A Trial Lawyer Reviews Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets
A Trial Lawyer Reviews Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets
Reviewed by Robert D. Crockett
Many historians have examined the tragic Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857,
and many yet will.1 As of the writing of this review, Will Bagley’s work is
one of the latest. Blood of the Prophets has received effusive praise
from reviewers and award committees, a point prominently noted on the dust jacket.
Bagley’s particular claim to make this book worthwhile is that he has
“troubling new evidence” to prove that President Brigham Young and
Apostle George A. Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were
accessories before the fact to commit the massacre.2 By contrast, in her watershed
and erudite works,3 Juanita Brooks tells us that “no real evidence . .
. has been found” to implicate these authorities before the massacre.4
As to matters after the massacre, Bagley follows the path well-worn by others
to conclude that Brigham Young was an accessory after the fact to obstruct justice.
My review examines the way in which the author of Blood of the Prophets handles
these new and old theories. In so doing, I challenge some of Juanita Brooks’s
earlier conclusions. As a trial lawyer, I offer my perspective of the quality
of Bagley’s and Brooks’s evidence and arguments in some key areas.
Trial lawyers may not be trained historians, but we are called upon to evaluate
the strengths and weaknesses of various classes of evidence and to interpret
the meaning of official government action. The heinous massacre, its investigation,
the trial of John D. Lee, and the actions of persons who control or are swept
into the legal process (presidents, cabinet members, judges, prosecutors, defense
lawyers, grand jurors, petit jurors, marshals, and witnesses) are all matters
that lend themselves to a legal analysis. I am surprised that so little has
been done in this area of the massacre’s legal aftermath.
Specifically, regarding Blood of the Prophets, it is my view that Bagley’s
analysis of the evidence is uncritical and unbalanced, usually favoring explanations
that would condemn authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bagley often ignores exculpatory evidence of a much higher quality than the
evidence upon which he relies to inculpate Brigham Young. Bagley often favors
rumor and speculation over hard evidence, or he relies solely upon rumor and
speculation when there is no evidence. Although rich in quantity with primary
sources, many of these sources are neither competent nor credible. Quantity
does not equal quality. Bagley sometimes relies upon secondary sources where
primary sources are more reliable.
Bagley also has difficulty with chronology. At times, he actually reverses the
sequence of events to distort what really happened. This disregard for the sequence
of events causes him to lose the perspective needed to assess the implications
of geographic distances and the passage of time.
Bagley’s work demonstrates a depth (albeit unbalanced) of knowledge of
Mormon history. But he lacks the breadth of understanding of the political and
social issues outside the Mormon community that bear upon the nineteenth-century
Mormon question. In particular, he has not adequately discussed the correspondence
between government officials about the massacre, its investigation, and its
Bagley is too confident of his evidence, if one can call much of what he relies
on evidence. “Too well, too well thou tell’st a tale so ill”5
could be said of Bagley’s work. Dark, macabre, and depressing, Bagley’s
work is not for the fainthearted who may have little knowledge of the actual
Bagley’s Version of the Mountain Meadows Massacre
Let us, then, briefly review Bagley’s dark version of the massacre. After
Mexican territory was annexed to the United States, including the valley of
the Great Salt Lake, Brigham Young sent representatives to Congress to petition
for statehood in the early 1850s. The church openly announced its practice of
plural marriage in 1852. Conflicts with federal judges and other federal appointees,
exacerbated by the rhetoric of the Mormon reformation, led U.S. President James
Buchanan and Congress to conclude that the territory was in a state of rebellion.
To suppress the rebellion, Buchanan sent to Utah the largest domestic army in
the history of the antebellum United States. Its advance and the assassination
in Arkansas of Latter-day Saint Apostle Parley P. Pratt inflamed the Mormon
residents of the territory against the United States. Bagley maintains that
the church encouraged the Saints to commit acts of violence against apostates
A wagon train of approximately 140 emigrants led by Alexander Fancher and Captain
Jack Baker entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1857 and then proceeded south on
their way to California. Bagley’s account has Brigham Young ordering the
destruction of the train, sending Apostle George A. Smith to communicate instructions
to local leaders. Bagley informs us that instructions to Paiute Indians to attack
the train are evident from Dimick Huntington’s diary.
An advance party of soldiers led by Captain Stewart Van Vliet met with Young
to provision the army. After speaking with Van Vliet, Young realized that he
had overreacted in ordering the destruction. He sent James Haslam south to countermand
Indians attacked the party in predawn darkness on Monday, 6 September 1857,
after assembling the night before. Armed Mormon militiamen in southern Utah
joined the fray on Thursday, 10 September. The slaughter ended Friday, 11 September,
when the emigrants were lured by a white flag of truce to surrender their weapons.
Mormons and Indians killed them all, except for seventeen or eighteen children.
Express rider Haslam arrived in Cedar City on Sunday, 13 September, with his
message from Brigham Young. He was too late.
For the next twenty years church authorities obstructed justice to shield the
perpetrators. Church authorities also conspired to shield other Mormons who
had perpetrated other crimes against non-Mormons in the Utah Territory. The
Utah Territory was a community dripping in gentile blood which, we are told,
was a natural result of peculiar Mormon doctrines and rituals of violence.
The church struck a deal with U.S. District Attorney Sumner Howard to offer
John D. Lee as a scapegoat. The deal required witnesses to fabricate testimony
to convict Lee and required the U.S. Department of Justice to cease all further
prosecutions. John D. Lee was the only man brought to justice after trials in
1875 and 1876, whereupon he was executed in a sensational fashion.
Let us examine some of the more important of Bagley’s conclusions.
Accessory Status versus Acts of War
Even had Bagley correctly defined and understood the meaning of “accessory
before the fact” and “accessory after the fact,” which he
and Brooks and others did not, it is not proper to apply these civil standards
of conduct in wartime conditions. Brigham Young’s tactics on the high
plains against the advancing army were to engage in what would ordinarily be
seen as malicious acts of vandalism—burning feedstock, running off supply
trains, stealing mules, and running off cattle.6 These acts of malicious vandalism
and treason, however, were expressly forgiven by President Buchanan’s
war-time pardon for treason, which I discuss in greater detail below.7 The direct
authorization of murder is one thing. Interference during war with feedstock,
supply trains, and army cattle is another thing. These are much more benign
acts—all immunized by Buchanan—than murder. It would be improper
to use these immunized acts as a basis to establish accessory status.
Brigham Young an Accessory before the Fact? The Dimick Huntington
If one were to accept the faulty proposition that Brigham Young’s conduct
should be judged against civil standards of conduct, and if Brigham Young desired
the destruction of the Fancher train and gave specific direction to George A.
Smith and Indians to have the deed done, this would make Young and Smith accessories
before the fact. In nineteenth-century legal parlance this meant “one
who, not being present at the commission of the act, does yet procure, counsel,
aid and abet the perpetrator in the commission of it.”8
Bagley’s “troubling new evidence,” which separates his work
from Brooks’s, is simply a diary entry, dated 1 September 1857, in which
Indian interpreter Dimick Huntington describes a meeting purportedly held between
himself, Brigham Young, and twelve Indian chiefs:
Kanosh the Pahvant Chief[,] Ammon & wife (Walkers Brother) & 11 Pahvants
came into see B & D & find out about the soldiers. Tutseygubbit a Piede
chief over 6 Piedes Bands Youngwuols another Piede chief & I gave them all
the cattle that had gone to Cal[.] the southa rout[.] it made them open their
eyes[.] they sayed that you have told us not to steal[.] so I have but now they
have come to fight us & you for when they kill us then they will kill you[.]
they sayed the[y] was afraid to fight the Americans & so would raise grain
& we might fight.9 (cf. p. 114)
For Bagley this cryptic entry proves that “the atrocity was not a tragedy
but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City” (p. 378).
Blood of the Prophets tells us that “if any court in the American West
(excepting, of course, one of Utah’s probate courts) had seen the evidence
[the Dimick Huntington diary] contained, the only debate among the jurors would
have been when, where, and how high to hang Brigham Young” (p. 425
This scrap of evidence cannot support Bagley’s conclusions, particularly
in light of contemporaneous evidence. Brigham Young, if it was truly he who
spoke,10 did not refer to a specific emigrant train. Instead, on that day and
on many others, as I will demonstrate, he asked Indian tribal leaders to help
scatter the cattle of the army and of all emigrants on the trail in front of
the army in order to completely close the trail. As historian Norman Furniss
observed fifty years ago, “early in the war at least, the Church’s
leaders had a deliberate policy of seeking military assistance from the Indians.”11
When Brigham Young told the Indian tribes he wanted assistance in fighting the
Americans, he meant only the army.12
Bagley tells us that the language in Huntington’s diary entry for 1 September
1857 implies an instruction for attack on the Fancher train. Why then did Dimick
Huntington use the same language elsewhere with Indian tribal leaders
who could have had no geographic proximity to the Fancher train? For instance,
two days earlier in Huntington’s diary, 30 August 1857, Huntington wrote:
I [Huntington] told them that the Lord had come out of his Hiding place &
they had to commence their work[.] I gave them all the Beef cattle & horses
that was on the Road to CalAfornia[,] the North Rout[,] that they must put them
into the mountains & not kill any thing as Long as they can help it but
when they do Kill[,] take the old ones & not kill the cows or young ones.13
When Huntington talks about not killing anything “as Long as they can
help it” he is talking about “cows.” He asked the northern
Indians for help to run cattle off the northern California route upon which
the Fancher train would never tread. Following the massacre, Indian agent Garland
Hurt, certainly no friend of the Mormons, noted the same requests were made
to the northern Snake Indians.14 T. B. H. Stenhouse also confirms
that running the cattle off was a general strategy used successfully against
the army.15 Thus, Brigham Young’s 1 September 1857 comment: “I
gave them all the cattle” can only mean one thing. He offered the Indians
all the cattle they could scatter that were owned by the army.
Let us look at who was present at that 1 September 1857 meeting because this
bears on Bagley’s theory about instructions to destroy the Fancher train.
Most of the Indians present led tribes that had no geographic proximity to the
Fancher train, as massacre historian and attorney Robert Briggs has pointed
out.16 Only two or three of the twelve chieftains present might have had some
connection to the tribes that participated in the massacre. Tutsegabit and Youngwuds
were the two Southern Paiute chiefs present in Brigham Young’s office
whose tribes resided in Iron County (p. 113).
Not only were the wrong people in the 1 September 1857 meeting, the participants
were probably talking about a geographic area far from the location of the Fancher
train. I have substantial doubt that Brigham Young’s reference to the
“south rout[e]” on 1 September meant anything more than the
entire route south of present-day Wyoming upon which the army was advancing.
With contemporaneous descriptions of the south route referring to the entire
road south of Lander Pass in Wyoming, it is unreasonable to conclude that Brigham
Young had some other meaning for “south rout[e].”17
Further, Bagley’s chronology is problematic to the point of impossibility.
Tutsegabit and Youngwuds did not have time to get from Salt Lake City to Mountain
Meadows and return to Salt Lake City by 16 September 1857 or, as Huntington
says, by 10 September 1857.18 Blood of the Prophets tells us these
Indian chiefs were surprised when they were purportedly told to massacre the
Fancher train on 1 September but that they recovered from this surprise, and
within five days (without horses, no less)19 traveled three hundred miles
to organize and lead the first wave of assaults, assembling for the assault
on the evening of 5 September for a predawn attack the next morning. In contrast,
John D. Lee claims he rushed on horseback to Salt Lake City to make a report
to Brigham Young of the massacre, saying that “I was on the way about ten days,”
and Lee did not get started for ten days.20 With excellent and replenished horseflesh,
it took James Haslam three days to travel the same distance with Isaac Haight’s
request for instructions. Wilford Woodruff records Tutsegabit’s presence to
be ordained an elder in Salt Lake City, certainly not an emergency, five days
after the massacre concluded or, as the Huntington diary says, in the middle
of the massacre.21 It is implausible to think that Tutsegabit and Youngwuds
made this round-trip in such a short period of time. Moreover, neither Tutsegabit
nor Youngwuds were reported to be at the massacre.
Thus, I disagree with Bagley’s effort to render what is simple and relatively
benign (general cattle running) to what is complex and malicious (killing emigrants).
The developed law of evidence cautions against reaching conclusions about wrongful
conduct from a set of facts that could explain more benign actions.22 As Robert
Briggs asks in his Sunstone essay, with twenty-five hundred troops
approaching, why would Brigham Young concern himself with forty armed men in
the Arkansas train?23
Brigham Young an Accessory before the Fact? Captain Van Vliet’s Meeting
with Brigham Young
Isaac Haight, a stake president in Cedar City, dispatched James Haslam to Brigham
Young for instructions about the Fancher train. It is not contested that Brigham
Young received Haight’s message and sent Haslam back to tell Haight not
to meddle with the Fancher train and to “spare no horseflesh” about
it. As Haslam describes it, when he arrived in Salt Lake City, he found President
Young in council with several others. Young read the message from Haight and
told Haslam to rest and return to Brigham Young’s office at 1:00 p.m.
“He asked if I could stand the trip back; he said the Indians must be
kept from the emigrants at all cost, if it took all of Iron County to protect
them.” When Haslam returned to Young’s office at the appointed time,
President Young “told me to start and not to spare horseflesh, but to
go down there just as quick as possible.” When Haight received the message,
Haight said: “Too late, too late.” Haight “cried like a child.”24
Haslam was never impeached as to his story, and it remained consistent throughout
Bagley must determine how to handle this exculpatory evidence. As Brooks concludes,
the Haslam ride demonstrated Brigham Young’s lack of complicity in plotting
the massacre.26 Bagley turns exculpatory evidence into inculpatory evidence.
He tells us that Young, in a change of heart, used Haslam to attempt to countermand
previous orders of destruction. Blood of the Prophets says that “after
learning from [advance Army Captain] Stewart Van Vliet that the government’s
intentions were not as demonic as he had feared, Young sent orders south with
James Haslam to stop the events he had set in motion” (p. 379).
No evidence supports Bagley’s complex theory about countermanded instructions.
