife. Annie Gardner. <v Lorina Washburne Larssen actor>It seemed impossible that the Lord would go back on a principle which had caused so much sacrifice, heartache and trial. I thought that if the Lord and the church authorities had gone back on that principle, there was nothing to any part of the gospel. Lorina Washburne Larssen.
<v Narrator>The discontent was so widespread that the Deseret News ran a series of articles urging the Mormon people to be reasonable. <v The Deseret News read aloud>Which is the wisest course for the Latter day Saints to pursue, to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage with the laws of the nation against it, at the cost of confiscation and the loss of all the temples? Or after doing and suffering what we have through adherence to this principle, to cease the practice and submit to the law? The Deseret News. <v Narrator>The reaction of the non Mormon population was split, with the Salt Lake Tribune arguing that the manifesto was a ploy to end the federal crackdown. <v The Salt Lake Tribune read aloud>We could not resist the thought that this was not prompted by President Woodruff at all, but that it was prompted by shrewd men in the church about the object is purely political. The Salt Lake Tribune. <v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>And in fact, in the next conference talks, Woodruff and Cannon both say we've got to convince these government officials that we're sincere, avoid the very appearance of cohabitation. You can do it if you can keep it secret, but do not get caught.
<v Narrator>To convince decision makers in Washington, Delegate John Cain had 1000 copies of the manifesto printed. He dashed from newspapers to the Senate to the White House, telling anyone who would listen that the Mormons had changed. <v John Cain actor>The proclamation of President Woodruff is entitled to great weight in any consideration which you would give this subject. In fact, the letter of President Woodruff seems not only conclusive, but to be the very result at which the government has been aiming so long. John Cain. <v Narrator>Within a month, even adamant anti Mormon voices were acknowledging that the manifesto was a major breakthrough for the Utah territory. <v Arthur Thomas actor>I think the ultimate effect of this act will greatly benefit the territory. It may lead in time to the formation of political parties. Legitimate politics will be discussed. Individuals will vote according to their personal interests and opinions instead of the interests of an organization. Governor Arthur Thomas. <v Narrator>There was incredible confusion in the details of the Woodroffe manifesto. Did it end previous plural marriage or just stop new ones? Were the Mormon colonies in Mexico and Canada exempt since they were beyond the law of the land the manifesto promised to honor? It would take decades to resolve the issues once and for all. But there was little doubt as 1890 drew to a close that Wilford Woodruff, in one telegram had set the Mormon people and the Utah territory on a new path. For 40 years, the goal had been statehood, always elusive and often unlikely admission to the union had routinely stumbled over the public revulsion to polygamy. While the Woodroffe manifesto seemed to clear the polygamy hurdle, Congress still demanded a complete dismantling of the church and state relationship that had formed Brigham Young's vision of the kingdom of God on Earth. Woodruff completed the work started by John Taylor to remove the Mormon church from economic control. Sanction boycotts of non Mormon businesses were abandoned and the cooperative stores reflected free competition rather than collective price fixing, the Utah territory then turned its attention to the sorry state of public schools.
<v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>I think the school's subject probably bothered people more than than you see in the average book of Utah history, because the earliest schools were kind of a mishmash. I hadn't realized that until I did a little research in it. They were kind of a mishmash of Mormon church ward schools and public schools that were poorly financed. <v Narrator>Utah's Free Public School Act of 1890 created a school system apart from the Mormon Church, but would only apply to the elementary school years. But the greatest consequence was the requirement that Utah abandon its territorial infighting and enter the national political arena. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>There has to be a basis for politics other than religion here, and it means that both Mormons and non Mormons have to join the national political parties. <v Narrator>Politics in the Utah territory had been based solely on religious affiliation for 20 years, a process that started to end in 1891.
