Mormon History

Life in Utah - 1851/1852

  Saint Joseph Gazette March 17, 1852

SALT LAKE VALLEY AND THE MORMONS.- A gentleman of high respectability has furnished the editor of the Lexington Express with the following extracts from a letter lately received from one of the emigrants who left Lafayette county for Oregon in the spring of 1850, and who was induced to spend the winter in Salt Lake Valley. The writer was regarded as a man of truth in that community:

"When we arrived in the valley, the people seemed sympathetic with the emigrants, and we were treated kindly, and encouraged by every argument they could advance, to remain with them during the winter -- assuring us that we would find constant employment at high wages -- more than make our expenses, and leave in the spring and get through with our stock in good order. These things were set forth in their most glowing colors in order to induce us to remain' and being thus encouraged we concluded to stay. We went on the California road to Weber River, 40 miles from the city, where there is a settlement called Weber Co., six miles square, which is now incorporated as Ogden City, with 4 to 6000 inhabitants. The population of the valley is variously stated by the Mormons to be from 20 to 30 thousand. -- My opinion is that there in not fifteen thousand -- two-thirds of whom are women, children and old crippled men.

The Mormons are making a master effort for numbers sufficient to be admitted as a State. They followed the emigrants 100 miles to take the census. We contended that they had no right to our names, for we were not citizens of Utah Territory nor never would be. But our arguments availed nothing, and we will therefore be returned to the Government as Mormons, which will be a cheat.

About 900 emigrants wintered in the valley.

The first Sunday after stopping, I went to hear for the first time a Mormon preach. He was the president of this Division and a very ignorant man. He addressed the people with a great tirade of abuse of the different Christian denominations, calling them Gentiles. Then the Missourians and Illinoians were abused and denounced as mobocrats and persecutors of the Saints, having killed their Prophet Joseph and Patriarch Hiram; that the Government of the United States had winked at this persecution and refused them redress; and that they had been driven out, and had flown to the mountains for refuge, and here they were a blessed people, and could worship God and none could make them afraid. -- He then exhorted the saints to obey those whom God had placed over them; to obey counsel in everything -- that this was the will of God; and for his part he was willing to do whatever the first President directed him to do, even to the throwing away of his life, if it was necessary, for he knew that he would not tell him to do any thing which was not for the benefit of the Kingdom. He then said the professed Christians in the States worship for a God the very devil, a spirit without body or parts, which was the very kind of a thing that the saints feared as a devil. "Now, brethren I will tell you what God is like." "In the beginning God created man in his own image." "Now, what is God like? Why he is just like a man;" and went on to say that if they would live up to their privileges and obey those whom God has placed over them, that they would be equal to Jesus Christ, and they could do all that he had done while on earth and would attain to the same perfection; that God would soon redress them for all their wrongs by the people of the States, the measure of whose wickedness would soon be full, and that God would deliver them into the hands of the saints, &c., &c.

The second day after this, while at the house of a priest, at dinner, some distance off, there appeared a train of carriages. All were looking at the sight. When they came near, the old Priest dropped his knife and fork, and exclaimed it was the President, and ran out to meet them. It was Brigham Young and three or four of his wives in a carriage, drove [sic] by quite a well dressed man. In company there were three other carriages, two of them filled with ladies and gentlemen, and one of them carried a brass band and bass drum, playing after the King at every place they passed where there were listeners. I was told that in returning to the city, he would be met by an escort; cannons would be fired and a great ado made.

In the months of September and October they commenced employing the emigrants. Some were engaged to work for the winter, and others for a short time, being told that the brethren would soon be in, intimating that when they arrived the preference would be given to them, and by such hints we soon saw that no reliance could be placed upon their promises. In November many were thrown out of employment, others had to work for their board or just whatever the Mormons saw fit to give them. Mrs. T_____'s boys and I, did not make our support by about 400 dollars.

The news arrived in November that a Territorial Government had been established for Utah. This exasperated the Saints very much, and they forthwith began to abuse the Government of the United States, and make many threats against the Gentiles, (as they called us,) saying that if we did not walk straight we would be pickled down, &c.

