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H I S T O R I C A L Q U A RT E R LY
WINTER 2008 • VOLUME 76 • NUMBER 1
UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERL Y
PHILIP F. NOTARIANNI, Editor ALLAN KENT POWELL,
Managing Editor CRAIG FULLER, Associate Editor
ADVISORY BOARD OF EDITORS
Lake City, 2009 Lake City, 2009 ROBERT E. PARSON, Benson, 2010 W. PAUL REEVE, Salt Lake City, 2008 JOHN SILLITO, Ogden, 2010 NANCY J.TANIGUCHI, Merced, California, 2008 GARY TOPPING, Salt Lake City, 2008 RONALD G.WATT,West Valley City, 2010 COLLEEN WHITLEY, Salt Lake City, 2009
STANFORD J. LAYTON, Salt
LEE ANN KREUTZER, Salt
Utah Historical Quarterly was established in 1928 to publish articles, documents, and reviews contributing to knowledge of Utah history. The Quarterly is published four times a year by the Utah State Historical Society, 300 Rio Grande, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101. Phone (801) 533-3500 for membership and publications information. Members of the Society receive the Quarterly, and Currents, the quarterly newsletter, upon payment of the annual dues: individual, $25; institution, $25; student and senior citizen (age sixty-five or older), $20; sustaining, $35; patron, $50; business, $100.
Manuscripts submitted for publication should be double-spaced with endnotes. Authors are encouraged to include a PC diskette with the submission. For additional information on requirements, contact the managing editor. Articles and book reviews represent the views of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Utah State Historical Society.
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U TA H H I S T O R I C A L Q U A R T E R LY
WINTER 2008 • VOLUME 76 • NUMBER 1
2 4 22
IN THIS ISSUE A Lion in the Path: Genesis of the Utah War, 1857-1858 By David L. Bigler And The War Came: James Buchanan, the Utah Expedition, and the Decision to Intervene By William P. MacKinnon The Utah War: A Photographic Essay of Some of Its Important Historic Sites By John Eldredge Sam Houston and the Utah War By Michael Scott Van Wagenen The Spencer-Pike Affair By Richard W. Sadler BOOK REVIEWS
Reid L. Neilson and Ronald W.Walker, eds. Reflections of a Mormon
66 79 94
Historian: Leonard J.Arrington on the New Mormon History
Reviewed by Charles S. Peterson
Jennifer Nez Denetdale. Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of
Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita
Reviewed by Robert S. McPherson
Matthew C. Godfrey. Religion, Politics, and Sugar:The Mormon
Church, the Federal Government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907-1921
Reviewed by Michael Christensen
Don Gale. Bags to Riches: The Story of I.J.Wagner
Reviewed by Eileen Hallet Stone
Patricia F. Cowley and Parker M. Nielson. Thunder Over Zion:
The Life of Chief Judge Willis W Ritter .
Reviewed by Kenneth L. Cannon II
© COPYRIGHT 2008 UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
IN THIS ISSUE
ne hundred and fifty years ago a federal army of nearly two thousand soldiers under the command of Col. Albert Sidney Johnston huddled in their makeshift quarters at Camp Scott near the ruins of Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming to wait out the bitter winter and prepare to march into the Salt Lake Valley later in the spring of 1858. Meanwhile, Mormon spies kept watch on the soldiers from the heights of Bridger Butte a few miles west of Camp Scott while the territorial militia continued preparation of defense fortifications in Echo Canyon and elsewhere along the trail in anticipation of battle with the federal troops when they moved into the Mormon stronghold. The year 1857 had been an eventful and difficult year for Utah and the nation. The fight over whether Kansas would be a “free” or “slave” state generated national attention to “Bleeding Kansas,”—a prologue to what became a full-scale Civil War in 1861. At the same time the United States Supreme Court increased tensions in the landmark decision in the Dred Scott case, when it decreed that all African Americans were not citizens and that the sanctity of property rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution included the human property of slaveholders. As Kenneth M. Stampp wrote in his classic study of the United States on the eve of civil war, America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink, “1857 was probably the year when the North and South reached the political point of no return—when it became well nigh impossible to head off a violent resolution of the differences between them.” Tensions were no less severe in Utah as newly elected president James Buchanan acted in the spring of 1857 to replace Brigham Young as territorial governor with Alfred E. Cumming. Unconvinced that Mormons would accept the new governor, Buchanan directed the United States Army to provide a substantial and suitable escort for the newly appointed governor and in so doing precipitated what has long been known as the Utah War. As the Utah-bound expedition made its way along the well-traveled OregonCalifornia Trail toward Utah, approximately one hundred and twenty California-bound emigrants were killed by Mormons at Mountain Meadows in southwestern Utah on September 11. This special issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly examines the background, issues, individuals, and consequences surrounding the Utah War. Not only did the North and the South stand on the brink of civil war in 1857, but so did the East and West as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, political upheavals, and the Utah War exacerbated tensions and hostilities in Utah, California, and surrounding territories that were no less volatile than those of slavery and states’ rights in Kansas and the South.
ON THE COVER: James Buchanan during his term as President of the United States—1857 to 1861. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Our first two articles offer differing, yet complementary views on the causes of the Utah War. They address such questions as how the decision was reached to send a federal army to Utah, and what roles United States President James Buchanan and Mormon leader and Utah Territorial Governor Brigham Young played in launching the impending conflict. In an effort to give a visual understanding of important sites and events associated with the Utah War, our third article illustrates the landmarks along the more than eleven hundred mile journey undertaken by the federal army from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Camp Floyd, forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Less than a decade later, Civil War photographers like Mathew Brady, would use the medium of photography to convey the death and horror of war to a shocked America. Our fourth article, with its focus on Sam Houston, reminds us that statesmen of all generations have the right and duty to speak out on controversial matters and, as Sam Houston did with the Utah War, make their opinions and recommendations a part of the public discussion. Although the Utah War saw no actual battles and few deaths, our final article, in recounting the thirty-year Spencer-Pike affair, instructs us that the threat of violence was real and that hostilities and animosity took decades to ease and disappear. There is no doubt that the Utah War was a significant event in Utah and American history.1 In 1858 Abraham Lincoln said in reference to the United States and slavery, “a house divided against its self cannot stand.” Just as the nation had to deal with the issue of slavery to insure its continuation, so did the Territory of Utah have to come to an understanding and acceptance of its relationship with the rest of the nation. That process was accelerated, if not begun, with the Utah War.
1 The Utah War is a popular topic in the Utah Historical Quarterly. Nineteen articles and journals have been published beginning in 1941 with Richard Thomas Ackley’s “Across the Plains” in the July-October issue of Volume 9, and the 1858-1860 Journal of Albert Tracy as the entire volume 13 in 1945. The other articles include: “Mormon Finance and the Utah War,” by Leonard J. Arrington, July 1952; “A Territorial Militiaman in the Utah War: Journal of Newton Tuttle,” edited by Hamilton Gardner, October 1954; “Journals of the Legislative Assembly, Territory of Utah Seventh Annual Session, 1857-1858,” by Everett L. Cooley, April, July, and October 1956; “Charles A. Scott's Diary of the Utah Expedition, 1857-1861,” edited by Robert E. Stowers and John M. Ellis, October 1960; “The Buchanan Spoils System and the Utah Expedition: Careers of W M F Magraw and John M. Hockaday,” by William P. MacKinnon, Spring 1963; “Camp in the Sagebrush: Camp Floyd, Utah, 1858-1861,” by Thomas G. Alexander and Leonard J. Arrington,Winter 1966; “The Crisis at Fort Limhi, 1858,” by David L. Bigler, Spring 1967; “Fort Rawlins, Utah: A Question of Mission and Means,” by Stanford J. Layton, Winter 1974; “The Gap in the Buchanan Revival: The Utah Expedition of, 1857-58,” by William P. MacKinnon, Winter 1977; “A Crisis Averted? General Harney and the Change in Command of The Utah Expedition,” by Wilford Hill Lecheminant, Winter 1983; “125 Years of Conspiracy Theories: Origins of The Utah Expedition, 1857-58,” by William P. MacKinnon, Summer 1984; “Thomas L. Kane And The Utah War,” by Richard D. Poll, Spring 1993; “The Nauvoo Legion and the Prevention of the Utah War,” by Brandon J. Metcalf, Fall 2004; “‘Unquestionably Authentic and Correct in Every Detail’: Probing John I. Ginn and His Remarkable Utah War Story,” by William P. MacKinnon, Fall 2004; “‘I Have Given Myself to the Devil’:Thomas L. Kane and the Culture of Honor,” by Matthew Grow, Fall 2005.
BY DAVID L. BIGLER
n December 1857, two American armies confronted each other in the snow on the high plains of today’s southwestern Wyoming. At Fort Bridger, some 1,800 officers and men, including volunteers, of the U.S. Army’s Utah Expedition, roughly one fifth of the republic’s regular soldiers available for frontier duty, waited for spring to clear the way to advance on Salt Lake Valley. Between them and the Mormon stronghold stood the hosts of latter-day Israel, also known as the Utah Militia, or Nauvoo Legion, as many as four thousand strong, ready to stop them in the winding Echo Canyon corridor through the Wasatch Mountains. In Washington that month, the Secretary of War John B. Floyd said the government could no longer avoid a collision with the Mormon community. “Their settlements lie in the grand pathway which leads from our Atlantic States to Brigham Young—Utah’s first the new and flourishing communities grow- territorial governor serving from ing up upon our Pacific seaboard,” Floyd 1850-1857
David L. Bigler is an independent historian in Roseville, California. He is an honorary life member of the Utah State Historical Society, a charter member of Utah Westerners, and author of books and articles on Mormon history in the west, including Forgotten Kingdom:The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 18471890, and Fort Limhi:The Mormon Adventure in Oregon Territory, 1855-1858.This paper was presented as the Utah History Address at the Annual Meeting of the Utah State Historical Society, September 14, 2006, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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“A Lion in the Path”: Genesis of the Utah War, 18571858
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said.They stand as “a lion in the path,” he added, defying civil and military authority and encouraging the Indians to attack emigrant families.1 The lion in the nation’s path was Brigham Young, Utah’s first governor. And the grand pathway he stood in the way of was the overland line of travel and communications between the nation’s eastern and western sections. Although replaced as territorial governor, he had declared martial law three months before to stop all travel without a permit across an expanse of western America that reached from the Rocky Mountains of today’s central Colorado to the Sierra Nevada, west of Reno. It was an act of defiance, if not war, that would affect Utah’s history for years to come. The immediate impact of Young’s actions fell on California. There a newly elected fifth governor voiced alarm that winter over the effect of the trails closure and “Mormons and Indians” on immigration. Governor John Weller said his people were “entitled to protection whilst traveling through American territory.”To secure it, “The whole power of the federal government should be invoked,” he said.2 As he spoke, volunteer militia companies were forming in gold mining towns along the Sierra Nevada, ready to march on Utah from the west.3 Noted historian David McCullough has said that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. History could have gone off in any number of different ways at any point along the way.4 But how could it come to this? To make the picture even more bizarre, both sides justified their actions by the U.S. Constitution. President James Buchanan in May 1857 acted under his executive authority and power as commander in chief of America’s armed forces. He ordered the U.S. Army to escort a new governor to Utah and serve as a posse comitatus in enabling appointed officials to enforce federal law in a territory he believed to be in a state of open rebellion. But his action touched off an armed revolt. “God almighty being my helper, they cannot come here,” Brigham Young roared and declared martial law.5 The United States was breaking the Constitution, he said, and “we would now have to go forth & defend it & also the kingdom of God.”6 He believed God had inspired framers of the Constitution to create a land of religious freedom where His kingdom would be set up in the Last Days as foretold by the Old Testament prophet Daniel. Young and his people had established God’s Kingdom. The U.S. Constitution was its founding document.They were its true defenders, not corrupt Washington politicians. Meanwhile, a Nauvoo Legion lookout on Bridger Butte, eyeing the
1 2 3 4 5 6
“Report of the Secretary of War,” December 5, 1857, S. Exec. Doc. 11 (35-1), 1858, Serial 920, 7, 8. Governor John B.Weller, Inaugural Address, January 8, 1858, California State Library, Sacramento. “More Volunteers for the Mormon War,” San Francisco Evening Bulletin, January 5, 1858, 5:74, 2/1. David McCullough,“Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are,” Imprimis, 34 (April 2005), 4. Brigham Young Remarks, September 13, 1857, in Deseret News, September 23, 1857, 228/1. Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 10 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983), 5:78.
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federal camp on Blacks Fork, may have thought that he had seen all this before. He was now engaged in the nation’s first civil war, but it was also the third Mormon war within twenty years. And the causes of all three— the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, the 1845-46 Mormon War in Illinois, and now the one in Utah — had a familiar look. What could they have in common? The following quotes point to the answer: They instituted among themselves a government of their own, independent of and in opposition to the government of this state.7 The Mormons openly denounced the government of the United States as utterly corrupt, and as about to pass away and to be replaced by the government of God.8 Their hostility to the lawful government of the country has at length become so violent that no officer bearing a commission from the Chief Magistrate of the Union can enter the Territory or remain there with safety.9 Who spoke those words? All were elected heads of state; each sent troops to put down a perceived Mormon rebellion; and they used the word “government” five times in three sentences to identify the problem. In order of mention, they were Lilburn W. Boggs, governor of Missouri; Illinois Governor Thomas Ford; and James Buchanan, our fifteenth American president.What government did they refer to? When the heavens opened in the early nineteenth century and God spoke again to humankind as He did in the days of Moses, He reinstituted a system of rule, known as a theocracy, defined as divine rule through inspired spokesmen. Theocratic rule bestows many blessings. No longer need one bear the anguish of uncertainty and an endless quest to discover who he is, why she came to be at this point in time, and how one can be sure of self-awareness hereafter. With such blessed assurance, however, comes an unwelcome corollary. For prior to the millennium, a theocracy, ruled from heaven above, cannot co-exist with a republic, governed by its people from earth below, without civil warfare. History has shown that the two governing systems are incompatible and cannot live together in peace. Instead there will be a struggle for supremacy until one compels the other either to bend or be gone. Brigham Young knew of this incompatibility from experience by 1846
7 “Extracts from Gov. Boggs’ Message of 1840,” in Document Containing The Correspondence, Orders, &C. In Relation To The Disturbances With the Mormons; And The Evidence Given Before The Hon. Austin A. King (Fayette, Mis: Office of the Boon’s Lick Democrat, 1841; published by order of the Missouri General Assembly), 9-10. 8 Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois from its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, ed. Milo Milton Quaife, 2 vols., (Chicago: S.C. Griggs and Co., 1854; repr. R. R. Donnelley & Sons, Lakeside Classics Edition, Lakeside Press, 1945-1946), 2:158-59. 9 James Buchanan,“A Proclamation,” House Exec. Doc. 2 (35-2), vol. 1, Serial 997, 69-72.
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when he led his people west from Nauvoo toward the place that his predecessor had chosen before he was murdered in 1844.The Great Basin was a vast region of interior drainage, outside the United States and hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of rule by its professed owner, the Republic of Mexico. In this empty and isolated area,Young would do again what had been done before in Missouri and Illinois. In Missouri, land possession was volatile even before 1831, when the Almighty named Jackson County as Zion, and Independence, its frontier seat, a booming jumping off place on the Santa Fe Trail, the site of New Jerusalem. The plan of Zion’s city was a picture of millennial order (theocratic government) and communal economic purpose. It resembled a beehive with a central square mile, or hive, of identical lots, where the working bees of Zion lived, and plots on the outskirts for them to go out to and harvest. Everywhere else, people lived on the land they farmed and were widely scattered outside smaller towns. On paper, the planned urban center seems harmless, but a closer look reveals its confrontational nature. The City of Zion was exclusive, even hostile toward outsiders for whom it held no room.The collective agricultural concept was intimidating to next-door farm families, whose land spelled their survival.The command to “fill up the world” with cities of the same design bears the compulsion of divine rule to prevail over, rather than coexist with, its neighbors. All of which mattered little in the summer of 1847 when Brigham Young laid out at the lowest eastern point of the Great Basin almost a true copy of Zion’s City, today’s Salt Lake City, which became a model for future Mormon towns. Land belonging to the Lord would not be bought or sold, he said, but assigned as inheritances. Having begun the task to establish God’s Kingdom as an earthly dominion,Young headed back over the trail to wave on a parade of wagons and prepare to return the next year. And while he was gone, the earth moved. Events took place so momentous they would change forever Young’s vision of God’s western Kingdom, as well as the destiny of the nation itself, in ways still beyond our powers to discern. Six months after Young’s 1847 company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, two Mormon Battalion veterans recorded the discovery of gold in California. A human tsunami was about to transform an isolated land into the Crossroads of the West. And ten days later, an even more pivotal event occurred. On February 2, 1848, the United States acquired all or most of five present southwestern states, including Utah, plus parts of two others, under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the War with Mexico. One cannot overstate the impact of these happenings on Utah history. No longer were Zion’s working bees, with a lot in the city and a plot on the outskirts, trespassers on land claimed by Mexico. Instead, at a stroke, they became squatters on the public domain of the United States. To the features that made Zion’s City unwelcome in Missouri was added an even more controversial one: the exclusive communitarian design on divinely
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held property conflicted with both the land laws and policies of a republic that transferred two-thirds of its public domain into private ownership during the nineteenth century. All it took for an outsider to acquire the right to buy 160 acres of the Lord’s domain was clearance of the Indian claim and an authorized survey. For federal surveyors, life in early Utah would be an adventure. Not yet ready to adopt a sovereign position, Mormon leaders now faced the need to reach an interim accommodation with the nation they had just left.Why at first they decided to seek a territorial form of government, the least favorable for establishing a sovereign realm, is unclear. On May 3, 1849, John Bernhisel headed to Washington with a memorial twenty-two feet long asking Congress to create a territory named Deseret. If the region staked out by fewer than ten thousand settlers appeared extravagant— roughly twice the size of Texas—it reflected the expectation of future growth. At the same time, Mormon leaders created a “free and independent” state of the same name to stand until territorial status was granted. This soon evolved into a memorial for statehood. Two months after Bernhisel left to request a territory, Almon W. Babbitt took off to seek full entry into the Union. Deseret now had conflicting petitions. It would take months to get orders from the Great Salt Lake Valley, so Apostle Wilford Woodruff and John Bernhisel in November 1849 went to Philadelphia to seek counsel from the faith’s faithful advocate,Thomas L. Kane. Kane told them he had applied to President James Polk for a territorial government at Brigham Young’s request, but that Polk had refused to accept the condition that he would “appoint men from among yourselves,” probably referring to Young as governor. At this, “I had to use my own discretion and I withdrew the Petition,” he said. “You must have officers of yourselves, & not military Politicians who are strutting around in your midst usurping Authority over you,” Kane told Apostle Woodruff. “You are better without any Government from the hands of Congress than a Territorial Government.”10 Kane next revealed his own prophetic powers. Under a territory,“corrupt political men from Washington would control the land and Indian agencies,” he said, “and conflict with your own calculations.”11 True to his prediction, President James Buchanan in 1858 handed Congress over sixty letters and reports over a six-year period to justify sending a military expedition to Utah. All but four were written by officials from the two agencies Kane had put his finger on—the U.S. Land Office and the Office of Indian Affairs. In the end, it mattered little. Obsessed with slavery, Congress created a territory, took away its seaport, and gave it an unwanted name, Utah. President Millard Fillmore signed the bill on September 9, 1850, and it
Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 3:515-16. Ibid.
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could be said the Utah War started on that date. One emigrant said he heard Brigham Young say, “If they send a governor here, he will be glad to black my boots for me.”12 Thanks to Kane’s influence, President Fillmore inadvertently handed the job of blacking Young’s boots to one of his wives. He named Young himself Utah’s first governor. Other presidential appointments over the next six years were a mixed lot, but not noticeably different from those of other territories. Perhaps the best was Franklin Pierce’s choice as Utah’s surveyor general. Fifty-twoyear-old David H. Burr was nothing like the controversial figure he would become. One of the nation’s leading mapmakers, he had served as cartographer for the U.S. Post Office and official geologist of Congress. Over a long career, he had surveyed and mapped most of the states and many cities and counties and published the first map of North America incorporating the discoveries of Jedediah Smith. But as Kane predicted, Burr got no respect in Utah. Nor had he seen anything like it when he came in 1855. Patterned after Zion’s City, Mormon settlements were twice the size federal law allowed for preemption entry on occupied town sites, a half-section, 320 acres. Great Salt Lake City topped that limit by six times.13 The year before Burr arrived, settlers began to consecrate their holdings to the church through trustee-in-trust Brigham Young.14 And Utah legislators ignored Indian rights and granted by law canyons, water and timber resources, and herd grounds to Mormon leaders as if to convey ownership. But these oddities hardly compared to the hostility Burr’s crews met in the field. According to his deputy, local settlers told native chiefs that “we were measuring out the land” to claim it and “drive the Mormons away and kill the Indians.”15 Burr was seen as “an enemy, and an intruder upon their rights.”16 In the past, his work had opened the way for settlers elsewhere to own their land. He could not understand why they removed the mounds and posts that marked section and township corners and hoped they would realize “how important it is to them to perpetuate these corners.”17 When the day came, they would blame him for not setting them properly. Thomas Kane’s prophetic powers in relation to land ownership also proved true when it came to the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs. In the house divided that was Utah, the federal agency’s aim was to keep peace on the
12 David L. Bigler, ed., A Winter with the Mormons:The 1852 Letters of Jotham Goodell (Salt Lake City:The Tanner Trust Fund, J.Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, 2001), 50. 13 See “An Act for the relief of the citizens of towns upon the lands of the United States, under certain circumstances,”The Public Statutes at Large of the United States,Vol 5, 453-58. 14 Report of the Commissioner, General Land Office, House Exec. Doc. 1 (34-3), 1856, Serial 893, 210-11. 15 C.L. Craig to David H. Burr, August 1, 1856, “The Utah Expedition,” House Exec. Doc. 71 (35-1), 1858, Serial 956, 115-16. 16 Ibid., David H. Burr to Thomas A. Hendricks, June 11, 1857, 120. 17 Annual Report of Surveyor General of Utah, September 30, 1856, House Exec. Doc. 1 (34-3), 1856, Serial 893, 543.
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frontier. The mission of God’s Kingdom, on the other hand, was to teach the Indians, or Lamanites, the gospel of their forefathers and become partners with them in building New Jerusalem on the American continent. Appointment of Brigham Young as ex-officio superintendent of Indian Affairs placed the Mormon leader in charge of conflicting objectives. It is not surprising that Young, to the alarm of U.S. Indian agents, favored one at the cost of the other. Nor would it have mattered, except when Zion was redeemed, said the prophet Micah in words repeated in The Book of Mormon, the “remnant of Jacob,” or Lamanites, would be among unrepentant Gentiles “as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces.”18 People on the frontier could figure out that the “remnant of Jacob” referred to the Indians, while the flocks of sheep this young lion would go through, tearing people to bits, if they did not repent, probably meant them. So it was that Mormon overtures to the tribes on the Missouri frontier had been a source of rumor, misunderstanding and conflict. The same fear can be seen in Secretary of War Floyd’s 1857 report, as well as in California Governor Weller’s inaugural address soon after.The call of hundreds of Indian missionaries to tribes west of the Mississippi River, starting in 1855, set off alarm bells in Washington, D. C., and across the West. And true to Kane’s prediction, most of the documents Buchanan handed Congress to justify his ordering a U.S. Army expedition to Utah came from the Office of Indian Affairs. Aware of such fears, Brigham Young at times seemed to encourage them. “O what a pity they could not foresee the evil they were bringing on themselves, by driving this people into the midst of the savages of the plains,” he said in August 1857.19 Even then, he was sending word to the tribes that “they must be our friends and stick to us, for if our enemies kill us off, they will surely be cut off by the same parties,” referring to the U.S.Army.20 Whether a creature of federal imagination or real, the lion the War Department saw in the nation’s path in 1857 was an alliance of Mormons and Indians, Ephraim and Manasseh in the Mormon theological parlance. Lending credence to such fears had been attacks on small emigrant parties the summer before on the California Trail along the Humboldt River on the line of today’s I-80 and a horrific atrocity at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. Thomas Kane did not spell out a third source of friction between the Great Basin theocracy and the American republic, but clearly referred to it when he said, “You do not want two governments with you.”21 In a theocratic system, God’s will renders obsolete the imperfect human covenants
Micah 5:8;The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 21:12. Brigham Young Remarks,August 2, 1857, in Deseret News,August 9, 1857, 188/1-4. 20 Daniel H.Wells to William H. Dame, August, 13, 1857,William R. Palmer Collection, File 8, Box 87, Special Collections, Sherratt Library, Southern Utah University, Cedar City. 21 Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 3:515.
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on which social order depends, such as the rule of law. In Illinois, Nauvoo’s municipal council took advantage of a liberal city charter to create an exclusive court system for people who lived under higher law. Illinois Governor Thomas Ford said they created courts to execute laws of their own making “with but little dependence upon the constitutional judiciary.”22 Utah legislators did the same.To short circuit the territory’s district courts under judges appointed by the president, they created county level probate courts and vested them with original civil and criminal jurisdiction, powers not meant by Congress, to establish an exclusive judiciary.They further banned common law and legal precedent.23 Such practices had caused violent opposition in Illinois, but stirred little complaint in Utah because its people accepted it as part of their faith. Passing emigrants were not so acquiescent. The first book copyrighted in California was an 1851 collection of emigrant grievances at random arrests, fines, punishment, and lawsuits.They called on Congress to institute military rule in Utah.24 And district judges bombarded Washington with protests at being stripped of their function. Of eight appointed from 1850 to 1856, five fled out of fear or frustration, two died, and one was not reappointed. By 1855, it had become clear to Mormon leaders that God’s Kingdom could not live under territorial rule and fulfill its destiny as foretold by the Prophet Daniel.25 They now opened the most determined bid for entry into the Union, prior to the Civil War, when they would declare Deseret a state unilaterally. Repeatedly they had asked Congress for permission to hold a constitutional convention as the first step in the statehood process, but federal lawmakers had ignored their request.This time they would give Congress a choice:Take us as a self-governing state or leave us alone. Describing territorial rule as an “odious, tyrannical, and absurd system of colonial government,”Young in December 1855 called on Utah lawmakers to hold a convention to adopt a state constitution.26 The delegates who assembled from across the territory in March 1856 had been elected unanimously under a marked ballot system that disallowed the opportunity to vote in secret. Another carryover from Nauvoo, such voting practices had caused “bitter hatred and unrelenting hostility” in Illinois, as the Quincy Whig editor had predicted.27
Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois, 2: 66. For similarities between Utah’s early probate courts and the county courts that evolved in New Mexico, see Howard R. Lamar, “Political Patterns in New Mexico and Utah Territories, 1850-1890,” Utah Historical Quarterly 28 (October 1960): 363-87. 24 See Nelson Slater, Fruits of Mormonism or A Fair and Candid Statement of Facts Illustrative of Mormon Principles, Mormon Policy and Mormon Character, by More than Forty Eye-Witnesses (Coloma, CA: Harmon & Springs, 1851). 25 See Daniel 2:44. 26 Brigham Young,“Governor’s Message,” December 11, 1855, in Deseret News, December 19, 1855. 27 Sylvester M. Bartlett, Quincy Whig, January 22, 1842, repr. in John E. Hallwas and Roger D. Launius, eds., Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1995), 83-84.
