Utah and the Union Pacific Railroad Surveys

Mormons and Gentiles Working Together

"Surveyors in Weber Canyon"
Surveyors in Weber Canyon, 1868, A. J. Russell, stereo view. Courtesy of University of Iowa Libraries, Special Collections, Levi O. Leonard Collection. 

The first step in railroad construction is a survey. Surveyors, using specialized equipment, were tasked with finding the best route for both the Union Pacific (UPRR) and Central Pacific Railroads (CPRR). Mormons and non-Mormons, despite cultural differences, eventually worked well together in Utah to complete this monumental task. Brigham Young had been supportive of surveying parties travelling through Utah territory as early as 1865 and provided experienced men such as James Henry Martineau to act as guides.

"Photographing Under Difficulties"
Clarence King Survey Party in the Uinta Mountains. A. J. Russell, stereo view. Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California, A. J. Russell Collection. 

James Henry Martineau was born in New York in 1828. In 1851, he moved to Utah and converted to the LDS Church. In 1868, he joined an engineering crew for the UPRR and was trained as a surveyor, a skill which proved useful when Brigham Young requested his help to build the Central Utah Railroad in 1869. Martineau kept a detailed diary when working on the railroad and he noted its effect on the population of Utah.

While working with the UPRR engineering crews, Martineau spent a lot of time with non-Mormons. On one occasion he wrote, “I felt very lonsome [sic] all day. Morris and his party are gentiles, just from the east, and full of bitterness against the Mormons.” Later, after he had spent a few weeks with the crew members, Martineau wrote, “I have got along quite well with the party thus far, although I defend Mormonism to the best of my ability.” Throughout his time on the line, Martineau discussed his religion with non-members. Near the end of his employment with the UPRR, Martineau wrote that Mr. Morris (his supervisor) “said I was the best topographer on the whole UPRR line, which, as I am a Mormon, is considerable praise.”