Utah Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Execution of John D. Lee


john d. lee

The Salt Lake Tribune covered the execution of John D. Lee. This article was published on the front page of the March 24, 1877, issue.

Between September 7 and 11, 1857, there was a series of attacks on the Baker-Fancher emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. Will Bagley wrote in Blood of the Prophets, “Alexander Fancher’s Party was said to consist of eleven families with twenty-nine children and sixty-five total members, traveling with eleven well-stocked wagons and large herds of cattle and horses.” (63) But why the Baker-Fancher party? It has been speculated that the attacks occurred because of the supplies individuals were carrying for their journey from Arkansas to California, and because the wagon train was passing through the Utah Territory during a time of civil unrest. Bagley quotes John D. Lee as saying, “As this lot of people had men amongst them that were supposed to have helped kill the Prophets in the Carthage jail, the killing of all of them would be keeping our oaths and avenging the blood of the prophets.” (381) Today, said Steven Lund, these series of attacks have come to be known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

According to both Bagley and Lund, Major John D. Lee of the Nauvoo Legion, Utah’s territorial militia, “led a ragtag band of 60 or 70 Latter-day Saints, better known as Mormons, and a few Indian freebooters” in the assault on the wagon train. (Bagley, “Wild West”) The only emigrants who were spared were 17 small children. (Lund)

Bagley writes in Blood of the Prophets, “The murder at Mountain Meadows raise larger questions about the human condition, particularly how decent men can, while acting on their and best firmest beliefs commit a great evil.” (xiii)

The significance of the Mountain Meadows Massacre comes from the scattered facts and myths that have been raised by this event. George Barclay stated in The Life and Confession of John D. Lee, the Mormon, that there is much speculation regarding what was truly the reasoning behind these attacks and what was covered up by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (43)

On August 5, 1857, one month before the massacre, Brigham Young wrote that martial law was declared in the Utah territory. (Proclamation) During this time, there were multiple escalations in the state that likely contributed to the massacre at Mountain Meadows. Most notable was the start of the Utah War. Lund explained that the Utah War is known today as the confrontation that Utah Mormon settlers had with the United States government over disputes in the Utah Territory. Lund states, “In mid-1857, Latter-day Saint leaders heard rumors that the federal government might replace Brigham Young with a new governor of the Utah Territory, who would be backed by large numbers of federal troops.” These facts have shown that through the pressure from the federal government on the newly created Utah Territory, LDS leaders feared that members would again be driven from their home.

It has been said that this attack was an inside job and part of a larger conspiracy within the Mormon church. Barclay wrote in 1910 that the “extermination of these emigrants was duly presented to the priesthood, and was discussed at considerable length.” (Barclay, 40)

John D. Lee, who led the attack on the wagon train, was executed for his crimes two decades after the fact. In 1875 and 1876, he was tried twice and found guilty for his participation in the massacre. During his first trial, there were no witnesses to testify about his crimes. In order to create legal and due process, a second trial was held. Members of the LDS church were able to find additional witnesses who then testified against Lee. (Barclay, 40) A few months later, on March 23, 1877, Lee was executed, though “he denied any intent to do wrong.” (Barclay, 42)

The Mountain Meadows Massacre has many implications for Utah history. The most notable is that the LDS church has taken responsibility for the event. On September 11, 2007, the 150th anniversary of the event, The Salt Lake Tribune quoted a Mormon leader as saying, “What was done here long ago by members of our church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct.” Henry B. Eyring offered an apology for the church’s role and said, “We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here.”

Spencer William Ure graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in communication studies.


George Barclay, The Mountain Meadows Massacre with the Life, Confession and Execution of John D. Lee, the Mormon (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Barclay & Co, 1877).

T. R. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons, from the First Vision of Joseph Smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873).

“Message of the President of the United States to the 36th Congress, 1st Session,” May 4, 1860, http://bit.ly/2mf1oC1.

Brigham Young, “Proclamation by the Governor,” August 5, 1857, http://bit.ly/2lUTrRu.

Bagley, Will. Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.

Bagley, Will. “Wild West: The Legacy of Mountain Meadows,” Wild West, October 2007, http://www.historynet.com/mountain-meadows-massacre.

Lund, Steven E.The Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre,” presentation to the members of the Highland Utah Stake in Alpine, Utah, March 10, 2017.

Ravitz, Jessica. “LDS Church apologizes for Mountain Meadows Massacre,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, September 11, 2007, http://bit.ly/2pD7f61.

Forgeries, Bombs, and Joseph Smith: The Rise and Fall of Historical Documents Dealer Mark Hofmann


October 15, 1985, began just as any other crisp, fall morning in Salt Lake City, Utah. Steven Christensen, a businessman who was described in the January 23, 1987, edition of the Deseret News as “an avid collector of Mormon documents,” made his way to work in the Judge Building located downtown. At the same time, Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s former business partner, J. Gary Sheets, began her day in the quiet suburb of Holladay, located 20 minutes south of the city. When two bombs, which killed both Christensen and Kathy Sheets, suddenly exploded within mere hours of each other, the entire valley was shocked. Newspaper headlines in the days following the bombings, such as, “Bombings shatter area’s composure: ‘It’s beginning to seem like Lebanon,’” found in the October 17, 1985, issue of the Deseret News, indicated that fear was a tangible issue within the community. This is a very telling piece of historical evidence that shows the seriousness of the event and its influence. This intensity and mystery maintained itself throughout the two-year-long journey that included the investigations, trial, and eventual conviction of Mark W. Hofmann for the murders of Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets.

The book, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders by Allen D. Roberts and Linda Sillitoe, describes the early years of Hofmann and his upbringing in Utah during the 1960s and 1970s. His family was active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and he took an interest in some unique hobbies as a child, including performing magic tricks. Even though Hofmann was raised in the Mormon religion, he concluded that he did not believe the teachings of the church and secretly rejected the religion as a whole by the time he reached his teenage years. Since his family was still very active, Hofmann kept his newfound beliefs and feelings to himself and managed to convince his peers that he was still interested and involved. He kept up the act by serving a religious mission and marrying within the church. An amused Hofmann took pleasure in tricking his family and fellow church members about his involvement, which could stem back to his early years. Roberts and Sillitoe discuss his childhood and how he “loved tricking people and practiced his illusions diligently.”

After he married, he began to discover and collect historical books and documents, mostly regarding the history of the Mormon religion and the early development of the LDS Church. During the course of his collecting, he began to come across ancient Mormon documents among the pages of some of the books. One of the most controversial and most discussed letters that Hofmann brought to light was the Salamander Letter. This letter called into question the seriousness and validity of Joseph Smith’s discoveries and translations during the beginnings of the religion. Smith founded the LDS Church after discovering ancient writings near his home in western New York.

As Hofmann became more involved with his collecting, he connected with Christensen, who also enjoyed finding these rare documents having to do with Mormon history. The set of documents that sparked the bombings and the controversies was called the McLellin Collection, written by William E. McLellin.

"Mark Hofmann watches as Mormon leaders inspect some of Hofmann's documents." Special Collections Dept., J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

“Mark Hofmann watches as Mormon leaders inspect some of Hofmann’s documents.” Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

McLellin was “an early church apostle who later left the church,” according to the Deseret News on October 27, 1985. The article reported that he left the church because he had issues with some of the beliefs and practices taking place and that he “came into frequent conflict with church leaders.” The desire for this collection stemmed from the actual content within the letters. The Deseret News reported the basis of this content as giving “some of the first accounts of President Smith’s involvement in plural marriage.” On October 27, 1985, the Deseret News wrote, “The collection has proven elusive over the years, prompting some to dispute its existence. Yet it’s believed by many scholars and historians to exist.” This brought about the initial controversial nature of the documents and called into question some of the other documents Hofmann collected and sold.

While many of the documents he produced were questioned for authenticity and accuracy, Hofmann was talented enough that he had many experts defending their quality. One such example, as reported by the Deseret News on October 17, 1985, was Leonard Arrington, who was a professor of Western history at Brigham Young University. He said “documents discovered previously by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he doesn’t believe they are forgeries.” Over the course of Hofmann’s activities, he sold many of his forgeries to collectors and the LDS Church alike. It was only a matter of time before the validity of his career was threatened.

Many motives were suggested as to why Hofmann orchestrated the bombings that led to the deaths of Christensen and Sheets. One of the most recurring ideas, however, was the motive of Hofmann covering up his shady dealings. The January 23, 1987, edition of the Deseret News reported, “Police and prosecutors believe that Christensen … may have discovered the fraud and threatened to expose Hofmann.” Hofmann must have felt the pressure and the article further suggested that, “Rather than risk a lucrative career in documents dealing, Hofmann killed Christensen and then planted another bomb at the home of J. Gary Sheets.”

"Mark Hofmann sits with his lawyers during the trial." Special Collections Dept., J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

“Mark Hofmann sits with his lawyers during the trial.” Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The whole scheme came to a breaking point when a third bomb was prepared but malfunctioned and exploded in Hofmann’s car with him inside on October 16, 1985, the very day after the initial bombings. Officers found similarities between both bombings as reported by the Deseret News on October 17, 1985: “The bomb that injured Hofmann is almost identical in connection to devices that killed Steven F. Christensen and Kathy Webb Sheets.” The article continued, “Wednesday’s bomb apparently did not contain the shrapnel that sprayed in all directions in the first two blasts.”

