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BLOOD ATONEMENT OR JUST PLAIN MURDER?
AARON DEWITT, THE MAN, HIS TIMES, AND HIS LETTER
by A.J. Simmonds
The late A. J. Simmonds was the curator of Special Collections at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. He was the author of many books and articles and an authority on Cache Valley history. This was a paper given at one of the Saints Alive Capstone Conferences and appeared in print in the Saints Alive Journal, Fall of 1987
Aaron Dewitt was born in Birmingham, England on May 16, 1833. He converted to the LDS Church and emigrated to New Or-leans and on to Utah in 1857. Two years later in 1859 he went to work for William W. Ballard, helping move the Ballard family to Cache Valley where he became one of Logan's first pioneers. 1
He was living with the Ballard family and sleeping in a wagon box near their cabin in the early morning hours of July 3, 1860, when he was awakened by gun-shots. He dressed and ran to the log schoolhouse only a few rods away, in time to see the County Sheriff tell a wounded man lying in the street, "Get up and run," and then shoot the man. The man, David Skeen, had been held in the schoolhouse since June 30th on a charge of horse theft. 2
The 1860 census was taken in August, only a month after the killing of David Skeen. Dewitt is shown as a 27 year old living in the household of W.W. Ballard. His occupation is given as "Domestic Servant," probably an accurate indication of his relationship to the Ballards, a not uncommon arrangement in frontier towns of Territorial Utah where many new emigrants lived with and worked for more established settlers while get-ting themselves started. The census shows that as of 1860 Dewitt owned no personal property nor real estate. That, of course, was not uncommon on the frontier; but it is important to note that when Dewitt moved to Logan he had nothing. When he died his estate was solely the result of his own efforts. 6 (footnotes 3-5 before #9, out of order in original)
When Dewitt moved from the Ballards, he established himself as a baker, the city's first, and additionally obtained some farm land in the open fields around Logan. He built a house at the corner of Johnson and 3rd Street (today's 1st North and 2nd West), and established his bakery a block east at 3rd and Washington. In 1862 he married Sarah Jenkins. She had been born in Wales in 1845 and emigrated to Utah with her family in 1856. They became the parents of one son, Hiram James Dewitt, who was born in March 7, 1863. Addition-ally, they adopted a daughter, Sarah Louise Stoddard, after her mother died. 7
Aaron Dewitt was probably Logan's first "permanent" apostate Mormon—permanent in the sense of remaining in Cache Valley after leaving the Church. In 10 years of research, I haven't been able to discover the details of his disaffection. He is listed as "Br. DeeWett" in the minutes of the Cache Valley High Priests Quorum in 1867; and his poem memorializing Joseph Watterson was written in 1867, and published in The Deseret News on December 25, 1867; a poem that displays orthodox LDS senti-ments.8
It seems that Dewitt's disaffection from Mormonism was private. He indicates in his "Letter," discussing LDS Bishops:
If you started they would send men to drive off your stock and thus you would be compelled to return. Then if you did not behave and act the hypocrite the bishop would send the Danites to use you up and send you across lots to that bright brimstone home we read about.
The operative sentence is probably "behave and act the hypocrite."
That may explain Dewitt's own silence. It seems likely that he kept his opinions very much to himself since he continued to run his bakery into the 1870's. Considering the repeated instruction during the period 1867-1877 to boycott non--LDS businesses, it is unlikely that Dewitt could have stayed in business as a baker had his apostasy been open and vocal. 3
However, at some time it must have become so, for by 1873, the bakery was an abandoned building. His apostasy only became open in 1872, when Dewitt signed a Memorial to Congress against the ad-mission of Utah to statehood; the reason being that the petitioners claimed Utah to be completely dominated by the theocracy of the Mormon Church. Even then the names on the petition might have remained confidential had The Deseret News not published the full petition "...so that the people at large may have an idea who are their avowed enemies and have a consequent idea who are their friends in the community."
It may well have been the petition against statehood that resulted in the end of Dewitt's bakery. Indeed, Dewitt was so opposed to statehood in 1872 that the petition carried the name of his wife and of his nine year old son, Hiram Dewitt! 4
The Logan Block Teachers Quorum questioned the signers of the petition as to their reason for opposing Utah statehood. It is significant that the Dewitt family was not questioned. Apparently, by the end of June 1872, he had made his position well enough known that questioning by LDS authorities was not necessary. 5
Events moved swiftly for Dewitt and for the tiny apostate community in Logan after the publication of the Memorial to Congress.