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Completed in eleven days was the constitution of a new state named Deseret that equaled in size, if not yet population, the sweep of Brigham Young’s vision. Its borders enclosed an area exceeded only by today’s states of Alaska and Texas. An alleged census counted nearly eighty thousand inhabitants, or about twice the true number, not counting Indians, an exaggeration Young would later elevate to nearly a hundred thousand. In high spirits, he informed John Bernhisel of these preliminaries and dispatched Apostle George A. Smith to work with the Utah congressional delegate and Apostle John Taylor, editor of The Mormon in New York, in winning the approval of Congress for the new constitution, which would be tantamount to statehood. But the 1856 drive for sovereignty through statehood proved ill timed. Deseret’s delegates found no interest in Washington even to consider the bid.The new Republican Party had won control of Congress on a platform to abolish slavery and polygamy. If this feedback was not bad enough, Bernhisel’s report cleared Young’s mind of any illusions Washington looked with favor on him or his desire for statehood. The Utah delegate told Governor Young “an effort was being made to procure your removal from office.”28 Young got the bad news on August 28 and from that day forward his position was one of defiance toward the national government. “Let them rip and let them roll while the devil pops them through, for truly their time is short,” he exploded to Taylor, Smith and Bernhisel.29 “As the Lord lives, we are bound to become a sovereign State in the Union, or an independent nation by ourselves,” he told his followers. From the beginning, God’s Kingdom had been “a terror to all nations,” he said, but it would “revolutionize the world and bring all under subjection to the law of God, who is our law giver.”30 Less than three weeks after learning Deseret’s sovereignty aspirations were dead on arrival, Young in a dramatic fashion made it apparent the time had come to throw off Washington’s yoke. On September 14, he ignited a flaming revival to cleanse Israel and present before the Lord a godly people worthy of divine favor in an imminent showdown with the United States, which he foresaw. Known as the “reformation,” it called members to confess their sins and be rebaptized, clean up their lives and homes, and flush federal officials, apostates, Gentile merchants, and other manifestations of corruption out of the body of Israel. For sinners and the righteous alike, it was a fearful time. In December, the Nephi bishop attended legislative sessions at Great Salt
28 John Bernhisel to Brigham Young, July 17, 1856, CR1234/1, Box 60, Folder 20 (Reel 71), Church History Library, Family and Church History Department,The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hereafter the LDS Church History Library. 29 Brigham Young to George A. Smith, John Bernhisel and John Taylor, August 30, 1856, CR1234/1, Letterbook 3, 18-24, LDS Church History Library.The author is indebted to Ardis Parshall for this item. 30 Brigham Young Remarks,August 31, 1856, in Deseret News, September 17, 1856, 219/-4, 220/1-3.
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Lake City and signaled the purpose of the A detail of soldiers at Camp Scott spiritual conflagration. “The fire of God is bringing in a supply of wood durburning here,” he told the leaders of his set- ing the winter of 1857-1858. tlement. “Prepare yourselves to stand by me when Israil is to be cleansed,” he said, “for this has got to be done that the Gentile bands may be Broken.” The move to sovereignty also anticipated a possible military confrontation. “The Saints in Carson & Sanbernidino are called to Come Home Come Home Come Home,” he wrote. As early as December 1856, these outlying colonies were called back to defend Zion.31 As the reformation’s voice of Leviticus, Young chose Jedediah Morgan Grant. At age forty-two, his second counselor stood over six feet, carried not an extra ounce on his lanky bones, and looked a little like young Abraham Lincoln. He loved his wives, all six of them, and was kindly by nature. But what made Grant exceptional was the fire that burned in his belly at the sight of uncleanliness, personal or spiritual, in God’s people. He was a hell-fire preacher who frightened the congregation into a right standing before God, and when he spoke of the shedding of human blood for the remission of certain sins, it “made the Harts of many tremble,” said Apostle Wilford Woodruff in an observation well below the truth.32 As other leaders turned to the handcart crisis on the Wyoming plains, Grant wore himself out preaching in unheated halls and rebaptizing in cold mountain waters. Suddenly this “troubler of Israel” was struck silent by typhoid and pneumonia, probably brought on by exhaustion, but his passing on December 1,1856, only gave the reformation new life as other leaders took up the torch he had laid down.33
31 Jacob G. Bigler to John Pyper, David Webb, and counselors, December 23, 1856, Record of the Nephi Mass Quorum of Seventies, 1857-1858, MSS SC 3244, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 32 Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 4:451. 33 1Kings 18:17.
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During territorial legislative sessions on December 23 at Great Salt Lake City, “the House was filled with the spirit of God almost to the consuming of our flesh,” Apostle Wilford Woodruff said.34 The lawmakers resolved a week later to forsake their sins and be rebaptized.They did not say whether such sins included breaking into the offices of Judge George P. Stiles the night before and pretending to destroy district court records. Some dismissed it as a prank. If so, it was one joke that had far-reaching consequences. The apparent destruction of federal court records was a primary reason President James Buchanan acted to restore federal law in the territory. Overcome by religious zeal, the lawmakers also drew up memorials to President-elect Buchanan to justify the nullification of federal law. Accusing former presidents of sending officials, who “threaten us with death and destruction,” they swore to “resist any attempt of Government Officials to set at naught our Territorial laws, or to impose upon us those which are inapplicable and of right not in force in this Territory.”35 The doctrine of nullification had led South Carolina a quarter-century before to the brink of civil war.36 Like the 1856 statehood bid, the memorial and resolutions were ill timed as well as confrontational. John Bernhisel delivered them to President Buchanan two weeks after his inauguration in March 1857. He referred them to Interior Secretary Jacob Thompson, who called them “a declaration of war.” The cabinet member rebuked Bernhisel and said he did not know how the memorials would strike the president, but that they made a very “unfavorable impression on his mind.”37 Meanwhile, frightened and upset by the apparent destruction of his court records, Judge George P. Stiles satisfied the mob’s intention in ransacking his office. He became the last of five district justices, appointed by Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce, who abandoned their posts in Utah from 1851 to 1857.38 He was also the last of Pierce’s three judicial appointees, who took to their heels and left justice entirely in the hands of the probate courts, which meant Brigham Young. The first to flee had been John F. Kinney, who presided over the 1855 Gunnison murder trial and saw the Mormon jury nullify his instructions.
Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 4:520. “Memorial & Resolutions to the President of the United States, concerning certain Officers of the Territory of Utah and Memorial to the President of the United States,” 1856-58, Memorials and Resolutions, General Assembly, Utah Territory, 1852-59, MIC 3150, Reel 3, Utah State Archives. Utah lawmakers apparently based the power to nullify federal laws on Sec. 17, “An Act to establish a Territorial Government for Utah,” in Statutes at Large of the United States,Vol. 9, 458. 36 Civil war was narrowly averted in 1832 when South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union if the U.S. government tried to collect federal tariff duties in the state. President Andrew Jackson’s threat to send troops to enforce the U.S. law eventually nullified John C. Calhoun’s nullification doctrine, which held that states had the power to declare federal laws null and void. 37 John Bernhisel to Brigham Young, April 2, 1857, CR1234/1, Box 61, Folder 1 (Reel 71), LDS Church History Library. 38 The others were Perry Brocchus, Lemuel G. Brandebury, John F. Kinney, and William W. Drummond. Leonidas Shaver and Lazarus Reid died, and Zerubbabel Snow was not reappointed.
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He drew the wrath of Utah lawmakers by opposing legislation to outlaw common law jurisdiction.They retaliated by assigning him to preside over a new district in Carson Valley, five hundred miles west of Great Salt Lake City, inhabited “by Indians, & destitute of the necessary comforts,” the judge protested. For this “insult to me and my family,” he took off on April 21, 1856, and went home to West Point, Iowa, where he came down with bilious fever.39 The last to come and next to go was William W. Drummond, who fully measured up to Utah opinion of outside judges. He left his wife in Illinois and came to Utah with a Chicago prostitute on his arm and at times at his side in court. After the lecherous judge told a Fillmore grand jury that Utah lawmakers had no power to bestow original civil and criminal jurisdiction on probate courts, he found himself indicted by the Millard County grand jury and arrested under a warrant issued by the probate judge at Fillmore. It was a charade, like the burning of Judge Stiles’ court records, but it scared the judge, who took off with his lady friend in May 1856. He would be heard from again. In the meantime, the cleansing fires of the reformation roared into 1857. In late January, David H. Burr looked up from his maps and saw territorial officers, Hosea Stout, James Cummings and Alexander McRae standing before him. They showed him a copy of his letter to the General Land Office months before and asked if he had written it. He said yes.They then told the surveyor “the country was theirs, that they would not permit this interference with their rights, and this writing letters about them would be put a stop to.” Burr saw no reason for their visit except to intimidate him, he told the General Land Office Commissioner Thomas A. Hendricks.40 The surveyor began to fear for his safety. “For the last three months my friends have considered my life in danger,” he said, but he thought threats made against him and disaffected Mormons were idle menaces until he heard in March 1857 that three men had been killed at Springville. Assailants from the town had ambushed William Parrish and his son, Beason, as they tried to get away. Burr said, “They were shot, their throats cut, and their bowels ripped open.” Killed in the dark by mistake was their guide, Gardner G. “Duff ” Potter, the Judas who led them into the ambush. Everyone in town knew who did it, but no effort was made to arrest or punish them. 41
John F. Kinney to Jeremiah Black, undated, U.S. Attorney General, Records relating to the appointment of Federal judges, attorneys, and marshals for the Territory and State of Utah, 1853-1901, PAM 14082 and MIC A 527-540, Utah State Historical Society. Kinney complained, but learned his lesson. Again appointed chief justice in 1860, he did Young’s bidding and found himself elected, almost unanimously, as Utah delegate to Congress. 40 David H. Burr to Thomas A. Hendricks, February 5, 1857, “The Utah Expedition,” House Exec. Doc. 71, 118-20. 41 For the story of the Parrish-Potter murders, see Polly Aird, “’You Nasty Apostates, Clear Out’: Reasons for Disaffection in the Late 1850s,” Journal of Mormon History 30 (Fall 2004): 129-207.
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Now thoroughly frightened, David Burr told the General Land Office “the United States Courts have been broken up and driven from the Territory.” The fact was, he said, “these people repudiate the authority of the United States in this country and are in open rebellion against the general government.”42 The fear and desperation in these italicized words moved an American president to take immediate action. Burr’s cry of alarm reached Washington soon after the inflammatory resignation of Judge William W. Drummond, who wrote it almost a year after he and his mistress had taken off. Among other things, he charged that supreme court records had been destroyed “by order of the Church,” that Indians had murdered Captain John W. Gunnison in 1853 under Mormon orders and direction, and his predecessor, Judge Leonidas Shaver, “came to his death by drinking poisoned liquors.”43 The absconded judge offered no evidence or witnesses to support these accusations and his estimate of Utah’s population as a hundred thousand, about twice the actual number, was overblown. Even so, the territory’s top general made the most of the manpower he had as he pushed preparations for the anticipated military confrontation with the United States. On April 1, Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells announced the militia’s reorganization into companies of ten, fifty, and one hundred to pattern it after the hosts of ancient Israel. All able-bodied men from eighteen to forty-five were ordered to sign up for military duty.44 Wells also divided Utah into thirteen military districts and appointed an officer to enroll recruits in each of them. As they began to march, spring opened the trails and allowed Burr, Judge George P. Stiles, Marshal Peter K. Dotson, and others to flee. “Nearly all the gentile and apostate Scurf in this community left for the United States,” Hosea Stout said. “The fire of the Reformation is burning many out who flee from the Territory afraid of their lives,” he went on, adding the proverb,“The wicked flee when no man pursue[s].”45 But, as he said, not all the “scurf ” had flown. Perhaps less wicked than the rest or braver, U.S. Indian Agent Garland Hurt, known to the Ute tribe as “the American,” holed up on the Ute Indian training farm he had established on the Spanish Fork River, below the town of the same name. Before going to his sanctuary, he set a trap for Utah’s Superintendent of Indian Affairs. In a confidential letter posted by private hands he told George Manypenny in Washington, D. C. that Brigham Young was gathering Indian goods for an “exploring expedition through the Territories of Oregon,Washington, and perhaps British Columbia.”46
42 David H. Burr to Thomas A. Hendricks, March 28, 1857, “The Utah Expedition,” House Exec. Doc. 71, 118-20. 43 Ibid.,William H. Drummond to Jeremiah Black, March 30, 1857, 212-14. 44 For the new organization, see Deseret News, April 1, 1857. 45 Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout: 1844-1861, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1982),April 15, 1857. 46 Garland Hurt to George Manypenny, March 30, 1857, Letters Received, Office of Indian Affairs, Utah Superintendency, microfilm, Utah State Historical Society.
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Brigham Young’s northern expedition in the spring of 1857 was the longest of his career in the west. Hurt suspected that it was no pleasure junket, but he could not have known its purpose had to do with a possible confrontation with the United States. Young announced the journey less than a week after four half-starved riders, whose trail could be followed by the blood from their horses’ legs, reached Salt Lake City in late February after a hazardous mid-winter journey of nearly four hundred miles from Fort Limhi, the Northern Indian Mission on the Salmon River.47 The news and map they delivered were riveting. In October 1856, Young had ordered Indian missionary Pleasant Green Taylor to contact the Hudson’s Bay agent in Bitterroot Valley and investigate the purchase of Fort Hall on the Snake River, overlooking the Oregon Trail. The following month, Taylor and Fort Limhi companions Benjamin F. Cummings and Ebenezer Robinson crossed the Continental Divide by present-day Lemhi Pass on the 1805 Lewis and Clark trail, and rode north to the great valley of the bitterroot, now in southwestern Montana.48 Young’s agents from the Great Basin were stunned by the magnificence of the Flathead Indian homeland, guarded on three sides by high mountain ranges.They were especially impressed by its agricultural potential.The valley was not only richly fertile, but a thousand feet below Salt Lake Valley in elevation. Streams of water rushed from every side and timber resources appeared endless. One of the agents, Nauvoo Legion Major Benjamin F. Cummings, learned that emigrants arriving by steamboats on the Missouri River could be transported from Fort Benton over a new wagon road to the Bitterroot Valley. “When considered with Mormonism,” Cummings and his companions “could not help thinking that some day Bitter-Root valley, as well as other portions of the country over east of the mountains would become the abode of the saints.”49 Brigham Young apparently thought so, too. He announced he would go north to Fort Limhi, then in Oregon Territory, now in Idaho, and made public the names of a large number of the territory’s leading military, settlement and religious leaders to go with him. Later, with his prayer circle, he heard Cummings’ journal read aloud and studied his map.“The price of freight will come down when settlements are made in the Land,” Young said.50 On April 24, Young led a line of wagons, carriages and animals over a mile long, north from Great Salt Lake City. The parade included 115 men, twenty-two women and five boys and numbered all three members of the
47 Lewis Warren Shurtliff, “Life and Travels of Lewis Warren Shurtliff,” from a handwritten transcription by Constance Miller Flygare in July 1926, Idaho State Historical Society.The four were Thomas S. Smith, Lewis W. Shurtliff, Pleasant Green Taylor and Laconias Barnard. 48 Lemhi is a misspelling of Limhi, a Book of Mormon name. 49 Benjamin Franklin Cummings, Autobiography and Journals, November 16-19, 1856, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 50 Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:26.
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faith’s ruling triumvirate, the First Presidency of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Daniel H. Wells, and other top religious, military and settlement leaders. Especially noteworthy was the presence of Ute Chief Arapeen and his wife, Wispit. He could be counted on to recommend his hosts to northern native leaders. Over the next thirty-three days, Utah’s superintendent of Indian Affairs met with Indians of Oregon Territory outside his legal jurisdiction and gave them “many presents of blankets.” He inspected the Lewis and Clark Trail that led from Fort Limhi to the waters of the Missouri River and an emerging wagon trace to Bitterroot Valley. He also selected a location on the Salmon River’s east fork, now Lemhi River, for a second fort to expand the colony near Salmon, Idaho. “The president felt well toward the brethren in this place and said the settlements must go north instead of south,”William Dame said.51 Young did what he set out to do,“rest the mind and weary the body,” he told his followers on the eve of his fifty-sixth birthday, five days after he returned on May 26. “I have renewed my strength, renewed the vigor of my body and mind.”52 He would need the entire strength of his mind and muscle to meet the dangers gathering on the course he had charted. Two days before, Apostle George A. Smith and John Bernhisel had arrived from the east to report that “all hell is boiling over against us,” said Apostle Woodruff.53 It was hardly an overstatement. While Young was in Oregon Territory, President Buchanan confirmed rumors in the east as early as mid-April and ordered troops to Utah. On May 28, Lieutenant General Winfield Scott issued orders for not less than 2,500 men to make up the expedition. He ordered its commander, Brevet Brigadier General William S. Harney, and the expedition was to act as a posse comitatus in aiding a new governor and federal officers to enforce the law in a territory considered to be in a state of rebellion.54 He was not to attack “any body of citizens whatever, except on such requisition or summons, or in sheer self-defence.”55 On July 24, 1857, the tenth anniversary of his arrival in Salt Lake Valley with the first pioneer company, Brigham Young announced publicly an American army was on its way. The news shocked a people emotionally stressed by the Reformation and murder of Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Excited and fearful, they filled the bowery on Sunday, two days later, and anxiously waited to hear Young tell what it meant for them and their families. Brigham Young began in a way he rarely, if ever, did. He opened his
William H. Dame Journal, May 18, 1857, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Brigham Young Remarks, May 31,1857, in Deseret News, June 10, 1857, 107/1-3. 53 Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:53-54. 54 A posse comitatus is a force representative of all citizens to enforce the law under the legitimate authority of a political jurisdiction. 55 George W. Lay to William S.Harney, June 29, 1857, “The Utah Expedition,” House Exec. Doc. 71, 79.
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Bible and read aloud: “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”56 They had established the kingdom Daniel envisioned in the Last Days, he told his people. It would never be destroyed, and “that is my testimony.” 57 There was nothing to fear. As Amer ican troops neared Utah, Young on September 6 swore Alfred Cumming, Utah’s Second that if the nation sent an overwhelming force Territorial Governor from 1857 to in 1858, he would lay the territory in waste 1861. and flee into the mountains. “Brother [Thomas] Smith is presiding at [Fort] Limhi [on] Salmon River,” he reminded his trusted associates, “Now do we not want a station about half way from here say near Fort Hall?” he asked. “He said that the north is the place for us & not the South,”Apostle Woodruff said.58 Two days later, a U.S. Army envoy interrupted such contingency planning. As a lieutenant, Stewart Van Vliet had led the charge that won the day at Monterrey during the War with Mexico, but he was better known as a peacemaker, who had established cordial relations with many Mormons he had hired while serving as quartermaster at Fort Kearny on the Oregon Trail. This was the reason General Harney chose the quartermaster, now a captain, to go ahead of his command and arrange forage and supplies for his expedition and find a suitable place for an army post.”59 To avoid a collision, he bivouacked his dragoon escort on Hams Fork, near present Granger, Wyoming, and traveled into the Great Salt Lake Valley with Nathaniel V. Jones and Bryant Stringham, who were returning from the abandoned Mormon mail station at Deer Creek. He met that night with Brigham Young who gave his fellow Vermont native a cordial reception. Over the next six days, the officer exercised all of his known diplomatic
Daniel 2:27-49. Brigham Young Remarks, July 26, 1857, in Deseret News,August 5, 1857. 58 Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:90. 59 Alfred Pleasanton to Van Vliet, 28 July 1857, House Exec. Doc. 2 (35-1), II, Serial 943, 27-28.
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Albert Sidney Johnston Commander of the Utah Expedition from 1857 to 1861. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederate Army and was killed at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862.
skills. He had seen General Harney’s orders, he told his Mormon hosts, and they held no intimation that U.S. troops “would or could molest or interfere with the people of Utah.” He assured them the gover nment’s intentions “were of the most pacific nature.” Further, he had seen Utah’s new governor, Alfred Cumming, and was convinced he had no orders “to interfere with the Mormons as a religious people.”60 At the same time, Van Vliet warned “plainly and frankly“ of the consequences of their present course.61 It was all to no avail. He was told “with the greatest hospitality and kindness” that the “troops now on the march for Utah should not enter the Great Salt Lake valley.” The officer left six days later convinced the Utah Expedition would meet armed resistance.62 On his way east, he met its new commander at the South Platte River crossing and gave him this word. Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, Second U.S. Cavalry, had left his regiment in Texas in the hands of its capable second in command, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee. Van Vliet later told Secretary of War Floyd that Brigham Young had said if Cumming entered Utah “he would place him in his carriage and send him back.”63 The day after the officer left the Great Salt Lake Valley,Young did what he meant to do all along. Knowing that President Buchanan had appointed a new governor in keeping with the law—that his own appointment had expired three years before and he could claim the office only until replaced —and that U.S. soldiers were ordered to respect the rights of all citizens, act only in self-defense, and serve only to assist federal officers in upholding the law—he declared martial law on September 15, 1857.
60 Stewart Van Vliet to John B. Floyd, November 20, 1857, “Report on the Utah Expedition,” Sen. Ex. Docs. (35-1), v. 3, n. 11, Serial 920, 37-38. 61 Ibid., Stewart Van Vliet to Alfred Pleasanton, September 29, 1857, 25-27. 62 Ibid. 63 Ibid., Stewart Van Vliet to John B. Floyd, November 20, 1857, 38.
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“We are invaded by a hostile force, who are evidently assailing us to accomplish our overthrow and destruction,” he proclaimed. He prohibited armed forces of every kind from entering the territory and ordered the Nauvoo Legion to repel an imagined invasion. But his proclamation’s most dangerous provision was that “no person shall be allowed to pass or repass into or through or from the Territory without a permit.”64 It has been said that Young told Mormon troops just to burn grass, but shed no blood. But the Utah War was no game. Nauvoo Legion officers had orders to attack American soldiers if they pushed beyond Fort Bridger or attempted to enter the Salt Lake Valley from the north.65 And when Brigham Young stopped all travel and communications “into or through or from” an area of the American West large enough to enclose New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, he all but cut the nation in half and made bloodshed certain, if the lion in its path did not move off or back down. In a blessing for both sides, Brigham Young chose the path of peace and allowed time to resolve the differences between the American republic and its theocratic territory, which it did over the next thirty years. Today, the 1857-58 Utah War is largely forgotten, even in Utah. It should not be. For not only was it what Daniel Boorstin called America’s first civil war, but it was also a dramatic chapter in the history of Utah and the nation, filled with episodes of sacrifice for faith, heroic rides, desperate winter marches, courage and commitment on both sides, and an Indian raid on the Mormon Indian Mission in Oregon that would affect the course of history in Utah.66 This unique conflict also holds many important lessons for our nation today. To benefit from them, the story of the Utah War must be a faithful account of its causes and outcome. As we observe its sesquicentennial, the telling of America’s first civil war should respect the motives and judgment of the men and women on both sides, who waged it, and be as fair, and as balanced and, above all, as honest, as flawed historians can make it.
Proclamation of Governor Young,“The Utah Expedition,” House Exec. Doc. 71, 34-35. See Daniel H. Wells to Lot Smith, October 17, 1857, Lot Smith Collection, University of Arizona Library,Tucson, and the Daniel Wells reports, LDS Church History Library. 66 For the full story of this conflict, see William P. MacKinnon, At Sword’s Point: A Documentary History of the Utah War, 1857-1858, Part 1 (forthcoming by Arthur H. Clark, Norman, OK).
And the War Came: James Buchanan, The Utah Expedition, and the Decision to Intervene
By WILLIAM P. MACKINNON
“No one has a r ight to grade a President—not even poor James Buchanan—who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made decisions.” – President John F Kennedy to Professor David Herbert Donald, . February 1962.
his article’s title springs from the text of Abraham Lincoln’s extraordinary second inaugural address and its recapitulation of the Civil War’s origins. In 1857, Lincoln’s predecessor—James Buchanan—had delivered an inaugural address oblivious to the fact that the country then teetered on the brink of a precursor to Lincoln’s conflict—the Utah War. Significantly Buchanan’s inaugural speech mentioned neither Utah nor Mormons. It certainly did not deal with either Brigham Young or polygamy. 1 On the morning that President-elect Buchanan took office, President Franklin Pierce met for the last time with his cabinet. Pierce read aloud a letter summarizing the challenges and accomplishments of their four years together. Missing also from this unpublished valedictory was any reference to matters Mormon, although two years earlier Pierce had tried unsuccessfully to replace Brigham Young as Utah’s governor—an important bit of unfinished business. 2 So as the administrations changed on March 4, 1857, Utah was not an issue of frontrank importance for America’s most senior political leaders. Instead, they were preoccupied with the slavery issue, violence in Kansas, and preservation of the Union. If, on inauguration day, Presidents Pierce and Buchanan ignored the Mormons, they reciprocated. On March 4, 1857, the Deseret News made no mention of the change in national administrations, although it did print the text of Governor Young’s proclamation announcing an election for the Nauvoo Legion’s new commanding general.The News was not to mention Buchanan by name for another three months.3 Five days after the inauguration, the presi- James Buchanan’s Cabinet. dent granted an interview to Utah’s delegate Proceeding clockwise from the in Congress, John M. Bernhisel. The delegate president’s left are Secretaries described this session to Gov. Brigham Young John B. Floyd (War), Lewis Cass as “pleasant,” and noted, “The President appeared free from prejudice himself.”Young (State), Howell Cobb (Treasury), was optimistic, having written to Thomas L. Joseph Holt (Postmaster Kane two months earlier that “We are satis- General), Isaac Toucey (Navy), fied with the appointment of Buchanan as Jeremiah S. Black (Attorney future President, we believe he will be a General) and Jacob Thompson friend to the good, that Fillmore was our (Interior).
