WILLIAM SLOAN - Alias "Charley Thatcher" - Alias "Idaho Bill"

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1876-7 J. D. Lee letters   |   1886 Massacres of Mountains   |   1895 J. S. Boreman notes
1877 Sumner Howard letters   |   1877 Wm. Sloan letter   |   1877 John D. Lee letter
1877: May 5-6 N.Y. Herald (pdf)   |   1877: May 8-11 N.Y. Herald (pdf)   |   1877: May 13-16 N.Y. Herald (pdf)
1877: May 17-18 N.Y. Herald (pdf)   |   1877: May 19-20 N.Y. Herald (pdf)   |   1877: May 21-24 N.Y. Herald (pdf)


Salt  Lake  Daily  Tribune.

Vol. X.                           Salt Lake City, Utah,  March 8, 1875.                           No. 15.

I  Survived  the  Massacre.

There is a young man in this county, Mr. Kit Carson Fancher, who is one of the seventeen children that survived the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Mr. Fancher says he was five years old when the massacre of the emigrants took place, and vividly recollects the terrible ordeal, and says he saw an Indian or Mormon kill his mother, and saw the Indian that shot his father. He was secreted in a wagon, and an Indian made a grab for him, and he begged so hard for his life that the Indian released him and went after some one else. Mr. Fancher was taken to Harmony, and lived there about six months with John D. Lee, the moving spirit in the fiendish crime, and says, a few days after he was taken to Lee's he discovered a yoke of his father's cattle in Lee's lot, and told Lee they belonged to his father, when Lee replied that he bought them from the Indians. Mr. Fancher's father, mother and several brothers and sisters were massacred, and his age was all that saved him. His father's name was James Fancher. He says he saw his father's skull in the possession of a Mormon doctor of Salt Lake City, who knew his father, and told him it was his father's skull. Mr. Fancher and all of the survivors of the massacre, who numbered seventeen, were purchased by the governor of Arkansas from the Mormons, and brought back to Carroll county, Ark., from whence the ill-fated emigration train started. We are glad to state that the fiends John D. Lee, Higbee, Haight, Adair and others are under indictment for this crime, and will without doubt all be hung, as the evidence implicating them as principals in the massacre is positive. -- Cumberland Democrat.

Note: The Cumberland, Illinois paper was evidently more than a year out of date with its news -- as most sources document Christopher Fancher dying at Osage, Arkansas in 1873. This, of course, was well before the pretender, William Sloan, claimed in published reports to be "Charley Fancher" or "Charley Thatcher."

Christopher "Kit" Carson Fancher (1853-73)


Cheyenne  Daily  Leader.

Vol. VIII.                 Cheyenne, Wyoming, Monday,  May 10, 1875.                 No. 196.



Interesting Sketch of his Life.

Col. Carpenter's Expedition will number from Eight
to Nine Hundred Men.

Destination -- Powder River and Tongue River.

Old Miners and Old Mountain Men on the move.

Expedition will reach Cheyenne on Thursday next.


William Sloan, alias Idaho Bill, called at the Leader office yesterday, and from him we learn the following facts that will Interest all of our readers:

Idaho Bill was born at American Falls, on Snake River, in Oregon, thirty-two years ago, at Johnny Grant's American Fur Company Camp No. 15. His life has been mainly spent in the mountains and on the Pacific Coast. He talks the Sioux, Crow, Bannock and Shoshone languages, and has acted as interpreter for the Government at North Platte, Fort Ellis and other places. He is personally acquainted with all of the famous mountain men who lived in this country during the past thirty years, and has ranged the Big Horn and Yellowstone, country from its northern to its southern extremity. He has visited the Stickeen and Peace River countries in British Columbia, and mined in them, also prospected in Kootenai and Cariboo, and us far southward as Arizona. He is a medium sized man, with a clear eye, good-looking head, and a well knit, hardy frame.

Idaho Bill left Kansas City on the second of this month with five others, and arrived in Cheyenne on the 7th... He is personally well acquainted with the country they are destined for, is an experienced miner, and a reliable man. Idaho Bill will act as guide for the expedition, as he knows the country by heart, and ranged over a large part of it in company with Col. Carpenter in '66-7.

Idaho Bill... spent considerable of his time within the past eight months in traveling about in the States, and has heard a great deal of talk among the people about the Black Hills of Wyoming, and gives it as his opinion that not less than a hundred thousand people will pass through Cheyenne within the next six months to the country north of the North Platte River. Very many old mouutuin men and old miners whom he personally knows, who went to the States and settled down, have grown restive and want to return to the muountains again. There is a charm about the country, and an attraction about mountain life that they are unable to resist. A large number of these will accompany the expedition.

Note: The Cheyenne editor's confidence in William Slone's tales appears to have diminished rather rapidly after the above article was published. The Leader of the 27th offers the curt announcement, that "Idaho Bill has made Rawlins his headquarters. He has withdrawn from the Carpenter expedition, or else is maneuvering a flank movement."


Laramie  Daily  Sentinel.

Vol. ?                 Laramie, Wyoming, Wednesday,  May 26, 1875.                 No. 22.


Rawlins to be the Great Starting Point for the Black Hills.

Thousands of Men, Under the Most Brilliant Leaders,
Concentrating There.

No Government Interference With Parties Going From
Rawlins to the Big Horn.

An Abundant Supply of Outfitting Facilities.

Idaho Bill on the Ground and Making Arrangements for
the Great Crowds Coming.


(Special to the Sentinel.)

Rawlins, May 25. -- Capt. Stone, better known as "Idaho Bill," arrived here this morning from Cheyenne, for the purpose of making arrangements for the care of seventy-five men who are to arrive here to-morrow under the leadership of Colonel Ben. Northington, our late County Attorney. These men will depart for the Big Horn at once. Bill was the chief scout and guide of the Carpenter expedition, but becoming disgusted with Carpenter's management of affairs, has accepted employment under Col. Mansfield, of Philadelphia, who is on his way to Rawlins with eleven hundred men bound for the Big Horn. Bill is an old mountaineer and thoroughly acquainted with the country and with mining in all its phases. He says that Rawlins is at least twenty days nearer the Big Horn than Cheyenne, and that picks, shovels, pans, pack horses, wagons, and everything needed for outfitting, can be purchased much cheaper here than at any point alung the road.

