Utah's History

By Thomas G. Alexander; Eugene E. Campbell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 36 An American Commonwealth

Richard D. Poll

Utah's experience has been in many respects unique, as these chapters have abundantly demonstrated. Not only have the ties--and tensions--between church and state been unprecedented in scope and duration in American history, but the Mormon thread has been the preoccupation of most of the historians who have worked with the records of the Beehive State. It may be appropriate, therefore, that Utah's History close with a reminder that for all its distinctiveness, the forty-fifth state has much in common with her sisters. For, as S. George Ellsworth emphasizes in Utah's Heritage ( 1972). "The history of Utah and the history of the United States have always run side by side. Utah history cannot properly be considered separately."

This judgment may be validated by going back to the recorded beginnings--noting in passing that the people of Utah's prehistory belong to the epic of the American southwest, which anthropologists are gradually piecing together.

As the bicentennial commemorations of the Dominguez- Escalante expedition noted, Utah's documented story is as old as the United States. But for accidental delays, the, two Franciscan padres and their companions would have left Santa Fe on the very day that the founding fathers were adopting the Declaration of Independence. Washington was in retreat and the prospects for the new nation were bleak when the little band of missionary explorers bade farewell to the Indians of Utah Valley on September 25, 1776, promising to return within a year. Had they done so, Utah's history might be merged in the American chronicle with that of New Mexico or California.

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