Series 242
Secretary of State Executive record books

Dates: i 1850-1949.

4.50 cubic feet and 7 microfilm reelsSkip to Containers

These records are housed in the Utah State Archives' permanent storage room.

Scope and Content

From the beginning of territorial government in Utah, statute required the Secretary of the Territory, and later the Secretary of State, to record the official acts of the Governor. Copies of original documents issued by the Governor as he exercised his general responsibilities for directing the affairs of government were transcribed into the record books as official acts until the series was discontinued in 1949.

Entries in the first two volumes overlap somewhat. Record book A contains regular entries made by secretaries Willard Richards, B.D. Harris and possibly different clerks over a three year period from 1850 to September, 1853. After this date, and continuing through 1863, other secretaries apparently used book A as a place to record appointments and commissions made by the Governor. Election returns for the same period were also entered in this volume. After 1863 these lists are entered in record book B.

Richards had originally been Secretary of State under the provisional government of Deseret, and he also served as Secretary pro tem at two different times between 1851 and 1853. Once after Harris, the first federal appointee, left the territory in September, 1851, and again after Benjamin G. Ferris, the second one, left the territory in May, 1853. Richards made all of his entries in book A. Entries made by Harris during his three months in Salt Lake City in 1851 are also recorded in this book.

Record book B was opened by Secretary Ferris in 1852, and his entries continue until April of 1853. After Almon W. Babbitt replaced Richards as permanent Secretary in October of that year, entries continue in Book B. (Christy Best, "Report of the Survey of Selected Territorial Records Extant at the Utah State Archives," Salt Lake City, 1987.)

Two duplicate volumes exist in the series. Documents entered in both"D" volumes are identical. The first seven pages apparently contain a record of the redistricting for elections made by the Utah Commission. A handwritten copy of volume one was kept for the first four months of 1896, in which were recorded communications to the legislature. After that time these were integrated into the main set. During the territorial period, additional copies of the EXECUTIVE RECORD BOOKS were prepared and submitted to various federal officials. Documents were recorded by hand initially, but later published copies of some reports were glued into the books. After statehood all entries are typewritten.

During the territorial period, a wide range of executive actions were recorded, and these included all Governor's proclamations and messages to the legislative assembly; the commissioning or appointment of government officials; documents related to the election process; pardons and other documents related to crime and criminals; reports to the Secretary of the Interior; and selected correspondence related to emergencies or controversial events.

The pattern of documentation began changing dramatically in the 1880's, both in terms of what was recorded and in terms of how the documents were identified. Actions which previously had been recorded in the record books were shifted to other series, marking a tendency to create separate series f or each type of executive action. Political developments affected this trend as well. Federal attempts to reform the territorial government through a series of laws led to changes in what was recorded in this series. The most important of these is the Edmunds Act of 1882, which specifically affected the appointment of officials and the way in which elections were handled. (Edmunds Act, amendment cf 5350 U.S.C., in Compiled Laws of Utah, I (Salt Lake City, Herbert Pembroke Printer, 1888), 110-13.) Changes in the documentation of these functions in this series date from the passage of this act.

As time passed, the identification of documents also became more consistent. In the first few decades of the territorial period, different executive acts were identified directly as "election results",or "respites", or "appointments", etc.; but beginning in the 1880's and increasingly after statehood, those acts still being recorded in the record books were identified and recorded as proclamations. Appointments, for example, were made by proclamation after the 1880's, but offers of reward for criminals were recorded as proclamations only after 1930. After this date virtually the only thing recorded, which is not also a proclamation, are the times when the Secretary of State served as acting Governor.


These were recorded consistently throughout the series. Typically, the Governor issued proclamations to regulate the general operation of government or as a way to commemorate important events. The most common reasons for issuing a proclamation included: the declaration of public holidays; the appointment of various government officials; the times when elections were to be held; terms of the district courts and changes in their boundaries; and the expressions of sympathy upon the death of prominent people.

After statehood, proclamations were increasingly issued to commemorate important events, such as Navy Day or Fire Prevention Week. From 1909 and into the 1930s, the Governor also used proclamations as away of identifying corporations which had not paid license fees. Names were listed in accompanying documents--not recorded in the record books--and the public was put on notice that such companies were not to be allowed to do business in the state.

Military affairs were directed by proclamation throughout the entire period. They were issued to control the mustering or disbanding of the territorial militia, and after statehood for the calling and organizing of military units to serve in wartime.

In the 1940s the first of the Executive Orders appears. Closely related to proclamations in function, executive orders have the effect of law until they expire or are changed; proclamations usually apply to a single event. Only a handful of orders are recorded here, but their use increases in the period after this series was discontinued.

Crime and criminals:

Information about crime and criminals can be found in pardons, reprieves or respites, requisitions for the extradition of criminals, prison reports, and offers for reward or warrants for the arrest of criminals. Pardons of criminals. Pardons of criminals are the most frequently recorded document in this series until 1886. Normally, in granting a pardon, the Governor would summarize the history of the case, and outline his reasons for taking the action.