In the history of my own home parish, St. John's Episcopal Church in Logan, the name of Aaron Dewitt is writ large. It was to his home, still standing in Logan, that Bishop Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, first Episcopal Bishop of Utah and the Rev. William H. Stoy, missionary at St. James' Church in Deer Lodge, MT., came to stay when they stepped from the first passenger train to enter Logan on the newly completed railroad; January 31, 1873. 9
A week later, February 8, 1873, Bishop Tuttle formally established St. John's Church and installed Mr. Stoy as its first Priest. The new church was headquartered in an abandoned bakery building, a building that belonged to none other than Aaron Dewitt. 10
It was a busy month in Logan. Just a week later the city was shaken by dual crimes of the ultimate frontier type.On Valentine's Day, 1873, Charles Augustus Benson, 41-year old son of the late Apostle E.T. Benson, shot and killed David W. Crockett after an argument in the snow-filled street near Logan Hall. Benson escaped and hid out in Hezekiah Thatcher's barn for 3 days. When, in the early morning of February 17, he tried to run from the city, he was captured and jailed at the county courthouse. At 10:30 a.m. the building was stormed by a lynch mob, the officers overcome, and Benson hanged from the sign board across the sidewalk in front of the building. That afternoon a coroner's jury agreed "that the said Charles A. Benson came to his death from strangulation caused by a rope around his neck." 11
Aaron Dewitt was probably Logan's first "permanent" apostate Mormon.
There exists the possibility of—if not official connivance—at least official consent to Benson's lynching. In his old age, Nicholas W. Crookston, Cache County Sheriff (1881-1909), recorded the events of the lynching which he had witnessed as a boy;
...(Benson) lived with his Mother driving a team of mules in the Canyon and done some farming always carrying two revolvers in his belt and bluffed everyone that come his way. He lived accrossed the Street from Bishop Preston and when their pet rabits or chickens went out in the street they were shot by Benson off hand with his revolvers he being an excelent shot the Bishop remarked that him and Benson could not live much longer in the Same Town.
Later in the day (of the lynching) while he was still hanging I went back there and I herd this conversation one C.C. Goodwin came up and Said he was going to send for the US marshal and would investigate this affair to the Bottom He was told that Old Settlers was running this town and for him to go home and be a good boy as there was room for 3 or 4 on that Sign Bord he went at once.
Possibly that same winter (the dates are uncertain and it could have been as late as the winter of 1876- 1877), C. C. Goodwin was waylaid on the streets of Logan, beaten unconscious and left in the snow.12 No formal investigation was ever made of the lynching.
But that year, many of the Benson family left the Mormon Church of which their father had been an apostle and of which their grandnephew would become President in 1985, and joined St. John's Episcopal.
Earlier that year, Dewitt and his family joined St. John's Church. On the list of families in the first Parish register, the Dewitts are number one. Though the records are lamentably sparse, it appears that Mrs. Dewitt, son Hiram, and adopted daughter Sarah converted to the Episcopal Church in a lasting and sincere way. Aaron Dewitt's participation seems largely to have been to establish his non-LDS identity. That is a far different thing from being converted to the Christian faith.
In my history of the Episcopal Church in Cache Valley, I suggested that this attitude posed a deep problem for the first Anglican missionary, the Rev. Mr. W. H. Stoy:
Most of his first congregation were more interested in being ex-Mormons than they were in being Episcopalian—or possibly even Christian! 13
During 1873-1874 perhaps as much as 7% of the population of Logan effectively left the LDS Church. By 1875 fully one-eighth of the school children in Logan were being educated at St. John's School. 14
The apostates of 1873 and 1874 enjoyed some sympathies in the larger community; but it must have been a prickly brotherhood. Nevertheless, on March 2, 1874, at the Logan municipal election, an opposition ticket captured 20% of the vote against the official slate.15
Bishop Ballard of the Logan Second Ward had no doubt as to the source of the opposition votes. He wrote in his diary:
The election of our city officers came off the Apostates were again busy. They got only 1106 votes to 4211 of ours.
The Bishop needn't have been so self-congratulatory. The very fact of voting for an opposition ticket showed a great deal of courage. Utah in 1874 had no secret ballot. If someone had access to the ballots and the lists of electors, it was possible to determine who had not voted the "official ticket." Someone did have that access, for on April 5, 1874, in the Teacher's Quorum,
...Prest Smith instructed the Teachers to visit the Brethren and Sisters that voted the opostion Election Tickett and teach them their duties and what is required of them if they wish to keep a standing in the Church... 16
Once Dewitt had made his non-LDS identification sure and open, he took a prominent role in Cache Valley's Gentile community and beyond in the life of Gentile Utah.