When Bagley talks about Young’s encounter with Van Vliet, he avoids saying
much about dates, a strange thing given the crucial importance he attaches to
this story. The sequence of events tells us that it is unlikely Young accumulated
enough information to countermand his purported orders of destruction. On Tuesday,
8 September 1857, in the evening, Van Vliet arrived in Salt Lake Valley to secure
provisions for the army (pp. 134-35). The next day, on Wednesday,
Young met with church leaders and one hundred citizens met with Van Vliet to
discuss the army’s needs for provisions.27 The next morning, Thursday,
10 September, Haslam arrived and departed in the afternoon with Brigham Young’s
message to Haight.28 There is no evidence, as of this time, that any communication
of substance passed between Brigham Young and Van Vliet on the first night.29
As to the Wednesday meeting involving the hundred citizens, the evidence shows
only bellicosity on the part of Young, who told Van Vliet that the Saints would
not provide supplies to the army, and that the army should expect a flogging.30
In other words, no evidence of any sort shows rapprochement before Haslam left.
It is pure supposition to say that Young and Van Vliet said anything in the
short time period above to cause Young to change his mind about the army. Bagley
has pointed to no journal entry to prove his supposition.
After Haslam left, it is quite apparent that Young continued his policy of obstruction.
On Sunday, 13 September, Young, with Van Vliet sharing the stand in the Bowery,
threatened the army: “If [the Lord] will turn our enemies away, praised
be his name. But if it should become a duty to take the sword, let us do it
manfully and in the strength of Israel’s God. Then one will chase a thousand,
and two, will put ten thousand to flight.”31
Van Vliet left Salt Lake City at three in the morning on Monday, 14 September,32
disheartened over Young’s obduracy, as he later reported to his superiors.33
One day after Van Vliet’s departure on 15 September 1857, Brigham
Young issued a declaration of martial law:34
We are condemned unheard, and forced to an issue with an armed mercenary mob,
which has been sent against us at the instigation of anonymous letter writers,
ashamed to father the base, slanderous falsehoods which they have given to the
public; of corrupt officials, who have brought false accusations against us
to screen themselves in their own infamy; and of hireling priests and howling
editors, who prostitute the truth for filthy lucre’s sake.35
Brigham Young indeed had a change of heart about the advancing army. It came
after months of analysis, as Norman Furniss concludes.36 Haslam’s ride
cannot be explained as an attempt to countermand prior orders, and Bagley’s
theory is fictional.
Apostle George A. Smith an Accessory before the Fact?
Blood of the Prophets says that “even before the Fancher party left
Salt Lake, George A. Smith was on his way to southern Utah to arrange their
destruction at a remote and lonely spot” (p. 381). This argument assumes
Brigham Young had formulated the plan for destruction when the Fancher train
was still in Salt Lake City on 5 August 1857. There is no evidence of material
provocation by the Fancher train at this early stage except from persons with
no reliable basis upon which to provide testimony. Bagley relies on Argus’s
thirdhand account that Eleanor Pratt spotted a conspirator to the death of Parley
P. Pratt among the train members in Salt Lake City (p. 98) without giving
attribution.37 The anonymous author who used the pseudonym of Argus and published
a series of letters in the Corinne (Utah) Reporter lacks indicia of
reliability for most of his observations. Bagley believes that Argus was later
determined to be one Charles Wandell. Wandell, who lived in California at the
time of the massacre, had nothing to do with it (p. 434 n. 50).38
When Blood of the Prophets relies upon Argus, it relies upon a purveyor
of thirdhand uncorroborated speculation.
Bagley claims that instructions “from headquarters” to kill those in the train
went from George A. Smith to Isaac Haight (p. 298). Again this source is
Argus. Bagley claims that unnamed “federal investigators suspected
that in August 1857 Smith carried Young’s orders to massacre the Fancher train
to southern Utah” (p. 297, emphasis added). This is not, however, evidence.
If federal investigators had any evidence to support their suspicions, they
would have aired it in the first Lee trial when, as we will see in the discussion
below, they had every incentive to do so.
Nobody has ever offered any believable evidence that George A. Smith gave
instructions to Haight and Lee to massacre the train. John D. Lee is the only
person who purported to offer evidence of these instructions. I do not see how
Bagley can place any faith in Lee’s confessions, particularly those written
as Mormonism Unveiled. Lee wrote this confession with the assistance
of William Bishop, his attorney. Bishop relied on these confessions to obtain
his fee. As Bishop urged Lee to finish his work before his execution, he told
Lee that he would be “adding such facts . . . as will make the Book interesting
and useful to the public.” The matters of greatest interest to Bishop were those
things that would implicate Brigham Young and church authorities, things which
Bishop thought would make the book sell.39 In any event, Lee’s claim that George
A. Smith met Lee in southern Utah on 1 September 1857 (an approximate date
deduced from Lee’s text) with orders of destruction40 was impossible because
Smith was hundreds of miles away in Salt Lake City on that very day, as well
as the day before.41
Accessory after the Fact: The Claim That Brigham Young Conspired to
Dispose of the Fancher Train’s Property
Blood of the Prophets and other works42 theorize that church officials conspired
as “accessories after the fact” to obstruct justice. To be an accessory
after the fact, a person must have an active and immediate role in concealing
a crime, such as providing the means for an escape or shutting the door against
law enforcement officers. Dealing in stolen goods also conveys accessory-after-the-fact
status. Passivity, however, does not.43
Bagley does not state clearly what facts confer accessory-after-the fact status
upon Young. Certainly, we should reject both Brooks’s and Bagley’s
attempts to redefine the crime as passivity in that they both tell us that Brigham
Young was an accessory after the fact merely because “he knew what had
happened, and how and why it happened” (p. 377). This may be a historian’s
standard of complicity, but it is not a legal standard. By Brooks’s and
Bagley’s standard, newspaper reporters would qualify for accessory status.
In my attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff of Blood of the Prophets‘s
evidence, I agree with Bagley that a conspiracy to receive the emigrants’
property would be evidence sufficient to brand somebody an accessory after the
fact. Is there competent evidence to show that Brigham Young conspired to receive
the emigrant’s property?
Bagley appears to rely upon two events in which Young purportedly gave instructions
for the disposition of Fancher train property. For one event, the evidence turns
on the statement of one man, Philip Klingensmith. Blood of the Prophets tells
us that at the church’s general conference on 6 October 1857, Klingensmith
said that Lee made a full report of the massacre to Young and then was told
to “dispose of that property” and “say nothing about it”
Brigham Young denied this meeting and specifically denied any statement about
the property.44 Although Bagley spends some time discounting Young’s affidavit
of denial, his argument is less than convincing. Let’s assume, however,
that Brigham Young’s affidavit does not exist. How good is Klingensmith’s
testimony? Klingensmith’s statement was not corroborated when it should
have been. The version of Lee’s confession, published by William Bishop,
discussed the meeting with Brigham Young but mentions neither Klingensmith nor
Young’s directions about disposition of the property.45 Lee was in a position
to corroborate Klingensmith but did not.
Additionally, upon cross-examination during the first Lee trial, Klingensmith
admitted that whatever passed between Lee and Young about the massacre was outside
his hearing.46 His testimony was so worthless that U.S. District Attorney Sumner
Howard declined to recall Klingensmith for the second trial.
Klingensmith also admitted to participating in the massacre. He turned state’s
evidence before Lee’s first trial in exchange for a grant of immunity.
He gave his testimony as a disillusioned apostate.47 Thus his 6 October 1857
account is very suspect, even without Young’s denial.
The second event Bagley marshals as evidence of Young’s participation in the
property disposition is, again, in the Huntington diary. Bagley argues that
after Chief Arapeen told him about the massacre, Young advised Arapeen to help
himself to the booty (p. 170). Bagley, however, changes the actual sequence
of events to make things appear as they are not. The Huntington diary shows
that Young first asked Arapeen—just as Brigham Young had asked all
other Indian chieftains—to help himself to the army’s cattle. Then
Arapeen tells him about “a” massacre.48 Nobody thereafter suggested to Arapeen
that he help himself to the Fancher train booty. Brigham Young would never have
done this because Arapeen’s tribe was too far north in Utah. Bagley’s explanation
is akin to asking the mayor of Ogden to help himself to the coffers of Cedar
I see no evidence to support the level of complicity necessary to establish
that Brigham Young was an accessory after the fact through his giving instructions
to dispose of the Fancher train booty.
Accessory after the Fact: Obstruction of Justice and the Failure to
Analyze the Effect of the Presidential Amnesty
Blood of the Prophets has charged high-ranking church officials with two decades
of obstructing the federal investigation. Bagley’s emphasis is in Mormon
history, so he sometimes shows his lack of breadth in political and social matters
that originate outside the Great Basin. One of the areas in which he displays
this weakness is his failure to discuss the effect of President Buchanan’s
general amnesty upon the massacre prosecutions (p. 205).
Buchanan issued an amnesty for all crimes of the Mormons related to the claimed
acts of sedition and treason. Governor Alfred Cumming announced a broad interpretation
of that amnesty to the Saints on 14 June 1858.49 Certainly, by the date of the
amnesty, federal officials believed that Mormons had directed the massacre,
and they believed that John D. Lee was one of the leaders.50 One might reasonably
conclude that the amnesty was intended to cover the massacre participants.
Some in the federal government and the press believed that Buchanan intended
to pardon the massacre perpetrators. Indian superintendent Jacob Forney was
so upset with U.S. District Court Judge John Cradlebaugh’s massacre investigation
that he cursed Cradlebaugh’s name, citing the amnesty as the basis for his objections,
or so we are told from a source hostile to Forney.51 Non-Mormon U.S. District
Attorney Alexander Wilson and non-Mormon U.S. District Court Judge Charles C.
Sinclair disagreed over the application of the amnesty, with Wilson refusing
to present to the jury bills of indictment.52 Harper’s Weekly noted
the conflict over the amnesty in the prosecution of the massacre.53 The New
York Post opined that the amnesty excused the massacre crimes because it
was an aspect of the Utah war intended to come within the amnesty’s scope.54
It is no wonder that prosecution was uncertain. But, given the controversy the
amnesty sparked in the Eastern press with regard to the massacre investigation,
it seems that Blood of the Prophets would have discussed it. This is
a significant omission.
Accessory after the Fact: Obstruction of Justice and the Dispute between
the Two Branches of Federal Government
The presidential amnesty contributed to the lengthy delay in federal prosecution.
In addition, the federal judiciary and federal prosecutor fought over control
of the massacre investigation. This internecine dispute stymied federal investigation
of the massacre for several years. Bagley does not discuss this feud as a source
At the national level in the early nineteenth century, the federal judiciary
and the prosecutors repeatedly jockeyed for power in ways that would appear
unseemly today. Thomas Jefferson said that the “great object of my fear is the
federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting with noiseless foot
& unalarming advance, [is] gaining ground step by step. . . . Let the eye
of vigilance never be closed.” He condemned the judiciary’s usurpation of the
legislative prerogatives with its pious interpretation of its own brand of Christianity.55
The U.S. Constitution gives little direction to the judiciary compared to what
it gives to the legislative and executive branches. The Hamiltonian Federalists
saw the federal judiciary as a way to expand federal power and to crush state
self-determinism (read: slavery). The Jeffersonian republicans believed states’
rights were paramount except as to powers specifically delegated to the federal
government. The Federalist judiciary gained the upper hand with the enforcement
of the Sedition Act of 4 July 1798, which crushed Jeffersonian dissent. As historian
James Simon explains, their “blatantly partisan actions [of stifling criticism
of the John Adams administration] in pursuit of convictions under the Sedition
Act reinforced Jefferson’s profound distrust of the federal judiciary.”56 Supreme
Court Justice Salmon Chase’s prosecutions under the Sedition Act, while
a sitting Supreme Court justice, were notorious, eventually leading to
an attempt to remove him by impeachment.57
Utah’s federal judges replayed this high national drama on a frontier
stage. As with the amnesty, Blood of the Prophets fails to see the broad political
and social issues of the struggle for federal power. Brigham Young’s demand
for local self-determinism replaced Thomas Jefferson’s urbane urge for
state self-determinism. Polygamy, rather than slavery, was an affront to federal
power and needed to be crushed.58 In the early days of Utah, federal judges
of questionable character—a point Van Vliet conceded59—directed
the investigation of crime, requested army troops to march against the local
citizenry, harangued citizens in their places of worship about the lack of virtue
in their plural wives, and testified in Congress about Mormon debauchery. These
judicial efforts to crush the Mormon theocracy would be unthinkable today in
any social context.
Blood of the Prophets accepts Cradlebaugh’s account of the dispute uncritically,
condemning the U.S. district attorney as “pliant” (p. 235)
and “‘closely allied to the Mormons by some mysterious tie'”
(p. 217) for failing to do anything about the massacre. Citing Cradlebaugh
and Sinclair, we are told that Wilson’s “whole course of conduct
has been marked with culpable timidity and neglect.”60 Bagley would have
us believe that the U.S. district attorney was too cozy with the Mormons and
that the Mormons lobbied him to ignore the massacre.
The official correspondence, however, shows that the executive and judicial
branches of government distrusted each other and that neither was effective
in the prosecution of the massacre. The purported investigation began, at least
in Cradlebaugh’s view, with grand jury proceedings from 8 to 21 March
1859 in Provo. Mormon accounts say Cradlebaugh called out the army to terrorize
the local Provo population with the might of federal power. Cradlebaugh and
Bagley assert that the troops were necessary to protect the court and witnesses
from Mormon Danite assassins. Governor Cumming sided with the Mormons, who were
outraged with Cradlebaugh’s use of the troops. Cumming believed that he,
as the federal executive, had the sole civilian authority to call out the troops
in the Territory.
Attorney General Black in Washington, D.C., said that it was not Cradlebaugh’s
job to determine whom to prosecute or when to call out the troops. He instructed
U.S. District Attorney Wilson to “oppose every effort which any judge
may make to usurp your functions. . . . If the judges will confine themselves
to the simple and plain duty imposed upon them by law of hearing and deciding
the cases that are brought before them, I am sure that the business of the Territory
will get along very well.”61
President Buchanan approved of Wilson’s efforts to resist the judiciary’s
incursion into his prerogatives and the use of federal troops.62 General Albert
Sidney Johnston, commanding Camp Floyd, implied that he was unhappy being called
into the fray to support the judiciary.63
Black attempted to rein in the Utah judges, explaining to them the judiciary’s
function to “hear patiently the causes brought before them.”64 The
executive branch has a “public accuser, and a marshal.” As the U.S.