The case took one year and three months to be compiled and executed. While it wasn’t until April 1986 that Hofmann’s role as a suspect was confirmed, he didn’t actually go to trial until January 1987. On January 23, 1987, the Deseret News reported the outcome of the trial. The judge overseeing the trial concluded that, “Due to the indiscriminate nature of the killings and the type of devices employed … I want you to serve the rest of your natural life in the Utah State Prison.” Hofmann pleaded guilty on “two counts of second-degree murder” and because of his confession, “prosecutors dismissed more than two dozen other complaints charging the documents dealer with theft by deception, communications fraud and bomb construction.” Hofmann is currently serving his life sentence in the prison located in Draper, Utah.

Jessica Oneida is in her fourth year at the University of Utah. She is majoring in Strategic Communication with minors in Business Administration and Design.


Jerry Spangler, “Booby-trapped bombs claim 2 in S.L. area,” Deseret News, October 15, 1985.

Brett DelPorto and Jerry Spangler, “Officers sifting evidence for clues to killer and motive in fatal bombings,” Deseret News, October 16, 1985.

Ellen Fagg and Jerry Spangler, “3rd bomb victim faces criminal charges,” Deseret News, October 17, 1985

Jerry Spangler, “Police focus on evidence, not theories,” Deseret News, October 18, 1985.

Brett DelPorto, Kathy Fahy, and Angelyn N. Hutchinson, “Hofmann retreats from statement; 2 bomb victims are eulogized,” Deseret News, October 19, 1985.

Marianne Funk, and Jerry Spangler, “Police sift documents to build Hofmann case,” Deseret News, October 23, 1985.

Jerry Spangler, “Hofmann wouldn’t get fair trail in Utah, attorney says,” Deseret News, October 25, 1985.

Linda Sillitoe and Jerry Spangler, “Still unseen McLellin Collection a mystery within murder mystery,” Deseret News, October 27, 1985.

Jerry Spangler and Jan Thompson, “Hofmann identified as the man who carried box into building,” Deseret News, April 14, 1986.

Jerry Spangler, and Jan Thompson, “Judge wants life in prison for Hofmann,” Deseret News, January 23, 1987.

Roberts, Allen D. and Linda Sillitoe, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988.

Turley Jr., Richard E., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case. Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Coverage of the Cancellation of ‘Brokeback Mountain’


Ang Lee’s 2005 film, Brokeback Mountain, portrayed  two cowboys, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger), who showcased their “forbidden” love. The film created controversy all over the world — including in Utah.

According to ads in the Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune, Brokeback Mountain was scheduled to play at 12:45 p.m., Friday, January 6, 2006, at Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons. But the previous night, the film was pulled from its schedule and replaced by another film after the owner of Megaplex 17, Larry H. Miller, learned that the film was about two gay cowboys. The film’s cancellation brought up public debate all over Utah. From January 6, 2006, to January 31, 2006, The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the cancellation showed both sides of the controversy and the power of communication as it shapes public debate.


The Brokeback Mountain vs. Larry H. Miller controversy began during a KCPW-FM interview with Miller and Jonathan Brown. The interview on the Salt Lake City public radio station was done on Thursday, January 5, 2006, the day before the film was released in theaters, and aired the next day. An article by Sean P. Means and Sheena McFarland published in The Salt Lake Tribune on January 7 discussed the interview between Miller and Brown. According to the article, Brown said during the interview, “Miller was unaware of the storyline of Brokeback Mountain … until Brown described it to him Thursday.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Brandon Griggs also discussed Miller and Brown’s interview in his article, published January 11. The article said Miller’s initial response to booking the film was because the film had received seven Golden Globe nominations. Miller saw this as a sign of its “potentially broad appeal.” Toward the end of the radio interview Miller stated,“It is possible that the content of this [film] … is offensive enough to a large enough segment of the population that this is one that slipped by our screening process. Maybe I’ve been a little naive and not paid proper attention to it and let it slip through the cracks. If I have, then I made a mistake.”

Nothing in the interview made it sound like Miller would take matters to the extreme and completely cancel the film before it began playing. The interview made it sound like Miller would first see how audiences reacted to the film. If there was a negative response, then he would pull the film from showing. However, two hours after the interview, Miller canceled the show from playing.

This cartoon, by the Salt Lake Tribune's Pat Bagley, appeared . Used with permission.

This cartoon, by the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Pat Bagley, appeared in the paper on January 10, 2006. Used with permission.

The Salt Lake Tribune’s website posted an update on the cancellation shortly after the decision to pull the movie from theaters appeared. The update, posted on January 6, stated, “The Megaplex 17 announced it was pulling the film late Thursday afternoon. The change-of-heart came too late to remove the title from the theater’s ads in today’s Salt Lake Tribune”

The update was the beginning of a media frenzy that included numerous editorials, columns, and letters to the editor. Of the articles published, most focused on Miller’s lack of response, how the film was doing in award season, the business aspect of the cancellation, the world’s reaction to the cancellation, and what the film was about — love. The issues at large, such as morals, civil liberties, and press bias were brought up through countless letters to the editors.

Means and McFarland were among the first journalists to report on the cancellation. In their article, published January 7 and titled, “‘Brokeback’ gets boot,” they discussed the details of the cancellation and what Focus Feature (the production company of the film) had to say about it. The article also interviewed Carol Adams about her reactions to the film’s cancellation. The local woman wanted to see the film and was saddened to learn that it had been canceled.

Articles also discussed  negative public relations, Miller’s continuous silence on the issue, and of course the world’s reaction. According to Lesley Mitchell’s article, published in The Salt Lake Tribune on January 12, “Miller’s silence has helped give the story international appeal.” Another article by Griggs, published January 15 and titled, “‘Brokeback Mountain’: Why all the fuss?,” discussed the huge reaction to the film and the cancellation. This article is the most blunt of any article published in The Salt Lake Tribune because Griggs stated the hard truth on why the film was pulled from the schedule: “Men having sex.” Griggs explained that the homosexual relationship was the reason why people were getting so upset. Griggs also addressed hypocritical morals when  he wrote, “How is a gay love story more morally offensive than other movies — such as ‘Hostel,’ a horror film that shows sadists fulfilling their depraved fantasies by paying to torture other people; or the stoner comedy ‘Grandma’s Boy,’ which features drug use in almost every scene — now playing at Miller’s theaters?” His questions and bluntness were met with countless letters on the matter by Utah’s citizens.

Similarly, Griggs’ article, “‘Brokeback’ squelch has spotlight on Utah again,” published January 11, discussed the world’s reaction and Heath Ledger’s. Ledger was quoted as saying, “It’s all just really unnecessary” and “Personally I don’t think the movie is [controversial], but I think maybe the Mormons in Utah do. I think it’s hilarious and very immature of a society.” Griggs also reported, “Articles about the snub have made international headlines. NBC’s Jay Leno and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann joked about it on the air Monday night.” Steven Oberbeck’s article, “Miller’s move: shrewd or rash?,” published January 13, quoted Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think-tank in Salt Lake City. Mero stated, “Considering the conservative nature of our population, I’m sure a lot of people think: We’ll, it’s [Millers’] business and he’s entitled to do with it what he wants.”

The cancellation was something to talk about, and Utah’s citizens made sure their voices were heard. The letters were short, blunt, and very opinionated. One Salt Lake Tribune reader, Karla G. McGuigan, said the decision was an “encroachment into American citizens’ rights to civil liberties.” However, another reader, Bret A. Stapley, responded with, “Larry H. Miller is a private business owner who decides what is best for his own business. This is not a case of ‘government censorship’ or a civil liberty violation.”

Robert Seifert also questioned Larry H. Miller’s morals in a letter titled, “Miller’s moral compass.” Seifert, like Brandon Griggs, brought  up the hypocrisy of playing Hostel and not Brokeback Mountain. Seifert stated, “To sum up, pulling ‘Brokeback Mountain’ tells young people that being gay is unacceptable, so not pulling the movie ‘Hostel’ (being shown in the same theater complex) sends the message that torturing and mutilating other human beings is all right.” Harry A. Rodes disagreed in his letter, titled, “Morally correct decision”: “I would like to call on moral-minded people in Utah to actively support Miller’s businesses, especially his movie theater, to show the state and the country that there are still some people who have not given in to societal pressure to accept that which is immoral. He should be praised, not condemned.”

Readers also began saying that The Salt Lake Tribune was biased toward the gay community. Morgan T. Beach wrote in a letter titled, “Tribune’s gay bias,” published January 17: “I wonder how  many favorable articles and commentaries you would devote toward a movie of the same caliber, romanticizing the polygamous lifestyle.” The same day another Salt Lake Tribune reader, JoAnn Nokes, sent in a letter titled, “Get on with Life.” Nokes wrote, “Decisions are made daily. So accept it and let’s get on with life.”

