Y Facts

Brigham Young Biography: City Builder

In the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young confronted the immediate problem of providing housing for his family. On a lot adjoining City Creek in what is now the center of Salt Lake City, he built a row of log houses for his wives and children that, collectively, were called Harmony House. To the south of this he later built the White House, a sun-dried adobe structure covered with white plaster. Still later, he built a large, two-story adobe house faced with cement that fronted on what came to be known as Brigham Street (now South Temple Street). Sporting a tower surmounted by a gilded beehive, this building was known as the Beehive House and was Brigham's official residence as Utah's territorial governor and President of the Church. In 1856, Brigham added an impressive three-story adobe structure, which came to be called the Lion House (from the statue of a crouching lion on the portico). Several of his families lived in this building just west of the Beehive House. He later built homes in south Salt Lake City, Provo, and St. George. Brigham's homes were all well constructed and architecturally sound.

The problem of finding places to accommodate the masses of incoming Saints was a great and immediate concern to be addressed by Brigham and others. Salt Lake City was divided into ten-acre blocks, and each family head was allotted, by community drawing, a one-and-one-fourth-acre lot on one of the blocks in the city. There people would keep their livestock, gardens, and other "home" properties. A ten-acre block just west of Brigham's was designated the Temple Block, on which were located the Bowery (a temporary shelter built of stand-up-and-down posts and a covering of tree boughs) where the Saints first held religious services; the Tabernacle; and various shops used in constructing public buildings. Construction of the Salt Lake Temple was begun in 1853.

Outside the city, five-acre and ten-acre plots were apportioned to those who wanted to farm. Under Brigham Young's direction, cooperative teams were assigned to dig ditches and canals to irrigate crops and to furnish water to homes. Other brigades fenced residential areas, built roads, cut timber, and set up shops. Other groups selected new locations for settlements and helped place people in the best areas. Still others were called on missions to proselytize in the United States, Europe, or the Pacific.

In the spring of 1849 Brigham Young organized Salt Lake City into nineteen wards; organized wards in other settlements; set up the provisional State of Deseret with himself as governor; and established the Perpetual Emigrating Fund as a device for assisting with the emigration of Saints from the middle west in the United States and also from Great Britain, Scandinavia, and continental Europe.

With thousands of Saints arriving from the eastern United States and Europe, colonization demanded Brigham Young's attention. Under his direction, four kinds of colonies were established: first, settlements intended to be temporary places of gathering and recruitment, such as Carson Valley in Nevada; second, colonies to serve as centers for production of goods such as iron at Cedar City, cotton at St. George, cattle in Cache Valley, and sheep in Spanish Fork, all in Utah; third, colonies to serve as centers for proselytizing and assisting Indians, as at Harmony in southern Utah, Las Vegas in southern Nevada, Lemhi in northern Idaho, and in what is present-day Moab in eastern Utah; fourth, permanent colonies in Utah and nearby states and territories to provide homes and farms for the hundreds of new immigrants arriving each summer. Within ten years, nearly 100 colonies had been planted; by 1867, more than 200; and by the time of his death in 1877, nearly 400 colonies. Clearly, he was one of America's greatest colonizers.

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