In 1875 former Cache County Sheriff Thomas E. Ricks was arrested for the murder of David Skeen in 186~a murder Dewitt had seen; and Dewitt took the stand as a prosecution witness. That was a courageous thing to do, considering that he and Ricks were neighbors. Defense counsel challenged every prospective juror who read The Salt Lake Tribune, and with a jury drawn from those who read The Deseret News, Ricks was acquitted.17
After the Ricks trial Aaron Dewitt must have been nervous to return to Logan. There is confirmation that this was so. On June 26 and 27, 1875, only a few months after the Ricks murder trial, Dewitt was host to Reorganized Church Apostle W. H. Kelley was making a missionary tour of Utah. Elder Kelley wrote back to Joseph Smith III in I1linois:
Towards evening (Saturday, June 26, 1875), I arrived at Logan, and took supper with Mr. Dewitt, of that place, who treated me very kindly. He accompanied me to Providence two miles away where the brethren were holding meeting. Before starting I observed that he put a revolver in his pocket to defend himself against his neighbors. His life is threatened because he testified in court last winter against a murderer. One time, the council decided to take his life, and appointed a time, but one of them proved traitor and went and told him, so he was on his guard and thus saved his life.
One would wish to know more about that claim of a decision to kill Aaron Dewitt; but it is not a claim unique in early Cache Valley history.18
But these were the events of March to June 1875. On January 31st, 1875, Dewitt penned the letter that—after its rediscovery in the cornerstone of the Main Building at Utah State University—is the basis for this paper and this discussion. It is a letter of some bitterness and more defiance.
To Mrs. Elizabeth Durrant. My Dear Sister: How to commence this letter I have promised you so long, I hardly know, but will say in the first place I have been deceived, led into error, imposed upon, deluded, beguiled into a false religion in my youth and spent the best part of my life in a wilderness, a desert, a land of sage and salt, away from all enlightenment and civilization, among the most degraded tribes of Indians on the Western hemisphere. And what is still more worse, I have had to mingle with a BEASTLY, BLACKHEARTED, BLOODY PRIESTHOOD; a set of treacherous villians, as full of meanness as old Satan, and as thirsty for blood as a stinted leech.
While these are facts, they are not half told, For hundreds have been killed for gold; Both men and women have been slain And robbed to add to Brigham's gain.
And the letter went on for some pages in the same tenor, interspersed with short poems attacking Brigham. He recorded the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the fate of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies, the murder of Dr. King Robinson, several other murders— including the Aiken party, and the castration of Henry Jones. The final paragraphs hinted at his own story:
Dear Sister, in this sad letter I have told you the truly as it is in Jesus Christ, and as I expect to meet at the final bar of retribution. All these deeds and a thousand others equal to them in baseness and brutality, have all been committed under the cloak of religion. But I must tell you more of them at another time.
I will tell you the reason why we could not leave this blood-stained land, I mean ten or twelve years ago. In the first place, we were a thousand miles from the nearest town East, eight hundred miles to the nearest settlement West, and God only knows how far to any place north and south. On all this vast tract of land no white man dwelt. No civilization was known, none but the red men roamed the dreary solitudes. To travel such a space required considerable food, a good wagon and team, in fact, everything necessary for a three month's pilgrimage. Nor was it safe for a few men to go together, unless they were well-armed. Again, every Bishop knew your business and was always on the lookout. If you started they would send men to drive off your stock, and thus you would be compelled to return. Then if you did not behave and act the hypocrite, the bishop would send the Danites to use you up and send you across lots to that bright brimstone home we read about. Thus you see it was almost impossible to get away.
He ended the letter with the sort of "this is my home, too" statement that marked the Apostates in Cache Valley in the 1870's.
But now we have a railroad across the plains and settlements every little way and civilization is coming to Zion. If the Lord won't come the law will, and if Jesus is not approaching, justice is. Then all who want can leave. But now the priests want us to go, and we wish to stay.
In 1874 a series of Congressional Acts began to restrict Utah self government, progressively limiting the powers of the Mormons and expanding those of the non-Mormon (and largely anti-Mormon)) minority; the Poland Act of 1874, the Edmunds Act of 1882, and the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887.19
And under each of these bills, Aaron Dewitt served as a Federal appointee of the non-LDS element in Utah's bureaucracy.