Bill is making great preparations for a camp for the Mansfield party at what is known as Cherokee Springs, near town. Rawlins is bound to be the starting point for all the old miners from Idaho, Utah and Montana. Every facility will be extended to strangers who may arrive here, by our citizens. Bill speaks in high terms of his treatment by citizens of Cheyenne, but says twenty days during the mining season is worth looking after. He says that the Carpenter expedition is a complete failure and that Rawlins is undoubtedly the point to start from.

Notes: (forthcoming)



Vol. I.                           Sacramento, Calif.,  January 21, 1876.                           No. 291.

From Pioche, Nevada -- High-handed Proceedings -- Shipment of Bullion.

Pioche, January 20th.       
The Record of this morning contains the following: "In brief, we have the following items from parties just arrived from Desert Springs Station, on the Salt Lake road, yesterday, to wit: That Idaho Bill was released at Beaver on giving bonds for $3,000; but that on Tuesday last he roade up to Desert Springs Station, in company of a man named A. L. Winn, and both covered the old man keeping the station with shotguns, making him throw up his hands, after which they went through the house, taking all the pistols and guns the house contained. Then they ordered the station-keeper to cook dinner for six. Shortly after this order was given and dinner about ready, up rode Nate Hanson, John Clark, Ed Shanks and old man Marsh, making the party complete. After eating Nate Hanson drew up an agreement for the station-keeper to sign, agreeing not to appear against Idaho Bill when his trial came off at Beaver. Hanson, with his five backers, put six-shooters to the man's head, giving him just twelve minutes to sign the paper. He signed it under such persuasive arrangements. Hanson then drew up a note in favor of himself for $1,000, and compelled the station-keeper to sign it. A man employed to haul wood for the station came in sight about this time, and as he was a witness in the case of Idaho Bill he was seized and a paper similar to that signed by the station-keeper was drawn up and presented to him, which he was compelled to sign. The party having accomplished all they could, rode off. Nate Hanson's place on the Salt Lake road has for a long time back been the resort of this gang."

The shipment of bullion during the past two weeks ending the 15th instant, by Wells, Fargo & Co., from Pioche to Salt Lake, amounted to eighty-two bars, valued at $102,279.

Note: The Sacramento Record-Union of March 8, 1876 added the following: "As we reported in yesterday morning's issue, says the Pioche Record of February 26th, Wm. Sloan, alias Idaho Bill, was sent away in the Salt Lake stahe on a requisition from the Governor of Utah. BIll did not wish to leave Pioche, and was ready, in police language, to "squeal," that is, confess -- if he was pardoned.



Vol. ?                               Helena, Montana,  March 8, 1876.                               No. ?


The Desperado Playing in Hard Luck.


A special dispatch to the Salt Lake Herald from Beaver, Utah, says that last Saturday Judge Whedon, Assistant United States Prosecuting Attorney, applied to Judge Boreman, of the Second District Court, for and obtained an order for the Sheriff of Beaver county to re-arrest


alias William Sloan, on the ground of insufficency of bail. The Judge granted the order and Bill is now in jail here, in custody of Sheriff Cooms, and also of Eugene Blair, Wells, Fargo & Co.'s messenger, on a requisition from the Governor of Nevada. To-day he goes before Boreman on examination for further charges. Bill is notorious for having headed


taking possession of Desert Spring Station a few weeks since, taking all the fire arms on the premises, and forcing Bowen to sign a note for one thousand dollars at the point of a Henry rifle, and stealing the treasure box near that place.

Notes: (forthcoming)



Vol. ?                               Beaver, Utah,  March 9, 1876.                               No. ?


On Wednesday evening, as Sheriff Coombs was entering the county jail he was met by Idaho Bill with a cocked revolver, the same being presented uncomfortably close to the sheriff's head. Accounts are conflicting as to what followed, one party alleging that Bill, having the "drop," compelled the officer to surrender the prison key, after which he went out and had an interview with his attorneys. Another report is that the sheriff, as soon as Bill drew upon him, drew a pistol himself and returned the compliment by presenting his weapon at the desperado's head, this solemn and imnpressive tableau being kept up for some seconds, till finally Bill yeilded, and the sheriff permitted him to go to the lawyers in his company. Either way, we are forced to the conclusion that this law-defying notoriety has had sufficient leeway, and should be looked after more closely.

Notes: (forthcoming)



Vol. XXV.                         Salt Lake City, Utah,  July 19, 1876.                        No. 25.

Another Escape From The Penitentiary.

Four More Convicts Take "French Leave."


About noon to-day Mesrs. Geo. W. Crockwell and Frank Bassett were driving in the vicinity of the Penitentiary, and, in passing the south-east corner, they saw a couple of men standing upon the ground outside...

The prisoners who escaped are the notorious desperado "Idaho Bill," Jack Wiggins, the same who killed John Kreamer, in this city, some years since, Frank Harker, stage robber, and Bowen, a horse thief.

Note 1: Idaho Bill was re-captured and tried for his crimes. The Deseret Evening News of Sept. 21, 1876 reported: "A jury has been empanelled to try the case of Idaho Bill, Al. Winn and Hanson, and the trial is now going on;" and the issue of Sept. 25, 1876 added: "Idaho Bill, Al Winn, and Nate Hanson convicted as charged." Two days later, however, the same paper published the news that Al Winn had escaped from prison.

Note 2: In September of 1877, "Idaho Bill" escaped from the Utah Prison for a second time -- in company with Eli Lee, Charles Wells and a convict named Wiggins. They headed for the Elk Mountains. After one close call, "Idaho Bill" (William Sloan) eluded pursuit and eventually reached the relative safety of Evanston, Wyoming (where he was arrested on December 26, 1879, but "broke jail" on Feb. 4, 1880). From Wyoming he fled to Bannock County, Idaho, and reportedly spent part of 1880-81 at Fort Hall.



Vol. I.                             Ogden, Utah, Thurs.,  July 14, 1881.                            No. 62.


His Wild Career Ended Abruptly.