<v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>The People's Party is dissolved. Partly by church fiat. The Liberal Party is split over a movement called the American Protective Association. It's an anti Catholic movement and it hits Utah hard. And it splits the liberals founded by some Irish Catholics who control the Tribune, the Liberal Party dies. Then it's strictly Democrats and Republicans and Utah's ready for statehood. They've Americanized properly. <v Narrator>But which political party? The Mormons had long been considered aligned with the Democrats, if only for the fact that the Republican Party was so strongly against polygamy. But political promises had been made during the years of lobbying the Republicans back in Washington. <v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>They had made a number of deals, so to speak, or implied deals with national Republican leadership, when for years the Republicans were in the ascendancy. And we all like to go with the team that seems to have the best chance of winning. And then also they they didn't simply didn't want the appearance of the same old things that they were trying, the same old image they were trying to shed.
<v Joseph Smith actor>We have received the strongest admonition from our Republican friends that we must not allow this territory to go strongly Democratic. It is favored that John Henry Smith go on the stump so as to convince the people that a man could be a Republican and still be a saint. Joseph Smith. <v Narrator>Saying he was doing the Lord's work, Mormon apostle John Henry Smith willingly went on the stump promoting the Republican Party. It was possible to be a good Mormon and a good Republican. Another sign of political balance came in a backhanded fashion. Religious denominations that had fought Mormon political control were now aghast at the conditions in Salt Lake City after the Liberal Party had won local control in 1890. <v Members of Methodist Church of Salt Lake City>There are now over 80 saloons in this city kept open on the Sabbath and selling liquor to minors. Contrary to law, the laws against gambling houses and brothels are broken with impunity. Therefore, it is the sense of the congregation that the city government should strictly enforce existing laws and no more saloons should be licensed by the city. Members of the Methodist Church of Salt Lake City, December 29th, 1890.
<v Narrator>There was a growing sense that some measure beyond religious affiliation should be used to elect candidates. The Utah reforms on polygamy, the economy, schools and politics started to make an impact on national public opinion. <v The Boston Globe read aloud>The territory of Utah is knocking at the door of the union and demanding statehood, the demand should be granted. The Boston Globe. <v Narrator>But with reelection looming in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison refused to consider statehood for Utah. <v Benjamin Harrison actor>The legislation of Congress for the repression of polygamy has, after years of resistance on their part, at last brought them to the conclusion that resistance is unprofitable and unavailing. The power of Congress over the subject should not be surrendered until we have satisfactory evidence that the people of the state to be created would exercise the exclusive power of the state over this subject. <v Narrator>In the same way, fearing a public backlash if you looked soft on polygamy, Harrison demanded more proof that Utah had become appropriately Americanized. In 1893, Chicago held a world's fair to celebrate the five 100th anniversary of Columbus's exploration of the new world.
<v Carol Madsen, Historian>The celebration was a year late, but it was well worth waiting because it was a major event in American history, but it had particular meaning in Utah. <v Narrator>It was an opportunity to showcase the new Utah, Mormon and non Mormon side by side. It represented an extraordinary gamble for the territory in the Mormon Church. Utah was deep in the grips of a national economic depression. Businesses and investments had collapsed and the situation was so bleak that former Salt Lake City Mayor William Jennings committed suicide over his losses. The church was unable to pay its workers, paying them instead in food from the tithing storehouse usually reserved for the poor. But Utah extended itself to build a large exhibit hall in Chicago and commissioned a new full length statue of Brigham Young for exhibition. From morning till night, representatives of the territory shook hands with visitors, affirmed the new path away from polygamy, and extolled the patriotism and enterprise of the Utah territory.
<v The Salt Lake Tribune read aloud>The crowd at the fair today was estimated to be nearly 250000. Honors have fallen thick on Utah's head. President R.C. Chambers, head of the fair, made a speech about this being the ninth day of September, the day on which Utah was organized as a territory. Forty three years ago, the citizens of our Commonwealth are gathered here at the World's Fair to celebrate that event with the people of each State of the Union, special correspondent, the Salt Lake Tribune. <v Narrator>It was, by all accounts, an astonishing political and public relations success. <v Carol Madsen, Historian>And the whole Americanization process, as many historians have characterized it, I think began at that point. What began politically when we adopted the political the national political parties in 1891. But but I think the feel of belonging to America really began with that Chicago Exposition. <v Narrator>The Chicago Exposition triggered reconciliation between feuding Mormons and non Mormons in the Utah territory, with women playing pivotal roles.
