J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

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properly indorsed by Joseph Smith. To such depths of abasement
may the heaven-born intellect sink. He was succeeded as First
Councilor by Brigham's son, "Johnnie" Young; for it is one of
the " first principles of the gospel" as known in Utah, that all power
is to be kept concentrated in the hands of the Smiths and Youngs.

Daniel H. Wells was then, and is now, Brigham's Second Councilor,
these three constituting the First Presidency of the Church, and having
the right of final decision on all appeals from the lower priesthood, of
whatever branch. Wells is, by popular election and "Divine ap-
pointment," a Prophet and a Squire, a Mayor and a President, a
Lieutenant-General and the husband of five wives. He is a tall, an-
gular and most ungainly Saint, whose face and head bear involuntary
witness to the truth of Darwinism. Borrowing a term from dime-
novel literature, the Gentiles style him " The one-eyed pirate of the
Wasatch." Long acquaintance with his career has only confirmed
my first impression of him: he is the most dangerous man in the
priesthood. The others are mostly impostors ; he believes it, bloody
doctrines and all. Had he held the reins from 1870 till 1873, he
would have precipitated a savage conflict, and the end would have
been Mormonism drowned in blood, as was the Anabaptist schism,
or a new development and fresh lease of life on the cry of " persecu-
tion." It is well that he has small chance of succeeding Brigham ;
so much more dangerous is a fanatic than an impostor.

Brigham Young I did not see or converse with till some time
after, but was for many years familiar with his appearance in the
pulpit. Physically, the man is as near perfect as is ever allowed to
one of our wretchedly developed race. Six feet high and uucom-


tnonly well muscled, he is yet so compactly built that strangers in-
variably pronounce him smaller than he is; and one who first sees
him step out of his carriage on Main Street, clad in his short, gray
business coat, is apt to speak of him as "dumpy." He measures
forty-four inches around the chest, and weighs at least two hundred
pounds ; his hands and feet are rather large, his head extremely so,
and very broad across the base, sloping thence before and behind
toward the crown. With very light or golden hair, a cold, glitter-
ing blue eye and a massive under-jaw that shuts like a vice, he has
the firmness and vigor that usually consist with such an organiza-
tion, and that happy mixture of the sanguine and bilious tempera-
ments which makes one easily believe himself a man of destiny. Of
the hardiest Vermont stock, he was put up by nature to last a hundred
and twenty years, but hardships and the worry of governing have
shortened his life from twenty to forty years, and he may die any-
where between eighty and a hundred, retaining possession of his fac-
ulties and growing more tyrannical and avaricious to the last.

Not at all a talented man in the common sense of the word, his
power is largely the result of his immense physical potency. His
physique is one that makes a man do and dare, and then take the
results of that doing and daring as marks of divine favor. Even
sneering unbelievers who shake hands with him feel the impress of
his magnetic potentiality, nor is it pleasant to face him with the con-
sciousness that one is his enemy. Many an apostate can bear wit-
ness that long after being convinced that Mormonism was a hollow
fraud, which he ought to abandon, and could abandon without
danger, he still felt a grievous dread of standing up in the "School
of the Prophets" to face the wrath of Brigham Young. To women
of the uncultured and impressible sort, such a man is often as fas-
cinating as a gentle and purring lion : one with all power in reserve
to be exercised only for them and upon their enemies. Even a few
non-Mormon women have confessed a mild admiration for this mass
of power, and at least two Gentile ladies have so far forgotten them-
selves as to write in fulsome praise of a man whose very existence is
a standing insult to womanhood. Such respect hath great native
power and virile force.

Before an audience in sympathy with him he is an effective speaker;
he can, by a series of strong, nervous appeals, carry them along to
almost any pitch of excitement, and commit them, by voice and vote,
to almost any absurdity. Add a ready command of language, albeit
the vernacular of an uneducated Vermonter, and rare powers as a



mimic, and we have the secret of Brigham's strength as an orator.
Of eloquence he has none whatever; before a cultured or critical
audience he would be a hopeless failure. Whatever greatness he has,
finds its source in his splendid physical organization. Thence is his
energy, his invincible will, his iron disregard of the sufferings of
others the qualities that have made him. His was also the rare
good fortune to fall just at the right time into just the right place for
his peculiar talents; for it is scarcely possible that in the ordinary
pursuits of life he would have made more than ordinary success.
The accident of one man's death and the apostasy of two others, made
him President of the Twelve Apostles just before Joe Smith's death;
after that event, there was none to oppose him save the flighty and un-
reliable Sidney Rigdon, whom the Mormons had never trusted, and so
Brigham necessarily became head of the Church.