Copyright 2007,William P. MacKinnon.The author has adapted this article from At Sword’s Point, his documentary history of the Utah War (forthcoming from The Arthur H. Clark Co., an imprint of the University of Oklahoma Press), as well as from a paper of similar title presented at Mormon History Association annual conference, Salt Lake City, May 25, 2007. The author thanks Professors David H. Miller, Cameron University, and Thomas G. Alexander, Brigham Young University, for their generosity in sharing documents, Ardis E. Parshall for her research and administrative help, and Patricia H. MacKinnon for her personal and editorial support.
1 James Buchanan, “Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1857, John Bassett Moore, ed., The Works of James Buchanan, Comprising His Speeches, State Papers, and Private Correspondence. 12 vols. (New York: Antiquarian Press Ltd., 1960), 10:105-13. 2 Franklin Pierce, Letter to Cabinet, March 4, 1857, J. Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. 3 “Proclamation,” Deseret News, March 4, 1857, and “The Inauguration,” June 10, 1857.
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friend, but Buchanan will not be a whit behind.”4 Why and how, then, did the Utah War come about? What catapulted “the Mormon problem” from a relatively low priority as Buchanan took office into a burning national issue less than three months later? When did the Buchanan administration decide to replace Young and to intervene in Utah with a large army escort? The answers are difficult, given the mythology and conspiracy theories that have encrusted Buchanan’s decision making. There was no diarist to help later generations plumb the depths of James Buchanan’s mind of the type who recorded decisions by both Pierce’s and Lincoln’s cabinets, but the Utah War’s sesquicentennial provides motivation to probe again the murky matter of that conflict’s origins. This time we are able to do so through the discovery of revealing documents heretofore unexploited by historians. Perhaps the best foundation for such an examination is the proposition that the Utah War was not the result of a single critical incident that welled up shortly after Buchanan’s inauguration. It was rather the result of a complex chain of interrelated incidents, issues, and forces set in motion a few years after the 1847 Mormon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. If the Utah War did not end abruptly on June 26, 1858, when Albert Sidney Johnston marched through Salt Lake City, it surely did not just start spontaneously on May 28, 1857, when Lt. Gen.Winfield Scott issued orders to organize the Utah Expedition.5 In many respects, the Utah War was a conflict in the making for nearly ten years. It was a long, tumultuous period during which Mormon-federal relations—already poor in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois—progressively deteriorated in Utah beginning in 1849. By March 1857 there were corrosive disputes involving every aspect of the federal-Mormon interface. The conflicts involved a wide range of secular issues: the quality of mail service, the evenhandedness of criminal justice, land surveys and ownership, the treatment of emigrants crossing Utah, the behavior of U.S. troops, responsibility for the 1853 Gunnison massacre, Indian relations and allegiances, Governor Young’s sometimes volcanic anti-federal rhetoric, his handling of territorial finances and congressional appropriations, and even the accuracy of Utah’s census. Above all else, there were severe disputes over the competence as well as character of Utah’s federal appointees.There were perceptions of Mormon disloyalty to the federal government and a related independence thrust—all intertwined with the failure of Mormon efforts to gain congressional sanction for a State of Deseret in 1849, 1852, and 1856. Surrounding and compounding these bitterly contested federal-territorial issues were a series of even more volatile religious matters: plural marriage,
4 John M. Bernhisel to Brigham Young, March 17, 1857, and Brigham Young, Letter to Thomas Kane, January 31, 1857, both in Family and Church History Department,The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. Hereafter LDS Church History Library. 5 William P. MacKinnon,“Epilogue to the Utah War: Impact and Legacy,” Journal of Mormon History 29 (Fall 2003):186-248.
the doctrine of blood atonement, and—most importantly—Brigham Young’s vision of Utah as a theocratic kingdom (anticipating the Second Coming of Christ) rather than as a conventional territorial ward of Congress functioning through republican principles of government.6 Small wonder that during 1854-55 President Pierce worked actively but ineffectually to replace Young as governor. Nor is it surprising William Miller Finney Magraw, that by the summer of 1856, when the new disgruntled anti-Mormon former Republican Party adopted an anti-polygamy mail contractor mistakenly identicampaign platform plank, a violent struggle of some sort might possibly unfold. That fied as a catalyst for the Utah War summer Utah’s Mormon U.S. marshal, Joseph who died in Baltimore in 1864 at L. Heywood, even dreamt of one while age forty-six. rooming with Apostle George A. Smith in Washington. In Marshal Heywood’s dream, the fighting was to be led by Brigham Young’s second counselor Jedediah M. Grant. 7 Even while complaining about the inefficiences of W.M.F. Magraw’s monthly mail service between Salt Lake City and the east, Mormon leader Erastus Snow commented, “If the Mormon boys rise in the mountains and conquer the world, the fathers in Washington will know nothing of it until it is all over with.”8 Since early in the twentieth century, the accepted theory of many historians has been that the catalyst for the Utah War—the match in this powder keg—was the impact on the new Buchanan administration of three letters written by some of Brigham Young’s harshest critics:W.M.F. Magraw, a disgruntled former mail contractor; Thomas S. Twiss, an alarmed U.S.
6 In addition to David L. Bigler’s article in this issue of Utah Historical Quarterly, the most recent and complete discussion of this long list of pre-1857 secular and religious points of conflict appears in four other works by Bigler: Forgotten Kingdom:The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847-1896 (Spokane: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1998), 1-199; A Winter with the Mormons:The 1852 Letters of Jotham Goodell (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Tanner Trust, 2001), 1-19; “Sources of Conflict: Mormons and Their Neighbors, 1830-90,” lecture delivered to the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, July 25, 2003, photocopy in my possession; and “Theocracy Versus Republic: ‘The Irrepressible Conflict,’” paper delivered at the Mormon History Association annual conference, May 2006, Casper, Wyoming. See also MacKinnon, “Loose in the Stacks: A Half-Century with the Utah War and Its Legacy,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 40 (Spring 2007): 53-54. 7 Diary of Joseph L. Heywood, entry for July 31, 1856, <http://contentsm.lib.byu.edu/Diaries/image/4269.pdf> accessed April 16, 2007. 8 Erastus Snow to Orson Spencer, October 1, 1855, “Letter from Prest. E. Snow,” St. Louis Luminary, November 10, 1855.
SEABRIGHT’S “THE OLD PIKE’
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Indian agent; and W.W. Drummond, the venomous, debauched associate justice of the Utah supreme court.9 However this theory does not hold under closer examination. Although Magraw’s letter of October 3, 1856, was written to the president of the United States, the recipient was President Pierce, not thenprivate-citizen James Buchanan. Inflammatory as Magraw’s letter was, there is no indication that Buchanan—elected November 4, 1856—was even aware of it until January 1858 when it surfaced from State Department files.10 Twiss’s letter, dated July 13, 1857, and critical of Mormon encroachment on Sioux lands, did not reach the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs until well after the Utah Expedition had been decided on and the troops were on the march. Thomas S. Twiss was an eccentric former West Pointer—a classmate of Albert Sidney Johnston—who had resigned his army commission, moved west, married bigamously into a Sioux band and set up his agency in the abandoned Mormon mail station at Deer Creek, Nebraska Territory. Historians of the Plains tribes and Indian relations of the period have viewed Twiss alternately as a brilliant advocate for Indian rights and a manipulative freebooter partial to his Sioux in-laws. General Harney, a problem for the army in his own right, believed Twiss to be a hopeless liability in his pursuit of the tribes and urged Secretary of War Floyd and President Buchanan to remove him.11 Because of long and graphic descriptions elsewhere, Judge Drummond’s character needs no comment here. His volcanic letter of resignation, written to Attorney General Jeremiah S. Black and dated at New Orleans on March 30, 1857, was indeed a bombshell when it received national press distribution in early April. But the impact of Drummond’s resignation letter on cabinet decision-making has been overblown in the absence of an understanding of what had preceded it by several weeks. The real catalyst for the change in the administration’s priorities and its decisions about Utah was not Drummond’s incendiary resignation letter and the untimely letters from Magraw and Twiss. Rather it was the substance and rhetoric in three other sets of material received quietly but in rapid succession in Washington during the third week of March 1857—
9 A classic case for the significance of these three letters appears in Leland Hargrave Creer, Utah and the Nation (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1929), 117-26. For the match/powder keg metaphor, I am indebted to Leo V. Gordon and Richard Vetterli, Powderkeg (Novato, CA: Lyford Books, 1991), a novel about the Utah War. An even earlier use of this metaphor appears in Robert Richmond, “Some Western Editors View the Mormon War, 1857-1858,” Trail Guide 8 (March 1963): 3. For an analysis of these three documents, see William P. MacKinnon,“The Buchanan Spoils System and the Utah Expedition: Careers of W.M.F. Magraw and John M. Hockaday,” Utah Historical Quarterly 31 (Spring 1963): 127-50. 10 This letter had been filed with State Department records because in 1856 Secretary of State William L. Marcy bore administrative responsibility for most territorial affairs. Even as astute a researcher as Dale L. Morgan mistakenly assumed that Buchanan was the “Mr. President” to whom Magraw wrote a month before the election of 1856. Morgan, research notes on Buchanan and Utah Expedition, Madeline R. McQuown Collection, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. 11 William S. Harney to John B. Floyd, August 8, 1857, Records, Office of the Adjt. Gen., Letters Received (Record Group 94), National Archives.
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weeks before the awareness in early April of Drummond’s resignation and accompanying accusations. This material—largely unpublished—combined with the cumulative impact of nearly ten years of unremitting tension and the anti-polygamy backwash from the 1856 presidential campaign, motivated Buchanan’s cabinet to make two related decisions by early April: replace Brigham Young as governor, and provide his as-yet-unidentified successor with a large army escort of undetermined size.The die was cast, then, long before the late May cabinet meetings accepted by many historians as the critical decision-making date. To assess the dynamics of how Buchanan’s cabinet worked during this important period, one needs to understand the cumulative private-public impact of all of this material as early as March and its sequencing. In summary, the first of these three sets of material consisted of two memorials and accompanying resolutions adopted by Utah’s legislative assembly on January 6, 1857. These documents—created with input from Brigham Young—dealt with the all-important matter of federal appointments. With the pending change in administrations the legislative assembly had acted to demand that any new appointees for Utah would either be Latter-day Saints or at least sympatico non-Mormons. Upon adoption, these remarkably verbose documents were sent from Salt Lake City to cong ressional delegate John M. Ber nhisel via the Salt Lake-San Bernardino-Panama mail.12 This material arrived in Washington on March 17 simultaneously with publication of a harsh, anti-Mormon New York Herald editorial that argued: “The Utah Mormon excrescence call[s] for immediate and decisive action. That infamous beast, that impudent and blustering imposter, Brigham Young, and his abominable pack of saintly officials, should be kicked out without delay and without ceremony.”13 Ironically, this editorial was the work of the Herald’s driving force, James Gordon Bennett, a man whom Joseph Smith had commissioned a brigadier general in the Nauvoo Legion during the early 1840s. Because of the relevance of the Utah memorials to the appointments process then preoccupying the new administration, Bernhisel promptly presented them in person to Buchanan on March 18. He did so at a time when Buchanan was exhausted by the demands of filling the federal patronage as well as by his own serious gastrointestinal illness. Unwittingly Bernhisel entered a scene that was an unseemly scramble for Utah positions, especially the governor’s chair. It was a bizarre group of applicants
12 “Memorial and Resolutions to the President of the United States, Concerning Certain Officers of the Territory of Utah” and “Memorial to the President of the United States,” by the Utah Territory Legislative Assembly, January 6, 1857, holograph copies retained in Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City. A rough draft with editorial emendations is in the Brigham Young Collection, LDS Church History Library. W. A. Hickman was recommended by the legislative assembly to be appointed U.S. attorney for Utah. In view of Hickman’s reputation as “notorious” and his later status as a self-confessed killer, it is interesting to consider the legislature’s recommendation. 13 “Mr. Buchanan’s Administration and Our Foreign and Domestic Affairs,” New York Herald, March 17, 1857.
that included James Arlington Bennet, an eccentric Nauvoo Legion major general turned Brooklyn cemetery developer. 14 Accordingly the beleaguered president chose not to examine these documents in Bernhisel’s presence. Instead he urged Utah’s congressional delegate to deliver them to one of his chief cabinet officers, Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson. Bernhisel did so later that John F. Kinney was appointed same day. Utah Territory Chief Justice in When Ber nhisel called again on 1854. He recommended replacing Thompson the next day, March 19, he found Brigham Young as Utah Territorial to his horror that the provocative language of Governor and dispatching a milione of the documents had alarmed the secretary expedition to Utah to support tary (and presumably the cabinet) to a point his successor. that both memorials were interpreted to be a de facto Mormon declaration of war. When Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders learned of this fateful Bernhisel-Thompson confrontation months later from Bernhisel, they immediately viewed this meeting and their petitions as the catalyst for the Utah War. Contributing to the obscurity of these petitions was the fact that in March 1857 Thompson had warned Bernhisel against publishing their text. The implication was that Buchanan viewed them as politically volatile, the stuff from which an uncontrollable national anti-Mormon furor could spring. Even though Brigham Young wanted to publish these petitions, he and Bernhisel acquiesced in Thompson’s demand for secrecy. And so, even in Utah, public descriptions of the offending documents were cryptic, incomplete, indirect, and soon forgotten.15 In the federal government, there was no public discussion, although word of the documents’ receipt by the administration dribbled into a few low-profile newspapers without other notice until first
14 Ardis E. Parshall, “Brigham Young’s Support of Buchanan Proved Ironic as Utah War Unfolded,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 25, 2007. For a discussion of the three Bennet[t]s whom Joseph Smith had commissioned as Legion generals and their colorful Utah War involvements, see MacKinnon, “Epilogue to the Utah War,” 213. See also Lyndon W. Cook, “James Arlington Bennet and the Mormons,” BYU Studies 19 (1979): 247-49. 15 John M. Bernhisel, Letter to Brigham Young, April 2, 1857, Brigham Young Collection, LDS Church History Library. Neither Bernhisel nor the Buchanan administration ever submitted these documents to Congress, disregarding normal procedure and even the House of Representatives’ subsequent special yearend demand that Buchanan produce all materials shedding light on the extent to which Utah was in a state of rebellion.This treatment was in marked contrast to the wide and immediate publicity given to the even more inflammatory memorial adopted by the Utah legislative assembly a year later on January 6, 1858, and sent to the U.S. House of Representatives. A federal grand jury sitting at Camp Scott returned an indictment of treason against every man who signed the 1858 memorial.
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the Deseret News and then the New York Herald published an incomplete version of the memorials on October 7 and December 15, 1857. What may well have stimulated Thompson’s fateful comments to delegate Bernhisel was the second batch of Utah materials received in Washington that week: a letter from Judge Drummond to an unidentified cabinet officer—presumably Attorney General Black—that appeared in the capital on the same day as the Bernhisel-Thompson meeting. Drummond had probably written this letter before boarding ship in California and before his resignation letter written on March 30 from New Orleans. After reciting a list of what he considered to be Mormon abuses, Drummond grew prescriptive: “Let all, then, take hold and crush out one of the most treasonable organizations in America.”16 Stunned by Thompson’s unanticipated reaction to the Utah petitions, if not Drummond’s California letter, Bernhisel made what seems to have been both a strange and fateful decision. Instead of swinging into action to moderate the administration’s alarmed reaction, Bernhisel withdrew from the fray, left Washington, and travelled to Pennsylvania to visit relatives. He then wrote a discouraging report to Brigham Young on April 2, and took his seat on the early May Salt Lake-bound mail stage from Independence, Missouri. His unfortunate departure from the capital created a vacuum in Mormon representation at the very time when it was most needed.17 The day after Thompson informed Bernhisel of the cabinet’s explosive reaction, another shoe dropped in Washington—this time in the form of two letters written to Jeremiah Black, the U.S. Attorney General, by Utah’s chief justice, John F. Kinney.The judge was then in Washington on leave of absence. His letters constituted the third wave of Utah-related materials received by the administration that week. In one of his March 20 letters, presumably hand-delivered, Kinney reviewed at length the condition of affairs in Utah. This document was remarkably like the resignation letter Drummond was then formulating aboard ship in the Gulf of Mexico, and it urged Attorney General Black to share Kinney’s views with the president and his cabinet just as Drummond’s California letter, received the day before, had asked. Kinney did not write spontaneously; Black had asked for his assessment of Utah affairs probably after reading Drummond’s California letter and after Bernhisel had delivered the memorials of January 6 to Thompson on March 18. On March 20 Kinney not only recited examples of what he believed to be Brigham Young’s perver16 W. W. Drummond, Letter to unspecified cabinet officer, “Utah and Its Troubles ...,” March 19, 1857 dispatch from Washington, New York Herald, March 20, 1857. The text of this letter cannot be located in government files; our only awareness of it is through the excerpts reported by the Herald’s Washington correspondent. 17 Bernhisel’s April 2, 1857, report to Brigham Young remains unpublished. He wrote it too late to be included in the April mail to Salt Lake City, and so, ironically, this document traveled west in the same coach with Bernhisel a month later. The letter arrived at its destination on May 29, 1857, just after the governor’s return from a five-week trek to Fort Limhi and the day following the release of General Scott’s circular initiating the Utah Expedition.
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sion of Utah’s judicial system, he urged Young’s removal from office and the establishment of a one-regiment U.S.Army garrison in the territory.18 The second letter that Kinney gave to Attorney General Black on March 20 was a document transmitting an enclosed letter from Utah Surveyor General David H. Burr. Burr was a long-time critic of Brigham Young’s handling of such disputed federal-territorial issues as disposition of the public lands and Indian affairs. Sandwiched among his new litany of alleged Mormon offenses was Burr’s shocking assessment that, “The great danger to a [new] Governor would be assassination.” Notwithstanding his identification of this risk, Burr argued for something other than a large army expedition to carry out his recommendations: “To carry out this plan the presence of a small Military force might be necessary. I do not suppose that their services would be needed further than to show the leaders of this people a determination to enforce the laws.”19 Delivery of the Burr letter meant that within two weeks of taking office James Buchanan and his cabinet had a collection of stunning new inputs on Utah affairs from the territory’s truculent legislative assembly, its chief justice, an associate supreme court justice, and the surveyor-general. All of these documents were suppressed and never shared with Congress, although the full cabinet was surely aware of them. From the cabinet’s viewpoint, Kinney’s inputs must have carried substantial credibility at face value, as would those of “General” Burr. Prior to his appointment to Utah’s bench in 1854, Kinney had been a justice on Iowa’s supreme court. His experience in Utah was relatively long and recent, credentials that Kinney believed qualified him to comment about the territory, as he phrased it, “advisedly.” Both the U.S. Department of State and the office of the U.S. Attorney General had files amassed during President
18 John F. Kinney to Jeremiah S. Black, March 20, 1857, photocopy of holograph in my possession, together with the typed transcription, courtesy of Professor David H. Miller, Cameron University.This letter is marked “Confidential & Private” in a hand other than Kinney’s.The only known published reference (but not the text) to this important document is a simple listing in the bibliography for James F. Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and along the Overland Trail (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989), 309. Kinney’s relationship with the Mormons was highly ambivalent over an extended period of time. Starting in 1855 Brigham Young accurately suspected the judge of joining other disaffected federal appointees in writing anti-Mormon reports to Washington, behavior that Kinney vehemently denied while simultaneously courting Mormon approbation. Howard Lamar refers to Kinney during this period as “busily playing the double game of cooperating with the Mormons on the local level while bombarding Washington with secret strictures against Young.” Howard Roberts Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846-1912: A Territorial History (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1966), 331; Michael W. Homer, “The Federal Bench and Priesthood Authority:The Rise and Fall of John Fitch Kinney’s Early Relationship with the Mormons,” Journal of Mormon History 13 (1986-87): 89-108. 19 The undated David H. Burr to Jeremiah Black letter may have been received by Kinney with the same batch of mail that arrived in Washington (via the Salt Lake-San Bernardino-Panama route) yielding letters for Black and Bernhisel from Drummond and Utah’s legislative assembly, respectively, on March 17 and 19. To date, the only notice of the Burr to Black letter (transmitted on March 20, 1857 by Kinney) appears in Thomas G. Alexander,“Carpetbaggers, Reprobates, and Liars: Federal Judges and the Utah War,” unpublished paper for Mormon History Association’s annual conference, Salt Lake City, May 2007, 19 note 49. Burr’s concerns about threats to his safety and mail security appear in David H. Burr to Thomas A. Hendricks, February 5, and June 11, 1857, “The Utah Expedition,” House Ex. Doc. 71 (35-1), Serial 956, 118-21; Burr to Hendricks, December 31, 1856, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City.
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Pierce’s administration that bulged with “confidential” Kinney reports criticizing Brigham Young’s influence on Utah’s judicial and law enforcement systems. Probably unknown to the Buchanan cabinet in March 1857 was Kinney’s 1855 indictment in Salt Lake City’s probate court on gambling charges, his ownership of a disreputable hotel frequented by young girls and older men seeking companionship, and the extent to which he had boldly but unsuccessfully maneuvered for appointment as Utah’s governor two years earlier. David H. Burr would have been even better known to the cabinet than Kinney. Although Mormon leaders would soon begin an intense attack on Burr’s character and professional performance, in March he would have been known in Washington as a nationally famous cartographer who had been employed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the State of New York. Once Judge Drummond became the center of national attention in early April 1857, he stoked his now-famous anti-Mormon vendetta through a series of similar letters. Some of these were written in April and May for public consumption by a nation unaware of his character flaws. In private Drummond also wrote to both Attorney General Black and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas to threaten destruction of the administration and the entire Democratic Party if they failed to act on Utah as he wanted. On April 2— the day that he mailed his resignation from New Orleans—Drummond had reported to a friend, “I have stirred the waters of the Saints and shall keep up the war in all time to come ... A new Government and Military aid will be sent to Utah now mark it, and Brigham Young will starve from under the appointments of the Federal Government.... I may go to Utah as Governor. If so look out for a merry time. I will take it with military aid.”20 Later, unsure if Buchanan would indeed take action, Drummond wrote to Douglas angrily, “I think I will make open war on this Admin. on this dread question.... [I will] make it as hot as Judge Black and the President can well bear it ...”21 It is now known that Drummond met with Black and perhaps the entire Buchanan cabinet. Such threats may have had a significant impact on Senator Douglas’s decision to include an attack on the Mormons in his now famous Springfield speech a few weeks later on June 12. This was an address that stimulated a little-known rebuttal speech from a member of Douglas’s audience, lawyer Abraham Lincoln, and produced Mormon enmity against Douglas lasting to this day.22
20 Quoted in Donald R. Moorman, with Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons:The Utah War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992; reprinted 2005), 12 and 284 note 23. 21 W.W. Drummond to Stephen A. Douglas, May 16, 1857, Stephen A. Douglas Papers, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. 22 Stephen A. Douglas, “Kansas, Utah, and the Dred Scott Decision,” Springfield, Illinois, June 12, 1857, 11-15 (pamphlet in author’s possession). For a description of this speech and its reception, see Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 566-75. For the enraged Mormon rebuttal to Douglas’s speech, see “Comments Upon the Remarks of Hon. Stephen Arnold Douglas,” Deseret News, September 2, 1857. These two Springfield speeches of June 1857 likely provided the template for the Lincoln-Douglas debates that followed in 1858.