<v Carol Madsen, Historian>As I read the documents and the records in the women's writings from that period. I am amazed at how quickly women who were so bitterly hostile to each other living as neighbors in a community for two decades, could so immediately come together and take on the kind of civic and social and community interest that women elsewhere in the country had been doing for for many, many decades. But religion had always divided the women of Utah. <v Narrator>Suddenly, the Utah territory was awash in symbolism for a new era. Congress cut off funds for the failed venture of the Women's Christian Industrial Home after it had housed only a handful of disaffected, plural wives. Deseret University symbolically changed its name to the University of Utah. The government slowly started to release its stranglehold on Mormon church property. And in 1893, the Mormon Church dedicated the Salt Lake Temple. The temple's construction had been a measure of the territory surging forward in its construction, then stalling during the years of conflict with the federal government and finally reaching completion after 40 difficult years. For all the progress, there was much unfinished business, men and women were still on the underground polygamist, remained in the territorial penitentiary and life in the territory was still far from normal.
<v Wilford Woodruff actor>People are scattered, homes are desolate, many are still in prison. Others are banished or in hiding. Our hearts bleed for these shepherds of a patient suffering people. We ask amnesty for them and pledge our faith and honor for their future. Wilford Woodruff. <v Narrator>Facing a tough reelection campaign in 1892, Benjamin Harrison slipped the petition for amnesty into his pocket and did his best to forget it. It symbolized how national politics would control Utah's final steps toward statehood on one hand. Both parties wanted to appear tough on crushing Mormon polygamy. And on the other, both parties recognize that Mormon votes could swing four or five states. <v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>And that's exactly what the lobbyists are saying. They're saying, hey, if we treat them fairly, we'll have not just one Mormon state, but maybe eight or 10 senators. And they may hold the balance of power in the next presidential election.
<v Narrator>For the first time, Utah's political power was being valued. It was a change in standing that was poignantly reflected in an episode with President Harrison. As Election Day neared, Harrison's wife fell critically ill, ushered into the Oval Office for a meeting. Representatives of the Mormon Church were asked by a shaken president if they would please pray for his wife's well-being. Despite Harrison's refusal to grant amnesty, church leadership responded with a special prayer service. One week before the election, the wife of the president died. <v Letter read aloud>We appeal to the supreme being who holds the destiny of us all in his hands. To bless, comfort and sustain you. In this year of great trial and Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon and Joseph Smith. <v Narrator>Harrison lost the election, but the little noted exchange indicated a dramatic shift in the fortunes of the Mormon Church and the Utah territory in the nation's capital. In one of his last acts as president, Harrison granted a limited amnesty to Mormons prosecuted for polygamy. Internally, the territory was still not at peace. As momentum built for statehood, a number of groups dug in their heels to resist admission, asking newly seated President Grover Cleveland to save the non-Mormon's from a Mormon majority.
<v The Utah Presbyterian read aloud>Under territorial government, there has been secured to our safety of property and person and a high degree of prosperity. We therefore pray that the prerogatives of your high office may be exercised for the prevention of statehood. The Utah Presbyterian. <v Narrator>But other non Mormon spoke of the need for reconciliation. One of the most surprising was Frank Dyer, a former U.S. marshal and the receiver of confiscated church property who had been a despised symbol of the federal crackdown. <v Frank Dyer actor>As a liberal, I had stood by those who told the Mormons that when they ceased the practice of polygamy, abandon their church party, obey the laws, they would gladly welcome them and treat them as Americans. Now, then, in the name of God, justice and all fair dealings, have they not complied with every request? I most emphatically say yes.