Supreme Court said in an 1868 landmark case, public prosecutions are within
the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. district attorney until indicted offenses
are in trial before a petit jury. Judges have no role in prosecutions until
Addressing a defensive letter to President Buchanan, Cradlebaugh and fellow
judge Charles Sinclair admitted that “the difficulty [which has] arisen between
the judiciary and executive is deeply to be deplored.”66 Nonetheless,
the judges attacked Governor Cumming and U.S. District Attorney Wilson for failing
to faithfully execute their duties, especially in connection with the 1859 Provo
Cradlebaugh’s grasping for prosecutorial power made prosecution nigh impossible.
Prosecutors must work with judges to obtain warrants and convene grand juries,
but Cradlebaugh would not cooperate. He complained to Buchanan that Wilson refused
to execute (i.e., serve) bench warrants for witnesses, but Wilson countered
that Cradlebaugh would not give him the warrants for execution.68 Wilson wanted
the massacre grand jury to be empanelled in southern Utah, close to the scene.
He also urged the Justice Department to provide funds “to enable the officers
of the court to make a patient and thorough search for evidence.”69 Cradlebaugh
(remember, he is the judge, not the prosecutor) responded to Wilson’s
request by traveling to Santa Clara and issuing arrest warrants in 1859. None
of them were executed. Why not? Cradlebaugh failed to include in his entourage
the person with prosecutorial discretion, the U.S. district attorney. He further
refused to respond to Wilson’s request for information about the warrants
so that they could be served. Cradlebaugh also refused to tell Wilson about
his activities in Santa Clara.70 Blood of the Prophets does not explain how
the prosecutor could be expected to prosecute when the judge shuts him out of
The significance of this episode is unmistakable. The prosecution delayed as
it resisted the judiciary’s grasping for control of the massacre investigation.
This material escapes Bagley.
Accessory after the Fact: The Claim That Mormons Wouldn’t Indict Their
Own in the 1859 Provo Grand Jury
According to Bagley, the 8-21 March 1859 grand jury proceedings in Provo
provide a lurid but relevant detour in the story of the massacre prosecutions.
He uses the story of the grand jury to show that Mormons obstructed prosecutions
by refusing to indict their own for the massacre and for other crimes. The book
claims that the grand jury “‘utterly refused to do anything'”
about the massacre and other crimes against non-Mormons. Thus the federal grand
jury “ground to a halt” (p. 218). The implication of Bagley’s
claim is that church authorities instructed grand jurors to obstruct voting
when bills for indictment against Mormons were presented to them. Bagley, however,
has missed primary source material which contradicts his conclusions.
This tale of the grand jury is central to one of Bagley’s more salacious
themes. Blood of the Prophets paints a picture of a community of priests dripping
in gentile blood, with Mormon laity thumbing their noses as federal authorities
sought to staunch the flow. Bagley and Cradlebaugh make much of the all-Mormon
Provo grand jury’s failure to return any criminal indictments, including
in the notorious Parrish and Potter case71 and the Henry Jones case. Blood of the Prophets does not have the facts right in the Henry Jones case, confusing
it with a different and unrelated crime.72 Bagley tells us that church authorities
obstructed not only the massacre investigation, but also the investigation of
other notorious crimes for which, he says, there were never any indictments
The official correspondence refutes these claims. Bagley has the facts wrong
because he does not rely upon the official files. U.S. District Attorney Wilson’s
diary (again, it was his duty to bring indictments, not Cradlebaugh’s)
and his report to the U.S. attorney general indicate that no indictment was
obtained from the Provo grand jury for the Mountain Meadows Massacre because
none was requested by the U.S. district attorney. Yes, Judge Cradlebaugh may
have asked for indictments in his initial charge, but this was an empty request
because it was not his lawful request to make. It was U.S. District Attorney
Wilson’s job alone to control the grand jury’s reception of evidence
and the timing of decision. Wilson never asked the grand jury to indict for
massacre offenses. The grand jury’s term was occupied with other crimes,
and then Cradlebaugh discharged the grand jury before Wilson could ask the grand
jury to act.73 An army officer, familiar with the proceedings, opined that the
reason Cradlebaugh dismissed the grand jury precipitously was not that Cradlebaugh
was upset with its performance, but that General Johnston withdrew Cradlebaugh’s
army escort.74 In addition, when a second grand jury was empanelled in 1859,
no indictments were sought for the massacre. Yet, Bagley would have us believe
on the sole basis of Cradlebaugh’s claims that the grand juries refused
to indict for the massacre.
Just as Bagley has the facts wrong about the 1859 grand jury’s treatment
of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, so does he miss important facts about the
grand jury’s treatment of other crimes. The second 1859 grand jury handed
down indictments for the Parrish and Potter and the Henry Jones cases, yet Bagley
tells us that no indictments were ever obtained for these crimes.75
Accessory after the Fact: The Claim That the Church Would Not Cooperate
in the Apprehension of the Fugitives
Bagley claims that high Mormon officials refused to cooperate in apprehending
the massacre fugitives. For example, Cradlebaugh reports that he told Buchanan
that church officials offered to produce fugitives upon condition that the church
dictate the composition of the petit juries. Bagley does not tell us that U.S.
District Attorney Wilson declared this “an unqualified falsehood.”
Mormons did no such thing.76
The federal judiciary denied Mormon law enforcement officers the power to assist
federal officers in the pursuit of criminal convictions. Governor Cumming complained
that the federal judges refused to admit to the bar federal territorial prosecutors.
Indeed, Cradlebaugh and fellow judges refused to permit the Mormon territorial
attorney (even though he was technically an officer of the United States) to
enter their courtrooms and present bills for indictments.77
U.S. District Attorney Wilson attempted to persuade non-Mormon Deputy U.S. Marshal
William Rodgers to effect service of process upon massacre participants. Rodgers
rebuffed the request, claiming a lack of resources.78 Then, on 6 August 1858,
Wilson told the federal marshal that the Mormon territorial marshal, John Kay,
would accomplish the investigations and the arrests. According to Wilson, “Kay
was a Mormon, had a knowledge of the country and of the people, and expressed
a determination, if legally deputized, to make arrests if possible.” But,
Rodgers refused to deputize Kay on the ground that Kay “was a Mormon.”79
For the federal government, a crook on the lam was better than a crook collared
by a Mormon.
The federal marshal was also less than diligent, frequently complaining about
a lack of pay. However, federal surveyors had no difficulty locating and using
the services of the fugitives.80 The surveyors’ accounts mock the progress
of the investigation, recounting jokes with and pranks upon the fugitives.81
Additionally, in 1872, the U.S. attorney general denied a request by the U.S.
district attorney to reopen the investigation of the massacre.82
As another example of silly officiousness, immediately prior to Lee’s
first trial in 1875, lawyers Jabez Sutherland and George C. Bates offered to
surrender indictees William Stewart, Isaac Haight, George Adair, and John Higbee
in return for accommodating their request for bail. U.S. District Judge Jacob
Boreman was incensed with this proposal, refused it, and instead commenced disbarment
proceedings against these lawyers. Blood of the Prophets touches on this briefly
but not fairly (p. 290). Although a defense lawyer may not shield a fugitive,
it is common for fugitives to negotiate the terms of their surrender indirectly
through lawyers. Judge Boreman’s 13 February 1875 letter to Sutherland
and Bates shows that the judiciary petulantly refused to deal with Mormons or
even attorneys for Mormons. The judge condemned Sutherland for taking on a Mormon
as a client because Mormons have “the very soul of corruption.”83
Boreman’s refusal to discuss bail is ironic in light of the bail he later
Federal judges denied Mormons permission to assist federal officials with criminal
prosecutions. These judges considered Mormons as disloyal “foreigners,”84
as un-American, “perverted, oppressed, [and] alien.”85 Mormons could
not be trusted to do anything, including fight crime. Avoiding collaboration
with the Mormons was of greater social value than justice.
Bagley fails to report accurately early efforts at apprehension. Skipping
over legitimate offers of help, Bagley accuses the church of obstructing justice
by frustrating the investigation. That is not appropriate, given the evidence.
Accessory after the Fact: The Claim That Brigham Young Took No Official
Blood of the Prophets criticizes Brigham Young for doing nothing in his official
capacity to prosecute the massacre (p. 379). Young, however, explained
that he took no official governmental action against the perpetrators because
President Buchanan stripped him of these powers and Governor Cumming possessed
all the powers of the executive.86 Once he was stripped of civil power, the
church may have well taken the position that the Mormon prophet’s control
over wrongdoers was limited to the remedies specified in section 134 of the
church’s Doctrine and Covenants. Nothing required Brigham Young to hunt
down the participants and turn them over to the very powers seeking to jail
him for bigamy (see D&C 134:4).
There is no competent evidence of a Mormon cabal to influence the executive
branch to delay prosecution. There is much speculation, but nothing more. The
Eastern press occasionally blamed the delay upon the Buchanan and subsequent
administrations.87 The will to prosecute was not there. Both Cradlebaugh and
Wilson gave up and left town before the Civil War.
Accessory after the Fact: Did the Church Interfere with the Lee Trials
by Hiding or Coercing Witnesses and Influencing Jurors?
Moving forward almost two decades, Blood of the Prophets argues that
the church was guilty of obstructing the prosecution of the 1875 and 1876 trials
of John D. Lee. Yet Bagley errs in his analysis of the events of the trials.
He fails, with a few exceptions for the first trial only, to rely upon the actual
transcripts. Instead, he relies upon exposés.88 These secondhand accounts
are not accurate and have serious errors of omission and editorial addition.
In particular, I object to Bagley’s reliance upon William Bishop’s Mormonism
Unveiled for the second trial. Bishop’s stenographer dropped and changed
testimony in places. Abraham Lincoln’s biographers have recognized the difficulty
of using press accounts as they reconstructed the accessory-after-the-fact trial
of Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg.89 In contrast
to Bagley, neither Brooks nor Leonard Arrington relied on press accounts for
their analyses of the Lee trial.90
Blood of the Prophets also relies on the memoirs of Judge Jacob Boreman for
his impressions of the trial. Except for perhaps the demeanor of witnesses,
a judge’s observations of witnesses could not add anything to the official
transcript. Boreman’s reminiscences demonstrate some real problems. With
not a shred of evidence other than the speculation circulated by others, Boreman
said he believed that high Mormon officials communicated death threats to witnesses
of the massacre and that ordinary members of the church believed they were authorized
to commit perjury by reason of the vows they took in the church’s Endowment
House. None of that is reflected in the trial transcript. Arrington opined that
Boreman was prepared to believe the worst about the Mormons and that his naÃ¯veté
made him clay in the hands of other federal anti-Mormon fanatics.91
Turning to the events of the first trial in 1875, there is no evidence that
the church obstructed justice. This trial mistried with a hung jury, to the
universal denunciation of the church in the non-Mormon press. All Mormon jurors
and one “backslider” voted to acquit. Three non-Mormons voted to convict (p. 296).
Not a single witness tied Lee to any criminal activity, including former Mormon
Bishop Philip Klingensmith, who turned state’s evidence.92 The prosecutors,
William C. Carey and Robert Baskin, used the trial to grandstand against Brigham
Young.93 Even the Salt Lake Daily Tribune admitted that the trial failure
resulted from the prosecutors’ “utter neglect of the business” and “disgraceful
Accessory after the Fact: Did the Church and the Prosecutor Obstruct
Justice with a Deal in the 1876 Trial to Forgo Any Other Prosecutions?
Blood of the Prophets tells us that the U.S. district attorney’s office
struck a deal with the church: they would offer John D. Lee as a scapegoat to
avoid all further prosecutions, and in return the church would help convict
Lee in a second trial. For critics of the church (and I would put Blood of the Prophets in this category), the deal and scapegoat story helps sell the idea
that the church was not above thwarting justice. For advocates of John D. Lee
(and I would put Brooks in this category), the deal and the scapegoat theory
helps sell the idea that an innocent Lee was willing to suffer as a martyr for
his friends and church.
The deal is important to Bagley’s conclusions. He says: “In a case
that threatened to shake the LDS church to its foundations, the prosecutor found
he could only secure a guilty verdict with the cooperation of Mormon authorities.
As attorneys do, Howard made a deal” (p. 300). As part of this deal,
the church assisted Howard with manufactured evidence and manipulated justice
(p. 299). Bagley also tells us that U.S. District Attorney Howard was “‘on
the make,'” or in other words, had been bribed or threatened with
blackmail by church leaders (p. 299).
Bagley’s failures in this area are the same as Brooks’s and the Salt Lake
Daily Tribune‘s. The latter first floated this theory on 27 September
1876, citing only supposition.95 So Bagley is in good company.
In this section, we will examine the law, which demonstrates that any deal would
have been a worthless nullity. We will then look at the evidence Bagley offers
to support his theory of a deal, to show that his evidence lacks proper foundation
and is thus not reliable. Lastly, we will see from an overwhelming amount of
official correspondence that Howard’s later actions were inconsistent
with any “deal.”
The Law Pertaining to Agreements to Thwart Justice. A “deal” to thwart
justice would have been a legal impossibility, a nullity, void at the outset,
and obligating nobody. Under English and American common law, certain agreements
such as agreements to collect gambling debts incurred in nongambling jurisdictions,
to pay for a prostitute, or not to report a crime are unenforceable. Another
example of an unenforceable agreement is an agreement to forbear prosecution
of a crime.96 In U.S. v. Ford, an 1878 U.S. Supreme Court decision,
the court summarized the law of forbearance of prosecution. A grant of immunity
must be approved by a judge and is granted only to accomplices willing
to come forward and testify in good faith against an accused. On the other hand,
the court said that an executive pardon does not require approval by a judge
or does not constitute an agreement to come forward to testify, but it does
require a presidential act. A pardon usually comes only after conviction of
the to-be-pardoned felon.97 Thus, the two kinds of deals approved by the Supreme
Court require an official stamp of approval by persons other than the prosecutor;
secret deals would not work.
Before the Supreme Court’s 1878 decision, grants of immunity were questionable.
