Brigham's Destroying Angel

Chapter Five

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Capture of Richard Yates—He  is Murdered By Hosea Stout and  Hickman—His Money Taken By Brigham  Young—His Property By the Guerillas—Massacre  of the Aiken Party—Brigham Sends Hickman to "Finish  the Job"—Horrible Treachery of Bill Kimball and George  Dalton—Murder of Buck—a Hard Winter—Entrance of Johnston's  Army and Establishment of Camp Floyd—Hickman Begins to Get  Sick of Brighamism—Murder of Drown and Arnold—Public  Feeling on the Subject—Brigham's Approval—Hickman's  Trouble of Mind—Misgivings About Mormonism, or  Brighamism—"in Too Deep and Must Go on"— Brigham's False Prophecies—Hickman Begins  to Think—Doubt, Anguish, Terror  and Thoughts of Flight.

    ONE Yates, a trader that had been in the country before, had returned with five or six thousand dollars' worth of Indian goods, and stopped on Green River. He had several kegs of powder, and a quantity of lead and caps. He was sent to, to purchase his ammunition, but would not sell it without selling his other goods also. He came to Bridger twice, buying beef cattle for the

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Government. Both times I went with him beyond all of our troops, to keep him from being hurt. He would trade at the soldier camps, then go to his house on Green River, passing up and down Ham's Fork. We kept watch of the United States camps every day, and if a party attempted to leave we would make a rush for them and run them into camp again. One day they moved up the creek about four miles, and we saw a vacancy between them and their cattle. We made a rush and drove off seven hundred and fifty head, taking all the fat cattle they had, and some mules. Horses and mules were taken several times after this.

    About this time it was noised about that Yates had let the soldiers have his ammunition, and that he was acting the spy for them. One of the Conover boys was on a point near Ham's Fork one day, and saw a lone man traveling towards Green River; he got ahead of him, saw he had a good horse, and halted him, intending to take his horse and let him go. But, after learning his name, Yates, he marched him to Bridger, where he was placed in the big stone corral and a guard placed over him. I was not there when he was brought in. I came to Bridger a few days after he was taken. Thinking there would be no particular use for me for a week or two, I concluded to go home and get some fresh horses, and take home three or four of my men that needed rest.

    I will here state that the office I held was that of independent captain, amenable to none but the head commanding general or governor, Brigham Young, unless

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my services were particularly needed, in which case I was under obligations to act in concert with other officers.

    When ready to start I was asked to take the prisoner, Yates, to the city with me, and agreed to do so. The men with me were a brother of mine. T. J. Hickman, who had come from the States with me the summer previous. John Flack and Lewis Meacham. There was a common trace-chain on Yates' ankle; fastened with a padlock. He had a fine gold watch and nine hundred dollars in gold, all in twenty-dollar gold pieces. The money was given to me to bring into the city with the prisoner, but the watch was kept, and what became of it I never knew.

    We traveled about fifty miles and camped on Yellow Creek. The next morning we traveled about half-way down Echo Cañon to where the general's headquarters were located, and got breakfast. I delivered General Wells some letters, reported myself, and told him who I had along, and asked him what I should do with my prisoner. He said: "He ought to be killed; but take him on; you will probably get an order when you get to Col. Jones' camp"—which was at the mouth of Echo Cañon on Weber River. After breakfast we started for Jones' camp, some twelve miles distant, and when within three or four miles of the camp, we met Joseph A. Young, a son of Brigham's, going, as he said, to the general's camp to take orders. He hailed me (I being behind) and said his father wanted that man Yates

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killed, and that I would know all about it when I got to Jones' camp.

    We got there about sundown, and were met outside by Col. Jones, and conducted around under the hill, below and just outside of his camp. He had a fire built for us and sent our horses out, under guard, to grass. He then took me aside and told me he had orders when Yates came along to have him used up, and that was why he had taken me outside of his camp. Supper was brought to us, and Yates soon went to sleep on his blankets. Flack and Meacham spread their blankets and soon went to sleep also. I told them to do it, as I would guard the prisoner until I called them. My brother, being a Gentile, had been sent on to the next station, some ten miles ahead, on business. I remained at our camp-fire until eleven or twelve o'clock that night, several coming and chatting with me.