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In the midst of all this turmoil,Thomas L. Kane of Philadelphia, Brigham Young’s oldest and best-connected non-Mormon friend, tried covertly to lobby President Buchanan to retain Young as Utah’s governor.23 He did so on March 21 at Young’s urgent request, but a pessimistic Kane reported to Young later that month, “Mr. Buchanan is a timerous man, as well as just now an overworked one.”24 Armed with very recent inputs from Drummond, Kinney, and Burr as well as provocative petitions from Salt Lake City, Buchanan rebuffed Kane’s request and would not even see him. Here was a demoralizing slight which, along with a myriad of personal and family problems, drove Kane to withdraw from Mormon affairs until the next fall. Kane’s departure from the fray was a devastating blow to the Mormon cause at just the wrong time. As he retired to the mountains of western Pennsylvania, Kane wrote to Young: “We can place no reliance upon the President: he succumbs in more respects than one to outside pressure. You can see from the papers how clamorous it is for interference with Utah affairs. Now Mr. Buchanan has not heart enough to save his friends from being thrown over to stop the mouths of a pack of Yankee editors.”25 This was a lobbying gap aggravated by delegate Bernhisel’s decision in April to leave the arena of Mormon-federal conflicts and Brigham Young’s own incommunicado status during the five weeks of his unauthorized April-May departure from Utah for the even more remote wilderness of southern Oregon Territory. By late May 1857 Drummond’s accusations were augmented by telegraphic reports from Missouri sent to Washington by other returning federal officers, nearly all of whom had fled Utah on April 15. The first of these departees to reach the Atlantic Coast was John M. Hockaday, U.S. attorney for Utah as well as a former business partner of letter-writer W.M.F. Magraw. Hockaday met for hours on April 27 with the shadowy James C. Van Dyke, James Buchanan’s closest political advisor in Philadelphia. After leaving Van Dyke, Hockaday moved on to visit, and presumably influence, Buchanan.26 Adding to the sensationalism of reports from Utah’s fleeing federal appointees was a series of graphic editorial attacks on Drummond’s character and credibility in the LDS church’s Manhattan newspaper, The Mormon. These attacks reflected the no-holds-barred style of its editor, Apostle John Taylor. Through his deputy editor, William I. Appleby—a former New Jersey judge—Taylor launched an intensive investigation and exposé of
23 Thomas L. Kane to James Buchanan, March 21, 1857, Kane Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 24 Thomas L. Kane to Brigham Young, ca. March 1857, Thomas L. Kane Papers, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California. 25 Thomas L. Kane to Brigham Young, May 21, 1857,Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library,Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. 26 Hockaday’s visit to Philadelphia and the recommendation that he visit the president is described in James C.Van Dyke to James Buchanan, April 27, 1857,The James Buchanan Papers,The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
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Drummond’s libertine behavior in Illinois, Washington, and Utah. Taylor and Appleby published the seamy results in a way that largely destroyed Drummond’s reputation. But they did so with the unintended consequence of also fueling public fascination with Drummond’s accusations of Mormon misconduct. This was explosive material that had been requested by and provided to Kane and that he privately transmitted to Attorney General Black.27 It was an approach that kept the pot of Utah controversy roiling rather than putting “the Mormon problem” to rest, especially after Drummond became aware through leaks to him from the cabinet about Kane’s efforts to advise Buchanan and Black. With this realization, Drummond publicly cudgeled Kane through pseudonymous letters to newspaper editors.This intimidating counterattack by Drummond, in turn, also sapped a distracted Kane’s willingness to help the Mormons at this critical juncture.28 A parallel Mormon attack on Utah’s surveyor general, David H. Burr, focused on public accusations—some warranted—that his work was riddled with nepotism, incompetence, and corruption. These were charges that stained Burr’s otherwise sterling reputation, broke his health, and prolonged territorial-federal finger-pointing well into 1859 and beyond. It was now clear that the old Pierce strategy of benign neglect—continuation in office for Young through presidential inaction—was no longer viable. The incendiary rhetoric of the documents received privately during the third week of March destroyed any vestige of presidential confidence in Brigham Young. In March Buchanan began to offer Utah’s governorship to multiple candidates, all of whom declined the post. Drummond’s March-April advice had been for a military as well as political remedy, and Buchanan had received similar counsel for military action privately in late March from Utah Chief Justice Kinney and Surveyor General Burr. In late April Buchanan also heard from Robert Tyler, another close advisor in Philadelphia who was the son of former President John Tyler. He advised Buchanan to use the army in an antiMormon “crusade” to divert public attention from the slavery conflict in Kansas.29 The president made no response to such advice, but he created the appearance that he was first focusing on a political solution rather than
27 Thomas L. Kane to Jeremiah S. Black, April 27, 1857, Black Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. 28 “Verastus,” to Editor, May 24, 1857, printed as “Col. Thomas L. Kane on Mormonism,” New York Daily Times, May 26, 1857. Multiple historians view “Verastus” as the pen name adopted by W.W. Drummond. 29 Robert Tyler to James Buchanan, April 27, 1857, The James Buchanan Papers,The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. For the text see also Philip G. Auchampaugh, Robert Tyler, Southern Rights Champion 18471866: A Documentary Study Chiefly of Antebellum Politics (Duluth, MN.: Himan Stein, 1934), 180-81; David A.Williams,“President Buchanan Receives a Proposal for an Anti-Mormon Crusade, 1857,” Brigham Young University Studies 14 (Autumn 1973): 103-105.Williams’ judgment was:“The fact that it could be seriously advanced by a son of a former president to the incumbent President in and of itself makes it a significant document in the political history of Mormonism in America.”
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army intervention. Nonetheless, consideration of the military option indeed bubbled below the surface. It is likely that by late March or early April the notion of some sort of army escort for Young’s successor had gelled in the cabinet along with the decision to replace Young. Surely those men whom Buchanan approached about Utah’s governorship in March raised the question of military support. For example, Robert J. Walker had done so soon after the inauguration before agreeing to become Kansas’s governor. Through such negotiations, Walker had obtained from Buchanan a commitment that General Harney and the Second U.S. Dragoons would be in Kansas to help him maintain order in that troubled territory. It is even more likely that candidates for Utah’s governorship also raised the matter of military backing with the president.To this point, we know that Alfred Cumming’s eventual appointment to succeed Young was delayed until mid-July so that he could travel to Fort Leavenworth to review arrangements for the Utah Expedition. Precisely when and how the cabinet arrived at a firm decision to intervene militarily is murky.The mysterious, abrupt April 6 transfer of General Harney from command of the Seminole War in Florida to Kansas for undisclosed reasons triggered rampant rumors. Newspaper editors and army officers alike speculated that a campaign against the Mormons was taking shape.30 In 1960, without citing evidence other than the speculation of contemporary press accounts—many of them wildly inaccurate—historian Norman F. Furniss identified a cabinet meeting on or about May 20 as crucial. Furniss viewed that session as the one at which the administration decided upon military as well as political intervention.31 More accurately, the basic decision had been made almost two months earlier, but the cabinet was nervously trying to get comfortable with such a decision in private while Buchanan frantically sought someone willing to take Utah’s governorship. Among the imponderables being weighed by the administration during this recruitment was the advice of Kinney and Burr for a relatively small force and Drummond’s conflicting demand for a far larger expedition. On May 16 Drummond ranted to Douglas, “I have had an interview with Atty. Gen. Black today on Utah, and find him as ignorant as a man can be. Cannot for the life of him appreciate the power of the Mormons. He says they will enforce the laws in Utah and intimates that 1,000 [military] men will do it.”32 At the end of May, a hulking, three hundred-pound Gen. Winfield Scott entered the fray. He did so very late in the game and without conviction. Among the important but obscure documents created during this crucial period was an extraordinary memorandum that Scott wrote on May 26 from his self-exile in New York to Secretary Floyd. In this document Scott
30 2d Lt. George Dashiell Bayard to Samuel J. Bayard, April 15, 1857, in Samuel J. Bayard, Life of George Dashiell Bayard (New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 1874), 114-17. 31 Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict 1850-1859 (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1960), 63. 32 W. W. Drummond to Stephen A. Douglas, May 16, 1857, Douglas Papers, University of Chicago Library.
AND THE WAR CAME
argued that a campaign in Utah would be ill-fated unless postponed until the spring of 1858. He pleaded that if there was to be an expedition for Utah about four thousand troops were needed, but he conceded that he could make do with as few as twenty-five hundred.33 Such a force would have been several multiples beyond what Kinney and Burr had earlier recommended. It was more like the implied scope of the anti-Mormon “crusade” recommended on April 27 by Robert Tyler. Even though Scott had traveled to Washington by May 27 and undoubtedly hand delivered this paper to the War Department, Floyd never acknowledged receiving it. Ten years later Buchanan pointedly denied even knowing of the Scott memorandum, let alone rejecting its sound advice.34 Notwithstanding his counsel to Floyd for delay, on May 28, 1857, Scott announced to the army’s staff departments that there was to be a twenty-five hundred man Utah Expedition and tasked them with its immediate support.What happened to unsettle General Scott’s world and overrule his advice during the two days between May 26 and 28, 1857, is one of the remaining mysteries surrounding the Utah War’s origins. In his 1864 memoirs General Scott further clouded the issue of why and how the Buchanan cabinet decided to launch the Utah Expedition by introducing the notion of Secretary of War Floyd’s 1857 behavior. Scott did so in the midst of the Civil War—a time when he and former President Buchanan were publicly jousting over their roles in the secession crisis of 1860-61 and a time when it was well known that Floyd had gone south to become a Confederate brigadier general. With his 1864 comments, Scott gratuitously added fuel to a Utah War conspiracy theory that Brigham Young had helped to launch in August 1857—the notion that at the heart of the Utah Expedition was the Buchanan administration’s corrupt desire to enrich commercial friends such as the western freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell. General Scott wrote:
The expedition set on foot by Mr. Secretary Floyd, in 1857, against the Mormons and Indians about Salt Lake was, beyond a doubt, to give occasion for large contracts and expenditures, that is, to open a wide field for frauds and peculation. This purpose was not comprehended nor scarcely suspected in, perhaps, a year; but, observing the desperate characters who frequented the Secretary, some of whom had desks near him, suspicion was at length excited. Scott protested against the expedition on the general ground of inexpediency, and specially because the season was too late for the troops to reach their destination in comfort or even in safety. Particular facts, observed by different officers, if united, would prove the imputation.35
33 “Garrison for Salt-Lake City,” Brevet Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, Memorandum for Secretary of War, May 26, 1857, Headquarters of the Army, Letters Sent (Record Group 108), National Archives. The only published text of this remarkable memo appears in M. Hamlin Cannon, “Winfield Scott and the Utah Expedition,” Military Affairs: Journal of the American Military Institute 5 (Fall 1941): 109-11. 34 James Buchanan, Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1866), 238-39. 35 Winfield Scott, Memoirs of Lieut.-General Scott, L.L.D.,Written by Himself. 2 vols. (New York: Sheldon & Co., 1864), 2:604. Scott, like Buchanan, wrote his memoirs in the third person.
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Former President Buchanan believed with justification that Scott’s accusation was groundless, although defending Floyd in 1864 was difficult because of his wartime status as traitor. Also complicating a dispassionate view of Floyd’s 1857 decisions was the fact that his subsequent irregularities in financing the Utah War had forced his resignation from the cabinet in December 1860.36 Within a few months of leaving office, Buchanan was so skeptical of Scott’s memoranda and letters to newspapers that he told one editor, “…[it]has been often said of the gallant general that when he abandons the sword for the pen, he makes sad work of it.”37 These yawning communication gaps between the most senior federal leaders were emblematic of conflict, indifference, and ineffectiveness atop the U.S. Army.38 Notwithstanding periodic bouts of severe back pain, an inexperienced but highly confident Secretary Floyd intended to run military affairs during the Buchanan administration unaided by Scott. General Scott, who had unilaterally removed army headquarters from Washington to New York during the late 1840s in a fit of pique, lacked the interpersonal skills and even physical presence to bridge the polite but real chasm dividing him and Floyd. President Buchanan was temperamentally and experientially ill-equipped to understand that these disconnects existed let alone deal with their consequences. For political reasons Buchanan and Floyd took another precious month after the late May 28 release of General Scott’s announcement of the Utah Expedition to name its commander and to draft his operational instructions.These orders—signed by a lieutenant colonel acting for Scott—declared Utah to be in a state of rebellion, something that the president himself neglected to say publicly until the next December and even then only in confusing fashion. These were interpersonal relationships, communication behaviors, and timing insensitivities disastrous for the way in which the Utah Expedition was to be organized and led.39 It is intriguing but unnoticed that when the critical decisions on Utah were being made in the spring of 1857, James Buchanan, Brigham Young, Thomas L. Kane, General Scott, and Secretary of War Floyd were all men with serious medical problems ranging from the life-threatening to the mysterious. None of these key people were functioning at the top of their games. Even the Utah Expedition’s initial commander, General William S. Harney, had self-control and emotional problems so severe that by the
36 William P. MacKinnon, “125 Years of Conspiracy Theories: Origins of the Utah Expedition of 185758,” Utah Historical Quarterly 52 (Summer 1984): 212-30. 37 James Buchanan to Gerard Hallock, June 29, 1861, cited in William H. Hallock, Life of Gerard Hallock, Editor of the New York Journal of Commerce (1869 New York:Arno Press, 1970, rep.), 242. 38 For a more complete discussion of these leadership shortfalls and the points covered in summary fashion in the balance of this article, see MacKinnon,“‘Lonely Bones’: Leadership and Utah War Violence,” Journal of Mormon History 33 (Spring 2007): 121-78. 39 See MacKinnon, “‘Who’s in Charge Here?’: Command Ambiguity and Cross Currents Atop the Utah Expedition,” unpublished paper, 55th Annual Utah State History Conference, September 7, 2007, Salt Lake City.
AND THE WAR CAME
spring of 1857 the army had court-martialed him four times and a civilian court in St. Louis had tried Harney a fifth time for torturing and bludgeoning to death a defenseless female slave. The nature of Buchanan’s afflictions were so severe and communication lags so daunting that during August 1857 Brigham Young and General Wells speculated amongst themselves that the president might be dead.40 In terms of communication he was. Buchanan’s first public discussion of the Utah War in any form came in a brief five-paragraph commentary in his December 8, 1857, first annual message to Congress, a silence stunning by its length and implications.41 Both James Buchanan and Brigham Young were highly capable leaders, but each was ill in the late winter of 1857 and lacked military experience. They reacted ineffectively to the powerful social, political, and religious forces afoot by placing large numbers of armed men in motion under murky, sometimes conflicting orders. The results were fateful as well as expensive in terms of blood and treasure.There were also devastating reputational consequences. This damage lingers to this day in unfortunate ways on both Mormon and federal sides of the conflict. The LDS church as an institution still grapples with the stain of Mountain Meadows, the Utah War’s greatest atrocity. Brigham Young’s personal reputation was tarnished by his three Utah War-related indictments for treason and murder and the execution for mass murder of his adopted son, John D. Lee.42 For its part the U.S. Army still prefers to forget the embarrassment of the Utah Expedition and its uncomfortable winter spent in the charred ruins of Fort Bridger on half-rations. For James Buchanan the Utah War was, in many ways, the beginning of the destruction of his personal reputation, as he presided ineffectively over the nation’s slide toward disunion. Feelings against Buchanan ran so high during the Civil War that members of his Masonic lodge stood guard over his retirement home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.The damage to Buchanan’s reputation was so long-lasting that a monument to him was not erected in Washington until the 1930s, although his niece had covered the full expenses for such a tribute forty years earlier. And the war came—first as an unprecedented, atrocious armed confrontation between Americans in Utah Territory and then as a monumental bloodbath in Virginia.
40 Young and Wells quoted in entry for August 2, 1857, Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898. 9 vols. (Midvale: Signature Books, 1983-1985), 5:71-2. 41 James Buchanan,“First Annual Message,” December 8, 1857, Moore, ed., The Works of James Buchanan, 10:151-54. 42 The texts for these three indictments are unpublished. They were quashed under unusual circumstances described in MacKinnon, “Epilogue to the Utah War,” 245 note 14; Edwin Brown Firmage and Richard Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts:A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 138, 144-47.
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rouble between Brigham Young, Utah Territorial Governor and Mormon Church President, and other federal territorial officials began to brew in the early 1850s and by the spring of 1857 a resolution to the troubles was needed. Late in
May 1857 Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, General-in-Charge of the United States Army, issued orders to organize a force of up to 2,500 soldiers to march to Utah, secure law and order, and to escort newly appointed territorial officials including the new territorial governor Alfred Cumming. Accompanying the army expedition were hundreds of supply wagons
The Utah War:
By JOHN ELDREDGE
THE UTAH WAR
driven by civilian teamsters, livestock, and other camp followers, reminding Mormons of Moses and the Jews fleeing before the army of Pharaoh. By July first elements of the military expedition had begun the long and difficult march from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Utah.That same month as Brigham Young and several thousand Mormons had gathered in Big Cottonwood Canyon to celebrate their arrival to the Great Salt Lake Valley ten years earlier word was received and announced to those gathered that a military expedition was on the march to Utah on the well-used overland trail. As the U. S. Army approached Utah Governor Brigham Young issued a
A Photographic Essay of Some of Its Important Historic Sites
UTAHMAP IN POSSESSION OF AUTHOR
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proclamation forbidding all armed forces from entering the territory. The proclamation had no effect on the expedition’s commander, Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston. However, weather and Mormon resistance did.The expedition halted in November as winter snow and cold enveloped the mountains of southwest Wyoming, and because of the destruction of much of the expedition’s supplies by the Mormon militia.The expedition camped at the new Camp Scott near the destroyed forts of Bridger and Supply. In June, following negotiations between Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane, the Utah Peace Commission, and others, a pardon was issued by President James Buchanan. Brevet Brigadier General Albert Sidney Johnston led the Utah Expedition into the Great Salt Lake Valley and a nearly deserted Salt Lake City. Within a few days, the expedition was encamped at isolated Cedar Valley, located about forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City. There at the newly christened Camp Floyd the army, with the assistance of the Mormons, built a sizeable military post. There they would remain until the firing on Fort Sumter and the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861. The photographic essay which follows highlights some of the significant locations on the last segments of the overland trail used by the Utah Expedition from Devil’s Gate to the Great Salt Lake Valley.
John Eldredge is the author of The Utah War:A Guide to the Historic Sites South Pass to Salt Lake City (2007) and past president of the Utah Chapter, Oregon-California Trails Association.
THE UTAH WAR
PREVIOUS PAGE: Charles DeSilver’s 1857 Map.
Albert Browne, traveling with the Utah Expedition in 1857, wrote: “The route selected for the march was along the emigrant road across the Plains… It is, perhaps, the most remarkable natural road in the world.The hand of man could hardly add an improvement to the highway along which, from the Missouri to the Great Basin, Nature has presented not a single obstacle to the progress of the heaviest loaded teams.” — Atlantic Monthly (Boston) 3 (March 1859): 365.
BELOW: From South Pass the U. S.Army followed the well-traveled overland road to the Great Salt Lake Valley, arriving the last week of June 1858.
HAFEN AND HAFEN
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Devil’s Gate, Wyoming
Col. Robert T. Burton of the Nauvoo Legion (Utah Militia) was ordered east from Salt Lake City to offer “aid and protection to the incoming trains of emigrants and to act as a corps of observation to learn the strength and equipment of forces reported on the way to Utah….There was no movement of the enemy from the time Col. Burton approached them at Devil’s Gate, on the Sweetwater that our officers were not speedily apprised of. Scouts and spies were with them continually examining their camps, arms, equipment, etc., and reporting to headquarters.”
— The Contributor 3 (March 1882): 179.
WILLIAM H. JACKSON PHOTOGRAPH, “SWEETWATER” (1870), JACKSON, W. H. # 288, USGS ARCHIVES
THE UTAH WAR
Looking west from Pacific Springs located a few miles west of South Pass, the Mormon militia during the night of September 25, 1857, encountered some of “Uncle’s troops.” Mormon militiaman Hosea Stout recorded: “I expect an attack will be made the first opportunity perhaps by stampeding their animals.” — On the Mormon Frontier:The Diary of Hosea Stout 2: 638. Capt. Jesse Gove of the 10th Infantry wrote of the Mormon harassment near Pacific Springs: “This morning about 2 o’clock several shots were fired immediately behind my tent, and immediately the whole herd of mules stampeded with a terrific rush…. One man in H Co. … died of fright. He had the heart disease, hence the sudden fright killed him….Their [Mormon militia] intention was to drive off the mules, nothing more.” — Jesse A. Gove, The Utah Expedition, 1857-1858, Letters of Capt Jesse A. Gove, 64. John I. Ginn, a civilian with the U. S.Army, recalled: “The mules ran about three miles, when their feet ceased to clatter on the hard, smooth road….Then Col.Alexander ordered the buglers to sound the ‘stable call’ as loud as they could…. Directly they [the army mules] came dashing into camp in a bunch, together with six additional animals wearing saddles and bridles—the whole Mormon mount.” — John I. Ginn,
“Mormon and Indian Wars:The Mountain Meadows Massacre, and other tragedies and transactions incident to the Mormon Rebellion of 1857” — Typescript, Utah State Historical Society.
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PHOTOS BY JOHN ELDREDGE
THE UTAH WAR
Simpson Hollow located near Big Sandy and Wyoming Highway 28. Mormon militia under the command of Maj. Lot Smith set fire to a supply train. Upon hearing of the success of Smith, Gen. Daniel Wells wrote Smith: “I am glad to hear so good an account of your success on your mission… Furnish your men and as many others as you conveniently can with supplies of clothing and food from any of the [wagon] trains when you have a good chance… Remain in the rear of the enemy’s camp till you receive further orders, not neglecting every opportunity to burn their trains, stampede their stock, and keep them under arms by the night surprises, so that they will be worn out.” — Quoted in LeRoy R. and
Ann W. Hafen, The Utah Expedition, 1857-1858, 231.
Trail trace immediately to the left of the trail marker.
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Green River Crossing at Mountaineer’s Fort
Located near Wyoming Highway 372 and on the banks of the Green River. It was here that Richard Yates, a trader who had sold powder and a quantity of lead to the U. S.Army and was thought to be spying for the army, was taken prisoner in late October 1857.Yates was also accused of trading liquor and other goods to the Indians on the Green River. Days later somewhere in Echo Canyon he was ordered killed. Bill Hickman later wrote of the deed: “I delivered General Wells some letters…and told him who I had along, and asked him what I should do with my prisoner. He said: `He ought to be killed; but take him on; you will probably get an order when you get to Col. Jones’ camp.’” — Bill Hickman, Brigham’s Destroying Angel, 124. It was near here that the Mormon militia burned fifty-one military supply wagons in early October.
PHOTOS BY JOHN ELDREDGE
THE UTAH WAR
Camp Winfield on Ham’s Fork of the Sweetwater River, Wyoming
Located on U. S. Highway 30 near the junction with Wyoming Highway 374, looking southwest. Captain Jesse A. Gove remembered how effective the Mormon spy and harassment campaign was. “It is astonishing to see how wonderfully the Mormons have their express and spy-system perfected.Their object is to stampede our animals and cripple our movement in that way.” — Jesse A. Gove, The Utah Expedition, 67. While encamped near Camp Winfield, then commanding officer Col. Edmund Brooke Alexander received a letter from Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs Utah Territory Brigham Young who wrote: “By virtue of the authority thus vested in me, I have issued, and forwarded you a copy of, my proclamation forbidding the entrance of armed forces into this Territory…I now further direct that you retire forthwith from the Territory, by the same route you entered.” — Quoted in Hafen and Hafen, The Utah Expedition, 1857-1858, 62.
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Junction of Black’s and Ham’s Forks
Captain Stewart Van Vliet, assistant quartermaster, was ordered to Salt Lake City ahead of the army to locate a suitable location for a fort near Salt Lake City, to secure supplies and building material for a fort, and gather any useful information useful to the general command.Van Vliet was accompanied by military escort of thirty-one officers and soldiers as far as the junction of these two streams, where he left his escort and traveled with two Mormons to Salt Lake City.After spending time with Brigham Young, and visiting Rush Valley to locate a military post,Van Vliet returned to the forks of the two streams where he made his report in a letter to the Acting Assistant Adjutant General at Fort Leavenworth. He reported that the army would face resistance, that there would be a lack of forage and other needed supplies in the Salt Lake Valley.
THE UTAH WAR
Located twelve miles southwest from Fort Bridger, the Utah Territorial legislature designated Fort Supply the county seat for Green River County, Utah Territory in 1852.When word was received that the army was on the march, Brigham Young ordered Fort Supply to be abandoned, burnt, and crops destroyed or cached. Mormon militiaman Jesse W. Crosby wrote: “I went to Fort Supply with a small company to help take care of the crops and to make ready to burn everything if found necessary… We took out our wagons, horses, etc. and at 12 o’clock noon set fire to the buildings at once, consisting of 100 or more good hewed houses, one saw mill, one grist mill, one threshing machine, and after going out of the fort, we did set fire to the stockade, grain stacks, etc.” — On the Mormon Frontier, 640, fn. 11. A reporter for the New York Times saw what was left of Camp Scott: “On arriving at the spot [Fort Supply] I realized for the first time in my life what I had imagined of the appearance of a sacked, burned and abandoned village… There was a sense of desolation about those ruins of a recently beautiful settlement which was, to say the least, unpleasant.” — New York Times, January
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Fort Bridger in 1857. Fur trapper and trader Jim Bridger established his trading post on Black’s Fork of the Green River in 1843.Along with his partner Louis Vasquez, the two developed an important trading post on the western emigrant trail. In 1855 Brigham Young purchased the fort from Vasquez and Bridger. In October of 1857 as the army was advancing John Pulsipher a former resident at Fort Bridger, reported that his brother Charles and other Mormon militiamen, “are whipping them [U. S.Army] without killing a man having taken their stock burned their freight trains — & now have burned Fort Supply & Bridger to save them from falling into their hands.” — In Hafen and Hafen, The Utah Expedition, 205. Unable to be used as a winter encampment because of its small size, Fort Bridger was used as a storage area. Col.Albert Sidney Johnston established his winter encampment at Camp Scott two miles from the burned out fort.
Located a few miles south of Fort Bridger on the bend of Black’s Fork and near Camp Scott, Eckelsville, named for the newly appointed Utah Territory Chief Justice D. Eckels, was a temporary community of Sibley tents, dugouts, log cabins, and other makeshift structures. Here the new territorial governor,Alfred Cumming, and his wife, Elizabeth, and other newly appointed territorial officials and civilians resided from November 1857 to April 1858 when the town was abandoned. Elizabeth Cumming wrote to her sister,Anne, in December, describing her accommodations in Eckelsville: “We live in five tents—One a dining room. Second a store room of trunks, boxes & so forth… Third a kitchen… Fourth—a sleeping tent for the young girl. Fifth—a double wall tent divided into parlour & bed chamber—eight feet by 10 each….You can hardly imagine how cosy & comfortable it looks. I quite enjoy it.” Ray R. Canning and Beverly Beeton, eds., The Genteel Gentile: Letters of Elizabeth Cumming, 18571858 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Library, 1977), 23.
Since the Mormon militia destroyed most of Fort Bridger, the army of 1,400 officers and men plus civilians established their winter quarters at Camp Scott, a short distance from Fort Bridger. Named for General-inChief of the entire U. S.Army, Major General Winfield Scott, Camp Scott served as the temporary seat of territorial government. On November 21, 1857, Governor Cumming issued his proclamation to the people of Utah: “…the President appointed me to preside over the executive department of this Territory… I will proceed at this point to make the preliminary arrangements for the temporary organization of the territorial government….” — Hafen and Hafen, The Utah Expedition, 297. By late May Governor Cumming prepared to abandon Camp Scott and Ecklesville and transfer the seat of territorial government back to Salt Lake City.
UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY FORT BRIDGER STATE PARK
UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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Bridger Butte (Outpost Butte)
Bridger Butte, located about four miles southwest of Fort Bridger, provided Mormon scouts an excellent location to spy on the activities of Johnston’s army at its winter encampment at Camp Scott and the nearby temporary civilian town of Eckelsville. Lot Smith later recalled that he was ordered “not to molest them if they wished to go into Winter Quarters.” — Hafen and Hafen,
The Utah Expedition, 245.
Below, view from the top of Outpost Butte looking toward Ft. Bridger
PHOTOS BY JOHN ELDREDGE
THE UTAH WAR
Pioneer Hollow Station
A number of temporary express stations or outposts were established by the Mormon militia between Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City on or near the emigrant trail where express riders delivering reports and orders to and from Salt Lake City could recruit their horses, rest, and eat. Pioneer Hollow Station located northwest of Piedmont,Wyoming, was such a station. Philo Dibble was under the command of Lot Smith in early October when Smith’s command set ablaze the army’s supply wagons. Utah militiaman Orson P.Arnold was wounded at one of these harassment raids and as Smith remembered years later, the “heavy ball passed through”Arnold’s thigh, breaking the bone, and then struck “Dibble in the side of the head, went through Samuel Bateman’s hat just missing his head…” — “The Utah War,”The Contributor 4 (1883): 28. A month later Dibble at nearby Pioneer Hollow Station, inscribed his name and date for all to see.