Prevailing law before U.S. v. Ford suggested that a grant of immunity
might not have been enforceable if the person granted immunity “appear[ed] to
have been the principal offender” and that the best one could hope for was an
“equitable” claim to a presidential pardon.98 Howard would also have known that
an unlawful grant of immunity may have been a crime itself; he could have been
subject to prosecution.99 He was obviously knowledgeable in the area because
he appears to have offered John D. Lee a presidential pardon after Lee’s conviction.100
Any subsequent U.S. district attorney, or even Howard himself, could have simply
ignored a deal to thwart justice and could have prosecuted any person worthy
of prosecution. Therefore, if a deal to thwart justice was a nullity at the
outset, it seems unlikely that a competent lawyer would have spent any effort
reaching such a deal.
Bagley’s Evidence of a Deal. Turning to Bagley’s evidence of a deal
to make John D. Lee a scapegoat (which really is unnecessary to discuss, given
the legal impossibility of such a deal in the first place), we find it wanting.
For example, there is no evidence whatsoever, other than reported rumor, that
U.S. District Attorney Sumner Howard was bribed.
Nor is there evidence that witnesses were told what to say. Bagley, as does
Brooks, says that “according to . . . family traditions,” Nephi
Johnson and Jacob Hamblin received letters ordering them to testify and “telling
them what to say” (p. 304). “Family traditions” are not
evidence. I would like to see the letters. What would they have shown? That
witnesses were told to lie about Lee’s guilt when Lee was not really guilty?
It is unlikely that Lee was not guilty.101 Although there may indeed have been
letters telling witnesses to cooperate, it is doubtful that the letters instructed
them what to say.
As further evidence of a deal, Bagley examines Hamblin’s role in the second
trial.102 Bagley and the Salt Lake Daily Tribune attack, in particular,
Hamblin’s testimony that Lee confessed to him and the fact that Hamblin never
mentioned the confession to investigating law enforcement officers.103 They
claim that Lee’s confession to Hamblin never occurred, and they have suggested
that church officials orchestrated Hamblin’s testimony to secure Lee’s conviction.
Brooks agreed with Bagley’s later assessment that Hamblin’s testimony was selectively
truthful and that he “could not remember what he did not want to tell.”104
The transcript shows that no lawyer in the second trial pushed Hamblin to say
very much although Hamblin said he had more to tell. Each side was undoubtedly
fearful to ask questions that would elicit previously unknown answers.105 Either
side could have asked the court to order Hamblin, upon pain of contempt, to
tell it all. Neither side did. Had I been the prosecutor, I would not want Hamblin
to say anything that might possibly implicate Brigham Young because, in that
event, I would have followed the same unsuccessful strategy of grandstanding
against Brigham Young as did U.S. District Attorneys William Carey and Robert
Baskin in the 1875 trial. Similarly, because Hamblin was under the control of
the prosecution, as Lee’s defense lawyer I would not know what Hamblin
would say. In this particular case, less was more. There is no evidence that
Hamblin lied; in fact, Hamblin’s recent biographer, Hartt Wixom, takes
exception to the charge of perjury.106 Lee’s attorney, Bishop, admitted
that Hamblin was an honest man,107 even though Lee contended that Hamblin’s
testimony was false.108 The press may have wished that Hamblin had said more,
but Hamblin was not talking to the press.
A juror’s dream has not the slightest chance of constituting evidence,
but Bagley offers it to us as such (p. 306). Blood of the Prophets uses
juror Andrew Corry’s recollection of a conversation he had with another
juror about that juror’s dream that Lee would be offered as a scapegoat.
When Corry executed his affidavit in 1932 he was eighty-four years old. He had
probably been pursued for fifty-six years by persons interested in having him
support a particular view. The affidavit looks to be too fine a production.109
Corry’s affidavit, nonetheless, is compelling to me in a way Blood of the Prophets would not appreciate. Corry does not claim any external pressure
to vote for Lee’s conviction. He does not mention any pressure by any
church authority to vote a particular way. He does not mention a deal. Corry
dwells on the scapegoat theory, but that theory was the only defense theory
offered by Lee’s attorneys and the only possible theory for the jurors
to debate. It seems that fifty-six years would have uncovered a claim of church
pressure, given Corry’s willingness to spill all in his affidavit.
Blood of the Prophets tells us that William Bishop, Lee’s attorney, claims
that he had an agreement with local church authorities to select particular
persons as jurors (p. 302). According to Bishop:
The attorneys for the defendant had been furnished with a list of the jurymen,
and the list was examined by a committee of Mormons, who marked those who would
convict with a dash (—), those who would rather not convict with a star
(*), and those were certain to acquit John D. Lee, under all circumstances,
with two stars (**).110
If Bishop asserts, which he really does not, that local church leaders agreed
with him to dictate to jurors the outcome of the case, Bishop would be admitting
to a crime at the most and grounds for disbarment at the least.
Blood of the Prophets recounts a story by Frank Lee that each juror favorable
to Lee’s cause would have a “star pinned under his arm” so
that Bishop would know “whom to choose” (p. 302). I don’t
trust this evidence. According to genealogical records, and Bagley does not
mention this, Frank Lee would have been barely thirteen years old by the time
of the second trial111 when he claims that this information was conveyed “in
the Council meeting.”112 Frank Lee does not say he was at the meeting.
A thirteen-year-old boy, one who had lived in isolation his entire life with
his mother Rachel, would not likely understand the intricacies of conspiracies
to suborn perjury. How many of the dozens or hundreds of potential jurors would
have been trained to display their underarms only to Bishop? What would the
stars have looked like? Frank Lee undoubtedly misheard secondhand family accounts
of Bishop’s list of potential jurors.113
It certainly is not unusual for an experienced trial lawyer in a small town
to compile a list of dozens of known veniremen (someone who is summoned to serve
on a jury) and rank them according to their proclivities. A trial lawyer will
use many sources to learn facts about these potential jurors. Even an experienced
lawyer might get too close to potential jurors in the pretrial phase, as Clarence
Darrow learned when he was indicted in 1911 in Los Angeles for allegedly offering
money to a potential juror before jurors were called.114 Bishop probably analyzed
the pretrial jury pool. His friendly sources were sympathetic Mormons in the
community who probably identified to him and Lee those veniremen who might vote
Bagley and the press also cite as evidence of a deal the fact that an all-Mormon
jury was selected for the first trial. Obviously, the argument goes, an all-Mormon
jury could be controlled by the church more easily than a part-Mormon jury.
Lee’s attorney advanced this theory during closing argument. Howard replied
by explaining that it was Lee’s attorney, not the prosecution, who had
struck non-Mormons from the panel. Bishop, said Howard, “was very anxious
to get every Gentile off the jury; and I kept striking off Mormons.”115
Because Mormons outnumbered non-Mormons by a huge margin, and because challenges
to jurors are typically limited to a certain number per side, it would have
been relatively easy for one side to unilaterally control the religious makeup
of the jury. According to the uncontested trial transcript, it was Lee’s
attorney who did this and not, as Bagley argues, Howard. Bishop’s unilateral
selection of an all-Mormon jury (obviously, a smart thing to do since Mormons
had previously voted to acquit) is an important fact in this story that Bagley
Other than the unilateral ability to strike a limited number of jurors, neither
party had control over the selection of the jury. According to press reports,
the selection process was trilateral, with each side and the court having its
say.116 It would be difficult to corrupt an entire jury pool for the twelve
who would be empanelled. In any event, there was no limit to public and press
contact with the jurors after the trial. After years of controversy over this
case, as far as I know, no juror claimed to have been part of a conspiracy or
to have received instructions from church authorities.117
Bagley also cites Judge Boreman himself for evidence of a deal:
The deal [Sumner Howard] struck with Brigham Young troubled even Howard. On
the first day of the trial, the prosecutor stopped Judge Boreman as he was going
to court. “Judge, I have eaten dirt & I have gone down out of sight
in dirt & expect to eat more dirt.” (p. 301)
Boreman never believed Howard had made a deal, as I will show from correspondence
discussed below. Nonetheless, the conversation quoted above says nothing of
consequence. Boreman does not claim this to be evidence of any deal and even
admits that another witness to the conversation denied it.118 Bagley tells us
that Howard’s disclosure troubled Boreman, but there is no evidence of
Finally, Bagley tells us that “prevailing wisdom had it that the LDS church
would dictate the outcome” and that one of Brigham Young’s sons,
John W. Young, took bets on the Chicago Board of Trade as to the outcome. Bagley’s
source for these two statements is the muckraking reporter John Beadle (p. 296).119
No serious scholar would accept as “prevailing wisdom” the conclusions
of reporters for modern newspapers. Why should we accept John Beadle for “prevailing
wisdom?” Admittedly, John W. Young may have been a colorful character,120
but I wouldn’t rely on Beadle for the account of bets taken on the Chicago
Board of Trade.
Evidence Refuting the Deal, Which Bagley Ignores. In the analysis
above, we have seen that the U.S. district attorney would never have entered
into a deal to thwart justice because he would have known it would have been
unenforceable. We have also seen that Bagley’s evidence of a deal is without
Looking at the evidence refuting the notion of a deal, we find it
is substantial. For years after the start of the Lee trial, until at least as
late as 1884, federal prosecutors and investigators actively sought to bring
other massacre participants to justice. Had the church and federal prosecutors
struck a deal that only Lee would be prosecuted, we should expect that all
parties to the deal would act thereafter in a manner consistent with a deal.
None of the parties acted in such a manner.
The Salt Lake Daily Tribune reports the church’s call for continued
prosecutions on 23 September 1876.121 A few days later and after Lee’s conviction,
the Tribune on 27 September 1876 published a summary of its grounds
for believing that Howard had cut a deal with the church.122 One day after the
Tribune’s accusation, and most likely in response to the Tribune’s
charges, Howard described to the U.S. attorney general meetings with the church
in which he lobbied for assistance in locating witnesses. “That aid was given.”
Howard also told the church authorities that he had no present evidence against
them. Howard also complained of political intrigue from former prosecutors to
malign his successful efforts.123
On 4 and 5 October 1876, U.S. District Attorney Howard wrote to U.S. Attorney
General Alphonso Taft and explained his plans to arrest Haight, Higbee, and
Stewart.124 Judge Boreman endorsed the 5 October letter with a note
of his own (reproduced on p. 241) to Taft.125
The letter from Boreman to the U.S. attorney general shows several things that
are fundamentally inconsistent with Bagley’s theories about the deal.
On the one hand, Bagley tells us that Boreman and Howard were troubled with
the deal Howard had to make to thwart justice for other perpetrators (p. 301).
On the other hand, the official correspondence shows that Boreman endorsed Howard’s
plan for further pursuit and arrest. Boreman agreed with Howard’s progress.
Under Bagley’s view of the facts, Boreman should have called for Howard’s
ouster. It seems Bagley has this completely wrong.
The evidence from official sources mounts against Bagley’s and Brooks’s
theory of a deal. Taft authorized additional personnel to support Howard’s
and Boreman’s request.126 U.S. Marshal William Nelson told Alphonso Taft
on 19 December 1876 of the discovery of physical evidence in California, asking
the Justice Department help to retrieve it.127 On 12 February 1877, Howard told
Taft that Howard had located a possible eyewitness to the massacre, a Fancher
child, now an adult languishing in the penitentiary for robbery. Howard asked
Taft for help from the Justice Department to corroborate the witness’s
identity. The secretary of war responded with the information requested.128
On 23 February 1877, Boreman communicated to Howard a desire to spend more money
on the marshal’s efforts to intercept the other perpetrators before they
fled to New Mexico.129 Howard and Nelson wrote to Taft on 3 March to urge that
“the importance of availing ourselves of every reasonable means to bring
others equally guilty to trial—is apparent. The trial of Lee has resulted
in developments that give us a reasonable hope that the others—if arrested
can be convicted.”130
Taft’s successor, Attorney General Charles Devens, responded to the correspondence
of the third and questioned whether a five-hundred-dollar reward requested for
the arrest of Haight, Higbee, and Stewart would be wasted.131 Lee was executed
four days later on 23 March 1877.
Three days after the execution, Howard recommended to Devens that undercover
officers be used to effect the remaining arrests.132 On 2 May 1877, after learning
that George C. Bates, Lee’s former attorney, wished a special appointment
to attempt the apprehension of Haight, Higbee, and Stewart, Howard complained
to Devens that Bates’s proposal was “another of Brigham Young’s
. . . games to thwart the officers” in their arrests.133 Why would Howard
have condemned the “games” of Brigham Young to thwart further arrests
if Howard had agreed, as Bagley and Brooks say, to forgo all arrests?
On 20 October 1877, over one year after the deal Bagley claims the government
made to thwart justice, Howard’s assistant and Boreman petitioned the
president of the United States for additional appropriations for a special agent.134
Howard wrote Devens, disagreeing with his assistant, asking that the money instead
be spent on undercover agents who could approach the fugitives by stealth.135
After Howard resigned in February 1878 to pursue a respected career in law and
politics in Michigan, federal efforts to arrest Haight, Higbee, and Stewart
continued. Boreman wrote to Devens on 1 January 1879 with a request for additional
appropriations. “The arrest of these men has been delayed so long that
the people are not anticipating any effort in that way. This then would be a
suitable time to make the arrests.” Eleven months later, Devens approved
the request.136 In 1884, or almost seven years after Bagley claims a deal was
made to frustrate further prosecutions, an acting attorney general confirmed
Utah inquiries from the U.S. marshal that reward money was still offered for
the arrests of Haight, Higbee, and Stewart.137
Thus all of this post-Lee-conviction activity by the prosecutor’s
office and the judiciary would have made no sense whatsoever if all agreed and
understood there was a deal to thwart justice. What is the answer from Young
critics and Lee advocates on this point? Was it all a subterfuge involving two
federal prosecutors, a federal judge, several U.S. marshals, a secretary of
war, and at least three U.S. attorneys general?
When Bagley gets to this postconviction official action, his analysis is stunted,
missing nearly all the correspondence mentioned above. He relies solely on a
doctoral dissertation by Rev. Robert Joseph Dwyer later published as The
Gentile Comes to Utah: A Study in Religious and Social Conflict (1862-1890).138
This is a weak work, at least when it discusses post-Lee official action, because
Dwyer lacked many of the official sources I have cited above. Nonetheless, with
the limited sources Dwyer possessed, he does not conclude that a deal had been
struck between prosecutors and the church.