Thus matters went on till February (only growing worse all the time -- several emigrants in the city having been condemned to carry the ball and chain,) when they became desperate against the emigrants, [induced?] the boldness to discuss the propriety of killing all the Gentiles in the valley and not leaving one to tell the tale. This was openly proposed by Ezra T. Benson, one of the 12 Apostles. I suppose their reasons for wanting us destroyed, so that we could tell no tales, were, that on the trial of one of the men who had to wear a ball and chain three months for fighting with a Mormon, (the Mormon struck the first lick,) the judge, on giving the sentence, addressed the people and told them that the time was not far distant when every emigrant's head, who came into the valley, would be severed from his body, and he would live to see it. Q. O. [sic - Orson?] Pratt in a public speech in the city, said that he was sorry for only one thing, and that was, that he had ever let a Mobocrat from Missouri or Illinois pass through the valley; and if God would forgive him for it, he would have them all killed hereafter. I was under the impression that the Mormons were religious fanatics, but I soon discovered my mistake. They are, almost all, profane swearers, men, women and children; and I believe that there is more vice and immorality, in Salt Lake valley, than in any other place in the world containing the same number of inhabitants. -- Every week they have their low frolics, which are opened by prayer, at which all classes attend, and which are accompanied by fiddling, card-playing, quarreling, and every thing that is immoral.

I heard a quarrel between an old Priest and one of his brethren, about the cattle of the brother destroying the wheat of the Priest. They swore as hard as I ever heard two men swear. Another priest, an old man, who was a Justice, came up and commanded the peace, and not being immediately obeyed, became exasperated and out swore his brethren. Next day their trial came on, before the Bishop, the old Magistrate being the accuser. They acknowledged their faults and were baptized for their sins [sic - re-baptized for the remission of their sins?]. The Sunday subsequent the Justice preached and appeared very holy. The priest who lost the wheat, in his own house, a few days after, abused the brethren very much. "Yes," says he, "we meet on Sunday and they come round me with brotherly love, but devil a bit they care for my wheat." His eldest wife (for he had 4, two of whom were a daughter and a mother,) said to him: "Ah! old man, you must pray for your enemies." "Yes," says he, "I do pray for them -- I pray that God may d___n them and send them to hell as soon as convenient; but they are too mean and trifling for him to notice one at a time. He will have to make a big box and put them all in and damn the box. In the Fort [where] I wintered, there was a man who had four wives -- a mother and her daughter, and two others; and I could name many cases of the kind which came under my observation.

I saw here a Mr. Richardson, who was shot in Missouri, by a Mr. Johnston, a Methodist preacher, for stealing his mare and colt. He was carried off by the Mormons and reported dead. He is here a high priest, and has three wives. All the leading men have a large number of wives.

In February the emigrants began to make preparations for starting, and of course wished to collect all which was due them for their labor. But every kind of device was suggested and practiced to cheat them. Brigham had said that the Gentiles should not take away any money, and the property which was offered them was valued 4 prices [sic -- 1/4 price?]. Vexatious trials were instituted merely for the purpose of absorbing what was due them in costs. Although acquitted, as they said, honorably, their property was taken to pay costs. About this time a law was passed, fining all persons from 5 to 20 dollars for swearing. -- This law was executed when an emigrant could be fleeced, but I never heard of but one saint being tried, although their swearing was proverbial. They lacked 75 dollars of paying a mill wright who had built a mill for them. He swore and blustered and abused them about their polygamy, which was a sufficient justification for bringing a suit for slandering the saints. -- He was fined 71 dollars, four dollars was paid by him and he was set at liberty.

About the 1st of February, I heard A. Lyman, one of the 12, (in the presence of Brig, Young,) preach. He advised the people to have nothing to do with the Gentiles, and abused them scandalously -- said they should not invite them to their parties, not sell them any breadstuffs, nor have any intercourse with them; that the saints would consume their breadstuffs and build up their public works. Brigham arose and approved every thing Lyman had said. He then explained the tithing law. He said this law was given by God to Joseph, and would exist as long as time existed. This is about the substance of the law as explained: Every person admitted into the Church to pay one-tenth of all he is worth and as long as he lived to pay one-tenth of his increase, including the vegetables of the garden, crops of all kinds, poultry, butter, cheese, &c. Five months allowed them in which time they are to make their crops; every 10th day of their time in the remainder of the year to be employed for the Lord, which could not be idled away.

George Grant was the next person I heard preach. The emigrants, the people and Government of the U. States were anathematized in saint-like style. He had understood that an act had been passed by Congress establishing a Territorial Government. They wanted none of their laws and if they sent them a Governor they would reject him. They didn't want the protection of the Gentiles. They come here to prostitute our women and curse our institutions. They intend to govern themselves. This is not a tenth part of the abuse that was heaped upon our citizens and Government, by Mr. Grant.

