Having $100,000 in 1874 was the same as being a multimillionaire today. Few people ever amassed so much money, and fewer still were rich enough to make a loan of that size. In the Fall 2013 issue of Nebraska History, author Dennis Mihelich explores the rumor that Edward Creighton of Omaha once loaned this huge amount to the Mormon leader Brigham Young.
Why would the future namesake of a Catholic university help out the controversial Mormon leader? It turns out that, whatever their religious differences, the two men had a mutually beneficial business relationship. Mihelich follows the story of how they met in Salt Lake City, where Creighton attempted to gain Young’s support for the proposed transcontinental telegraph line to pass through the city. After that, Creighton and Young made numerous business deals.
In the 1940s a historian looking for evidence of the $100,000 loan was unable to prove or disprove its existence. Staff at the Mormon archive told the researcher that they had no record of the transaction. However, decades later, by looking at Creighton family records Mihelich confirms that the $100,000 loan was made in January of 1874.
Page from “Inventory of Notes and Securities & Belongings to the Estate of E. Creighton,” showing the loan from Creighton to Young. Top: Ed Creighton (left) and Brigham Young. Creighton photo: History Nebraska RG2411-1147a. Young photo: Wikimedia Commons
Mihelich explains how banking was different in the nineteenth century — loans were much harder to come by, and interest rates were much higher. Sometimes wealthy individuals like Creighton made loans that banks would not (the ledger detail above shows numerous personal loans, large and small, to individuals and businesses). Obviously Creighton saw Young as a good risk. But all this raises unanswered questions about the purpose of the loan. What did Young need the money for? That, Mihelich says, remains an enigma.
–Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant
(Posted 10/16/2013; updated 4/6/2021)