What annoyed me most about Bagley’s use of Dwyer’s work is that
Bagley chose to cut and paste Dwyer’s own words into Blood of the Prophets
although Dwyer does not reach the same conclusions Bagley does. The dissonance
in some of Dwyer’s fuzzy logic becomes incomprehensible when Bagley repeats
almost verbatim the Dwyer logic as original thought.139
The Jailers and the Gilman Affidavit
When Bagley does get specific with Dwyer’s work, he focuses on a dispute
between a claimed jailer, assistant U.S. Marshal Edwin Gilman, and U.S. District
Attorney Sumner Howard (p. 308). Relying solely on Dwyer’s secondary
work, Bagley tells us that Gilman’s affidavit reported that Howard at
the trial intentionally suppressed Lee testimony that would have implicated
Brigham Young. Bagley, however, does not refer to Gilman’s affidavit because
Dwyer lacks one and, hence, Bagley does not have it. After telling us about
Gilman, Bagley reiterates the suggestion that “the Mormons had corrupted
Howard” (p. 309).
It is curious that when Bagley discusses the Gilman affidavit he relies on
a secondary source that never had the affidavit. The affidavit in full, and
Sumner Howard’s response to the affidavit, were published in the New York
Herald (James G. Bennett’s paper) on 12 April 1877. The day before, the
Salt Lake Daily Tribune had published Howard’s response on 11 April.140
In his affidavit, Gilman declared that he was a jailer in Beaver. At Howard’s
request, Lee prepared a confession, and “as read to and by me, charged
Brigham Young with direct complicity in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, as an
accessory before the fact, that Brigham Young had written letters to Dame and
Haight, at Parowan directing them to see that the emigrants were all put to
Bagley, however, does not tell us about Howard’s rebuttal to Gilman’s charge.
Howard’s rebuttal seems irrefutable, and indeed, I am unaware that Gilman ever
attempted a refutation of the rebuttal. Howard says that no Gilman affidavit
was ever found at the Justice Department (the New York Herald reported
it had been filed) and that Gilman disappeared so nobody could interview him.
Howard said that Gilman was never a jailer at Beaver. Howard said that Gilman
never had an opportunity to speak to Lee and thus Gilman would never have been
in a position to hear any purported confession. Howard reported that “Gilman
is a notorious liar; has been impeached here in Court, and there are not ten
men in the Territory acquainted with him who would take his oath or word.” Further,
the “confession of Lee has not been sold, altered, suppressed or in any other
manner put to an improper use.”142 Because the Gilman affair is Bagley’s chief
source for a “deal,” I find it remarkable that he does not even possess a copy
of the Gilman affidavit.
A more accurate account of the relationship between Howard and the jailers
can be seen from an earlier 21 March 1877 article in the New York Herald
that reported that the jailers were upset that Lee refused to implicate his
accomplices. Howard had given up trying to get information “as was expected
and as he indirectly promised.”143 Nowhere is there any shred of evidence that
Lee told Howard something that was not published in these newspapers. Nowhere
is Gilman mentioned in the earlier article. Nowhere do we read any corroboration
of the statements contained in the supposed Gilman affidavit. Justice of the
peace and jailer Benjamin Spear had claimed one month earlier that Judge Boreman
and other fellow officers were either timid or bribed by “Brigham Young’s blood
stained coin.” Spear claimed obliquely that John D. Lee had more to say and
had so told Spear at one time, but Spear wouldn’t get specific about his charges.
Spear also complained that John D. Lee was permitted to cohabit with his wives.144
U.S. Attorney General Devens asked Howard to come to Washington to explain the
jailers’ charges, specifically focusing only on a charge that the jailers
were selling a confession for profit. Nowhere in Devens’s letter does
Devens give any credence to Gilman’s or Spears’s vague claims that
Howard suppressed evidence that implicated Brigham Young. Devens would have
mentioned such an incendiary charge had there been any credibility to it.145
On 16 April 1877, Howard told Devens that “I will state here that the
allegations of Gilman are cruel wicked and infamous—without the least
grain of truth.”146 Bagley tells us that Howard went to Washington to
respond to the charges against him, but the official correspondence shows that
Devens accepted Howard’s explanation and reversed his request to see Howard.147
To summarize, the official correspondence shows years of prosecutorial effort
to apprehend massacre perpetrators. This effort overwhelms the meager and faulty
story Bagley puts together from the Gilman affair. To rely upon secondary material
for the “deal” theory, particularly where primary material was published
in the national press, is not good scholarship. Bagley’s lack of knowledge
of the official correspondence discussing prosecutorial effort is a significant
impediment to his credibility.
What really happened between Howard and the Church? Let me suggest
a plausible explanation for the facts that have led laypersons in the past to
think there was a deal to make Lee a scapegoat. After the first trial failed
and Sumner Howard replaced the prior prosecutors, the Salt Lake Daily Tribune
peppered its editorial column with charges of prosecutorial bungling. The paper
charged the prosecutors with grandstanding against church authorities and failing
to adduce specific evidence against Lee. U.S. District Attorney Howard, not
willing to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, decided he needed a different
strategy and slate of witnesses. However, many of the desired witnesses could
not be found. Howard met with church officials to lobby their support to encourage
witnesses to come forward. Howard assured church authorities that he sought
only justice and that he had no evidence against Brigham Young or George A.
Smith. Nor did Howard give up on Brigham Young; both Orson F. Whitney and the
New York Herald reported that Howard offered Lee a full pardon in exchange
for evidence against Brigham Young.148 Church authorities probably got the word
out to witnesses to encourage them to cooperate.
Few of the witnesses in the first trial testified in the second. Howard did
not call Klingensmith, who had turned state’s evidence in the previous
trial. This indicates to me that Howard did not want to repeat the errors of
his predecessors. Howard probably asked the church to have a nominal presence
at the trial. Daniel Wells agreed to testify, and he did so. Ostensibly, Wells’s
testimony was necessary to show that Lee was not a high church authority. The
night before his testimony, Wells preached a fiery sermon in Parowan demanding
justice, but not necessarily against Lee. (I have not seen the text of that
sermon.) The Deseret News also published editorials demanding justice. The jurors
deliberated. According to the Corry affidavit, the decision was not an easy
one to make. No external force influenced the jurors, other than the social
difficulty of convicting one’s own. But, in the end, Lee was convicted.
Investigations continued against other perpetrators, but they secreted themselves
effectively in the wilds of the desert. No doubt the other perpetrators had
plenty of Mormon friends and family willing to assist with their evasion.
The continued theory of a deal to offer Lee as a scapegoat lacks competent,
much less compelling, evidence. Speculation is a game played by Bagley and Brooks,
but there ought to be more than that.
General Concerns about the Quality of the Evidence
I conclude with some general concerns of Blood of the Prophets‘s use of
Rumors should not trusted. Some of the rumors Blood of the Prophets
repeats are despicable. One good example of the book’s misuse of rumor is its
analysis of Jacob Hamblin’s testimony from the second trial. Blood of the
Prophets theorizes that Jacob Hamblin’s sixteen-year-old adopted Indian
son, Albert, participated in massacre atrocities by raping two young women and
that Jacob later suggested that Lee committed the rapes (pp. 304-5). The
explanation we are offered is complicated and illogical. Blood of the Prophets
says that Hamblin, who was not at the massacre, transferred responsibility for
the atrocity from Albert, who claimed to be an observer of the massacre while
herding Jacob’s sheep,149 to Lee himself to “settl[e] old scores” with Lee (p. 305).
In other words, Blood of the Prophets suggests that Hamblin raped two
young victims, and to make things right somehow, or to make somebody pay for
the crime, Jacob Hamblin pinned the crime on Lee.
This rape story is fantasy. The massacre is a sad story, but to heap upon
it this salacious story is tabloid sensationalism. Beadle’s book and the Salt
Lake Daily Tribune are responsible for this rumor.150 Blood of the
Prophets should have relied on the transcript of the trial because there
is nothing in the transcript to suggest this story.151 Brooks, who relies upon
the transcript, criticized these stories of rape as “impossible tales” that
are “passed on as fact.”152 Blood of the Prophets, with no evidence
at all, says these tales “cannot be discounted entirely” (p. 151).
Anonymous sources are usually worthless. I have mentioned my objections
to Argus. Blood of the Prophets also spends several pages with the
“Discursive Remarks,” an anonymous manuscript held by the Utah State Historical
Society (p. 220). Bagley attributes the work to John D. Lee, as if another
Lee account can be trusted.
Vignettes should be presented with balance, regardless of which point
of view they support. Bagley reports the account of William Hawley’s objections
to the massacre and how he was chained to a wagon wheel when he voiced his objections
to the massacre plan (pp. 119-20, 143). It might have helped our understanding
of this story had Bagley not relegated to a footnote (p. 407) the explanation
that Hawley was one of the massacre perpetrators and that his story was written
from the headquarters of a schismatic organization opposed to polygamy and Brigham
Bagley tells us how Brigham Young needled General Johnston on the high plains
with a gift of salt leading Johnston to reject it with outrage when Johnston
believed that Brigham Young had implied the salt was poisoned (by saying that
it was not) (p. 196). It would have been nice had Bagley told us Johnston’s
troops covertly accepted the gift nonetheless.154
Bagley’s analysis of the provocation evidence displays the kind of healthy
cynicism he should have applied to the rest of his book, but Bagley is cynical
where the evidence abounds. He discounts stories of provocation by the Fancher
train as having been fabricated long after the fact. We are told that “no
two witnesses told the same story” and that the stories were “usually
based on hearsay, multiplied over the years.” There is “no evidence
to determine whether they had a basis in fact or were popular myths created
to justify murder.” They appeared “years after the events supposedly
occurred.” Some of the stories “originated with murderers such as
Lee and Higbee” (p. 117). Bagley should have applied this same analysis
to the frightfully slim and speculative evidence (dreams, anonymous sources,
family traditions, folklore) upon which he relies to indict Brigham Young and
George A. Smith.
On the issue of provocation, Bagley tends to agree with Argus’s claim
that the Fancher train was “one of the . . . most respectable and peaceful
that ever crossed the continent.” Press accounts in California days after
the massacre, however, reported fairly detailed Mormon claims of provocation
by the Fancher party,155 so it is impossible to say that these accounts were
made up long after the fact. In contrast, Brooks gives the provocation accounts
some credit, noting that they “come to us from many sources.”156
Breadth of knowledge in the political and social sciences is important
for this subject matter. I have mentioned a lack of breadth in the political
and social sciences in that Bagley does not handle well the external forces
brought to bear on the “Mormon question.” In another example of weakness of
breadth, or at least in a deep bow to political correctness, Blood of the
Prophets publishes, on an unnumbered page (photos following p. 224),
a photograph of three richly adorned Southern Paiutes, with a caption that says:
“This image from the William R. Palmer Collection identifies these Southern
Paiutes as Y-buts, Williams Brother, and Joe. Such photographs reveal that the
Paiutes were not the degraded subhumans often described in overland trail accounts.”
The caption implies that early accounts of the primitive Southern Paiutes were
bigoted. The photograph was probably staged. Although I have not been able to
identify the photographer (and neither has Bagley), it appears to be an 1870s
photograph by Jack Hillers, one of the West’s famous photographers who made
a name for himself on the second John Wesley Powell expedition. Photographers
of the day, and especially Hillers, would dress destitute desert Indians with
Plains Indian clothing.157 Contrary to the cotton, leather, and deerskin or
buffalo skin in the photograph, many accounts indicated that the Southern Paiutes
were desperately poor, wearing only breechcloths in the summer and adding some
rabbit skins for the winter.158 Powell reported that the Southern Paiutes were
the most primitive Indians he had ever seen.159
The story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Blood of the Prophets fascinates
us in a somewhat prurient sense. We read of sensational marital practices of
the Mormons, repulsive violence in the name of religion, and futile resistance
to the armed might of a nascent antebellum nation. Bagley describes the tyranny
of a domineering leader in an oppressive ecclesiastical society. A group of
innocent men, women, and children is caught in the convergence of forces between
the good of American Christian principles and the evil of Mormonism.
The story of the massacre cannot be told as Bagley wishes to tell it. If Bagley
wants to implicate Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and the nineteenth-century
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself, we should expect him to
weigh and sift what will probably be voluminous evidence of dubious quality
offered against an unpopular religion. Bagley accepts this dubious evidence
as well as raw speculation. He rejects or misses competent evidence. I challenge
the right of any historian to toss competent evidence on the ash heap in favor
of salacious rumor.
But salacious rumor is what we are often served up by Blood of the Prophets
in an agenda-driven account of history. We should approach the work with a healthy
dose of cynicism. I, for one, am convinced even more after reading Blood of the Prophets that there is no competent evidence to show that Brigham Young
and George A. Smith were accessories before or after the fact.
- Sally Denton, American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows,
September 1857 (New York: Knopf, 2003). Glen M. Leonard, Richard E. Turley Jr.,
and Ronald W. Walker, Tragedy at Mountain Meadows (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
- For another book of recent vintage which concludes that Brigham Young directed
the massacre, see William Wise, Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Legend
and a Monumental Crime (New York: Crowell, 1976). Although Wise reaches the same
conclusions as Bagley, for a number of reasons Wise’s work is different
and of lesser
- Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950; reprint, Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1991); Juanita Brooks, John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer, Builder,
Scapegoat (1962; reprint with corrections, Logan, Utah: Utah State University
Press, 1992); Juanita Brooks, Emma Lee (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1975;
2nd ed. with an introduction by Charles S. Peterson, 1984).
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 61.
- Shakespeare, Richard II, 3.2.121.
- Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict 1850-1859 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale
University Press, 1960), 142 (stampeded cattle), 143 (theft of mules), 144 (destruction
of supply trains), 160 (whipping up the Indians to fight).
- James Buchanan, “A Proclamation,” 6 April 1858, 35th Cong., 2nd
sess., S. Exec. Doc. 1, serial 974, pp. 69-72, “offering to the
inhabitants of Utah, who shall submit to the laws, a free pardon for the seditions
and treasons heretofore by them committed.”
