Camp Floyd and Stagecoach Inn

Stagecoach Inn When Brigham Young led Mormons into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 part of what leaders of the fledgling religion hoped was that they would be alone, far from the rest of America. They were alone, but only for a few years. Before long, the Salt Lake Valley and its strategic location drew travelers, workers and, eventually, federal agents and troops.

Troops set up camp in the foothills above Salt Lake City in part to keep an eye on Mormons and their activities -- which the federal government at the time considered to be, if not suspect, then at least suspicious. Detachments of troops were later sent north, south and west to protect pioneer settlements as well as lines of migration, information and commerce.

One of those detachments was from Col. Albert S. Johnston's army who set up camp in the Cedar Valley, west of Lehi, in 1858. Relations between soldiers and Mormon civilians in the Cedar Valley were apparently no better than they were in Salt Lake City. Though relations did cool somewhat, it were detachments from this Army camp and others based near Salt Lake City which performed some of the first prospecting in Utah, activities which led to more confrontations and friction between the two groups. General Patrick Connor and William Hickman, an excommunicated Mormon, established the Camp Floyd Mining District in 1869, pulling ores from the Oquirrh Mountains both on the Salt Lake Valley side and from Stockton, a mining camp turned town south of Tooele.

The home of Johnston's Army from 1858 to 1861, Camp Floyd was the largest military installation in the U.S. at that time. Its extensive barracks and support buildings were home to as many as 7,000 troops. Though officials at the time probably did not realize it, the camp can be considered a crossroads for the settling of the west. The troops who ended up digging for gold and silver in the nearby Oquirrh Mountains began a rush for resources that helped settle far-flung reaches of the Intermountain West and produce America's wealth. Though the military camp only functioned for three years, it was later used as an overland stage and Pony Express station. Prior to its closing it was renamed Fort Crittenden.

Begun in 1860, the Pony Express served to link the East with the West with a 10-day, 2,000-mile mail delivery system. Set 10 to 12 miles apart, Pony Express stations supplied riders with provisions and fresh horses. In all, 190 stations dot the route, and the ruins of several camps still stand to the west of Camp Floyd. Though prices for mail delivery were high enough to cover costs -- they ranged from $1 to $5 an ounce -- the operation as a whole never fully succeeded, and when the transcontinental telegraph was completed in 1861, the Pony Express was closed.

Built in 1858 as a hotel and family residence, the Stagecoach Inn continued to serve overland travelers until the late 1860s when it was abandoned. It fronted a pasture surrounded by barns, sheds and other outbuildings. Today, it is the focus of the Stagecoach Inn State Park, which is open during the summer and is about 45 minutes west of Lehi in the small town of Fairfield. Nothing remains of Camp Floyd other than its cemetery, now on the other side of state Route 73, where 80 officers were buried.

-- JS

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