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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been committed in Utah, which, if properly followed up, will bring many down from
their high places in the Church to face offended justice upon the gallows. So mote
it be.

(Signed) JOHN D. LEE.

The autobiography, of which Lee speaks, is for the present withheld,
for obvious reasons. But when the confession was forwarded to the
New York Herald for publication, the proprietor telegraphed Brigham,
asking if he had any statement to make in connection with the publi-
cation. Brigham replied as follows :

ST. GEORGE, UTAH, March 22.

James Gordon Bennetl, New York: Yours just received. If Lee has made a statement
fa his confession implicating me, as charged in your telegraph of the 21st inst., it is ut-
terly false. My course of life is too well known by thousands of honorable men for
them to believe for one moment such accusations.


Only that and nothing more. And straightway all the Mormon
papers of Utah, and all of Brigham's apologists in the East, cried out
that the Prophet was completely exonerated; that no one would take
the word of a murderer like Lee against so good a man as Brigham.
How easily are people deceived, if they ardently wish to be.


The last day drew near, and United States Marshal, William Kelson,
with an eye to poetical justice, selected Mountain Meadows as the
scene of execution. Judge Boreman did not approve of this, thinking
it savored of revenge and spectacular display; he would have preferred
the execution should take place at Beaver, where the court was held.
But few officials and press representatives knew of this selection
till after the escort had left Beaver. Several reporters were present.
As his last hour drew near, Lee became very cheerful and communi-
cative. The execution ground was about a hundred yards east of the
monument, which is now but a mass of rocks. Lee was attended by
Rev. Mr. Stokes, to whom he finally confessed that he killed five of
the emigrants with his own hands. This was his first and last con-
fession of actual murder. The shooting squad of five men was detailed
from the guard of soldiers who had escorted the party from Camp
Cameron. They were armed with needle-guns, and stood no more
than forty feet from the coffin, on which sat the condemned. At 10:30
A. M., Marshal Nelson read the death-warrant, and asked Lee if he
had any thing to say. Mr. Fennemore, an artist, had meanwhile ar-
ranged his material for taking a photograph of the scene. Lee said :

" I. want to speak to that man."

Fennemore replied : " In a second, Mr. Lee."

Lee : " I want to ask you a favor. I want you to furnish my three
wives each a copy of my photograph a copy of the same to Rachel
A., Sarah C., and Emma B."

Fennemore (in a low tone) : " I will."

Marshal Nelson (aloud) : " He says he will do it, Mr. Lee."

Lee (in a somewhat pleading tone) : " Please forward them you

Lee then stood up and said in calm and measured tones :

I have but little to say this morning. Of course I feel that I am upon the brink of
eternity, and the solemnities of eternity should rest upon my mind at the present. I
have made out, or endeavored to do so, a manuscript and an abridged history of my
life. This is to be published, sir. I have given my views and feelings with regard to
all these things. I feel resigned to my fate. I feel as calm as a summer morning. I
have done nothing designedly wrong. My conscience is clear before God and man, and
I am ready to meet my Redeemer. This it is that places me on this field. I am not an
infidel. I have not denied God or His mercy. I am a strong believer in these things.
The most I regret is parting with my family. Many of them are unprotected, and will
be left fatherless. When I speak of those little ones, they touch a tender chord within
me. (Here Lee's voice faltered perceptibly.) I have done nothing designedly wrong in
this affair. I used my utmost endeavors to save this people. I would have given
worlds, were it at my command, to have avoided that calamity. But I could not. I am
sacrificed to satisfy feelings, and I am used to gratify parties, but I am ready to die. I
have no fear. Death has no terror. No particle of mercy have I asked of the court or



officials to spare my life. I do not fear death. I shall never go to a worse place than
the one I am now in. I have said it to my family, and I will say it to-day, that the
Government of the United States sacrifices its best friend, and that is saying a great deal,
but it is true. I am a true believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not believe
every thing that is now practiced and taught by Brigham Young. I do not agree with
him. I believe he is leading the people astray; but I believe in the gospel as it
was taught in its purity by Joseph Smith in former days. I have my reasons for say-
ing this. I used to make this man's will my pleasure, and did so for thirty years. See
how and what I have come to this day. I have been sacrificed in a cowardly and das-
tardly manner.