The Poland Act allowed the Clerk of the District Court, a Federal appointee, to draw one-half of the veniremen for juries. In practice that meant that every potential jury would be chosen from a list that as one-half Gentile or Apostate and one-half Mormon And on July 23, 1874, Aaron Dewitt was chosen as a Federal venireman in the first jury selection under the Poland Act. 20
On March 22, 1882, the Edmunds Act became law. Its provisions placed supervision of all Territorial elections in the hands of a Federally appointed Utah Commission. To insure that no polygamists voted in Utah, registrars were appointed in each election district to draw up the official electoral roll. The registrars were almost universally non-Mormons or ex-Mormons. And in Cache County, Aaron Dewitt was appointed as Registrar for Hyde Park, a Mormon farming town three miles north of Logan.21
While Dewitt after 1882 was regularly appointed to register voters and to act as Judge of Election, the only appointment he received that was very profitable was as one of two census takers for Logan for the 1880 Census. While his handwriting was execrable, his detail was extraordinary. As one of the first citizens of Logan, he knew everyone. Consequently, all polygamous families were identified clearly. Additionally, the margins were clearly marked with an "am" for apostate Mormon or a "g" for Gentile. It is quite a demographic achievement.22
The Federal appointments available to the Gentile minority were essential for the implementation of US policy. On the local level, as an expression of a Gentile plan for Utah, there was the Liberal Party. From 1870 to 1893 Utah politics were a series of electoral battles between the Peoples Party representing the Church and the Liberals who represented everyone else. Not until 1888 was the Liberal Party organized in Cache County and delegates elected to the Territorial Convention in Park City. That year the Liberals nominated a full slate of candidates for county office. And for Treasurer, the Liberals nominated Dewitt. He received only 73 votes to the Peoples Party nominee H. E. Hatch's 783; but that was still 10% of the Cache County vote. Not a bad showing. 23
In the mid 1890's, with the abandonment of polygamy and the church political party, both sides in Utah made a determined effort to avoid the old problems. The political parties made certain that the tickets were balanced religiously, and the Mormon Church retreated from its early position of the Church as Kingdom and of Utah Territory as its domain.
And Dewitt continued life as a respected citizen of Logan, living there until his death in May 1923.
Until March 8, 1987, the name of Dewitt was one known mainly to specialists who research early Logan and Cache Valley history. On that date, to begin the Centennial Celebration at Utah State University, the cornerstone of the Main Building, originally laid by Territorial Governor Arthur L. Thomas on July 27, 1889, was opened under the glare of television lights. And in that box was a small pamphlet. It was the Dewitt Letter.
I've watched the video tape of those proceedings, because I like seeing the shock register on my face when I opened the pamphlet that contained that letter. Not that I'd ever seen the pamphlet before. But I had seen the text. Consequently, I knew when I looked at the superscription, what it was; but I did not know until that minute that the letter had been printed.
In April 1980 I received a letter from the Rev. Fr. Ed Howlett, Vicar of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Clear-field, Utah. Enclosed in the letter was a text that Fr. Howlett had copied from a manuscript loaned him in 1959 from one of his parishioners at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Pocatello, Idaho. He described it as follows:
(She) brought me an old envelope (which I think she said belonged to an old aunt of hers who had just died & she was cleaning up the papers) & the enclosed hand-written 8 page letter. New in the community at the time, I found it so fascinating, I sat down for 3 or 4 hours and typed out the text, before returning it.
Fr. Howlett enclosed the text. It was the Dewitt Letter. Until this March, I had assumed it existed only in manuscript form. Now I know it did not.
The bulk of Dewitt's letter is the standard 19th Century Gentile charge against the Mormons— largely dismissed in light of later scholarship—and Dewitt's repetition of the horrors of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the murder of the Morrisites lend nothing to he historical record except (and it is a major exception) that a pioneer settler of Logan believed them and was moved by them, could accept those stories as basically true and act upon that acceptance—that those stories did not contain any incident that contradicted anything that in the ten years of pioneers between 1857 and 1867 he had learned of LDS Society, of individual Mormons, and of what they were capable either collectively or individually in "defense" of their faith.
Aaron Dewitt was not one of the ex-Mormons who left the LDS church, left the Territory, and rote critical books. And that is exactly Aaron Dewitt's real significance. This letter was private and it reflected his private concerns. It also reflected his private experiences.
It is possible that Dewitt had some good, second-hand sources on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Many of the first settlers of Cache Valley had been in Iron County at the time of the massacre in September 1857. Dewitt certainly knew two, John Nelson and Thomas Rowland, both of whom joined St. John's with the Dewitts. Dewitt, himself, may have been in southern Utah in 1857 or 1858. The other atrocities he lists could be repeated from any of a dozen books available in Utah before 1875—or even from The Salt Lake Tribune.
If you did not
behave and act the
hypocrite, the bishop
would send the
Danites to use you up...
As far as authorship is concerned, I think there can be no doubt that the letter is original and from Aaron Dewitt's pen.
The letter is punctuated with four rhymes that editorialize upon the preceding prose paragraphs. For instance, after discussing the Morrisite massacre, he wrote:
What bloody deeds, what sin and strife,
What sacrifice of human life
What deeds of plunder have been done,
To raise a gory throne for young.
In addition to Dewitt's known history as an ex-Mormon and a member of the Liberal Party in Territorial Utah, it is the poems that cinch the identification; for other sources show that Aaron Dewitt was an indefatigable rhymester.