It is a noteworthy fact that in almost every scheme Brigham has
undertaken, except managing the Mormons, he has completely failed.
His Colorado warehouses, beet-sugar factories, Cottonwood Canal, B.
Y. Express, and hand-cart emigration scheme, one and all, proved dis-
astrous failures, the last resulting in three hundred deaths, and the
most frightful suffering. Similarly every colony Brigham has sent to
the surrounding territories has finally been abandoned as a failure,
from Lemhi, on the north, to San Bernardino, on the south. Not a
few look forward to his death as a great aid to the disintegration of
Mormondom; his continued life will do far more in that direction.
"When he took command of the Mormons they had, according to their
own accounts, over 200,000 members in all the world; now they num-


ber less than half as many. They submitted all to him, and he has
spent thirty years in teaching them the terrors of a religious despot-
ism. Thousands have learned that it is easy to surrender rights, but
hard to regain them. At first he only robbed his devotees, now
he insults them. A few more years of power and he will, to quote the
language of a Mormon, " hitch them up and plow the ground with

Many intelligent men have concluded that Brigham was honest
in his religious professions. I can not agree with them. I might
reject all other evidence of his hypocrisy, but I can not reject his
own. Again and again he lias virtually admitted that his religion
was a mere convenience. To a young Mormon friend of the writer,
whom he was urging to return to the fold, Brigham said: "It makes
no difference whether you believe in it or not; we need you; just
come along and be baptized, and pay up a little on your tithing, and
it will be all right." To another he said : " It's no great concern
what you believe ; I 've got as good a right to start a new religion
as Christ or Mohammed, or any other man." And yet again, when
speaking of the vote of each semi-annual conference indorsing him
as a prophet, he said; "I am neither a prophet nor the son of a
prophet, but I have been profitable to this people." Since then the
Gentiles have usually designated him "The Profit." There was a'
time, I think, when he believed his religion and worked hard for
it ; but as he rose in the Church he learned more, and became what
he practically describes himself, a philosophic infidel. A man whose
convictions depend largely on his interests, with a happy power of
self-deception, a great deal of cunning, some executive ability, and
behind it all an immense physical potency, with little mercy or con-
science to temper it such, in brief, is Brigham Young.

Late in September, I took a walk to Bear River Cafion, some
eighty miles north of the city, stopping often with the rural Saints
and noting their ways. This trip was through the most enlightened
part of Utah, almost the only part the Eastern tourist ever sees.
The villages are neat and quiet, and the little farms well watered
and cultivated. But even here the great lack is apparent. The
Saints have adopted the bee as their emblem, and have stopped
with the blind instincts of the bee content with food and shelter,
with but little regard for the higher man. Near Ogden was an
old Dane, living with a mother and two daughters as wives; in
Brigham City lived a bishop, married to two of his own nieces, and
near Bear River was another Dane, living with three wives in a


^abin not large enough to make one comfortable. Such cases were
my first select specimens of the practical operations of the " Celes-
tial Law." As this was but one of many journeys I made in
Utah, a few general notes on the topography will be in order.

The Wasatch Mountains on the east, and Sierra Nevada on the
west, like the two sides of a ( ), inclose a region known as the
Great Basin, in which nature appears to have worked on a dif-
ferent plan from that pursued in the rest of the country. All the
streams run towards the center, none towards the sea; a river is
larger at the head than at the mouth when it has a mouth very
few of the lakes have any outlet, and, with rare exceptions, both
pools and lakes are bitter with salt, iron, lime, or alkali. From
the mountains which form the rim of the Great Basin, sub-ranges
successively fall off towards the center, and the whole interior plain
is an almost unbroken desert. But from the Wasatch and Sierras
many streams put out towards the center, and, at the points where
they leave the mountains, are bordered by little fan-shaped valleys.
These, constitute all the cultivable land in the Basin ; the rest is
fit only for timber or grazing, or is totally barren. Throughout
the Basin all the detached mountains run north and south; on
them is the only timber, and about their base the only grass to be
found. If the mountain is high enough to supply melting snow
throughout the summer, there may be a settlement at its base;
otherwise all the streams that issue from it will be dry in early
spring, and cultivation, that is to say, irrigation, be impossible.