There are thousands of people in the Church, honorable, good-hearted, that I cherish
in my heart. I regret to leave my family. They are near and dear to me. These are
things to rouse my sympathy. I declare I did nothing wrong designedly in this unfortu-
nate affair. I did every tiling in my power to save all the emigrants, but I am the one
that must suffer. Having said this, I feel resigned. I ask the Lord my God to extend
his mercy to me, and receive my spirit. My labors are done.


Having thus spoken he sat down on his coffin.

The minister offered a fervent prayer. The spectators were ordered
to fall back. Marshal Nelson gave command :

" Make ready ! Aim ! Fire !"

The five rifles cracked simultaneously, and Lee fell back dead,
without a struggle. Five balls had passed through him in the imme-
diate vicinity of the heart. Either alone would have caused instant
death. His countenance was perfectly placid ; his lips parted to some-
thing very near a smile.


Thus died John Doyle Lee, a fanatic and a sensualist, a devotee
and a murderer, a kind father, a pleasant host, a hospitable gentleman
and a remorseless bigot. The same qualities which, with proper edu-
cation and surroundings, would have made him an energetic, active
and valuable citizen of a Christian community, in Mormonism made
him a polygamist and a murderer. Doubtless there was a time in his
early life when the weight of a hair either way would have determined
the course of his career as the drop falling on one side of a Minne-
sota roof may flow down to the sunny gulf, on the other side to the
frozen ocean. The accident of an hour turned his life into the chan-
nels of Mormonism ; thence his way was steadily downward, and the
perversion of those forces which would have made him honored in Il-
linois, consigned him to infamous remembrance in Utah. So may all
who are conscious of unregulated passion look upon him as the pious
bishop did upon the hardened convict, " There go I, but for the
grace of God."

It only remains to inquire into the probable, or possible, fate of his
companions in crime, and the proof of Brigham Young's complicity.
Of those indicted, only George Adair and Elliott Wilden are in cus-
tody, both minor characters in the tragedy, though other participants
testified on the trial. But the really guilty, such as Isaac Haight,
John M. Higbee and William C. Stewart the men who planned and
carried the matter through exultingly are in hiding in the Indian
country. For a long time they lived in a mountain fastness of south-
eastern Utah, and Hon. G. C. Bates, their attorney, visited and con-
versed with them in their chosen stronghold. He gave me a dra-
matic account of his experience there ; of his going in at night and re-
turning the next night, by a way so devious that none but Indians or
the most accomplished scouts could find it. But even that place did
not make them feel safe ; and since the Mormons extended their south-
ern settlements into New Mexico and Arizona, the murderers have re-
treated there. The community still shields them, but, as time passes,
there is a growing number of Mormons who would like to see jus-
tice done. The United States Government now has one duty to per-
form: to offer a moderate reward for their capture, or guarantee the
expense. Let this be done, and Marshal "William Stokes will pick
his assistants and have those assassins in the Beaver jail within two

Marshal Stokes, to whom Utah and the cause of justice are so
greatly indebted, deserves more than a passing notice. A native of
New York, but reared in Wisconsin, he was then thirty-three years of


age, in the very prime of mental and physical vigor. He served four
years in Company " D," of the Eighth Wisconsin, and was in twenty-
five battles and skirmishes, including the battle of Corinth and assault
on Vicksburg. With a posse of but five men he executed the skillful
movement ending in the capture of Lee ; and if our somewhat too
cautious Congress will but vote to pay the expense, he will capture
the others.