On November 10, 1867, Joseph Watterson, age 23, was killed by a falling tree in Logan Canyon. Dewitt wrote a memorial poem that was published the The Deseret News on Christmas Day of that year. In the manuscript memoirs of Henry Ballard, first Bishop of the Logan 2nd Ward and one of Dewitt's oldest friends, there is a poem that Dewitt wrote in honor of Ballard's 66th birthday, on January 27, 1898. Ballard entered it in his journal under the heading: "The following lines was composed by a friend Aaron Dewitt which had left the church years ago." 25
Once the staff of Special Collections at Utah State University had a chance to investigate the pamphlet, we discovered that there was no other copy known to exist. None was listed in any bibliography we could find. The sole known extant copy—at least so far as we've been able to determine—has been sealed in the cornerstone of Old Main, on the campus of USU, since 1889. Judging from Fr. Howlett's letter, a second copy may have existed in Pocatello, Idaho.
We've only now begun to study the letter, so what I can say about it is very preliminary. The original manuscript was dated January 31, 1857, which would make that the earliest possible date for its printing. The pamphlet was placed in a cornerstone in Logan on July 27, 1889. Some time in the intervening 14 years, it was printed, probably in Salt Lake City by the Tribune Publishing Co.
It is very likely that Aaron Dewitt himself placed the pamphlet in the tin box that was sealed in the cornerstone. Analysis by the Archival staff has led to the conclusion that while some items were purposely collected for inclusion in the cornerstone by various local dignitaries, the box seems to have been handed around the crowd so that anyone who wished could leave a momento. If Dewitt did place his "Letter" in that box, he did it in the knowledge that it would eventually come to light.
He might well have done it in conjunction with others in Logan who were determined to show that there was a non-LDS minority in the city. For instance, the cornerstone box also included a token for a drink at J. R. Edwards' saloon and a copy of the oath that Congressional Statute required all voters to swear, saying that they were not polygamists!
There is much that we don't know about the Letter and the circumstances that put it in the cornerstone. What we do know, is that with his "Letter", Aaron Dewitt has emerged from the mists that conceal so much of the history of the ex-Mormon in early Utah history emerged as a talented and impassioned man who knew he had a place in the sun in Utah—and who was determined to have it.
1. The Journal (Logan, Utah), May 21, 1923.
2. The Salt Lake Tribune, March 19 -March 24, 1875.
3. 1860 Census, Cache County (microfilm of Ms. USU), household 1806.
4. Memorial of Citizens of Utah Against the Administration of that Territory as a State, 42nd Cong., 2nd Sess., HMD 208 (Serial 1527).
5. Logan Block Teachers' Quorum, Minutes, 1860-1875 (Ms # 17844, LDS Church Archives), p. 157ff.
6. Joel E. Ricks, ea., The History of a Valley...(Logan: 1955), P. 304.
7. St. John's Episcopal Church (Logan, Utah), Parish Registers, I:6, 10,42, 116.
8. Cache Valley High Priests, Minutes, March 15, 1867 (Ms, USU); The Deseret News, Dec. 25, 1867.
9. Rt. Rev. Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Episcopal Register (Ms, USU), P. 50, entry 363.
10. Ibid..., St John's Parish Registers, I: 1.
11. A.J. Simmonds, The Gentile Comes to Cache Valley: A Study of the Logan Apostasies of 1874 and the Establishment of Non-Mormon Churches in Cache Vallev.1873-1913 (Logan: 1976), pp. 9-11.
13. Simmonds, Strength Out of Zion: The Anglican Church in Cache Valley (Ms, USU), P.9.
14. Simmonds, Gentile, pp. 22-23,26.
15. Ibid, pp27-29.
16. Ibid, pp. 29-30.
17. The Salt Lake Tribune. March 20, 1875.
18. True Latter Day Saints Herald, August 15, 1875, P.484.
19. see in this connection, Gustive O. Larson, " The Arnericanization of Utah for Statehood" (San Marino, Calif.: 1971).
20. The Deseret News, July 29, 1874.
21. Utah Commission, Record A (Ms, Utah State Archives), pp.45-46.
22. 1880 Census, Cache County, Logan Precinct (microfilm of original returns, USU).
23. Simmonds, Gentile, pp. 60-61, 118.
24. The Journal. May 21, 1923.
25. A small broadside, 4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches, printed in blue on white cardstock in the William Brangham Scrapbook in USU's Special Collections contains another Dewitt memorial poem: "To My Friend John West after reading a letter from him on the death of his wife who died and was buried in Alberta, Canada." It is dated October 18, 1894.
The following full-page ad including the unedited text of the "Dewitt Letter" was placed in the BOX ELDER NEWS JOURNAL of Brigham City, Utah on August 5, 1987 by Blaine and Randi Hunsaker.
