Russell Burrows (Ph.D., Bowling Green University) is an associate professor at Weber State University where he specializes in American Literature. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Western American Literature, Petroglyph. His monographs of Bernard DeVoto and Wallace Stegner are published in the Boise State University Western Writers Series. On winter weekends he is a ski patrolman at northern Utah's Powder Mountain, and in the summer he can be found backpacking and exploring the canyons of southern Utah.
He was honest-to-god Old Mormon, once the sole focus of Joseph Smith's prophecy: "Cut not thy hair, and no bullet or blade can harm thee!"1 —and though Porter Rockwell joined less and less in his saints' Sabbath-day raptures, he did go on consecrating to his church his fierce body guarding of its prophets and apostles, his vigilante patrols of Utah's trails, and his incorrigible whiskey trading. And though he was real flesh and blood—decidedly stout and barrel-chested— "Port" Rockwell has been the one Mormon name to ascend to the wildest of the West's lore. The anti-Mormon tracts of his own day exaggerated him preposterously as one so fanatic for the faith that he had killed hundreds in cold blood. But he has been relegated lately to the briefest of affectionate storytelling for Utah's Pioneer Days and also occasionally hailed around the fires of Mormon scout camps.
Christened Orrin Porter Rockwell (1813-1878) of Belcher, Massachusetts,2 he proved to be a man on a mission all across the frontier, which he followed in one of its strongest migratory waves up the Erie Canal of western New York and into Ohio. Thereafter, and always moving with his Mormons, he went to Missouri, to Illinois, to the Utah Territory, and three times on forays out to the gold fields of California. Like many who hauled west, he was an illiterate— proudly so—all his years. But if this son of our borderlands had jotted any sort of diary, he might compare with Wild Bill Hickok, or with Wyatt Earp, or perhaps also with the hanging judge of the Texas border, Roy Bean—infamous for holding court in his own preciously-named saloon, the Jersey Lilly.3 These men have come down to us in their own words, as well as in lore, and while not always themselves law abiding, became, nonetheless, the peace keepers preeminent in the Old West. Such a paradox can't be that much larger than our own young toughs ambiguously turning up as cops, so one side of Rockwell may be thought of as the Mormon version of the trappers, cowboys, and drovers who fought bravely, often recklessly, to close down the frontier whose wild days had made them legends in the first place. Porter Rockwell's name ought to be as durable even as Butch Cassidy's, another to have hidden out in early Utah, whose hair-raising career choice in the parched country of the Robbers' Roost, bossing his Wild Bunch, might once have tempted Rockwell, if his Mormonism had not held sway. But Porter Rockwell has been a remarkable problem for historians (Mormon and non-Mormon alike), probably because he illustrates none of the big, lonely western types, nor can he suggest very much of anyone's religious life.
There lingers still the comic stereotype from Mormon polygamy of the lascivious and portly church elder, who "marries a girl—likes her, marries her sister—likes her, marries another sister—likes her, takes another—likes her, marries her mother—likes her, marries her father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and then comes back hungry and asks for more."4 This happens to be Mark Twain's jab at Mormons from his western excursion Roughing It (1872), and its humor might have us ponder what Twain might have been able to do with the Mormon Samson when his Delilah ticked his fancy? That is, Rockwell entered his faith's polygamy—"perforce," as the nineteenth century still liked to put it—when he and one married to Amos Davis, an Illinois innkeeper with whom Rockwell had been staying, ominously showed up in one another's company.5 And while she packed three or four things, Rockwell stood around, keeping up an insouciant interest in the mechanical intricacy of the trigger on his pistol. We might imagine some of Davis' discomfort at Rockwell out there on the porch—looking preoccupied—as he would have been playing it. Although, for all of that, Davis' letting her go placidly may redound as much to his wife as to himself. We have to wonder, because she was to figure even less in Rockwell's stormy affections than in Davis'. Sketchy records suggest merely that Rockwell and the woman went off together in the midst of the chaos during the Mormons' forced flight from Nauvoo. There is no word of them ever showing up somewhere together. Why then suppose a marriage? What well-placed Mormon of the era didn't have in mind another marriage— or several? Rockwell claimed he was going to take another wife, and more than likely he did.6 It's just the anonymity of this second one that gives some pause, while that cloak of anonymity was not to be Luana Beebe's, Mary Ann Neff's nor Christine Olsen's: Rockwell's first, third, and fourth wives, respectively.7 And though he married those four, and altogether fathered fourteen,8 his polygamy looks like it was more a serial affair— like our own serial couplings and uncouplings. His first two marriages simply seem to have fallen apart—he had been such a tumbleweed. Complications from childbirth then robbed him of Mary Ann Neff, the only one with whom he seems to have been happy and more or less homebound.9 And it was quite a while afterward that he tepidly married Christine Olsen, who had been working as his housekeeper while he was out riding shotgun on the stages. So it was never for long Rockwell's "calling," in Mormon parlance, to keep wives situated beneath a single roof, nor alternately in this odd American polygamy, and many times more expensively, to keep wives under their own roofs.
One like Rockwell would now be pressed quite a bit harder to join with the same experiment with marriage that once sanctioned his lusty caroming around. Polygamy in Mormonism was a phase, though a surprisingly difficult one to set aside. Splinter groups irrationally persist with it, while the main body of the church has become badly embarrassed by what was known as cohabitation. The Mormon Sunday schools now propound the ways of chaste dating, of earnest courtship, and of monogamous child rearing that are among the most conservative of any in practice anywhere. Mormon wedding receptions are universally well-scripted productions, implying a domesticity that usually goes well beyond what most young grooms aspire to feel.
Rockwell's first marriage on February 2, 1832, happened to be the first Mormon wedding in Jackson County, Missouri, the first of the Mormon strongholds in that state.10 Rockwell made this marriage, moreover, on what Joseph Smith had been busy revealing as sacred ground—vastly so. Jackson County all around had been Eden, and Adam-ondi-Ahman, lying to the north in Daviess County, had been the shallow valley wherein Adam learned to eat bread by the sweat of his face.11 It was there he felt that mortality he had helped to bring on the world overtaking him, so calling together Seth, Enos, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, along with the rest of his posterity, the Father-of-All bid Earth farewell, until skeptical Missouri (the "Show Me"state) would host Zion's last gathering. With all this Mormon eschatology hanging so much in the air, Rockwell's marriage might well have set some precedence in how his saints were to go on observing their sacraments of taking and giving in marriage. But Rockwell spoke those vows differently from how Mormons now repeat theirs. The ceremonial words would have been recognizably the same; however, Rockwell went before a priesthood bent on revamping parts of the social contract, especially those pertaining to plural marriages and to holding capital cooperatively. Mormons no longer have any of those aims. The church that was once bravely progressive in its social ambitions, even radical, is now instantly defensive of its prosperous and sober middle class.