Though The Salt Lake Tribune did indeed publish positive reviews for the film, it was not the only newspaper in Utah to do so. According to a journal article published in August 2008 by Brenda Cooper and Edward C. Pease, Brokeback Mountain was rated positively by several Utah newspapers. The article stated, “Despite the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) position that homosexuality is a sin and that practicing homosexuals may be excommunicated, the church-owned daily newspaper, the Deseret Morning News, gave the film three and a half stars out of four, and The Daily Herald of Provo, Utah — home of the LDS-owned Brigham Young University — also reviewed Brokeback positively.”


Utah’s reaction to Larry H. Miller’s decision to pull Brokeback Mountain from his theatre was one of great debate. The divide between Utah’s views on heterosexuality, ethics, morals, and business standards was showcased through the great response of Utah’s citizens. In 2009, Cooper and Pease published another article on the topic of Brokeback Mountain. The article, published in Western Journal of Communication, discussed how newspapers framed the controversy over the film. Cooper and Pease’s study found that of the 188 Brokeback-Miller items published during January 6, 2006-February 2006, 55 percent opposed the cancellation of the film and 45 percent  defended the cancellation. The study also found that 153 letters were published statewide. Of the 153, 48 percent were pro-Miller, and 52 percent were anti-Miller. Of those 153 letters, 34 were published in The Salt Lake Tribune. My research, along with Cooper and Pease’s research, proves that Utah was greatly divided on the issue. People discussed the film’s cancellation and topics related to Miller’s decision, including morals, business practices, civil liberties, press bias, and the amount of attention devoted to the issue.

Miranda A. Knowles is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in communication and minoring in sociology.


JoAnn Nokes, “Get on with life,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 2006, A8.

Morgan T. Beach, “Tribune’s gay bias,” The Salt Lake Tribune. January 17, 2006, A8.

Brandon Griggs, “Why all the fuss?,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 15, 2006, D1.

Harry A. Rodas, “Morally correct decision,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 15, 2006, AA2.

Robert Seifert, “Miller’s moral compass,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2006, A12.

Steven Oberbeck, “Miller’s move: shrewd or rash?,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2006, A1.

Brandon Griggs, “‘Brokeback’ squelch has spotlight on Utah again,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 2006, A1.

Bret A. Stapley, “Simple as That,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 2006.

Lesley Mitchell, “Media pros say silence on pulling gay movie gives the story legs,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 2006.

Karla G. McGuigan, “Denial of Civil liberties,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 10, 2006.

Sean P. Means and Sheena McFarland, “‘Brokeback’ gets boot,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 7, 2006, A1.

“Update: Miller’s theater pulls Brokeback mountain,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 2006.

Cooper, Brenda and Edward C. Pease. “Framing Brokeback Mountain: How the popular press corralled the “Gay Cowboy Movie.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 25, no. 3 (Aug. 2008): 249-273.

Cooper, Brenda and Edward C. Pease. “The Mormons Versus the ‘Armies of Satan’: Competing Frames of Morality in the Brokeback Mountain Controversy in Utah Newspapers.” Western Journal of Communication 73, no. 2 (April-June 2009): 134-156.

Iraqi Refugees Flee to Utah: The Human Consequences of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq



On March 19, 2003, U.S. troops invaded Iraq. The initial siege lasted only 41 days, but it marked the beginning of a protracted and acrimonious struggle that would come to be referred to by military analysts as a “quagmire,” (Warnick) and by some journalists around the world as “Viet Nam-like.” (Dalleck) The comparisons were unavoidable. Urged on by U.S. President George W. Bush, who insisted “God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,” U.S. troops invaded a country that had not made a single military strike against the U.S. (MacAskill) The Iraqi people also had not requested any humanitarian intervention. As armed U.S. troops rushed into Iraq to “bring them Freedom” (Artyukov) in what Bush called a “preventive war,” (Klein) an internal crisis and then collapse resulted, forcing nearly 2 million Iraqis from their homes and, ultimately, from their country. This event in the Middle East was about to have significant consequences for the people of the State of Utah.


Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees flooded into neighboring Jordan in 2004. (Amos) Forty percent of Iraq’s middle class fled their homes and their businesses at the rate of nearly 3,000 Iraqi refugees per day seeking safety in Jordan and Syria through December 2006. (Lockhead) In Syria alone, some 50,000 Iraqi girls and women, many of them widows, were forced into prostitution just to survive. (Hassan)

Most Utahns remained unaware of the massive upheaval occurring on the other side of the world. The Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, Utah, first began to track the building pressure in the January 3, 2007, issue. In the editorial “Allow more Iraqis into U.S.,” the newspaper reported that, according to the New York Times, 8,100 Iraqi refugees had asked for asylum in western nations in 2006. According to the editorial, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts was preparing to take over the subcommittee for immigration, border security and refugees. The Deseret Morning News editor suggested that Kennedy focus first not on Mexico, but on the Middle East and particularly Iraq. The editorial pointed out that immigrants historically have brought diversity as well as economic benefits to the U.S.

The Deseret Morning News continued its coverage of the Iraqi refugee problem in the February 15, 2007, edition. Middle Eastern countries bordering Iraq, especially Syria and Jordan, were being overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi war refugees flooding across their borders.

U.S. government and State Department officials announced on February 14 that up to 7,000 Iraqi war refugees would be allowed into the U.S. effective immediately. The U.S. decision was in response to the proposal of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007. In an effort to stabilize the region, the United States Senate would later pass the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 into law on June 19, 2007. The brief Deseret Morning News story, headlined “Iraqis in the U.S. cheer war-refugee clearance,” was picked up from the AP newswire and featured interviews with Iraqis in Nashville and Chicago. One paragraph, consisting of a single sentence, offered an almost prophetic glimpse: “In several cities with Iraqi communities, officials promised to welcome the newcomers.”

On April 17-18, 2007, an international conference on Iraqi displacement took place in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference approved a Strategic Framework for Humanitarian Action in Iraq. The Salt Lake Tribune had still not picked up the story when the Deseret Morning News ran its first feature-length article on the Iraqi refugee issue on May 15, 2007. The article, bylined by Elaine Jarvik, was headlined “Dozens of refugees Utah-bound in fall.” Jarvik wrote, “Several dozen of the estimated 2 million Iraqis who have fled to neighboring countries since the U.S. invasion will probably begin arriving in Utah some time next fall, according to local refugee resettlement workers.” Jarvik interviewed local refugee coordinators including Aden Batar, director of immigration and resettlement at Catholic Community Services, and Patrick Poulin, resettlement director of the International Rescue Committee. She also quoted Cassandra Champion of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services headquartered in Maryland, underscoring the local, national and international aspects of the developing story.

The Salt Lake Tribune ran its first article about the Iraqi refugee issue May 16, 2007.  In her article, “Iraq war refugees heading to Utah,” reporter Jennifer W. Sanchez wrote, “The UNHCR [United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees] also estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqis are fleeing their homes each month.” Of those, only a few dozen were expected to make their way to Utah. Sanchez interviewed Poulin and Batar. Poulin described the refugee relocation process as “very slow” and said the Iraqi refugee problem was “getting worse and worse.” He said many Middle Eastern countries that were dealing with the refugees couldn’t afford or handle the population influx. And Batar told Sanchez that his agency was going to work on informing the whole Salt Lake City community about respecting the new refugees. “We need to educate the community because we don’t need any backlash,” Batar said. “They need to start a new life here because of the Iraq war. It’s not safe for them to go back home.”

At that point, the “tipping point,” the debate began. A series of feature articles, opinion editorials and letters to the editor followed in both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News. Many Utahns were in favor of this new group of “immigrants.” Some were cautious. A few were vehemently opposed.

As the specter of Iraqi refugees fleeing to Utah loomed, support for the war in Iraq began to wane. On November 2, 2007, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a news feature headlined: “Even in Republican Utah, support for Iraq War and Bush fading.” On November 9, the Tribune ran an article announcing: “Utah to open office to aid refugees.” Tribune writer Sheena McFarland reported, “A new Refugee Service Office will open in the Department of Workforce Services by the time the Legislature begins.” The Refugee Working Group, convened by Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, announced that the new Refugee Service Office would open by January 2008. Huntsman said refugees would continue to come to the United States and to Utah “because we are a land of opportunity and hope, and that will always attract those fleeing oppression.”

Newly appointed Utah Refugee Service Office Director Gerald Brown wrote in Refugees 101, “The Utah Refugee Service Office was created as a result of the community’s demand for better support and services for refugees resettled in Utah.” Brown pointed out that refugees are survivors who deserve our help and support. “Giving refugees assistance in the beginning of their new lives in the U.S. ensures productive, contributing citizens for the future,” Brown wrote. “The best thing that a person can do for refugees is to befriend them.” Huntsman described the office as “a clearinghouse of information for the 20,000 refugees currently living in Utah and specifically for newly arrived refugees.”