    About this time all was still, and everybody supposed to be in their beds. No person was to he seen, when Col. Jones and two others, Hosea Stout and another man whose name I do not recollect, came to my campfire and asked if Yates was asleep. I told them he was, upon which his brains were knocked out with an ax. He was covered up with his blankets and left laying. Picks and spades were brought, and a grave dug some three feet deep near the camp by the fire-light, all hands assisting. Flack and Meacham were asleep when the man was killed, but woke up and saw the grave digging. The body was put in and the dirt well packed on it, after which our camp-fire, which consisted of small wood

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and brush, was moved onto the grave in order to prevent notice of a change of ground.* Our horses were immediately sent for, and we were off before daylight; went to the next station, found my brother, got breakfast, and arrived at Salt Lake that day.

    The next day I took the nine hundred dollars, and we all went to headquarters. Flack and I had a talk, as we went, about the money. He said Brigham ought to give that to us as we had already been to more expense than that money amounted to, from horses used up and other losses, and urged me to get it. I told him I would try, saying to him: "You know how much I have been out, and can testify to it, and I think he will give us part of it, anyway."

    Soon after dark Flack and I went to Brigham's office. He asked how things were going on out East, and I told him. He asked what had become of Yates? I told him. He then asked if I had got word from him? I told him that I had got his instructions at Jones' camp, and also of the word I had got from his son Jo. He said that was right, and a good thing. I then told him I had nine hundred dollars given me to bring in, that Yates had at the time he was captured. I told him of the expense I had been to during the war, and asked him if I might have part of the money? He gave me a reprimand for asking such a thing, and said it must go towards defraying the expenses of the war. I pulled out the sack containing the money, and he told me to give it to his clerk (I do not remember who he was

*See Appendix—E.

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  now). The money was counted, and we left. This knocked all the Mormonism out of Flack, and he has never had a speck of it in him since—making many observations of this and other things, of hard work, obeying Brigham Young, and never allowed one dollar for all he had done.

    In a few days I returned East, and found Yates' goods and all his property had been taken, and stock belonging to him and other mountaineers. Soon afterwards Sydney A. Johnston came to the army, took command, and started for Bridger. We gave way, burned the fort, and fell back to Bear River, fourty miles west. At this time all the able-bodied men in the Territory were called out. Fortifications were erected at the mouth of Echo Cañon, and the troops concentrated there, while constant guards were kept circling around Bridger.

    Johnston arrived there and took possession of all that was left—a stone fort and corral—and commenced preparations for winter quarters. As soon as this was ascertained, our troops began to be liberated and sent home. Snow fell deep, and finally all went home except a few guards who were left to watch the movements of the United States Army. There was a great lack of goods and groceries in Salt Lake that winter, as the merchant traders were not allowed to come in with their goods as had usually been the case.

    After being at home some time, word was sent to me to have my boys look for a man that had got away from a party at what was called the Point of the Mountain, twenty-five miles south of Salt Lake City. Two boys

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who were living with me went up the river and returned about noon, and two hours later a messenger came from the city and told me I was wanted at Brigham Young's office immediately. I mounted my horse and was in town in an hour, and went to Young's office. He asked me if I "had seen the boys?" I asked him what boys? and he answered, "Geo. Grant and William Kimball." I told him I had not. I then told him I had got word to come to his office, and wished to know what was wanting. He answered: "The boys have made a bad job of, trying to put a man out of the way. They all got drunk, bruised up a fellow, and he got away from them at the Point of the Mountain, came back to this city, and is telling all that happened, which is making a big stink." He said I must get him out of the way and use him up. He told me to go and find the boys, meaning Generals Grant and Kimball, they both being acting generals in the Utah militia at that time, and arrange things with them, so as to have him taken care of.