On another of Rockwell's anomalous sides, he was the churchman who shot straight and fast. It was Rockwell, who having been hastily deputized—and having fired, incidentally, while still astride a horse—got off the most famous musket shot ever to avenge Joseph Smith. Rockwell pulled that one off when he killed Frank Worrell, the lieutenant over the Carthage Greys—infamous for conspiring, allegedly, with the mob set on murdering Smith by ordering his Greys to load and fire harmlessly with blanks.12
But now, allegation cutting back the other way, it was Rockwell who may have
sunk to an assassination. In terms of motive and opportunity, it was almost
certainly Rockwell who on a dark, wet night stuck a German pepperbox loaded with
buckshot through the window of former governor Lilburn Boggs, the author of the
Exterminating Order that had driven Mormons from Missouri.13 That
Rockwell went under the alias of "Brown" to Boggs' home calls almost
easily to mind a comparable zealot of the powder keg that was the antebellum nation. That would have been "Captain" John Brown of Harper's Ferry fame (whose alias for an earlier slave revolt out in Kansas had been Shubel Morgan). But Rockwell found his fights ever farther out on the territories, while Brown's muscular faith drew him back to stateside Virginia, where the likes of Robert E. Lee (then a colonel) and J. E. B. Stuart (then a lieutenant) stood ready to tie a noose around Brown's neck. Rockwell, for his part, would live long and die from what Salt Lake's doctors could describe only as "a failure of the nervous action of the heart."14 Yet for the larger question here at hand, The Book of Judges still does perhaps the best job of shining light down the well from whence sprang so much of this American violence, where the men of Judah demand: "Why are ye come up against us?" The Philistines answer: "To bind Samson…, to do to him as he hath done to us."15 That's counterpoint to Samson: "As they did unto me, so have I done unto them"—and from there it's a short enough distance to Rockwell's riding hard into Nauvoo on the morning of June 28, 1844—shouting himself hoarse: "Joseph [Smith] is killed—they have killed him! God damn them! They have killed him!"16
The subsequent Mormon exodus to the valley of the Great Salt Lake saw Rockwell practically reincarnated, so dramatically did he change during the hegira his people were suffering. Where Rockwell (working alongside his father) had been a settled ferryman on the Big Blue,17 a serene tributary of the Missouri, he seized on the plains craft and the mountain craft that would have made him fit for William Ashley's famous advertisement of the fur trade printed in the 1820 St. Louis Gazette: "Enterprising Young Men…to ascend the River Missouri to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years." Rockwell learned on short order how to wolf across great distances of prairie, when on the first leg of what his Mormons were calling their Camp of Israel, he was five times back and forth across Iowa between muddy March to May, 1846.18 Helping to tie together swarms of ill-accoutered wagon trains, Rockwell all but lived in the saddle, whereas not many months earlier, at his escape from charges of having shot the governor, he had been so broken and footsore that with 75 cents remaining to him, Samson managed to seize on a stranger and in some sense "to hire" that unlucky one to spirit him away piggyback—Rockwell had been that desperate to escape from Missouri and its jails.19
So while many were coming to fear him as a storied gunfighter, he was fabled as much among his Mormons for abusing himself in their immigration. Jouncing wagons and stock over rough country, while between times scouting out water and grass, and night after night fending off Indians demanded a toughness that would appall most of us. Lost amid our Wild Wild West phantasms lies the fact that crossing The Great American Desert, as many were still speaking of it, was strange and exhausting work. But no sooner did Rockwell help Orson Pratt to find the trail over which a year earlier the ill-fated Donner/Reed Party had forced its way down into the Salt Lake Valley,20 than eleven days later Rockwell turned around and went with Ezra Benson back over Utah's steep Wasatch Range, then eastward to Independence Rock, there to meet the main body of the `47 immigrants and to lead it to the promise of the western Zion.21 But just before descending into Salt Lake for what would have been the second time, Rockwell happened to meet Brigham Young on his way back to Council Bluffs, Iowa—returning to lead an even larger train that next summer of `48. So around Rockwell went again, this time as far as the Sweetwater, well down the east slope from the divide at South Pass. After escorting Young beyond Indian trouble (The horse-covetous Crows had run off as many as fifty head, and alone Rockwell took eight back.), he turned a third time that autumn for Salt Lake.22
But not to winter there, no sooner had he gotten down into what had just been named, in the grandiloquence of early Victorian times, Great Salt Lake City of the Great Basin of North America, than Rockwell joined with Jefferson Hunt (after whom Huntsville, Utah, is named) and in November started for California.23 They went to buy food, as well as seeds and cuttings, for the precarious Salt Lake settlement but nearly starved themselves in the Mojave. In fact, some in that "rescue" party barely made it into Mexican ranch country; they were hanging onto their horses' tails, crutching themselves across the last of that burnt waste.24 Then, the spring of `48 saw Rockwell driving cattle back from San Diego and, for good measure, bringing along the first wagon ever to make it over the Spanish Trail.25 He might well have wanted and needed a rest, but instead, made a hard right turn at Salt Lake, and way out again on the prairies, met the next train that Brigham Young was leading in.26
The spring of `49 through the summer of `50 had Rockwell back out in California for a second time.27 In San Francisco, he was to flex the muscle that would have been needed to collect church tithes from the larcenous apostate Sam Brannan (who had led a band of saints west by shipping aboard the Brooklyn around the dangers of Cape Horn). But Brannan's was just an afternoon's piece of business in a season Rockwell otherwise spent in the gold fields above Sacramento, adventurously running whiskey at Murderer's Bar and on Mormon Island (in the American River). This episode is one to prompt us that while Samson may have been savvy enough to see the real money in whiskey trading, not in gold panning, his thinking up aliases could not have been his strong suit—not in light of his old enemy, Boggs, healing from shots well-nigh fatal and himself coming after the Sierra's riches. So there they were again in a town together, and Rockwell's having tried to pass under the alias of "Brown" had fooled neither Boggs' people nor Missouri's lawmen. Yet Rockwell had to have wracked his brain, and couldn't we guess—came up with the same alias, Brown.28
There did come a relatively tranquil couple of years in Salt Lake, during which Rockwell tended home fires by getting married that third time and working perhaps harder than he had at any of his other jobs to bring down the sparse timber from the steep, dry canyons of the Wasatch. But this quiet time was punctuated by his amiably getting drunk with Walkara of the Utes, and then having to wrestle a bloodied knife away from the war chief when peace talks spectacularly blew up at what was becoming popularly known as the "Walker" War.29
Next, in `55, California beckoned one last time, when he went to see about breaking a trail that would skirt to the south of Utah's notorious Salt Flats,30 while in `56 and `57, he was again facing back east as one of the head drovers for The Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company.31 Rockwell was under contract to haul freight for this YX outfit over its mountainous leg from Laramie into Salt Lake City; while William Hickman, a blood brother of sorts to Rockwell in Mormonism's so-called band of Destroying Angels (the church's secret police force), was quite a bit less enthusiastic with his assignment of hauling the same freight across the prairie leg, with its point of origin in Independence, which took him right back into the heart of the Missouri hatred of Mormons.