United States foreign policy resulted in nearly 2 million Iraqis being forced to flee from their homes. While at first the conflict in the Middle East did not directly affect most of the residents of Utah, over time more and more Iraqi refugees sought asylum in the United States and, in some cases, in Utah. The forward-thinking of former Huntsman and Corroon resulted in the establishment of a new Utah State government agency, the Utah Refugee Service Office, which aimed to help Iraqi war and other refugees arriving in Utah to adjust and thrive. As turmoil around the world increases, Utahns can expect that more and more refugees will find their way to Utah and seek assistance from the Utah Refugee Service Office.

Bonnie Adamsson-Vorwaller is a nontraditional student at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in documentary studies. Ms. Adamsson-Vorwaller has worked professionally with refugees since 1989. She worked with Christian refugees from Russia and Buddhist refugees from Cambodia and Viet Nam while living in Portland, Oregon. She worked with refugee survivors of domestic violence while living in Chicago, Illinois. And she worked with Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Iraq while living in Austin, Texas. As a young woman, she studied International Relations at BYU for five years. Adamsson-Vorwaller has been a resident of Utah off and on since 1966. She is a widow and a single mother of an “absolutely beautiful” teenage daughter. Adamsson-Vorwaller and her daughter actively and publicly protested the Iraq War while living in Austin.



Sheena McFarland, “Utah to open office to aid refugees,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 9, 2007.

Matthew D. LaPlante, “Even in Republican Utah, support for Iraq War and Bush fading,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 2, 2007.

“530 Iraqis admitted, but pledge may fall short,” Deseret Morning News, September 5, 2007.

Richard Warnick,“Strategic Reset,” OneUtah.org, June 25, 2007.

Nihal Hassan, “‘50,000 Iraqi refugees’ forced into prostitution: Women and girls, many alarmingly young, who fled the chaos at home are being further betrayed after reaching ‘safety’ in Syria,” The Independent, June 24, 2007.

Laura Hancock, “UVSC prof has mission in Mideast,” Deseret Morning News, June 2, 2007.

Robert Dallek, “Robert Dallek: Iraq and Vietnam: Inevitable comparisons,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 21, 2007.

“Welcoming Iraqis: Refugees deserve our compassion, help,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 2007.

Jennifer W. Sanchez, “Iraq war refugees heading to Utah,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 16, 2007.

Elaine Jarvik, “Dozens of refugees Utah-bound in fall,” Deseret Morning News, May 15, 2007.

“Iraqis in the U.S. cheer war-refugee clearance,” Deseret Morning News, February 15, 2007.

Carolyn Lochhead, “Conflict in Iraq: Iraq refugee crisis exploding, 40% of middle class believed to have fled crumbling nation,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 2007.

“Allow more Iraqis into U.S.,” Deseret Morning News, January 3, 2007.

Rick Klein, “Kennedy book blasts Bush, ‘preventive war,’” Boston Globe, April 5, 2006.

Ewen MacAskill, “George Bush: ‘God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,’” The Guardian, October 7, 2005.

Deborah Amos, “Flood of Iraqi Refugees Strains Jordan,” National Public Radio broadcast, July 16, 2004.

Oleg Artyukov, “George W. Bush: We Bring Freedom to the Iraqi People,” Pravda, January 4, 2003.

Gerald Brown, “Refugees 101,” Utah Refugee Services Offices, Utah Department of Workforce Services, April 10, 2012.

Rhoda Margesson, Andorra Bruno, Jeremy M. Sharp, “Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: A Deepening Humanitarian Crisis?” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Report No. 7-5700, February 13, 2009.

Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007: House Bill S.1651-IS,” June 17, 2007.

“Refugee Resettlement in Utah: 2000-2009,” Utah Refugee Services Offices, January 2010.

Status of U.S. Refugee Resettlement Processing for Iraqi Nationals,” Middle East Regional Office, United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Office of Inspector General, Unclassified Report, Report Number MERO-IQO-08-02, July 2008.

2008 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons,” United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), Field Information and Coordination Support Section (FICSS), Division of Operational Services, Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2009.

Willard Richards: A Man of Many Faces

by Emily R. Sylvester


The journey to the Salt Lake Valley was extensive for Mormon pioneers. Mormons were looked down upon in the East so Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made plans and encouraged the members of the Church to travel to the West.

Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were Church leaders who were in conflict with many and were prosecuted in Nauvoo, Illinois. Soon after being jailed, a mob came to Carthage Jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum. Taylor was severely injured and Richards managed to escape unharmed. Brigham Young, who became president of the Church after Joseph Smith was murdered, went into action and arranged a large group of Mormons to head West in 1846. (Layton)


Willard Richards, who was Brigham Young’s cousin, became a convert to the Church in 1836. Richards held many roles throughout his life. At points in time he served as secretary of the government of the State of Deseret, presided over the council of the Legislative assembly, worked as postmaster of the Great Salt Lake City, was involved with the Emigrating Fund Company, served as recorder and general historian of the Church, and was the founder of the Deseret News. (Richards) He also was an influential herbal medicine doctor and held high authority positions in the Church.

Willard Richards. Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Soon after he converted to the Church, he traveled far to meet Joseph Smith. Once acquainted with Smith, Smith appointed Richards to be his private secretary. He became the Church historian and recorder in Nauvoo in 1841. (Searle) He worked very closely with Smith and kept all of his personal journals, even up to his death in Carthage Jail. “During his final hours in Carthage Jail, Joseph Smith apparently instructed Willard Richards to continue the history according to the plan and format that they had previously followed.” (Searle) Searle also noted that the history was written under the supervision of Brigham Young and that it seemed well to give Willard Richards nearly all the credit for the compilation and publication of the history of Joseph Smith. (Searle)

Willard served a mission in England from 1837-1841, and was ordained an Apostle by Brigham Young in 1840. (Quinn) Later, he left Nauvoo and traveled to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and eventually traveled to the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young. (Quinn) Once he arrived to the Salt Lake Valley, he became very involved. After Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young became president of the Church, and Richards was then ordained by Brigham Young as 2nd counselor.

In a letter written by Richards to his sister, he expressed his feelings toward the religion saying, “I must tell you sister what it is to be a ‘Later [sic] Day Saint’ a ‘Mormon’ vulgarly. It is to believe & practice every known or revealed truth, in relation to every being & thing.” (Richards) He was a very dedicated member in his church, and continued to dedicate himself to several other commitments throughout his life, including being editor of the Deseret News, a Church-owned publication.

Just three years after several Mormons had settled in the Salt Lake Valley, Richards founded the Deseret News. The first issue was written by Richards on June 15, 1850. The Deseret News’ first issue included the prospectus and stated:

“We propose to publish a small weekly sheet, as large as our local circumstances will permit, to be called ‘Deseret News,’ designed originally to record the passing events of our State, and in conexion [sic], refer to the arts and sciences, embracing general education, medicine, law, divinity, domestic and political economy, and everything that may fall under our observation, which may tend to promote the best interest, welfare, pleasure and amusement of our fellow citizens.” (Richards, 1850)

In that first issue, he also discussed the importance of keeping copies and a record of the publication, and encouraged people to take care of their copies so that “their children’s children may read the doings of their fathers, which otherwise might have been forgotten; ages to come.” (Richards) In a dissertation written by Monte B. McLaws, it discusses that since editors of the Deseret News were mostly in the Church hierarchy, the paper did not need close supervision because Brigham Young felt comfortable trusting many of the decisions made by Richards, and other editors close to the Church. (McLaws) The Deseret News was powerful among Mormons in Utah, and practically replaced all other reading materials. (McLaws)

Searle states that, “As a boy, Richards eagerly sought education and demonstrated both an affinity and an aptitude for learning.” (Searle) Searle notes that he became influenced by Dr. Samuel Thomson’s Practice of Medicine to become an herbal doctor. A few Mormons were impressed by Dr. Thomson. He discovered a plant, lobelia, which became the foundation of his medical system. (Divett) Thomson said, “I had the curiosity to pick some of the pods and chew them; the taste and operation produced was so remarkable that I never forgot it. I afterwards used to induce other boys to chew it, merely by way of sport, to see them vomit.” (Divett) He described it as an “Emitic [sic] Herb.” (Divett) Richards was inspired by this and became a dentist and doctor of herbs. (Markers: Willard Richards) He also organized a group called the “Society of Health” but for a period of time, members of the Mormon Church were hesitant to be supportive of medical practitioners. (Divett)

Conclusion: In a journal entry written about a sketch of Willard Richards, it states, “It would be difficult to name any one of the original band of Utah pioneers who filled a more active life than the subject of this sketch. The duties he performed and the offices he held from the time he embraced Mormonism until the date of his death, were so numerous that it is a matter of wonderment how one man could have sustained them all.” Willard Richards fulfilled many roles in his life as a religious leader, and within his community. In an oration given by Richards, he said, “Men cannot fight truth, life or salvation without a medium of communication.” (Richards) He influenced news writing, medicine, and the Mormon religion.

Emily Sylvester is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication.


Willard Richards and Thomas Bullock, History, 1838-1856, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Willard Richards, Deseret News, accessible at Utah Digital Newspapers.

Willard Richards, Matthew Frederick and Claire Wilcox Noall, Box 8, Folder 13, 1805-1979. Manuscripts Division, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Willard Richards, Matthew Frederick and Claire Wilcox Noall, Box 9, Folder 10, 1805-1979. Manuscripts Division, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Willard Richards, “Oration,” Millenial Star, November 15, 1850.

