Mormon History

Murder of Bishop Klingensmith - 1881

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune

August 4, 1881


He is Supposed to Have Been Murdered by Mormons.

News has reached Pioche, says the Record, that bishop Philip Klingensmith, at one time a man of high standing and great influence in the Mormon Church, and the exposer of the Mountain Meadows massacre, and the names of the men who participated in the bloody deed, is dead. His body was found in a prospect hole, in the State of Sonora, Mexico, and a letter from there, which was received in the vicinity of Pioche, states that the mystery surrounding the body indicates that Klingensmith had been murdered. Klingensmith died just as he expected, for on his return from Beaver in 1875, after testifying in the trial of John D. Lee, we met Klingensmith in town, in a sort of secluded spot, and during the conversation Klingensmith remarked: "I know that the Church will kill me, sooner or later, and I am as confident of that fact as I am that I am sitting on this rock. It is only a question of time; but I am going to live as long as I can." Immediately after Klingensmith's return from Lee's trial, as his wife at Panaca refused to have anything to do with him, being so ordered by the Church, he started southward and lived in Arizona for a while following prospecting. During his residence in the mountains of that Territory two attempts were made upon his life, but by whom he never was able to discover. Klingensmith made the exposure of the butchery at Mountain Meadows more for self protection than anything else. In early days, when Hiko was the county seat of Lincoln and the flourishing and only prominent mining camp in this southern country, the Mormons used to haul all the freight from Salt Lake to Hiko. Klingensmith was engaged in freighting, and his son, Bud Klingensmith, was assisting him. During one of these trips father and son had [a] quarrel and Bud went to Hiko and obtained employment. It was during the winter of 1867-68, when Klingensmith arrived in Hiko with a load of freight, his son pointed him out to the people, and told them that just after the massacre he pointed out a young girl to him and ordered him to kill her, saying that if he (Bud) did not kill her he (his father) would kill him." Then Bishop Klingensmith turned upon the poor girl himself and knocked her brains out with a club. This was the first inkling to anything authentic in connection with the massacre, and caused considerable excitement among the settlers of Hiko. Wandell, one of the county officials at that time informed Bishop Klingensmith what his son exposed, and hurried him out of town. After that, while engaged in handling freight, upon his arrival at Panaca, Klingensmith would always hire some one to drive his team over to Hiko. In 1871 Bishop Klingensmith made affidavits before the Clerk of Lincoln county, making the exposure of the massacre, and the names of those connected therewith, which was published in the Record and made public for the first time. Mrs. Klingensmith is now living at Bullionville, and is married to a man named Dolf Laundrich. Mrs. Klingensmith is an intelligent old lady, and is the mother of seventeen children by Klingensmith, the last two being girls, who are now about sixteen years of age. Most of the Klingensmith family reside in Lincoln county.

There was always something incomprehensible about Klingensmith and the actions and exposures of the Mountain Meadows massacre. In the first place it is remarkable that he should have told his story at all, for he possessed no such keenness of conscience as would compel him to divulge the crime as an act of justice to the world. Then, when he did tell it, he never would tell it all, but stopped just where it was most desireable that he should continue; again, he never told the story alike any two tellings, and it always stopped just short of being legally conclusive against any person. That he professed fear of his life on account of what he had told is certain, that he actually felt and realized such fear is not so certain. When he was found in 1875, and brought to Utah as a witness in the second Lee trial, he was living with two Indian squaws near the river, below Ehrenburg, Arizona. He was with some difficulty persuaded to come after being assured the fullest protection against the Mormon violence he professed to fear. On leaving Beaver, however, he requested not to be returned by the safe way he had come, but desired to have a horse, saddle and traveling outfit, and on being supplied he struck off through the southern Mormon settlements to go back to Ehrenburg by the southern overland trail, alone and unprotected, as he had asked to do, thereby ignoring the very protection he had insisted upon. That did not look as if he had any particular fear of assassination at that time, whatever he may have really felt at other times. He was certainly a most reckless liar, and probably a cruel villain, who did his full share of the bloody work at the Meadows. If he was really killed by the Mormons at the last, all we have to say is, they waited an unconscionable while before taking their revenge upon him and missed many a good and more convenient opportunity than that of which they finally availed themselves.

In this connection we publish the following letter, just received.

Dillon, M. T., July 30, 1881.

Eds. Tribune. I see by an item in the Ogden Pilot of the 27th inst., a notice of the death of Phillip Klingensmith, and referring to the Tribune from which the item was taken. I write now to ascertain how the news was obtained and all the particulars. He was my brother, and I have a deep interest in knowing all about his death, which I have long expected at the hands of the Mormons. Very truly,   Mrs. D. H. Simmons.