Brigham was present, and approved of every thing that had been said. He wanted mone of their laws, and we will have none of them. If they send a Governor here he will be glad to black my boots. I am Governor here -- I was elected for life, and I will be Governor here as long as I live in these mountains. This is the State of Deseret, and we won't accept the name of Utah. Hear! all ye Gentiles, (turning towards the emigrants) if you do not quit cursing the Mormons, I will cut off your heads and send you to hell by the eternal God -- and he uttered a great deal more of the same kind of trash.

They did every thing which wickedness could invent, to harrass and distress the emigrants and get their property and money. They stole from myself and those who were with me, and from others, and we dared not say a word. If we opened our lips to complain we were intimidated by threats.

Brother and myself were frequently asked if we were not afraid to own ourselves Missourians? The man whom they said had shot Gov. Boggs. was pointed out to us frequently. They told us, boldly, that there had been many Mobocrats killed in the valley; and that there were men set apart to dog them when they were known, and some of them had been followed as far as Mary's River before they were killed. A young man with us was told by the Mormons that the son of the man who acted as a Captain in the battle in Davis county, Mo., had been killed by them last summer. Marshal Comstock started to the gold mines last spring, and I should like to know whether he is missing or not. Dr. Vaughn, of Iowa, we were told was killed last winter. Frequently men were missing, and unjust trials were often instituted as a pretence for robbery.

I will now relate a few circumstances relative to my own difficulties with the Mormons. In February, a man stepped up and told me that I was suspected of being a Mobocrat, and if it was the case I was in great danger; and if you don't prove to the contrary, we shall take it for granted you are a Mobocrat. Assurances did no good. A few nights after this, my house was struck with a very heavy blow which awoke us all. The women were dreadfully alarmed, and were not satisfied until we moved out of the settlements. -- We went about 20 miles and camped. A man by the name of Turner, got into a difficulty with the Mormons, and apprehensive of danger ran off. He stopped at our camp and said that he was on his way to Fort Hall, and when he left we supposed that he had pursued that course. A few days subsequently, 30 or 40 men with two baggage wagons surrounded our camp, and guarded us day and night, without saying a word, or giving us any idea of their designs. But, I learned after they left, that they pretended to be searching for the property of Turner, and had inquired if I had not some of Turner's cattle. I was now satisfied that they wanted my cattle, and without them, knowing I could not leave the valley, I became very uneasy. Two days later this company left, a Mormon came to me inquiring about Turner, intimating that I knew of his whereabouts, and that Mrs. Turner had sent him to inquire. The same day O. P. Rockwell passed in search of Turner, and returned without him; and next evening a company of about 25 came riding up in great haste -- they accused us of secreting Turner. All the emigrants assured them that the truth had been told -- that Turner had passed there as they supposed for Fort Hall. They pretended they were not satisfied, asserted we had secreted rogues, and unless we gave them up, they would take us and our cattle. We protested, and spoke of the injustice of this course. Near night they left us and camped about half mile from us.

About 10 o'clock that night, a young man came into our camp from Turner, begging provisions. Turner had secreted himself in Bear River bottom, not being able to cross the river. I told the young man all that had passed, and had informed him of our danger on account of Turner, and told him by all means to send Turner in, so as to get us out of the difficulty. After the young man started, we went to the Mormon camp and informed them of what had happened, and told them where they could find Turner. Instead of hunting him, they stayed around our camp and finally produced a writ for my arrest. I was taken to the Fort for trial, for harbouring rogues. They took me down that evening, and kept me in custody till next morning, when I was brought before the Court for trial. By this time the news had spread, and the emigrants in that neighborhood were generally in attendance. They were surprised to hear that a man of my character should be arrested for crime. Are you ready for trial, was the first question propounded by the Judge. I told him that I claimed a change of venue. What are your reasons he demanded? I told him that a man in the States by making oath that he did not believe he could get justice, could get a change of venue without giving reasons. I took the oath, but all done and said was overuled, and the trial proceeded, after the Judge vented some of his indignation upon me. My objection to this man trying the case, were in consequence of his having already passed judgement upon me. A jury was granted.

The first witness knew nothing but had heard a great deal. I objected to such testimony, but my objections were overuled, and a great many hearsays went to the jury as evidence. The States Attorney desired to be sworn, and related a conversation in a garbled manner, which had taken place between us; all he said was a most shameful misrepresentation of facts.

After several had made long speeches against me, and I had made some remarks, the case went to the jury. My friends and I thought they would find me guilty, although not one particle of testimony had been produced to prove me so. While I was offering a mule to any one who would get me clear, the jury came in with a verdict of not guilty.

