Mormon History

Conduct of Orrin P. Rockwell - 1845/1846

Warsaw Signal December 10, 1845

O. P. ROCKWELL. -- This delectable specimen of humanity, who was once the peculiar pet of Joe Smith and has since been regarded as the main champion of Zion in the Holy City, who some time since refused to bury his own child, but suffered it to be done at public expense, who was during the late difficulties Gen. Napoleon Backenstos' principal aid-de-camp, and rode by his side while making the valiant charge on unarmed and unresisting men, this same O. P. Rockwell, the assassin of Governor Boggs, has taken to himself a wife -- not his own wife, for be it remembered that he cast off the woman that the law regarded as his wife long since; but he has appropriated to himself the wife of Amos Davis. It is generally the case that when a wife leaves her husband to live with a seducer, they elope and settle in a place where they are not known; but there is no necessity for such a step in the Holy Nauvoo. So fashionable is it for the Heads of the church to appropriate the wives of other men to their own purposes, that it is regarded as no crime for one man to steal the companion of his neighbor and live with her in open unconcealed adultery. What a beautiful moral code is Mormonism!


Warsaw Signal December 24, 1845


LIFE IN NAUVOO. -- We learn that one day last week, O. P, Rockwell and his new wife, (who it will be recollected is the lawful wife of Amos Davis,) went together to the house of said Davis. Rockwell stood at the door, with a pistol in his hand, while his delectable partner entered the house & took from it such furniture as she desired. This was in open day light and in the face of the whole City; yet no one was shocked or astonished. In Nauvoo such proceedings are all a matter of course.


Warsaw Signal February 11, 1846


O. P. ROCKWELL STABBED. -- Our readers were informed, some weeks since, the O. P. Rockwell had taken the wife of Amos Davis to himself. Davis seemed to take this trespass on his rights very quietly, and it was generally supposed that resentment was not in him. After living with Rockwell some time, Mrs. Davis desired to return to her husband, but we have not heard whether he received her. However, Rockwell and Davis quarreled last week about the matter, and the latter drew a spear from his cane & stabbed the former in the side. Rockwell's wound is not serious, he having pushed the spear aside from the spot where it was aimed.


Warsaw Signal May 6, 1846


We learn that this notorious cut throat was arrested on Friday morning last, in Nauvoo, on the charge of murdering F. A. Worrel. The warrant was issued in Carthage on the affidavit of Dr. Watson, who heard Rockwell make confessions sufficient for his conviction, and five of the Hancock Guard were sent down to Nauvoo to execute it.

A correspondent furnishes us with the following particulars of the arrest.

"The Troops went to Backenstos' house and a little before day Backenstos and C. Higbee went with them to the house where they supposed Rockwell had gone to roost, having watched him till late in the evening. They searched the house from bottom to top without success; they then searched a second house without finding him; but by accident, as it were, they found out that he was in a certain three story Brick house, some distance from where they were then searching.

They repaired thither immediately, Backenstos leading the way. On arriving at the house Backenstos rapped at the door. The owner of the house Mr. Sanders, enquired who was there; to which Backenstos replied that it was his "friend Backenstos the Sheriff." The door being opened, Backenstos told him that the troops were there for the purpose of arresting Rockwell; that they were determined to take him dead or alive. S. told him Rockwell was not there, Backenstos said he knew better and that he had better go up and bring him down and save farther trouble. The Landlord then ran up stairs and returned in a short time saying that Rockwell, would not be taken. Rockwell, it seems, was up in the upper storey. The stairs that led to his room were narrow and winding, just wide enough to admit one person at a time. -- The troops waited and consulted about three hours as to the best means of getting him.

Rockwell put his head out of a window, two horse pistols were leveled at it immediately; but in the twinkling of an eye he drew it in again. Backenstos ventured to the foot of his stairs. Rockwell ordered him to stop, which he did. They all then went below and some one of them told the man of the house to take out his family and a few of his valuable goods, as they were going to shut the doors and burn the house down. He endeavored to argue the case; but the troops would not hear to it. He then went above and prevailed on Rockwell to give himself up, which he did. Rockwell had with him 2 fifteen shooters, 2 six shooters, a brace of single shooters and a Bowie knife.

The troops started this morning with him for Quincy having waived an examination and desired to be committed."

It appears that Rockwell after his last return to the Holy city, hearing that Governor Ford had disbanded the Guard, charged around more violently than he had ever done before, He yelled about the city a la Indian -- swore the Governor had dismissed Major Warren and given him command in Hancock, and he intended now to go it on the loud. So violent and boisterous was he, that many of the Saints became alarmed least he would commit some act of violence which would arouse the surrounding country.

After his arrest on the charge of murder he was taken on the charge of counterfeiting and passing counterfeit money.

It will be recalled that last fall O. P. Rockwell was J. B. Backenstos' right hand man. It now appears that Backenstos has turned against him; probably he began to fear that Rockwell's indiscretion might ruin his prospects.

Warsaw Signal May 27, 1846


For Hancock County commenced its session on Monday of last week, & closed on Saturday Morning. Considerable business was despatched during the week. -- The terrible forebodings of the Hancock Eagle were not realized -- as no event occurred to mar the general tranquility.

An indictment was found against O. P. Rockwell, for the murder of Franklin A. Worrell, in September last; and a change of venue has been taken to Jo Daviess county for trial.

The prisoner was brought up from the Quincy Jail, on Monday, by officer Pitman, and confined in the Carthage Jail until his case was disposed of, when he was again taken to Quincy.

Other indictments were found -- one against Wm. Backenstos (the former Sheriff [sic]) for Perjury -- another for Swindling, and one against Gen. W. Stigall for passing counterfeit money.

O. P. Rockwell passed up yesterday on board the Tempest, bound for Galena, in charge of Mr. Pitman, Sheriff of Adams county.