At the time of European expansion, beginning with Spanish explorers traveling from Mexico, five distinct native peoples occupied territory within the Utah area: the Northern Shoshone, the Goshute, the Ute, the Paiute and the Navajo.
The Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado may have crossed into what is now southern Utah in 1540, when he was seeking the legendary Cíbola.
A group led by two Spanish Catholic priests—sometimes called the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition—left Santa Fe in 1776, hoping to find a route to the California coast. The expedition traveled as far north as Utah Lake and encountered the native residents.
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America in 1803 of 828,000 square miles (2,144,000 square kilometers or 529,920,000 acres) of France’s claim to the territory of Louisiana.
1804 – 1806
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May 1804, from near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast.
The Rocky Mountain Fur Company sometimes called Ashley’s Hundred, was organized in St. Louis, Missouri in 1822 by William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry. Among the employees was Jedediah Smith, who went on to take a leading role in the company’s operations. The company became a pioneer in western exploration, most notably in the Green River Valley. The operations of other aspiring organizations like the American Fur Company would often overlap, causing a fierce rivalry. Growing competition motivated the trappers to explore and head deeper into the wilderness. Effectively, this led to greater knowledge of the topography and to great reductions in the beaver populations.
Early mountain men and fur trappers including Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith begin to map and explore the area now known as Utah. The city of Provo was named for one such man, Étienne Provost, who visited the area in 1825. The city of Ogden, Utah is named for a brigade leader of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Peter Skene Ogden who trapped in the Weber Valley.
Indian Removal Act of 1830
One year before the arrival of the Mormons, the ill-fated Donner party crossed through the Salt Lake valley late in the season, deciding not to winter there but to continue forward to California.
1846 – 1847
Mexican–American War was an armed conflict between the United States and the Centralist Republic of Mexico (which became the Second Federal Republic of Mexico during the war) from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory, despite the 1836 Texas Revolution.
Latter Day Saint’s (The Mormon’s) begin to settle Utah
Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 allowed settlers to claim land in the Oregon Territory, then including the modern states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and parts of Wyoming. Settlers were able to claim 320 or 640 acres of land for free between 1850 and 1854, and then at a cost of $1.25 per acres until the law expired in 1855.
1861 – 1865
American Civil War
Homestead Act of 1862 The homestead was an area of public land in the West (usually 160 acres or 0.64 km2) granted to any US citizen willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years.
Completion of First Transcontinental Railroad May 10, 1869 with the ceremonial driving of the “Last Spike” (later often called the “Golden Spike”) with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit, Utah.
This video discusses the Fremont people and their culture. Learn about the rock art, artifacts, and mysteries they left behind. You will also discover the many recreational resources and outdoor opportunities available to the entire family.
Utah History Resources