EDITOR HERALD: -- About half past ten yesterday afternoon at Glasscock's ranch, five miles southeast of this place, Stephen Glasscock killed Wm. Sloane, the notorious "Idaho Bill," well known in Utah and the West generally. He was one of the party who escaped from the Utah penitentiary with Wiggins and others at the time they killed the warden. All the facts concerning this present affair I have not been able to learn as yet, but an examination will probably be held to-day, when all the the particulars will be known. Sloane was Glasscock's son son-in-law, and it is reported, said to some emigrants, yesterday, who were camped near the ranch, that he was going to kill Glasscock. On going to the ranch he told Mr. G. that he need not put up any hay, for if he did, he (Sloane) would burn it and kill him and all the rest of the Glasscocks. What other words passed between them I have not learned, but Glasscock assailed Sloane with the pitman rod of a mowing machine, and beat in the top of his head. Sloan's forehead and face is cut in several places and is a horrid-looking spectacle. He was brought to town, last night in an unconscious state, and expired this morning. Glasscock also came in last night and gave himself up to the authorities. He is now in jail.

Sloan was under indictment here some time ago, but broke jail and escaped with others, all having since been recaptured save himself.

So far it is claimed and believed that Glasscock killed him in self-defense.   W.

Evanston, Wyo., July 13.

Notes: (forthcoming)


Salt  Lake  Daily  Herald.

Vol. ?                               Salt Lake City, Uath,  July 15, 1881.                               No. ?


A Bad Man Meets With a Retributive Fate.


There are but few people in Utah who have not heard of "Idaho Bill," a name which is associated with nearly all the evil characteristics that are common to men. Bill is one of the men who broke from the Utah Penitentiary some years ago, with Jack Wiggins and others, at the time the warden was killed. He was subsequently locked in the Evanston jail for some crime, from which he also broke away. After breaking out of the pen here, he is reported to have married a Miss Glasscock; certain it is, that he did marry her. Our correspondent is unable to give an accurate statement of the affair but states that on Wednesday he went to a ranch of his father-in-law, Stephen Glasscock, about five miles southeast of Evanston, Wyo., at which place his wife was staying, having left "Bill" and returned to her parents. Statements differ as to the cause of the trouble, some alleging that "Idaho Bill," whose real name is William Sloan, had told parties the night before that he was going for his wife and that unless she was given up to him, he would kill the whole family and burn the house, and everything else. It is also alleged that "Bill" told Glasscock that he need not put up any more hay as he would burn it and kill Glasscock and the others. Glasscock told him to pitch in and the row thus started; Sloan, with a drawn pistol chasing Glasscock about the house. Another version is that Glasscock was out in the fields and heard screams from the house, and upon running up he found Sloan chasing the women about with his pistol in hand and cocked. At any rate, Sloan had his pistol out and was assaulting or threatening to kill Glasscock, when the latter seized the pitman rod of a mowing machine and struck Sloan in the head with it. He struck Sloan several times, who was unconscious to the time of his death, and whose face and head was badly cut and bruised. Sloan was taken to Evanston that night and died the following morning from his wounds. Glasscock also went to Evanston and surrendered himself up to the authorities; and it was thought he would have an examination on Thursday.

Sloan was a thoroughly bad man. He was a cattle thief; in fact, a thief in general, and was accredited with the commission of the most heinous offenses. His death, by whatever means it may have been caused, is a benefit to the community, though it may not have been justifiable in this instance. Glasscock, however, is said to have clearly done the deed in self-defense.

Notes: (forthcoming)


Cheyenne  Daily  Sun.

Vol. ?                 Cheyenne, Wyoming, Tuesday,  July 19, 1881.                 No. 110.


Brief Sketch of the Career and Fate of a Western Desperado.


In giving an account of the killing of "Idaho Bill" by the ranchman Stephen Glasscock the Evanston Chief [Chieftain] sketches the career of the desperado Dick Sloane, or "Idaho Bill" as he was called with a notoriously [----- case]; having been an outlaw whose depredations have been more or less of a terror to the people of Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for the past ten years.

About twelve years ago he was employed by Wells, Fargo & Co., as a driver on one of their Idaho lines. He was afterward arrested for stage robbery, and sentenced to ten years in the Utah penitentiary. There, in 1876 or 1877, he broke prison, in company with Charley Williamson and Jack Smith, the warden of the prison, Captain Bergher, being killed in the melee.

Horse stealing has been his principal business since that time. He has been quite sharp in evading officers and breaking jails. He was not a bad looking man, about 5 feet 8 inches in height, stoutly built, rather dark complexion, about 32 years old. The only peculiarity about him being very bright, flushing, dark eyes, the expression of which once seen, could never be forgotten by the observer.

On the 26th day December, 1879, he was arrested in Evanston on the charge of obtaining money, the sum of $65.00, under false pretenses, from Frederick Jones of that city, and held to answer at the district court; before the court set he broke jail, in company with Jeff McBride and Wade Ingersoll, on the 4th day of February, 1880, and has not since been heard of until the present affair.

During some portion of his career, we are not informed as to the date, he got into the good graces of the Glasscock family, and married one of the daughters; his wife left him, and returned to her father's house, and claimed his protection,

Sloane came along on Monday last in company with some emigrants, traveling in wagons, and camped near Glasscock's house. He wanted his wife to go with him; she refused. Some high words ensued, and brandishing a revolver, he threatened to kill her.

On Tuesday evening, as Glasscock came up to the house, carrying in his hand the pitman rod of a mowing machine, Sloane met him, and renewed his threats, saying he would burn the hay, and kill the whole Glasscock family. Glasscock struck him with the pitman, causing his death.

Though it is a terrible deed, and every one regrets the necessity of such a blow, yet no one appears to regret that "Idaho Bill" is now resting quietly in his grave.

The grand jury was in session, and after examining into the case, refused to indict Mr. Glasscock, and he was summoned into the presence of the court and formally discharged from custody.

Note 1: "Idaho Bill" was variously identified as being "Richard Sloan," "William Sloane," etc. If he was "about 32" in 1881, his birth must have occurred between 1849 and 1850; however, the Cheyenne Daily Leader of May 10, 1875 also gave his age as about 32 -- placing his birth year somewhat before 1849. If his dubious claim to Union Army service during the Civil War can be relied upon, "Idaho Bill" must have been born in the early to mid 1840s.