“Willard Richards Called First And Only Apostle Ever Ordained In England,” Deseret News, August 9, 1958, 20.

About Us,” Deseret News.

Robert T. Divett, “Medicine and the Mormons,” Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 51, no. 1 (January 1963): 1-15.

H. Dean Garrett, “History of Willard Richards,” OnlineUtah.com.

Stan Layton, “The Mormon Trail: A Photographic Exhibit,” Utah History to Go, State of Utah.

“Markers and Monuments Database: Willard Richards,” Utah State History, State of Utah.

“Markers and Monuments Database: This is the Place Monument,” Utah State History, State of Utah.

Monte McLaws, Spokesman for the Kingdom: Early Mormon Journalism and the Deseret News (Provo: Brigham Young University of Missouri, 1977).

Claire Noall, Intimate Disciple, A Portrait of Willard Richards (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah, 1957).

D. Michael Quinn, “They Served: The Richards Legacy in the Church,” Ensign (January 1980).

Howard C. Searle, “Willard Richards as a Historian,” BYU Studies 31, no. 2 (1991): 41-62.

George Q. Cannon, Tireless Mormon


Apostle, revered statesman, federal prisoner, missionary, newspaper editor: George Q. Cannon was a man with a mission. And although Cannon was never president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is said that aside from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, no one surpassed him as a “leader, shaper and defender of nineteenth-century Mormonism.” (Bitton, ix) From a humble beginning, the path to achieve even minimal amounts of success, let alone greatness in life, looked bleak. Having been presented with poverty-stricken conditions as a child, dropping out of school at the age of 13, and being orphaned at a young age, Cannon had a fire within him to turn the tables. (Evans, 85) Taking into account the less-than-favorable situation in which Cannon grew up, he would defy logic, while establishing a name for himself and helping Utah achieve the greatness that it now enjoys. Cannon would not sit idly.

George Q. Cannon was born in Liverpool, England, on January 11, 1827. Without a great deal of promise in his homeland, Cannon was fortunate to have been born with an intrepid spirit. From a very young age, George demonstrated a great deal of tenacity. At the age of 13, against the wishes of his parents, he left school to work in the shipyard, insisting that, “learning was not a matter of going to school; it was the result of an inner hunger.” (Evans, 86) This stubborn but compelling pride stuck with him throughout his life, choosing twice to be sentenced to prison, rather than compromise his convictions.

Cannon was baptized in 1840. For two years he worked, offering where he could. His money, combined with the efforts of his mother Ann, who had set up a private savings account, paid for passage on the ship, Sidney, destined for the New Orleans Harbor. After arriving stateside, the Cannon family would endure five months of harsh winter before eventually meeting up with the early Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. (Grant Cannon, 339)

At age 16, under the tutelage of his uncle, John Taylor, Cannon began to develop a voice and understanding of the media, spending much of his time focused on disabusing public thought relative to the Mormon faith. (Bitton, 44) It was in these critical teenage years that Cannon would hone his skills as a public and powerful defendant in the fight for Mormonism. Bitter hatred stirred and came to a head on June 27, 1844, when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered in cold blood. Also present and subsequently wounded was Cannon’s uncle. In 1845, due to the now widespread, increasing hostility amongst Mormon enemies, early Latter-day Saints succumbed to the demands to leave Nauvoo and headed for the Rocky Mountains.

The Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Two years later, Cannon was asked by Brigham Young to serve a “gold mission” in California to help with the dire straights in which the people were positioned. Cannon, many years later, would say, “there was no place that I would not rather have gone to at this point than California. I heartily despised the work of digging gold. I thought it very poor business for men to be running over the country for gold.” (Bitton, 61) Nevertheless, he went, as he always met his callings with a degree of humility and willingness.

It was in the fall of 1850 that Cannon was released from his California assignment and upon returning to Salt Lake, was met with another calling. Cannon was called to serve a mission in the Sandwich Islands (now the Hawaiian Islands) and would arrive on December 12, 1850. This was no simple task. Due in part to illness and an inability to communicate effectively, many early Missionaries to the islands packed up and went home. Cannon, also faced with these difficulties, made it a goal to immerse himself with the Native speakers to become a “master” of the foreign tongue. Cannon, indeed, mastered the language. So well did he speak, that he would eventually translate The Book of Mormon into the Hawaiian language; hard to believe for someone who had dropped out of school when he was 13. (Bitton, 2-9)

Within two weeks of his return to the Salt Lake Valley on November 28, 1854, Cannon was married to his first wife. Expecting to be called back to serve among the Hawaiian people, Cannon was instead sent to California in 1855 for reasons twofold: publishing The Book of Mormon in Hawaiian and publishing a newspaper, the Western Standard, a weekly newspaper whose purpose, along with current news stories, was to provide “correct information about the Church” in the wake of widespread falsehoods. (Bitton) Operating under the slogan, “To Correct Mis-Represention We Provide Self Presentation,” Cannon fought hard at his new position to debunk the plaguing rumors. (Western Standard)

Meanwhile in Salt Lake, as government intervention was heading west due to the practice of Polygamy, Brigham Young ordered Cannon to sell the press and “return to Zion.” (Grant Cannon, 342) So in 1858, Cannon returned to Salt Lake City and after working for just a few months as a “wood rustler,” he was called as an adjutant general of the militia during the Utah War. While fulfilling this duty and given his extensive knowledge of the press, Cannon was given the assignment as a printer for the Deseret News. However, this had to be done in exile in Fillmore, a “safe location.” (Bitton, 90)

Several months passed. Government intensity eased, so Cannon headed back to Salt Lake, only to be met 60 miles outside of the city by a messenger from Brigham Young, informing him that he should head up the Eastern States Mission. (Grant Cannon, 344) And just like that, he was off again.

At the age of 33, while serving in the eastern states, Cannon was called to the office of Apostle. It wasn’t long before he was then called back to his native land, England, where he would head the British mission efforts and take charge of the Church’s newspaper there, The Millennial Star. One of the tasks afforded him was arranging ships to assist converts on their first leg of the trek to the states. Charles Dickens, present at one of the departures, made note of Cannon in The Uncommercial Traveler, describing him as “a compactly-made handsome man in black, rather short, with rich brown hair and beard, and clear bright eyes. From his speech, I should set him down as American. Probably, a man who had ‘knocked about the world’ pretty much. A man with a frank open manner, and unshrinking look; withal a man of great quickness.” (Grant Cannon, 344)

In 1862, Cannon was elected to the United States Senate. Cannon, now around 37 years of age, left England for Washington, D.C., fighting incessantly for statehood. Congress, however, was overwhelmed with the rebellious secession of southern states to offer much thought in granting rights to what would become Utah, so Cannon returned to England to finish his mission. Upon returning to Salt Lake, he would take charge of the Deseret News. As editor, he took the paper from a semi-weekly publication to a daily newspaper. (Grant Cannon, 345)

Cannon maintained this idea of “no rest till the work is done” throughout his life.  He became increasingly active with overseeing the LDS Church, as well as politically active. In 1872, he was elected to Congress as a vote-less Territorial Delegate, a position “he likened to that of a Eunuch in a brothel.” (Grant Cannon, 347)

On April 8, 1873, he was called to the church’s First Presidency. He was eventually driven underground as a fugitive, along with other church officials involved in the practice of polygamy. In 1888, he turned himself in and was sentenced to 175 days in the state penitentiary.

Orson F. Whitney, an Apostle for the LDS Church, said about Cannon, “No man in Utah, after the passing of President Brigham Young, wielded with all classes so great an influence as President George Q. Cannon, and that influence was felt up to the very close of his life.” He was said to have, in many ways, carried the church.  (Street, 706)

Some might say Cannon was a man with a mission, but in fact, he was a man with many missions. One can’t speak about Utah’s early beginnings without mentioning Cannon. He is synonymous with Utah. Apostle, revered statesman, federal prisoner, missionary, and newspaper editor: George Q. Cannon’s life was a life well lived.

Chet Cannon is a senior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication and is the great-great-great grandson of George Q. Cannon


George Q. Cannon, San Francisco, California, Western Standard.

Arthur I. Street, “The Mormon Richelieu,” Ainslee’s Magazine, January 1900, 699-706.

Davis Bitton, George Q. Cannon: A Biography (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1999).

“George Q. Cannon,” David J. Buerger papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Grant Cannon, Prophet, Pioneer, Politician, Prisoner. 1957. MS. University of Utah.

Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveler ; No Thoroughfare. New York: P.F. Collier, [18-. Print.

Beatrice Cannon Evans and Janath Russell Cannon, Cannon Family Historical Treasury, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: George Cannon Family Association, 1995).

The “Mormon” Will: Legitimate or Fraud?