Southward, the country grows steadily dryer and more barren ;
the valleys smaller, the deserts larger, the streams more unreliable.
In Arizona and Southern Utah, I found it difficult, indeed, to get
water twice in a day's ride. In the north the most rugged mount-
ains are relieved by graceful adjuncts; there is a gradual ascent
from plain to bench, from bench to foot-hill and lower sub-range,
and over all is a faint green tinge from brush or bunch-grass, or
a dreamy haze that softens the rudest outlines. But in the south
there is a grandeur that is awfully suggestive suggestive of death
and worn-out lands, of cosmic convulsions and volcanic catastro-
phes that . swept away whole races of pre-Adamites. There the
broad plateaus are cut abruptly by deep cartons with perpendicular
sides, sometimes 2000 feet in height ; there is a less gradual ap-
proach to the highest ranges, and the peaks stand out sharply de-
fined against a hard blue sky. The air is noticeably dryer ; there
is no haze to soften the view, and the severe outlines of the cliffs


seem to frown menacingly upon one who threads the canons. Nee-
dle rocks project hundreds of feet above the general level, while
hard volcanic dykes ris above the softer lime or sandstone
mighty battlements, abrupt and unpassable Pelion upon Ossa piled,
as in Titanic war.

The western half of the great Basin is Nevada, the eastern, Mor-
mon Utah. All that part of the Territory east of the Wasatch is
still the range of the Mountain Ute, and, for the most part, unfit
for white settlements. As nine-tenths of the cultivable land lies
along the western base of the Wasatch, in the little detached val-
leys mentioned, it results that Mormon Utah consists of a narrow
line of settlements down the center of the Territory: an attenuated
commonwealth rarely more than ten miles wide, but nearly sev<m
hundred miles long from Oneida, in Idaho, to the Rio Virgen, in
Arizona. Geographically, it nearly fills the definition of a line
extension without breadth or thickness. Such communities would
naturally develop a different system of law and social organization
from that of a continuously fertile and habitable state like Illi-
nois. Manifestly something like the Cantonal system would spring
up, with the Commune as a subdivision of the Canton. But in
Utah theocracy came in to "\\arp and distort the natural growth
of government, and subordinate every thing to the strengthening
of priestly power. Against this the Gentiles and Liberal Mor-
mons have unceasingly contended, and hence that interminable strug-
gle theocracy vs. republicanism which has so long made up the
history of Utah, and in which for many years I was an active par-

Through all my w r anderings in the West I came back to Utah as
my home, and to this contest as to my chosen field of action. Even
now a glow comes over me at thought of blows given and taken, and
the little circle of choice spirits, half philosophers, half politicians,
that helped make my life in Utah so pleasant. There was O. J.
Holltster, half enthusiast, half business man, and wholly a student
and man of literary tastes, who had had, perhaps, a more varied ex-
perience than any of the number. Reared in Columbia County, New
York, he early felt the " cramp " of farm life there, and sought his
fortune first in Pennsylvania, and then in New Jersey and Maryland.
The westward wave carried him to Kansas, and when the contest was
over there, on to the gold fields of Pike's Peak ; and before his frame
had hardened into manhood, he was busy among the pioneers of a
new State. Mining, lumbering, freighting, and ranching gave vigor


to his body and mind till the war broke out, when lie joined Gilpin's
Colorado regiment. With them he marched a thousand miles, and
helped drive Sibley out of New Mexico, then returned, and again en-
gaged in mining, and finally graduated as an editor, in which capacity he
came to Utah. Our first year there saw him enthusiastic, eager for
reform, confident that wonders could be done by union and energy.
A little later, he married the sister of Vice-president Colfax, took a
good office, grew rich and conservative, and concluded that the Utah
question was to be slowly worked out rather than quickly fought