    I found them, and they told me O. P. Rockwell, with a party, had made a bad job and wanted help, and I had been sent for to wind it up. Said they: "Did Brigham tell you what was up?" I told them he did, and had sent me to arrange things. They told me they had things fixed; that when the party, to which this man belonged, first came into the Territory, they had all stopped twelve miles north of the city, and remained several weeks in the neighborhood where George Dalton lived; that Dalton was in town, and they had got him to see this man (whose name I never heard, only he was

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called Buck), and take him home with him, for he had confidence in Dalton. They said Dalton understood it, and they were waiting for me to come and meet him on the road. They then hunted up Dalton, and told him they had things all right now. Dalton was to leave town a little before sundown, and pass the Hot Springs three miles north of the city, and take the lower road on which there was not much travel, and I was to meet him. I was to know his team because both of his horses were white, and he was to drive very fast.

    All being arranged, and the sun about an hour high. I got my horse, and the question was then asked how many men I wanted to go with me. I told them I did not want anyone. They said I must have somebody, and I told them then I would take a man that was standing by, by the name of Meacham. They got him a horse, and we went to the place appointed, and just at dark the wagon came. We called to it to halt. The man, Buck, got a shot through the head, and was put across the fence in a ditch. A rag was hung on a brush to know the place.

    We returned to the city to Gen. Grant's, as per agreement, and found him at home with Gen. Kimball. O. P. Rockwell, and somebody else whose name I do not recollect now. They asked if all was right, and I told them it was. They got spades, and we all went back, deepened the ditch, put him in and buried him, returned to Grant's, took some whisky, and separated for the night. The next day Kimball and I went to Brigham Young's, told him that Buck was taken care of, and

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there would be no more stink about his stories. He said he was glad of it. Buck was the last one of the Aiken's party, of whom there has been considerable said.* I never saw any of them but this man, and him I never saw until I saw him in the wagon that evening.

    Much was said that winter with regard to Johnston's army coming in. Arming, equipping, and a general preparation for fighting was the sole talk and business. During the winter Col. Kane, from Washington, came to Salt Lake City to assist in settling affairs. He went to Fort Bridger and then to Washington. Brigham Young told the people to gather up and start south, and such another moving was scarce ever seen.

    About this time President Buchanan sent Gov. Powell, of Kentucky, and Ben. McCullough to Salt Lake to settle the difficulty. Brigham Young and some twenty-five of the principal men of Utah got together. Some speechifying took place concerning the former treatment of the people. The Governor told us the consequences of further resistance, and promised peace in case of submission. Brigham Young sat and heard all that was said, then got up and said: "Well, boys, we will have to let them come in—it is for the best; but never mind, I will take care of you." I was one of the party.

    Johnston came in and camped on the west side of the city, and sent word to Brigham that if he did not come back and occupy his houses, they would be taken possession of by the United States troops. Brigham was

*See Appendix—F.

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[click to enlarge]

Killing of McNeal by order of Brigham Young. "Dead men tell no tales." Page 141.

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only fifty miles south, in Utah Valley, with the principal portion of the inhabitants of Salt Lake City and the northern part of the Territory, and the word immediately went forth, "Everybody to their homes." General Johnston moved his troops to Cedar Valley, forty miles south of Salt Lake City, and built the place known as Camp Floyd. This was in the spring of 1858. Gov. A. Cummings was appointed to succeed Brigham Young, and new judges and marshal were appointed.

    D. R. Eckles, of Indiana, was chief justice, originally a Kentuckian, and a fine clever old gentleman. I did not get acquainted with him for several months after his arrival in the Territory, but after I did I spent many a social evening with him. By writs of habeas corpus I got seven or eight persons out of the probate court jurisdiction and placed them before his honor; gained my case every time by the rulings of the court against probate jurisdiction in criminal cases.

    Prejudice existed against me in the United States Army in consequence of the well-known course I had taken, and I did not go about them; while others who had lain back and shoved others ahead that had nerve enough to drive off government stock, now came around, saying, "We have clone nothing." and got good fat contracts. Much money was lavishly spent, but I got none and these half-handed Mormon officials would say: "If it were not for such men as Bill Hickman there would be no trouble in our country." It seemed as much as to say: "You have done our fighting and we have no more use for you." I looked at this state of affairs and

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thought what a fool I had been. I had spent the fall and winter before, used up several head of horses, and spent a couple of thousand dollars; had assisted in driving in one thousand head of cattle, horses, and mules. and had not received one cent for it; and now others were making money, while I was compelled to lay back. I said to myself: "This has to do this time, but I will try to keep my foot out after this."

