Brigham Young Express

Brigham Young hoped to use the federal mail contract he won late in 1856 using Hiram S. Kimball, a merchant who acted as his agent, to build a major overland freighting company. The venture began as a private business initially proposed in January 1856 to compete directly with the government mail service. Later that month, the Utah Territorial Assembly incorporated the Deseret Express and Road Company. The first of two mass meetings in Salt Lake revealed the proposed corporation’s expansive vision of ‘establishing a daily express and passenger communication between the western States and California, or, more extendedly, between Europe and China.’ Both Mormon and non-Mormon leaders in Utah supported the proposal. . . .

The government terminated Brigham Young’s mail contract shortly after it ordered troops to Utah. Like Burnt Ranch, all the buildings of the Y.X. Express went up in smoke. ‘Nearly $200,000 was expended during the winter of 1856–57 to establish way stations, purchase teams and wagons, hire help, and to buy equipment and other supplies,’ historian Leonard Arrington wrote. ‘The resources of the Church were almost exhausted in this venture.’ Brigham Young would not be the last entrepreneur to lose a fortune trying to dominate western trade and transportation.”