But this YX venture fell dead: Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston's army and the Utah War of `57 diverted Rockwell to the guerrilla tactics by which Mormon raiders captured some 75 of the army's wagons, then tightly spiraling them, turned some 500,000 pounds of provisions into a $100,000 bonfire.32 This figurative sort of "slaying" of that proverbial "thousand," with Mormon guns not a lot better than the "jaw bone of an ass,"33 would have been a financial destruction of literally millions of today's dollars, and it helps to make graphic the rancor that had Mormons cursing their countrymen synonymously as "Americrats" and "mobcrats." The bloodless Utah War marked the lowest relations between the Mormon State of Deseret and the United States, as Porter Rockwell, William Hickman, and Lot Smith led raids across Wyoming's high bad-lands and left the boys in Johnston's army starving and freezing on the northwestern slope of the Uinta Mountains.
Western geography seems always to have had this romance across which Rockwell
so enlarged himself, although we tend not to appreciate how the events of his
life unfolded themselves at the slow and sore pace of horse travel, which
analogously seems the difference between the drag of shooting a movie as opposed
to the breeze of watching one. But doubtless modern Mormons would have made more
of the one who had been their pioneers' chief hunter and scout if Rockwell could
have been more like Jedediah Strong Smith (1799-1831), the first American to
have traveled the length and most of the breadth of the land Rockwell was to
help found as the State of Deseret, and then, as the Territory of Utah.34
Foremost among mountain men, Jeddy Smith was supposed to have roamed the
wilderness with his musket in one hand and his Bible in the other. Now, that's
the stuff to fire the Mormon imagination, as it actually seems reflected in one
of the most important pieces of the church's iconography: above Salt Lake in the
mouth of Emigration Canyon, the church has raised its "This Is The
Place" Monument, which shows the non-Mormon Jedediah Smith larger than the
long-faithful Rockwell. Smith's bronzed image (among other mountain men) stands
out against the sky for its having been cast in the full relief of a statue,
while Rockwell's less-detailed likeness is smaller and set lower in a frieze
in which Rockwell rides in the third position in a line of four.
Jedediah Strong Smith's appeal is that in the wildcat saga of the mountains he alone could refrain from the traders' firewater, rigged gaming tables, and compliant native maidens.
On those counts, Rockwell was not one to forebear all that well. So a less complicated character has been served up for popular consumption, as, for instance, a story I once heard at a scout camp. It seemed Rockwell had been one who dared to test the hunters' wisdom: a buffalo bull could not be stopped with a shot between its horns, through its skull. But Rockwell stalked around to the front of a big one and—naturally—tried him out. And still the adrenaline surge to this anecdote, which just roughly enough parallels Samson's bare-handed "renting" of the lion in the vineyard of Timnath,35 is of a badly startled Rockwell spurring his horse, while in the same instant another saved the day with a quick shot gotten off perpendicular to the bull's charge. The tale of this ends with a bit of a lesson irresistible to the imaginations of that boy-in-us-all, when William Clayton cut into the hide covering the skull and found Rockwell's musket ball had left hardly a dent.36
So much for adventurous lore dredged up for Mormon sprouts. The real Rockwell may have been much too much of real parts and passions, as when his flatulence in church touched off enough hilarity for Brigham Young to have to notice it. Camped at Scotts Bluff, a good day's march beyond Chimney Rock, the advanced party of pioneers fell to entertaining itself with the same sorts of mock trials in which we still like to roast our dignitaries. This court summoned the defendant, Rockwell, before one whose name sounds Dickensesque—the Right Reverend Bishop Whipple. The moment could have grown expectant—just before the elders of the wayfaring Church convulsed into giggles as their bailiff did his theatrical best to swell himself—the better to deliver the complaint:
That of emitting in meeting of Sunday last, a sound a posteriori, (from the seat of honor) somewhat resembling the rumble of distant thunder, of the heavy discharge of artillery, thereby endangering the steadiness of the olfactory nerves of those present, as well as diverting their minds from the discourse of the speaker.37
Rockwell was not one to be taken with too much familiarity. But his Mormons could make this much sport of him, pretty safely, as could Brigham Young then haul in the reins to the Rockwell foolishness. Young was then using Rockwell as a body guard, as had Joseph Smith. And rawk-voiced Young would marry Rockwell to Mary Ann Neff,38 another sign of how closely he stood to the seminal figures of his church. But at the saturnalia at Scotts Bluff, Young saw that enough was enough—enough! His patience evidently snapped, and it's easy to picture him flying into the circle to kick apart its campfire. There would have been hard and frightened looks back and forth, before Young managed to take himself in hand with the relief of a bedtime sermon—or else, this one who was to make himself known as The Lion of the Lord swore he would turn the wagons around right then and there.39 His flash of temper need not be taken as characteristic, however. Young looks to have been spoiling for fights just then, no doubt feeling the need to step into a breach, for the church in which he was set to work out his salvation was stuck in the limbo of its first, its longest, and its most critical apostolic interregnum. Not until that next year back in Council Bluffs would Young get his chance to confound irascible, emaciated Sidney Rigdon (once a Campbellite minister and second behind Smith in the administration of the priesthood), and thereby, to ascend to the church's first presidency.40
Of course, the Mormon faithful who happen on this account will likely be squirming about as much at Rockwell's drinking as over his gun fighting. Abstemiousness has become the Mormons' signature trait (not strings of wives), so the question must out: what Mormon hero could not have been a temperate one? Again, the Sunday schools have taught with astonishing success that Christ's changing water into wine was really a miraculous rendering of a soft grape juice, while Noah's drunkenness (and his nakedness as reported early in Genesis) was simply so primitive that none during this last dispensation of a temporal world need bother with it. But Rockwell's story takes us back across the fault line of The Word of Wisdom (1833), which for modern Mormons forbids—categorically—liquor, tobacco, coffee, tea. Old Mormons still relished those on practically all occasions when they could lay hands on them, and what is often forgotten is that this Word of Wisdom gathered its force gradually.41 It began as the same kind of private dietary rule that appealed to the transcendentalist Henry Thoreau. In his "Higher Laws," the eleventh (and somewhat unctuous) chapter of his masterpiece Walden (1854), he described reducing himself to water—purely—and to bowls of beans or of rice—plainly boiled—over the two years of his pond-side experimenting on himself. Across New England everywhere a pervasive temperance had begun to hang in the air while Smith was laying the Mormon foundation. He took temperance as one of the faith's lesser principles; although, he may have wanted it more for his converts than for himself, because the record often enough betrays some taste for wine and cigars. In any case, what started out as a campaign for a man's individual, ascetic purity became the Mormon community's proscriptive cohesion, its latter-day social code.
Rockwell and his frontier fellowship were still singing along in the same fine fettle as in A. E. Housman's
Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.42
Rockwell did like his jiggers, and they got him into the difficulty all but inevitable for those who too often hoist them on their evenings' rounds. Yet having donned Samson's mantle, Rockwell could apologize for his drinking (and for his impressively inspirited cussing) by fessing up to once having cut his hair. And that he weakened himself for a woman runs right to the legend. But this time it wasn't for a beguiling one. The case instead has some pathos to it, showing the strong man to have had his tender side. During his last venture to California in the mid-`50s, Rockwell called on Agnes Moulton Coolbrith Smith—widow of Don Carlos Smith, brother of the martyred Joseph. Agnes Smith was just then coming back from a bout with typhoid so bad her hair had fallen out. In matters of faith—that is, what we can know of Rockwell's from his more companionable youth—he seems to have taken to heart every one of Smith's prophecies, and not least that one about Rockwell's long hair protecting him. Still, the Wild West Samson went chivalrously under a razor for the sake of a woman's wig.43 And by his lights, it had weakened him. Rockwell delighted in explaining how he could never again pass up a drink. Indeed, the historical truth of it (from accounts both sympathetic and hostile) was that when on toot he could be a big, sloppy handful.
