Brighams Destroying Angel
The statement that no attempt was made to punish Smiths murderers, is a great error; but it is not surprising that Hickman should believe it, as every Mormon in Utah has heard it from the pulpit a thousand times. The priesthood had worked up such a state of feeling in Hancock County, that the law was utterly powerless; and yet they heap execrations upon all the officers of the State and of the United States, because the law did not avenge the Smiths. Governor Ford, and most of the prominent men of the State, used their utmost exertions to bring to justice all parties connected with the assassination, but were defeated by the defects of the jury system - a system which the Mormons had taught their enemies too well how to take advantage of. From Fords History of Illinois I condense his account of the trial of those accused of the murder of The Smiths:-
About one year after, the apostles abandoned for the present the project of converting the world to the new religion. The missionaries were ordered home, and it was announced that the world had rejected the gospel by the murder of the Prophet and Patriarch. The congregations were regularly called for worship, but instead of expounding the new gospel, the zealous and infuriated preachers now indulged only in curses and strains of abuse of the Gentiles. A sermon was no more than an inflammatory stump-speech, relating to their quarrels with their enemies. and ornamented with an abundance of profanity - curses upon their enemies, upon government, upon all public officers, were now the lessons taught by the elders to inflame their people with the highest degree of spite and malice against all who were not of the Mormon church, or its obsequious tools.
The Mormons invoked the assistance of Government to take vengeance upon the murderers of the Smiths. The anti-Mormons asked the Governor to violate the Constitution which he was sworn to support, by erecting himself into at military despot, and exiling the Mormons. The latter in their newspapers invited the Governor to assume absolute power, by taking summary vengeance on their enemies, by shooting fifty or a hundred of them without judge or jury. Both parties were thoroughly disgusted with constitutional provisions, restraining them from summary vengeance; each was ready to submit to arbitrary power, to the fiat of a dictator, to make me a king for the time being, and abolish both the forms and spirits of free government, if the despotism to be erected upon its ruins could only be wielded for their benefit, and to take vengeance on their enemies.
* * * * In this state of the case I applied to General J. J. Hardin, of the State Militia, and to Colonels Baker, Merriman, and Weatherford, who, with my own exertions, succeeded in raising five hundred volunteers. With this little force, under command of General Hardin, I arrived in Hancock County early in October. The malcontents (anti-Mormon mob) abandoned their design, and all the leaders fled to Missouri. The Carthage Greys fled almost in a body, carrying their arms along with them. * * * * We reached Warsaw about noon; that night we were to cross the Mississippi at Churchville and seize three anti-Mormons, for whom we had writs for the murder of the Smiths; but that afternoon Colonel Baker visited the hostile camp, and on his return refused to participate in the expedition, and so advised his friends. There was no authority for compelling men to invade a neighboring State, and for this cause, much to the vexation of myself and others the matter fell through. Colonel Baker had already partly arranged the terms for the accused to surrender. They were to be taken to Quincy for examination, under a military guard; were to be admitted to bail, and to a continuation of their trial at the next term of court at Carthage. Upon this two of the accused come over and surrendered themselves prisoners.
I employed able lawyers to hunt up the testimony and prosecute the offenders. A trial was had before Judge Young, in the summer of 1845. The Sheriff and panel of jurors selected by the Mormon Court were set aside for prejudice, a new panel was selected and elisors were appointed for this purpose; but as more than a thousand men had assembled under arms at the Court, to keep away the Mormons and their friends, the jury was made up of these military followers of the Court, who all swore they had not formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. The Mormons had one principal witness, who was with the troops at Warsaw, had marched with them until they were disbanded, heard their consultations, went before them to Carthage, and saw them murder the Smiths. But before the trial came on they had induced him to become a Mormon; and being much more anxious for the glorification of the Prophet than to avenge his death, the leading Mormons made him publish a pamphlet giving an account of the murder, in which he professed to have seen a bright and shining light descend upon the head of Joe Smith to strike some of the conspirators with blindness, and that he heard supernatural voices in the air confirming his mission as a Prophet. Having published this in a book he was compelled to swear to it in Court, which of course destroyed the credit of his evidence. Many other witnesses were examined who knew the facts, but under demoralization of faction denied all knowledge of them. The accused were all acquitted.