- Lowenstein v. People, 54 Barb. 299 (N.Y. Sup. 1863). For example, a person
who knowingly rents real property to another for use as a house of prostitution
would be guilty of the offense. Ibid. The mere failure to disclose knowledge that
a crime has been committed does not give rise to a felony. Edmonson v. State,
10 S.W. 21, 22 (Ark. 1888). Thus one who learns about a house of prostitution
from another who confesses to have patronized it is not guilty of a felony. The
felony of accessory before the fact has been subsumed in most states in the offenses
committed by a principal, such as conspiracy or aiding and abetting. See, for
example, State v. Bowman, 92 Utah 540, 70 P.2d 458, 460 (1937) (distinction between
a principal crime and an accessory before the fact abolished in Utah in 1935).
- Dimick B. Huntington, diary, MS 1419 2, Family and Church History Department
Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter Church Archives),
13-14. Bagley interpolates “allies” where “grain”
should be used. I think Bagley’s conclusion is wrong. See Lawrence Coates,
review of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows,
by Will Bagley, BYU Studies 42/1 (2003): 153.
- Most historians will probably believe that “B” refers to Brigham
Young. I have my doubts, but it probably makes little difference to the analysis.
Wilford Woodruff verifies that a meeting occurred that day with Brigham Young,
so the “B” may be “Brigham.” However, nowhere else in
the diary is Brigham referred to as “B” (but usually as “Brigham”)
and, indeed, “B” appears as someone else earlier in the diary—possibly
Ben Simonds, who has been alternatively described as a Delaware Indian, a half-breed,
or a white Indian trader. Huntington, diary, 1. The diary is reproduced at www.mtn-meadows-assoc.com;
search “Dimick”; select depoJournals/Dimick/Dimick.2.htm (accessed
14 January 2004).
- Furniss, Mormon Conflict, 163.
- John D. Lee purportedly recounts a conversation he translated for George A.
Smith to the Indians, although Lee is not a good source for translated dialogue;
one should doubt Lee’s ability to complete the translation: “The General
told me to tell the Indians that the Mormons were their friends, and that the
Americans were their enemies, and the enemies of the Mormons, too; that he wanted
the Indians to remain the fast friends of the Mormons, for the Mormons were all
friends to the Indians; that the Americans had a large army just east of the mountains,
and intended to come over the mountains into Utah and kill all of the Mormons
and Indians in Utah Territory.” William W. Bishop, ed., Mormonism Unveiled:
or the Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee (St. Louis:
Bryan, Brand, 1877; reprint, Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, n.d.),
223. Although I have doubts about this encounter, it shows that Mormon leaders,
when they referred to the Americans, referred to the advancing armies and not
- Huntington, diary, 11-12.
- Indian Superintendent Garland Hurt determined for himself after the massacre
that Brigham Young sought Indian help to run cattle off. Northern Indian tribes
told him that “Dimie B. Huntington (interpreter for Brigham Young) and Bishop
West, of Ogden, came to the Snake village, and told the Indians that Brigham wanted
them to run off the emigrants’ cattle, and if they would do so they might
have them as their own.” Hurt continues: “I have frequently been told
by the chiefs of the Utahs that Brigham Young was trying to bribe them to join
in rebellion against the United States . . . on conditions that they would assist
him in opposing the advance of the United States troops.” Garland Hurt to
Jacob Forney, 4 December 1857, 35th Cong., 1st sess., H. Exec. Doc. 71, serial
956, p. 204. Huntington’s diary account of the event and Hurt’s
thirdhand account conflict. Huntington’s diary does not include a specific
request to run off the cattle of emigrants, but appears to be limited to a request
to run off the army’s cattle. Hurt’s thirdhand account of Huntington’s
statement, which Hurt reported after the massacre became public knowledge, includes
a request to run off the army’s cattle. Given Hurt’s well-acknowledged
hostility to Brigham Young, I would view Hurt’s statement about emigrants’
cattle as a probable exaggeration. But, it is not unreasonable to think that Huntington’s
vocalized strategy to the Indians was to obstruct overland traffic by running
everyone’s cattle off.
- T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: Appleton, 1873),
- Robert H. Briggs, “Wrestling Brigham,” review of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Will Bagley,
Sunstone, December 2002, 63. Wilford Woodruff, who met the Indian chiefs but was
not invited to the hour-long meeting with them, noted in his journal on that date
that twelve Indian chiefs from various tribes were in attendance. Scott G. Kenney,
ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: 1833-1898 Typescript (Midvale, Utah:
Signature Books, 1984), 5:88.
- For a discussion of the Fancher train’s progress, see Donald R. Moorman
with Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons: The Utah War (Salt Lake City:
University of Utah Press, 1992), 128: “Traveling in two sections, the train
weathered the journey across the plains and gave every indication that it intended
to pursue the snow-free southern route to California.” Federal surveyor
Lander described the “southern route” in F. W. Lander to W. M. F.
Magraw, 1859, 35th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Exec. Doc. 108, serial 1008, pp. 63-65.
A federal surveyor described the southern route as the route from “St. Louis
to Salt Lake City, as above; thence by way of Vegas de Santa Clara and Los Angeles.”
J. H. Simpson to Office of Topographical Engineers, Department of Utah, 22 February
1859, 35th Cong., 2nd sess., S. Exec. Doc. 40, serial 984, p. 37. Describing Simpson’s
report, one historian writes about the “northern route along the Oregon
Trail” and all other roads to the south. W. Turrentine Jackson, Wagon Roads
West: A Study of Federal Road Surveys and Construction in the Trans-Mississippi
West 1846-1869 (1952; reprint, with foreword by William H. Goetzmann, New
Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965), 29.
- Huntington, diary, 14. See also discussion of this date in Coates, review
of Blood of the Prophets.
- As explained at the end of this review, the Paiutes were the poorest of the
poor among Indians. Regarding the Paiutes and horses, as one article in the Salt
Lake Tribune notes: “The Utes, who exchanged the Indian slaves they captured
for horses, were known for their business acumen. But not the Paiutes. ‘The
Paiutes just ate them.'” Mark Havnes, “Spanish Trail Given
National Designation,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 March 2003, sec. D.
- Bishop, Mormonism Unveiled, 252.
- Robert K. Fielding, ed., The Tribune Reports of the Trials of John D. Lee
for the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Higganum, Conn.: Kent Books, 2000), 297;
Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:98; Huntington, diary, 14.
- Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 25 Cal. 4th 826, 852, 107 Cal. Rptr. 2nd
841, 863 (2001).
- Briggs, “Wrestling Brigham,” 65.
- “Testimony of James Holt Haslam: Taken at Wellsville, Cache County,
Utah, December 4, 1884,” supplement to Charles W. Penrose, The Mountain
Meadows Massacre: Who Were Guilty of the Crime? (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor
Office, 1884), in L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham
Young University, Provo, Utah.
- John A Widtsoe recounted his boyhood encounter with Haslam in his diary, as
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 142.
- Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:91; Orson F. Whitney, History
of Utah: Comprising Preliminary Chapters on the Previous History of Her Founders,
Accounts of Early Spanish and American Explorations in the Rocky Mountain Region,
the Advent of the Mormon Pioneers, The Establishment and Dissolution of the Provisional
Government of the State of Deseret, and the Subsequent Creation and Development
of the Territory (Salt Lake City: Cannon & Sons, 1892), 1:616.
- “Testimony of James Holt Haslam.”
- Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:91; Everett L. Cooley, ed., Diary
of Brigham Young 1857 (Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund, University of Utah Library,
- Cooley, Diary of Brigham Young, 78-79.
- Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 5:229 (13 September 1857).
- Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:92-96.
- Whitney, History of Utah, 1:615-16.
- Many, including Richard Poll, believe the declaration of martial law was first
issued 5 August 1857. Fielding, Tribune Reports, 296; Richard D. Poll, “The
Utah Expedition,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4:1501 (photocopy of declaration).
If that is true, the 15 September 1857 republication would not fit at all in Bagley’s
theory that the declaration was created to facilitate the massacre (p. 192)
because the declaration was published weeks before. Bagley does not appear to
mention the 5 August order; the two are identical. For now, I lack evidence that
the 5 August order was ever published except for the copy of it in Poll’s
article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Bagley may be right that the first publication
was in September, but he does not address the consensus alternate view, which
offers a dramatically different and more benign explanation. The timing of the
issuance of that order has led to substantial confusion, partially because of
errors in the original indictment—an error upon which Lee’s attorneys
attempted to capitalize at trial. See Whitney’s observation of the rather
common timing error in Whitney, History of Utah, 2:816-17. Bancroft erred
over the timing of the martial law order and the commencement of the attack, but
he concluded nonetheless that Brigham Young had nothing to do with the attack.
Hubert Howe Bancroft,
(San Francisco: History,
1889), 560. Another work that stumbles over the date of the event is the very
entertaining Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage,
Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices
and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Dustin, Gilman, 1875), 237-49.
- Whitney, History of Utah, 1:615-17; Comprehensive History of the Church,
- Furniss, Mormon Conflict, 124-26.
- “Mrs. McLean Pratt is said to have recognized one or more of the emigrants
as being present at the murder of the apostle.” “Extracts from ‘Open
Letters from “Argus” to Brigham Young,'” in Stenhouse,
Rocky Mountain Saints, 431.
- Charles Wandell was appointed a captain of fifty-two by church officials in
the evacuation of the San Bernardino church members. He came through Mountain
Meadows a few months after the massacre. He settled in Beaver. According to Bagley,
in 1871, shortly after his excommunication from the church, Wandell began publishing
his pseudonymic “Argus” letters about the massacre in the Corinne
(Utah) Reporter. He joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints in 1873. His extensive files on the massacre were destroyed by a fire at
the Herald Publishing House in 1907. Marjorie Newton, Hero or Traitor: A Biographical
Study of Charles Wesley Wandell (Independence, Mo.: Herald, 1992).
- William Bishop to John D. Lee, 23 February 1877, Papers of Jacob Smith Boreman,
1857-1912, Huntington Library.
- Bishop, Mormonism Unveiled, 221, 223-24.
- Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:88. Orson F. Whitney says: “The
fact that he had never heard of the Arkansas emigrants before he met them at Corn
Creek, where he camped near them one night on his way back to Salt Lake City,
and that he immediately started east and heard no more of them until he reached
Bridger, appears to have escaped the notice of those who subsequently sought to
associate him with the tragedy at Mountain Meadows.” Whitney, History of
- Bishop, Mormonism Unveiled, 381; John H. Beadle, Western Wilds, and the Men
Who Redeem Them (Cincinnati: Jones Brothers, 1879), 527-28; Furniss, Mormon
- Wren v. Com., 26 Gratt. 952, 67 Va. 952 (Va. 1875). Moreover, a cleric who
receives information about a crime from a penitent cannot become an accessory
because the information is privileged. Francis Wharton, A Treatise on Criminal
Law, 9th ed. (Philadelphia: Kay and Brother, 1884), 443-45. Although there
is no direct evidence that Lee gave Brigham Young a penitential confession, any
confession would have been privileged and completely protected from any disclosure.
Church attorneys may have justifiably told Brigham Young that anything Lee told
him about the massacre was a privileged confession and could not be relied on
for any purpose except church discipline.
- Brigham Young, affidavit, 30 July 1875, in Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre,
- Bishop, Mormonism Unveiled, 251-53.
- Trial Transcript, People of the Territory of Utah v. John D. Lee (1875), Utah
State Historical Society, MS B 915 (Charles Peterson copy), 27, 93. Klingensmith
did purport to hear Brigham Young give directions about keeping something a secret.
- Klingensmith was excommunicated from the church in 1871 but said he left the
church on his own accord in 1868 or 1869. Trial Transcript (1875), 96.
- Huntington, diary, 18-19. Brigham Young tells Arapeen “to help
himself to what he wanted,” but Arapeen demurs, saying that he had no fight
with “the Americans.” Then, as the conversation progresses, “he
told me that the Piedes [Southern Paiutes] had killd the whole of a Emigrant company
& took all of their stock & it was right[.] that was before the news had
reached the City.” I don’t think Huntington made this diary entry
contemporaneously with events, otherwise why would he say that Arapeen knew of
the massacre “before the news had reached the City”? This entry causes
me to suspect that the Huntington diary entry was written after the fact (and
thus mixing up events with a rumored story, later shown to be false, of another,
earlier massacre), but the entry refutes Blood of the Prophets‘s claim that
Arapeen first told Brigham Young about the massacre and then received instructions
to take the plunder. Ibid.
- James Buchanan, “A Proclamation,” 6 April 1858, 35th Cong., 2nd
sess., S. Exec. Doc. 1, serial 974, pp. 69-72, “offering to the
inhabitants of Utah, who shall submit to the laws, a free pardon for the seditions
and treasons heretofore by them committed.” This is not exactly an amnesty
for all crimes relating to the invasion. Governor Cumming expanded upon this to
include “all criminal offenses associated with or growing out of the overt
acts of sedition and treason are merged in them.” Otis G. Hammond, The Utah
Expedition: 1857-1858: Letters of Capt. Jesse A. Gove, 10th Inf., U.S.A.,
of Concord, N.H., to Mrs. Gove, and Special Correspondence of the New York Herald
(Concord, N.H.: New Hampshire Historical Society, 1928), 356-57.
- Hurt to Forney, serial 956, p. 203.
- Forney told others that Mormons “were all included in the President’s
proclamation and pardon, and would not be tried or punished for any offense whatever
committed prior to the issuing of the pardon; that Judge Cradlebaugh was not a
fit man for office,” apparently accompanying his comments about the judge
with “unmeasured terms, no language being too low or filthy.” James
Lynch, affidavit before D. R. Eckles [Chief Justice of Utah Supreme Court], 27
July 1859, 36th Cong., 1st sess., S. Doc. 42, serial 1033, p. 84.
- Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints, 402-3.
- “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” Harper’s Weekly: Journal
of Civilization, 14 August 1875, 661-66 at 666.
- New York Post, cited in Beadle, Western Wilds, 514. Beadle was a journalist
for the Union Vedette and the Salt Lake Daily Tribune, as well as a lawyer and
a judicial clerk. Beadle’s best-known work was Brigham’s Destroying
Angel: Being the Life, Confession, and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious
Bill Hickman, the Danite Chief of Utah: Written by Himself, with Explanatory Notes
by J. H. Beadle (Salt Lake City: Shepard Book, 1904).
- James F. Simon, What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and
the Epic Struggle to Create a United States (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002),
epigraph following dedication page; Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question:
Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 57.
- Simon, What Kind of Nation, 53.
- Ibid., 112-16.