<v Narrator>By December 1893, an enabling act to create the state of Utah was on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington. It outlined the terms for admission to the union. <v Utah Enabling Act read aloud>First, that perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured provided that polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited. The Utah Enabling Act. <v Narrator>Only two representatives spoke against the bill. <v Elias Morse actor>I am opposed to admitting the territory of Utah as a state in the history of Mormonism, as a history of superstition, licentiousness, murder and crime. That is a disgrace to civilization and one of the foulest black blocs on the pages of history. Representative Elias Morse, Massachusetts. <v Narrator>Confident he had the vote locked up, Utah delegate Joseph Rawlins looked past Elias Morse and made a simple plea for a vote. <v Joseph Rawlins actor>If there is any reason on Earth why Utah should longer be kept out of the union, I am unable to conceive of it. I ask the vote of this House that Utah be speedily admitted.
<v Narrator>On December 13th, 1893, the House of Representatives voted to admit the state of Utah. In 1894, Grover Cleveland issued a broad amnesty and pardon for Mormons convicted of polygamy, returning to full political rights, stripped by their convictions. The pardons by Harrison and Cleveland had assumed that Mormons were abandoning the practice of plural marriage as well as engaging in any further marriages. But in the 15 years following the Woodroffe manifesto, 11 of the church's highest leaders would father 76 children with nearly 30 plural wives. The territory's economy continued to slump in the grips of the national depression and fear spread when word circulated that an army of unemployed men from California was making its way to Washington by way of Utah.
<v The Salt Lake Herald read aloud>It is easy to imagine what the effects would be of a vast number of hungry and desperate men marching through towns, taking possession of trains, spreading dismay and disorder and looting where they cannot back the supplies they need. The Salt Lake Herald. <v Narrator>The newly formed Utah National Guard, was called out, and when the gathering of destitute men reached the territory, they were pushed along, arrested if they attempted to stop or publicize their demands for economic relief. Tensions flared a second time in 1894 when Colorado bands of the Ute nation were uprooted in a scheme motivated by land. Speculators promised a new homeland in Utah. The Utes eventually moved themselves to San Juan County and immediately fell into conflict with the local settlers. Eventually, negotiations convinced the bands to return to Colorado, but mutual distrust and occasional violence would mar the relationship of whites and the varied bands of the people well into the 20th century. The conflict stood in dramatic counterpoint to the deafening silence coming from the United States Senate on Utah's bid for admission after the dramatic victory in the House, Utah's admission had virtually stalled. A Senate Republicans and Democrats struggled for political gain.
<v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>As the Republicans gained more and more support among the Mormons, the Democrats who have won statehood all of the time become less excited about Utah statehood. They insist on a concession from the Republicans that Utah statehood will not actually come until after that term of Congress, the beginning of ninety six. And the Republicans know they can't get it any other way. So they go along with that agreement. <v Narrator>It was crass political maneuvering, but it cleared the way for the Senate Committee on territories to endorse Utah's admission. <v Charles Faulkner actor>There can certainly be but one sentiment, but one opinion among all just minded legislators in Congress upon the question of duty, and that is to admit Utah as a state into the federal union. Your committee recommended that the bill does pass. Senator Charles James Faulkner. <v Narrator>On July 10th, 1894, the Senate of the United States voted to create the state of Utah. There were only two negative votes in a body that seven years before had vowed to crush the territory because of the predominant faith.