Going back to the camp that evening, I met Rockwell with Turner, who, some of the emigrants had induced to give himself up. Turner was turned loose and passed us subsequently on his way to California, never having been tried for any offence.

I will now relate what I supposed to be the cause of my acquittal: The night I was brought to the Fort as a prisoner, a Grand Council was held to decide my case. The President first spoke -- he was for killing off the Gentiles, and abused the company for not bringing down all of the emigrants. The next man up dissented -- he said such conduct had driven them from the States, and would bring the general Government down upon them if they persisted in this course. His advice was to treat every emigrant well, who had any influence in the States. It did not matter so much how the ignorant and uninfluential are treated. The advice of the last speaker was adopted.

(Webmaster note: Mormon Harry Reid would have made a great 19th century anti-Mormon)

Bill Number: S. 3313 (IS)
Bill Title: Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008 (Introduced in Senate)
Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry   View all legislation sponsored by this member.
Introduced: 2008/07/23
Latest Major Action: 2008/07/23 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Notes: There are no notes for this Bill

S 3313 IS


2d Session

S. 3313

To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.


July 23, 2008

Mr. REID introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008'.


Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Despite the fact that polygamy has been illegal in the United States for over 100 years, the practice of polygamy involving underage marriages is growing. Sizable polygamist communities exist in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and are expanding into other States.

(2) Polygamist communities are typically controlled by organizations that engage in widespread and systematic violations of State laws and the laws of the United States in order to enrich their leaders and maintain control over their members.

(3) The crimes perpetrated by these organizations include child abuse, domestic violence, welfare fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, witness tampering, and transporting victims across State lines.

(4) Due to the systematic and sophisticated nature of these crimes, State and local law enforcement agencies would benefit from the assistance of the Federal Government as they investigate and prosecute these organizations and their leaders for violations of State law. In addition, violations of Federal law associated with polygamy should be investigated and prosecuted directly by Federal authorities.

(5) The work of State and Federal law enforcement agencies to combat crimes by polygamist organizations would benefit from enhanced collaboration and information-sharing among such agencies.

(6) The establishment of a task force within the Department of Justice to coordinate Federal efforts and collaborate with State agencies would aid in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities of polygamist organizations in both Federal and State courts.

(7) Polygamist organizations isolate, control, manipulate, and threaten victims with retribution should they ever abandon the organization. Individuals who choose to testify against polygamist organizations in Federal or State court have unique needs, including social services and witness protection support, that warrant Federal assistance.


(a) Establishment- There is established within the Department of Justice a Federal Polygamy Task Force, which shall consist of the Deputy Attorney General, the United States attorneys from affected Federal judicial districts, representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and any officer of the Federal Government whom the Deputy Attorney General considers necessary to strengthen Federal law enforcement activities and provide State and local law enforcement officials the assistance they need to address the illegal activity of one or more polygamist organizations.

(b) Purposes- The Federal Polygamy Task Force established under subsection (a) shall--

(1) formulate effective responses to the unique set of crimes committed by polygamist organizations;

(2) establish partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies to share relevant information and strengthen State and Federal efforts to combat crimes perpetrated by polygamist organizations;

(3) assist States by providing strategies and support for the protection of witnesses;

(4) track the criminal behavior of polygamist organizations that cross State and international borders; and

(5) ensure that local officials charged with protecting the public are not corrupted because of financial, family, or membership ties to a polygamist organization.


The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 10601 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 1404E the following:


`(a) In General- The Director may make grants as provided in section 1404(c)(1)(A) to State, tribal, and local prosecutors' offices, law enforcement agencies, courts, jails, and correctional institutions, and to qualified public and private entities, to develop, establish, and maintain programs for the enforcement of rights and provision of social services (including witness protection, housing, education, vocational training, mental health services, child care, and medical treatment) for an individual who is exploited or otherwise victimized by practitioners of polygamy.

`(b) Authorization of Appropriations- In addition to funds made available under section 1402(d), there are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section--

`(1) $2,000,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

`(2) $2,500,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

`(c) False Claims Act- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, amounts collected pursuant to sections 3729 through 3731 of title 31, United States Code (commonly known as the `False Claims Act'), may be used for grants under this section, subject to appropriation.'.


Section 506(a) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3756(a)) is amended--

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `and' at the end;

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and'; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

`(3) $2,000,000, to be granted by the Attorney General to States and units of local government to investigate and prosecute polygamist organizations that violate Federal, State, or local laws.'.