Was Brigham Young guilty? To me the evidence seems overwhelm-
ing that he was accessory after the fact not quite conclusive that he
ordered the massacre. But there is a fearful array of evidence, and
steadily accumulating, to that effect, though much of it is moral and
inferential rather than direct. Its nature may be judged from one
fact: the longer a Gentile lives in Utah the more he is convinced of
Brigham's guilt, for he sees more and more that no such action would
have been taken by those southern Mormons unless they had been
certain of Brigham's approval. The empire that man had obtained
over Utah in 1857 and succeeding years, has never been exceeded on
earth ; it is something Americans can never hope to understand until
they have lived years in Utah. As Prophet, he held the " keys of
the kingdom," and all Mormons believed that none could enter there
without his voucher. As Priest ; he alone had authority to "seal" and
divorce, whether for time or eternity. As Seer, he literally directed
every movement of the community. As Revelator, they regarded his
words as the very oracles of God. As First President, he was official
head of all orders of the priesthood. He was then officially styled
" Prophet, Priest, Seer and Revelator, First President and Trustee-in-
Trust of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." In the
last capacity he had control of all the property concerns of Utah.
Every thing was done and every body directed by priestly " counsel."
No move of any importance was entered upon without his consent;
no lay member of his own motion ever ventured upon any new enter-
prise. Brigham must be consulted if he would change his town or
residence, his associations or his business, go abroad or remain at
home, buy a farm or take another wife. Nor is this all. Besides be-
ing their spiritual head and guide, he was military commander over
Dame, Haight and Lee. If there is any power possible on this earth
which he did not have, many years search have failed to show it. Is
it credible that, under such circumstances, such a momentous affair
could take place without his consent? Scores of times have I heard
Brigham speak of the power he exercised over "this people." It had
been his boast for thirty years that the Saints would do nothing against


his wish. "We must judge him by his own utterances and those of his
nearest friends.

But there are direct evidences. First : His sermon that if emi-
grants tried to cross the Territory he would " turn the Indians loose
on them." Second: His admitted knowledge of the affair soon after
it occurred, and failure to denounce or seek to have the guilty pun-
ished. Third : His complete silence thereon in his next report as In-
dian Agent. Fourth : His persistent falsehood for fifteen years after-
wards in denying that the whites had any thing to do with it. Fifth :
His continued attempts to deceive all who made inquiry into the mat-
ter, and a score of other facts already mentioned. Collateral to the
main issue, there are other crimes of which Brigham was undoubtedly
guilty. The public files show that the year after the massacre he wrote
to Indian Commissioner Denver charging the crime upon the In-
dians this in accordance with the arrangement made with the mur-
derers, of which Lee speaks and that he actually charged the Govern-,
ment for the material tq,ken from the murdered emigrants and given
to the Indians! Here is a clear case of perjury, proved by docu-
mentary evidence. And for this also, had an honest jury been found
in Utah, he would have been indicted. Nor is this all. In 1864 a
member of the Indian Committee visited Utah, and to him Brigham
made complaint that the Mormons had not been paid for their ex-
penses in the late Indian wars. The official gave as a reason that
charges against them were on file in connection with Mountain Mead-
ows. Then Brigham called high heaven to witness that the Saints had
nothing to do with that massacre "it was all the work of Indians."
As late as 1869, the Deseret Neirs, Brigham Young's official organ, con-
tained an article, written by Apostle George Q. Cannon, later a Dele-
gate in Congress from Utah, bitterly denying that any Mormon was
engaged. Thus the Mormon authorities went on year after year
swearing to lies and publishing lies about Mountain Meadows, when,
according to all the evidence on the trial, they knew the facts then as
well as we know them now ! What rational explanation can be
given of such crookedness, except that they had some sort of guilty
connection with the actual participants?

I have but touched upon the mass of evidence. Brigham Young
has many apologists in the East, but among them all I have heard no
attempt at explanation of these things. There is one man to whose
life-long friendship the Mormons are more indebted for the immunity
they enjoy than to any other one agency. Colonel (since General)
Thomas L. Kane, a gentleman of high character, accompa/nied them