The Hunsakers are directors of the Brigham City Chapter of Saints Alive and have been actively involved in the counseling and conversion of many Latter-day Saints. The ad stirred up a great deal of controversy, and has resulted in quite a few Mormons coming to know the real Jesus! We are also printing a few of the letters which resulted from the ad in the JOURNAL.
or Just Plain Murder...
When the time capsule, first sealed in 1889, was opened March 8,1987, at Old Main on the Utah State University campus, an historical letter was found. It was written by Aaron DeWitt, a prominent Cache Valley resident, businessman and poet who had witnessed the atrocities that were done in the name of the LDS priesthood.
Ephesians 5:11 admonishes Christians to "have nothing to do with the fruitless works of darkness, but rather expose them." This letter is not a forgery, but a genuine historical document. The entire content of the letter is as follows:
Logan, Utah, Jan.31,1875 To Mrs. Elizabeth Durrant
My Dear Sister: I low to commence this letter I have promised you so long. I hardly know, but will say in the first place I have been deceived, led into error, imposed upon, deluded, beguiled into a false religion in my youth and spent the best part of my life in a wilderness, a desert, a land of sage and salt, away from all enlightenment and civilization, among the most degraded tribes of Indians on the Western hemisphere. And what is still more worse, l have had to mingle with
A BEASTLY, BLACKHEARTED, BLOODLY PRIESTHOOD;
A set of treacherous villians, as full of meanness as old Satan, and as thirsty for blood as a stinted leech.
While these are facts, they are not half told;
For hundreds have been killed for gold;
Both men and women have been slain
And robbed to add to Brigham's gain.
I will here mention a few of the most inhuman and cruel acts over committed by any man-eating savage in the darkest ages, and which none but a corrupt priesthood could ever perpetrate. All of these have been done in Utah since I came here by men claiming to hold
THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD OF THE SON OF GOD,
And sent by their great Prophet and leader to do these deeds of blood and plunder in the name of Cod Almightly.
On the 12th day of September, 1857, two days after I arrived in this accursed land,119 men, women and children were murdered while traveling to California, by a band of Mormons painted as Indians, and led by a Mormon higl1 priest, a pious president of a stake of Zion, and a wise ward bishop. After the emigrants had defended themselves against those wretches for three days beneath a burning sun in a sandy desert,
WITHOUT A DROP OF WATER,
They dressed two beautiful little girls in white and sent them to a spring near by. But as they tripped along towards the sparkling stream they met the bullets of those merciless Mormons and fell dead into the water they were trying to secure to save their own lives and quench the parched throats of their beloved parents. Finally John D. Lee, a Mormon bishop, who had just been anointed
A KING AND PRIEST TO GOD,
And who had eighteen wives given to him for being so great and good, sent a flag of truce to the poor parched up, bleeding emigrants and promised them protection if they would give up their arms and go back to the nearest town. This they gladly agreed to; but mark the next act of this santified saint. They had not gone a half mile from their camp, when this great deliverer gave the command to his men to fire, and every man was shot down and every woman screamed and ran. The terrible, sorrowful scene that ensued no tongue can tell. Every woman was caught ravished, murdered, robbed of her jewelry, stripped naked and left unburied on the burning sand. In a few days nothing was left of all those beautiful forms but the bleaching bones the prairie wolf could not devour. Then every child those bloodhounds thought could tell the tale of their infernal villainy was beheaded or cut to pieces, and scattered quivering with its bleeding friends,
Then those pure-souled priests plunged their hands into the gory clotted blood of their victims, and with outstretched arms toward heaven,
EXPRESSED THEIR GRATITUDE TO GOD
For so great a favor; to Him who doeth all things well; but who will undoubtedly, when they meet Him, hear His laugh re-echo through the caverns of the damned, saying, "I told you I would laugh at your calamity and mock when your fear cometh."
All the property of those murdered men and women was gathered together the value of one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars, besides thirty-five thousand dollars in gold, and sent to their old master-murderer Brigham And this is how he sits in his office, wags his big toe, and makes his means, and then boasts that he is
THE GREATEST FINANCIER ON EARTH,
And owns nothing but what the Lord has given him.
Another and similar case is that of the murdered Morrisites, a religious body of simple minded souls, who had met together for devotional exercise in a small valley on the banks of the Weber River in the summer of 1862, when a corps of the Nauvoo Legion, led by cowardly Captain Burton, who is now on a mission preaching the Gospel of Mercy to you dark benighted Britons and inviting you to the home of the free and the land of the brave, but he is not gallant enough to come home himself. He is the dastardly dog who crawled on his belly, like his ancient progenitor which tempted Mother Eve, until he was near enough to fire a cannon and blow down the house where those poor souls had met. Then, after they had surrendered, and given up their few fire arms, the paltroon shot and killed Joseph Morris, Mr. Banks, and two women, one with a beautiful baby nursing at her breast, took the rest of the camp prisoners, put them in the penitentiary, and finally find them one hundred dollars each, just because they did not believe in the rascality of Brigham Young, and do as they were told.