The next term the leading Mormons were tried and acquitted for the destruction of the heretical press. Not being interested in objecting to a Sheriff or jury selected by a Court elected by themselves, they in turn got a favorable jury, determined on acquittal; and yet the Mormon jurors all swore they had formed no opinion as to the guilt or innocence of their accused friends. It appeared that the laws furnished the means of suiting each party with a jury; the Mormons by the regular jury, the Anti-Mormons by objecting to the Sheriff and regular panel. Henceforth no leading man on either side could be arrested without the aid of an army, as the men of one party could not surrender to the other for fear of being murdered; no one could be convicted of crime in Hancock; Government was at an end there, and the whole community delivered to the dominion of a frightful anarchy.
Note the result of five years of Mormon rule among Gentiles: the latter, accused of crime, would not surrender to any officer, ever to the Governor of the State unless they could be taken to another county under a military guard; a thousand armed men gathered to keep the Mormons from assassinating Gentiles in legal custody, and no man on either side could surrender to the other for fear of assassination.
Just this would be the condition of Utah in two years, if the Mormons had a State Government there under their absolute control, unless, indeed, all the Gentiles abandoned the State in a body.
With full power to organize the county. This brief hint points to one fact which explains many of the difficulties presented by the Mormon question, viz.: the excessive power of Mormon Probate Courts. Unlike any other Territory or State, in Utah these County Judges were granted, by the Legislature complete, civil and criminal jurisdiction, concurrent with the District Courts in all other matters, and exclusive jurisdiction in matters in divorce and alimony. There is good cause for this: the District Judges are appointed at Washington, and are supposed to be supporters of national law; the Probate Judge is simply the leading Bishop or Elder in each county, appointed by the Legislature, which was counselled, of course, by Brigham Young. This usurpation endured twenty years, until it was overthrown by the decisions of Judges McKean and Hawley. These Probate Judges had power to organize counties, appoint under officers, and do forty other things which sound republicanism condemns, but which all aided to keep power in the hands of the Priesthood. For full exposition of this matter, see Life in Utah, Chap. XVI, (New Edition just issued by National Publishing Company of Philadelphia and St. Louis). The editor would not venture on the egotism of a reference to his own work, were it not that the book is extensively distributed, and can easily be obtained in almost any part of the country by those who wish to inquire more particularly into the history of the Mormons, and other points alluded to by Hickman.
In a few brief words Hickman narrates one of the most cruel, causeless, and cold-blooded murders ever perpetrated. Hartleys case is the one most generally known in Utah of all mentioned in this book, and there is scarcely a question of his innocence of any serious fault. Of all the crimes committed by Hickman this one seems to rest most heavy on his conscience. In conversation he strove to avoid it, and at this point his manuscript is heavily blurred and blotted, with frequent erasures, and every evidence of an uncertain hand and hesitating mind, impelled to, yet dreading the narration.
From the various popular accounts in Utah I select that of Hartleys wife, as told to Mrs. Marietta V. Smith, and published in her work, Fifteen Years among the Mormons. Be it noted that Mrs. Smiths work appeared fourteen years before Hickman made his confession, and that three-fourths of her statements as to other matters are proved true by testimony lately developed, and no other corroboration will be required. Mrs. Smith says:
About that time Jesse T. Hartley came to Salt Lake City. He was a man of education and intelligence, a lawyer. I never heard where he was from, but he was a Gentile, and married soon, after a Mormon girl named Bullock, which involved at least a profession of Mormonism. It was afterwards supposed by some that his aim was to learn the mysteries of the church in order to expose them. At all events the eye of the Prophet was upon him from the first; and be was not long in discovering, through his spies, good grounds for suspicion. Hartley was named by some one unacquainted with that fact as a fit person to be appointed missionary preacher among the Gentiles. As customary in such cases he was proposed in open convention when all the heads of the church were on the stand, and the Prophet rose at once with the air of judicial authority from which those who know him best understand there is to be no appeal, and said, This man Hartley is guilty of apostasy. He has been writing to his friends in Oregon against the church and has attempted to publish us to the world, and should be sent to hell across lots. This was the end of the matter to Hartley.
His friends after this avoided him, and it was understood that his fate was sealed. He knew that to remain was death, so be left his wife and child and attempted to effect an escape. Not many days after Wiley Norton told us, with a feeling of exultation that they had made sure of another enemy of the Church. That the bones of Jesse Hartley were in the Cañons, and he was afraid they would be overlooked at the resurrection unless he had better success in pleading in the next world than in this, referring to his practice as a lawyer.