in their journey from Council Bluffs to Salt Lake; was the guest of
Brigham Young; acted as their mediator in 1858, and has been their
apologist to the Government ever since. He first saw them in their
extreme misery, after their expulsion from Nauvoo, and his sympa-
thies were powerfully excited in their behalf. He gave his views of
them in a fascinating lecture, delivered before the Historical Society
of Pennsylvania, March 26, 1850, and that lecture has probably cov-
ered more crimes and done more harm than any ever delivered in
America. Assuredly, Colonel Kane was benevolent and sympathetic ;
but it is equally certain that his sympathy overbalanced his judgment.
The value of his testimony may be judged from a few facts. He
gave his solemn assurance that the Saints were a law-abiding people ;
that they were rigid moralists in all that pertained to the relations of
the sexes ; that all the charges made against them, including polygamy,
were false and scandalous, and made with a view of getting their prop-
erty. At the very time these words were written, and when Colonel
Kane was a guest in his tent, Brigham was the husband of four wives!
I am personally Acquainted with dozens of men and women who were
born in polygamy at the very time Colonel Kane was with the Saints,
proving that polygamy had no existence ! The Saints were denying
the practice then ; they now avow its existence since 1843, and laugh
at the Gentiles for having been deceived. Between 1843 and 1852
they put on record fourteen sworn or printed denials of the existence
of polygamy ; since 1852 they have denied their own denials, and now
claim that polygamy was an established institution among them three
years before they left Illinois. Colonel Kane speaks as if it were
little short of blasphemy to doubt the high character of Mormon
women ; and in the postscript to the second edition he insists that the
Mormons, as he knew them, had "a general correctness of deportment
and purity of character above the average of ordinary communities."
And yet in that same camp were men having mother and daughters as
"wives;" one woman who had left her husband in Boston to follow
Brigham, and another who had got a divorce from Dr. Seely, of
Nauvoo, to become Brigham's "second!" Oscar Young, oldest son
of Brigham's third or fourth " wife," was born near the Missouri
River about the time Colonel Kane was reporting to the President
that no polygamy existed among the Saints ; and the perpetrator now
acknowledges four murders committed near there, while the Colonel
was indorsing the law-abiding Mormons! A little further on the
Colonel recites with amazement that gulls were unknown in Utah, till
the Mormons needed them to eat the crickets which were devouring


their crops ! And this, when every explorer for a century past had
told of the Salt Lake gulls, which are certainly as much indigenous
to the Great Basin as the blackbird is to Ohio ! There remains but
one question in my mind : Could a man of Colonel Kane's acumen
be so grossly deceived, or was there some other reason?

But a little later Colonel Kane accidentally states a very important
fact. Having endeavored to show that the Mormons in Illinois were
sadly belied by their neighbors, who wanted to drive them away and
get their property, he adds : " When they left Nauvoo all their fair-
weather friends forsook them. Priests and elders, scribes and preach-
ers, deserted by whole councils at a time ; each talented knave, of
whose craft they had been victims, finding his own pretext for aban-
doning them, without surrendering the money-bag of which he was
the holder." So it appears there were " talented knaves " in the
Church while it was at Nauvoo ; there were thieves who ran off with
" money-bags," and " fair-weather friends " who used the Mormons.
And yet while these people were in the Church, stealing from Gentiles
and laying it to Saints, and stealing from Saints and laying it to Gen-
tiles, Colonel Kane can find no reasqn for outside hostility to Xauvoo,
except that the Gentiles wanted their property. He proves that
nearly half the Nauvoo community was composed of adventurers from
all parts of the country, "talented knaves" who proved to be thieves,
and then maintains that the Illinois Gentiles were responsible for all
the troubles there! Verily, benevolence is a grand sentiment; but it
may be overdone.



ON a bright Sunday in June, 1876, while the nation was on the
top wave of the Centennial enthusiasm and opening of the Presi-
dential campaign, the news went flashing over the wires that General
George A. Custer and
all his command lay
dead in a Montana
valley, the victims of
a Sioux massacre.
With him had died
his two brothers, his
brother-in-law and a
nephew ; and of all
that entered that bat-
tle not one white man
survived. For a brief
space there was hope
that it might be a
false report, but soon
followed official pa-
pers which confirmed
every ghastly detail
of the first dispatches.
For a few days the
public sorrow over-
came all other consid-
erations ; then, by nat-
ural revulsion, sorrow
gave place to indignation, and that in turn to a fierce demand for in-
vestigation and a victim. The public must have a victim when there
has been a misfortune. Then ensued a performance which was no
credit to us as a nation. His opponents attacked President Grant as
the real cause of Glister's death; his friends foolishly defended the
President by criticising Custer; the latter's friends in the army sav-



agely attacked Major Reno and Captain Benteen as being the cause of
the General's misfortunes, and thus the many-sided fight went on.
Before stating any facts bearing on this issue, a brief sketch of Gen-
eral Ouster's previous experience on the plains is in order.