Note 2: "Idaho Bill" was not among the Utah Territorial Prison escapees of March 15, 1876 (when warden Matthew B. Burgher was killed). Some other convicts escaped on July 19, 1876 and Bill was one of them.


Cheyenne  Daily  Leader.

Vol. VIII.                 Cheyenne, Wyoming, Tuesday,  July 19, 1881.                 No. 196.


The Killing of "Idaho Bill" near Evanston, Wyoming.


Says the Ogden Pilot:

"Idaho Bill," a well known character who has figured largely in the horse-steallng business in Utah and Wyoming, met more than his match on Wednesday, and was sent to his reward. It appears that after breaking out of the Utah pen, and from the Evanston jail, he married a Miss Glasscock, at her father's ranch, five miles east of Evanston, and the couple started east on horseback. The girl was persuaded afterwards to return to her parents, and this she did. He, a few days ago, got passage in an emigrant wagon from Tie Siding, near Cheyenne, and when near Piedmont he told the man and wife with whom he was traveling about his marriage and the desertion of his wife, whom he should claim, he said, on arrival at the ranch, and if they did not give her up he would massacre the whole family, kill their cattle and burn up their hay and houses. Arriving at the ranch about 1 p. m. yesterday, he at once demanded his wife, on the threat of extermination of the whole family if she was not given up. The father told him he could not have the girl, and he had better begin to carry out his threats. He drew a revolver and chased the father around the house. Glasscock picked up a pitman of a mowing machine and struck Bill on the head three times, breaking his skull and forehead, and causing the brains to ooze out. Glasscock then went to Evanston and delivered himself into the hands of the sheriff, who locked him up to await developments. "Idaho Bill was brought to Evanston on train No. 11 -- Conductor William Horr -- and taken to the court house, where Dr. Hocker and other physicians examined the man and pronounced it a hopeless case. The man died at 6 p. m. to-day. "Idaho Bill" is known by that name, while his name is Sloan.

Notes: (forthcoming)



Vol. ?                                   Boise City, Idaho,  July 19, 1881.                                  No. ?

Idaho  Bill.

Our Salt Lake contemporary, the Tribune, contains the following account of the manner in which this notorious character met his death and a biography of his unenviable career.

The notorious Idaho Bill was killed on the 12th, at the ranch of his father-in-law, Glasscock, on Bear river, about five miles above Evanston. Bill had not been at the ranch for some time, but that evening Glasscock, on coming home, saw him with a drawn revolver, chasing his (Bill's) wife and her mother, Mrs. Glasscock, around the place. Glasscock took in the situation and lay in wait at the corner of the corral, with an old pitman rod in his hand. On Bill coming within reach the old man brought the rod down on his head, knocking him senseless, and he never recovered consciousness. The people of Evanston were so pleased at the occurence that they talk of presenting the old man with a purse of money.

Idaho Bill was a cunning, sneaking rascal. The sort of thing he was doing when he met his death was exactly in his line. He spent most of his time for seven years in various jails, though he was very lucky in breaking out of them. His last incarceration was in the Utah penitentiary, from which he escaped something over three years ago. He was known as a horse thief and as being up to most any kind of deviltry short of murder that he could get somebody else to commit and give him the credit. He got into more scrapes by boasting of his evil deeds than in any other way. When it came to any enterprise requiring nerve he always gladly turned over the post of danger to some one else.

When John D. Lee was convicted in Beaver, in 1876, he and Bill hatched up a pretty little story to the effect that Bill was Charley Fancher, the oldest of the boys saved from the Mountain Meadows massacre. Bill was to do some good swearing for Lee on a demand for a new trial, and Lee was to use his influence to get Bill's pardon for the crime of robbery, of which he was convicted at the same term.

The world is certainly better off for the death of Idaho Bill. He was a thoroughly despicable character, a thief as far as his courage would permit, and a most unmitigated liar. His ambition seemed to run entirely to the direction of being a bad, desperate man, and to be known as having a hand in every leading robbery and theft. He met his death in a way wholly appropriate, and the dry eyes over his memory will be very many indeed.

Note: The Statesman of 28 Jul. 28th added: "The notorious Idaho Bill, recently killed by his father-in-law near Evanston, was last year in the employ of the Government at Fort Hall."



Vol. XXX.                         Salt Lake City, Utah,  July 20, 1881.                        No. 25.


Idaho Bill Killed. -- this notorious desperado met his death on the night of the 12th inst., near Evanston, Wyoming. His skull was crushed in with the pitman rod of a mowing machine in the hands of Mr. Glasscock, his own father-in-law. The occurrence took place at a ranch five miles above Evanston, on Bear River. Glasscock was in the meadow mowing, when he heard screams coming from near his residence. Hastening to the house he found Idaho Bill, with a pistol running after his wife and her mother (Mrs. Glasscock) around the corral. Mr. Glasscock, seeing how matters stood, seized an old pitman rod, and as the ruffian came to the comer of the corral, struck him down. He never spoke afterwards, but lingered a few hours senseless, and died. Idaho Bill was well known aa a dangerous and disreputable character, and remarks were made on the streets of Evanston, when his death was made known, that a subscription of at least five hundred dollars ought to be raised for Glasscock, for cutting short his career of crime. The real name of Idaho Bill was William Sloan. About a year ago, with two other convicts, he broke jail, and his return to the ranch of his father-in-law, on the night of the killing, was quite unexpected. His body was taken to Evanston, but up to the date of our information, sent by Wm. G. Burton, Esq., of that city, no inquest had been held, hence full particulars had not been elicited.

Note: Mr. Glasscock's name was Stephen. The name of his daughter (Idaho Bill's wife) has not been located.



Vol. II.                               Blackfoot, Idaho,  July 23, 1881.                               No. 3.

Idaho  Bill.