PHOTO BY JOHN ELDREDGE
UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Yellow Creek Lookout Station
From the Lookout Station situated near the head of Echo Canyon on Yellow Creek and near the overland trail, Lt. Gen. Daniel H.Wells of the Utah militia ordered Capt. John R.Winder in late November 1857 to take a ten man detail to “the heights of Yellow Creek” and there “watch the movements of the invaders…occasionally trail out towards Fort Bridger, and look at our enemies from the high butte near that place.”Wells’ instructions were to “Remember that to you is entrusted for the time being the duty of standing between Israel and their foes, and as you would like to repose in peace and safety while others are on the watchtower, so now while in the performance of this duty do you observe the same care, vigilance and activity, which you would desire of others when they come to take your place.” — Head Quarters Eastern Expedition, Camp Weber, December 4, 1857,
in Edward W.Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City Part I (Salt Lake City: Star Printing Co., 1886), 197-98.
Cache Cave is located a few miles from the head of Echo Canyon and on the overland trail. For a few weeks in October 1857, Lt. Gen. Daniel H. Wells made Cache Cave his eastern command post. Later it served as an important express station for messengers and spies of the Utah Militia. Date of photograph is unknown.The individuals in the photograph are the Ball family.
Echo Canyon Narrows
Echo Canyon, the only feasible route through the Wasatch Mountains to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Following the Mormon acceptance of President Buchanan’s pardon, Johnston’s army followed the emigrant route to the valley by way of Echo Canyon.At various locations in Echo Canyon, the passage was very narrow between steep canyon walls as seen in this photograph.At various locations the Mormon militia constructed stone fortifications to prevent the advancement of Johnston’s army. In June 1858, Charles A. Scott, a soldier in the army recorded some of his observations about Echo Canyon: “[The] road very good, taken in consideration that the Cañon is not more than a hundred yards wide and in some places it is much narrower. [T]he rocks on the right hand side rise in perpendicular cliffs of six or seven hundred feet in height, and an enemy posted on them could soon obstruct the passage by tumbling down loose rocks…” — Robert E. Stowers and John M. Ellis, eds.“Charles A. Scott’s Diary of the
Utah Expedition, 1857-1861,” Utah Historical Quarterly 28 (April 1960): 171.
A. J. RUSSELL, PHOTOGRAPHER
COALVILLE HISTORY MUSEUM, NAVEE VERNON
PHOTO BY JOHN ELDREDGE
UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
PHOTO BY JOHN ELDREDGE
THE UTAH WAR
The Mormon militia constructed several stone fortifications atop Echo Canyon’s northern walls from which to fire upon Johnston’s army. Hosea Stout wrote of these “formidable [locations] high [on] perpendicular ledges of rock immediately over looking the road” where it was “decided to erect batteries on the summit of the rocky crags.” — On the Mormon Frontier, 639. At various strategic locations, Mormon militiamen constructed various types of fortifications including water filled ditches, one measuring six feet wide and ten feet deep.At another location the Mormon militia may have “mined” the road.
— The Atlantic Monthly 3 (April 1859): 489.
PHOTO BY JOHN ELDREDGE
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A writer for The Atlantic Monthly in 1859 described Echo Station as “huts” the Mormon militia occupied and were “constructed by digging circular holes in the ground, over which were piled boughs in the same manner as the poles of an Indian lodge.” Many of the huts had chimneys built of sod and stones. Nearby was a protected glen to keep needed livestock.The reporter for the Atlantic Monthly estimated that there were as many as 150 huts that could accommodate as many as fifteen men each. — The Atlantic Monthly 3 (April 1859): 488. In April 1858 when Governor Alfred Cumming accompanied by a small Mormon escort made his first trip through Echo Canyon at night to the Salt Lake Valley to meet Brigham Young, numerous fires were lit along the trail at these posts to give the impression that hundreds of Mormon militia were in the canyon. Mormon militiaman Lorenzo Brown wrote: “In the evening [we] went up to the batteries to make fires & fire guns to salute the New Governor as he came past.The Camp was lighted conspicuously with a fire in each hut so that ever thing seemed alive with me.The Gov. seemed awe struck.”
— Lorenzo Brown Journal,April 29, 1856 to February 9, 1859,Typescript, LDS Church History Library.
The Weber Station, located a “mile below the mouth of Echo [Canyon] and on the Weber bottom,” was one of several commissary posts established between Yellow Creek and Fort Wells at Big Mountain.At these posts members of the Mormon militia were re-supplied with food and equipment during the winter campaign. For a brief time Weber Station was headquarters for Lt. Gen. Daniel H.Wells, commander of the Mormon militia’s eastern campaign.
Lost Creek Fortification Site
Lost Creek, a branch of the Weber River, looking downstream (south). At the point of the small knoll (middle of photograph), a fortification was built to guard against the U. S.Army using Lost Creek to bypass Mormon fortifications in Echo Canyon.According to Henry Ballard, as many as “200 [men] moved 12 miles up Lost creek to gard [sic] the kanyon [sic] and build some Batteries.” — Henry Ballard Journal,April 15, 1858, Utah State Historical Society.
PHOTO BY JOHN ELDREDGE
C. R. SAVAGE PHOTOGRAPHER, COPY IN POSSESSION OF JOHN ELDREDGE (ALSO BYU)
PHOTO BY JOHN ELDREDGE
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BELOW: Spring Creek Station
The main emigrant trail turned south from Henefer Valley and followed Main Creek Canyon. Spring Creek Station was one of a string of Mormon militia stations where commissaries were established and where both men and animals could recruit.
RIGHT: Fort Wells and Eight Crossing Fortification in East Canyon
At Mormon Flat, located on East Canyon Creek and the east side of Big Mountain and Little Emigration Canyon, the Mormon militia constructed two stone breast works (left bottom) to guard the important overland trail up Little Emigration Canyon and Big Mountain.A private in Johnston’s army, Charles Scott wrote in June 1858: “Started at six, the road good [along East Canyon Creek] for the first four miles. Came to two breast works of stone dignified with title of Fort Wells…” — Robert E. Stowers and John M. Ellis, eds.,“Charles A. Scott’s
Diary of the Utah Expedition, 1857-1861,” Utah Historical Quarterly 28 (April 1960): 172.
PHOTOS BY JOHN ELDREDGE
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Looking west from the summit of Big Mountain. In the far distance are the Great Salt Lake Valley and the Oquirrh Mountains. In the dead of winter snow depths at the summit frequently reaches more than three feet, making travel by any wheeled vehicle impossible.The U. S.Army found it extremely difficult to ascend and descent Big Mountain as did most who traveled by wagon. Captain Albert Tracy wrote on June 25, 1858: “We got off as early as five in the morning, and after a long and toilsome ascent in the course of which we pass additional fortifications of the Mormons, reach at last the bald and rock crest of ‘Big Mountain.’The view from this point is little less than magnificent—opening out between rocky and snow-clad peaks and ridges, to the veritable valley of Salt Lake in the distance, with even a partial glimpse of the lake itself, at the right…. So steep, so smooth, and so rocky was this descent, that a mule or horse might scarcely keep his footing going down….” Capt Tracy and others faced additional hazard further along, “we found, going down the farther side of Big Mountain, such clouds and density of dust as well nigh brought us to an open suffocation. Neither was the condition of things improved by a drove of the Commissary’s cattle, which had preceded us, leaving in the air a mass of itself sufficient to our keenest fixation and misery.” — “Journal of Captain Albert Tracy, 1858-1860,” Utah Historical Quarterly 13 (1945): 25-26.
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Looking northeast towards Little Dell Reservoir. Mountain Dell was the last camp for Johnston’s army before entering the Salt Lake Valley on June 26, 1858. Charles A. Scott wrote on June 25: “Orders were published to the Command for no man to leave the ranks in passing through the city to morrow and also the Articles of War, about injuring the property of Citizens [etc.] and a proclamation of the Governors congratulating the people on peace being established without bloodshed. June 26th Started at six, a long pull up for a commencement. At the top we found Ash Hollow No. 3, to descend, or Little Mountain as it is named—one of the lock chains of the forge (which I was driving) broke and if the other had done the same I would have gotten to the bottom in less than double quick time...” — Robert E. Stowers and John M. Ellis, eds.,“Charles A. Scott’s Diary of the Utah Expedition,
1857-1861,” Utah Historical Quarterly 28 (April 1960): 172-73.
PHOTOS BY JOHN ELDREDGE
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Salt Lake City, 1857
On June 26th, two weeks after peace commissioners L. W. Powell and Ben McCulloch met with Brigham Young, the U. S. Army under the command of Brevet Brigadier General Albert Sidney Johnston passed through Salt Lake City and encamped temporarily on the banks of the Jordan River before establishing Camp Floyd in Cedar Valley. Jesse A. Gove wrote of the city when he marched through: “we were particularly struck by its quietness…. The streets were deserted, the houses were deserted, the city was deserted…. The quietness of the grave prevailed….” — Otis G. Hammond, ed., The Utah Expedition, 1857-1858, 344. William Drown, chief bugler for the Second Dragoons, when first viewing the valley from the mouth of Emigration Canyon wrote: “When Brigham Young called this place a Paradise, I think he did not exaggerate at all; for it is truly the most lovely place I ever saw.” Then as he and the other soldiers marched down South Temple, he commented: “We saw about 100 men in passing through the city, but no women or children, they have gone with their leader, Brigham, to a place about thirty miles from here, called Provost….” — William Drown,
“Personal Recollections—A Trumpeter’s Notes (’52-258),” in Theophilus F. Rodenbough, comp., From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry, 1836-1875 (1875; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000), 230.
As several of the army units paraded in front of the Beehive and Lion Houses, one of military bands played a popular tune “One-Eye Riley.”
THE UTAH WAR
LONDON ILLUSTRATED NEWS, JANUARY 2, 1858
Sam Houston and the Utah War
By MICHAEL SCOTT VAN WAGENEN
he “Utah War” of 1857-58, grew out of rumors that the Utah Territory was embroiled in open rebellion against the United States government. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons, did in fact distrust federal, state, and local governments after being driven from their homes in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. In the isolation of the Utah Territory they created their own theocratic judicial and legislative bodies. To outsiders, there appeared to be sinister motives behind Governor Brigham Young’s kingdom in the West.1 This conflict came to a head in 1857, when federal Judge W. W. Drummond in Utah relayed exaggerated reports to President James Buchanan that the Sam Houston, Senator from Mormons were engaged in sedition against Texas c. 1860
Michael Scott Van Wagenen is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Utah.
1 For additional background of the tension between the federal government and Utah’s theocracy, see Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict, 1850-1859 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), 1-20; Donald R. Moorman, with Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons:The Utah War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992), 8-9.
SAM HOUSTON AND THE UTAH WAR
the United States.2 Garland Hurt, a territorial Indian agent, further reported that the Mormons had joined forces with Native Americans to retake Utah from the United States.3 In spite of these rumored separatist leanings, the Mormon leadership made a second petition for statehood in 1856.4 While congressional rejection of that petition contributed to a deepening resentment of the federal government, the Mormons were far from implementing any formal plan of secession. Mormon appeals for an investigative commission of the Utah situation fell on deaf ears, and the president sent the United States Army westward to suppress the Mormon uprising in the summer of 1857.5 Church leaders met the federal challenge with a scorched earth policy. The Nauvoo Legion (Utah’s territorial militia) implemented the plan, burning critical grazing areas on the windswept plains of Wyoming, and setting the torch to Fort Bridger and Fort Supply before they could fall into the hands of the approaching troops.6 During the early weeks of the campaign, Mormon guerillas attacked military supply trains and destroyed more than three months worth of provisions.The unexpected resistance forced the expedition of 2,500 infantry, dragoons, and artillery to winter near the ruins of Fort Bridger.7 As word of Mormon resistance reached Washington, D.C., Buchanan formulated a plan to increase the size of the standing army by five regiments to help meet the threat posed by the Mormons.8 The president’s “Army Bill,” as it was called, easily passed the House of Representatives, and in February 1858, after weeks of debate, the Senate prepared to vote on the Army Bill. In the midst of this federal warmongering, an elderly statesman whittled at his desk.9 Going back fourteen years, Texas Senator Sam Houston had had dealings with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As President of the then Texas Republic Houston had negotiated with Mormon officials for the settlement of the church in his southern borderlands.10 Some 250 of the church’s adherents currently lived in his state, where they had proven themselves to be an important part of the
2 William P. MacKinnon, “Utah Expedition of 1857-58, or Utah War,” in The New Encyclopedia of the American West, ed. Howard R. Lamar (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 1149-51; and William P. MacKinnon, “And the War Came: James Buchanan, the Utah Expedition and the Decision to Intervene” in this issue. 3 MacKinnon,“Utah Expedition,” 1149. 4 In addition to these first two attempts at statehood, five other petitions were made to Congress, the last in 1894 resulted in Congress passing the enabling act to allow for a constitutional convention in Utah. 5 Moorman, Camp Floyd, 3-24. This introductory chapter gives an excellent overview of the events leading to Buchanan’s decision to send the army to the Utah Territory. 6 Gordon B. Dodds, “Bridger, James,” in The New Encyclopedia of the American West, ed. Howard R. Lamar, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 125-26. The Mormons claimed to have bought these outposts in 1855, although Jim Bridger disputed this purchase. See Moorman, Camp Floyd, 48. 7 William P. MacKinnon, “Utah Expedition,,” 1149; Richard D. Poll and Ralph W. Hansen, “‘Buchanan’s Blunder’The Utah War, 1857-1858,” Military Affairs 25 (Autumn 1961): 124. 8 A force as large as five thousand. 9 James L. Haley, Sam Houston (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002), 354. 10 These obscure and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations are explored in Michael Scott Van Wagenen’s The Texas Republic and the Mormon Kingdom of God (College Station:Texas A & M University Press, 2002).
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Texas frontier economy.11 Perhaps most important, Houston had friends in the Utah Territory he hoped to protect. A combination of politics, economics, and intolerance on both sides pitted the Mormons against their more numerous “gentile” neighbors.12 In 1844 the church’s founder Joseph Smith Jr. began searching for a place of refuge for his people. The Oregon Country, Alta California, and the Texas Republic all provided possible solutions.13 To explore the Texas option, Smith sent three political ministers: Lucien Woodworth, George Miller, and Almon Babbitt to meet with Texas Republic President Sam Houston.14 These emissaries carried instructions to purchase land from President Houston in the disputed western and southern borderlands of Texas. The details of these negotiations remain vague although it is clear that Houston and the Mormons had reached some preliminary agreements in the spring of 1844.15 According to one account, Houston outright rejected the original offer. Instead he agreed to sell the Mormons a small strip of land between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers.16 To complicate matters, this area, a geographic no-man’s land called the Nueces Strip, was also claimed by Mexico. The dispute over this frontier had prompted intermittent warfare between Mexico and the Texas Republic for several years. But before any firm actions could be taken by the church, a mob killed Smith in June of 1844, putting an end to the negotiations with Houston.17 Prior to his death, Smith had appointed Lyman Wight, one of the church’s Twelve Apostles, to lead a preliminary mission into the Texas Republic. While fellow apostle Brigham Young consolidated his power and prepared for a westward exodus, Wight led a group of 150 Mormons to the Texas Republic. The group established their original settlement in Austin shortly after the United States annexed Texas. This small colony of Mormons immediately set to work building a mill on the outskirts of town. “Mormon Springs,” as it came to be known, was the first gristmill
11 For a complete treatment of the early Mormon-Texas experience see Melvin C. Johnson’s Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight’s Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845 to 1858 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2006). 12 Reports of Mormon “outrages” were popular in the major eastern newspapers during this time. While these were mostly sensationalized, popular accusations of Mormon polygamy later proved to be true. The New York Herald in particular printed and reprinted many inflammatory articles about the Mormons. See: “Highly Important from the West – Arrest of Joe Smith, the Mormon Chief,” June 26, 1841; and “Highly Important from the West – Progress of the Mormons,”August 10, 1841. 13 Van Wagenen, The Texas Republic, 29, 34-63. 14 George Miller, Correspondence of Bishop George Miller With The Northern Islander From his first acquaintance with Mormonism up to near the close of his life. Written by himself in the year 1855 (Michigan: Wingfield Watson, 1916), 21. Miller’s account actually lists A.W. Brown, which is a misprinting of Almon W. Babbitt, a member of the Council of Fifty who was deeply involved in Mormon politics at the time. 15 Miller, Correspondence, 20-21. 16 Journal History, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 2, 1847. Family and Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Hereinafter cited as LDS Church History Library. 17 Van Wagenen, The Texas Republic, 53-54.
SAM HOUSTON AND THE UTAH WAR
in central Texas.18 After the Mormon’s first public meeting in Austin, one Texan observed that the townspeople felt that the Mormons “were a lawless band, and the subject of rising up and driving them from the countr y was strongly advocated.” While Wight’s practice of polygamy raised the ire of his neighbors in the new Texas capital, they tolerated the Mormon apostle once they realized the value of his milling services.19 Soon the Mormons were grinding corn and constructing buildings for the residents of Austin. They even won the contract to build Austin’s first jail.20 During the next twelve years, Wight’s colony of Mor mons would move throughout central Texas. They mainly engaged in the milling industr y, although they also farmed, ranched, and made shingles and furniture to supplement their “common George A. Smith, who, with John stock” economy.21 (Their contributions to the M. Bernhisel, met privately with Texas frontier, while largely forgotten today, Senator Houston in 1856 in an were well known in central Texas during the effort to secure statehood for mid-nineteenth century.) Utah. There is little historical evidence to indicate that Houston had any personal contact with the Mormons in Texas. He did, however, have several friends and
Ibid., 54-59. Noah Smithwick, The Evolution of a State: Recollections of Old Texas Days (Austin, 1900), 235-36. 20 Heman Hale Smith, “The Lyman Wight Colony in Texas,” unpublished manuscript, (ca. 1900), 12. The L.Tom Perry Special Collections of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. 21 Van Wagenen,The Texas Republic, 60-62.
UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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acquaintances in the Utah Territory. These friends proved most important in influencing the senator during the Utah War. As a result of his negotiations with the Mormons in 1844, Houston had come to understand the unusual practice of the church sending political ambassadors to lobby world governments on various issues. In 1856, when the Mormon-dominated constitutional convention again considered petitioning Congress for statehood, Mormon leaders George A. Smith and John M. Bernhisel met privately with Senator Houston.22 In this meeting Houston expressed great interest in Brigham Young’s polygamist lifestyle. Like many Americans, Houston seemed filled with an odd combination of curiosity and moral indignation at the unusual Mor mon marr iage practices. 23 Nonetheless, Houston expressed sympathy for the Mormon John M. Bernhisel desire for statehood.24 An oral tradition has persisted among some Latter-day Saints about Sam Houston’s meeting with George A. Smith and John M. Bernhisel. Although some facts seem exaggerated, the basic story possesses a note of truth. According to one version of the story, Smith and Houston became fast friends:
The two old men then laid down on the floor with a pillow under their heads and laid on the back of chairs and went on talking . . . After General Houston and President Smith had been talking a little while President Smith became cold . . . whereupon General Houston got a parcel which he had and took a Navajo Blanket out of the parcel and put it over his shoulders and again went on talking . . . General Houston was always a great friend to the West and remained a friend to the Mormon people up to the time of his death.25
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While such meetings with Mormon leadership proved amiable, Houston responded best to the Mormons who had fought alongside him in the Texas Republic. Early Mormon missionary efforts in the state yielded some one thousand Texan converts who eventually moved west to the Utah Territory. Records show that some of these individuals had in fact fought with Houston in the Texas War of Independence.26 The bond of allegiance
22 The quest for Utah statehood proved a long, politically-charged process that was not completed until 1896. 23 Houston had been married three times. His apparent difficulty in obtaining divorces from his first two wives led to rumors that Houston was himself a bigamist. See Haley, Sam Houston, 90, 98-99, 202. 24 George A. Smith to Brigham Young, July 23, 1856, LDS Church History Library. 25 George Henry Crosby, (1872-1938) Papers [ca. 1929-1936] Typescript. LDS Church History Library. Some details are clearly confused as the letter is the recounting of a story passed through several people and generations. The blanket is Houston’s famous Cherokee cloak. Utah Mormons might easily mistake this for a colorful Navajo blanket with which they themselves were acquainted.
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forged between veterans of Texas’ most venerated conflict seemed to transcend the difficult political and theological divide between Houston and his Mormon friends. The most influential of Houston’s Mormon friends was Seth Millington Blair. Born near New London, Missouri, in 1819 Blair was five years old, when his parents pulled up stakes and moved the family to Tennessee. In 1836, Sam Houston sent out a call for volunteers from the United States to help fight against Mexico in defense of the fledgling Texas Republic, and seventeen years old, Blair joined hundreds of volunteers from Tennessee to fight in the Texas War of Independence.27 Joining the Texas Rangers, Blair made the acquaintance of Texas President Sam Houston. Blair must have been an impressive young man, for in spite of his youth, he achieved the rank of major—a title he would carry proudly with him for life. As a member of the Texas Rangers, he campaigned through the end of the war. Blair settled near Austin, but eventually moved about seventy-five miles southeast of San Antonio to De Witt County where he practiced law and worked as a land agent for the Texas Republic.28 A year after arriving in the Great Basin, Brigham Young sent Preston Thomas and William Martindale on missions to Texas. Their mission was twofold: to make converts among the Texans and to persuade Lyman Wight and his group to join the main body of the saints in Utah.While the latter charge proved a failure, Thomas and Martindale were successful missionaries.29 Blair encountered the Mormon elders when they came through De Witt County, looking for a place to preach. The Major found them a suitable location, and the missionaries gave him a Book of Mormon. After reading the book, Blair became convinced of the truthfulness of the Mormon gospel. He was soon baptized, and prepared his family to move to the Utah Territory to join the saints.30 In Utah, Young apparently knew of Blair’s connection to Houston and made ready use of the Texas attorney.31 In spite of Blair’s obvious devotion to Mormonism,Young intentionally withheld him from the church hierar26 Melvin C. Johnson,“Lone Star Trails to Zion: Mormon Narratives of the Republic and State of Texas 1844-1858,” 5, unpublished manuscript presented at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 1998, copy in possession of the author. See also Deseret News, July 29, 1874. Nearly forty years after the Texas War of Independence, the Texas Legislature passed a law allotting an annual pension to veterans of the campaign. At the time, only three known veterans were still living in the Utah Territory. All three were former officers in the Texas military. This total does not take into account how many had died or previously left the territory. 27 Seth Millington Blair,“Reminiscences and Journal, 1819-1875,” LDS Church History Library. 28 Ibid. See also Blair’s obituary in the Deseret News, March 24, 1875. 29 Preston Thomas, Preston Thomas: His Life and Travels, ed. Daniel Thomas, unpublished manuscript, LDS Church History Library. 30 Blair,“Reminiscences.” 31 Blair’s service in this capacity began as early as 1850, when he wrote a letter of introduction for church apostle John Taylor to Sam Houston. It is unclear if Taylor and Houston ever met. See Seth M. Blair to Sam Houston, February 17, 1850, John Taylor Collection, LDS Church History Library.William P. MacKinnon provided a copy of the letter to the author.
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chy.32 This allowed Blair to deal with Houston and other outsiders while maintaining an apparent independence from the church. The strategy worked, and Blair received appointment as Utah Attorney General from President Millard Fillmore.33 As the army approached the Utah Territory,Young called upon Blair to persuade Senator Houston of the futility of the military campaign.34 On December 1, 1857, Blair sat down to write a letter to his old friend in Congress.35 In his letter, Blair appealed to Houston as the Mormons’ last hope. “In my heart I believe you the only Senator who sits in Congress of the United States who dares lift up his voice in opposition to public opinion.” He continued to explain that being,
unheard we are condemned, without cause we have been disfranchised, as traitors we are branded, as fanatics we are cursed, as dogs we are to be hung! Our wives ravished by the mercenary soldiers under the stars and stripes, our daughters seduced by the United States officers, our cities pillaged, our fields laid in ashes, our altars and temples polluted.
He then recounted the defensive measures currently being made in the territory, warning that the Mormons would destroy their property rather than have it fall into the hands of the military. “As Forts Bridger and Supply have gone, so will each city, town, hamlet, village, settlement, habitation, field, altar, temple, all and every trace of civilization in these mountains go at the approach of the invading army.” He continued, “Our numbers, you ask, what are they? Enough! Our resources, true patriotism, which asks no reward save equal rights. Our hope, victory or death.”36 Blair no doubt struck a chord with Houston when he warned the senator that the Utah campaign would “drain the treasury and accomplish but one object—the dissolution of the Union.” In spite of being a southerner, Houston defended the Union above all else and remained sensitive to threats against it.37 Blair concluded his letter with an impassioned appeal to his old friend:
I beseech you, then, as one who loves the Union and despises the life that would tamely submit to a tyrannical rule, to raise your voice to stop the bigoted crusade of the administration against Governor Young and this people, and ask Congress to counter32 See Seth M. Blair to George A. Smith, June 3, 1858, George A. Smith Papers, 1834-1875, LDS Church History Library. Blair wrote:“I . . . felt that the good sense fine judgment & Statements like course of Bro Brigham would suffer if for a moment it was believed that I ‘held a high place (or low one) in his Council.’” 33 Blair Obituary, Deseret News, March 24, 1875. 34 This was part of a larger campaign to solicit the aid of Eastern politicians in the coming war. 35 Blair’s obituary in the Deseret News, March 24, 1875, states the letter was printed “first in the Washington Star, and subsequently in many journals throughout the Union.” A search of the Washington Evening Star and other newspapers failed to produce the letter.William P. MacKinnon located the letter in the New York Herald, March 2, 1858, and graciously provided me this important part of the Blair–Houston story. 36 Ibid. 37 When the Union did in fact dissolve at the outbreak of the Civil War, Houston refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy and was removed from his position as Governor of Texas. See Haley, Sam Houston, 390-91.
