Mormonism's Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart

Mormonism's Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart

Mormonism's Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart

Mormonism's Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart


Winner of the Evans Handcart Prize 2009
Winner of the Mormon History Assn Best Biography Award 2009

By the early twentieth century, the era of organized Mormon colonization of the West from a base in Salt Lake City was all but over. One significant region of Utah had not been colonized because it remained in Native American hands--the Uinta Basin, site of a reservation for the Northern Utes. When the federal government decided to open the reservation to white settlement, William H. Smart--a nineteenth-century Mormon traditionalist living in the twentieth century, a polygamist in an era when it was banned, a fervently moral stake president who as a youth had struggled mightily with his own sense of sinfulness, and an entrepreneurial businessman with theocratic, communal instincts--set out to ensure that the Uinta Basin also would be part of the Mormon kingdom.

Included with the biography is a searchable CD containing William H. Smart's extensive journals, a monumental personal record of Mormondom and its transitional period from nineteenth-century cultural isolation into twentieth-century national integration.


Many people have made this book possible; they will be acknowledged shortly. But one man’s contribution was absolutely indispensable—that of William H. Smart himself.

This was a man who for fifty-one years faithfully recorded his actions, his thoughts, and the social, religious, economic, and political environment in which he lived. He unblinkingly recorded the torment, failures, and guilt of his addiction-ridden early adulthood years; the meteoric rise of his fortune and self-discipline during his few years as a Cache Valley sheepman; the challenges, successes, and failures of shepherding the temporal as well as spiritual development of Utah’s last frontier during two decades of virtually full-time service as president, in turn, of four Mormon stakes; his frequent interaction with the church’s First Presidency and political leaders during that intensely productive period; and his slide into poverty and the test of character and faith he met during his final fifteen years of living in straitened circumstances.

He made almost daily entries, except during his few wealth-building years as a sheepman, when he frequently summarized at length the activities of weeks-long gaps. His journals are the essential raw material of which this biography is primarily built.

There are fifty volumes, occupying 4.75 feet of archival shelf space and five microfilm reels in the University of Utah’s Marriott Library’s Special Collections (with photocopies in the archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). a few are odd-sized, but most are 4½ × 7, 5 × 7½, or 5½ × 9 inches, bound in red or black leather. Most contain two hundred pages, and almost all are filled cover to cover with Smart’s legible but usually small and crowded handwriting, invariably in black ink. Only rarely does the ink’s . . .

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