Lehi Sugar Factory

Development of the Sugar Beet Industry in Utah

Built following a direct revelation from the prophet Wilford Woodruff, the Lehi Sugar factory marked the fulfillment of a multi decade struggle to bring the beet sugar industry to Utah. With its completion came a great economic opportunity for Lehi and its neighboring cities.

Since the Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah in 1847, Brigham Young, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, was determined to help them become a self-sufficient people and bring industry to Utah. Sugar production was one of the industries at the forefront of church leaders’ minds, because of the vast amount of sugar that had to be imported into the area otherwise. Growing sugar cane was not a viable option because of the arid climate. However, around this time, a method was developed in France allowing sugar to be isolated from beets. Leaders of the church, including John Taylor, were assigned to purchase and move beet sugar processing machinery to the West. Once the machinery arrived, church members tested it to see if it would indeed be able to isolate sugar from beets. The project was a massive failure and the church lost a fortune. 

No further attempts were made to produce sugar locally until 1889, when sugar beet production was becoming widespread throughout the United States, and the method of producing sugar from beets was more widely understood. Wilford Woodruff, as current president of the church, received a revelation that the will of the Lord was to have a sugar beet factory built in Utah. In order to raise enough capital for the factory, the church used a large sum of tithing money and borrowed from multiple banks. The Lehi Sugar Factory was built, and Wilford Woodruff opened the ceremony that dedicated the factory to the Lord, a common practice in the Church. 

The sugar factory played a large role in the community, contributing greatly to the financial wellbeing of those living in Lehi and others close by. It provided  many jobs working in the factory and an opportunity for farmers to grow crops. The factory continued to operate from 1891 until 1924, when sugar production was relocated to other factories around the state. The factory lot, formerly owned by the Utah and Idaho Sugar Company, was sold in 1979 to a trucking company where it remains in their possession. The smokestack for the factory has since been converted to a cell phone tower, a symbol of the change that has taken place in Utah’s economy over the years.

Images

Sugar Cos. Mill, Lehi Utah, 1890
Sugar Cos. Mill, Lehi Utah, 1890 Source: Savage, C.R. "Sugar Cos. Mill, Lehi, Utah. C.R. Savage, Photo." MSS P 24 Item 692. Charles R. Savage Photograph Collection. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/Savage/id/1271
Plaque near the former Lehi Sugar Factory
Plaque near the former Lehi Sugar Factory Source: Photograph taken by Caleb Nokes

Location

Metadata

Caleb J. Nokes, Brigham Young University, “Lehi Sugar Factory,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 20, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/656.