But Joseph Smith could not have thought clear through to Samson's fate in that fallen temple when he wanted to repay Rockwell for his considerable trouble of festering fully nine months in a lousy, Missouri jail, while its prosecutors tried every which way to stick him with Boggs' assassination. Rockwell lost a dangerously large fraction of his weight, and his teeth may have loosened, while his hair grew to the symbolic length of Samson's miraculous strength. What was more, Rockwell's locks were tangled and matted—glossy with grease, evidently affecting enough to prompt Smith to put his arm around his boyhood friend and sworn protector. No sooner, then, had Smith started into "Cut not thy hair…," than he seems to have hit on a proposition: he would set up Rockwell in a combination barbershop and a bar—a venture to work in concert with Smith's Mansion House, which was church headquarters, as well as Smith's private residence. This hub of the rapidly expanding Nauvoo could well have used the nearby amenities of a barbershop and a bar—and besides, a job there would have given Rockwell an almost perfect chance to watch who had been coming and going from the holy city. Beneath the surface of this unlikely arrangement, it's almost as though Smith were chuckling at the prospect of a latter-day Samson (one of Smith's own creation), cutting hair—especially, if ever it were Gentiles' hair. And Rockwell, for his part, was agreeable, if probably doubtful about the barbering.
The bar tending he would rise to, ably assisted by his church elders, for Smith magnanimously ordered in a polished bar along with a stock of liquors with which to school Rockwell in the more heady spirits and their mixes. And Smith set up this tutelage in a wing of the Mansion House, while—as was convenient—his first and official wife, Emma, was away down river to St. Louis on a trip to buy furniture. Historically, Joseph Smith threw this party some ten years after he had brought out The Word of Wisdom, in which the Persona of the Almighty enjoins: "strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies."44 But a washed and a combed Rockwell was there behind his bar, setting up his brethren with a warm and a high time of it, when Emma Smith pulled back into town. She got her first look at what was going on and vanquished the prophet—pretty much "horse and foot," in that splendid old war phrase—by throwing his woozy fraternity from the home where she had been raising children.45 This battle seems a follow up to the one she had waged back in Kirkland, Ohio, during the early `30s, where at her husband's School of the Prophets, those aspiring to celestial skies had been worse than usual at the spittoons. Emma, sick of all the mopping up, had made brave to complain. And that called forth the original admonishment of The Word of Wisdom, in which Emma, as the first sister of the church, could have taken the satisfaction: "And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill."46
Ultimately, however, it was blood that Rockwell's own had to reckon with, as bloodshed grew into the central mythic element of Samson's killing upwards of two hundred. A time came when there was simply no getting away from the legend of himself. Something of a blue jay in with the bluebirds, Rockwell clearly started out fighting most aggressively while most capable of it—during his young manhood, which corresponded to the church's most aggressive, youthful phase, when its first converts found themselves fighting not only for their faith but for their properties, and sometimes for their lives. The context for this fighting has been a deceptively simple one: lingering even then was an era of blood feuds spilling down from fathers to sons, or when foolish chivalry had men dueling with whatever formality they could extemporize, or else just mobs on the loose with knives, or whips, or tar buckets and feathers. The violence was more casual than we suppose it could have been, with the law a second (or a third) recourse if the shootings or beatings hadn't made their points. "The law will be on me," some might have cautioned themselves, if ever tempted to draw on their enemies unarmed. But if one could catch his foe armed—well, suffice it to say that an embryonic social code would recognize that condition of redress. It was the frontier's one invincible syllogism of legal manslaughter in fair fights.
From a related perspective, our Puritan/Yankee heritage was some further reinforcement of the fighting in which Rockwell came into his own. This part of our American disputatiousness has little to do with a Franciscan side to the faith, but looks instead like another chapter in the bristling polemics of John Milton and the rest of the seventeenth-century English divines. Their civil wars issued from a complex blend of aggressiveness and defensiveness, and so it was that the Mormons and the Missourians took to fighting one another. Perhaps most interestingly on the Mormons' side of the conflict, they began to read very literally Genesis 49:17: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, so that his rider shall fall backward." This gave rise to Danitism, or to secret societies calling themselves the Sons of Dan—at once purges to inside Mormon dissension as well as answers to outside persecution. Rockwell would have found the call to these Sons of Dan all but irresistible after a mob had "thrown down" his cabin (along with his father's cabin next door), by looping ropes around its eaves, tying off to saddle horns, and pulling down the roofs along with most of the log walls.47 That fright—especially for his first wife, Luana—was in Jackson County, and with the Mormons' remove to Caldwell County in the spring of `38, his first marriage was unraveling as he was hardening into one of the most ready of the Danite riders. The earliest record of Rockwell's involvement is his mark in 69th place on a list of 83 who met to excommunicate Oliver Cowdery (the amanuensis to Joseph Smith in translating The Book of Mormon), David Whitmer (a witness to The Golden Plates from which Smith claimed to have translated The Book of Mormon), and Lyman Johnson.48 Rockwell's role thereafter in the infamous fighting at Crooked River, Missouri (and in skirmishing many places elsewhere), is a matter of some conjecture, but he would not have been Porter Rockwell if he had not played some part in arousing the officials of 11 counties into calling out 2,000 militiamen to quell what they took for a Mormon rebellion against The Constitution.49 Rockwell surfaced in the record when he came rather stout-heartedly into the open, carrying messages as well as smuggling augers and pry bars to Joseph Smith who, nevertheless, would spend five months in Liberty Jail, after surrendering arms in the town of Far West.50 That defeat drove the Mormons across the river into Illinois, and it was Rockwell who may have been the first to rush back to Smith's side, after he had made good his own escape, and then, temperamentally—maybe even fatally—irrepressible, began to open up his vigorous Nauvoo episode.
Clobbered and kicked around, though nowhere near licked, the incurably
symbolic Mormons thus began bragging more and more of Rockwell as Christ's
warrior apotheosized. He was the sublimate of Mormon hardness, when hardness had
been needed, and he looked like he could harden again if trouble were to call
him out. So talk was of the marksman who could not miss, of a wrestler who would
not be thrown. He would shoot the protuberant ass of a mobster's
backside and lift the diseased scalp lock from a governor's head. A fighter of uncountable combats, he packed the double punch of a Missouri River Roarer and a Mississippi half-alligator/half-horse. He could have come into being with the same sinew in a Mike Fink, or in a Paul Bunyan, or in a Pecos Bill, but our native pantheon was not to contain Rockwell, because in Mormonism our American lore kept giving way to Christian myth. So the demigod Samson once more stepped forth. Who else but a Samson could have taken the loads of several revolvers, as Rockwell reputably had? And then, as the smoke was lifting, he shook himself as might a great shaggy bear or a big dog (typically the totems), and as many slugs as there had been shots fell from a coat no stouter than a home spun.51 Told, and told again, and told some more, this kind of miracle could tickle Old Mormons half to death.