What bloody deeds, what sin and strife,
What sacrifice of human life,
What deeds of plunder have been done,
To raise a gory throne for Young.
I will next mention the most perfidious act coupled with the foulest murder ever committed since the world began.
IT WAS IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT,
when three of the Salt Lake City police were sent by the great Seer and Revelator of all the world, to see Dr. Robinson and ask him to set a broken limb for a poor man who, they said was writhing in agony. The Doctor had just retired to bed, but at his murderers' entreaties, he dressed himself, and in a few moments was on his errand of mercy. He had not gone far when one of the villains, who walked behind, struck him on the head with a meat chopper he had stolen for the purpose, and cleft open his skull. The others fired their pistols immediately, and blowing out their victim's brains, fled.
But my soul sickens at these dreadful deeds, or I would tell you of the brutal murder of Yates, the killing of McNiel, the assassination of Borman, the shooting of Brassfield, the slaughter of the Akins party, the emasculation of Jones, and finally the butchering of him and his poor old mother. I would also mention the dead man in the meat market, the three men in the barn, the murder near the Warm Springs, the shooting. of Pike in the streets of Salt Lake City in broad daylight, the murder of the Potters and Parishes, of Rhodes and Roberts, and hundreds of others who
HAVE BEEN MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD,
And robbed to satisfy the avaricious cravings of as foul a man and as false a Prophet as ever disgraced this sin stained earth.
These horrible deeds have all been committed in our holy Zion, and not one of the perpetrators ever brought to justice. In fact, there has been no justice in the land. A few years ago a man's life was not worth a cent who durst utter such words as there is evil in the land, or sin among the Priesthood. "You do as you are told!" has been the Gospel preached in this priest-ridden place for the last quarter of a century.
In the fall of 1857, I heard our Prophet in a congregation of three thousands souls, tell his bishops they were to "counsel" the brethren to do as they were told; and, said he "if they don't do it, lay righteousness to the line and judgement to the pummel. If you dont know what that is, come to me and I will tell you." He then threw back his head and with a revolting grin,
DREW HIS FINGER ACROSS HIS THROAT,
A sign the anointed ones well understood. And yet, the old bilk, with his smooth slang will make his innocent dupes believe he is free from guilt, and that he is
THE LIGHT, THE TRUTH, AND THE WAY,
And that he has a place prepared for them, where the waters are flowing placidly-a land of milk and honey.
But the waters are stained with blood, and the milk is turned to whey,
And the honey has lost its sweetness, the people seem to say;
And dupes are getting scarcer, and obedience is dead,
And all the old man's judgments and plummets, too, have fled.
THE HAND-CART EXPEDITION
Then there was the hand-cart company that crossed the plains in 1856. The details of their distress caps the climax of all horrors. Could I portray that terrible journey and the sufferings of those poor souls, your very heart would bleed. Three ounces of flour per day was all they had to eat. Upon this scanty fare they dragged their carts with 100 pounds of luggage over the worst kind of road, and more than five hundred miles through snow, fording rivers whose currents are of the swiftest kind, and their waters always cold. Then at night, when those poor, wet, shivering souls came into camp they had no wood to make a fire. At times a few small willows could be obtained, just enough to bake their scanty cake. It did not take them long to cat their supper, for a mouthful each was all they had. So hungry were they, that some gnawed the flesh off their own arms, eat roasted hide, or fed upon their shoes. One-fourth of all who started,
DIED OF STARVATION ON THE WAY
From five to fifteen died every night for over 300 miles of the road. So weak and weary were these living skeletons that they could scarcely bury their dead. Every night a pit would be dug just large enough to place the dead in, and a shallow covering of dirt thrown over them. Those that dug the grave one night expected to be placed in theirs the next. Many a one prayed that his spirit might leave his frame of bones for a berth among the blessed.
Why did they start in this way? do you inquire. Because this false prophet had told them that it was the Lord's plan of emigration, and the only way to secure salvation. They believing him to be a true prophet, had faith in all he said, and started on their journey, 1,400 miles, as late in the season as August. As they traveled on Westward toward the Zion of their hopes, songs could be heard from every cart and prayers from every camp. But before they got five hundred miles on their weary pilgrimage,
THE SNOWS BEGAN TO FALL,
The wintry winds to blow, and the keen frost and piercing cold set in. Then their suffering commenced in earnest. Still they trudged along day after day, full of faith in Cod and holy priesthood, and day after day endured greater pain. Finally their limbs began to freeze, and pieces fell from their worn-out bodies. They became dispirited and pined away and died, as I have already told you.
