Pioneer Telegraph Office
The overland telegraph monument marks the site where the transcontinental telegraph lines met, at the original Pioneer Telegraph Office, stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans.
The telegraph connection to Salt Lake City was completed on October 18, 1861, and provided the Saints with the ability to maintain contact with the outside world. The Pioneer Telegraph Office also provided much-needed employment to the Latter-day Saints who supplied poles, subsistence, and transportation while constructing approximately five hundred miles of line. During the Civil War, two units of the Nauvoo Legion protected Overland Telegraph lines. This great innovation also allowed Mormon wagon trains to communicate their progress and, when necessary, to request the help of relief parties. Completion of the telegraph led to the demise of the Pony Express.
The First Telegram
Recognizing the impact of the transcontinental telegraph line, the Sons of Utah Pioneers erected this marker in its honor on October 18, 1955. The marker contains the first messages sent and the following inscription:
At this location on October 18, 1861, stood the telegraph pole, shown on the above plaque on which telegraph wires were joined which spanned a continent and united two oceans.
On that date, the first two telegrams transmitted were as follows.
“Hon. J. H. Wade. Great Salt Lake City, U.T.President of the Pacific Telegraph CompanyOct. 18, 1861—Cleveland, Ohio
Sir permit me to congratulate you upon the completion of the overland telegraph line west to this city to commend the energy displayed by yourself and associates in the rapid and successful prosecution of work so beneficial and to express the wish that its use may ever tend to promote the true interests of the dwellers upon both the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of our continent. Utah has not seceded but is firm for the constitution and laws of our once happy country, and is warmly interested in such useful enterprises as the one so far completed. Brigham Young.”
The reply was as follows:
“Hon. Brigham Young President Cleveland Oct 19, 1861—Great Salt Lake City:
Sir, I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your message of last evening which was every way gratifying, not only in the announcement of the completion of the Pacific telegraph to your enterprising and prosperous city but that your, the first message to pass over the line should express so unmistakably the patriotism and union-loving sentiments of yourself and people.
With just consideration for your high position and due respect for you personally. I am your obedient servant, J. H. Wade, Pres. Pacific Telegraph Company G. S. L. City, Oct 18. 1861″
On January 13, 1996, people reenacted the momentous arrival of the telegram from Washington DC announcing that Utah had become the country’s forty-fifth state. The program took place on this site, in front of a replica shell of the old Western Union Telegraph Office. At 9:13 a.m., actors clad in period costumes rushed out into the crowd gathered on the sidewalk and street and shouted the news. There was music from a brass band, dancers, gunshots from black powder cannons, and a reenactment of the 1896 parade to celebrate the state’s one-hundredth birthday.
Newsboys in period dress distributed copies of the 1896 Deseret Evening News announcing the headlines for the day, and the Utah Civil War Historical Association gave a 21-gun salute using antique muskets. . . . [The] duplication of the 1896 parade. . .included representations of every group from the original 1896 parade. Incoming and outgoing elected officials, military groups of the past and present, police and firemen, important leaders and citizens, fraternal organizations, ethnic groups, bands, acrobats, and two men dressed in buckskins leading live bears all participated in the celebration.