- Pennsylvania law professor Sarah Barringer Gordon also sees the assault upon
polygamy as an extension of the assault upon southern states’ rights. Gordon,
The Mormon Question, 57.
- Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:93.
- John Cradlebaugh and Charles E. Sinclair to James Buchanan, 16 July 1859,
36th Cong., 1st sess., S. Exec. Doc. 32, serial 1031, p. 19.
- Black to Wilson, 17 May 1859, serial 1031, p. 9.
- Ibid., 10.
- A[lbert] S[idney] Johnston to Lieutenant Colonel L. Thomas, 27 April 1859,
36th Cong., 1st sess., S. Exec. Doc. 42, serial 1033, pp. 4-5.
- [U.S. Attorney General] J. S. Black to John Cradlebaugh and Charles E. Sinclair,
17 May 1859, 36th Cong., 1st sess., S. Exec. Doc. 32, serial 1031, p. 2.
- Confiscation Cases, 74 U.S. 456, 458 (1868).
- Cradlebaugh and Sinclair to Buchanan, 16 July 1859, serial 1031, p. 8, emphasis
- Alexander Wilson to J. S. Black, 15 November 1859, 36th Cong., 1st sess.,
S. Exec. Doc. 32, serial 1031, pp. 40-42. Cradlebaugh and Sinclair
would not respond to Wilson’s letter.
- Ibid., 29.
- Ibid., 40.
- The Parrish-Potter murders resulted from a shootout between several people
in Springville in March 1857 (pp. 75-76).
- Although the error makes no difference to the massacre analysis, Blood of the Prophets confuses the notorious April 1858 Henry Jones murders in Payson with
another crime in the fall of 1857 in Springville (p. 199). In the Henry Jones
case, a sensational crime widely reported in the press, three people, including
an infant, were murdered. The circumstances of the crime were so lurid that nineteenth-century
sources had Victorian difficulty describing it. See Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain
Saints, 469. Twice there were multiple indictments and once a conviction of a
local law enforcement officer. See D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions
of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 253, 537 n. 186 (I disagree
with Quinn’s conclusions about the meaning of these events).
- Wilson to Black, 15 November 1859, serial 1031, pp. 21-32. Instead
of taking up the massacre, the days were filled with an investigation of offenses
committed at Camp Floyd, Indian rape cases, the murder of Henry Jones, and the
Parrish and Potter murders.
- In a 4 April 1859 journal entry, Captain Albert Tracy wrote: “Whatever
the just merits of the case, from either legal or moral points of view, it has
been conceded by Colonel Johnson [sic] at Camp Floyd that he will withdraw his
troops from Provo. This, leaving the court of Judge Cradlebaugh with no element
of protection, necessitates the speedy closing up of the cases in which he was
making so noble a progress, together with the retirement of himself, and his marshals
and assistants to safer quarters.” Albert Tracy, “Journal of Captain
Albert Tracy,” Utah Historical Quarterly 13 (1945): 64-65.
- As Wilson’s letter stated: “[The grand jury found a] true bill
against William Bird, for murder in the Parrish and Potter case (same case which
was before the court at Provo;) and a true bill against George W. Hancock as principal,
and seven others as accessories, in the murder of Henry Jones, at Payson, in April,
1858, (same case before the court at Provo).” Wilson to Black, 15 November
1859, serial 1031, pp. 29-32 at 32.
- Ibid., 42.
- A[lfred] Cumming to [Secretary of State] Lewis Cass, 1 February 1860, 36th
Cong., 1st sess., H. Exec. Doc. 78, serial 1056, pp. 43-44, emphasis
removed. Governor Cumming also noted that “perhaps one of the strongest
reasons which prevents the administration of law in Utah is a conviction generally
held by the people of this Territory that the minds of the United States judges
are so blinded by prejudice against them that Mormons can hardly expect a fair
and impartial decision in any case where they are concerned. Many even believe
that there is a strong desire on the part of the United States judges to convict
a prisoner of crime if that prisoner be a Mormon.” Ibid.
- William H. Rodgers to [U.S. District Attorney] A[lexander] Wilson, 8 August
1859, 36th Cong., 1st sess., S. Exec. Doc. 32, serial 1031, p. 41.
- Wilson to Black, 15 November 1859, serial 1031, p. 41.
- Stephen V. Jones, John F. Steward, and Walter Clement Powell, “Journals,”
Utah Historical Quarterly 16-17 (1948-49): 107.
- Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, A Canyon Voyage: A Narrative of the Second Powell
Expedition down the Green-Colorado River from Wyoming, and the Explorations on
Land, in the Years 1871 and 1872 (New Haven: Putnam’s Sons, 1908), 153.
- George H. Williams to George C. Bates, 2 November 1872, Microfilm NND 170
(3015), consisting of documents obtained from Record Group (hereafter RG) 60,
123, 205, and 267, order NND 69-170 A, National Archives.
- Jacob Boreman to [Jabez] Sutherland and [George C.] Bates, 13 February 1875,
Papers of Jacob Smith Boreman, 1857-1912, Huntington Library.
- Jacob Boreman wrote: “The people generally were foreigners.” Leonard
Arrington, ed., “Crusade against Theocracy: The Reminiscences of Judge Jacob
Smith Boreman of Utah, 1872-1877,” Huntington Library Quarterly 24
(November 1960): 7 n. 6. Arrington notes from Boreman’s papers that Boreman
believed that Brigham Young’s real name was “Jong” and that
his father was a British mercenary who fought the Americans in the War of 1812.
- James B. McKean to George H. Williams, 12 November 1873, “April 1873,”
RG 60, box 1014, National Archives. “Converts from among the humble peasants
of Europe are coming here in large numbers, and are coming to stay.” Ibid.
- Brigham Young, affidavit, 30 July 1875, in Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre,
287. There were brief times after the massacre in which Brigham Young held federal
executive power in Utah. Given the advance of the army, other matters consumed
Governor Young’s attention.
- “The reason of this long delay, this stubborn deafness to the demands
of justice, this contemptuous . . . investigation of the Mountain Meadows Massacre
was not had at once, and subsequent administrations cannot escape from a share
in the same responsibility.” Undated St. Louis Republican editorial quoted
in Fielding, Tribune Reports, 189.
- For the first trial in 1875, Blood of the Prophets cites nothing more than
sensational paraphrases of the testimony by the Salt Lake Daily Tribune eleven
times, Beadle’s exposé four times, and the actual transcript four
times (pp. 433-44). Bagley cites “[Lockley, Frederic]. The Lee
Trial. Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing Co., 1875,” which is actually The
Lee Trial!: An exposé of the Mountain Meadows massacre: being a condensed
report of the prisoner’s statement, testimony of witnesses, charge of the
judge, arguments of counsel, and opinions of the press upon the trial by the Salt
Lake Daily Tribune reporter (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing, 1875).
- Edward Steers Jr., His Name Is Still Mudd: The Case against Dr. Samuel Alexander
Mudd (Gettysburg: Thomas, 1997), 156 nn. 31 and 32.
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 294; Arrington, “Crusade against
- Arrington, “Crusade against Theocracy,” 36 n. 55.
- Trial Transcript (1875). I have read this transcript with a critical eye.
The absence of evidence made his testimony seem silly.
- “The Mountain Meadows Murderers Admitted to Bail: The Incompetency of
the United States to Try Criminals in Utah Admitted,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune,
12 May 1876, quoted in Fielding, Tribune Reports, 204.
- The paper reports that a deal had to be inferred from the facts that Howard
had dismissed the charges against William Dame, that Howard had selected an all-Mormon
jury, and that in his opening statement he stated that he had no evidence to indict
higher church authorities. The Salt Lake Daily Tribune also pointed to Howard’s
disparagement of the Liberal party, which was so closely affiliated with the Tribune.
“A Word in Defense,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 27 September 1876, p.
2, col. 1.
- Nickelson v. Wilson, 60 N.Y. 362 (N.Y. 1875); Cameron v. McFarland, 4 N.C.
- U.S. v. Ford, 99 U.S. 594-606 (1878).
- U.S. v. Lee, 4 McLean 103, 26 F. Cas. 910-11 (C.C.D.Ill. 1846). In U.S.
v. Lee, the federal prosecutor was of the view that the most a grant of immunity
could give was an equitable claim to a pardon and a delay in prosecution. U.S.
v. Lee advanced the judicial notion that a court, upon application, could grant
immunity to a witness less culpable than the accused.
- U.S. v. Daniel, 19 U.S. 542-49 (1821) held that a person who has admissible
knowledge of a crime but withholds it may be subject to misdemeanor prosecution
for misprision of felony.
- Whitney, History of Utah, 2:824.
- Lee said in his confession published posthumously: “It was my duty,
with the two drivers, to kill the sick and wounded who were in the wagons, and
to do so when we heard the guns of the troops fire. . . . As we heard the guns,
I ordered a halt and we proceeded to do our part.” John D. Lee, in Bishop,
Mormonism Unveiled, 241.
- Trial Transcript, People of the Territory of Utah v. John D. Lee (1876),
Utah State Historical Society, MS B915, Charles Peterson copy, 86-101. Jacob
Hamblin was not present at the massacre. Hamblin was the head of the Indian mission
to the southern territory, and he was away at the time of the massacre. He did
not, however, exactly escape the massacre with his reputation intact. A seven-year-old
survivor, Rebecca Dunlap, identified Hamblin as a participant. Hartt Wixom, Hamblin:
A Modern Look at the Frontier Life and Legend of Jacob Hamblin (Springville, Utah:
Cedar Fort, 1996), 84. None of the other perpetrators ever identified Hamblin
as being present. Ibid., 85. Bagley refers briefly to Dunlap’s sighting
of Hamblin but rightly dismisses it (p. 148).
- Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 24 September 1876, in Fielding, Tribune Reports,
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 198.
- Hamblin testified: “Q. Are you certain you have told all you know about
it? A. Yes, sir, I am certain I know all I tell. Q. Answer the other part? A.
I think I have. Everything of importance. Q. Have you told it all? A. No sir.
Q. Tell the balance? A. I would not kile [sic] to undertake it.” Trial Transcript
- Wixom, Hamblin, 144.
- As Lee’s attorney Bishop argued in closing: “Jake comes on the
stand and testifies as carefully and considered as it is possible for a man to
testify.” “His memory was good.” Bishop needed Hamblin to be
a truthful witness because he used Hamblin’s testimony to contrast against
allegedly inconsistent conduct on the part of Brigham Young. Trial Transcript,
People of the Territory of Utah v. John D. Lee (1876), Papers of Jacob Smith Boreman,
1857-1912, “1876 Huntington Trial Transcript,” Huntington Library,
box 2, book 4, p. 20; see also Wixom, Hamblin, 155.
- John D. Lee to Emma B. Lee, 21 September 1876, in Samuel N. Henrie, ed.,
Writings of John D. Lee, 2nd ed. (Tucson, Ariz.: Fenestra Books, 2002), 408.
- A partial text of Corry’s statement: “I came to Utah when I was
two years old and have lived here for eighty-three years, and I have been through
the mill. I knew John D. Lee very well and many a time I have stayed at his home.
I was on the jury that convicted him, and I was the last man to give in to have
him executed. President Young furnished the evidence and the witnesses that convicted
John D. Lee. Do you believe it? It is true nevertheless. I know for I was there
at the court at the time of the trial. It was the same as Nephi killing Laban.
Better for one man to die than for a whole nation to dwindle in unbelief. John
D. Lee was the sacrifice. He paid the penalty, but just the same he was a good
man. They never published that thing correctly. I know John D. Lee was not altogether
to blame. He was caught in the snare. I couldn’t give in with the jury.
Granger took me to one side and talked and reasoned with me, but I felt miserable,
just as though the devil had some power over me. Finally S. S. Barton, a juror,
told me a dream he had. ‘We, the jury, were all in a field harvesting, and
had our rifles with us. A flock of blackbirds rose up from everywhere and scattered
away.’ These blackbirds represented the apostates and the mob. They wanted
Brigham Young, and John D. Lee knew it. It meant that some one must be the white
goose. As in the dream, a flock of white geese flew by and we shot at them, killing
one. Then the great flock of blackbirds rose. Lee was the white goose. I still
disliked very much to give in to the jury for I know that Lee was not the only
one responsible for the dead, and some one had to be sacrificed, so at last I
gave in, and immediately I felt so relieved and happy that I gave in and the evil
influence left me. Lee was as much a sacrifice for the Church as any man had ever
been. The Lord did the best He could at all times with the people He had to work
with. The Lord has been merciful to me and has shown me the Gospel and I am grateful
to him for doing so.” Andrew Corry, affidavit, 11 March 1932, in Edna Lee
Brimhall, “Gleanings concerning John D. Lee” (unpublished, 1958),
MS 6313, Church Archives, and at Northern Arizona University Library, pp. 52-54.
Though riveting, this is not evidence.
- Bishop, Mormonism Unveiled, 33.
- Lorraine R. Manderscheid, Some Descendants of John Doyle Lee (Bellevue, Wash.:
Family Research and Development, 1996), ch. 7.
- William Franklin Lee, statement, 28 February 1931, in Brimhall, “Gleanings
concerning John D. Lee,” 21-23.
- Another one of Rachel and John’s children, Amorah, was nineteen years
old on the date of the second trial. She said in a family statement that she crawled
on hands and knees with a friend to eavesdrop on a “council” meeting
wherein “the jury was composed of Mormon men and the jurymen chosen were
those who wore a star.” Amorah Lee Smithson, statement, 18 February 1930,
in Brimhall, “Gleanings concerning John D. Lee,” 27. I think Amorah
got the story wrong and repeated it to her family. It is more likely that Bishop
had a list of potential jurors, with the ones he wanted marked with a star, and
that is the story Amorah heard, and which she later repeated to Frank.
- Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow for the Defense: A Biography (1941; reprint,
New York: Signet Classic, 1971), 344-79.
- “1876 Huntington Trial Transcript,” Huntington Library, box 2,
book 5, p. 1.
- “The Material That Mormon Juries Are Composed of,—The Tallest
Old Liar in Southern Utah.—The Whole Court Astounded at the Revelations.—Some
Things Which Look Passing Strange to a Man Up a Tree,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune,
14 September 1876, in Fielding, Tribune Reports, 211-12.
- In a secondhand account, which Bagley does not mention, Edna Lee Brimhall
claims juror Walter Granger told her in 1931 that the jury was “pledged
to find a verdict of ‘guilty.'” Brimhall, “Gleanings
concerning John D. Lee,” 4. The year 1931 was the year she collected affidavits
and statements to support her unpublished work; there is no affidavit from Granger.
