John Sharp VI

This page was last updated on August 18, 2022.


Bishop Sharp, known in Utah also as the railroad bishop, was born in 1820 at the Devon iron-works, Scotland, and when eight years of age went to work in a coal-pit. In 1847, being then a coal-miner in Clackmannanshire, he was converted to Mormonism, and the following year sailed for New Orleans with his two brothers, who had also joined the faith. They reached S. L. City in 1850. Here Sharp was first employed in quarrying stone for the tabernacle and tithing-office, and was soon afterward made superintendent of the quarry. In 1854 he was ordained a bishop, and ten years later was appointed assistant superintendent of public works. When the contract was made with the Union Pacific by Brigham, as above mentioned, Sharp was one of the principal sub-contractors. In 1871 he became superintendent of the Utah Central, and in 1873 president, having previously been elected vice president of the Utah Southern. While employed as purchasing agent for the latter company in the eastern states, he became associated with the directors of the Union Pacific, by whom he was afterward elected a member of the board. (Bancroft's History of Utah, 1890, page 755)

Wikipedia article about John Sharp

"Brigham Young appointed Sharp as his personal representative and as a representative of the LDS Church in transcontinental railroad construction negotiations with the Union Pacific Railroad. After the railroad was completed in 1869, Sharp became an officer for the Utah Central Railroad and the Utah Southern Railroad. He also became a director for the Union Pacific Railroad."

Biographical Notes

John Sharp was one of the principal sub-contractors under Brigham Young, whose contract with Union Pacific amounted to about two and a quarter millions of dollars. He was part of the partnership of Sharp & Young, along with Joseph A. Young, Brigham's eldest son. They employed between five and six hundred men, and the amount of their contract was about a million dollars. To them fell the heavy stone work of the bridge abutments and the cutting of the tunnels in Weber Canyon. Afterwards, in the race between the Union Pacific and Central Pacific constructing companies, Sharp and Young took another contract with Central Pacific for work amounting to a hundred thousand dollars, upon which they employed from four to five hundred men.

The following is based on information in the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, and in "The Iron Trail to the Golden Spike" By John J. Stewart.

John Sharp, first Bishop of the Twentieth Ward, Salt Lake City, Utah, was born Nov. 8, 1820, in the Devon ironworks, Scotland, and was sent into a coal pit to work when but eight years of age. In 1847 he converted to Mormonism while still engaged as a coal miner. John Sharp became a member of the church along with his two brothers, and in 1848, they left Scotland for America. They landed in New Orleans, came up the Mississippi river to St. Louis, Missouri, where they lived until the spring of 1850, and then took up their line of march for Salt Lake City.

The date of his arrival, August 28, 1850, makes John Sharp one of the earlier settlers of Utah. He first went to work in the Church quarry, getting out stone for the "Old Tabernacle" and Tithing Office, and next was made the superintendent of the quarry. Under his direction the stone was quarried for use in the various public works in the city, the foundation of the LDS Temple, and the massive wall around the Temple block. It must be understood that the quarrying and hauling of those huge blocks of granite was no indifferent undertaking. The Church quarry is eighteen miles from the city, and the rock had to be hauled by oxen.

In 1854 he was selected by Brigham Young as the Bishop of the Twentieth Ward in Salt Lake City. In 1864 Bishop Sharp was appointed assistant superintendent of the Salt Lake City Public Works, and when Pres. Daniel H. Wells went to England to take charge of the European mission, he became the acting superintendent until his return.

Recognizing his industry and ability, President Young invited him to become . In 1867 he became a subcontractor under Brigham Young on the Union Pacific railroad, as a chief subcontractor on the contract, particularly to be in charge of the bridge and tunnel work, where his experience in stone cutting would be most valuable. Under this contract, Sharp and Young did the heavy stone work of the bridge abutments, and the cutting of the tunnels of Weber canyon. In this work they employed from five to six hundred men, and the contract amounted to about a million dollars.

Bishop Sharp represented Brigham Young at the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory in May 1869. When Union Pacific failed to pay the Mormons as it should for their work on the railroad. In the difficulties of the settlement between Brigham Young and the Union Pacific company, John Sharp, John Taylor and Joseph A. Young were chosen to go to Boston to negotiate a settlement of the issue. Success came when the Union Pacific directors, in the lack of the company's funds, the settlement included $600,000 worth of railroad material, iron and rolling stock, which was used in the construction of the Utah Central railway.

Sharp played a key part in construction of the Utah Central Railroad in 1869-70, became its superintendent in 1871, and its president in 1873. He was also named vice-president of the Utah Southern Railroad Company when that was organized in 1870. He went east as the purchasing agent for this company, and becoming extensively associated with the Union Pacific directors, was elected as a director of Union Pacific in 1875, which office he held till his death in Salt Lake City on December 23, 1891.

The Railroads

(Listed chronologically)

Utah Central Railroad (1869)

Utah Southern Railroad (1870) including Utah Southern Railroad Extension

Summit County Railroad (1871)

Echo & Park City Railroad (1881)


March 10, 1875
Bishop John Sharp was elected to the board of directors for Union Pacific. (Klein, p. 317)


John Signor wrote the following in his history of the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad.

The Union Pacific incorporated a subsidiary known as the Nevada Pacific Railway Company on May 13, 1889, which then applied to the United States Land Office for a right-of-way across Nevada. This was granted, but before any construction commenced, the Nevada Pacific came under direct control of the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern. Construction was first initiated on the line south of Milford during December 1889. John Sharp, a Mormon Bishop, was in charge of the project and H.M. McCartney was resident engineer.

Sharp's energies were devoted entirely to maintaining the work force required to reach construction goals, as the combination of a remote location and low wages made it difficult to attract labor. To add to his problems, on July 4, 1890, in true patriotic fervor, but over Sharp's objections, the Company's labor gangs deserted the camps en masse for the saloons and gambling halls of Culverwell, a settlement which later became Caliente.

John Sharp's Sons

John Sharp Jr.


John Sharp Jr. (John Sharp VII) was part of the officers of most of the railroads his father was involved with. He also was part of the contracting company of Sharp & Young work at building the Union Pacific in 1868. He was one of the directors and shareholders of the Salt Lake & Fort Douglas Railway, along with the Salt Lake Ripid Transit Company, one of the early Salt Lake City streetcar companies.

James Sharp


James Sharp was part of the officers of most of the railroads his father was involved with. He also was part of the contracting company of Sharp & Young work at building the Union Pacific in 1868. He was one of the directors and shareholders of the Salt Lake & Fort Douglas Railway.

William Sharp


John Sharp's son William G. Sharp was the major moving force behind the development of coal mining in Carbon County, including United States Fuel Co., and Utah Railway. By age 28, in 1885, he was superintendent of the coal mine in Pleasant Valley, gradually working his way to the top by 1900 as the general manager of Utah Fuel Co., and its Pleasant Valley Coal Co., subsidiary.

(Read more about William G. Sharp)

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