He organized and directed the Utah territorial expansion into the Fort Bridger area, founding Fort Supply in 1853 and organizing Green River County (now in Wyoming) with officers from Salt Lake City in 1854. In 1859 he conducted evening schools for adults in English grammar. Wilford Woodruff was one of his students.
Under appointment from Brigham Young, he moved to Carson Valley, Utah (now Nevada), and established an outpost on the western edge of the Utah Territory from 1855 to 1857. As the presiding officer and probate judge, he led the colony and built and operated a sawmill. He very nearly froze to death in fetching parts for this mill over the mountains from California in mid-winter, but survived with the loss of a toe. This settlement was abandoned at great loss with the advent of the Utah War in 1857.
He gave much advice on how to improve Utah's agriculture. He gained some of his knowledge from observing crop irrigation in Syria and Lebanon while on his Palestine mission. He was the chief influence behind the incorporation of the Provo Canal and Irrigation Company in 1853 and was an early advocate of controlled range grazing. In 1861 he remarked that in the past "there was an abundance of grass growing all over these benches . . . like a meadow. Now nothing but desert weed, sage and rabbit bush."