Even so, in this secondhand account, Granger does not mention specific external
pressure from church authorities.
- Boreman Journal, in Arrington, “Crusade against Theocracy,” 42.
- Beadle, Western Wilds, 512.
- On 6 October 1876, John W. Young (1844-1924) replaced George A. Smith
in the First Presidency upon the latter’s death. The Salt Lake Daily Tribune
claimed that John W. Young was a rake. Brigham Young relied upon his son for his
business acumen in railroading and mining. Dean C. Jessee, ed., Letters of Brigham
Young to His Sons (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 91-93.
- Deseret News editorial, as reviewed in “The Work Done at Last,”
Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 23 September 1857, p. 1, col. 2.
- “A Word in Defense,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 27 September 1876,
p. 2, col. 1.
- “Hon Alphonso Taft, Attorney General[;] Washington City D.C.[;] Sir[:]
The trial of John D. Lee indicted for murder committed at the Mountain Meadows
in September 1857, has just been held at this place and the result is a verdict
of ‘guilty of murder in the first degree.’ The result seems to be
displeasing to certain factionists here who have heretofore conducted this case
and those connected with the ‘Mountain Meadow Massacre’ with reference
more to outside matters than to the cause at bar. It has been [their] public boast
that the former trial of John D. Lee in July 1875 was not for the purpose of convicting
the prisoner, but to fix the [crime] of the Mountain Meadow butchery upon the
Mormon Church. The result was the call for a large amount of public money, and
no result except the advancement of certain schemes and aspirations of local politicians
whose attitude is that of uniform condemnation of the administration and its appointees.
In the trial just concluded, the case of John D. Lee, and that alone was tried.
It became apparent early in the investigation, that there is no evidence whatsoever
to connect the chief authorities of the Mormon Church with the Massacre, on the
contrary those authorities produced documents and other evidence showing clearly
that not only was that great crime solely an individual offense on the part of
those who committed it, but that the orders, letters[,] proclamations etc. which
issued from the central Mormon authority which was also at that time the Territorial
authority were directly and positively contrary to all shedding of blood, not
only of emigrants passing through the Territory, but also forbade the killing
of the Soldiers of Johnsons [sic] Army which was marching on Utah. Being satisfied
of this the prosecution laid the case before the Mormon leaders and ask[ed] their
aid in unraveling the mystery of this foul crime. That aid was given and the horrid
testimony is public from the mouths of eye witnesses, convicting the prisoner
without the shadow of a doubt. Those whose thunder is stolen by this conviction
and the fixing of the crime where the evidence places it, and who failure in the
same prosecution before, are exceeding angry, and are making to the public such
misrepresentations as their Malice suggests and are said to be also forwarding
certain of their statements to Washington. It seems marvelous that any set of
men should reject the conviction of the chief butcher of Mountain Meadows, but
disappointment and envy, together with the loss of political capital, will drive
men into strange positions. The outline of the case is reported to you herein
with the assurance that nothing has been done in the management of the prosecution
of which any officer of the government high or low, need be ashamed. William Nelson,
U.S. Marshal[;] Sumner Howard, U.S. District Attorney. William Nelson and Sumner
Howard to Alphonso Taft, 28 September 1876, General Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters,”
RG 60, box 1015, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard to Alphonso Taft, 5 October 1876, General Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters,”
in Source Chronological Files 1871-74, RG 60, box 1015, National Archives;
Sumner Howard to Alphonso Taft, 4 October 1876, General Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters,”
in Source Chronological Files 1871-74, RG 60, box 1015, National Archives.
- Jacob S. Boreman to U.S. Attorney General Taft, 24 October 1876, General
Records of the Department of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows
Massacre Letters,” in Source Chronological Files 1871-74, RG 60, box
1015, National Archives.
- Alphonso Taft to Sumner Howard, 8 November 1876, Records of the Department
of Justice, RG 60, M 701, reel 7, Instruction Book G, National Archives. “Complying
with your request, which is seconded by the recommendations of Judge Boreman I
have this day commissioned John S. Sargent as Special Agent of this Department
to perform the services as set forth in your letter.” Ibid.
- William Nelson to Alphonso Taft, 19 December 1876, Microfilm NND 170 (3015),
consisting of documents obtained from RG 60, 123, 205 and 267, order NND 69-170
A, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard to Alphonso Taft, 26 February 1877, Records Relating to the
Mountain Meadows Massacre of September 13, 1857, Records of the Adjutant General’s
Office, RG 94, Record and Pension Office file 751395; [Secretary of War] George
W. McCrary to Attorney General [Alphonso Taft], 23 February 1877, Records Relating
to the Mountain Meadows Massacre of September 13, 1857, Records of the Adjutant
General’s Office, RG 94, Record and Pension Office file 751395.
- Jacob Boreman to Sumner Howard, 23 February 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters,”
RG 60, box 1019, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard and William Nelson to Alphonso Taft, 3 March 1877, Records
of the Department of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre
Letters,” RG 60, box 1019, National Archives.
- Charles Devens to Sumner Howard, 16 March 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, RG 60, M 701, reel 7, Instruction Book G, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard to Charles Devens, 16 April 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,”
RG 60, box 1019, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard to Charles Devens, 2 May 1877, Records of the Department of
Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,”
RG 60, box 1019, National Archives. Bates’s proposal was not a game, but
a highly unethical proposal to turn on his former clients Haight, Higbee, and
Stewart. He apparently sought to retaliate against the men and the church for
an unspecified offense, but it appears to relate to a falling out with his partner,
Jabez Sutherland. Bates told Judge Boreman: “All those other men now under
indictment are as guilty as old John D. Lee himself, and they can be, and ought
to be captured, brought into Court, tried, convicted and sentenced to death, and
I possess the power to aid in the accomplishment of that event. They have sold
me out, turned their back upon me, and put thier [sic] case into the hands of
Sutherland, who intrigues with others to let them escape.” George C. Bates
to Jacob S. Boreman, 9 March 1877, Records of the Department of Justice, Letters
Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,” RG 60, box 1019,
National Archives. Judge Boreman saw Bates for what he was. “He cannot be
trusted with the arrest of any one. He is totally unreliable.” Jacob S.
Boreman to Charles Devens, 25 April 1877, Records of the Department of Justice,
Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,” RG 60,
box 1019, National Archives.
- Presley Denny, C. M. Hawley, and Charles M. Howard (with endorsement by Jacob
S. Boreman) to the President of the United States, 20 October 1877 (date received
by Department of Justice), Records of the Department of Justice, Letters Received,
“Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,” RG 60, box 1019, National
- Sumner Howard to Charles Devens, 8 November 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,”
RG 60, box 1019, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard to Charles Devens, Records of the Department of Justice, Letters
Received, 2 January 1878, “January 1878 to February 1878,” RG 60,
box 1020, National Archives; Jacob Boreman to Charles Devens, 7 January 1879,
Papers of Jacob Smith Boreman, 1857-1912, Huntington Library; Charles Devens
to Jacob S. Boreman, 15 December 1879, Papers of Jacob Smith Boreman, 1857-1912,
- E. A. Ireland to [Attorney General] B. H. Brewster, 18 January 1884, Microfilm
NND 170 (3015), consisting of documents obtained from RG 60, 123, 205, and 267,
order NND 69-170 A, National Archives; [Acting Attorney General] S. J. Phillips
to E. A. Ireland, 25 January 1884, Microfilm NND 170 (3015), consisting of documents
obtained from RG 60, 123, 205 and 267, order NND 69-170 A, National Archives.
- Robert J. Dwyer, The Gentile Comes to Utah: A Study in Religious and Social
Conflict (1862-1890), rev. 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Publishers, 1971).
- Dwyer wrote that “he [Howard] indicated that these involved the risk
of incurring the enmity of the Gentile faction in order to lull the suspicions
of the Mormons.” Dwyer, The Gentile Comes to Utah, 104, emphasis added.
Bagley wrote that “he [Howard] claimed he had provoked Utah’s non-Mormons
to lull the suspicions of the Mormons” (p. 308, emphasis added). Neither
Dwyer nor Bagley made a lot of sense.
- “Lee’s Confession. A Guard’s Charges against District Attorney
Howard. The Culprit Deceived. Promised a Full Pardon for a Full Revelation. Was
Brigham Blackmailed? Lee Shot, His Document Garbled; But No Further Arrests,”
New York Herald, 12 April 1877, p. 7. The Gilman charges were also discussed the
day before in “Lee Confession. Evidence Accumulating That It Was Garbled
by Law Officers in the Interest of Brigham Young. Speculating Officials: The Gilman
Affidavit and Lee’s Hopes for a Reprieve,” New York Herald, 11 April
1877, p. 7; “The Attorney General Says There Is No Gilman Statement on File.
Judge Boreman Reappointed to His Old Position. The Attorney General and Lee,”
Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 12 April 1877, in Fielding, Tribune Reports, 290-91.
- “Lee’s Confession,” New York Herald, 12 April 1877, p.
- “Attorney General Says There Is No Gilman Statement on File,”
- “John D. Lee: Preparations for His Execution at Beaver City, Utah;
Arrival of the Regular Troops; The Condemned Man Secluded by His Jailors; He Denounces
Brigham Young; Lee’s Wife and Sons Looking for Indian Aid; A Change in the
Church; Brigham Young, Jr. Thinks Lee Will Not Be Executed; Review of the Crime
and the Trials,” New York Herald, 21 March 1877, p. 7.
- Benjamin A. Spear to Charles Devens, 2 March 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mar. 1877 to April 1877,” RG 60, box
1019, National Archives. See Whitney’s brief treatment of the Gilman affair
at Whitney, History of Utah, 2:824.
- Charles Devens to Sumner Howard, 11 April 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, RG 60, M 701, reel 7, Instruction Book G, National Archives.
- Sumner Howard to Charles Devens, 16 April 1877, Records of the Department
of Justice, Letters Received, “Mountain Meadows Massacre Letters 1877,”
RG 60, box 1019, National Archives.
- “Your letter of the 16th received. Upon reading it I think your presence
here not necessary and revoke previous telegram of that day. If upon receiving
your report I should think otherwise, will telegraph to you.” Charles Devens
to Sumner Howard, 23 April 1877, Microfilm NND 170 (3015), consisting of documents
obtained from RG 60, 123, 205 and 267, order NND 69-170 A, National Archives.
- Whitney, History of Utah, 2:824; “Lee’s Confession,” 7.
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1077ndash;8.
- “The manner in which Hamlin [sic] recited Lee’s account convinced
some who heard it that another crime was committed before the girls were killed.”
Beadle, Western Wilds, 516. “The reluctance with which this evidence was
drawn out showed there was something more shocking yet untold.” “Harrowing
Details of the Bloody Massacre,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 17 September 1876,
in Fielding, Tribune Reports, 220.
- “A. There was two young ladies brought out. Q. By whom? A. By an Indian
chief at Cedar City, and we asked him what he should do with them, and the Indian
killed one and he killed the other. Q. Tell the story as [Lee] told you? A. That
is about it. Q. Where were those young women brought from, did he say? A. From
a thicket of oak brosh [sic], where they were concealed. It was an Indian chief
of Cedar City brought them out. Q. Tell just what he said about that? A. The Indian
shot one and he cut the others throat, is what he said. Q. Who cut the others
throat? A. Mr. Lee. . . . Q. Go over it again; tell us all the details of the
killing. A. Well, he said they were killed—all he supposed. That the Chief
of Cedar City brought out two young ladies. Q. What did he say the chief said
to him? Asked what he should do with them. Q. What else did the chief say? A.
The chief said they didn’t ought to be killed. Q. Why did the chief say
to Lee that they should not be killed? A. Well, he said they was pretty had he
wanted to save them. Q. What did Lee tell you that he replied to the chief? A.
According to the orders that he had they was too big and too old to let live.
. . . A. I told you that he said it was a Cedar City Chief that killed one. Q.
Who killed the other. A. He done it, he said. Q. How? A. He threw her down and
cut her throat.” Trial Transcript (1876), 94-96.
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 105-6.
- Bishop, Mormonism Unveiled, 379.
- Furniss, Mormon Conflict, 151.
- “Our Los Angeles Correspondence: Massacre of Emigrants—Execution
of Johnson—Another Murder—State of the Weather—Rain—Snow—Grapes,”
Daily Alta Californian, 12 October 1857, p. 1, col. 2; “Our Los Angeles
Correspondence,” Daily Alta Californian, 27 October 1857; p. 1, col. 2;
Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 46, 48-49.
- Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 46.
- “Anthropologists have pointed out that some of Hillers’s pictures
were stage-managed . . . for white consumption. [He] guss[ied] up the poor, drab
Paiutes in Plains Indian glamour.” Donald Worster, A River Running West:
The Life of John Wesley Powell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 286-87.
See also Bagley’s own newspaper, Brandon Griggs, “Staged 19th Century
Photos of Indians Controversial, Compelling,” Salt Lake Tribune, 20 January
2002, sec. D.
- “The bands of Pah-Utes, in the southern portion of the Territory are
extremely destitute. . . . This is especially the case with those bands south
of Cedar city.” Jacob Forney to A. B. Greenwood, 29 September 1859, 36th
Cong., 1st sess., S. Exec. Doc. 2, serial 1023, p. 734. Other than the Snakes,
“many of the men, women, and children are entirely naked.” Ibid.,
733. There is, however, a photograph of Ute Chief Kanosh and some of his elders
dressed in the white man’s garb in the Church Archives and republished in
Cooley, Diary of Brigham Young, 70.
- J. W. Powell, “An Overland Trip to the Grand Canyon,” Scribner’s
Monthly 10 (October 1875): 675.
import than the Bagley effort. Wise relies upon few primary sources and usually
rehashes the polemic of past efforts. See Charles S. Peterson, review of Massacre
at Mountain Meadows, by William Wise, American Historical Review 82/4 (1977):
republished in Alan K. Parrish, John A. Widtsoe: A Biography (Salt Lake City:
Deseret Book, 2003), 46-47.