There, too, was Colonel J. H. Wickizer, who for six years regu-
lated the mails of Utah, Montana, and Idaho, and provided his Gen-
tile friends with an unfailing store of anecdote and apt illustration.
He was long a colleague and intimate friend of Abraham Lincoln,
rode the circuit with him in Illinois, and contended often with him
at the bar. A man of nice and discriminating taste in letters, he
was a walking encyclopedia of Western wit, humor, and historic inci-
dent. His point of attack was the utter nonsense of Mormonism and
its theocratic government; for it is to be noted that all of us thought
little and cared less about the religion it was the civil (or rather un-
civil) government we objected to/

Other active participants in our political and social plans were
Governor George L. Woods and Secretary Geo. A Black. But the
central figure in Utah, during our period of greatest excitement, was
Chief Justice James B. McKean. Descended on one side from the
Machians of Scotland, and on the other from the French Huguenots
that settled on Long Island, he seemed to unite the fearless consci-
entiousness of the one race with the tireless energy of the other. A
case has been made out against him on the charge that he was rather
fanatical in his dislike of polygamy and theocracy; but it was a kind
of fanaticism we were sorely in need of in Utah. He and his col-
leagues, Justices Hawley and Strickland, were the first Federal
judges w y ho boldly faced the difficulty presented by the anomalous
organization of the district courts. For twenty years the United
States judges had for the most part yielded the point, and this yield-
ing, threw all the power into the hands of the Mormon bishops, who
acted as territorial judges. Judge McKean decided that this ought
not to be so; made the United States marshal the ministerial officer
of his court; got a grand jury over which the Church had no control,
and entered on an inquiry into the many murders committed between
1855 and 1863. The Supreme Court of the United States overruled


his decision after his court had been in operation twenty months ;
but it was too late to save the Church from complete exposure. The
good had been accomplished, the evidence had been brought out, and
the guilt traced home ; and though the final decision resulted in
turning a hundred and twenty-eight murderers and other criminals
loose, it could not suppress the evidence already published. From
that time forward the Mormon Church was on the defensive, and its
speakers ceased to apologize for murder. This great work these
judges accomplished; and if their law was wrong, their action was
right, and its results in every way good for Utah.

In time, there came to our aid many independent Mormons, men
of active talents, but too much given to verbal hair-splitting. They
were, one and all, infidels of the toughest stock; for the man who has
been a Mormon for many years rarely takes a firm hold on any other
faith. Having been so badly fooled once, he inclines to regard all
religion as either fraud or delusion. I smile at thought of one
such who was one of my political co-laborers. He talked long and
loud of liberty, equality, and fraternity, but cursed the administration,
and despaired of republican government; he quoted Tom Paine and
Herbert Spencer by the hour ; was poloquent on first principles and
universal law, and argued on the Supreme Good, the control of
passion, and the unknowable, till he was black in the face with anger.
To him, the New Testament was a myth, the Banner of Light a gos-
pel ; he put his faith in Spiritual Philosophy, and believed nearly every
thing but the Bible.

The warring factions were at peace when I entered Utah ; but the
October conference of the Mormons renewed the fight, by issuing a
decree against all Gentile merchants. It was made cause of excom-
munication for any Saint to patronize them in any w r ay whatever. In
eight months ten Gentile firms had left the city, and in August, 1869,
Salt Lake contained no more than two hundred Gentiles. The Union
Pacific Railroad was completed in May of that year, and let a little
light into the Territory ; soon the interest in mining revived, and we
turned our eyes towards the mountains as the last hope for non-Mor-
mons. Had this resource failed, I am positive there would not be a
hundred Gentiles in Utah to-day. The social despotism of the Church
was so great they could not have remained.

