Anticipation and Anxiety: Utah and the Union Pacific Railroad

DNO-0050_Front page of the Hell Upon Earth pamphlet.jpg
Woodcut illustration from an anti-Mormon publication. This image was also titled, “Mormonism in Utah—The Cave of Despair,” 1884. From the collections of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

To the rest of the United States in the 1860s, Utah was considered different because of its religious beliefs, especially the practice of polygamy. Prior to the construction of the railroad through Utah, non-Mormons hesitated to move to the state because they were uncomfortable with polygamy and the perceived Mormon lifestyle. A publication from 1869, Where to Emigrate and Why, clearly described the general feeling of the American population toward the Mormon population of Utah:

Contact with their neighbors, who entertain views antagonistic to their social institutions, will remedy the evils under which they now labor. As they become more intelligent, the impolicy of isolating themselves from the moral sympathies of the world will become apparent, and their patience, industry, and self-reliance will be turned to good account.

Many non-Mormon outsiders believed that Mormons were good people with a strong work ethic, integrity, and dedication to their community, needing only exposure to mainstream culture to correct their controversial religious views.