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mand the exterminating orders of the administration, stay the floodgate that traitors, highwaymen, public robbers (who thirst for gold), although crimson with the blood of their fellow men, have raised to drain the treasure in sending soldiers to murder an innocent and law abiding people.38
Houston received Blair’s letter the second week of January 1858. Unsettled by the correspondence, Houston asked for a meeting with his old Mormon contact in Washington, D.C., John M. Bernhisel.39 On January 18, 1858, the two men met in the Senate chamber when Houston assured Bernhisel he would speak personally to the president about the Utah campaign and would recommend a commission be sent to investigate the state of affairs in the territory. Whatever Houston may have said to Buchanan seemed to have no effect as he continued with his plan to raise five additional regiments for the Utah campaign. Given Buchanan’s refusal to act on his advice, Houston carefully planned his next step. On February 1, 1858, Buchanan hoped to have a favorable vote for his Army Bill in the Senate. During the debate over the bill, Houston sat at his desk whittling and feigning disinterest. Finally, laying his carving knife aside, he rose to address his fellow senators.
If it is necessary on this occasion, for the Mormon war or any other purpose, I care not what, to raise an additional force, of what description should that force be? Is it to be composed of active and efficient men? Are they to be such men as could be raised in the United States? No, sir.40
While Houston believed that the Mormons needed to accept federal authority, he doubted they intended rebellion. He claimed that the impending war against the Mormon rebellion was a thinly veiled effort to build up a large, standing army. He adamantly persisted in his opinion that a large standing army could not conquer Utah, and suggested that a volunteer force could better deal with the Mormon situation.41 While such language seems to infer that Houston wanted to invade the Utah Territory, his call for volunteers would actually derail the president’s bill by denying him the authority to recruit additional regular troops. Any further action would require the bill to retur n to the House of Representatives.This would provide an important delay which could allow the organization of a commission to investigate the extent of Mormon rebellion in the territory. This was in keeping with his discussion with Bernhisel two weeks earlier, when he voiced support of such a commission. Rather than seem too sympathetic towards the Mormons, however, Houston focused his attack on the raising of additional troops for the Utah campaign.The day ended without a vote.
New York Herald, March 2, 1858. John M. Bernhisel to Brigham Young, January 17, 1858, LDS Church History Library. 40 Sam Houston, The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813-1863, ed. Amelia W.Williams and Eugene C. Barker (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1941) 6:471. The entire speech can be found in the Congressional Globe, 35th Cong., 1st sess., Part 1, 1857-1858, pp. 492-97. 41 Houston, Writings, 483.
On February 10, 1858, President Buchanan again hoped for a positive vote on his Army Bill. As the debate ensued, Houston was accused of not only trying to defeat the bill, but also attempting to reduce the ranks of the existing military. The old Texan rose to his own defense, claiming once again that he preferred volunteers be recruited rather than regular troops.42 For the first time though, he raised the issue that the president’s appointees may have actually started the whole affair.43 While discussing the efficiency of using volunteers for short campaigns, he added:
if war be necessary; but I doubt whether, unfortunately, men have not been there in former times who were worse than the Mormons themselves, and whose moral texture and complexion might reflect disgrace upon the Mormons. It may be that such persons incited these men to desperation, and led to the statements which have induced the present Executive to act as he has done, when, perhaps there would not have been a necessity for that action if the truth had been before him.44
Houston’s attack now focused on President Buchanan, creating quite a stir in the Senate chambers. This, along with Houston’s poor characterization of the standing army, continued to make him the target of considerable criticism. The following day, Senator Jefferson Davis rose in an angry invective against Houston. Once again, Houston was on the defense. He tried to explain his position on volunteers yet another time. Then turning to his characteristic use of levity to diffuse hostile situations, he made a joke about the Utah campaign.
These are my views in relation to this emergency, and I am as anxious to see the country quiet as any one. I think that volunteers, actively, sprightly, animated young men, going to that country, would be the best means of breaking up the Mormons. When they get there they will feel that they are cut off from the rest of the country, and be pleased to settle there. They will take wives from amongst the Mormons, and that will break up the whole establishment; it will take away their capital.45
The Congressional Globe made note of the laughter that filled the Senate following Houston’s remark. As far as charges that the Native Americans were collaborating with the Mormons, Houston chastised his fellow congressmen. Referencing the brutal military policy toward the Native Americans, he claimed:
. . . it has driven them to the Mormons; they are their allies. Why? Because they were killed when they wanted peace. Because the Mormons have not committed a corresponding wrong on them, they are the allies of the Mormons. They will always go where friendship and justice are accorded to them.46
42 Ibid., 492. Sam Houston’s speech can be found in its entirety in the Congressional Globe, Part 1, 18571858, pp. 646-47. 43 For examples of federal officials giving misinformation to President James Buchanan see William P. MacKinnon, “The Buchanan Spoils System and the Utah Expedition: Careers of W. M. F. Magraw and John M. Hockaday” Utah Historical Quarterly 31 (Spring 1963): 127-50. 44 Houston, Writings, 492-93. 45 Ibid., 504. This speech can be found in its entirety in the Congressional Globe, Part 1, 1857-1858, pp. 669-73.
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Houston, an advocate for indigenous rights, believed that the Mormons shared his favorable view of Native Americans.47 Two weeks later, on February 25, 1858, Houston returned to the Senate for the final confrontation with President Buchanan over the Army Bill. While he once again stressed his preference for the raising of volunteers for emergency actions such as the Utah War, he overtly took to the defense of the Mormons for the first time. In a long and impassioned speech, Houston focused on the Mormon problem. He warned:
If they have to be subdued – and God forfend [sic] us all from such a result – and the valley of Salt Lake is to be ensanguined with the blood of American citizens, I think it will be one of the most fearful calamities that has [sic] befallen this country, from its inception to the present moment. I deprecate it as an intolerable evil.48
Houston continued to detail the massacre that the United States Army would likely face against the Mormon guerillas, who were well-accustomed to the mountainous terrain. Once again, he saved his most pointed criticism for the president.The debate allowed Houston the opportunity to attack his old political rival. He accused Buchanan of abusing his power by launching the Utah Expedition without fully investigating the veracity of the claims of Mormon sedition.
I am satisfied that the Executive has not had the information he ought to have had on this subject before making such a movement as he has directed to be made. I am convinced that facts have been concealed from him. I think his wisdom and patriotism should have dictated the propriety of ascertaining, in the first place, whether the people of Utah were willing to submit to the authority of the United States.Why not send to them men to whom they could unbosom themselves, and see whether they would say, “we are ready to submit to the authorities of the United States…”49
To support his criticism of the Utah campaign, Houston referred directly to the Seth Blair letter.
I received the other day from a very intelligent Mormon whom I knew in Texas, and a very respectable man he was, once I believe the United States district attorney for Utah, a letter of seven pages. In that letter he takes a comprehensive view of this subject. He protests most solemnly that there never would have been the least hostility to the authorities of the United States if the President had sent respectable men there. He says that Governor Brigham Young has been anxious to get rid of the cares of office, and would freely have surrendered it and acknowledged the authority of the United
Houston, Writings, 507. Both Houston and the Mormons had an inconsistent record in dealing with Native Americans. Houston had brutally fought the Creek Nation during the War of 1812, but lived among and was adopted by the Cherokee Nation. For the complex relationship between the Mormons and Native Americans see Howard A. Christy, “Open Hand and Mailed Fist: Mormon-Indian Relations in Utah, 1847-52,” Utah Historical Quarterly 46 (Summer 1978): 216-35; Sondra Jones, “Saints or Sinners? The Evolving Perceptions of Mormon-Indian Relations in Utah Historiography,” Utah Historical Quarterly 72 (Winter 2004): 19-46; and Ronald W. Walker, “Toward a Reconstruction of Mormon and Indian Relations, 1847-1877,” BYU Studies 29 (Fall 1989): 23-42. 48 Houston, Writings, 521. The speech can be found in its entirety in the Congressional Globe, Part 1, 1857-1858, pp. 873-75. 49 Ibid., 522-23. 50 Ibid., 525.
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Jefferson Davis c. 1860. As United States Senator from Mississippi, Davis denounced Sam Houston’s position on the Utah War. Davis served as President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.
States; but that men have gone there, who have made threats that they would hang them . . .50
Houston then laid out in detail the defensive measures undertaken by the Mormons in the territory. Brigham Young and much of the leadership of the church had gone into hiding in the mountains, canyons, and smaller settlements far to the south of the capital. Thousands of Mor mon troops ar med themselves with weapons carried in from Mormon settlements in California and Nevada.51 Predicting the army faced a bloodbath, Houston tried to convey the foolishness of the venture by comparing the imminent battle to the crushing defeat of Napoleon at Moscow:
They will find Salt Lake, if they ever reach it, a heap of ashes . . . Just as sure as we are now standing in the Senate, these people, if they fight at all, will fight desperately.They are defending their homes. They are fighting to prevent the execution of threats that have been made, which touch their hearths and their families; and depend upon it they will fight until every man perishes before he surrenders . . . I say your men will never return, but their bones will whiten the valley of Salt Lake. If war begins, the very moment one single drop of blood is drawn, it will be the signal of extermination.52
Ironically, the man leading the United States forces was Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, a former Secretary of War of the Texas Republic under Houston. In spite of their previous association, Houston had no love for Johnston and finished his discourse by openly questioning the Colonel’s abilities to successfully lead the army against the Mormons.53
51 For details related to the Mormon military operations in the Utah War, see Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young:American Moses (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 250-71. 52 Houston, Writings, 524-25. 53 Ibid., 526-27.
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Houston’s speech proved a success.Writing to his wife the following day, Houston claimed credit for the defeat of the Army Bill.54 While the failure of this legislation had little impact on the force already on the Utah frontier, it signaled Buchanan’s failing support within his own government. Ultimately, Houston undermined the goals of the president’s Utah Expedition, and helped turn it into what was popularly called “Buchanan’s Blunder.”55 In an attempt to salvage some dignity from the fiasco, Buchanan offered a full pardon to the Mormons on April 6, 1858. The negotiated peace required that Brigham Young step down as governor. Young allowed the invading force to march through Salt Lake City on the condition that they not attempt to occupy the city. To ensure that the army would honor its promise, Mormon militia filled the buildings of the city with straw and stood ready to apply the torch if the army dared stop within city limits. For all intents and purposes, the Utah War was over. 56 Was Houston’s defense of Brigham Young and the Mormons merely politicking, or was he sincere in his desire to bring a peaceful resolution to the Utah War? Certainly he had personal reasons to oppose both President Buchanan and the growth of the regular army, but the tenacity of his attack on the Utah campaign points to other factors.57 His friendship with Seth Blair, George A. Smith, and John Bernhisel along with his willingness to risk his reputation in defending the Mormons, suggests that Houston acted out of compassion for a people who he felt faced undeserved violence at the hands of the United States Army. A final piece of evidence comes in the form of a private letter Houston wrote to his wife Margaret. With no expectations that this letter would become public record, he bore his soul to his wife.
I am no Mormon, & the evil of the difficulty has grown out of the policy pursued by Pierce, and kept up by Mr. Buchanan. Men were sent there of worse morals, than the Mormons. For instance, a man by the name of Drummond, who left a wife, & family in Ill. starving, & from this place took a hussy (I will not call her a woman) and introduced her at various places, Independence, Mo, & Santa Fe, and San Francisco as his wife, and at Salt Lake lived with her as such. Others were men [of] dissolute habits, and these facts were known to the Mormons. Now my Dear, this Mormon war has, been predicated, on the reports of such men, and the Mormons have never refused to receive Federal officers, and respect them. So upon these premises, the President has sent Troops to subdue them, and Genl A. S. Johns[t]on is sent to the work, and of all men living the least qualified for such business. If the Mormons chuse [sic] to do it, they can destroy the whole command. If blood is drawn, the Troops will be annihilated…58
54 Sam Houston to Margaret Houston, February 26, 1858, in Sam Houston, The Personal Correspondence of Sam Houston, Volume IV: 1852-1863, ed. Madge Thornall Roberts (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1996) 4: 286. See also New York Times March 3, 1858, and Washington Evening Star, March 26, 1858. 55 Poll and Hansen,“Buchanan’s Blunder,” 131. 56 MacKinnon,“Utah Expedition of 1857-58,” 1150; Moorman, Camp Floyd, 38-50. 57 Houston, Writings, 466, and the Congressional Globe, Part 1, 1857-1858, pp. 492-97. 58 Sam Houston to Margaret Houston, March 1, 1858, in Houston, The Personal Correspondence 290.
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While Houston struggled with the morality of Mormon polygamy, he nonetheless recognized that the federal government had treated them unfairly. Understanding the precarious situation, he sincerely sought to curb the loss of life on both sides. Following the end of his term in Congress, Houston successfully ran for governor of Texas. He occupied this unenviable position as the nation crumbled in 1861. A unionist to the end, Houston refused to swear allegiance to the Confederate States of America and resigned his office. He retired to his farm in Huntsville under a cloud of controversy. A fighter to the end, Houston never feared supporting unpopular causes.59 Perhaps as an ultimate irony, Houston’s son, Sam Jr., joined the Second Texas Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War, and was led into battle by Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston—a man with whom his father had little faith as a commander. At the Battle of Shiloh both Johnston and the younger Houston received serious arterial leg wounds. Johnston died quickly, while surgeons gave Houston up for dead. Against the odds, Sam Jr. survived his wound and was taken a prisoner of war. Paroled as an invalid, he was able to return to join his grateful father before the elderly statesman passed away in 1863.60 Visitors to Houston’s final resting place in Huntsville will find a marble monument befitting the first President of the Republic of Texas. An inscription on the tomb reads:
A Brave Soldier.A Fearless Statesman. A Great Orator – A Pure Patriot. A Faithful Friend,A Loyal Citizen. A Devoted Husband and Father. A Consistent Christian – An Honest Man.
Such tributes are often rhetoric for the memorials of mediocre politicians. Indeed, these words mask the contradictions and complexities of Houston’s tumultuous life. Nonetheless, for the Mormons of the Utah Territory Houston’s epitaph rang true. At a time when Mormons had few allies in Congress, Sam Houston risked his political career to fight for the lives of his friends in what he believed to be an unjust war.
Haley, Sam Houston, 365-94 covers his short term as Texas governor. Ibid., 403-405.
UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The SpencerPike Affair
BY RICHARD W. SADLER
t noon on August 11, 1859, an assailant shot and mortally wounded U. S. Army Sergeant Ralph Pike on a crowded Salt Lake City street. Thirty years later, Howard Orson Spencer, the victim of a brutal attack by the Camp Floyd soldier was tried and found innocent in a civilian court of the murder of Pike. Known as the Spencer-Pike affair, the events of 1859 were part of the larger Utah War that began in1857 when United States President James Buchanan ordered federal troops to Utah to escort Alfred Cumming, Brigham Young’s replacement as territorial governor.1 After spending a cold and difficult winter Daniel Spencer, uncle to Howard at Camp Scott in western Wyoming, the sol- O. Spencer and on whose Rush diers, under the command of Col. Albert Valley ranch the encounter with Sidney Johnston, marched through Salt Lake Ralph Pike took place.
Richard W. Sadler is a Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society and Dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences,Weber State University.
Histories deal briefly or not at all with this incident. Other coverage of this incident can be found in Charles P. Roland, Albert Sidney Johnston, Soldier of Three Republics (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964); Harold Schindler, “Is that you Pike? Feud Between Settlers, Frontier Army Erupts and Simmers for Three Decades,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1995; Lance D. Chase, “The Spencer-Pike Affair, 1859-90: Method in Madness,” in Temple, Town, Tradition, The Collected Historical Essays of Lance D. Chase, (Laie: HI: The Institute for Polynesian Studies, 2000).
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City and established Camp Floyd in Cedar Valley, forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City in late June 1858. Mistrust and animosity defined relations between Mor mons and the ar my and sparked the confrontation between Howard Orson Spencer and Sergeant Ralph Pike. The resulting injur y and death demonstrated that the Utah territory was infected by the propensities for violence that permeated mid-nineteenth century America.2 At the same time, while the tension and animosity between Mormons and the U.S. Army and its suppliers kept the prospect of violence boiling near the surface, very few physical altercations actually occurred. The Spencer-Pike affair was an exception as confrontation and anger resulted in bloodshed and death in the spring and summer of 1859. The week-long trial of Howard O. Spencer in 1889, a Howard O. Spencer c. 1910 year before Mor mons capitulated to an intense and sustained congressional antipolygamy crusade, demonstrated that the animosity and bitter feelings of three decades earlier remained. Howard Orson Spencer was born to Orson and Catharine Curtis
2 An 1859 case of violence that had some relationship to the Spencer-Pike affair was the murder committed in February of 1859 by Congressman Daniel Sickles of New York State who shot Philip Barton Key, U.S. District Attorney for the District of Columbia and the son of Francis Scott Key. Representative Sickles suggested that he was in a jealous rage over the illicit affair in which Key and Sickle’s young wife Teresa were involved. In the subsequent sensational trial, in which Sickles plead successfully temporary insanity, he was acquitted. He went on to be a successful soldier in the Civil War including losing a leg at Gettysburg and being awarded the Medal of Honor.W.A. Swanberg, Sickles the Incredible (Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military Books, 1991); Nat Brandt, The Congressman Who Got Away With Murder (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1991).The middle of the nineteenth century also saw political violence (Bleeding Kansas and the Christiana Affair), economic violence (the Squatters’ Riots in California), racial violence (the Nat Turner Rebellion and the Texas Slave Insurrection of 1860), race riots (in Cincinnati, New York, and New Orleans), religious and ethnic violence (the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the Mountain Meadows Massacre), personal violence (the assault on Charles Sumner in the United States Senate), assassinations and political murders (Elijah Lovejoy and Abraham Lincoln), and group violence (the vigilante movements in the West).
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THE SPENCER-PIKE AFFAIR
Spencer in Middlefield, Massachusetts, on June 16, 1838.3 Orson was a Baptist minister, but in 1840, the Spencers converted to Mormonism, moved to Nauvoo, and eventually to Utah.4 For Spencer, church callings, including missionary service abroad, required lengthy absences from his family. When Catharine died in 1846, Howard, his brother, and six sisters were raised by neighbors and relatives in particular Orson’s brother Daniel.5 A successful businessman first in Massachusetts then in Illinois, Daniel Spencer arrived in Utah in 1847, and acquired residential property and farm land in the Salt Lake City area. He also owned two substantial ranches located west of the city. The first was located in Salt Lake County about a mile west of what was called Millstone Point on the flat Bonneville Lake bottom north of the Oquirrh Mountains.This ranch, often called the ranch at the point of West Mountains, served as a way station for travelers going to and from Tooele and Rush Valleys. The second ranch was located in Rush Valley, south of the Tooele settlement, and on the south shore of Rush Lake. Spencer employed young farm and ranch hands including his nephew, Howard Orson Spencer. The Utah frontier, his uncle’s ranch, the Mormon faith, and his family were cornerstones for the young Spencer. When Utahns learned that a federal army was on its way to Utah, they prepared to resist. Nineteen-year-old Howard Orson along with his brother-in-law Hiram B. Clawson joined the territorial militia and went to Echo Canyon, a key strategic location for blocking the entrance of federal soldiers into the territory. Spencer served for a time under Lot Smith, a seasoned frontiersman whose exploits in burning army supply wagons and harassing the Utah-bound troops on the high plains of Wyoming are a well-known element of Utah War lore. Lot Smith wrote his Utah War reminiscences a quarter of a century after the event and recalled taking a group of young men into Echo Canyon that included Howard O. Spencer and his brother-in-law, Brigham Young Jr. On one occasion Joseph Rich and Howard Spencer, who was nursing a wound, were ordered to remain in camp. Lot Smith recorded: “The latter
3 Andrew Jenson writes that Howard Spencer was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, which differs from family accounts. Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City:Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901), 4:503-504. 4 Orson Spencer (1802-1855) received a degree from Union College at Schenectady, New York, in 1824 and a second degree from the Theological College at Hamilton, New York, in 1829. Orson served for a time as mayor of Nauvoo, LDS church mission president in Great Britain, and chancellor of both the University of Nauvoo in Nauvoo and the University of Deseret in Utah. Catharine Curtis Spencer died on the plains of Iowa in 1846. On Orson and Catharine Spencer and their family see: Aurelia Spencer Rogers, Life Sketches of Orson Spencer and Others and History of Primary Work (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, 1898); Richard W. Sadler, “The Life of Orson Spencer,” (masters thesis, University of Utah, 1965); Seymour H. Spencer, Life Summary of Orson Spencer, (Salt Lake City: Mercury Publishing Company, 1964.) 5 Daniel Spencer (1794-1868) converted to Mormonism in 1840 along with his brothers Hiram and Orson. Daniel was also mayor of Nauvoo for a time, was the first president of the Salt Lake City LDS Stake (1849-1868) as well as being involved in the Utah Territorial government and the British Mission.
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had a fever sore on his leg, and to his disgust at being kept in camp, he remarked to his comrades: ‘Boys, if you want to get out of doing anything, just scratch your leg a little.’ He then rolled up his pants and filled the gaping wound with hot embers. I thought him then the right kind of stuff to make a soldier.”6 Ralph Pike, a native of Hebron, New Hampshire, whose brother had died serving in the Mexican War, came west as a corporal in the 10th Regiment’s I Company. In November 1857, Pike volunteered to go with a group of soldiers under the command of Captain Randolph B. Marcy to New Mexico to purchase much needed mules, sheep, and salt for the Utah bound expedition then wintering at Camp Scott near Fort Bridger in western Wyoming. The mid-winter march of the Marcy expedition was particularly grueling and Pike’s participation in this journey may have led to his promotion to sergeant in 1858.7 In late June 1858, after a truce had been negotiated with Brigham Young ensuring that the federal army would not meet with armed resistance, Ralph Pike and his fellow soldiers under the command of recently Brevetted Brigadier General Albert Sidney Johnston marched through Echo Canyon, the abandoned streets of Salt Lake City, and on to Cedar Valley forty miles to the southwest where they established Camp Floyd— named in honor of President Buchanan’s Secretary of War John B. Floyd. Rush Valley, located north and west of Camp Floyd, had been explored by Captain Howard Stansbury in 1849 and 1850, and by Lt. Col. Edward J. Steptoe in 1854 and 1855.8 Steptoe had designated Rush Valley as a reserve for federal grazing and in doing so set up some tensions between the federal government and Mormons who viewed the areas as theirs to use by prior appropriation.When Steptoe and his troops left the Utah Territory in 1855, Mormons, including Daniel Spencer, moved in to utilize the land and resources in Rush Valley. In 1858, following the establishment of Camp Floyd, the army began to use Rush Valley as grazing ground for its livestock. At the same time Daniel Spencer asked Governor Cumming for permission to continue to graze his cattle and sheep in Rush Valley as he had
6 The narrative of Lot Smith is found in LeRoy R. and Ann W. Hafen, Mormon Resistance, A Documentary Account of the Utah Expedition, 1857-1858 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 22046. For accounts of the Utah War see Donald Moorman and Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons, The Utah War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992); Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict, 1850-1859 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966); Harold D. Langley, ed., To Utah with the Dragoons and Glimpses of Life in Arizona and California, 1858-1859 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1974); Eugene E. Campbell, Establishing Zion, the Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988). 7 Information on Ralph Pike comes from correspondence with William P. MacKinnon in the author’s possession. 8 Rush Valley, located south of the city of Tooele and Tooele Valley, is thirty miles long from north to south and seventeen miles wide at the widest point. It is distinguished by the presence of Rush Lake which was formed when Lake Bonneville laid down a lake bar which interdicted any natural drainage from Rush Valley to the Tooele Valley. Rush Lake in the 1850s was about 1.5 miles in length and with its surroundings provided a supply of water and good grazing ground. Ouida Blanthorn, A History of Tooele County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society and Tooele County Commission, 1998), 15-16.
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done for more than three years. Cumming wrote Johnston in October 1858, asking that Spencer be allowed to continue his grazing rights in Rush Valley, an arrangement to which the general apparently agreed.9 Conflict intensified between the army and the Mormons as both grazed their herds in Rush Valley during the winter of 1858-59.With the approval of both Cumming and Johnston to continue to graze his livestock in Rush Valley, Spencer added animals owned by Erastus Snow, Jacob Gates, and J.C. Little to the Rush Valley herds. He also, without approval, enlarged structures and corrals. Furthermore, George Reeder, Spencer’s chief herdsman, was accused of illegally selling locally produced whiskey, known as “Valley Tan,” to the soldiers. These alleged misdeeds may have been reasons that Spencer was ordered to remove his herds from Rush Valley by mid-April 1859. As spring approached, soldiers began to move throughout Rush Valley to encourage Mormons to remove their animals before the midApril deadline.As the troops pushed, Mormon herders resisted. On March 21, 1859, Howard Spencer and Al Clift left Salt Lake City with directions to begin to move the Mormon owned animals north out of Rush Valley. Clift and Spencer spent the night at Daniel Spencer’s ranch at the point of West Mountain, and reached the Spencer ranch in Rush Valley the following afternoon where they were met by soldiers who ordered Spencer and Clift to move their herds from the valley that very afternoon. When Howard Spencer maintained that three weeks remained before they were obligated to remove the livestock, the argument intensified and angry words gave way to violent action. Al Clift, an eyewitness to the event, recounted to Brigham Young and others what transpired. His report was recorded by Wilford Woodruff in his diary:
...They [the soldiers] told Spencer He Could not stay there over night.This appeared to be an officer. Howard Spencer told him that the House belonged to him & he should stay there over night.The soldiers then went away & returned with about a dozen men in all. The officer told Spencer He should not Stay there over night. Spencer said He would & got off his horse & went through the first Carall into another Carrall whare his food was & the man that seemed to Command the soldiers rode up to him on Horse back & took the gun by the brich & struck him over the Head by the barrel with all his might across the side of the head and laid his [head] open and he fell dead to all appearance. He straitened himself out as he fell.10
Ralph Pike attacked Howard Spencer with the butt of his musket, which shattered the pitchfork in Spencer’s hands and fractured Spencer’s skull. Bleeding and unconscious, Spencer collapsed to the ground. Mormon
9 Letters from Alfred Cumming to Albert Sidney Johnston, October 8, 1858, and March 24, 1859, in the Mrs. Mason Barret Collection of Albert Sidney and William Preston Johnston Papers, Manuscripts Division, Howard Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Copies of these letters are in the Donald R. Moorman Collection, Stewart Library,Weber State University, Ogden. 10 Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,1853-1898 (Midvale: Signature Books, 1984), 5:31213.