At the same time the newspapers were beside themselves in spasms of protest.
Something to remember about frontier journalism is that it seldom managed more
objectivity than the Mormons at the heights of their own metaphysics. Consider
one item from the Warsaw Signal whose high dudgeon was typical: "O.
P. Rockwell—This delectable specimen of humanity, who was once the peculiar
pet of Joe Smith and has since been regarded as the main champion of Zion"—thereafter
accused in one sweeping paragraph (1) of assassinating Liburn Boggs; (2) of
seducing Mrs. Amos Davis; (3) of refusing to bury one of his children by Luana
Beebe, and instead, of "suffer[ing] it to be done at public expense,"
and (4) of promoting what a rising Republicanism would denounce as
one of the "twin relics of barbarism"—polygamy. The attack in the Signal ends with a flourish capturing much of the neighborhood's abhorrence: "What a beautiful moral code is Mormonism."52
That was a kind of baton run in relay, as others posted stories (1) of Rockwell's joining with the scofflaw Smith to drown an old woman too gossipy of the prophet's adulteries;53 (2) of Rockwell's waylaying a territorial secretary, the disaffected Mormon Almon Babbitt;54 (3) of Rockwell's bush wacking the Aiken Party, six professional gamblers out of California, coming to Utah for the easy pickings of the rubes in Johnston's Army;55 (4) of Rockwell's attempting to knock off a young army Romeo rash enough to have gotten sweet but then too publicly sour on Alice Young, one of Brigham's fair daughters;56 (5) of Rockwell's dispatching both Henry Jones and his mother for their having had unnatural relations with one another;57 (6) of Rockwell's rubbing out a black known around Salt Lake as Nigger Tom for (shades of the Southland) miscegenation;58 and (7) of Rockwell's helping a Mormon to kill himself—this the bizarre suicide of John Gheen, whose repentance of his sins may have culminated in his acting on the old Mormon doctrine of a literal Blood Atonement.59
There are many more episodes, besides. The seven above by no means sum up the storytelling that dogged Rockwell and that he may have delighted himself in fueling. The foremost instance of this has him answering over and over the questions about his having shot Boggs: "Weren't me—he lived!"60 Another instance has him tormenting Ulysses S. Grant's vice president, Schuyler Colfax, when he had come in person to condemn polygamy, along with lesser intractableness. Colfax raised his voice and shook his fist from a portico of Salt Lake City's Townsend House, while below, in this little bit of street theater, stood Rockwell. He was the "Mormon ruffian in liquor," by one report—hugely enjoying himself—as Samson must have when he set fire to the tails of those 300 foxes, and "let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines."61 Rockwell seems to have come into town in just such a mood and was jawing back at the vice president, interrupting him to laughter on either hand: "I never killed anybody that didn't need killing."62
If this sounds too comically deadpan to the wages of the Old West's psychopathy, it's still what there is to work with in the Rockwell record. In many ways, reading this history has been like stumbling through the uncertainties of a crime scene—one left confusing not only by the struggles of the one murdered, but by tourists trampling police tapes, leaving tracks where the body fell and carrying off souvenirs of what ought to be material evidence. This describes a problem in even the best of the biographies: Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God/ Son of Thunder (1966, reprint 1983), by Harold Schindler, which sets up just such a quandary as its rhetorical ploy—announced on the jacket blurb: "Saint or cold-blooded killer—the evidence is in your hands."63 But it's not that Rockwell can be reduced to one or the other, though sifting the provable charges against him along with the many other unprovable ones, has its fascinations. However, Schindler's otherwise excellent biography is complicated by his having worked from the affectionate familiarity of an expert who has probably overmastered a subject and ended up playing with it.
So here, if we can generalize any more wisely from testimony across four or five decades, we should start by edging backward four or five paces for a better view of Rockwell's drawing his guns and thereby stopping the far greater gunfire that almost certainly would have erupted. Rockwell armed himself and protected many more than himself. In this sense, he was acting on, while at the same time illustrating, the social genius provided in the Second Amendment. Say whatever you will of those Old Mormons, they threw up a respectable defense of themselves, which may grow even more poignant if we remind ourselves of the fates of those who have not been so free and ready, as in the slaughters in the Congo (1890-1960), in Armenia (1914-1918), in Germany (1941-1945), in Guatemala (1960-1996), in Cambodia (1975-1979), in East Timor (1975), in Yugoslavia (1991-2000), and in Rwanda (1994). This is an ugly point, admittedly. But it remains that the ingredients for a Mormon genocide were all in place: a minority drawn from a hard-shelled faith, standing against a majority clinging to a broad frontier anarchy. So we should thank our lucky stars that, while amid our agonies of owning up to a genocide of the Indians, we do not have to acknowledge others. In Mormon history, we came close enough with the 18 killed at Haun's Mill, Missouri (1838). Among the dead was Sardius Smith, a ten-year-old who had his brains blown out, point blank. "Nits make lice" had sworn the gunman standing over the boy,64 and some such profanity has seemed everywhere the oath of genocide. That it was not sworn unto a mass erasure of the Mormon innocent may have come down, pretty much, to Rockwell and to those who could stand with him.
In this spirit, Stanley Wanlass has recently sculpted a larger-than-life figure of Rockwell, holding a pistol and standing so as to shield three others: a woman, her child in arms, her boy, and also a dog (1999). This bronze has been erected in a courtyard outside a municipal building in Lehi, Utah, and I make this incidental report of the art because, midway through my writing this essay, Wanlass's unveiling of his "Rockwell" has been an encouraging corroboration of the difficult personality I have been trying to draw.
"Cut not thy hair" and playing Samson's part, Rockwell nevertheless managed to survive the Mormons' wars and to become something of a rooted and a prosperous man. As one with considerable foresight into our patterns of settlement, he got the contract to carry mail south from Salt Lake City into the town of Lehi. Midway on that route, at what is now The Point of the Mountain (dividing Salt Lake County from Utah County), he started doing quite well indeed with his Hot Springs Brewery Hotel.65 Those two cash flows enabled him to start a good sized ranch in the Sheeprock Mountains, where he would have liked the look of "O P" branded on his cows.66 In fact, genuinely adept at husbandry he won both the five-dollar and the ten-dollar prizes for a filly and a mule colt that he had entered in a fair sponsored by the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society.67 Rockwell was also the one who raised the $500 hog that Jennings' Meat Market hung in its main-street window for its Christmas display.68 During those settled days he could sometimes be caught in one of his daughters' homes, having one or another of them comb and braid the long hair that was starting to streak with grey. And it was also during this late season of his life he suffered the very insignia of solid Mormon membership—a mission call. Brigham Young sent Rockwell to Fish Lake in southern Utah with the charge to "[c]olonize the straggling bands of natives… [either Ute or Navaho, and to] teach them honesty, industry, morality, and religion."69 If this was a little less than Saint Paul's leaving his village of Tarsus to answer the Macedonian call for aid, Rockwell still irrigated for a season and hauled in some 30 tons of hay before calling it quits and riding back to his ranch, where in the isolation of Utah's west desert he was growing ever more comfortable and self-contained.