The notorious Idaho Bill was killed on the 12th, at the ranch of his father-in-law, Glasscock, on Bear river about five miles above Evanston. Bill had not been at the ranch for some time, but that evening, Glasscock, on coming home, saw him with a drawn pistol chasing his (Bill's) wife and her mother, Mrs. Glasscock, around the place. Glasscock took in the situation, and lay in wait at the corner of the corral, with an old pitman rod in his hand. On Bill coming within reach, the old man brought the rod down on his head knocking him senseless, and he never recovered consciousness. The people of Evanston were so pleased at the occurence that they talk of presenting the old man with a purse of money.

The above clipped from the Salt Lake Tribune, will remind many of our readers of this same Idaho Bill, who only a year ago was in the employ of the gobernment on Fort Hall Indian agency, and the people very generally commented upon the fact, of the United States leaving in its employ such a man. But he seems to have been a trusted employee of Agent Wright, who had him accompany the cattle round-ups to look after government cattle, and from this fact, it is only to be wondered at that Wright did not take up on his papers yet unborn in addition to those sucking the cows, as it is understood he did do, to come out even. This delectable pair who managed to swindle the trader at the agency out of upwards of $150, just previous to the former leaving the agency, which he did in company with other horse thieves, taking a number of horses from the country with them. It is not definitely known whether Wright had anything to do with the latter [transaction].

Notes: (forthcoming)


Map of Utah-Nevada Border Area around Desert Spring Stage Station   enlarge


(September, 1876 - February, 1877)

(Transcripts Courtesy of Will Bagley)

{Lee's second trial began at Beaver City on September 13, 1876, and ended with his conviction by an all-Mormon jury on the September 20th}

John D. Lee to Emma B. Lee
21 September 1876
John D. Lee Collection, Huntington Library.

Much beloved companion

{Lee arrived in Beaver on 4 Sept. --- On 11 Sept} “My bondsman appeared and surrendered me to the court -- which placed me in an awkward situation. I was left in [the] charge of the officers of the court, & sent to prison there to await the summons of the court from time to time. this strange & mysterious move warned me that there was treachery and conspiracy on foot. Gen Wells or the one Eyed Pirate as the Tribune calls him was in Beaver to advise & council & direct the Brethren how to swear... I am perfectly whiped out & have come to the conclusion that some men will swear that black is white if the good Brethren only say so...

J. D. Lee to Rachel Andora Lee
12 October 1876
John D. Lee Collection, Huntington Library.

I will soon be removed to salt Lake city there to await further privileges I will have the privilege there of writing a sketch of my life & by doing so I hope to let the world know the true facts in the matter let it cut who it may -- I wish you would come as soon as you can conveniently with my Journals & help me with my record -- as your memory is good on past occurrences...

John D. Lee to Emma B. Lee
26 October 1876
John D. Lee Collection, Huntington Library.

Moved to Salt Lake; treated like a prisoner. {Lee acts surprised} Joseph H. Lee has promised to raise $500 for Bishop by 1 December.

I am an innocent man & you know it too my dear Emma you well remember when Charly Hopkins ran to Harmony before daylight in the morning & begged me not to keep back any longer but to come out & expose the leaders & clear myself & that he would testify to my innocence   you well remember my reply; that it was too late now, he should have listened to me in the beginning   if we now hang let us all hang together

John D. Lee to Nate Hansen,{?}
Pioche, 31 October 1876,
John D. Lee Collection, Huntington Library.

Dear Sir:-- By request of Col. Nelson I write you these few lines, upon a subject that you & I & Idaho Bill had in contemplation which is the capture of the 3 prisoners known to you & at that time I[daho] Bill was alowed bail & we supposed he would get out all right but causes unknown to me at least the Tables were turned against him instead of going on that business he was brought here & lodged in the Pen -- {Bill expects bail in ten days or so, but... Col. Nelson} advised me to write to you to take charge of that business   he has confidence in your ability & integrity to be true to your trust. I have enclosed the letter of commendation that I gave Idaho Bill to my son Harvey P. Lee     the plan is understood by you & me -- use dilligence & caution -- Keep matters close & if you succeed you will be liberally rewarded...

John D. Lee to Emma B. Lee,
9 December 1876,
John D. Lee Collection, Huntington Library.

{Marshal Nelson} is glad that Rachel has come, but regrets that all the Journals & records were not brought to the Dell at once, but keep that matter to yourself. It is now likely that a messenger will be sent for them right away.... Lehi took the leaves which contained writing and tore them loose from the backs of the record because he could not pack it a horse back   Emma said it was not all there and that you would be vext when you seen it   Lehi said he took all the writing there was in the book when he looked he thought there was some gone but he dident know for sertain nbsp; you will know when you see it   seems like some is gon to me but that is all there is now or [try]   it may be all you can judge for your self we have don the best we new how and what we have we don   we have kept it on the sly no one but our own at this place no writing about books so when you write to me Again dont say anything about Lehi getting the books if you want it kept on the sly/to ourselves.

{Same sheet: Idaho Bill’s Dream, February 1877, and JDL’s interpretation -- not transcribed}

Note 1: It appears that John D. Lee first encountered "Idaho Bill" when Lee was moved to the Utah Territoral Prison at Sugar House (Salt Lake City), where "Bill" was already incarcerated. It is possible that "Bill" had prior encounters with the Lee family however, as he appears to have been an associate of Lee's son Eli. At any rate, "Bill" quickly learned all that he needed to know, in order to adopt the persona of "Charley Thatcher," a purported survivor of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre and 1857-58 ward of John D. Lee. Lee's actual ward from that event was Christopher "Kit" Fancher, who died in Arkansas in 1873.

Note 2: From the sketchy historical information available for consultation, it is impossible at this late date for anyone to know for certain that John D. Lee truly believed William Sloan's jailhouse imposition. Quite likely it did not matter to Lee whether "Idaho Bill" was telling the truth or not. The sudden appearance of a purported massacre victim/survivor who was on friendly terms with Lee was a public relations asset -- and one that might somehow delay or nullify Lee's execution order, if he could supply special evidence and/or aid in the capture of other massacre participants. In the end, "Idaho Bill" was of no practical use to Lee; nor did his massacre survivor pretensions do much to help out his own situation. "Bill" eventually abandoned the "Charley Thatcher" ruse and opted for the more direct expedient of a jail break.