In April 1976, one of the richest, most powerful businessmen in the world died, marking one of the most mysterious scandals to have ever occurred in the state of Utah. Howard Hughes was known for being one of America’s first billionaires, and when he died there were several questions about his estate and where his money would go. Originally it was thought that no will was left behind, but approximately three weeks after Hughes’ death an envelope addressed to the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church or the Mormons) was delivered to the Church office building located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Inside the envelope was the supposed will of Howard Hughes, leaving $156 million to the Church and another $156 million to an unknown man named Melvin Dummar. Hundreds of questions and rumors flew in every direction: Was the will real? Why did he leave so much money to the Church? Who was Melvin Dummar and what relation did he have to Howard Hughes? These questions unearthed the famous scandal behind the will, uncovering the true story of Melvin Dummar and Howard Hughes. (Brienholt)

Hughes was one of the first billionaires to live in the United States. Born in 1907 in Texas, Hughes started building his wealth at the young age of 18 when he inherited the family business. Just a few years later he used some of the wealth accumulated from the business to fund and produce several films, including one of his most popular films, Scarface, starring Paul Muni and George Raft in 1932. Hughes even launched the career of actress Jane Russell, who went on to have a very successful Hollywood career. (Schumacher) Hughes always had an interest in aviation and won several world records due to his work designing and testing plane models. Hughes built several other businesses, including multiple hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. After many accomplishments throughout his life, Hughes died being known as one of the richest men in the world. (Steele)

What many people found unique about Howard Hughes’ life were the people that he chose to surround himself with in the business world. While Hughes was not a member of the LDS Church, most of the employees that he hired to work for him were members. Many people found his obsession with employing Mormons odd, but when asked Hughes simply replied that he liked that his Mormon employees did not drink so they always were able to work hard and never changed from the men they were when they were originally hired. (Sheridan) When the supposed will of Howard Hughes surfaced after his death, it was not too much of a surprise to those who knew him that he might have left an entire one-sixteenth of his wealth to the Mormon Church because of his long, trusting relationship with them. What did surprise them, however, was the same amount of money being left to a Melvin Dummar, a man who seemingly did not have any kind of relation to Hughes whatsoever. (Brienholt)

When Melvin Dummar was asked about what his relationship was with Howard Hughes, Dummar replied with a story about giving him a ride home one night. As Dummar’s story goes, he was driving through Nevada late at night in December 1967 when he pulled to the side of the road for a short rest. He found a shabby looking man in clear distress lying on the ground. Dummar offered to give him a ride and he drove the distressed man to The Sands hotel in Las Vegas. Upon arrival the man then identified himself as Howard Hughes. After this one incident, Dummar claimed he never had any more contact with Hughes. (Brienholt)

Once Dummar had made a statement, the story of Melvin Dummar and Howard Hughes became famous. Because of the infamous reputation and wealth that was held by Howard Hughes, the news spread like wildfire both locally and nationally. Media coverage on the subject spread rapidly through the news, radio, newspapers, reporters, and even became the plot line for several books and movies. Newspapers all over the country were trying to get in on a piece of the action happening with the will of Howard Hughes. For example, TIME magazine wrote an article stating that “the document seemed more likely to cause new legal problems than to resolve old ones.” There were also several films produced based on this story. The most famous of which was a Hollywood movie titled, Melvin and Howard. The film won over 15 awards including two Oscars and was nominated for many other awards at the time it was released. (Demme)

While the story of the relationship between Melvin Dummar and Howard Hughes made a good story for the media, many people, including investigators and courts, felt that the incidence was just that, a story. Though the envelope was delivered anonymously to an official at the LDS Church office building, a fingerprint identified as belonging to Dummar was discovered and Dummar admitted to delivering the envelope himself. There were many questions about the will being fraudulent and rumors about Dummar inventing the will; however, Dummar claimed that the envelope was delivered anonymously to him. He found it addressed to David O. McKay but was curious and carefully opened it up. After reading what was inside and being overwhelmed with shock and confusion about the will, he placed the will into an envelope and anonymously left it on the desk of an LDS Church official for the Church to decide what to do with it. The LDS Church turned the will over to state court officials, who examined it and investigated the case for years. After Dummar’s fingerprint was discovered on the envelope, many media sources claimed to believe the will to be fraudulent. Even media outside of Utah was interested in having an opinion about the subject.  For example, the Milwaukee Journal printed an article stating, “It is our belief that … Mr. Dummar was, and had to be, involved with the forgery of this will.”

Investigations about the will have led to several different answers. Some believe Dummar’s story to be true; most however, find the will to be fraudulent. In one Salt Lake Tribune article, there is evidence given that Melvin Dummar’s story may have been true. Retired FBI agent Gary Magnesen was able to track information down through some of Hughes’ old friends who may have validated Dummar’s story. For example, witness G. Robert Deiro believed he had been out with Hughes that night in the same part of the state that Dummar described when Hughes disappeared and the next morning was at his hotel in Las Vegas. This testimony could have validated Dummar’s story had Deiro been willing to testify in court. (Smart)

Just a year later, the Salt Lake Tribune released another article proving that the will had been discredited. According to the article, there were numerous reasons the will was being considered a fake. One was because Dummar had originally lied about knowing anything regarding the will. Then when his fingerprint was found on the envelope, he changed his story to having been the one to drop off the envelope because he didn’t know then what to do with it. Shortly after, it was discovered that his fingerprints were also on a book that had samples of Hughes’ handwriting. Another reason the will was discredited was because it also left some of Hughes’ estate to his cousin, whom he did not associate with. The will also referred to a nickname given by the media to one of Hughes’ planes, the H-4 Hercules. The media called this plane “the Spruce Goose.” According to many of Hughes’ employees, he hated the “Spruce Goose” nickname. Finally, the will was endorsed by Noah Dietrich, a man Hughes had fired from employment in the 1960s. Because of all of the discrepancies that the secret will of Howard Hughes had, the will and Melvin Dummar’s story were finally discredited in 2006. (Associated Press)

The attention this event received was incredible. Many believed in the overall conclusion of a fraudulent will, while others rooted for the innocence of Dummar. Its popularity was most likely because it involved one of the richest men in the world and was tied to the LDS Church, which is deeply rooted in Utah history. Though courts have deemed the will fraudulent, Melvin Dummar has never denied his story about meeting Hughes in the Nevada desert and giving him a ride. To this day, Dummar sticks to his story. Though the will has been proven to be a fake after several decades of investigation, there has been no solid proof that can support whether the interaction between Dummar and Hughes did or did not happen, a mystery still at hand.

Jessica Solis is a junior attending the University of Utah. She is majoring in strategic communication.


Jeff Brienholt, “Remembering the Howard Hughes ‘Mormon Will,’” Mormon Matters (October 2009).

“The Hughes Will: Is it for Real?” TIME Magazine, May 10, 1976.

“Fingerprint Hints at Forgery on Hughes Will,” The Milwaukee Journal, December 14 1976, 5.

Christopher Smart, “Melvin and Howard: A True Story After All?” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 28 2005.

The Associated Press, “New Today: Hughes Associate Discounts ‘Mormon Will,'” The Salt Lake Tribune, June 2006.

Geoff Schumacher, Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia, and Palace Intrigue (Las Vegas: Stephens Press, 2007).

James Steele and Donald L. Barlett, Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004).

John Harris Sheridan, Howard Hughes: The Las Vegas Years (self-published, 2011).

J. Demme (Director), Melvin and Howard [Motion Picture], 1980.

Iosepa: The Polynesian Colony of Utah

Iosepa, Utah, residents celebrating Pioneer Day, August 28, 1914. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.


History—The LDS Church sent missionaries to the South Pacific as early as 1844, three years prior to the pioneers settling the Salt Lake Valley. When the first LDS missionaries arrived in Hawaii and other Polynesian islands, they were unsuccessful. None of the native Hawaiians and Polynesians were interested in their message. As the missionaries were able to learn the language and culture of the people they served among, they began to see more Polynesians interested in their message and eventually many of them joined the LDS Church. The Hawaiians, Samoans, and other Polynesians who were converted to the LDS Church desired to join the saints in Utah in the settling of the Salt Lake Valley. Unfortunately, due to the laws of the Hawaiian government, they were not able to leave the islands until the laws relaxed in or around 1875. (Panek)

By 1889 there were about 75 Polynesians in the Salt Lake Valley. With the majority being Hawaiian, they settled in Warm Springs, Utah (Beck’s Hot Springs). Language barriers and culture differences made it difficult for these Polynesians to adapt to life in Utah. As a result, this led to difficulty in finding employment, which then led to a difficulty in providing for their families. (Panek)  Also challenging for these Polynesians was the fact that rumors had spread about the islanders having leprosy. The Salt Lake Herald reported on June 20, 1896, that “although rumors prevail to the effect that one had appeared ere they were settled on the lands composing the small settlement.”

On May 16, 1889, the First Presidency of the LDS Church put a together a committee to find a permanent home for these Polynesians. This group included three men: Harvey H. Cluff, William W. Cluff, and Fred A. Mitchell. They presented the plan to the Polynesians in Warm Springs to find them a home. The Polynesians selected three men of their own to join this committee: J. W. Kaulainamoku, George Kamakaniau, and Napela (First Hawaiian convert and first Hawaiian to visit Utah). (Atkin) This plan was welcomed warmly and with excitement to have a place they could call their home.