<v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>So it's amazing how successfully. The lobbyists, the newspaper industry and others have changed public opinion. No politician is going to vote for Utah statehood if he believes his constituents are still opposed to it. And they've said so, they've said you've got to change public opinion and it has been done even with the Protestant church publications, it's amazing lobbying. <v Narrator>On July 16th, President Grover Cleveland signed the Utah Enabling Act into law. <v The Deseret News read aloud>The enactment of the law, though long delayed, is nonetheless welcome now. The hearts of all friends of Utah swell with gratitude today that our fair territory has been at last accorded her just due as an interval portion of the United States, the Deseret News. <v Narrator>The territory, through a great statehood celebration at the new salt air resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. But two hurdles remain, one well rehearsed and one that would stun the Utah territory in its final days. The Utah territory had to prepare a state constitution that would pass muster with Congress, it would be Utah's seventh constitutional convention, a dubious record unmatched in the nation. Congress essentially dictated the terms, an absolute prohibition against polygamy and schools, economy and government free of church control.
<v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>They met down in the newly completed city and county building, which has been just completed the year before. But anyway, that that was the setting and it was a nice big room. It was a courtroom that was supposedly going to be the civil courtroom. But somehow they wound up in a room that had criminal courtroom ribbon written over the door, which caused a good many jokes at the time, <v Narrator>107 delegates packed in Mormon and non Mormon, new Democrats and new Republicans. And they started thinking about the future of Utah. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>And essentially what the constitutional convention does is to begin to map out what Utah is going to look like in this age that goes beyond religious conflict. <v Narrator>Under the direction of John Henry Smith. The convention was able to ease through most controversies until it came to the right of women to vote. <v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>And they got there and some of the old animosities of Mormon and non Mormon and fear that, again, you're going to build up that electorate. And, you know, if a man has four wives, he's going to have five votes and you just begin to bring all these old fears up. And that occupied more time than anything else and became quite rancorous at times.
<v Narrator>With the women of the territory fiercely campaigning for political rights, the convention overwhelmingly approved the right of women to vote. After two months, the work was done and the convention adjourned on May 6th and controversy immediately followed. Sarah Anderson of Ogden demanded the right of women to vote in the ratification election for the new constitution. She fought all the way to the Utah Supreme Court on election eve. <v Utah Supreme Court>The oath of the Edmunds Tucker Act applies to all territorial elections and forbids her to register. The act prohibiting women's suffrage is applicable to all territorial elections and forbids her to vote. The Utah Supreme Court. <v Narrator>Besides ratifying the Constitution, the election was designed to produce Utah's first state officials, including Senators Isaac Trumbo, assumed this was to be as payback for eight years of lobbying for the Mormon Church.
<v Edward Leo Lyons, Historian>Trumbo knows the promises that have been made, the debts that have been incurred, including huge promises of financial gain once statehood comes through, railroad and salt company and power plants and mine development in Utah. As the church leaders realize the debts that have been incurred, they distance themselves from Trumbo. <v Narrator>Trumbo support evaporated and he was cast aside. But the worst moment in the final bid for statehood was a self-inflicted wound. One month before the election, high ranking Mormon Church official Joseph Smith publicly criticized fellow Mormons Moses Thatcher as a candidate for Senate and Brigham Roberts as a candidate for Congress. Since both were Democrats, it was soon interpreted that the church was instructing its members to vote Republican. The worst message Utah could send when Congress was demanding the separation of church and state.
<v Orlando Powers actor>The only fear I have is that the unattached vote in this territory will believe what they hear and vote against our party. The nation might believe that the voters here are swayed not by argument or reason, but by blind obedience to those in authority. That's leading the president to deny a proclamation for statehood. Orlando Powers. <v Narrator>Church President Wilford Woodruff was forced to offer statements pleading political neutrality. But on Election Day, Republicans won every government post and big majorities in the legislature. And almost as a sidelight, the Constitution was ratified by a substantial margin. While politics scarred the final days of the Utah territory, there was a clear sense of a new day dawning. <v Charles Barrett actor>All the dead past has been buried. Nothing remains but to set our faces for the rising sun of the future. We have fought the good fight. We have kept the faith. Charles ?Barrett?