He went on gun fighting but did it from behind the badge of a deputy sheriff, mostly while riding shotgun for the Overland Stage. At what became known as the Great Bullion Robbery of `68, a bandit tried for $40,000, and Rockwell brought the man in after tracking him through the desert for a week.70 That fame helped to set Rockwell up as the territory's first private detective. Frank Karrick, a freighter out of Sacramento, lost stock to rustlers, and Brigham Young's advice was to "Get Rockwell."71 Later, Herman Reinhart also lost stock, and Young's advice again was to "Get Porter Rockwell."72 Both Karrick and Reinhart were suspicious. Hadn't that same Rockwell, back in `57, played some terrible part in wiping out a train from Arkansas bound for California? But Rockwell had then been in Wyoming, harassing Johnston's army and so could not have participated in what was becoming known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Rockwell made good his contracts with Karrick and Reinhart with about as much dispatch as he did everything else from when he had ferried wagons over the Big Blue. Both clients paid him readily (with Karrick throwing in the gifts of a silver-trimmed saddle and a keg of whiskey). But the appreciation of those two was as nothing alongside that of the territory at large when Rockwell teamed up with another sheriff and brought in Chauncey Millard, Utah's version of Billy the Kid. Little known in the annals of the West's killers, Millard's final story was that he shuffled off in leg irons to his firing squad while still eating the dollar's worth of candy he had gotten when he sold his body to a Provo physician.73 Rockwell was one to have witnessed Millard's execution, and increasingly Rockwell's taking part in the lawful business of the state seemed to drain the Samson out of him.
The time had been that an Illinois sheriff had gotten the drop on Rockwell, and shaking him down, the lawman found the Mormon carried the fire power to get off 71 pistol rounds before he would have had to fort up and reload.74 That would have meant he had ten, eleven, or twelve guns on board—plus ramrods, nipple pricks, wadding, and shot. For comparison, a Smith and Wesson .357 weighs 46 ounces, unloaded. A Rugger .44 weighs 48 ounces (an even three pounds). For either, a box of 50 cartridges comes in at a pound and a half. Figuring that a modern weapon weighs roughly what one of Rockwell's would have, along with its paraphernalia, he could have been riding along with as much as 38, 39, or 40 pounds of steel slapping against him with his horse's gait. Add to that the weight of the hostlers and belts his outfit would have required. And more—add the weight of a formidable array of knives he had sheathed beside his guns. The sheriff, whoever he was, came away from the arrest with a story that was to last him a long time.
But Rockwell kept scaling down his arsenal until he carried just one .36 caliber Navy Colt, whose barrel he had sawed off to about two inches.75 The convenience of that was he could drop the gun into his coat pocket and go without a holster. In lightening up that way, he appears to have gotten like veteran cops, weary of the chaffing from gun belts and sick of the damned dangerous nuisance of the guns themselves. We can not be certain of this motives, of course—just as we can't know if in his age and growing independence he achieved any ironic detachment at having been taken for another Samson. Because of the distance that separates us, we can't be too confident in estimating the practical quality of that Old Mormon mind. It's just that under a certain slant of light he looks as if he might have changed. He had come through what our historians call the expansive Age of Jackson, what literary specialists say were times for romance and transcendence—congenial, incidentally, to the miracles of Joseph Smith. Rockwell had then come through a more skeptical time of realism, what Twain and Howells promoted in their ironic novels—congenial, to the rational, hard-fisted administrations of Brigham Young.
The Mormon Samson died apparently unconcerned about an indictment for a murder, stemming back years to the so-called Aiken affair.76 In fact, his attorneys had been complaining that he had become impossible to represent—so indifferent had he grown to defending himself. On the night of his passing he had gone to the theater with his daughter, Mary. The thespian Denman Thompson was starring in a two-night run of Joshua Whitcomb.77 We have no record of what he said about the play nor much less of what he could have thought of it. But more than likely he would have been measuring the players against himself as an actor, recalling those few times he had trod the boards in bit parts (and comically had muffed some78) when his Mormons had gotten together their entertainments. He was a man of many parts and of different acquaintances. But to an extraordinary degree his life was one filled with action. He proved himself time and again a Mormon hero of endurance that was voluntary and of courage that was not just sanguinary but in many ways was creative. It is inevitable perhaps that our sense of history should become simplified. But anyone who examines the era of our pioneering will find there a good many complicated characters who look like what we should hope to be if somehow we were to find ourselves in their tough circumstances. And for the church's part it has tried to sanitize its history, making some of its most interesting figures into little more than a moral wax works. The historians who fail to strike a balance, and who slight those of such complexity as Porter Rockwell, underestimate the breadth of human experience and leave us no wiser.
1- Word of Smith's prophecy about Rockwell's long hair protecting him spread rapidly through the Mormon capital of Nauvoo, Illinois. The first to put Smith's words to paper seems to have been James Jepson, who noted the prophecy on the day after Smith uttered it. See Jepson's "Memories and Experiences." (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society): 9-10. See further T. B. H. Stenhouse's Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons from the First Vision of Joseph Smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young. (New York, 1873): 140. George W. Bean's Autobiography, compiled by Flora Diana Bean Horne. (Salt Lake City, 1945): 175. And Elizabeth D. E. Roundy's letter in which she explained how late in his life Rockwell had asked her to write his story. Roundy's letter is on file in the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2- The genealogical records of the L.D.S. Church mention merely Rockwell's birth date of June 28, 1813. He had been born to Orrin and Sarah Witt Rockwell of Belcher, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Rockwell's place in the large family was the second of nine sons and daughters.
3- Excerpts of Hickok's, of Earp's, and of
Bean's writings and occasional remarks are in A Treasury of Western Folklore:
The Stories, Legends, Tall Tales, Traditions, Ballads, and Songs of the People
of the Great Plains and Far West. Edited by B.
A. Botkin. Foreword by Bernard DeVoto. (New York: Wings, 1975): Hickok 281-286, Earp 287-289, Bean 294-298.
4- Mark Twain's Roughing It. (New York: Signet Classic, 1962): 98.
5- Three anti-Mormon sources corroborate the charge of Rockwell's taking a plural wife: Thomas Ford's History of Illinois. (Chicago, 1854): 356-357. William Hall's Abominations of Mormonism Exposed; Containing Many Facts and Doctrines Concerning That Singular People, During Seven Year's Membership with Them; From 1840 to 1847. (Cincinnati, 1852): 28. And the Warsaw Signal of December 24, 1845. Incidentally, the records give only her married name, Mrs. Amos Davis.
6- Harold Schindler, Rockwell's foremost biographer, concluded that after Smith's death, "Rockwell's attitude had undergone a striking change; no longer reticent, he was now aggressive, even belligerent…. He boasted openly that with Joseph's death, the Gentile mob had eliminated the only man who could control him. As if to emphasize his words, Rockwell took a plural wife_at gunpoint." See Schindler's Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God/ Son of Thunder. (Salt Lake City: U of Utah P, 1966, revised 1983): 142.
