Brigham Young Murder?
THE STORY OF JESSE T. HARTLY
The following episode in Mormon life I give, not because it has any peculiar interest over many others which I have neglected to narrate, but because it illustrates the idea indicated by the heading, of this chapter, and for the further reason, that the facts are well authenticated.
About the time referred to in the last chapter, Jesse T. Hartly came to Great Salt Lake City. He was a man of education and intelligence, and a lawyer by profession. I never knew where he was from, but he was a Gentile when he came, and soon after married a Mormon girl by the name of Bullock, which involved a profession, at least, of Mormonism. It was afterwards supposed by some that his aim was to learn the mysteries of the Church, in order to make an expose of them afterwards. At all events, the eye of the Prophet was upon him from the first, and he was not long in discovering, through his spies, good grounds for suspicion. Hartly was a fine speaker and a man calculated to make friends, and he was named by some one, unacquainted with the fact that the Prophet regarded him with suspicion, as a fit person to be appointed missionary preacher among the Gentiles. As is 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 that air of judicial authority, from which those who know him best understand there is to be no appeal, and said: "This man, Hartly, is guilty of heresy. He has been writing to his friends in Oregon against the Church, and has attempted to expose us to the world, and he should be sent to hell cross lots." This was the end of the matter as to Hartly.
His friends after this avoided him, and it was understood that his fate was sealed. He knew that to remain was death; he therefore left his wife and child, and attempted to effect an escape.
Not many days after he had gone, 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 Hartly were in the canyons, and that 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 Hartly 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 the ferry there, and he was also a 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 my 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 shall never forget. Oh! Mormonism is too hard - too cruel upon women. Can it - will it be permitted for ever?
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:
I married Jesse Hartly, knowing he was a "Gentile" in fact, but he passed for a Mormon, but that made no difference with me, although I was a Mormon, because he was a noble man, and sought only the right. By being my husband, he was brought into closer contact with the members of the Church, and was thus soon enabled to learn many things about us, and about the Heads of the Church, that he did not approve, and of which I was ignorant, although I had been brought up among the Saints; and which, if known among 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 human sacrifices are sometimes made in this way. 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. 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 canyons; 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 after 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."
It was about one year previous to the death of Hartly, that the following incident occurred. Wiley Norton was going by our house one day on horseback, and calling at the gate, said he was on his way to assist in burying a dead body, that had been found a short distance out of the city, by two of the herd boys. These were smallish boys, employed in looking after the cattle, and to assist the herdsmen. They had reported the fact of finding the body when they came in the night before, and by this time the Gentiles had heard of it, and a great number of stories were in circulation. Among others, that a Gentile had been murdered by the Mormon which was probably true; but there was no evidence of it. Wiley said he would call when he returned, and tell us what he saw, and all he could learn about it. In the evening, Wiley, as he had promised, called and gave us the following facts. He said:
"Brother Grant told them, if they would not, he would take them to the slough and have them drowned. Still they refused, and we took them to the water, and brother Jeddy put one of them in, and held him there until be was quite exhausted, and when he could breathe again, he said as resolute as ever, that the man was dead; for he saw, and could smell him. He knew it. This was repeated several times, with a similar result. We then dug a grave, and told the other boy we would bury him alive if he did not go to the city, and contradict the statement the two had first made. What a time we had with them. The boys were good blood, I tell you. Although the one that we were about to bury consented, the other was silent, and so brother Grant let them off for the present; and one of them has set it right with the Gentiles, who now believe the story of the dead body was a hoax, got up by the boys. I believe the boy that brother Jeddy put in the water, avoids having anything to say about it."
Many facts are within my knowledge, illustrative of this point. Several occurred of some note, the winter Colonel Steptoe was at the valley with his regiment. One of his soldiers became attached to Amanda Tanner, a Mormon girl, with whom I was well acquainted. Her father forbade their meeting and confined her to the house, until he supposed the attachment had been forgotten; and she was left alone one day, for a few hours, and the girl sent for her soldier, who came of course. Unfortunately, the father returned sooner than expected, and finding the Gentile there, took his sword and charged upon the lover, before he knew the enraged father was in the house. But fortune favored the soldier; for Mr. Tanner, in his haste, and in the act of striking, brought the point of his sword against a beam, breaking it in several pieces, and the Gentile escaped. The father, still holding the handle of the shivered blade, said to the trembling girl: "Listen. When you are caught in Gentile company again, you shall die;" and she knew he would do what he said, and she gave up the Gentile. The soldier was prosecuted, and heavily fined.
The same winter one of Col. Steptoe's officers formed an acquaintance with a daughter of John Taylor - Mary Ann. She was a very interesting girl; and the intimacy ripened into a mutual attachment. Her father is one of the Twelve Apostles, and a man of great influence in the Church; and was, at the time, living in New York, where he edited a paper known as the "Mormon."
