Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

F. Ross Peterson


F. Ross Peterson


A. J. Simmonds


Barre Toelken


Lawrence H. Piette


This study has looked behind the mask of nineteenth-century theocracy to see Mormons in the Great Basin creating a democratic society of regionally concentrated kin groups where obligations and rewards for individuals were increasingly determined by age and life cycle position. As generations of young adults acted together in selfinterest dispersing their villages on receding frontiers, they forged a balance between competition and cooperation which merged the immediate need of individuals to establish and support families with the collective memory of their Mormon past. In so doing, they created an identity for themselves which was unique in the arid West. Residents of villages in Cache County, Utah, stratified by age as they worked to resolve the contradictions threatening their survival on the frontier. Initial settlers selected locations and built villages for efficient distribution of water. They tended to remain in their villages as they aged, slowly accumulating property while families grew to maturity. The number of residents increased through migration and high birth rates although village sites lacked sufficient water to sustain growth. Most village youth could not establish farms without migrating from home because the hydraulic structure of villages prevented spatial expansion. Many at maturity responded to the limits of water supply by building new villages and homesteads on northern frontiers, in Idaho during the early 1880s and in Canada and Idaho dry farms after 1900. They moved north in successive waves at quarter century intervals because baby booms following initial settlement clustered them in similar age cohorts. They began their own booms as they built communities on the frontier. The patterns of village maturation and age specific out-migration which sparked settlement in northern Utah, Idaho, and Canada were also at work in varying degrees in regions south of Salt Lake City--in southern Utah, Mormon Arizona, and Mexico. Throughout Mormondom, people responded to their own needs in lands of limited wealth. As they did, they created an ethnic identity which increasingly defined their range of options as they moved from one stage in the life cycle to another. (229 pages)




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This work revised and made publicly available electronically on July 22, 2011.

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