George Armstrong Ouster was born at New Rumley, Ohio, Decem-
ber 5, 1839, and was consequently but thirty-seven years old at the
time of his death. At ten years of age he went to live with an older
sister in Monroe, Michigan, and ever after considered that place his
home. There, on the ninth of February, 1864, he married Elizabeth,
only daughter of Judge Daniel S. Bacon. He entered West Point as
a cadet in 1857, and graduated four years after away down in the
list. Worse still, he was court-martialed for some minor breach of
etiquette, and, badly as officers were needed just then, had some
trouble in getting located in the army. But we long ago learned that
rank at West Point by no means settles the officer's later standing in
the army. Soon after graduating he was made Second Lieutenant, and
assigned to Company "G," Second United States Cavalry, and ar-
rived just in time to take a little .part in the Bull Run battle and
stampede. A little later he served on the staff of General Phil.
Kearney, and early in the summer of 1862 was made full captain and
aid-de-camp of General McClellan. And this contributed not a little
to some of his troubles in after years, as he was an enthusiastic
" McClellan man," and by no means reticent in his views. Animosities
were excited during that controversy which were not settled till long

Little by little Custer fought his way up, and the last year of the
war the country was charmed and excited by the brilliant movements
of Brigadier-General George A. Custer, of the United States Cavalry.
After the Avar we almost lost sight of him. Except that President
Johnson took him, along with a few others, as one of the attractions
of that starring tour, "swinging' 'round the circle," we hear no more of
Custer till the army was reorganized in 1866, and he was once more
a captain in the United States Cavalry, this time on the plains. But
it was a different sort of army to that with which he had Avon his
early honors. Language fails to portray the utter demoralization of
our regular army from 1865 to 1869 or '70. All the really valuable
survivors of the volunteer army had returned to civil life; only the
malingerers, the bounty-jumpers, the draft-sneaks and worthless re-
mained. These, with the scum of the cities and frontier settlements,
constituted more than half of the rank and file on the plains. The of-
ficers, too, had been somewhat affected by the great revolution. The



old West Pointers were dead, or retired on half pay, or had grown to
such rank in the volunteer army that they could not bear to drop back
to their old position in the regular service. The officers consisted of
new men from West Point; of men who had been appointed from
civil life or from the volunteer army, in most instances to oblige some
politician ; and a few men like Custer, to whom military life was both
a pleasure and a legitimate business. Desertion was so common
among the private soldiers that it entailed no disgrace anywhere in
the West. Hundreds enlisted sim-
ply to get transportation to the
Rocky Mountains, and then de-
serted. When our wagon-train was
on its way to Salt Lake in 1868 a
deserter traveled with us two days,
dressed in his military clothing, and
without the slightest attempt at
concealment. In this wretched
state of the service in the West,
Custer was promoted to the rank of
Lieutenant-Colonel, and put in com-
mand of the Seventh United States

It was but nominally a cavalry
regiment. The men were there, and the horses, with guns, equip-
ments, an organization and a name ; but as a cavalry regiment he had
to make it, and he did it so well that it soon became the reliable regi-
ment of the frontier. The new Colonel's career, for some time to
come, was among the hostile Indians of Western and South-western
Kansas then the worst section of the Far West for Indian troubles.
The tourist who glides rapidly and with such keen enjoyment through
this region, by way of the Kansas Pacific or Atchison, Topeka <fe
Santa Fe Road, can scarcely conceive that but a few years have
elapsed since it contained thousands of murderous savages; for it is a
noteworthy fact that nothing so soon moderates the danger of Indian
attacks as a railroad. It seems that, even if no fighting is done, the
mere presence of the road, with daily passage of trains, either drives
the Indians away or renders them harmless. But in the early days the
routes to the Colorado mines were raided at regular intervals. One

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 52 of 62)