.Reprieves or respites contain the same information as a pardon, but they differ from them in that they were issued temporarily. The Governor did not have power to pardon criminals who had violated federal law; so until this decision was made by a federal official, the respite was issued.

Requisitions for the extradition of criminals appear occasionally in record books in the 1850's and 1860's. A brief description of the crime for which the person was sought is usually included on the requisition form. Warrants for the arrest of criminals were issued in response to a requisition received from another state; vas sought is usually included o- the requisition form. Warrants for the arrest of criminals were issued in response to a requisition from another state; these usually contain the same information as a requisition issued by Utah's governor. The offer of reward is the only document relating to criminals that continues to be recorded after statehood, and then only until the early 1930's. Occasionally rewards are offered through proclamation after that date.

Governors messages and reports

Copies of the Governor's annual messages to the legislature were regularly recorded until 1920. Printed messages were glued into the books after 1886. Annual messages contain useful information about state affairs in general and were normally made in the context of requesting an annual budget to fund the various government programs.

Beginning in the 1870's and continuing biannually until statehood, the Governor composed a formal report on the general affairs of the territory for the Secretary of the Interior. Like the messages to the legislature, these reports were published. Both handwritten and printed copies are included in the record books. These reports summarize important political, social, and economic developments in Utah territory, but they are not usually as detailed as those that were submitted to the territorial legislature in the Governor's Annual messages.

Appointment of officials

The Governor did not have the power to appoint most territorial officials directly until 1882. Before that time, however, the Governor's office did issue commissions to all elected territorial and local officials, and lists of these were added to the record books through 1876. Book A contains list of commissions granted from 1855 through 1863; book B contains lists from 1864 through 1871; and book C the lists from 1872-76. Officials commissioned included the administrators of executive departments of the territorial government as well as several different county and municipal officers. The list of local officials includes notary publics, county sheriffs, probate judges, county selectmen, coroners, justices of the peace, mayors, and aldermen. Lists of military officers commissioned by the Governor were entered separately during this time.

The Edmunds Law of 1882 vacated all elected offices in the territory and placed control of elections and the issuing of election certificates with a new board appointed directly by the President of the United States. (Edmunds Act, Compiled Laws of Utah, 1:110-13). This board became known as the Utah Commission. After the passage of the act, Governor Murray directly appointed individuals to fill vacated offices through proclamation, a document which is entered in book C, p. 383. This is the last entry that routinely records the appointment of commissioning of county and municipal officials. Until 1890, appointments to the executive departments of the territory were made directly by the Governor. After 1890 many of these appointments required approval of the Senate. Whether confirmation was required or not, lists of territorial or state officials appointed were often prepared and sent to the Senate, which then informed the Governor, usually in a series of communications, which appointments were accepted or rejected. Lists of appointments were no longer compiled and entered after 1920, even though proclamations making the appointment are recorded.

In searching for record of a particular appointment search the lists of elected officials that appear in the record books prior to 1877. Many of these are not often entered in chronological order along with the rest of the documents, but they can usually be found toward the end of each volume. If the appointment occurred after 1881 scan individual proclamations. From 1890 to 1920 separate lists of appointments are again entered and can be conveniently searched, as can the communications from the Senate announcing the confirmation of an appointment. These communications are clustered around the dates when the legislature was in session, usually February and March and in odd numbered years.

Appointments of delegates to national conventions were always made directly by the Governor. The first of these appears in entries from and 1870's and they are recorded regularly until 1949. This type of appointment was always done by proclamation, although some of the early ones are not specifically identified as such.

Copies of the commissions of all federally appointed officials were routinely added to the record books throughout the territorial period. These include papers for all Governors, Supreme Court judges and Secretaries of the Territory. Oaths of office for these same officials and related correspondence were often recorded along with the commission.


Documentation of elections is found primarily in the territorial record books. The Legislative Assembly and the county clerks sent copies of election results to the Secretary of the Territory to be recorded. This "canvas of elections" included results of all special and regular elections for both local and territorial offices.. Election certificates were then issued to the winners by the Secretary's office, but these are almost never recorded in this series. Election returns are often entered as separate lists in different sections of the record books and not in chronological order with the rest of the documents.

As election laws and practices changed--particularly after 1882--the canvas of elections came to include only the vote total for legislative elections or for Utah's delegates to the U.S. Congress. 1896 is the last year in which these are recorded. When elections were disputed, protests asking the Governor not to issue an election certificate were recorded along with supporting documentation. Entries relating to the disputed congressional election of 1880 are quite lengthy and are the best example.

Through proclamation, the Governor always established the dates for both special or regular elections. Normally the offices being contested are listed in each "election proclamation". This is the only type of document relating to elections that is recorded after statehood.