So sad and sickening is this gospel plan
As taught by Brigham, to poor fallen man,
That every time I mention his ill name.
It sends a shudder quivering through my frame.
I also tremble for the deeds he's done;
For life destroyed, for blood he caused to run;
For victims frozen on the plains, through him,
While starving, suffering, falling limb from limb.
Dear Sister, in this sad letter I have told you the truth.
AS IT IS IN JESUS CHRIST,
And as I expect to meet at the final bar of retribution. All these deeds and a thousand others equal to them in baseness and brutality, have all been committed under the cloak of religion. But I must tell you more of them at another time.
I will now tell you the reason why we could not leave this blood-stained land, I mean ten or twelve years ago. In the first place, we were a thousand miles from the nearest town East, eight hundred miles to the nearest settlement West, and God only knows how far to any place north and south. On all this vast tract of land.
NO WHITE MAN DWELT,
No civilization was known, none but the red men roamed the dreary solitudes. To travel such a space required considerable food, a good wagon and team, in fact, everything necessary for a three month's pilgrimage. Nor was it safe for a few men to go together, unless they were well-armed. Again, every Bishop knew your business
AND WAS ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT.
If you started they would send men to drive off your stock, and thus you would be compelled to return. Then, if you did not behave and act the hypocrite, the bishop would send the Danites to use you up, send you across lots to that bright brimstone home we read about. Thus you see it was almost impossible to get away. But now we have a railroad across the plains and settlements every little way and civilization is coming to Zion. If the Lord won't come the law will, and if Jesus is not approaching, justice is. Then all who want can leave. But now the priests want us to go, and we wish to stay.
Burst off every fetter, remove this Priestly yoke.
And never rest contented, till every link is broke.
For every man in Utah and woman shall be free,
And shouts shall echo through the
land for God and liberty!
Hoping to meet you soon on earth life and finally beyond the confines of time measured out to mortal man. I am affectionately, Your Brother, AARON DEWITT.
BOX ELDER NEWS JOURNAL
Brigham City, Utah
Letters to The Editor
Cancel our subscription
My family and I have lived in Brigham city for over 14 years. During that time we have subscribed to the Box Elder News Journal. There have been some rather controversal items published in your paper and over the years, a lot of which I didn’t agree with However, I felt that was your privlege so didn't let it bother me enough to respond or do anything about it. However, the latest article which I violently disagree with has prompted me to request that you cancel our subscription. Any newspaper in our modern day which would publish an article such as "Blood Atonement or just plain murder" is not worthy of existing as far as I am concerned. It is so obviously full of blatant lies and misrepresentations that I need not say anything more.
Sincerely yours, xxxxxxx
Nobody likes the bearer
We are sorry there are people who were hurt by the public printing of the Aaron DeWitt letter on August 5th However, the Mormon people are valuable to God and they deserve better than the deception of Mormonism. We would rather risk offending the LDS now, than have them spend eternity separated from God.
The finding of the Aaron DeWitt letter is important because it supplements the many other accounts of these same incidents. Such are the journals and writings of John Ahmanson, Bill Jarman, Bill Hickman, John D. Lee, Marietta B. Smith and others. The truth often hurts, and Mormonism has more to hide than it has to reveal.
"Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" - Galatians 4:16
The good news is that the Jesus Christ of the Bible is exactly who He said He is—He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, period. No one comes to the Father except through Him. You must trust in the Jesus Christ of the Bible alone. Mormonism looks and sounds good on the surface, but when you put it to the test of the Bible, it fails. It is a cult designed to keep you from a real and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Joseph Smith founded Mormonism while he was deeply involved in the occult, and it is carried through to today in the LDS temple ceremony which is full blown satanic ritual; white-washed in the name of God.
Our motivation in all of this is simply the joy of seeing the miraculous transformation that is occurring in the many lives of those who have come to a saving personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, and have come out of Mormonism. Just to witness the love, peace, and joy resulting from the knowledge that they have eternal life with Jesus as born again Christians is motivation enough. (See Titus 3 ~7) To let the Mormon people just go on blindly in the deception of Mormonism is unthinkable. If we did not love them, we would be silent.
They label us 'anti-Mormon', but certainly the LDS church is 'anti-Christian'. Daily in the LDS temple ceremony, the Christian pastor is mocked as a hireling of Satan and the Christian and Biblical God is defamed as an incomprehensible being.
Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" Rev. 3:20. Dear Mormon friend, Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and knocking.
Blaine Hunsaker Brigham City
"But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops." - Luke 12:2-3
(c) copyright 2004, 2009, Ed Decker, all rights reserved
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