<v Narrator>On January 4th, 1896, Territorial Governor Caleb West and Utah Senator designate Frank Cannon hurried to the White House. They plan to join President Grover Cleveland in the Oval Office for a ceremonial signing of Utah statehood proclamation. As they sat in the waiting room, Cleveland walked out of his office with the sign proclamation in his hand and sheepishly gave his pen to the men as a consolation prize. <v Grover Cleveland actor>I, Grover Cleveland, president of the United States of America, do hereby declare and proclaim that the terms and conditions prescribed by Congress have been fully complied with and that the creation of said state and its admission into the union is now accomplished. <v The Salt Lake Herald read aloud>The click of the Telegraph conveyed to Manager Brown of the Western Union the news for which the people of Utah had been hoping the past 45 years. The Flash indicated the signing of the statehood proclamation. Mr. Brown then started the excitement by firing two shots on Main Street in front of the Western Union office. Bedlam broke loose. Hundreds who heard the shots hastened toward the scene. The cry statehood has been proclaimed to the happy acclaims was soon out of the tooting of whistles. Bells rang everywhere. The swarming crowds filled the streets, shouting and laughing. The Salt Lake Herald.
<v The Deseret News read aloud>What Utah desires is Americanism, pure and simple. In its broadest form. She desires tranquility, union prosperity for all the people. The Deseret News. <v Narrator>January 6th was set as the date for inaugurating Utah's elected officials and celebrating the birth of the nation's 45 state. <v Song>["Utah We Love Thee" plays]. <v Narrator>The Mormon Tabernacle was draped with an enormous flag and a special 1000 boys choir was assembled to sing a hymn that was specially written for the occasion. The song was eventually adopted as the state song. Utah, We Love Thee. Wilford Woodruff was invited to offer an opening prayer. But at the last minute, the frail 90 year old Mormon Church president asked Councilor George Q. Cannon to deliver the prayer in his place.
<v George Q. Cannon actor>And may the privileges of free government be extended to every land until tyranny and oppression shall be broken down to rise no more, until all nations shall unite for the common good that war may seize and the voice of strife hushed. <v Narrator>It was a time and place of deliverance and great irony, Brigham Young had used the Tabernacle pulpit to rally his followers in the face of government pressure. Now, youthful Heber Wells stepped to the same podium to take the oath of office as Utah's first governor. Wells was the son of Daniel H. Wells, commander of the territorial militia called to arms to repel the federal army in 1857. And now, 39 years later, Governor Heber Wells pledged his faith to the United States as he took the oath of office from Judge Charles S. Zane, who had sent hundreds of Mormons to prison over polygamy. <v Heber Wells actor>We have been received into a great sisterhood of states. Our representatives will sit in the councils of the nation. We've been given a voice in the selection of the president. We are now endowed with self-government in state and local affairs with a deep sense of gratitude. We cherish these great privileges. Our patriotism must never falter. Our allegiance to the national government will ever remain supreme.
<v Narrator>Unaware of protocol, but determined to make a patriotic gesture, the Mormon Church unveiled an enormous American flag on the side of the Salt Lake Temple. A parade marched through downtown, and Republicans and Democrats both took credit for Utah's admission. That night, Wilford Woodruff retired to his room, ill and tired. Almost 50 years earlier, his wagon had carried Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley for the first time. His eyes had seen the territory grow and the conflict rage. On January 6th, 1896, he wrote to lines in his journal. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>I feel to thank God that I have lived to see Utah admitted into the family of states. It is an event that we have looked forward to for a generation.
