The United Order Experiment

One belief of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that was different from mainstream America was the ideal of the United Order. In the United Order, each member of a community would pool their resources into a cooperative enterprise, sharing the work and the rewards of their efforts. In theory, all members would have their needs met, thus eliminating poverty and greed. Co-op movements were not practiced by all church members in all parts of the Utah Territory, but Brigham City was home to one of the most successful cooperative experiments. 

The Brigham City Mercantile and Manufacturing Association began in 1853 when Brigham Young appointed Lorenzo Snow to take fifty families north to Box Elder and join the settlers there in a community that would produce everything it needed. The settlement included millers, carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, teachers, and farmers. By the 1860s, the community was thriving, and it transformed into a cooperative, or co-op, where everyone contributed what they produced to be divided among the members as needed. Most of the stores in town were consolidated into the co-op, so it was the main place to sell and to buy. Brigham City became well known for its tannery, which produced leather products, and for its woolen mill. The women in Brigham City also raised silkworms for silk production.

In the late 1870s, however, grasshoppers and drought destroyed many of the crops, and the woolen mill caught fire. The co-op struggled to recover, and when an economic depression hit in the 1890s, it finally collapsed.

For further reading:

“Brigham City Mercantile and Manufacturing Association,” Brigham City History Project, https://brighamcityhistory.org/1850-1900/brigham-city-mercantile-and-manufacturing-association/.
“The History of Brigham City,” Brigham City Corp, https://www.bcutah.org/history.htm.