    I had a sociable time with all the merchants and traders; but, they being speculators, I had no chance to make anything with them. I sold one of the sutlers two thousand dollars' worth of beef cattle at a fair figure, and a few horses at a good price, which was the principal business I did that winter.

    During this summer a man by the name of Drown, who had left Salt Lake in '51, returned. His common character was not good. He was charged with stealing horses and cattle before he went away, and was threatened with shooting; but, on his return, promised to quit all his bad practices, paid a widow woman two hundred dollars for a horse he had stolen from her before he left, and seemed to be doing right. But this summer he commenced running to Camp Floyd and telling all the bad stories on the Mormons he knew or could invent, so said. I was at Brigham Young's office one day, and a man by the name of Matthews went with me and sat outside of the door while Brigham and myself had a talk, in which Drown's name was mentioned. Young said he was a "bad man, and should be used up," and

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instructed me to do it, and put a stop to his carrying news and horse-stealing.

    After getting through talking with him I came out and started off with Matthews, who said: "I have got you this time, and you have done enough; I heard what Brigham told you, and I will attend to that." I told him to never mind, and maybe the man would be better. That night a party got together to give a serenade to one of the editors (Seth M. Blair) of a newspaper just started, called the Mountaineer. Some dozen of us rode down to his house, gave him a few hurras, which were answered by him, and a few short speeches ensued. When we got back into Main Street, we heard Drown had been shot in the thigh also. I knew nothing of how it was done, not knowing Drown was in the city until I heard he was shot. The next day I saw Matthews, who told me he found Drown was in town, got two men and went to the house he was stopping at; knocked at the door, but was refused admittance, when he kicked in the door, shot Drown, and started running around the house, and met a man who he supposed to be Drown, shot at him, and kept on. This happened to be a man by the name of Arnold, a very quiet, unassuming, good old man, who was in the house with Drown, and ran out to see who had done the shooting. The shot took effect in his thigh, from which he afterward died.*

    Much has been said about the killing of Drown and Arnold, and it has been laid to me; but these are the

*See Appendix—G.

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facts just as they occurred. Were it otherwise I would state it as plainly as I have other things. This being a matter much talked about at times, and as Arnold has boys who feel bad about their father being killed, they may know, if they wish, the truth of the whole affair. No doubt they have and will be told other stories by those that know I have stated the truth, in order to screen themselves and throw censure on me, and lead the boys to believe in their innocence and know-nothing-ism about the affair, which is no uncommon thing among a certain class. Some time after this I was at Brigham Young's office, and the subject of Drown's death came up. He said he was glad; it was a good thing, and as far as Arnold was concerned, he had no business to be in such company.

    That summer Charles Harrison had a horse stolen from Camp Floyd, which he had bought in Salt Lake City. Hearing it was at Ogden, forty miles north, he got me to go with him to prove his horse; he also got William Woodland, and a man by the name of "Cub" Johnson went along. We stayed in Ogden one day, and the next day started back, Johnson getting his brother and wife, who had lived there, in a carriage to bring them to the city. A man by the name of Beatty, or Batey, a Californian, who was staying at Ogden, said he was going to the city, and would overtake us.

    When he came up he rode past us to the top of the hill, and Johnson said: "What is that d—d rascal doing here? I will settle with him." I told him to behave himself, and supposed all would be quiet, but

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on reaching the summit he rode up by Batey's side and slapped him in the face, and Batey slapped him in return. By this time Johnson had his pistol out and shot him. He, however, knocked the pistol down and the shot struck him in the hip. Batey drew his pistol, and Johnson knocked it down as he fired and it took no effect. Batey then put spurs to his horse and rode off some twenty or thirty steps and turned around, facing Johnson, upon which Johnson shot him dead.