Nearly a year and a half after this, when on my way to the States. I saw the widow of Jesse Hartley at Green River. She had been a very pretty woman, and was at that time but twenty-two years old. I think she was the most heart-broken human being I have ever seen. She was living with her brother, who kept a ferry there, and he was also at Mormon. We were waiting to be taken over, when I saw a woman with a pale, sad face, dressed in the deepest black, sitting upon the bank alone. The unrelieved picture of woe which she presented excited our curiosity and sympathy. Accompanied by may sister I went to her, and after some delay and the assurance, that although we were Mormons, we were yet women, she told us her brief story without a tear, yet with an expression of hopeless sorrow, which I can never forget.
It was not until I had suggested to her that perhaps I had also a woe to unburden as the result of my Mormon life, which might have some comparison to her own, that she commenced by saying: You may have suffered; and if you have been a Mormon wife you must have known sorrow. But the cruelty of my own lot is, I am sure, without a parallel, even in this land of cruelty. I married Jesse Hartley, knowing he was a Gentile in fact, though he passed for a Mormon; but that made no difference with me, because he was a noble man, who had sought only the right. By being my husband he was brought into closer contact with the heads of the Church, and thus was soon enabled to learn of many things he did not approve, and of which I was ignorant, though brought up among the Saints, and which if known to the Gentiles, would have greatly damaged us. I do not understand all he discovered or all he did; but they found he had written against the Church. and he was cut off, and the Prophet required as an atonement for his sins, that he should lay down his life; that he should be sacrificed in the endowment rooms, where such atonement is made. This I never knew until my husband told me; but it is true. They kill those there who have committed sins too great to be atoned for in any other way. (See note on the blood atonement. Ed.) The Prophet says if they submit to this, he can save them; otherwise they are lost. Oh! that is horrible. But my husband refused to be sacrificed, and so set out alone for the United States, thinking there might be at least a hope of success. I told him when he left me, and left his child, that he would be killed; and so he was. William Hickman and another Danite shot him in the Cañons; and I have often since been obliged to cook for this man, when he passed this way, knowing all the while he had killed my husband. My child soon followed its father, and I hope to die also; for why should I live? They have brought me here, where I wish to remain rather than to return to Salt Lake, where the murderers of my husband curse the earth, and roll in affluence unpunished.
She had finished her sad story, and we were choking down our sobs of pity in silence, when she rose and walked away, wearing the same stony expression of agony as when we first saw her. But this is but one case among a thousand that never will see the light until the dark history of the Destroying Angels, as the Prophet is sometimes pleased to call them, is unveiled.
Let the reader observe the convincing agreement of the two accounts. Those who are still determined to believe nothing but good of Brigham Young, may fix some sort of a theory; that Mrs. Smith and Bill Hickman, who scarcely knew each other by sight, could construct a conspiracy so complete that their evidence would substantially agree, though given at intervals of fourteen years; that Mrs Hartley, now living in Utah, merely imagined that her husband was killed by the Church, and that these three witnesses should all be mistaken or willfully false, when agreeing in every particular! But those accustomed to judging the weight of evidence can come to but one conclusion: Jesse Hartley was murdered for apostasy, and the charge of counterfeiting was cooked up to furnish some sort of excuse to those of the Mormons who could not swallow the strong doctrine of blood-atonement.
A plurality of offices as well as of wives obtains in Utah. The number and variety of offices held by the same man is both curious and amusing; and I have never discovered any particular limitation either in the written laws of Utah or the common custom, to the number allowed to a good Mormon. When I first went to Salt Lake City, the Robt. T. Burton often mentioned by Hickman, was Collector of Internal Revenue for the Territory, Sheriff of the County. Assessor and Collector of Territorial Taxes, besides being a Bishop in the church, General in the Nauvoo Legion, husband of four wives, and, with no Gentile knows how many duties, as secret policeman and Danite. One man in Fillmore held the offices of County Clerk and Recorder; Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace; Assessor and Collector of Internal Revenue, and ex-officio Overseer of the Poor. All these arrangements trace back to the one cardinal principle: to keep all power consolidated in the hands of the Priesthood.-See Life in Utah, pp. 398-400.