The land unanimously voted on as the home for these Polynesians is located at Skull Valley in Tooele County. Tropical landscapes filled with beaches and greenery were traded for desert farm land. George Fredric Stratton of the Salt Lake Herald described a trip into Skull Valley in 1915 from Salt Lake City: “Forty miles to an early breakfast at Granstville [Tooele County], then another forty miles across the desert took them into Iosepa.”

The land in Skull Valley was owned by John T. Rich. Chosen over three other locations from Utah, Cache, and Weber counties, it provided the best farming land that could potentially provide financial means and accommodate growth. Their new home was named Iosepa after the boy missionary, Joseph F. Smith. He was called to serve a mission to the Hawaiian Islands when he was 15 years of age. The colony was named in his honor using the Hawaiian translation of Joseph. (Atkin)

Life in Iosepa—The Polynesians, numbering about 50 people, moved into their new home August 28, 1889. Work immediately started on the layout plans of the town. In an interview with the Daily Enquirer November 5, 1889, Harvey H. Cluff pointed out that the newly established colony was part of an incorporated company named the Iosepa Agricultural and Stock Company (IASC). Cluff pointed out that the colony would have the opportunity to work for IASC and in turn have a more comfortable home. He added that a public square had been laid out, four center streets designated, a day school had been planned, and homes were being built for the community’s increasing numbers.

In time Iosepa expanded and the LDS Church purchased 800 additional acres. This increased the land that was being cultivated from 200 acres to 400 acres. The ability to provide sufficient water played a major role in this expansion. On November 9, 1908, the Deseret Evening News reported that the irrigation canal that was under construction was now complete. The newspaper describe the irrigation engineering as “remarkable, of passing through the mountains with the canal by which the waters of the different streams were intercepted and brought together.”

Due to financial pressures, the LDS Church and Iosepa were tempted to rent out part of their farmland to Samuel Woolley of Grantsville who would hire the Polynesians to work the land in return. (Panek) In 1904, colony president Thomas A. Waddoups spoke about the signs of self-sufficiency. The Deseret Evening News reported on the productive harvest of the year: 1,000 tons of hay, 250 beeves [beef], several hundred stock of cattle, 5,200 bushels of wheat and barley, 800 bushels of potatoes, 50 tons of squash, 600 bushels of corn. Similar to other colonies, there are financial difficulties at first and it can take time to become self-sufficient. The Iosepa colony of the LDS Church was no exception.

Life in Iosepa was affected by the economic circumstances because of the need to survive. The need to educate the people of Iosepa was also made a priority within the first year of its existence.The Daily Enquirer interviewed Harvey H. Cluff, who was  then president of the Iosepa colony, on November 1, 1889. He said,  “A day school will be set in operation as soon as the people are properly located for the winter, when such class instruction to the more advanced male and female population as will conduce to the improvement of the people socially, religiously, morally, and in cleanliness, will be given from time to time.”

On September 3, 1910, 21 years after that initial interview with Harvey H. Cluff, the Deseret Evening News reported that the school in Iosepa had been very successful. “All these years a good free school has been maintained…. The native Hawaiians make rapid progress from 6 years up to 16 and 17 years, outstripping the white children.”

They also had to make sure their culture and identity remained intact.  Social activities were planned around LDS Church activities because the colony was under the direction of the LDS Church. Every year the same important dates took place:

  • Hawaiian Pioneer day, August 28
  • New Years Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Polynesian day, celebrated every time LDS Church officials visited—about four times a year. (Atkin)

Festivities included a pig roast, traditional Polynesian food, and traditional Polynesian music and dance from each island represented in Iosepa. The Deseret Evening News reported on September 2, 1905, about one of the annual celebrations commemorating the Polynesian’s first arrival into Skull Valley: “7 o’clock this morning two dressed pigs weighing over 100 pounds each, were placed whole in a pit, where a fire, hours old, had heated stones in the bottom to an intense heat…. At 8 o’clock a dance commenced in the amusement hall of the colony, and the fun was furious until 12 o’clock midnight.” By cooking in the methods of their homeland, they preserved their culture and educated their youth about their native cultures.

In 1915, the LDS Church announced the building of the Laie, Hawaii Temple on the island of O’ahu. This announcement ushered in the closing of the Iosepa colony along with the offer from the LDS Church to pay the settlers’ fares back to Hawaii. (Atkin) By 1916, several of the Polynesian residents of Iosepa returned home. The Maui News reported on November 3, 1916, that 17 of the Iosepa pioneers arriving on the ship, Sierra, as “going old and gray-haired” moving into yet another “Mormon colony” this time in their homeland located at “Laie, windward O’ahu.” By 1917, Iosepa was almost entirely abandoned save a few residents (Atkin), breaking up one of the oddest pairings of the 20th century: the tropically-grown people of Polynesia and the desolate farmlands of Utah.

Peni Tagoai is a senior at the University of Utah, graduating in August 2012. His major is in speech communication with a minor in international studies. He grew up on the North Shore of O’ahu.


“Iosepa, The Kanaka Colony in Tooele County,” Daily Enquirer, November 1, 1889.

“Leprosy in the Kanaka Settlement,” Salt Lake Herald, June 20, 1896.

“Conference at Iosepa,” Deseret Evening News, November 26, 1904.

“Iosepa, Hawaiian Celebration,” Deseret Evening News, September 2, 1905.

“Big Event for Iosepa Colony,” Deseret Evening News, November 9, 1908.

“Hawaiian Village of Iosepa Celebrates Twenty-first Birthday,” Deseret Evening News, September 3, 1910.

George Frederic Stratton, “From Salt Lake to South Sea Islands,” Salt Lake Herald, September 5, 1915.

“On The Other Islands,” The Maui News, November 3, 1916, 5.

Tracey E. Panek, “Life at Iosepa, Utah’s Polynesian Colony,” in Proclamation to the People: Nineteeneth-century Mormon and the Pacific Basin Frontier, ed. Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Reid L. Neilson (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2008), 170-81.

Dennis H. Atkin, History of Iosepa, The Utah Polynesian Colony (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1958).

One Cane, 40 Years of Hard Work, 100 Years of Celebration


Several days after the Latter-day Saints (LDS) pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, Brigham Young stood over a dry spot of ground. He drove his walking cane into the dirt and exclaimed, “Here we will build the temple of our God.” (Gates & Widtsoe, 1924)

Construction on the temple began on February 14, 1853, with President Young turning the first shovelful of dirt during the groundbreaking ceremonies. The construction of the temple took a total of forty years to complete, during which time three other temples — St. George, Manti, and Logan —were all constructed in Utah.

Two months after the groundbreaking, in April 1853, the cornerstones were laid. Workers hauled large blocks of granite across the valley to the temple site at 50 W. North Temple St. At the site, the stones would be hewn, shaped and put into place. It would sometimes take up to eight painstaking days for workers to haul one large stone block of granite from the quarry at Little Cottonwood canyon to the temple block. (Gates & Widtsoe, 1924) The giant stones were used to create the temple walls that were 9 feet thick at the base and 6 feet thick at the top. Each granite block weighed between 2,500 and 5,600 pounds and was hauled by oxen. As the 40 years of construction evolved so did the workers’ ingenuity. They abandoned the use of oxen and instead used the railroad; trains traveled from the Little Cottonwood quarry some 20 miles southeast of the temple site.

Work on the temple moved steadily ahead until a U.S. Army led by Col. Albert Sydney Johnston was sent in 1857 to occupy the Utah Territory. The LDS workers buried the foundation to hide the construction. The LDS pioneers had lost two temples due to destruction prior to the Salt Lake Temple and they weren’t about to lose another one. Johnston’s Army settled in Camp Floyd neat present-day Fairfield, and work on the temple resumed. However, upon uncovering the foundation, defects were discovered and the completed portions were removed and redone to ensure the highest quality and stability of the temple. President Young determined that this temple would “stand through the millennium.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 15, 139) President Young was determined to complete the temple’s construction and knew that with his own faith and the faith of the LDS members it would be a monument of biblical proportions.

The temple cost an estimated $4 million in 1893 dollars, according to historian Leonard Arrington. (Campbell) Measured by today’s standards, the temple would be costly to duplicate. Local Utah contractor Ted Jacobsen, president of Jacobsen Construction, estimates that the temple would cost anywhere from $85 million to $95 million to build today. In addition, the cost wouldn’t include landscaping or Temple Square’s distinctive wall. By comparison the Delta Center, now EnergySolutions Arena cost $66 million. (Campbell)

However, President Young did not live to see the temple completed. It would be President Wilford Woodruff who would lead the dedication of the temple on April 6, 40 years after its groundbreaking. The dedication would run from April 6 to April 24.