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herders, Bishop Luke Johnson from nearby St. John, and army physician assistant Sergeant Charles E. Brewer rendered assistance.11 Spencer was carried to a nearby shelter where throughout the night he drifted between life and death. In his report about the incident Brewer wrote:
In being called to see him I found that a small part of his skull had been fractured by a severe blow. When first seen his symptoms were those of conprelsion [sic] of the hair, his pulse full slow and irregular accompanied by jactitation and spasms of the limbs, his breathing deep and slow with puffing of the cheeks. Indicative of threatening paralysis; no part of his body was however paralysed and he was perfectly conscious. On a more minute examination I found a small fragment of the cranium pressing upon the brain; this fragment being cut down upon and elevated by proper instruments, the pressure was removed and he almost immediately felt relieved, both heard his friends expressing great satisfaction at the relief afforded.12
Brewer recommended that Spencer be moved to Camp Floyd, but the Mormons refused. Shortly after the altercation, Al Clift rode to Salt Lake City to inform Daniel Spencer, Brigham Young, and others about the seriousness of Howard’s injuries. Brigham Young sent his carriage to retrieve Howard. George Boardman Spencer, Howard’s younger brother, his uncle Daniel Spencer, and Dr. S. L. Sprague hurriedly traveled to the Rush Valley ranch to recover Howard. On March 23, the party reached Rush Valley and transported Howard that evening to the Spencer ranch at the point of the West Mountain.The following day Margaret Spencer, married to Howard’s cousin Charles, rode in the wagon in an effort to comfort Howard during the day-long rough and difficult journey to Salt Lake City. Mormons, the army, and civilian officials responded to the news of the attack differently. Wilford Woodruff ’s reaction to the altercation in Rush Valley mirrored the feelings of most Mormons. On March 21, following discussions with Brigham Young,Woodruff noted in his diary that the troops at Camp Floyd were being “sent into our Cities to slay the People” and noted that Howard Spencer’s injuries seemed a fulfillment of prophecy. Woodruff added that the situation might lead to further bloodshed. “Unless the Lord wards off the blow it looks as though we were to have war & Boodshed. [sic] Our Enemies are determined on our over throw as far as possible. But I have faith to believe that the Lord will protect us as he has done.”13 The Spencer-Pike altercation brought different responses and assessments
11 Aurelia Spencer Rogers suggests that Brewer tried to poison her brother, see Rogers, Orson Spencer, 182-84. Luke Johnson had been an early Mormon convert and one of the original Mormon Twelve Apostles. He was excommunicated from the church in 1838, and later rejoined the church in Nauvoo, and in 1858 settled St. John. Johnson died in 1861 at the Salt Lake City home of his brother-in-law, Orson Hyde. Sgt. Charles E. Brewer penned a description and analysis of Howard Spencer’s injuries and the confrontation in a two page letter to Colonel Charles F. Smith, 10th Regiment Infantry Camp Floyd, U.T. Copy of the Brewer letter is in the Moorman Collection, Stewart Library, Weber State University. March 23, 1859. 12 Brewer to Smith, March 23, 1859. Wilford Woodruff reported that he was with Brigham Young when the news of the Spencer-Pike altercation reached him on March 23, 1859. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:312-15. 13 Kenney, Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5: 313.
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of blame. Soldiers at Camp Floyd justified Pike in his actions as the camp newspaper, The Valley Tan, maintained that Spencer had rushed Pike with a pitchfork, and Pike had to defend himself with his musket. Mormons in Salt Lake City saw the attack on Spencer as being unprovoked. Governor Cumming, who was a distant observer to the events in Rush Valley, noted in a letter to General Johnston that he had been informed of the March 22 altercation at the Spencer Ranch and that, Howard Spencer was “violently assailed and perhaps mortally injured by a soldier… endeavoring to eject the occupants of a herding ranch whose right to occupy the place for herding their own stock has been acquiesced in by you.”14 To Johnston, it appeared that the governor was taking the side of the George Boardman Spencer, Mormons against his soldiers. brother to Howard O. Spencer Over the course of the next several weeks, and witness at the 1889 trial. Howard Spencer received medical treatment in Salt Lake City. Doctor W. F. Anderson and a Doctor France of Salt Lake City performed several operations removing pieces of bone and placing a silver plate in Howard’s head to protect his brain as pieces of the skull were removed. Howard was sometimes delirious, but, in time, began the long process of recovery. At Camp Floyd a military inquiry into Pike’s role in the altercation cleared the sergeant of any wrong doing in the affair. However, shortly thereafter, Pike was indicted by a Salt Lake City grand jury on a charge of “assault with the intent to kill” and ordered to appear in associate justice Charles R. Sinclair’s District Court on August 11, 1859. With a military escort of four soldiers, Pike traveled to Salt Lake City, secured lodging in the Salt Lake House, and attended the court’s morning session where Major Fitz John Porter represented the camp commander. During the noon recess, as Pike and his escort walked down Main Street between 100 and 200 South Streets, a man came from behind Pike and said, “Is that you, Pike?” And when Pike turned around, the man shot him in the side. The shooter quickly disappeared into the crowd of perhaps a hundred or more people, mounted a horse, and made his escape. At Camp Floyd, Captain Albert Tracy wrote in his journal:
At sundown on this date, an express rider arrives in camp, but two hours and a half from Salt Lake City, with intelligence of the shooting of Sergeant Pike….An army surgeon started for the city to attend upon Pike, but was halted until an escort could join
Cumming to Johnston, March 24, 1859, Moorman collection.
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him, it being the fact that armed bodies of the Mormons stand prepared to dispute the passage of any minor party or individual not desirable to them to have enter the city.”15
Attempts to capture the shooter were unsuccessful. Pike was carried into the nearby Salt Lake House and operated on in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life. Pike clung to life for three days, but before he died on August 14, he identified his assailant as Howard Spencer. Pike’s body was returned to Camp Floyd where hundreds of his fellow soldiers attended a funeral Mass conducted by Father Bonaventure Keller and was buried in the Camp Floyd cemetery. The Valley Tan, labeled the incident “Another Assassination.” In his announcement of Pike’s death, Brig. Gen. Johnston wrote,“It is with much regret the commanding officer announces to the regiment the death of that excellent soldier, First Sergeant Ralph Pike of Company I, late last night, the victim of Mormon assassination, through revenge for the proper discharge of his duty.”16 Capt.Tracy named Spencer as the assailant and recorded the mood of the soldiers and officers and the measures their leaders undertook to avoid further violence.
The command, officers, and men, seem to be simply exasperated, and were it not for discipline itself, much more might be said or done by the former.To that pitch, indeed, have things gone, that extra details of guard have been ordered to prevent the men from leaving in squads at night, to wreak their vengeance upon whatsoever in the form of Mormon, or the property of such, may come in their path. The officers, moreover, are cautioned to more than ordinary vigilance, to see that no breach of order take place.17
Measures were taken to calm Camp Floyd but were not entirely successful as soldiers from Company I, angry and bitter over the murder of their comrade, raided the nearby Mormon settlement of Cedar Fort and burned some haystacks. Fortunately, no civilians were injured. Relations between soldiers and civilians remained strained, especially in Provo and northern Utah County communities.18 The broad daylight shooting of Pike on Thursday, August 11, 1859, and
“The Utah War Journal of Albert Tracy, 1858-1860,” Utah Historical Quarterly 15 (1945): 72-73. The Valley Tan, August 17, 1859, quoted in Moorman and Sessions, Camp Floyd, 256. Harold Schindler also quotes the newspaper article and makes the assertion that Bill Hickman, noted Mormon gunman, was involved in helping Spencer get away on the day of the shooting. Hickman in his Confessions mentions nothing about this Spencer-Pike affair. Schindler also suggests that Spencer’s close friend George Stringham was nearby at the time of the shooting, see Schindler,“Is That You Pike?”. 17 “Journal of Albert Tracy,” 73. 18 Not all relationships between Mormons and the military were tense. Patience Loader, a Mormon woman who arrived in Utah in the Fall of 1856 with the Martin Handcart Company, married Sergeant John Rozsa of the Tenth Infantry from Camp Floyd in the summer of 1858 as he converted to Mormonism. Sandra Ailey Petree, ed., Recollections of Past Days, The Autobiography of Patience Loader Rozsa Archer, (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2006) 98-106. John Nay and his wife Thirza were early Mormon settlers of Cedar Fort. In the Fall of 1858, Corporal James Haven (age twenty-six) began to regularly visit Thirza Nay (age forty-five) who had been married to John Nay for twenty years and had borne nine children in their relationship. Thirza after becoming involved in “familiar intimacy” with Corporal Haven, ran off with and married him. The family relationships are described in Joan Nay, Beth Breinholt, and Joy Stubbs, The Nay Family in Utah and the West, A History of John Nay Jr., and His wives and children, (Salt Lake City: privately published, 2002).
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his death the following Sunday, raised questions as to how the shooter could commit the deed and could get away. Lorenzo Brown reflected some of the Mormon point of view: “12 August, 1859, Yesterday a U.S.A. Sergeant Pike was shot while standing in a crowd by some person unknown who deliberately made his escape although persued [sic] by a host & strange to say although seen by hundreds no one knew him and no two gave the same description of him.”19 Hosea Stout commented in his diary about the murder of Ralph Pike and concluded that it was Spencer who shot Pike because “Pike struck him over the head with a gun and broke his skull near killing him.”20 A Salt Lake City grand jury issued a warrant for the arrest of Spencer for the murder of Pike; however, he was not taken into custody until 1888. The delay of Spencer’s arrest was the result of the threatening Civil War in the East, the subsequent abandonment of Camp Floyd by the army in 1861, and public support for Spencer that allowed him to live a quiet but not hidden life in Salt Lake City. Nearly a year after the killing of Pike, Howard married Louise Lucy Catherine Cross in the Salt Lake Endowment House in April 1860.21 A year later Howard along with three other men were called to become members of the high council of the Salt Lake Stake presided over by his uncle Daniel Spencer.Wilford Woodruff recorded the setting apart of these four men to the Salt Lake Stake high council:
12 Sunday....We met at the Historians Office at ? past 5 oclok & ordained 4 men to the High Priesthood & High councillers of this Stake of Zion. Presidet young Blessed Brother Long. Brother Kimball Blessed Brother [ ]. John Taylor Blessed Brigham Young jr.W.Woodruff Blessed Howard Sp [enser?] President Young said yes & I ordain you to kill evry scoundrel that seeks your life & when you Come across such men use them up.22
Howard Spencer also spent much of 1862 with Lot Smith in Wyoming helping to guard the overland mail and telegraph routes. He fought Indians, worked as a night watchman in Salt Lake City for ZCMI, and worked building the Union Pacific Railroad in Echo Canyon. In 1869-70 and again in 1877-78 he served LDS church missions to England, spending much of the time in the London area.
19 Lorenzo Brown, Journal I, 347 in Juanita Brooks, ed., On The Mormon Frontier, the Diary of Hosea Stout (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press and the Utah State Historical Society, 1964), 2:701, fn. 62. 20 Ibid. 701-702 21 The couple had five girls and one boy. In 1875, Spencer married twenty-year old Persis Ann Brown and they had two sons and three daughters. In 1877, Howard married twenty- year old Asenath Emmeline Carling and they had five sons and twelve daughters. Elda P. Mortensen, compiler and editor, Isaac V . Carling Family History (Provo: Printed by J. Grant Stevenson, 1965). 22 Kenney, Wilford Woodruff, 5:573. On the Salt Lake Stake and its organization see Lynn M. Hilton, ed., The Salt Lake Stake, 1847-1972 (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing Company,1972). Howard Spencer is listed as serving fourteen years on the stake high council. His cousin Claudius Spencer and his brother-in-law Brigham Young Jr. who had married his sister Catharine Curtis Spencer in 1855 also served with him part of the time.
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In September 1874, Howard Spencer was called by Brigham Young to move to Mt. Carmel, a southern Utah settlement in Long Valley near the present east entrance to Zion National Park. As bishop, or the ecclesiastical leader in Long Valley, Spencer was charged with ending contention in Mt. Carmel, most of which centered on issues relating to the United Order. Under Spencer’s council, one faction moved two miles north of Mt. Carmel in 1875 to establish the community of Orderville.23 Following his second mission to England, Spencer served as a counselor in the Kanab Stake Presidency from 1877 to 1884. In 1888, at the age of fifty, Howard Spencer was arrested in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park on the charge of unlawful cohabitation as federal authorities vigorously prosecuted Mormons under the Edmunds-Tucker Anti-Polygamy Act. At the time of Spencer’s arrest territorial prison warden and U.S. Marshal Arthur Pratt remembered the murder of Ralph Pike years earlier and arraigned Spencer on that charge. Spencer posted a six thousand dollar bail and waited for his murder trial to begin in May 1889. George Stringham, a close friend of Spencer, was also charged with Pike’s murder. At the beginning of the trial prosecutors intended to try Spencer and Stringham together in Judge John Walter Judd’s Salt Lake City court. However, the first year judge granted a defense motion for separate trials.24 Howard Spencer was tried first. District Attorney George S. Peters and his assistant named Hiles prosecuted the case. Spencer was defended by an
23 On the settlement and development of Orderville, Long Valley and Kane County, see, Martha Sonntag Bradley, A History of Kane County, (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society and Kane County Commission, 1999) 103-29. Howard Spencer’s role in the Long Valley settlements is also dealt with in Leonard J. Arrington, Feramorz Y. Fox and Dean L. May, Building the City of God, Community & Cooperation Among the Mormons (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976). Spencer was proud of the success of the United Order in the Long Valley settlements and in 1875 and 1876 he attended a number of meetings in St. George where he often spoke about the success of the United Order in the Long Valley settlements. See A. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson, editors, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1980), 1: 409, 422, 433. 24 President Grover Cleveland appointed John Walter Judd an associate territorial Supreme Court judge of the Utah Territory where he served from 1888 to1893. Judd was born in 1839 in Gallatin, Sumner County, Tennessee, and during the Civil War he served as a cavalryman in the Confederate army. In 1893 Judd was appointed as a U.S. District Attorney for the Territory of Utah and served until Utah became a state. In 1896 he returned to Tennessee where he taught law at Vanderbilt University until his death in 1919. Clifford L. Ashton, The Federal Judiciary in Utah, (Salt Lake City: Utah State Bar Foundation, 1988), 45-46. 25 LeGrand Young was born in Nauvoo, Illinois, December 27, 1840, the son of Joseph and Jane Adeline Young. He attended the common schools in Salt Lake City, later graduated from the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and was admitted to the Utah Territorial Bar in 1870. Joseph L. Rawlins was born in 1850 in Mill Creek, Salt Lake County, and attended Dr. John Park’s school at Draper. He later attended the University of Deseret from 1869 to1871, and the University of Indiana from 1871 to 1873. Joseph L. Rawlins was professor of mathematics and Latin at the University of Deseret. He studied law in Salt Lake City and was admitted to the Utah Bar in 1874. A year later, he formed a partnership with Ben Sheets. Rawlins served as a delegate from the Utah Territory to the House of Representatives from 1892 to 1895. He introduced and helped to procure the passage of the bill under which Utah was admitted to statehood in 1896. He was elected U.S. Senator from Utah in 1897, serving from 1897 to 1903. Arthur Brown was a non-Mormon attorney from Nevada who later became a leader in the Republican Party being elected along with Frank J. Cannon, as Utah’s first United States Senators.
THE SPENCER-PIKE AFFAIR
effective and high-powered team of four attor neys—Joseph L. Rawlins, LeGrand Young, and Ben Sheets who were Mormon, and Arthur Brown a non-Mormon attorney who had practiced law in Nevada.25 The week-long trial began on Monday May 6, 1889. The Third District Court was packed with onlookers, witnesses, and journalists who wrote daily articles for the city newspapers. During the first day and a half of the trial several dozen potential jurors were examined by the prosecution, defense, and judge before twelve men—three Mormons and nine non-Mor mons—were selected They were Frank Van Horne, E.B. Kelsey, John McVicker, William J. Lynch, H.C. Reich, T.P. Murray, J.B. Cornwell, Owen Brigham Young Jr. brother-in-law Hogle, J.L. Perkes, Frank Shelton, J.M.Young, and A.W. Caine. Judge Judd admonished the to Howard O. Spencer and jury to be extremely cautious and to hold no witness at the 1889 trial. communications with anyone outside of their number. It was clear from the onset that not only was Howard Orson Spencer on trial for murder, but that the trial would examine the treatment of Mormons by U.S. soldiers three decades earlier as well as the interaction between federal government officials and Mormons in the territory during the troubled years after 1858. The trial began in earnest on Tuesday afternoon, May 7, as assistant district attorney Hiles told the jury that the government expected to prove that Sergeant Ralph Pike was mortally wounded by the defendant Howard Orson Spencer. Hiles recalled the events on August 11, 1859, in Salt Lake City leading to Pike’s death including Pike’s deathbed confirmation of Spencer’s guilt. He then called ten witnesses for the prosecution including Lewis Smith, James Gordon, Mrs. Elizabeth Townsend, Stephen Taylor, William Alma Williams, William Appleby, Henry Heath, Lehi Daniels, Leonard Phillips, and Henry Q. Cushing. Based on the testimony of these witnesses that placed Spencer at the crime scene, the prosecution asked Judge Judd to increase the amount of Spencer’s bond from six thousand dollars to a much higher amount. Spencer’s defense attorneys objected strenuously and were successful at keeping the bond at the six thousand dollar amount. Cushing testified that just prior to the shooting he had observed Howard Spencer, Bill Hickman, George Stringham, and a man named Luce in the yard near the rear of his shoe shop examining pistols and conversing at some length. Cushing noted that a little later following the “report of a
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pistol,” he saw Spencer run from the area of the Salt Lake House where Pike had been shot. Phillips testified that Spencer and his friends Hickman, Stringham, Luce, and Steve Taylor had planned the shooting and that the four friends had acted to cause confusion following the shooting in order for Spencer to make his escape.The prosecution produced no eyewitnesses to the shooting but relied principally on Pike’s deathbed statement naming Spencer as his assailant to carry its case with the jury. Arthur Brown made the opening statement for Spencer’s defense during the Wednesday afternoon session of the trial. While the prosecution had avoided discussion of the earlier events in Rush Valley, Brown gave an extensive recounting of the March 1859 attack on Spencer by Pike in Rush Valley. Spencer had been “rendered partially insane” by the blow from Pike and “his skull was crushed in and his brains oozed out.”26 Brown’s opening statement outlined the defense strategy—neither Spencer nor any of his friends were the shooter, Spencer was not in the area during the day of the shooting, Spencer was not the same person he had been before the attack by Pike, and if he had shot Pike it was not premeditated but a rash act by an insane victim. Ten witnesses, all family, friends, and medical doctors testified that Spencer had become unstable following the altercation in Rush Valley with Pike, that he had not fully recovered from the beating. Defense witnesses presented on Wednesday afternoon included Claudius V. Spencer, George Reeder, Elijah Seamons, Mrs. Margaret Spencer, Dr. W.F. Anderson, Mrs. Martha Spencer, Dr. Benedict, Dr. Hamilton, Dr. Joseph F. Richards, and Dr. Bascombe.27 The next day George Boardman Spencer, brother to the defendant, testified that he was with his brother Howard all day on August 11, 1859, and that Howard was not and could not have been involved in the shooting. George noted that after the Rush Valley incident Howard became irritable and brusque and that he never fully recovered from the attack. Other defense witnesses included Orlando F. Herron and William Brown who testified as eyewitnesses to the Pike shooting that Howard was not the shooter but instead was someone they did not know. Further defense witnesses on Thursday included Vincent Shurtliff, Hiram B. Clawson, Thomas Jenkins, Mrs. Katherine S.Young, and Mrs. Ellen S. Clawson.28 All testified to Howard’s weakened condition following the Pike attack and that he never fully recovered mentally from the beating. Howard Spencer
Deseret Evening News, May 8, 1889, Salt Lake Tribune, May 9, 1889, and Salt Lake Herald, May 9, 1889. Claudius V. Spencer, son of Daniel Spencer, was Howard Spencer’s cousin. George Reeder was the Spencer’s herdsman on the Rush Valley ranch in 1859. Mrs. Margaret Spencer was the wife of Howard’s cousin Charles Spencer, son of Hiram Spencer. Margaret was born in England in 1830, married Charles in Salt Lake City in 1857, resided on Daniel Spencer’s ranch at the north end of the Oquirrh Mountains. She held Howard Spencer’s wounded head during the trip from the ranch to Salt Lake City in March 1859. 28 Hiram B. Clawson was a substantial businessman in Salt Lake City and husband to Howard’s sister Ellen (Mrs. Ellen S. Clawson, who also testified). Katherine S. Young was Howard’s sister and wife of Brigham Young, Jr. who was at this time a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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did not testify in his own behalf as his attorneys maintained that he did not recall any subsequent events following the brutal beating by Pike.The defense then rested its case. The prosecution called two medical doctors—Dr. J.M. Dart and a Dr. Ewing—as rebuttal witnesses to counter the defense testimony that Spencer suffered a permanent diagnosable weakened mental condition caused by Pike’s blows. Beginning Thursday afternoon and continuing Friday morning, Spencer’s three attorneys offered their closing arguments. Joseph Rawlins asserted that the prosecutors had not proven their case and that the testimony of prosecution witnesses could not be reconciled. LeGrand Young followed Rawlins and recalled the tense and violent years of 1858 and 1859.
It had been said that Pike was under arrest but who were his custodians? His own underlings. He was an armed prisoner in the custody of men under his own command. What a satire on the law to say that he was in the hands of the law! Is it any wonder that the people said justice would not be done? Would it be strange if Spencer was fired by the torture of his wound and in his demented condition grew frenzied and brought retributive justice to the boastful sergeant who had committed the cowardly assault. Usually villains have some soft spot, but this dog did not even have that. The cowardly wretch had Spencer thrown on the damp ground until a more humane officer ordered a change. And then when Pike was brought in he was permitted to go on parade with his subordinates, an armed man, flaunting in the face of his victim the position he was in, and boastful of what he had done. Would not a sane man have become uncontrollable under such circumstances? In those days men carried pistols because the law did not afford them protection...Men were justified in defending themselves if the law did not protect them. 29
At this juncture Judge Judd asked Young: “Do you say the revolver was above the law?” Young with great enthusiasm and standing before Judge Judd responded: “In those times and under those circumstances, yes.” The judge ordered Young to restrain himself, and Young obediently took his seat. At this emotional climax in the trial, the judge recessed the court until the afternoon. Arthur Brown began the Friday afternoon session with his summation. He maintained that the prosecution had proven neither murder nor manslaughter.They had also tried to stir up a conspiracy with references to Bill Hickman in the hope that his name and association with violence in the territory would influence the jury against Spencer. Brown argued that the defense’s presentation was superior to that offered by the prosecution and that the prosecution failed to show that Spencer had killed Pike. He concluded his statement that Spencer experienced periods of temporary insanity brought on by the blows from Pike’s musket and these periods of insanity were substantial and real.
29 Salt Lake Herald, May 11, 1889. For additional coverage of the trial, see Deseret Evening News, May 11, 12, 1889, and Salt Lake Tribune, May 11, 1889.
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District attorney Peters made the closing argument for the prosecution noting that there was a conspiracy to kill Pike and that Spencer was involved in the conspiracy. Peters closed by stating that there was indeed conflict between the testimony of the prosecution and the defense witnesses, but that he believed the prosecution witnesses were more credible. Following Peters arguments, Judge Judd gave meticulous and lengthy instructions to the jury. They were to be the exclusive judges of the testimony, but should not allow the statements about Howard Spencer’s insanity to influence the case.With those instructions fresh on their minds, the jury retired from the courtroom at 3 p.m. After the jury left the courtroom, Arthur Brown, speaking for the defense, made numerous objections to the judge’s instructions to the jury—especially those relating to the issue of Spencer’s sanity. At nine o’clock on Saturday morning, May 11, 1889, John M.Young, the jury foreman, informed the judge that they had reached a verdict. A halfhour later the jury members filed into the courtroom and took their seats. When the clerk read the verdict of not guilty applause erupted in the crowded courtroom. Judge Judd promptly checked the demonstration and then voiced his displeasure to the jurors:
Gentlemen of the jury. In the verdict that you have rendered you have doubtless done it honestly. But if this is not a case of murder speaking from a practice of over twenty-five years I have never seen one in a court of Justice. I am now of the opinion that Brother Young was exactly right in his opinion in argument to the jury when he said that the law in courts of justice in this country, was no protection.You may now be discharged.30
In a lengthy Sunday morning editorial under the headline “Farce Follows Tragedy,” the Salt Lake Tribune concluded that although insanity had been presented as a major factor in the case, it was a screen to hide Spencer’s guilt. “The facts of the case were that Spencer was an old time blood-atoner. He was in perfect accord with those other lambs HICKMAN, LUCE, STRINGHAM, TAYLOR, and the rest.” To the Tribune the real villain in the case was the Mormon church and its leadership and its teachings in the decade of the 1850s.31 With an alternate view, the Sunday morning Salt Lake Herald noted:
We doubt that there is more than one fair-minded and honest man in the territory who does not agree perfectly with the jury in the HOWARD SPENCER case. The solitary exception seems to be Judge Judd, and we think the reasons why he occupys the lonely position is because he doesn’t understand the case...Killings are not always willful murders. They are sometimes excusable, sometimes justifiable, and sometimes praiseworthy. This assertion is based on law, justice, and common sense. It seems to us that if there were ever an instance of justifiable or excusable taking of human life that was the case when HOWARD SPENCER shot Sergeant Pike...all the jurors will know that the public, almost without exception, are with them in acquitting the defendant.32
Ibid. Salt Lake Tribune, May 12, 1889. 32 Salt Lake Herald, May 12, 1889.
