During the so-called Utah War of 1857-58, when the United States Government declared "a state of substantial rebellion" in Utah, the people of Great Salt Lake City joined a general movement southward. When the troops came through the city that summer day in 1858, as recorded by an army correspondent, "the utter silence of the streets was broken only by the music of the military bands, the monotonous tramp of the regiments, and the rattle of the baggage wagons." George "Beefsteak" Harrison, a cook with Johnston's army, "said that Salt Lake was still as a cemetery when they marched in. He saw only two people, a man riding a sorrel mule and an old lady who peeped out of a window blind at the troops."
Following the "Utah War," there ensued a period of lawlessness when the army's camp followers settled in the city. T. B. H. Stenhouse recorded that during a part of 185 there was a murder every week. Mormon people kept away from "Whisky Street" and attended to their own business, but Brigham Young's house was strictly guarded, day and night. Gradually a lucrative trade grew up between the city and Camp Floyd, but the soldiery was always resented.
Great Salt Lake City became a Pony Express post in 1860, when the first riders came in from Sacramento and St. Joseph. Upon completion of the Pacific Telegraph line to Great Salt Lake City in 1861 Brigham Young sent the first eastbound message to Cleveland. The Nevada-California Volunteers, under the leadership of Colonel P. E. Connor, marched through the city in 1862, surprised to find women and children out to greet them; they had heard rumors of rebellion in Utah. In 1863, following the passage of Federal anti-polygamy laws, there were persistent rumors that Colonel Connor's soldiers would take Brigham Young prisoner. A telescope was mounted on the Beehive House to watch the movements at Camp Douglas, and more than once the militia assembled around the Young residence to protect the Church President. When a cannon boomed from Fort Douglas one midnight there was a hurried Mormon mobilization, but no armed conflict followed. It was later learned that the cannon shot was to salute the news that Colonel Connor had been brevetted a brigadiergeneral.
Meantime, work was begun on the Tabernacle in 1864, and relations continued poor between townspeople and soldiers. The following Fourth of July, however, they united in a joint celebration of the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and of Union successes in the Civil War. Two months later city and camp joined in mourning the assassination of President Lincoln.
The 1870's and early 1880's were railroad years, in the course of which Salt Lake City (the "Great" was dropped in 1868) was connected by rail to cities in each of the four cardinal directions. Following completion of the transcontinental railway through Ogden and north of Great Salt Lake in 1869, Young began construction of the Utah Central Railroad, connecting Salt Lake City with Ogden. Early in 1870, in Salt Lake City, Young drove the "last spike," bearing a beehive emblem, the inscription "Holiness to the Lord," and the initials U.C.R.R., with a hammer similarly decorated. The Utah-organized Utah Southern was completed from Salt Lake City to Provo in 1873, and the Utah Southern Extension reached Milford and Frisco in 1880. The city acquired connections with Logan upon completion of the Utah Northern to Logan and Pocatello, Idaho, in 1874, and to Montana points in later years. Connections were made with Denver and other eastern points over the Denver & Rio Grande Western by 1886. In subsequent years other rail connections have been completed.
Meantime, the Salt Lake Theater was opened in 1862, and took its place as the leading theatrical center of the intermountain West. The Tabernacle was sufficiently completed to house the annual conference of the Mormon Church in 1867. Musical history was made in 1875, when Handel's Messiah was presented in the Salt Lake Theater. Building progressed meantime on the Temple, its granite walls gradually rising tier after tier, and Temple Square was a scene of constant industry. Consternation was created in 1870 when two boys, practicing with a rifle, blew up the arsenal on the present site of the State Capitol, breaking nearly every window in the city; long queues of people formed outside establishments selling window glass, and there were gruesome descriptions of finding parts of the bogs' bodies.
The death of Brigham Young in 1877 was a shocking event that drew 25,000 people to view the body of the great Church leader as it lay in state in the flower-decked Tabernacle. Music played on the Tabernacle organ included Brigham Young's Funeral March, composed for the occasion by Joseph J. Daynes. The funeral address, by Daniel H. Wells, occupied probably less than a minute. "I have no desire or wish to multiply words," he said, "feeling that it is rather a time to mourn. Goodbye, Brother Brigham, until the morning of the resurrection day. . . ."