Historian’s lecture digs into the tensions among silver miners, Mormon settlers and Southern Paiutes
Historian Dr. W. Paul Reeve will speak about the efforts of George A. Smith and the early settlements of Cedar City, Parowan, Santa Clara and St. George, at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 25, at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. RSVP to Malena Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 435-615-5505. The Utah History Lecture Series is sponsored by Rebecca Marriott Champion. For information, visit http://www.parkcity.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=48732.
In the book “Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners and Southern Paiutes,” author Dr. W. Paul Reeve examines the tensions that developed between Mormon settlers, the silver miners and the Paiute Nation in Southern Utah between 1847 and 1870.
The tensions grew to the point where Congress attempted to ease the situation by moving the Utah and Nevada border, Reeve said.
“A Southern Paiute agent led a Mormon settler to an outcropping that was believed to be a rumored silver mountain that was in Utah territory,” Reeve said. “The agent sent word to his superiors in Salt Lake, who, in turn, alerts Washington D.C. And Congress didn’t want this rumored silver mountain to be controlled by Mormons in Salt Lake City. So they moved the boundary between Utah and Nevada territory one degree longitude east to ensure the mountain is controlled by Nevada.”
Reeve, professor of history at the University of Utah, and holder of the Simmons Professorship in Mormon Studies, will dig into this and other issues between Mormons, Paiutes and silver miners in his presentation, “Moving Utah Settlements South, 1847-1870,” at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 25, at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave.
Reeve will also discuss George A. Smith, who was one of the Mormon colonizers who settled Parowan and established the beginnings of Mormon settlements in Southern Utah in 1850.
“When the silver miners settled the area in 1860s, they suggested that Mormons weren’t using the land in a way that ‘true Americans’ should use the land, and the Southern Paiutes were at the bottom of the power struggle,” said Reeve.
The boundary dispute is interesting because it was based on assumptions, Reeve said.
“There wasn’t any technology to determine whether or not there was silver in the mountain at that time,” he said. “They couldn’t do a proper survey, so rather than take a chance, they simply moved the boundary.
Ironically, Reeve says, it’s now known that the silver strike was 12 miles within Nevada’s territory all along.
Reeve’s book and Friday’s discussion is the result of his upbringing in Southern Utah.
“For me it’s a voyage of self-discovery, and this particular study that I’ll be drawing from was largely and exploration of my own heritage and cultural roots,” he said.
Reeve was spurred on after searching for a map that showed the locations of 19th century silver mines and mining communities that also included Mormon towns and the Southern Paiute bands.
“There wasn’t one (map) in existence, and that highlighted the point that while these three groups inhabited eachothers’ world, we do a disservice to ourselves when we separate them while studying that time,” he said. “They coexisted and that was an interesting story that I wanted to explore.”
Reeve’s love of history stems from an existential interest.
“It teaches us who we are, and it helps us to understand the present because we learn about where we came from and how things came to be,” he said. “History also serves as a moral guide, and I hope we pay attention to history so we can learn from the successes from the past and, hopefully, avoid the mistakes.”
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