    The people living near by were notified of it, and Batey's body was taken to Farmington, eighteen miles north of the city, and Johnson was arraigned before the probate court. It was made to appear that Batey had said something to Johnson's brother's wife that was not right, and Johnson secured his acquittal by giving the county prosecuting attorney a twenty-dollar piece.* Some of the stand-ups are even now, while lying seems to be piled up as a fortification for others, saying I killed Batey and took his watch, and this because I got a watch from Harrison, who I was with at the time of the murder. I got two gold watches from Harrison, and then he left the country owing me three hundred and fifty dollars. The evidence is in the county if the grand jury wish to look up the case.

I do not state this as anything of my affair; but as I am giving everything of note that came under my observation, give this.*****

*See Appendix—H.

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    At this point Hickman gives a voluminous account of his doubts of Brigham Young, the beginning of his skepticism and consequent trouble, which I compress to a few points.

    He had been a wild, hard boy in Missouri, had married very young, and joined the Methodist Church soon after; by nature an enthusiast, all the wild energy of his character found vent in the emotional exercises of that sect, and in hot controversy and theological debate. Those observant of religious vagaries in men of more fervor than judgment will not wonder that he reacted from that extreme to the extreme of a hard literalism in Bible doctrine; that his fancy was caught and his judgment captivated by the glorious vision of the Ancient Church restored, with prophets, apostles, and "living oracles" of the Hebrew Jehovah, repeating in the wilds of America all that wonderful story of a gathered Israel fighting its way to a promised land. Many minds will sympathize with this feeling. Of uncultivated conscientiousness and terrible earnestness, he had just enough misguided enthusiasm to easily believe himself one of "God's ministers to smite the enemies of Zion." The Old Testament, the vantage-ground of Mormonism, when taken as our rule of faith, abounds in bloody examples, which this kind of literalism easily turns into bloody teachings; polygamy is not half so easily proved, therefrom, as "blood atonement." The young men of Israel served God by shedding the blood of His enemies. A part of the congregation rebelled, the adherents of

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Moses massacred them; a few thousand took idolatrous wives, and their brethren slaughtered them; Sisera tyrannized over God's people, and Jael killed him; Athalia usurped the government, the high priest had her slain; Eglon set up a despotism, and Ehud stabbed him.

    From these records Mormonism draws the inspiration of its doctrines—polygamy along with the rest. Then all the native earnestness of Hickman turned to religious fanaticism: anything was "God's service" which "built up the kingdom"; anyone who stood in the way was an enemy of God; Brigham was the "mouth-piece of God to this generation," and Hickman was to obey his orders even to smiting all who would "hinder the march of Israel." But there came a time when he could no longer believe so implicitly. His first doubts, by his statement, were caused by the numerous prophecies uttered by Brigham before the Mormon War, every one of which proved untrue. It is a singular fact that in the Mormon journals themselves are found scores of predictions and statements by Brigham which have been utterly falsified. Besides, Hickman got to know him too well. "Familiarity breeds contempt," even with a prophet. There are so many petty meannesses in the business management of Brigham Young, and so many social errors and acts of personal injustice in intercourse with others, that a majority of those who know him most intimately are apostates.

    Often when Hickman was reporting to him, he pronounced persons guilty of certain crimes of which Hickman, from his better knowledge of the facts, knew they

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were innocent. Soon after the foul murder of Hartley, Hickman was thoroughly convinced that he was an innocent man. In his conversation with me, that was the only one of all his crimes to which he referred with horror. Though "seared as with a hot iron," no conscience could sustain that dreadful burden and be at ease. But by this time Hickman had gone too far. He had begun as an executor of lynch law justice, killing men actually guilty of crime. From that he killed those the Church pronounced guilty; then, by a gradation in crime, which all such biographies show to be natural, he killed whomsoever Brigham Young and Orson Hyde told him to; and lastly, so regular is the growth of crime in man, he killed on his own account.

    According to his statement, he would gladly have left Utah in 1860 could he have done so with his family; but he knew too much, and before he could safely break with the Church he had fighting of his own to do.

    The remaining history of his life is a melancholy record of struggles—against the Church on one side and personal enemies on the other.

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