Saturday, April 26, 2014

Utah, We Love Thee (Whatever You Mean)

Look it up. Nobody can explain the origin of the name "Utah." We think it comes from a Native American word but there are all kinds of theories. It could be Navajo or some variation of Ute or Paiute or Shoshone language. It may even be a Spanish term.

My quandary began when I was working through on some relatives I thought I knew pretty well. There is always something more to learn.

Wood Family Cemetery on a rainy Memorial Day
A great historical site not to miss in Bountiful, Utah is the Daniel Wood Family Cemetery. It sits in a rather odd place on 5th West (old 89), just north of McDonalds on 5th South by the Verizon store. It was earlier the south-east corner of Daniel Wood's farm where he had his orchard. Now, I-15 runs through the middle of his farm.

As noted on the DUP marker, there are three Native Americans buried in the family cemetery. They were considered family. They are sealed to Daniel Wood and his second wife Peninah. She cared for them which makes perfect sense because Peninah was part Native American herself.

My quandary came in trying to designate the proper place of birth of the Native children Lucy, Mary, and Thomas. They all went by those Christian names with the name "Utah" as sort of surname, or middle name as adopted Woods. They came into the family in 1849 having been born before the Mormon Pioneers arrived. There was officially no Utah Territory until the Act of 1850. (This was part of the Compromise of 1850). Brigham Young wanted to call the territory (or independent State), "Deseret" for the communal honeybee, but he didn't always get his way with the feds.

As the children were born before the War with Mexico, the land was claimed by Mexico and the Spanish before that. It didn't seem right that I designate their birthplaces as Mexico or even "Upper California." With the exception of the brief visit by Dominguez and Escalante, the Spanish exerted no jurisdiction over the mountain valleys of what is now Utah. If this land belonged to anyone, it was the people we now call the Utes. "Utah" is still right for them. This is what I wrote in my note for Lucy Utah on Ancestry:
With "Utah" in her name, she may have been considered a Ute Indian. There were children adopted by Mormon Families after the skirmish at Battle Creek, Utah Valley (now Pleasant Grove). The battle occurred on 5 March 1849. The Utes were surrounded while sleeping by Mormon Militia. Awake, they found themselves trapped. Negotiations to have the Utes surrender failed and the Ute men were killed. Women and children were taken to Salt Lake City and cared for. Most of them left to find relatives. Some children were adopted. They could have been orphans or Paiute or even Mexican slaves.
I have an additional theory. While visiting at Santa Barbara Mission, California last Fall, I purchased a poster of a 1848 Fremont Map of the Western lands that became part of the United States through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and a Treaty with Great Britain for the Pacific Northwest (even if I still would have liked to have it up to 54'40).

If you zoom in just south of the Great Salt Lake with its "Mormon Settlements" noted along the east shore below the mountains, you will see "UTAH." The print-type is the same as the names for other Native Peoples throughout the West. Fremont didn't get a lot of the the native names right along with his imaginary mountain ranges, but Congress had this official US Map and it only seemed logical to name the area "Utah."

Utah is the right place for the birth of Mary, Lucy, and Thomas Utah.


  1. For clarification, Ute lands were south of the Salt Lake Valley below Point of the Mountain and on through southeastern Utah and Western Colorado. The Shoshones were north of the Bear River. Brigham Young knew that the Salt Lake Valley was a neutral, and relatively uninhabited area between the Utes and Shoshones - a buffer or "demilitarized" zone. That is one reason why he settled there first instead of the more green and lush Utah Valley with its fresh water lake to the south.

    His policy was not to fight the Native Peoples but convert and "civilize" them by helping learn farming. There were several Indian Farms set up, one in Spanish Fork, but they had minimal success. There was some violent native response to Mormon settlement. President Young was more interested in feeding than fighting Indians, but some conflicts of civilizations naturally arose and the European/American response was to take it out on the Indians. The major battles with the Natives in Utah were in Utah Valley and on down through the central corridor - much of it in San Pete County.

    The Utes did trade in slaves taken from other Tribes, Pueblos, or Hispanic settlements in New Mexico and Colorado. Mormons occasionally purchased slaves from the Utes to adopt them into their own families and even marry the females. Mormons generally believed in the official policy of assimilating the Native Peoples into their own pioneer society. The successes were much fewer than the failures.

  2. It's still OK to talk about the fulfillment of prophecy in establishing the House of the Lord in the tops of the mountains. The State of Utah is in the mountains. The Utes are a mountain people. I'm just not sure the word "Ute" originally meant that wherever it came from or came to mean that because we thought it did. --"Life Elevated" and all.

  3. Has anyone come across the “tribute” Lucy wrote I. 1860 that is supposedly included in the “Daniel Wood Record”? I can’t find a copy of the Daniel Wood Record so far.

    1. I have not seen it. I will keep my eye out for it.

  4. Has anyone come across Lucy’s “tribute” to Daniel Wood from 1860? I’ve read it’s quoted in The Daniel Wood Record, but I haven’t found a copy of that either yet.


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