Last of the Great Scouts
Indian Encounter And School-Day Incidents
WILL was not long at home. The Mormons, who were settled in Utah, rebelled when the
government, objecting to the quality of justice meted out by Brigham Young, sent a
federal judge to the territory. Troops, under the command of General Albert Sidney
Johnston, were dispatched to quell the insurrection, and Russell, Majors & Waddell
contracted to transport stores and beef cattle to the army massing against the Mormons in
the fall of 1857. The train was a large one, better prepared against such an attack as
routed the McCarthy brothers earlier in the summer; yet its fate was the same.
Will was assigned to duty as "extra" under Lew Simpson, an experienced wagon-master,
and was subject to his orders only. There was the double danger of Mormons and Indians,
so the pay was good. Forty dollars a month in gold looked like a large sum to an eleven-
Will's second departure was quite as tragic as the first. We girls, as before, were loud in
our wailings, and offered to forgive him the depredations in the doll-house and all his
teasings, if only he would not go away and be scalped by the Indians. Mother said little,
but her anxious look, as she recalled the perils of the former trip, spoke volumes. He
carried with him the memory of the open-mouthed admiration of little Charlie, to whom
"Brother Will" was the greatest hero in the world. Turk's grief at the parting was not a
whit less than ours, and the faithful old fellow seemed to realize that in Will's absence the
duty of the family protector devolved on him; so he made no attempt to follow Will
beyond the gate.
The train made good progress, and more than half the journey to Fort Bridger was
accomplished without a setback. When the Rockies were reached, a noon halt was made
near Green River, and here the men were surrounded and overcome by a large force of
Danites, the "Avenging Angels" of the Mormon Church, who had "stolen the livery of the
court of heaven to serve the devil in." These were responsible for the atrocious Mountain
Meadow Massacre, in June of this same year, though the wily "Saints" had planned to
place the odium of an unprovoked murder of innocent women and children upon the
Indians, who had enough to answer for, and in this instance were but the tools of the
Mormon Church. Brigham Young repudiated his accomplice, and allowed John D. Lee to
become the scapegoat. The dying statement of this man is as pathetic as Cardinal
Wolsey's arraignment of Henry VIII.
"A victim must be had," said he, "and I am that victim. For thirty years I studied to make
Brigham Young's will my law. See now what I have come to this day. I have been
sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner. I do not fear death. I cannot go to a worse
place than I am now in."
John D. Lee deserved his fate, but Brigham Young was none the less a coward.