On account of her beauty, as well as the position of her father, Mary Ann was much sought after, both by old grey-headed Saints among the Heads of the Church, and by younger aspirants for saintly and matrimonial honors. But the budding instincts of her young womanhood naturally revolted against the dark future promised her by Mormon wifeism; and she preferred the Gentile. She succeeded in getting before Judge Kinney with her lover, and they were married. This was a termination more fortunate than she could have expected, had the father been at home. For when he heard of it, he wrote to the Prophet blaming him very severely for not preventing the marriage by the sacrifice of her life. He wrote that he should always feel dissatisfied because the blood of his daughter had not been shed to atone for the sin of marrying out of the Church. She was afterwards cut off from the Saints and publicly traduced by Orson Hyde who had been one of her admirers before.
This precious man, Hyde, whose number of wives was great already, had urged the mother very strongly to force Mary Ann to marry him, even against her own consent, which extreme measure might have been resorted to, had Col. Steptoe's military force not been at band. When the regiment left the valley, she accompanied her husband.
That the strictness as to the intermarriage with Gentiles was a question of policy, and not one of principle, was shown by the course pursued by the Prophet in relation to the Indian chief, Walker. This chief was at the head of a powerful tribe in the western part of the territory. Some cause of quarrel had interrupted the good understanding before existing between Walker and the "Mormon Chief," as the former called Brigham Young; and the Prophet, wishing to re-establish friendly relations, and also to found a permanent influence favorable to the Saints within the tribe, attempted to induce some of the Mormon women to marry Walker, as means of effecting that object. I heard the Prophet say one day, to a young girl, that the Mormon woman that would volunteer to make that sacrifice for the Church, should have a crown of Immortal Glory in the celestial kingdom. The matter created great excitement among us at the time, and it was expected that some of the girls were to be "counselled" to accept this "mission," as none were found so reckless of peace and womanly "glory" in this world as to volunteer to hazard it for the prospective glory of the next. But either on account of some misgivings on the part of the Prophet as to the policy of forcing the acceptance of the dusky warrior as a husband upon an unwilling maiden, or for some other reason, the matter was delayed until the chief suddenly died from some cause unknown. It was remarked, however, at the time, that the Prophet was seldom at fault in knowing how to accomplish his aims, and the death of the chief, whether by natural or foul means, was followed by a new line of policy, i.e. by the marriage of the Indian women by the Mormon men sent to preach among them, and this has now become the settle policy of the Church, pursued not only in that, but among all the Indian tribes within the reach of Mormon influence. So successfully has this policy been pursued that not many years shall pass before all the Indian tribes west of the Rocky Mountains, and probably all the others, between whose hunting grounds and Utah, civilized migration has set up no barrier, will acknowledge the Prophet's sway. And when that day comes, the United States Government shall find in the Prophet and his people a more formidable adversary than is now dreamed of. Will the warning be heeded in time?
After Walker's death, he was succeeded in the government of the tribe by his brother, Squash Head. I knew but little of the character of this chief. He was looked upon as being not very sagacious, but at the same time, remarkably obstinate. He soon fell under the censure of the Prophet, who had taken offence at the obstacles Squash Head interposed to the influence of the Mormon missionaries sent to his tribe.
The Prophet intrigued to decoy the chief to the city, and then upon some charge, either real or trumped up for the occasion, had him arrested, and thrown into prison, where he remained for a long time.
The chief was attended in his prison by a "Danite," by whom he was regularly furnished with food. This attendant represents that one morning he took his breakfast to him, and left with it thoughtlessly, a case knife; and that when he returned an hour after to remove the dishes, and the remains of the breakfast, he found the chief dead. He had cut his throat with a very dull case knife! This was a version of the story first circulated; but it was very soon after this generally understood that the poor old Indian was murdered by the Prophet's order, as his influence among his tribe was considered an obstacle to the spread of the faith among them; and for that reason, was held to be justifiable by the great body of the church. This circumstance was freely spoken of among us at the time, and I never heard these facts questioned.
I deem this a fitting place to mention another circumstance, which occurred while I was at the valley. I refer to the massacre of Capt. Gunnison and his party, as was supposed at the time by the Indians. I have heard the circumstances of this atrocious murder discussed frequently at Great Salt Lake, by the Heads of the Church, and by the Prophet and others. In all these cases, it was exultingly claimed by them, and unquestioned in well informed circles among us, that Capt. Gunnison and his party were murdered by the "Danites," disguised as Indians, by, and with the knowledge, and "counsel" of the Prophet. It was, however, believed by some that the massacre was perpetrated by the Indians in fact, but instigated by the Prophet - all parties agreeing in this, that it was done for the good of the Church, which justified the act. My belief is, that the first theory is the true one. I could state many facts going to prove this. The generally received opinion in the Church upon that subject should have some weight; and I never heard any other opinion expressed, until I came to the States, about one year since. I was one day at my brother's house, where a small company were assembled, when this subject came up; and Edmond Ellsworth said, among many other things, "I think Uncle Sam will got sick of sending officers here, when we serve a few more as we served Gunnison."
Ellsworth is a son-in-law of the Prophet, having married for his first, and only wife, Elizabeth, the oldest daughter of Brigham Young.
Thus, his statement should be entitled to the more weight as he was known to be familiar with the Prophet. There was, in fact no effort made at concealment and it was freely talked of among ourselves, although it was scrupulously kept from the knowledge of the Gentiles, and from those Mormons whose discretion or orthodoxy was doubtful.
Green, Nelson Winch, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons: A Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, H. Dayton, New York, 1860, pages 305 - 319.
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