Utah Territory’s Deseret Telegraph Line Connected Provo to the Rest of Utah.
In October 1861, two companies–one working from the east and one working from the west– met in Salt Lake City and completed the transcontinental telegraph line. This line brought national news to Salt Lake City, but since the wires ran basically east and west and almost all of Utah’s settlements ran north and south, the telegraph did little to spread news throughout Utah Territory.
The very day telegraphers sent the first official message over the transcontinental line, Brigham Young called advisors into his office and began planning a telegraph line that would run north and south and connect Mormon settlements with Salt Lake City. The line would make it faster and easier to conduct church, government, and business activities in the territory.
Unfortunately, the Civil War delayed construction of the line until 1867 when Mormon leaders, including Provo’s William Miller, organized the Deseret Telegraph Company. Mormon men, who had gained experience providing poles for the transcontinental telegraph and helping erect them, now went to work building their own line.
Local communities like Provo were responsible for financing the lines running through their town and halfway to the next community. Provo was also responsible for financing a portion of the line running from Santaquin to Scipio. Church leaders asked for contributions and Provo’s city council used the heavy license fees that it charged liquor merchants to help pay for the line.
Provo’s telegraph office was located in a barn behind William Miller’s house which once stood just across the street south of the Provo City Center Temple. Brigham Young later bought the property and one of Young’s wives lived in the house. Provo’s wards had to pay the telegraphers, many of whom were women. The Deseret Telegraph Company continued to operate in Provo until the Western Union Company purchased the line in 1900.