Whole No. 14,878                           New York City,  Thursday, May 17, 1877.                           No. ?

"Idaho Bill," one of the Captive
Children, Tells His Tale.




SALT LAKE CITY, May 8, 1877.    
The smoke of the sacrifice at Mountain Meadows, which has long hung like a pall over Southern Utah, is gathering about the roof of the Lion House at Salt Lake City. Written proof that Brigham Young directed the massacre to be committed is not so readily obtained as testimony that he was an accessory after the fact. The statements which I transmit to you in this letter, ew and startling as some of them are, must be received with a great many grains of allowance for the fluency and the reputation of the witnesses.


Gilman, whose notoriety outside Utah consusts in his recent discredited affidavit against District Attorney Howard and Marshal Nelson, has again visited me and given the following version of what he alleges Lee read from manuscript and said to him at the Utah Penitentiary: --
"Mr. Dame," said Lee, "had his orders from Brigham Young to put all the emigrants to death except the small children, who wouldn't be able to testify or do anything about it." Lee added that Dame told him that if ever he should be pushed he would produce Brigham Young's letter, and that Mrs. Haight had also assured him (Lee) that if her husband should be arrested and brought to trial she would expose a paper in her possession showing who ordered the massacre.


I will say this in conclusion -- all that I am permitted to say at present -- that this statement trenches close upon some facts which have lately come to the knowledge of the federal authorities.

"Why," reads Lee's suppressed manuscript, according to Gilman, "why was I so favored by Brigham Young after the massacre if he did not, as he assured me he did, approve of it? He assured me solemnly that I had spilt no innocent blood. He gave me three wives. I sat with him in the pulpit frequently, at Beaver, and he continued to treat me affectionately, addressing me always as 'Brother Lee!' He habitually stopped at my house. He made me Probate Judge of Washington county. He promised me during my trial that I should be saved. He told Rachel at Beaver to urge me to 'stand firm and not a hair of my head should be harmed!' He went so far at one time as to say that if I wanted to I could be my own jailer. If I am to die now it will be for two reasons -- first, because my papers, including some which directly implicate Brigham Young in the direction of the massacre, were stolen from my place at Lonely Dell ferry (a remote habitation in Arizona at the junction of the Pahreah and Colorado rivers. -- Ed. Herald), and, next, because Brigham Young will, at the last moment, prove false to every promise he has made me. He not only dictated the destruction of the Arkansas emigrant train, but shared in the plunder. Among other things a carriage belonging to that train was taken to Salt Lake City, and was in his possession for years."

I now come to the statement made at the Penitentiary yesterday afternoon by a convict called "Idaho Bill," who is reputed to be as freakish and slippery a scamp as there is in all this Western region. The claim that he was one of the seventeen juvenile survivors of the Mountain Meadows Massacre has been repeatedly disputed and impeached, yet he sticks to it with extraordinary pertinacity; and his story to me, which I have submitted to the United States District Attorney and one or two others who have kept some account of Idaho Bill's career is much longer, more specific and contains a greater number of forward allegations than any he ever told before.


In prison attire and unshaven Idaho Bill conducted me, by permission of United States Marshal Nelson, into a private room, and thus began his narrative: --
"I was one of the children saved from the Mountain Meadows Massacre. My father and mother, named Thatcher -- not Fancher nor Francher, as Lee got it and as they've got it in the newspapers -- lived in Kansas City, Mo., just across the Missouri River from Kansas. So did the Huffs and the Burroughs family, who belonged to the train. The rest of the families who made up the train were mostly from Arkansas. They left there in 1856, came to Kansas and stayed until 1857, when the train was fitted up and started for the West. The permanent outfits of all the families were bought in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, Lawrence, Topeka, and one or two other places, and, I believe, the animals, waggons and other necessaries for the train were mostly purchased in Kansas, too. I was then a boy of from seven to seven and a half years. I don't recollect much, except a few unimportant incidents about the journey to Utah, but the recollection of the massacre -- what occurred just before it and for a long while afterward -- is as clear as a bell, for several reasons. We were all in a fight for a good many days before the killing, and after it was over I heard it talked about, time and again, as I will explain to you."


I suggested here to Idaho Bill that he begin at the time of the first attack on the train, at Mountain Meadows and describe everything which occurred then and afterward, carefully, and without exaggeration
"Very well," said he. "When the Indians under John D. Lee began to attack father's train he ordered the wagons to be made into a V-shaped corral. From this corral the emigrants defended themselves. Two days after the attack began I (my name was Charley Thatcher, you must remember) and another little boy named Huff were sent out to see Lee and ask him to get the Indians to draw off. We were among the youngest children, but we were both considered pretty bright, and father took the risk of sending us because he thought we would deliver the message correctly and that even the savages would not kill such little fellows as we were. We saw Lee. He told us to go back, saying 'the Indians were mad, and he could do nothing with them.' The next night was the third since we had gone into the corral. A young Kentuckian named Aden, about twenty-two years old, and a German named Huff (a big brother of the little boy that I went out with) started after dark for Cedar City to procure assistance. Aden was killed -- by Joseph White and Stewart, as it afterwards turned out -- and the German, Huff, was wounded by another white man, but got back into the corral early next day. When the fifth day came we hoisted a flag of truce; it was stuck upon a knoll, and stood there two days afterwards. Nobody outside paid any attention to it at first; they kept shooting at us all the time. On the seventh day, however, a flag of truce came towards the corral; it was carried by a man named Bateman, although John D. Lee (whom neither father nor anybody else inside the corral knew up to that time by his real name) walked in advance and was evidently the spokesman. Father went toward Lee and met him, and Lee sat down on a wagon tongue and began to talk. Lee said, 'I want you to surrender up your arms, and pile them and your children into some wagons I have here, then we'll have some chance of seeing you safe to Cedar City. This is the only way we can handle the Indians.' Father said, 'It's hard to trust you. Why did you kill my man Aden and wound Huff? It seems as if you want to kill us all.'"

"Lee answered, 'That was done by some outlaws or others, with the Indians. It wasn't authorized; I didn't know anything about it.'"