Through the indefatigable labors of United states Marshals and detectives, the entire history of Yates has been made known. His wife, residing at present in Nevada and married again, has written to Salt Lake enclosing photographs of the murdered man, taken a short time before his death. She had always supposed he was killed by the Indians. His remains have been disinterred from the spot named by Hickman. and the chain of evidence is complete. Hosea Stout, a Mormon lawyer of considerable prominence, who was arrested for complicity in this murder, and on Hickmans testimony, admits that Yates was killed as a spy; but insists that he was not present and had no knowledge of the transaction; that Yates was delivered to Hickman to be taken to the city, and neither he nor any other officer saw him again.
Of all the cowardly and cold-blooded acts which have made the Mormon Priesthood infamous, this wholesale murder of the Aikin party stands pre-eminent. Second to that of Mountain Meadow only in extent, it even excels it in wanton cruelty, treachery, and violation of every principle of hospitality, that virtue held sacred even by marauding Arabs or wild Indians, by all savages except Mormon fanatics. Fourteen years had the blood of these victims cried from the ground before the whole truth was known, and now, with the establishment of national power in Utah, a cloud of witnesses rise, and every incident in the tragedy is fully proved. From the evidence before the grand jury and in possession of the officers, I condense the history of the Aikin party, and their treacherous murder. The party consisted of six men: John Aikin, William Aikin, - Buck, a man known as Colonel, and two others whose names the witnesses do not remember. They included a blacksmith, a carpenter, one or two traders, and others whose business was unknown, but they were supposed to be sporting men. They left Sacramento early in May, 1857. going eastward to meet Johnsnons army, as was supposed. On reaching the Humboldt River they found the Indians very bad, and waited for a train of the Mormons from Carson, who were ordered home about that time. With them they completed the journey. John Pendleton, one of that Mormon party, in his testimony on the case says: A better lot of boys I never saw. They were kind, polite, and brave; always ready to do anything needed on the road.
The train traveled slowly, so the Aikin party left it a hundred miles out and came ahead, and on reaching Kaysville, twenty-five miles north of Salt Lake City, they were all arrested on the charge of being spies for the Government! A few days after Pendleton and party arrived and recognized their horses in the public Corral. On inquiry he was told the men had been arrested as spies, to which he replied, Spies, h-l! Why, theyve come with us all the way - know nothing about the Army. The party in charge answered that they did not care, they would keep them. The Aikin party had stock, property, and money estimated at 25,000.
They were then taken to the city and confined in a house at the corner of Main and First South Streets. Nothing being proved against them they were told they should be sent out of the Territory by the Southern route. Four of them started, leaving Buck and one of the unknown men in the city. The party had for an escort, 0. P. Rockwell, John Lot, Miles, and one other. When they reached Nephi, one hundred miles south. Rockwell informed the Bishop, Bryant, that his orders were to have the men used up there. Bishop Bryant called a council at once, and the following men were selected to assist: J. Bigler (now a Bishop,) P. Pitchforth, his first councillor," John Kink, and Pickton.
The doomed men were stopping at T. B. Footes, and some persons in the family afterwards testified to having heard the council that condemned them. The selected murderers at 11 p.m., started from the Tithing House and got ahead of the Aikins, who did not start till daylight. The latter reached the Sevier River, when Rockwell informed them they could find no other camp that day; they halted, when the other party approached and asked to camp with them, for which permission was granted. The weary men removed their arms and heavy clothing, and were soon lost in sleep - that sleep which for two of them was to have no waking on earth. All seemed fit for their damnable purpose, and yet the murderers hesitated. As near as can be determined, they still feared that all could not be done with perfect secrecy, and determined to use no firearms. With this view the escort and the party from Nephi attacked the sleeping men with clubs and the king-bolts of the wagons. Two died without a struggle. But John Aiken bounded to his feet, but slightly wounded, and sprang into the brush. A shot from the pistol of John Kink laid him senseless. Colonel also reached the brush, receiving a shot in the shoulder from Port Rockwell, and believing the whole party had been attacked by bandits, he made his way back to Nephi. With almost superhuman strength he held out during the twenty-five miles, and the first bright rays of a Utah sun showed the man, who twenty-four hours before had left them handsome and vigorous in the pride of manhood, now ghastly pale and drenched with his own blood, staggering feebly along the streets of Nephi. He reached Bishop Footes, and his story elicited a well-feigned horror.
