CORINNE

For almost ten years from 25 March 1869, the town of Corinne reigned as "The Gentile Capital of Utah." As the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads approached their historic meeting place at Promontory Summit early in 1869, a group of former Union army officers and some determined non-Mormon merchants from Salt Lake City decided to located a Gentile town on the Union Pacific line, believing that the town could compete economically and politically with the Saints of Utah. They chose a location about six miles west of Brigham City on the west bank of the Bear River where the railroad crossed that stream. Named by one of the founders (General J.A. Williamson) for his fourteen-year-old daughter, Corinne was designed to be the freight-transfer point for the shipment of goods and supplies to the mining towns of western Montana along the Montana Trail.

In its heyday, Corinne had about 1,000 permanent residents, not one of whom was a Mormon, according to the boast of the local newspaper. As an end-of-the-trail town, Corinne reflected a very different atmosphere and culture from the staid and quiet Mormon settlements of Utah, nurturing not only a number of commission and supply houses but also fifteen saloons and sixteen liquor stores, with a gun-fighting town marshal to keep order in this "Dodge City" of Utah. The permanent residents of Corinne did their best to promote a sense of community pride and peaceful, cultural pursuits but had a raucous and independent clientele of freighters and stagecoachers to control.

With some support from political leaders in the nation's capital and from eastern newspapers, the town fathers attempted to use their position as a Gentile city to break the political and economic monopoly held by the Mormons in Utah Territory. They sought to have J. A. Williamson named territorial governor; tried to have the northern one degree of latitude of Utah added to Idaho so as to dismember the territory; and attempted to have Corinne named as the capital of Utah. The citizens of Corinne failed in each case to achieve their wishes, but it was not for lack of trying--their leaders and newssheets bombarded Washington, D.C., for help in their fight as they blasted Brigham Young and the Mormon hierarchy. The Saints had no difficulty in this unequal fight, even awarding the ballot to Utah women to ensure maintenance of political control of the territory.

Brigham Young assured the demise of Corinne when he and the Mormon people built the narrow-gauge Utah Northern Railroad from Ogden to Franklin, Idaho. Although construction of the line beyond that point ceased for four years as a result of the Panic of 1873, in the autumn of 1877, the Union Pacific bought the little railroad and began pushing it northward through Idaho. The tracks reached Marsh Valley and cut the Montana Trail at that place, thereby supplanting wagon traffic from Corinne with rail transport from Ogden. The Gentile merchants immediately fled Corinne for Ogden or the terminus of the rail line, while Mormon farmers moved in to buy the land around Corinne and make it the Mormon village it has been ever since.

See: Brigham D. Madsen, Corinne: The Gentile Capital of Utah (1980).

Brigham D. Madsen