"After some further talk, father submitted aud surrendered. The next few minutes were about the saddest I ever knew. We were just then burying a woman who had died from a gunshot wound inside the corral. By father's direction some of the men got all the rifles together and put them into one wagon. Into the same wagon the five wounded men that were with us were also lifted. The women were going around collecting the children. In the meantime, the assassins outside got impatient, and a man came into the corral from Higbee, crying out, 'Hurry up, Brother Lee, hurry! The Indians are mad, and so is Haight.' Finally all us children were got together. I was standing close to my mother when father turned to Lee and said, 'Let me kiss my wife and my little children.'"


"Lee answered, 'Be quick, then.' Father kissed grandmother first, then mother, then me, then my little sister Mary. After that mother said to Lee. 'For Heaven's sake, Mister, whoever you are -- I don't know your name -- save my children, for I know we are all going to be killed.'"

"Lee was very much flustered at this, but he told mother, as we were going out into the waggon, 'The children shall be saved if I die. But I tell you honestly that as to the rest it's doubtful.'"


"We children now got into the second wagon, behind the one which contained the arms and wounded, and were immediately driven away. Lee walked on foot in front of us, behind the first wagon. Another white man named Joel White, and another named Jacob Hamblin, walked along near the two wagons. The driver of the front wagon was named McKnight or Knight; the driver of our wagon was a man named McMurdy. We got a little over a hundred yards from the corral when the firing commenced. I saw Lee with a smoking pistol, but don't know who he hit. I saw Joel White strike a man in the front wagon, and he and Jacob Hamblin went in and murdered the wounded. While this was going on the Indians came up to our wagon, the children's wagon, and began hauling us out. One got me by the hair of the head, and drew me across the edge of the box so that it cut a big piece out of my chin; you can see the scar here yet."

"And now I must say that Lee saved us little folks as he promised to; he came up and ordered the Indians off, and stood in front of us, so that none of us were badly hurt, only bruised and cut a little. But the wounded in the front wagon had been done for in about half a minute, and the white men and Indians started back toward the emigrants, where there was a good deal of shooting going on. I couldn't see much of that, and I only recollect one thing -- I saw my father on a knoll, with his hat off, running up toward our wagons. I suppose that was just before he was killed, for the teams went on, and when I looked around again I didn't see him."


"Was that all you saw of the massacre?"

"That is all I recollect about what happened at the Meadows. We were driven on until we got to Hamblin's ranch, where we stayed that night. There wasn't much spare room, and during the night pretty nearly all the white men who participated in the massaxre dropped in. Among them were old Billy Young and William H. Dame. I hadn't seen Dame until that night, but I believe he had just come from the ground where the butchery took place."

(Idaho Bill's recollection is here probably at fault. Although the charge that Dame was one of the chief, if not the chief, Mormon Church dignitaries in southern Utah who authorized the destruction of the emigrants is strongly supported, no direct proof has been adduced that he was present at the butchery. -- Ed. Herald.)


"Next day the children were taken to Cedar City. They were distributed from there around in various places. I stayed there one day and was sent by old Billy Young to John D. Lee's house at Harmony. There I was left with Caroline, Lee's second wife, who took a great liking to me; and, indeed, she was one of the kindest women I ever knew. From the time when I arrived at the house she treated me as she might have treated her own son, and took the utmost care lest I should say something which might endanger my life. She had me sleep with her always, except when Lee came to the house after having taken his turn with his other wives, then I used to sleep in a little bed on the floor. When I was with her alone Mrs. Lee used to charge me, 'Now, Charlie, remember to always say the Indians killed your folks. Say this whenever you are asked by anybody and everybody. Don't ever speak of white people -- don't ever say any white men did the shooting. Remember this Charlie, for if you ever let on it was white folks, they will kill you."

"She used to drum into my ears so that I learned it, as I learned many other things that she told me, by heart. About six weeks after I went to live with Mrs. Lee, the two drivers, Knight and McMurdy, came to Lee's house. They called him out of the door and talked to him a little while, and by and by one of them came to the door and called for me. McKnight or McMurdy, I forget which, commenced at me and wanted me to tell him who killed the emigrants. Of course I told him the Indians did, just as Mes. Lee had taught me to say. This didn't seem to suit them; they told Lee he oughtn't to keeo me; that I was older than he thought I was, and that I knew altogether too much.One of them said that 'there ought to be something done with me,' I don't know what would have happened if Mrs. Lee, who was inside the door and got wind of what they were saying, hadn't come out and told them it was all nonsense; that I was young, and didn't know anything they thought I knew. From all that I have learned of the Mormons since, I am perfectly certain that her intercession at that moment saved my life."


"About two months afterward another set of visitors came to Lee's house. There were three of them this time -- Stewart, Haight and Higbee. Lee and Stewart quarrelled; they both pulled their six-shooters and were going to kill each other. It was all about the division of the Mountain Meadows cattle. The women -- Caroline and Rachel (Lee's wives) and Mrs. Stewart, who was there at the time -- stopped it and made them put up their pistols.


"I will tell you now," said Idaho Bill, or Charley Thatcher, "why I know more about what I suppose you want to find out than John D. Lee himself. One of the twelve apostles, Amasa Lyman, who apostatized several years ago, and who, I have heard, was never very strong in the faith, came on a strange errand to the house about a month before I left it in the spring of 1858.It was about eleven o'clock in the forenoon when he walked through the front door into the room where John D. Lee was sitting. Mrs. Lee and I were in the next room -- the bedroom -- and the door was open between. Apostle Lyman said -- 'Brother Lee, I've been sent to you to see what papers you have got in regard to this Mountain Meadows affair. I've been sent to look into them and counsel with you, and I will advise you to do nothing but what is right.'"

"Lee at first stood him off, but after they talked awhile he went and got some papers and handed them to Lyman. All this time Mrs. Lee had been listening and fidgeting. When she saw Lee hand the letters to Lyman she pulled me up to her and said, in a whisper, 'Charley, now you slip out of here and be a-fooling around Mr. Lee; hang on to his leg, or keep close to him some way, and find out every word that's in them letters and come and tell me.'"