April 6, 1943, marked the 50th anniversary of the Salt Lake Temple. A picture of the temple and three men filled 40 percent of the front page of The Salt Lake Tribune. The image was used to depict the landmark and included 69 words describing the men who made up the presiding bishopric of the LDS church. (“LDS Leaders”) The Park (City) Record discussed a jubilee program where the first ward held a dedication ceremony on April 11 and performed songs from the original dedication. (“Jubilee Program”) On the day of the ceremony a dedication was held by a local church where the following hymns were sung: “Come, Come Ye Saints”; “O My Father”; “Now Let Us Rejoice”; and “Praise to The Man.” The Salt Lake Tribune described the performances by the radio group the KSL Players and the Tabernacle Choir. (“Tribute To S.L. Temple”)

News for the 100-year anniversary began early. The Deseret News published an article in 1991 detailing the massive plan for the temple’s cleaning in preparation for the centennial mark. Scaffolds were placed to clean towers. Preparations were made to gather granite from the original quarry site in Little Cottonwood Canyon to replace existing granite that was showing weather damage. And wood window seals were to be cleaned and painted. All of this work started three years prior to the centennial, demonstrating the pioneers’ faith, grit, and ingenuity. The last time the temple was pressure washed was in 1962. (“S.L. Temple To Get Cleaning”)

The LDS church planned a plethora of events to help boost the 100-year celebration event. Activities included: a major exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art; a satellite broadcast of the feature-length film, The Mountain of the Lord, between sessions of general conference; and the Days of ’47 Parade, which featured a special focus on the temple. (“Special Events”)

The temple’s centennial was centered on an exhibit at the LDS Museum of Church History and Art in downtown Salt Lake City titled, “The Mountain of the Lord’s House.” The exhibit featured a unique collection of documentary photographs, original architectural drawings and art work, and temple artifacts. Eyewitness accounts from personal letters and diaries from those who participated in the construction were used to personalize the experience. To help streamline the event for patrons, the exhibit was organized into 10 sections: initial planning and design stages; groundbreaking and cornerstone laying ceremonies; biographical information on the architects, builders and craftsmen; details on building materials, techniques, and challenges; particulars on why the temple took 40 years to complete; temple symbolism and religious significance; the means by which the $4-million building was financed; design and construction of the temple’s exquisite interior; and the long awaited dedication ceremonies. (“Exhibit Highlights”)

President Spencer H. Osborn researched the original dedication by President Woodruff and saw that he, his counselors, and the First Presidency set aside two days of dedication sessions to include children who were under age 8. (Older children were admitted to general sessions.) In recognition of that event, President Osborn sought approval from the First Presidency and in consultation with the Primary general presidency he invited children in the stakes of the temple district to come for a special tour. “About 45,000 primary children came during three months in the summer,” he said. “About 1,000 children came each Saturday of May, June and July [1993]; some weeks there were 2,000.” (“Special Events”)

Today the Salt Lake LDS Temple is still a recognizable icon for Utahns and LDS members alike. The attention to detail and the members’ dedication to their beliefs are stamped on the temples’ interior and exterior of Utah’s most visited tourist site. The temple is a symbol of the pioneer faith, grit, and ingenuity.

Cameron DeWitt graduated with a degree in organization communication from The University of Utah. He is working on a masters in public health at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.


The Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (1854-1886).

“LDS Leaders Mark Temple’s Dedication 50 Years Ago,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 3, 1943, 1.

“Jubilee Program,” The Park (City) Record, April 8, 1943, 8.

Tribute To S.L. Temple: Drama Tells Story Of Building,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 16, 1943.

S.L. Temple To Get Cleaning For Its 100th Anniversary,” Deseret News, June 28, 1991.

Exhibit highlights temple’s 100th anniversary,” Moscow-Pullman Daily News, February 12, 1993.

Special Events To Mark Temple’s Anniversary,” Deseret News, February 7, 1993.

“Salt Lake Mormon Temple Turns 100 Years April 6,” The Prescott (Ariz.) Courier, February 26, 1993.

“LDS Leaders Mark Temple’s Dedication 50 Years Ago,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 3, 1943, 1.

Joel Campbell, “Temple Marks First Century,” Deseret News, April 6, 1993, 1.

Susan Young Gates and Leah D. Widtsoe, Life Story of Brigham Young: Mormon Leader, Founder of Salt Lake City, and Builder of an Empire in the Uncharted Wastes of Western America (New York: Ayer Co. Publishing, 1924).

The Circleville Massacre: A Tragic Event in Utah History


In history classes, as we go through school, we are told that history repeats itself. It’s for this reason that we take careful account of the past. It’s why media have covered many of our historical events, such as the sinking of the Titanic, World War II, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The media cover events like these so that they may become public knowledge, because if history repeats itself, as we’ve been warned, we would at least know what’s to come.

Occasionally, however, there are events throughout history that have escaped the media’s attention. That may be because an event happened in a remote location and the media just never heard of it, or the event may have been horrible, and the people involved made an effort to disguise what had happened. One such event is the Circleville Massacre. On April 22, 1866, the settlers of Circleville, Utah, slaughtered sixteen men, women, and children while the three youngest children were left alive and later adopted by the townspeople. (Gottfredson)

The Black Hawk War was being fought all around Circleville and its neighboring towns. When the settlers of Circleville heard of Indian uprisings not far from their home, they received instructions to be cautious of the nearby encampment of Paiute Indians. Bishop William Allred of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a message to the Indian encampment asking them to come to town and read the notice they had received. A handful of Indians went into town and it was decided that the encampment would give up their weapons, and live peacefully with the settlers for the duration of the war. When the militia went to escort the remaining Indians to town, one man tried to escape and was shot and killed.

This act spurred the militia to arrest the entire encampment and hold them as prisoners in town. The men were held in the town’s meetinghouse, and the women and children were placed in an empty cellar. The townspeople, needing advice on how to proceed, sent a message to Colonel W.H. Dame. A passage from the message reads, “As we did not like to take the responsibility of deciding the course to be taken with the Indians.” (Winkler 16-17) Colonel Dame received the letter, and General Snow, who was with him at the time, left strict instructions for the townspeople of Circleville “to see that those prisoners were treated kindly and such only retained in custody as were found hostile or affording aid to the enemy. (Winkler 17) Sadly, Circleville’s militia did not receive the message soon enough. The Indians had attempted to escape, causing the settlers to act in haste and kill the imprisoned Indians one by one.

Martha C. Knack, in the book, Boundaries Between: The Southern Paiutes, 1775-1995, writes that the Indian men were gunned down, while the women and children had their throats cut. (Knack 85) The few newspaper articles that were written on, or around, the time of this massacre give very little information on what truly happened. The given date of the incident also ranges from April 21 to April 23, 1866. There is a dispute over how many Indians were killed. While the Winkler article says that it is unknown for sure how many Indians were killed, the Gottfredson article says that sixteen men and women were killed while three children were allowed to live.

Because a lot of information is missing from the actual event, historians have had to piece together what happened through accounts given by family members of those children who lived, and from the few references found in journals and letters of those involved. The newspapers of the time didn’t publish all that had happened at Circleville. Many articles glossed over the incident even 100 years later. In the April 23, 1960, issue of The Deseret News, there was an article with the headline, “Paiute County Colonies Abandoned.” According to the article, “The Circleville settlers retaliated for this raid by wiping out an encampment of Paiutes near the town.”

An article in the Richfield Reaper gives a slightly better description. “A few days before the ‘minute men’ arrived, there were a number of Indians camped nearby who pretended to be friends of the settlers, but who were spies. They had killed one man [and] wounded another who had managed to escape. The people were so enraged at this that they made short work of the 9 renegades who committed the treacherous act.” (“The Relief of Circleville”)

The only accounts we have with information of this event comes from the letters written by the militia leaders, and the accounts given by those few children who survived because they were thought to be too young to remember what occurred. Newspaper articles at the time generally glossed over the event as if it wasn’t a tragic event. Although the townspeople of Circleville tried to cover up the incident initially, what had happened was leaked and became known by the surrounding areas and the press. Even though the incident was mentioned in the press, it did not get much attention. An example of this is in the May 10, 1866, edition of The Deseret News: “In a skirmish with the savages, near Circleville, in that region, several of them got killed, but no whites.”

“The next consideration,” a guard recalled, “was how to dispose of the squaws and papooses. Considering the exposed position we occupied and what had already been done it was considered necessary to dispatch everyone that could tell that tale. Three [of four] small children were saved and adopted by good families.” (Winkler 18) This quote recalls how the settlers felt about what they had done. When the church leaders had heard of this crime, they were disgusted; however, there was never any mention of charges being pressed against any of the settlers involved.

Theadora Davidson is a junior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication.


“A Brief Resume of the History of Circleville,” Piute County News, June 20, 1947.

Phillip B. Gottfredson, “The Circleville Utah Massacre.” Blackhawk Productions.

Martha C. Knack. Boundaries Between: The Southern Paiutes, 1775-1995. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.

LaVan Martineau. The Southern Paiutes: Legends, Lore, Language, and Lineage. Las Vegas: KC Publications, 1992.

“More About the Indians,” The Deseret News, May 10, 1866.

John Alton Peterson. Utah’s Black Hawk War. Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 1998.

“Paiute County Colonies Abandoned in Fear of Marauders,” The Deseret News, April 23, 1960.

“The Relief of Circleville,” Richfield Reaper, July 10, 1909.

“The Sevier Region,” The Deseret News, June 9, 1891.

Albert Winkler. “The Circleville Massacre: a Brutal Incident in Utah’s Black Hawk War.” Utah Historical Quarterly (1987): 4-21.