An article in today’s Mormon Times tells the story of other faith groups that came to early Utah seeking – and finding – religious freedom.
Here are some of the highlights.
— # —
The Rev. John Foley was appointed Catholic pastor of the Utah Territory in 1870, and the first church, St. Mary Magdalene, was built in 1871 in downtown Salt Lake City.
That was a forerunner of what Utahns now know as the Cathedral of the Madeleine, mother church of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, dedicated in August 1909 under the direction of Utah’s first Catholic bishop, Lawrence Scanlan. During his 42-year tenure, Bishop Scanlan became one of the most influential leaders in Utah.
Catholicism is now the state’s second largest religious denomination, and Catholic Community Services plays an integral role in outreach to Utahns in need.
The Rev. Norman McLeod arrived in Salt Lake City in January 1865, dispatched by the American Home Missionary Society to evangelize among the Mormons, and preached the first non-LDS sermon in Daft’s Hall at the invitation of the Gentile Young Men’s Literary Association. His anti-Mormon preaching drew crowds to the Hall and to Fort Douglas on Sundays.
He collaborated with other non-LDS leaders to build Independence Hall on 300 South west of Main, and Catholic services began there in 1866, followed by Episcopal worship in 1867. Jewish and Masonic leaders also would use the building as their efforts expanded in the Salt Lake Valley.
The Rev. McLeod went east to raise money for his evangelism efforts, and testified before committees on territories in Washington, D.C., as well as lecturing on the alleged "Mormon problem" including polygamy.
The Right Rev. Daniel Tuttle arrived in 1867, two months after missionaries held their first services in May. Though he was Missionary Bishop of Montana, he spent 20 years in the Utah Territory, overseeing the opening of the first non-LDS school, St. Mark’s Episcopal, in 1867, in a half-ruined adobe bowling alley. Rowland Hall, a boarding school for girls, was added in 1880.
St. Mark’s Cathedral held its first worship services in 1870, and two years later, Bishop Tuttle opened St. Mark’s Hospital at 500 East and 400 South, built specifically to care for miners, railroad workers and their families. Both institutions continue to serve Utahns today, though the hospital has been relocated several times and was sold to a private corporation.
Business opportunities brought Julius Gerson Brooks and his wife, Fanny, to the territory in 1854. They were followed by German immigrants, also interested in commerce. In 1866, the first Jewish auxiliary had been formed and LDS Church President Brigham Young donated the initial portion of what became B’nai Israel Cemetery to the group.
The first synagogue was built by Congregation B’nai Israel west of Main Street in Salt Lake City. Over time, different factions of Judaism were introduced as the congregants pursued various interpretations of their faith.
In 1868, Simon Bamberger came to Utah and began investing in the railroad, mining and hotels, building a business and community reputation that would lead to his election as the state’s first Democratic and non-Mormon governor in 1916.
In a unique act of communal agriculture, 150 Russian-Jewish families were dispatched from New York City and Philadelphia in 1911 and settled in what became known as Clarion, Sanpete County, to farm.
The Rev. A.N. Fisher preached the first Methodist sermon in Utah Territory in the newly completed Salt Lake Tabernacle at the invitation of Brigham Young in 1868. He opened the Utah Mission the following year, and shared space in Independence Hall with other Protestant faiths. Within four years, there were more than 100 Presbyterians and four churches in the area.
The Women’s Home Missionary Society was founded in 1880 to establish schools, provide teachers and nurses, and lead a fight against polygamy. The founders received help in their efforts from America’s first lady, Lucy Hayes.
By 1890, 67 percent of all youths attending secondary schools in the territory were enrolled in non-LDS schools, and a large number of those were Methodist-sponsored.
Dr. J.M. Coyner arrived in 1875 and opened a school in the basement of the newly completed First Presbyterian Church on 200 South and 200 East, which became the forerunner of what is now Westminster College.
By 1883, church members had constructed 41 buildings in the Territory, including schools that enrolled nearly 1,800 students. When free public education was organized in 1890, the principal of the Presbyterian Salt Lake Collegiate Institute became the first superintendent of schools.