The Seventh Census of the United States was scheduled to be counted in 1850. In the provisional state of Deseret, Brigham Young was named the census agent, but before the census could be taken Congress created Utah Territory. Congress appointed Young as the territorial census agent. In addition to the delay that caused, census officials did not receive materials and instructions due to slow mail service.
Finally, April 1, 1851, became the reference date for the Seventh Census in Utah Territory. Assistant agents E. D. Rich, Reuben McBride, Brigham H. Young, and Thomas Bullock began the count using lined papers to record the data because they still hadn’t received official blanks. In July 1851, after the enumeration was completed, Thomas Bullock and Robert Campbell began to recopy the entire census.
On October 31, 1851, a copy was sent to the United States Census Superintendent. This copy—the “official” copy—did not list all the slave inhabitants of Utah on a Schedule 2 for each county. The copy Campbell made of the original enumeration did not show any slaves living in Utah. Known black slaves are listed along with the free white population, giving a false impression that no one was held in bondage in the territory. The only exception is the Schedule 2 for Utah County which shows slaves who were on the way to San Bernardino, California, with their masters. John Bernhisel had advised LDS leaders, who were interested in seeing Utah Territory become a state, to hide the slave population. The official copy of the 1850/1851 census does just that.
The published, official version the 1850 census for Utah that is housed in the National Archives and reproduced on websites is not the “original” version that shows more of the real slave population for the territory. The original version is housed with LDS church records in the Church History Library in Salt Lake as MS 2672.
The different versions of the census have made it very difficult to count and identify slaves held in early Utah. If historians only look at the readily available official census, it gives a skewed picture of who was really in the territory and what their legal status was. Looking at the original version is necessary to get a more accurate count.
IMAGE I-“Official” Schedule 2-Slave Inhabitants in Utah County, Deseret
IMAGE II-Original Schedule 2-Slave Inhabitants-Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis Counties, Utah Territory
IMAGE III-“Official” Schedule 1-Free Inhabitants in Utah County, Utah Territory