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The Spencer-Pike affair and the events surrounding it from Rush Valley to Salt Lake City in 1859, and then the trial of Howard Orson Spencer thirty years later provides a glimpse of attitudes and actions that characterized Mormon-Federal relations during the difficult years of the Utah War and its aftermath. Furthermore, the 1889 jury decision finding Spencer innocent reveals an ambivalence about law and order that existed in many parts of the country as well. Brigham Young’s 1861 statement recorded by Wilford Woodruff in the 1889 Salt Lake Herald indicate that Spencer did kill Pike. However, two questions remain—who posted Spencer’s six thousand dollar bail, and who financed the first-rate set of four lawyers who defended Spencer in his May 1889 trial? It appears that Mormon church leaders and members did not want Spencer to be convicted of murder.33 Vindicated, Howard Spencer quietly returned to beautiful and isolated Long Valley where for the remaining three decades of his life he farmed and ranched while render ing community and church service. He died at the age of seventy-nine on March 4, 1918, after an accidental fall from a bridge over the Virgin River in Glendale—nearly sixty years after the encounter with Ralph Pike in Rush Valley.
33 As noted, Hiram Clawson and Brigham Young Jr. were both married to Howard Spencer’s sisters. Hiram Clawson was also married to two of Brigham Young’s daughters and had served as Brigham Young’s private secretary. Both Clawson and Young had access to money and influence and both were very interested in seeing Spencer found innocent.
BOOK REVIEWS Reflections of a Mormon Historian: Leonard J.Arrington on the New Mormon History. Essays by Leonard J.Arrington, edited by Reid L. Neilson and Ronald W.Walker.
(Norman:The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2006. 360 pp. Cloth, $36.95.)
NEARLY A DECADE after his death comes another book of Leonard Arrington essays. Offered fondly and optimistically by editors Reid Neilson and Ronald Walker Reflections of a Mormon Historian is composed mainly of Arrington articles; two previously unpublished, and twelve that have done earlier service. An extraordinary collection of photos is offered along with a “chronology” of Arrington’s life borrowed from the Arrington Papers Register at Utah State University Library. Joining the editors in the prefatory material are Susan Arrington Madsen whose “foreword” is brief but intimate, and David Whittaker. The latter’s “Arrington Bibliography” runs to thirty-five pages, and lists approximately fifty-eight books, monographs and pamphlets, three hundred forty-three articles and chapters in books, as well as forty-nine reviews, and eighty addresses and duplicated papers. A quick glance at the articles suggests that a large portion of them are on Mormon topics but that quite a number of important titles are in economic, agricultural, and state and regional history; other fields upon which Arrington’s reputation rested. The book and monograph titles appear to be about equally divided between Mormon history and his other interests. Here, however, the more important titles fall in the religious history category, yet, considering the peculiarities of Mormon culture, Arrington’s approach might simultaneously be considered to have been secular if not indeed general history as suggested by Dale Morgan’s comment in a 1959 review that Great Basin Kingdom went a fair piece “on the road toward being a ‘general history’” of Utah. The editors’ input also includes Walker’s nostalgic salute, “Mormonism’s ‘Happy Warrior.’” This essay summarizes Arrington’s role in jump-starting the New Mormon History movement, a professionalized and vastly invigorated Mormon interest in historical scholarship, and the LDS church’s experiment with professionalized history in the 1970s and 1980s. It also notes the rise of a modest critique of Arrington’s work within the movement. The editors’ “preface” focuses on the New Mormon History elements of Arrington’s career and notes his “determination” to substitute a “middle way” for the defensive institutionalism of much previous Mormon history. They also note a “less parochial…[more] intercultural spirit” in the current development of “Mormon Studies programs” and “conferences,” and in mounting interest at “prestigious presses” which lead them to offer these essays because they address the “how” of Mormon history and especially because they are “prologue” to “challenges” inherent in this broadening approach. (16-17) Like the title, the organization of Arrington’s essays reflects the editors’ primary interest in Mormon studies. They arrange them in three parts: (1) biography,
allowing Arrington to reflect on his development as a historian; (2) essays on the formatting and meaning of professionalized Mormon history; (3) Mormon historiography’s need for sweeping generalization, biography, and intellectual tradition. While these directions hold the essays on the New-Mormon-History-track the careful reader will be moved by their autobiographical aspects. Appearing again and again is Arrington the regionalist, the economist, and the state historian (particularly for Utah and Idaho). And gratefully, there in full force also is the affable organization man whose work was often superlative, but not always; pulling together, pointing, advocate of the record turned to written word. As one reviews this book for readers of the Utah Historical Quarterly one is especially aware of Arrington’s role in the seismic re-organization of history’s professional structure that came as result of World War II and the G.I. Bill’s impact. More than any other scholar in the Intermountain West he was part of the process that changed the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, (in place since the turn-ofthe-twentieth-century-decades), into the Organization of American Historians on the one hand and on the other created the Western History Association of which Arrington was one of the earliest presidents. He was also a prime mover in the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, the Agricultural History Association, of which he was also president, and particularly active in the Utah and Idaho state historical societies, both of which were revitalized during his time. His role was paramount in getting journals up and running in both the Mormon History Association and the Western History Association and no man’s list of friends was larger nor more widely spread. For years his colorful ties and happy banter were standard fare as he talked from table to table while chairs filled at the Utah State Historical Society’s annual banquets. Long before he joined Ray Billington, Howard Lamar, and Martin Ridge to organize the Western History Association or with Davis Bitton, Ron Walker and Eugene England breathed life into the New Mormon History the Utah Historical Quarterly was his outlet and the Utah State Historical Society his launching pad. Indeed, for a time its directors, preservation officers, historic site committee members and at least two editors were people he helped bring over from academia and the Chairman of the Board of State History, Milton Abrams, was his close friend and ally at Utah State University.
CHARLES S. PETERSON St. George
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Reclaiming Diné History:The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita.
By Jennifer Nez Denetdale. (Tucson:The University of Arizona Press, 2007. xiv + 241 pp. Cloth, $45.00; paper, $19.95.)
BY DEFINITION, the word “reclaim” means to restore, turn from error, or take back. Jennifer Denetdale proclaims, “as the first Diné with a Ph.D. in history” (xi), that her mission is to “critiqu[e] works that refuse to acknowledge the colonial nature in which we continue to live and then advanc[e] studies that privilege Diné worldview” for the betterment of Navajo communities and a true restoration of their history.(45) In this book, a result of her doctoral studies, she has two objectives: “I intend to examine existing histories that focus on Manuelito [her great, great, great grandfather] and pay little attention to Juanita [Manuelito’s wife] in order to demonstrate that much of what has been written about Navajos by non-Navajos reflects American biases . . .” and “second[ly] to demonstrate that Navajos perceive their own past differently” because of a cultural belief system based on oral tradition.(7) This “anti-colonial” theme, constantly restated throughout, is the axe being ground.The question then becomes how sharp the blade and what is going to be chopped. The bulk of the book’s content is actually a review of the literature surrounding who should write about Native people. The author provides an exhaustive array of authors who feel that one has to be a native (not necessarily from the same culture) to be successful. While “Western cultural constructions have served to keep structures of inequalities and injustices entrenched....Native scholars have declared our intellectual endeavors should support Native sovereignty.”(14,18) An historian walks a fine line when writing history for contemporary political purposes. The underlying assumption is “genetic determinism” or the idea that one has to be of a certain race or a Native-of-some-type in order to really understand. Consequently, non-Native historians have missed the canoe and are floundering in the waters of misunderstanding. There are a few clinging to the side that meet Denetdale’s approval, but none are totally on board.The reason: they do not come from an oral tradition; therefore, they can’t “get it.” No mention is made of ethnohistory, which has been in full bloom for more than thirty years, during which scholars from all walks of life have been extremely fruitful in combining culture and history for clarity of understanding.To recognize this is to remove one of the straw men. There are other straw men neatly hewed by the ax.Who is going to argue with the idea that there should be more Native scholars writing about their culture or that understanding a people’s religious teachings and cultural metaphors advances interpretation of historical events or that history written in the past has not been as culturally sensitive as it is today or that the U.S. government has been less than stellar in its treatment of Native Americans? These are all handy targets that illus-
trate Western writing has “been projects of imperialism,” but it also ignores the tremendous contribution provided by the evil “colonials.” How big this contribution has been is found in the book’s endnotes and bibliography. By my calculation, only 15 percent of her sources are by or from Native Americans and many of those references were collected by non-Natives. The two chapters that come closest to the author’s stated objectives are the biographical account of Manuelito and the stories about Juanita. The Manuelito chapter has 122 endnotes, six of which cite a Navajo source, and half of these are contemporary interviews. Nineteen endnotes are from original documents, most of which are cited from secondary sources; almost the entire chapter is based on secondary sources. There are two problems with this. The most obvious is that an historian needs to go to original sources to determine what happened.There is little of that here, but it does not need to be that way. One six volume series cited, Through White Men’s Eyes by J. Lee Correll, is a vast collection of primary source documents surrounding the Long Walk period (1860s) with frequent mention of Manuelito. No substantive use was made of it to tell an original story or new interpretation. Instead, there is a rehashing of events from secondary sources (the “colonial” view), even though scholars already criticized some of these sources for significant inaccuracy. There is nothing “Navajo” about her rendering of these events. One might argue that only the written white view now exists, but there are a number of books based on testimony given by Navajo people about their, or their family’s, experience during that time. If the Navajo view is the only valid possibility—then these sources should have been used. The chapter about Juanita raises different problems. Here, the author attempts to integrate family oral tradition “to rewrite our histories in ways that more accurately reflect our experiences, especially under colonialism.”(129) Again, out of sixty-three endnotes, five are oral interviews coming from four family members. They provide small snippets of family recollections about Juanita, which quickly pushes the author to other topics or personal reflection. Of history, there is little. An already published short account of the Navajo creation story is a brief foray by the author to use traditional narrative materials. Remember, her stated purpose is to provide new insight, showing how some aspect of Navajo history relates to this type of teaching. There is some discussion about the role of women as defined in this narrative, but considering that Navajo culture is matrilineal, it is all too short and general. An endnote explains that the author chose to use an already existing account to maintain privacy, which is fine, but if her intent is to explain Navajo thought and interpret historic events from an oral tradition, then she is going to have to say something new somewhere. The level of the Navajo creation story presented here is well known, discussed openly by tribal members, and found extensively in reservation school curriculum. A final observation; in an attempt to be a pro-Navajo activist who will throw off the oppressive yoke of colonial rule, Denetdale abandons good ethnohistorical practices. To borrow a metaphor from a different arena, her writing of history is
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like “playing tennis without a net.” Unwilling to use much of any original written or oral sources, the author ends up either critiquing other scholars’ writing or presenting history as she would like it to have been. Take for example, the issue of Manuelito talking about education as a ladder. This is so well known, it has become a cliché in several forms—the song “Go My Son” with its obligatory sign language, the Manuelito Scholarships offered by the tribe, and the glossy brochures that promote education through the picture of a ladder—as examples. The author does a very good job of explaining all of the second and third hand accounts of this utterance, but then points out that “no written document testifies to its authenticity.”(82) Still, it works to promote education, and Manuelito was very much in favor of that. Should the metaphor, however, be perpetuated? Ask Mason Weems about George Washington and the cherry tree. Where does this leave us? Denetdale’s perception of history and the Navajo people lies at the center of how she chooses to portray them. To her, they are a down-trodden people held captive by the colonial, capitalist system that has created 150 years of enslavement. The white man has created a series of symbols that he refuses to let go and sees Navajo traditional dress and culture as a reaffirmation of these stereotypes. I feel differently. I see Navajo people as anything but down trodden. They certainly have their share of issues, some of which do come from the capitalist system of the dominant society. But they are hardly passive and heavily exploited. I see them now, as well as in the past, charting their own course and being successful at it. Their future is bright and very much in their own hands. Thus, perhaps this is the ultimate straw man—to rewrite (reclaim)a people’s history that can stand on its own merits right beside its oral tradition.
ROBERT S. MCPHERSON College of Eastern Utah/San Juan Campus
Religion, Politics, and Sugar;The Mormon Church, the Federal Government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907-1921. By Matthew C. Godfrey. (Logan: Utah
State University Press, 2007. vi + 226 pp. Cloth, $34.95.)
RELIGION, POLITICS, AND MONEY—sounds like the critical elements of Dan Brown’s next best selling novel. But in this new book, Matthew Godfrey uses these themes to tell the fascinating and important story of a sugar beet company in the Mountain West. It is a story of a young religion headquartered in the harsh environment of the Intermountain West trying to help its relatively poor people improve their economic circumstances. It is a story of a government slowly shifting from a philosophy of laissez-faire (which really meant support for business over labor and consumer) to a philosophy of regulatory capitalism.And finally it is a story of money—of profits, of market forces and of a church’s involvement in both.
The story Matthew Godfrey tells is essentially this: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints (Mormons), having settled in the Great Basin of Utah in 1847 but having spread into other mountain states, is the dominant ecclesiastical organization of the region. In the eyes of its critics it is also much more than that—it is the dominant organization in the region regardless of the field. Not content in providing only religious direction, the church is desirous of helping improve the economic circumstances of its people as well. In doing so, the church becomes involved in establishing and helping grow the sugar beet industry.After all, it could provide a cash crop for farmers, jobs for others in the processing plants, and improve the self-sufficiency of its members all at the same time. With these goals in mind, the church helped organize and finance fledgling sugar companies. It then became a major stockholder in the consolidation of several small sugar beet companies into the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company in 1907. Church president Joseph F. Smith became the new corporation’s first president. This close relationship continued for most of the corporation’s history. Heber J. Grant, who succeeded Smith as church president also served as company president. Following Grant’s death in 1945, George Albert Smith became church president and president of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company. In turn, David O. McKay succeeded Smith in the same two positions as well. Furthermore, Charles Nibley, a self-made millionaire, and Presiding Bishop of the church served as vice president and general manager for many years until his death in 1931. The church’s deep involvement in the local economy and private enterprise was not new. Brigham Young successfully promoted cooperatives through out Mormon Country in the nineteenth century. But in the twentieth century American attitudes toward large and powerful corporations were changing. Big business and monopolies were under attack by intellectuals, farmer organizations, labor, and social activists.At this time, many industries such as railroads, oil, steel, and sugar were dominated by a few companies. Enormous pressure was placed on government to break up or at least regulate the corporations controlling these powerful industries. The national government responded to the pressure. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890), Clayton Anti-Trust Act (1914) and the Federal Trade Commission (1914) were all federal actions to either dismantle or regulate the monopolies. After months of investigation and hearings, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit charging the Mormon church with such unfair trade practices as working against the creation of other sugar beet enterprises that would compete with Utah-Idaho, and setting sugar prices so high as to “gouge” its own people. However, the book is more than a story of this lawsuit. Godfrey provides a fascinating and fair-minded story of how the Mormon church and the national government clashed over religion, profits, markets, and power during the Progressive Era.The book is an enjoyable read and provides an excellent analysis of major trends sweeping across the American landscape in the early twentieth century.
MICHAEL CHRISTENSEN South Jordan
UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Bags to Riches:The Story of I.J.Wagner. By Don Gale. (Salt Lake City:The University
of Utah Press, 2007. xx + 202 pp. Cloth, $25.95.)
FROM RECYCLING used burlap bags, bottles, batteries, barrels, and bootleg stills—no, not theirs—to buying, selling and investing in real estate and businesses, Isadore Wagner took his family’s bag company from early twentieth-century poverty to postwar prosperity. In the doing, until his death in 2003 at age eightynine, this Utah native and son of immigrant Jews built his fortune, altered Salt Lake City’s cityscape, and gave back to the community. “[He] worried that he might leave the world before his account was in the balance,” Don Gale writes in his unabashedly delightful book, Bags to Riches:The Story of I.J.Wagner. A Utah author and broadcaster, Gale parallels the derring-do of one of Salt Lake City’s “favorite sons” and noted “gadfly” with the city’s comingof-age. I.J. “Izzi” Wagner was a major influence in urban development at a time when downtown Salt Lake City, riddled with a proliferation of railroad tracks and billboards, was in need of a face-lift. He not only helped eliminate the tracks but, facing down criticism which went on for decades, reduced the amount of conspicuous signage. Wagner volunteered on multiple city and community boards. His mother’s sage advice coupled with his tenacity earned him praise as “the catalyst, advocate, leader,” and “conscience” behind such projects as the Salt Lake International Airport and the Salt Palace Convention Center. His charitable bent emphasizing diversity and tolerance helped build the Jewish Community Center which bears his name. Gale writes Wagner’s “word was his bond,” his handshake his contract. In 1990, that concord coupled with the donated site of his childhood home gave credence to the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Izzi’s parents Rose and Harry Wagner were from Northern and Eastern Europe and arrived in Utah in 1913 with three dollars to their name. Their small adobe home on 144 West Third South had neither sewer line nor running water and was surrounded by a brothel, a small hotel, and several street-level bordellos. When Harry arrived home with used flour sacks in hand, Rose knew they had the ingredients for a viable business: the Wagner Bag Company. Izzi hawked out-of-date papers to out-of-towners when he was six years old. Later, he worked at Maurice Warshaw’s fruit stand. He played the violin, took boxing lessons to defend against those intolerant of his ethnicity, and learned how to dance.When Harry died suddenly in 1932, the family was in debt, and seventeenyear-old Izzi left his schooling at the University of Utah to take over the company. Over the years, childhood friends became business partners; successes reinforced others and much land was bought up around downtown. Wagner Industrial Park was among the first of its kind in Utah. During World War II,Wagner joined the Marines. A mosquito bite and malaria
saved him from becoming a Pacific casualty in the bloody battle of Tarawa. In 1942, he married the love of his life, Mormon vaudeville dancer Jeanné Rasmussen, and by 1953, his company employed seventy people, produced fiftythousand bags a day, and imported millions of yards of burlap from India. When Wagner Bag Company merged with St. Regis Paper Company in 1960, the undisclosed amount of money ensured each family member a “comfortable” life. Bags to Riches, a chronology of Wagner’s verve and experiences, reads like a tribute rather than a scholarly biography.With unbridled enthusiasm for a dear friend, Gale occasionally tumbles into excessive flattery and repetition. The inclusion of Wagner’s stereotypic slur about Jews getting the best price is unfortunate. An ancillary to Gale’s generous portrait is his well-seasoned comprehension of the complexities of business and its power brokers. Using practical prose, anecdotal accounts, and musings gleaned from five years of daily conversations with Wagner, Gale offers rare insight into the waning genre of businessmen who value tzedakah as well as their millions.A good man, indeed, a good read.
EILEEN HALLET STONE Salt Lake City
Thunder Over Zion:The Life of Chief Judge Willis W Ritter. By Patricia F. Cowley .
and Parker M. Nielson. (Salt Lake City:The University of Utah Press, 2007. xii + 372 pp. Cloth, $34.95.)
THUNDER OVER ZION:The Life of Chief Judge Willis W Ritter is an affectionate . and engaging portrait of an unusually controversial Utah figure who wielded extraordinary power over the legal affairs of Utah for almost three decades. It is well-researched and well-written and should be read by anyone with an interest in Utah legal history.The reader should be forewarned of the book’s flaws, however. Patricia Cowley, married to a Utah lawyer, started the book and completed most of the research. When her health did not permit her to finish the work, Parker Nielson, a Salt Lake City lawyer, completed the project, utilizing (and extending) Ms. Cowley’s research and his own extensive personal experience with Judge Ritter. The book provides substantial information about Willis Ritter’s background and somewhat dysfunctional upbringing and it provides possible insights into the irascibility that often surfaced during his judicial career. When his parents divorced, he stayed with his father and his brothers went with his mother, whom he rarely saw thereafter.When Ritter’s father was unable to adequately provide for his son,Willis moved in with his uncle and aunt,Willis and Mary Adams. It is exceptional that Park High School’s class of 1918, consisting of eighteen graduates, included not only Willis Ritter, but also Roger Traynor, future Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and one of the most prominent and
UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
well-respected judges in the country for many years. Traynor was valedictorian, Ritter salutatorian. Ritter owed his appointment as a federal judge to Senator Elbert Thomas, an important mentor who had been Ritter’s political science teacher at the University of Utah and on whose campaigns Ritter worked tirelessly. When Tillman Johnson, who had served as the sole federal judge in Utah for thirty-three years, finally decided to retire at the age of ninety-one,Thomas kept a promise to nominate Ritter for the post. The difficulties over the nomination, including the always-difficult religious and political tensions in Salt Lake City, make for a compelling tale. Thomas, a Democrat and practicing Mormon, was encouraged to appoint John S. Boyden, who, like Ritter, shared political affiliation with Thomas and, unlike Ritter, religious affiliation, and was apparently torn in deciding whom to nominate. According to the biography, recently-elected Arthur V.Watkins, a Republican and Mormon, employed Ernest Wilkinson and others in an attempt to make sure that Ritter was not appointed. It is in the description of confirmation proceedings that the biases of the book become most evident. Senator Arthur Watkins, “Rube” Clark (LDS church J. Reuben Clark), Ernest Wilkinson, and John Boyden are all demonized in turn, using terms that do not do the book justice. Examples include referring to Watkins and Clark and their “minions,” (89) their “lies”(119), their “clever stratagem of deception to manipulate the Senate Judiciary Committee”(142) and to Boyden as “devious,” (104)as the “master manipulator,”(108)and as one who exhibited “paranoia.”(147)These terms either need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt or toned down. There is little doubt that Watkins and Wilkinson and Clark used hardball political tactics in an attempt to block an appointment they found objectionable, but naming chapters 10 and 11 “Smear” and “Watkins’ Folly” is overstatement. Chief Judge Ritter’s judicial career, with all its controversies and attainments, is described at some length, though the controversies are understated. Ritter ultimately is described as one who was an “unyielding, tireless bulwark against oppression by those in power, secular or religious.” (304) The book does not always directly address the problem of who would protect attorneys and litigants from the oppression of Chief Judge Ritter, a man with enormous secular power. The biographers are not blind to Ritter’s faults, but find greater faults in his antagonists. Ritter appears genuinely to have been brilliant and, in the context of certain legal concepts, particularly in the criminal area, far ahead of his time. His decisions were referred often to when the United States Supreme Court afforded defendants important rights and protections that have now become familiar to everyone in the United States. Not surprisingly, the book’s analysis of Ritter’s important rulings is excellent.
The book contains a few unexpected editing gaffes.“Eugene” McCarthy’s anticommunist crusade is referenced (158) and a reference to “Heber Grant Ivins,” (48) clearly LDS church leader Anthony W. Ivins, should have been caught by a careful editor. Both names are correctly referenced in other passages in the book. The authors suggest that many of the character flaws exhibited by Judge Ritter and some of the troubles he encountered in his marriage and family may have been triggered by “the injustice of attacks during his confirmation” or “may have been the effect of alcohol abuse in later years.”(294) A more plausible explanation is that, as some suggested at the time of the confirmation hearings, Ritter’s temperament was not suitable to a life-tenured federal judge. Elbert Thomas feared this and should have followed up on his fears. My guess is that, while trial lawyers like having smart judges, the vast majority, if they had to choose between brilliance and fairness in a judge, would choose the latter. It is too bad that Utah’s principal federal judge for thirty years exhibited mental acuity but did not always exhibit the equity and the appearance of fairness to which all should be entitled. In spite of its flaws, this biography is ultimately a worthy contribution to our history that provides both information and insights into one of Utah’s most interesting characters.
KENNETH L. CANNON II Salt Lake City
UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY FELLOWS
THOMAS G.ALEXANDER JAMES B.ALLEN LEONARD J.ARRINGTON (1917-1999) MAUREEN URSENBACH BEECHER FAWN M. BRODIE (1915-1981) JUANITA BROOKS (1898-1989) OLIVE W. BURT (1894-1981) EUGENE E. CAMPBELL (1915-1986) C. GREGORY CRAMPTON (1911-1995) EVERETT L. COOLEY (1917-2006) S. GEORGE ELLSWORTH (1916-1997) AUSTIN E. FIFE (1909-1986) PETER L. GOSS LEROY R. HAFEN (1893-1985) JOEL JANETSKI JESSE D. JENNINGS (1909-1997) A. KARL LARSON (1899-1983) GUSTIVE O. LARSON (1897-1983) BRIGHAM D. MADSEN CAROL CORNWALL MADSEN DEAN L. MAY (1938-2003) DAVID E. MILLER (1909-1978) DALE L. MORGAN (1914-1971) WILLIAM MULDER FLOYD A. O’NEIL HELEN Z. PAPANIKOLAS (1917-2004) CHARLES S. PETERSON RICHARD W. SADLER MELVIN T. SMITH WALLACE E. STEGNER (1909-1993) WILLIAM A.WILSON
HONORARY LIFE MEMBERS
DAVID BIGLER JAY M. HAYMOND FLORENCE S. JACOBSEN STANFORD J. LAYTON WILLIAM P. MACKINNON JOHN S. MCCORMICK MIRIAM B. MURPHY LAMAR PETERSEN RICHARD C. ROBERTS MELVIN T. SMITH MARTHA R. STEWART GARY TOPPING
UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Department of Community and Culture Division of State History
BOARD OF STATE HISTORY
Lake City, 2009, Chair CLAUDIA F. BERRY, Midvale, 2009 MARTHA SONNTAG BRADLEY, Salt Lake City, 2009 SCOTT R. CHRISTENSEN, Salt Lake City, 2009 RONALD G. COLEMAN, Salt Lake City, 2011 MARIA GARCIAZ, Salt Lake City, 2011 ROBERT S. MCPHERSON, Blanding, 2011 CHERE ROMNEY, Salt Lake City, 2011 MAX J. SMITH, Salt Lake City, 2009 GREGORY C.THOMPSON, Salt Lake City, 2011 MICHAEL K.WINDER,West Valley City, 2009
MICHAEL W. HOMER, Salt
PHILIP F. NOTARIANNI, Director WILSON G. MARTIN, State ALLAN KENT POWELL, Managing
Historic Preservation Officer Editor KEVIN T. JONES, State Archaeologist
The Utah State Historical Society was organized in 1897 by public-spirited Utahns to collect, preserve, and publish Utah and related history. Today, under state sponsorship, the Society fulfills its obligations by publishing the Utah Historical Quarterly and other historical materials; collecting historic Utah artifacts; locating, documenting, and preserving historic and prehistoric buildings and sites; and maintaining a specialized research library. Donations and gifts to the Society’s programs, museum, or its library are encouraged, for only through such means can it live up to its responsibility of preserving the record of Utah’s past.
This publication has been funded with the assistance of a matching grant-in-aid from the National Park Service, under provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended. This program receives financial assistance for identification and preservation of historic properties under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The U. S. Department of the Interior prohibits unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, or handicap in its federally assisted programs. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office of Equal Opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, NW,Washington, D.C., 20240.
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