Utah History Encyclopedia


By Bernice M. Mooney
The Reverend Michael J. McGivney of St. Mary's Church, New Haven, Connecticut, founded the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization of Catholic men, in 1882. The society took its name from its efforts to help immigrants from the Old World, represented by knights, make the difficult transition to the New World, discovered by Christopher Columbus.

Father McGivney created a benefit system for widows and children which has evolved into a comprehensive modern insurance program. His vision prefigured the contemporary order of the Knights of Columbus, structured with four degrees of membership, distinctive ceremonial and attire, and loyal dedication to the American Catholic heritage. In 1993, 1.7 million Knights functioned in 11,000 councils worldwide. Tuxedo-clad with capes, chapeaux, and swords similar to those worn by Columbus, the Knights often form honor guards at religious and civic celebrations.

The concept of Knighthood expanded into every state of the Union by 1905. The Knights arrived in Denver, Colorado, in 1900. From there a contingent of thirty-six came to Salt Lake City on 8 September 1901 to establish Council 602, the first council west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1902 thirty Utah Knights chartered a train to Spokane, Washington, and Butte, Montana, for the institution of councils in those locales. Thirty-five charter members initiated Council 777 in Ogden on 21 June 1903. Delegates from Salt Lake, Ogden, Pocatello, Reno, and Boise met to adopt by-laws at the first territorial meeting on 2 May 1905.

Mayor John Welsh served as first Grand Knight of Council 1129, founded in Park City on 3 June 1906; and Mayor James D. Stack became first Grand Knight of Council 1136 in Eureka the following month. Maintaining a tradition of service to the diocese, Utah Knights financed a diocesan history to commemorate the dedication of the Cathedral of the Madeleine on 15 August 1909. They conducted a three-million-dollar War Fund Campaign in 1918, and throughout the years have supported the goals of each diocesan bishop.

St. Anthony Council, formed in Price in 1926, assisted the Catholic Church in Carbon County. Between 1961 and 1983 twelve additional councils were established in Utah. Membership statewide numbered 1,500 in 1993. Knights gather annually for an outing at Lagoon, held for the first time in 1908. In 1980 Provo Council 1136 raised a permanent steel cross above Dominguez Hill in Spanish Fork Canyon to mark the entry in 1776 of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition, which represents the first recorded Catholic presence in Utah.