In September, 1869, I made a pleasant journey to the Sevier Mines,
two hundred miles south of Salt Lake, in company with some miners.
My memory does not recall a more pleasant journey. All day we
rolled along through grassy meads or over rocky flats, with a blue sky


overhead, and fanned by the soft airs of autumn in that most delight-
ful climate. The coves opening back into the mountains were rich in
bunch-grass, in which jack-rabbits were abundant ; sage hens and
other small fowl were numerous on the plain, and large flocks of
ducks were found along the stream. The Sevier Valley has an aver-
age elevation of five thousand feet above the sea ; the summers are
mild, and in winter snow rarely falls to any depth ; cattle live on the
range nine months in the year, and yet the region is free from the
scorching heat of Arizona. Very little of the valley is cultivable,
hoAvever; stock-ranching is the principal occupation. We passed
through seven Availed towns, which had been abandoned by the Mor-
mons on account of hostile Indians, and were still uninhabited. At
Marysvale, last town on the Sevier, we found the Mormons return-
ing to their homes, peace having been made with the Indians. There
we turned into the mountains, and toiled for six hours in advancing

* ~

six miles up Pine Gulch. One moment we were on the edge of a
narrow track where an overturn would have sent us a hundred feet
into the bed of the stream, and the next struggling through a narrow
chasm at the bottom of the gulch, with walls of granite rising on both
sides of us, and above them the sloping sides of the caflon half a
mile in height, and covered with timber to the very summit. The
roaring brook, now beside us, now far below us, and again dashing
against our wagon wheels, seemed to be singing of the snowy heights
whence it came; and at every point where a depression or obstructing
rock formed a pool, the shining mountain trout were to be seen in
numbers through the clear fluid, though its temperature was but little
above that of ice- water.

After a week in this new mining region, I returned to Salt Lake
City, and to the normal condition of a polemic editor. The tide had
turned. The Gentiles were coming in again, mostly to engage in
mining, and in a year from that date the Territory contained several
thousand non-Mormons. By the autumn of 1871, all the mountains
of central Utah were dotted with miners' cabins and traversed by pros-
pectors. By 1875, there was a non-Mormon population in Utah of
fifteen or twenty thousand, with a political organization, churches,
schools, and daily papers of their own, having political control of
one county and half a dozen towns. But the old conflict goes on
just the same. A theocracy never yields power till compelled to. The
young Mormons welcome the change ; the older ones, and especially
the priesthood, only regret that they were not more severe and ex-
clusive when they had the power. But Mormonism in a family never


outlasts one generation. Old Mormons die, young ones grow up in-
fidels; so in due time the system must expire by natural limitation,
especially since the foreign supply has ceased. The original force of
fanaticism wears itself out. So it was with the Irvingites, Muggle-
tonians, etc., and so it will doubtless be with Mormonism. Such a de-
lusion is like one of Utah's mountain streams, which plunges from a
rocky gulch as though it would tear up all the country below; five
miles down the plain it has become a gentle rivulet or sluggish slough,
five miles further, and there is a channel of dry sand, with here and
there a brackish pool. Such seems to be the course of all religious, de-
lusions which do not end in blood.

But the death of Mormonism will not end Utah's troubles. Instead
of 75,000 fanatics, there will be 150,000 infidels all those of Mormon
parentage, having no philosophy to take the place of religion. The de-
bris of Mormonism will encumber the land for a generation. The
original Mormon converts were from the most hardy and virtuous
peasantry in Europe ; they came over as a rule in middle life, and Mor-
monism could not entirely spoil them. Their children will suffer all
the evil results of polygamy and superstitious folly, with none of the
restraint imposed by a theocracy all the evil and none of the good.
There will be a laxity of conduct and a general flabbiness of the moral
fiber, which will not be cured till they learn by dire experience that
the way of the transgressor is hard. The Mormon doctrine that " it is
right to lie for the good of the Church," has made deceit an institution.
It can scarcely be said that any disgrace attaches to perjury. Jews and
Gentiles who live long among this people too often become addicted to
the same practices; for, say they, "if we do n't, they get the advan-
tage." There is in Utah more downright lying to the square mile than
in any other region on this continent; and the religious lying is the
worst of all. Thus stands the Utah situation : the Jews lie for gain,
the Gentiles from association, and the Mormons " for Christ's sake."



A YEAH in Utah had brought renewed health and strength; but the
love of Western travel was aroused. I would see Nevada and Cali-

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 10 of 62)