7- Rockwell married Luana Hart Beebe on February 2, 1832. He may then have married Mrs. Amos Davis sometime near the end of 1845. He next married Mary Ann Neff on May 3, 1854, and he married Christine Olsen sometime in 1870 or 1871. Rockwell's four marriages can be traced most easily in Schindler: 8, 142-144, 205, 360.
8- For Rockwell's fourteen offspring, see
9- For Mary Ann Neff Rockwell's death on September 28, 1866 from complications following childbirth, see Schindler: 344.
10- Thomas Bullock recorded Rockwell's and Beebe's marriage in "A List of Saints in Jackson County," on file in the Historical Department of the LDS Church. Quoted from Schindler: 8.
11- For a description of Adam-ondi-Ahman, see James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard's The Story of the Latter-day Saints. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976): 107.
12- Compare Schindler's treatment of Rockwell's killing of Franklin A. Worrell: 128, 138-140, and 146 against Allen and Leonard's account, which is more sympathetic to Mormon interests: 212.
13- Compare Schindler's treatment of Rockwell's alleged assassination of Liburn W. Boggs: 48-49 and 67-71 against Allen and Leonard's account of the shooting, which is more sympathetic to Mormon interests: 178-179.
14- Rockwell's postmortem can be found in the Salt Lake Tribune, June 12, 1878.
15- Judges 15: 10-11: King James Version.
16- For Rockwell's bringing word of Joseph Smith's death, see Anson Call's "Life and Record." (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society): 27. Quoted from Schindler: 128.
17- Record of Rockwell's operating a ferry appears in a grand jury's failed presentment against him for conducting business without a license. See Record B, 197-198 of the Circuit County in Independence, Missouri. Quoted from Schindler: 9.
18- Mention of Rockwell's role in leading large numbers of Mormons from Illinois and across Iowa appears in the Journal History of the Church for March 14 and 31, for April 2 and 19, and for May 8, 1846. Quoted from Schindler: 146.
19- The report of Rockwell's months in jail and of his escape into Illinois is Alexander Doniphan's, an attorney who had represented the Mormons in their legal difficulties in Jackson County, Missouri but who also led a militia column against the Mormons in their final stand at Far West, Missouri. Doniphan at first declined to defend Rockwell, but Judge John F. Ryland ordered Doniphan to do so, which ended more or less successfully in a guilty verdict and a judgment of "five minutes confinement in the County Jail." See Fifth Judicial District Court of Missouri, Record G, No. 4, 228, 236. Quoted from Schindler: 96-101.
20- Rockwell was a scout for the Mormons' advanced party, who on July 24, 1847 followed the Donner/ Reed Party's faint trail down through Emigration Canyon and into the Salt Lake Valley. See "Extracts from Orson Pratt's Private Journal," Millennial Star, Vol. XII: 178.
21- Rockwell's travels with Benson are summarized in the Journal History of the Church for August 29, 1847.
22- Ibid., September 9, 1847.
23- Ibid., November 16, 1847.
24- Jefferson Hunt gave an account of his trip to California for the Desert News, October 7, 1905: 27.
25- Rockwell's bringing the first wagon over
The Spanish Trail is recorded in the Journal History of the Church for
June 5, 1848. See also Janet Burton Seegmiller's
contribution to the Utah Centennial History Series: A History of Iron County, Chapter 3, "Trades, Trappers, and Expeditions": 38.
26- Journal History of the Church for June 9, 1848.
27- Rockwell's second trip to California is outlined in a letter by Amasa Lyman to J. H. Flanigan, published in the Millennial Star, Vol. XII, April 11, 1850: 214-215.
28- For Rockwell's going under the assumed name of James B. Brown, see Nelson Slater's Fruits of Mormonism, (Coloma, California, 1851): 77-78. See further Achilles' (Samuel D. Sirrine's), The Destroying Angels of Mormondom; or a Sketch of the Life of Orrin Porter Rockwell, the Late Danite Chief. (San Francisco, 1878): 14. Louisa Barnes Pratt's "The Journal of Louisa Barnes Pratt," Heart Throbs of the West. (Salt Lake City, 1947): 256. And William F. Switler's Illustrated History of Missouri From 1541 to 1877, (St. Louis, 1879): 251.
29- George Bean, an interpreter to the Utes, gave the account of Rockwell's wrestling a knife away from Chief Walkara, in Bean's Autobiography: 93-94.
30- Lieutenant Colonel Edward Jenner Steptoe, military governor of the Utah Territory, hired Rockwell to find an easy route running south of the Great Salt Lake, through the Carson Valley of Nevada, and over the Sierra into California. See Captain Rufus Ingalls' "Report to the Quartermaster General," Senate Executive Document No. 1, 34th Congress, 1st Session, 1855: 161. Quoted from Schindler: 214-219.
31- Those who worked for The Brigham
Young Express and Carrying Company were actually serving missions for the LDS Church. See the Deseret News, April 23, 1856.
32- For an account of what has been called the "Echo Canyon War," see The Contributor, Vol. III: 272-274 and Vol. IV: 27-29.
33- Judges 15:15-17: King James Version.
34- For a short and readable account of Jedediah Strong Smith, open William B. Smart's "Jedediah Smith" in Old Utah Trails. Utah Geographic Series. (Salt Lake City, 1988): 29-39.
35- Judges 14: 5-6: King James Version.
36- The account of Rockwell's front-on shot of the buffalo bull belongs to William Clayton. See the Clayton Journal, A Daily Record of the Journey of the Original Company of "Mormon" Pioneers from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. (Salt Lake City, 1921):120.
37- Of Rockwell's trial, Clayton observed: "We have many such [mock] trials in the camp which are amusing enough and tend among other things to pass away the time cheerfully during leisure moments," in the Clayton Journal: 176.
38- For Rockwell's third marriage to Mary Ann Neff, see Schindler: 197.
39- The comical account of Brigham Young's
anger at Rockwell's mock trial can be found in the Clayton Journal:
189-197. See also Howard Egan's Pioneering the West, 1846 1878. Major Howard
Egan's Diary, also Thrilling Experiences of Pre-Frontier Life Among Indians;
Their Traits, Civil and Savage, and Part of Autobiography, Inter-Related to His
Father's, By Howard R. Egan. Edited, Compiled, and Connected In
Nearly Chronological Order By Wm. M. Egan, (Richmond, Utah, 1917): 52-57.
40- That winter while in Iowa, Mormons held a conference from December 24th to 27th 1847. On the last day of those meetings, the Council of Twelve Apostles placed Young at the head of the church.
41- The Word of Wisdom is found in the 89th Section of The Doctrine and Covenants. See also Allen and Leonard's The Story of the Latter-day Saints:105-106.
42- A. E. Housman's "A Shropshire Lad" in The Collected Poems of A. E. Housman. (New York: Henry Holt, 1924): 88.
43- Rockwell related how he had cut his hair to make a wig for Agnes Smith to Elizabeth D. E. Roundy, the one to whom Rockwell had appealed for help in writing his story. Roundy's work is in the Historical Department of the LDS Church. Quoted from Schindler: 219-220.
