George H. Dern was a Utah mining man, businessman, and politician. He was born in 1872 in Dodge County, Nebraska, the
son of John Dern, a farmer-businessman. Dern attended the University of Nebraska for three years. In 1894, before
graduating, he migrated to Utah following his father's lead in the wake of the elder Dern's investment in mining property at
Mercur. George Dern assumed the position of bookkeeper in his father's enterprise, the Mercur Gold Mining and Milling
Company. He quickly moved up in the company becoming general manager in 1900, a post which he continued to hold in the
wake that company's consolidation and growth into the Consolidated Mercur Gold Mine Company.
Dern developed a reputation as an efficient manager and innovator, developing a vacuum slime-filter process and the Holt-Dern
roasting process, the latter process utilized by various mining concerns both in the United States and abroad. In the wake of the
Consolidated Mercur's shutdown in 1913, Dern managed mining concerns in other parts of Utah, including Park City's famous
Ontario Mine (1912-1915); the Tintic Milling Co., in partnership with Jesse Knight (1915-1919); and the famous Emma Mine
in the Alta Mining District (1919-1920). Dern was also involved in a wide variety of other Utah business concerns; including
ranching, dairying, public utilities, and banking Dern's rise as an important Utah politician commenced with his election in 1914
as a Democrat to the Utah State Senate representing Salt Lake County. Serving in this body for two terms (1915-1923), he
became known as a progressive politician promoting various reform measures, most notably Utah's first workmans
compensation act in 1917. Despite being a non-Mormon and a Democrat in a state which was predominately Mormon with
strong Republic tendencies, Dern got along well, politically. He was personable and empathetic, willing to listen and respond to
all points of view. This served him well in his election to the office of Utah governor in 1924. He was successful in defeating his
Republican, Mormon opponent, the incumbent governor, Charles R. Mabey, during a year of Republican ascendancy.
As governor for two terms (1925-1933), Dern reformed the state's tax system and improved the financial support of public
schools. But he was, perhaps, most noted for his role in securing ratification of a revised Colorado River Compact, which was
crucial in paving the way for the future development of the waterway. As chairman of the National Governor's Conference
(1929-30), he became acquainted with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York, and gave strong backing to
Roosevelt's 1932 presidential campaign. Following Roosevelt's election, Dern was
appointed Secretary of War (1933-36), becoming the first Utahn to fill a position in a presidential cabinet. Although matters of national defense were of secondary
importance to domestic concerns during these first years of the New Deal, Dern managed to enlarge and motorize the army. He
died at age sixty-four while serving in this post.
George H. Dern was a 33rd degree Mason & Shriner, he served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Utah
in 1913 and was an Honorary member of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.