Executive correspondence was rarely recorded. Those few letters entered were apparently intended to act as a written record of the Governor's decisions and actions taken in response to emergencies and controversial issues. Some may have been viewed as precedents for policy decisions. No correspondence is recorded after 1896. A series of letters between territorial and federal officials concerning the Piute Indian war of 1889, and a long report in letter form of the coming of Coxey's Army of unemployed workers during the depression of 1893 are examples of this type of documentation.


The only acts of the Governor recorded exclusively after statehood are his communications with the legislature about specific bills. The Governor formally notified the House and Senate leaders of his approval of specific bills or of their filing in the Secretary of State's office. In cases where he did not approve a bill, or returned it for amendment, the Governor often included a lengthy discussion of his reasons the veto. These communications are only recorded until 1917. Book A, in the first entry, does contain a handwritten copy of the Organic Act which established Utah's territorial government, but copies of other acts affecting Utah's territorial government are recorded in other series.

Other documents

A few odd documents relating to actions not normally recorded in the record books appear during the 1880's. A list of these includes certificates of marriage, amnesty oaths, and petitions from cities asking for a change in their status. A few of the latter can also be found recorded in books from the statehood period. During this decade, the Secretary also began recording the time when he served as acting Governor, and this is virtually the only action that is also not a Proclamation recorded after 1932.



The record books are arranged alphabetically by a consecutive letter or number assigned to each volume. In the territorial period, books were assigned letters A-D; after statehood books were numbered consecutively from one through four. Entries in each book are chronological.

Related Records

Messages to the legislature from the Governor (2005- : Huntsman), Series 182, are the printed copies of the messages recorded by hand in this series.

Territorial executive papers from the Territorial Secretary, Series 241, contain information that overlaps with this series. Neither series contains full information.

Criminal warrant register from the Territorial Secretary, Series 305, contains records of warrants issued for the arrest of criminals.

Criminal requisitions registers from the Secretary of State, Series 306, contain information prior to 1881, which was recorded by the Secretary of State.

Pardons granted record books from the Secretary of State, Series 329, contain all pardons granted after 1880.

Oaths of office register from the Territorial Secretary, Series 350, records oaths that correspond to elected and appointed officials mentioned in this series.

Commission registers from the Secretary of State, Series 352, include lists of many officials whose appointments are recorded in this series.

Election papers from the Lieutenant Governor, Series 364, include official bonds, oaths, and certificates also found in this series.

Notaries public commissions registers from the Secretary of State, Series 388, contain appointments which are also recorded in this series.

Journals from the Legislature. Senate, Series 409, contain published copies of governors' messages to the legislature.

Journals from the Legislature. House of Representatives, Series 456, contain published copies of governors' messages to the legislature.

Journals from the Legislative Assembly, Series 3145, contain published copies of territorial governors' messages to the legislative assembly.

Legislative acts, resolutions, and memorial journals from the Secretary of State, Series 3148, contains final copies of the bills often discussed in these journals.

Journal record books from the Legislative Council, Series 3167, cite in the minutes of the council the governor's annual messages to the territorial legislature which are part of this series.

Oaths of office from the Department of Administrative Services. Division Archives and Records Service, Series 17170, include original oaths of office for some of the same elected and appointed officials whose duplicate oaths appear in this series, including general officers of the state militia on the governor's staff soon after statehood.

Governors' executive orders and proclamations from the Lieutenant Governor, Series 85039, contain the original copies of executive orders and proclamations which were transcribed in this series until 1949.

Custody History

This series was maintained by the Secretary of State's office until 1949. After that time, the use of record books as a place to record the official acts of the Governor was discontinued. In 1957 they were transferred to the archives for permanent storage.

Preferred Citation

Cite the Utah State Archives and Records Service, the creating agency name, the series title, and the series number.

Processing Note

The Executive Proceedings Record Books from the territorial period were microfilmed on 35 mm film between 1965 and 1971.The Executive Proceedings Record Books covering the years 1896 to 1949 have not yet been filmed. Archival processing was completed in 1987 by Val Wilson.

Finding Aids

Indexes: There is an electronic index to the names of individuals mentioned in the records and the volume and page number on which the name appears. View index.

Indexing Terms

  • Executive power--Utah.
  • Pardon--Utah.
  • Remission (Civil law)--Utah.
  • Statutes--Utah.
  • Utah--Politics and government--1850-1949.
  • Utah--Militia.

Container List

1 1 a Sept. 9, 1851-May 2, 1863
2 1 b July 13, 1852-Dec. 1, 1871
3 2 c Jan. 9, 1872-Nov, 18, 1886
4 3 d May 2, 1887-Jan. 13, 1890
5 4 d May 2, 1887-Dec. 1, 1895
6 5 1 Jan 6., 1896-Apr. 5, 1896
6 6 1 Jan 6, 1896-Mar. 21, 1911
6 7 2 Mar. 22, 1911-Sept. 4, 1914
7 8 3 Sept. 10, 1914-May 28, 1937
7 9 4 Apr. 23, 1937-Dec. 31, 1949

Page Last Updated October 18, 2012.