5 Things You Don't Know About Utah Slavery

When thinking about the history of American slavery, Utah is probably one of the last places you would think to look, but you would be wrong. Utah's slavery was nowhere near the levels of some of the southern states, but nonetheless it is a part of Utah's history, and it should not just be skipped over. To bring a little light to this part of Utah's past here are five things you probably did not know about slavery in Utah.

1. 3 Slaves Were Among the First Pioneers to Arrive in Utah

 In 1846, were three African American slaves (Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby) among the first Mormon pioneer company. Some sources(https://www.utahhumanities.org/stories/items/show/201) even say that Flake drove Brigham Young's wagon into the Salt Lake Valley, and as the state's population grew so did its slavery. The 1850 census reported twenty-six slaves, but many argue that the number would have been much higher.

2. Utah was the Western Most State to Legally Have Slaves

The Compromise of 1850 allowed Utah, by popular sovereignty, to decide whether to legalize slavery or not. Then, in 1852, Utah officially legalized slavery by passing the Act in Relation to Service. During the Civil War, Utah sided with the North which did result in some slaveholders returning to the South, but there were those who practiced slavery up until its abolishment in 1862.

3. Utah had Some Unique Slavery Laws

The Act in Relation to Service had some interesting rules for owning slaves including establishing fines for having sex and slave abuse sometimes resulting in a slave's freedom. A slave owner had to feed, shelter and clothe their slave. The slaves master or mistress needed to provide eighteen hours of education for their slave between the ages of six and twenty-six. The Relation to Service Act also stated that a slave owner was allowed to punish their servant in a reasonable way when necessary.

4. Indian Slavery was Quite Large and Violent

Another big part of Utah slavery and slave trade was through Native Americans. As the pioneers moved southward, there were many conflicts with the native people which resulted in many deaths and many prisoners. Some estimate that there were around 400 Indian slaves in Mormon homes around 1857. 

5. Some Mormon Leaders Justified and Encouraged Slavery

Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both used scripture to justify slavery specifically the Curse of Cain and the Curse of Ham. Later in life, Joseph Smith did turn to a more abolitionist view, but Young continued to defend slavery but strongly opposed the mistreatment of slaves. Young also supported the purchasing of Native American slaves in an attempt to teach them the gospel. Apostle George A. Smith even baptized Chief Walkara, who was a significant slave trader in the region. This list is just scratching the surface of part of Utah's dark past with slavery, and I hope it has inspired you to do your own research on this significant topic.