<v Narrator>The end of any era forms the beginning of the next and the end of Utah struggle for statehood was no exception. Politics would trouble the new state, Arthur Brown would serve two years as a United States senator before returning to Utah amid charges of improper conduct in Washington. He was killed by a disgruntled mistress in 1906. Frank Cannon would be voted out as a senator after one short term, quit the Mormon Church, and become a crusading anti Mormon editor for the Salt Lake Tribune. Brigham Roberts, singled out by Joseph Smith for criticism in 1895, would be elected to Congress in 1898, only to be denied his seat for his ongoing relationship with three wives. Charles Zane would be elected by the people to the Utah state Supreme Court in a tangible act of reconciliation. But Rutger Closson, sentenced by Zane to the longest prison term for polygamy, would go to his grave, affirming his belief in the principle. Joseph Smith would finally end the controversy over plural marriage for the Mormon Church when he offered an adamant second manifesto in 1984. But adherence to the plural marriage doctrine would endure outside of the church. And John W. Young, one time apostle and Washington dealmaker, would die penniless, working in New York City as an elevator operator. Statehood meant Utah was fully engaged in the responsibilities and the politics of governance at the turn of the century, an enduring symbol of how seriously the state took those responsibilities came during the brief Spanish American war. Just two years after statehood, 800 Utah men volunteered to fight for their country under the leadership of Captain Richard Young, a grandson of Brigham Young. 15 of the soldiers died of fighting or disease in the Philippines, and they were buried with honors in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Utah's commitment to the defense of the nation would never again be questioned. It was a path to statehood unique in the history of the nation, born of a spiritual purpose shaped by the landscape, defined and honed by conflict, sustained by faith and delivered by its dream of being part of the United States. A place of immigrants in a nation of immigrants, differences giving way to the common bonds of family, future and country, judge Orlando Powers had symbolized the pre statehood conflict in Utah, sending polygamists to prison and lashing out at the political actions of the Mormon Church. In turn, Mormons considered powers a bigoted, power hungry political animal. Shortly after statehood, Orlando Powers spoke of Utah.
Utah: The Struggle for Statehood
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No. 4
45 Stars
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Contributing Organization
PBS Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This program tells the story of how Utah became a state. This is episode 4, 45 Stars. This episode covers the major social and political changes that took place in Utah during the 1890s which finally lead to it becoming the 45th state. It is broken up into sections, which detail loss of Mormon political control in Ogden and Salt Lake City in 1890, court rulings and legislation that stripped rights from Mormons, Church President Wilfred Woodruff's manifesto ending plural marriage, political and social changes in Utah leading to statehood, the success of Utah's exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, growth in Utah's political power and ramifications of the crackdown on polygamy, the final events in 1894 and 1895 leading to statehood, and finally, Utah becoming a state. Interviews with historians are interspersed with historical reenactments, drawings, documents, and photographs from the period, and quotes from important diaries and journals.
Series Description
"January, 1996 marked the 100th anniversary of Utah's admission to the Union. Starting three years in advance of that date, public television station KUED of Salt Lake City committed unprecedented station resources to crafting a documentary series to [chronicle] the state's long, embattled path to the nation's 45th star. "The resulting documentary, UTAH: THE STRUGGLE FOR STATEHOOD, debuted in January, 1996 to critical acclaim and record-setting public television audiences. Drawing on twelve outstanding historians and more than eighty community leaders serving as guest narrators, the documentary emerged as a powerful story of epic issues balanced with intimate portraits of common people in uncommon times. "Adopted by the Utah State Office of Education to teach history in the public schools of Utah, UTAH: THE STRUGGLE FOR STATEHOOD is consistent with the highest standards of integrity, balance and service in American broadcasting. The program demonstrates the unique and durable contribution a television station can make to the education of the public when it merges foresight and commitment with its technical abilities to document the past as a means of understanding the present."--1996 Peabody Awards entry form.
Part 4 of 4 In honor of Utahs centemial, the 4 part series chronicles the states 50-year path to becoming the Unions 45th state on January 4, 1896.
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Producer: Verdoia, Ken
Producing Organization: KUED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: cpb-aacip-c5988489305 (Filename)
Format: D3
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:54:25:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-b9e1e3cc838 (Filename)
Format: Betacam: SP
Duration: 1:00:00
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Chicago: “Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 4; 45 Stars,” 1996-01-04, PBS Utah, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 4; 45 Stars.” 1996-01-04. PBS Utah, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 4; 45 Stars. Boston, MA: PBS Utah, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from