44- The Doctrine and Covenants 89: 7.
45- The report of Joseph and Emma Smith arguing about Rockwell's keeping a bar in the Mansion House comes from their son's Joseph Smith III and The Restoration. Edited by Mary Audentia Smith Anderson and condensed by Bertha Audentia Anderson Holmes. (Independence, Missouri, 1952): 74-76.
46- The Doctrine and Covenants 89: 8.
47- For Rockwell's losing his cabin and its belongings to a mob, see Schindler: 17.
48- Sidney Rigdon seems to have been the one
who drafted the ultimatum against the three enemies of Mormonism. The
eighty-three who signed it
were probably the original members of the Danite Society. This testimony comes from one of the three enemies, David Whitmer. Found in Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, etc., in Relation to the Disturbances With the Mormons; and the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, In a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1883, On the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State. Published by order of the General Assembly. (Fayette, Missouri, 1841): 138-139. Quoted from Schindler: 28.
49- The calculation of 2,000 militiamen from five divisions that Governor Boggs ordered against the Mormons is Schindler's: 48.
50- Joseph Smith's five months in Liberty Jail and his attempted jail breaks are recorded in the History of the Church, Vol. III: 257-292.
51- There are several stories whose conclusions or resolutions are clearly supposed to be the fulfillment of Joseph Smith's prophecy about Rockwell's long hair protecting him from harm. The best ones are Glynn Bennion's "Suggestion and Quick Draw" in the Salt Lake Tribune of February 24, 1924. The second story is James Sharp's "The Old Man's Story" in the Improvement Era, Vol. XLVI, 1943: 85, 100-101.
52- Warsaw Signal, December 10, 1845. Quoted from Schindler: 143.
53- Rumor of Joseph Smith's and Rockwell's
having drowned an old
woman can be found in Wilhelm W. Wyl's (Wymetal's) Mormon Portraits, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, His Family and His Friends. (Salt Lake City, 1886): 47-49.
54- A Cheyenne war party killed Babbit, as was reported initially in four sources: the Council Bluffs Bugle; The Mormon of April 18, 1857; the Crescent City Oracle of May 22, 1856; and the Millennial Star, Vol. XIX: 443. For further allegations of Rockwell's having killed Babbit, see Achilles' Destroying Angels of Mormondom: 16-17. Quoted from Schindler: 233-235.
55- Schindler was the first to discover and to publish the names of all six of the Aiken Party. His chapter "Six Fine-Looking Men" remains the best piece of scholarship on this phase of Rockwell's life: 268-281.
56- The young sergeant's name was John Tobin, and details of his scrape with Alice Young can be found in John Hyde, Jr.'s Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs. (New York, 1857): 106. For another account, see S. George Ellsworth's Dear Ellen. Two Mormon Women and Their Letters. (Salt Lake City, 1974): 34, 39. Also Achilles claimed that Rockwell and one of Brigham Young's sons were under orders to do away with Tobin: 17-18.. However, that would have been impossible, because that February of 1857 Rockwell had traveled out to the plains to help organize the Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company.
57- Hosea Stout's bizarre account of Henry
Jones and his mother includes this journal entry: "This evening several
persons disguised as Indians entered Henry Jones' house and dragged him out of bed with a whore and castrated him by a square and close amputation." See Stout's On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844-1861. Edited by Juanita Brooks. (Salt Lake City, 1965): Vol. II, 653. See also Stenhouse: 405. And Achilles: 18-19.
58- Thomas Colbourn was the one known as Nigger Tom. See the Union Vedette, December 13, 1866. Also Salt Lake County's death record no. 2897. And Achilles: 34.
59- The Deseret News reported John Gheen's death from a shot through the forehead in its issue of September 28, 1859, as did the Valley Tan in its issue of the same date. See also Stenhouse: 470-471 and Achilles: 30-31.
60- Wyl: 255.
61- Judges 15: 4-5: King James Version.
62- See O. J. Hollister's Life of Schuler Colfax. (New York, 1886): 342.
63- Harold Schindler's biography on Rockwell won the American Association for State and Local History Award of Merit.
64- Compare Holcombe's more historical account of the Haun's Mill Massacre in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 6, 1887, reprinted as part of Rollin J. Britton's series "Early Days on Grand River and the Mormon War" in The Missouri Historical Review, Vol. XIII, No. 3: 298-305 against such Mormon accounts as those in the History of the Church, Vol. III: 183-187 and in the Church Encyclopedia: 671-684.
65- Mention of the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel
appears in the Valley Tan of
November 6, 1858.
66- Rockwell's land patent is in the Record Book 1, Patent 1311, of the Tooele County Recorder's Office.
67- The records of the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society show that Rockwell won a $5 prize for the filly and a $10 award for the mule colt: 109.
68- The Deseret News of December 28, 1864 made mention of Rockwell as the one who had raised the huge hog.
69- George Bean and Rockwell were missionaries at Fish Lake, in Bean: 171.
70- Rockwell was riding shotgun for the Overland Stage between the stations at Faust and Fort Bridger. See Glynn Bennion's "Suggestion and Quick Draw" in the Salt Lake Tribune, February 24, 1924. See also James Sharp's "The Old Man's Story" in the Improvement Era, Vol. XLVI: 85, 100-101.
71-. Karrick told his story of his adventure with Rockwell to a correspondent of the Salt Lake Herald of July 30, 1885.
72- Reinhart told his story of his adventure with Rockwell in The Golden Frontier; The Recollections of Herman Francis Reinhart, 1851-1869. Edited by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., (Austin, Texas, 1962): 280-281.
73- Millard's crimes, his capture, and his execution are related in the Deseret News of December 12th, 17th, 18th, and 29th, 1868. For the note of Millard having sold his body to the physician from Provo, see Hamilton Gardner's History of Lehi. (Salt Lake City, 1913): 206.
74- This report of Rockwell's arming himself
so well appeared in the Daily
Missouri Republican of May 5, 1846. Quoted from Schindler: 147.
75- For a description and a photograph of Rockwell's sawed-off, percussion type Colt, see Harry W. Gibson's "Frontier Arms of the Mormons." Utah Historical Quarterly 42:1 (1974): 4-26.
76- Concerning Rockwell's arrest for the murder of John Aiken on September 29, 1877, a reported for the Salt Lake Tribune said: "Another one of `our best society,' O. P. Rockwell, was jugged yesterday. This man has been one of the chief murderers of the Mormon Church…." See the entry on September 30, 1877. See also the Utah County and Territorial Criminal Records, Files 81 and 82. The People vs. O. P. Rockwell, et at., Utah County Clerk's Office, Provo, Utah.
77- Rockwell's evening in the playhouse is quoted from Schindler: 365.
78- Rockwell twice played the part of Divina, "the Spanish soldier," in what had been Joseph Smith's favorite romantic comedy, Pizarro. These productions were nine years apart. The record of the first appears in the Journal History of the Church, September 15, 1868; a record of the second play appears in Orson F. Whitney's History of Utah. (Salt Lake City, 1892-1904): Vol.1, 502. Both of these sources also appear in Schindler: 113, 197-198.