Meanwhile the murderers had gathered up the other three and thrown them into the river, supposing all to be dead. But John Aiken revived and crawled out on the same side, and hiding in the brush, heard these terrible words:
Are the damned Gentiles all dead, Port?
All but one - the son of a b---- ran.
Supposing himself to be meant, Aikin lay still till the Danites left, then, without hat, coat, or boots, on a November night, the ground covered with snow, he set out for Nephi. Who can imagine the feelings of the man? Unlike Colonel he knew too well who the murderers were, and believed himself the only survivor. To return to Nephi offered but slight hope, but it was the only hope, and incredible as it may appear he reached it next day. He sank helpless at the door of the first house he reached, but the words he heard infused new life into him. The woman, afterwards a witness, said to him, Why, another of you ones got away from the robbers, and is at Brother Footes.
Thank God; it is my brother, he said, and started on. The citizens tell with wonder that he ran the whole distance, his hair clotted with blood, reeling like a drunken man all the way. It was not his brother, but Colonel. The meeting of the two at Footes was too affecting for language to describe. They fell upon each others necks, clasped their blood-spattered arms around each other, and with mingled tears and sobs kissed and embraced as only men can who together have passed through death. A demon might have shed tears at the sight - but not a Mormon Bishop. The fierce tiger can be lured from his prey, the bear may become civilized, or the hyena be tamed of his lust for human flesh - religious fanaticism alone can triumph over all tenderness, and make man tenfold more the child of hell than the worst passions of mere physical nature. Even while gazing upon this scene, the implacables were deciding upon their death.
Bishop Bryant came, extracted the balls, dressed the wounds, and advised the men to return, as soon as they were able, to Salt Lake City. A son of Bishop Foote had proved their best friend, and Aikin requested him to take his account in writing of the affair. Aiken began to write it, but was unmanned, and begged young Foote to do it, which he did. That writing, the dying declaration of Colonel and John Aiken, is in existence to-day.
The murderers had returned, and a new plan was concocted. Colonel had saved his pistol and Aiken his watch, a gold one, worth at least $250. When ready to leave they asked the bill, and were informed it was $30. They promised to send it from the city, and were told that would not do. Aiken then said, Here is my watch and my partners pistol - take your choice. Foote took the pistol. When he handed it to him, Aikin said; There, take my best friend. But God knows it will do us no good. Then to his partner, with tears streaming from his eyes, Prepare for death, Colonel, we will never get out of this valley alive.
According to the main witness, a woman of Nephi, all regarded them as doomed. They had got four miles on the road, when their driver, a Mormon named Wolf, stopped the wagon near an old cabin; informed them he must water his horses; unhitched them, and moved away. Two men then stepped from the cabin, and fired with double-barreled guns; Aikin and Colonel were both shot through the head, and fell dead from the wagon. Their bodies were then loaded with stone and put in one of those bottomless springs - so called - common in that part of Utah.
I passed the place in 1869, and heard from a native the whispered rumors about some bad men that were sunk in that spring. The scenery would seem to shut out all idea of crime, and irresistibly awaken thoughts of heaven. The soft air of Utah is around; above the blue sky smiles as if it were impossible there could be such things as sin or crime; and the neat village of Nephi brightens the plain, as innocently fair as if it had not witnessed a crime as black and dastardly as ever disgraced the annals of the civilized world.
Meanwhile Rockwell and party had reached the city, taken Buck and the other man, and started southward, plying them with liquor. It is probable that Buck only feigned drunkenness; but the other man was insensible by the time they reached the Point of the Mountain. There it was decided to use them up, and they were attacked with slung-shots and billies. The other man was instantly killed. Buck leaped from the wagon, outran his pursuers, their shots missing him, swam the Jordan, and came down it on the west side. He reached the city and related all that occurred, which created quite a stir. Hickman was then sent for to finish the job, which he did, as related in the text.
The last of the Aikin party lies in an unmarked grave - even with Hickmans directions it cannot now be found - and for fourteen years their murderers have gone unpunished. The man most guilty is accounted a hero, and even now it appears that justice may be defeated through the mere indifference of Government.
Continued On The Next Page.