"Pretty soon Lee and Lyman went out the door and sat down on a cane-bottomed seat on the stoop. I did as Mrs.Lee told me, and hung around Lee and heard him while he read a letter. There were two letters, one of which Lee read aloud; the other he handed afterward to Lyman, who read it to himself, and quietly passed it back after he had finished it. I give you from memory the letter that Lee read aloud; but I don't want you to suppose that I recollect it wholly from hearing it at that time. Oh, no! I've got a copy of the letter, which was afterward written out by Caroline Lee, and I long ago learned it by heart: --

Salt Lake City, August 15, 1857.    
Brother Lee: --
    Allow no emigrants whatever to pass you or through the country, and allow no one around your Indians who is not a Mormon (This is a word which neither Brigham Young nor any other Mormon would be likely to use. -- Ed. Herald), for trouble is expected. A plenty of emigrants are coming. Feed none and sell nothing. If they cannot live on they have got we can.   BRIGHAM YOUNG.

"Lyman, after he got through with the two letters, sat still a moment and said, as nearly as I can recollect, 'Brother, Lee, I think it won't do as I've been ordered by President Young. It's a bad affair that has happened to the Church; it's bad for you, and some day I expect you'll have to answer for it even though Brigham Young is at the root of all the evil. I'll not take these letters; you had better save them. Some day they may help you out. At present, Brother Lee, Brigham Young is trying to screen himself.'"

Idaho Bill here seemed disposed to rest from his narrative. He gradually adopted the demeanor of a turtle, anxious to withdraw itself into its shell. To various interrogatories he responded in monosyllables, regarding the ceiling with an unsteady eye. I was for some moments at fault, but at last aroused him with a question which shot home.

"Haven't you got anything more valuable to say, Bill, than all this fol-de-rol?"

The convict blushed to his hair and responded, indignantly, "I've treated you well, sir; I've told you the story you asked me to tell, and every word of it, as far as I can recollect, is God's truth."

"Very well. But is it possible that such a smart boy as you were and such a man as you have been in this Territory for a good many years past, never got hold of anything more important in the shape of documentary evidence than what you have described?"

"It seems to me," replied Idaho Bill, wriggling in his seat, "that that letter from Brigham Young is pretty d___d important."

"Not at all. It is only a copy. Have you got the original?"

"Well, no; that's so," answered Bill, gruesomely.


"Has Mrs. Lee got it?"

"I don't believe she has. But," said Idaho Bill, after a pause, stretching out his hand stained with stove blacking, and laying it impressively upon my knee, "there's another letter that I have never shown to any living man."

With some difficulty I drew from this strange informant a disclosure which on its face appears totally apochryphal, but which if founded in truth would change the destiny of the Territory of Utah within a very brief space.
"Caroline Lee," he testified, "gave me on the night I left her house to go East, this letter from Brigham Young to John D. Lee. It was received by Lee late in the fall, or early in the winter after the massacre, about a month after Lee returned from his visit to Salt Lake City, where he went to report the circumstances to Brigham Young. When Mrs. Lee gave me this letter she spoke to me in this way. Said she, 'Charley, here's another letter I've got for you to keep. This is the most important of all. When you get older you'll know more about the meaning of it. It tells you who were the men who killed your folks. Some time it may be of great use to you. Hang on to it, Charlie; never let anybody take it away from you, not even when you undress tourself,' and so on."


Here is the letter:
Salt Lake City, (Date not recollected    
exactly, but as intimated above.    )    
Brother John D. Lee: --
I have written Washington and got my answer. It is favorable. Now, Brother Lee, shoulder none of this on me. All the orders I have given you and my sounsel about the massacres that you have been done and will be done, keep to yourself forever. And the written letters you have from me, destroy them if you have not already done so. It is necessary that everything shall come on your own shoulders, for Haight and Dame and Higbee and Bishop Smith have no nerve. You will thus merit a high position in the Church and a celestial crown in the next world, and you shall have them. Fetch as many wives as you want and I will seal them to you. All the laws, Brother Lee, that exist between heaven and hell can and shall never touch you if my name is kept in the background so that I can work for you. I repeat that Dame, Haight, Higbee, Stewart and Bishop Smith have not the nerve to stand by anything; that I have found out positively. Joseph Smith always said you were the only true man of the lot. Do as I tell you, Brother Lee. I hear that next winter you will be in the Legislature. BRIGHAM YOUNG.

Waving comment on this letter for a moment, I requested Idaho Bill to go on and tell what he knew about himself and the other children after he left Harmony and started East.


"I left Caroline Lee's house," said he, "in the spring of 1858 with, I think, about four or five other children. As we proceeded little squads of children joined us from time to time. I don't know where they came from. Dr. Forney was in charge of all. The only other man I recollect who was with us was named Thomas Willis, who piloted us after we left Spanish Fork. We moved out from there into Uintah Valley, toward the east. The first place we stopped was at La Porte, on the chache La Porte, in Colorado. There was no town there then -- only a trading post."

"Do you recollect what children were with you then?"

"I don't remember all of them. I was so young, and it was such a long time ago; but I can tell you the names of some. When we got to La Porte we had three sick children, two named Huff, daughters of widow Huff, who had her throat cut at Mountain Meadows, and one named Morton. The prettiest Huff girl is now living in Ossawatami, Miami county, Kan., and I tell you sir, that, as little as I was then, I've always since had the notion that she was just as pretty a child as ever stood in shoes. The children's names I recollect were these: --
"Mary Thatcher, my sister, three and a half years.

"The Huff children, a boy four and a girl about two and a half years.
"Charles Burroughs, three years, from Olathe, Johnson county, Kan.
"William Morgan, two and a half years, Kansas City.
"William Cooper, one and a half years, and
"Joseph Cooper, about three years, Lawrence, Kan."


"There were plenty of others that I didn't get acquainted with. It was a pretty hard kind of trip, and I, for one, was glad to get through with it. At Kansas City Dr. Forney apprenticed me at first to a man named Sloan. There, about six months afterward, I was heard of and taken charge of by my uncle, Mr. Whittinger. I stayed with him from the winter of 1859 to the spring of 1861. I went into the service in the latter year under an old friend of my father, who is now in Congress, Billy Williams. He was sent to Washington from the northern part of Indiana. As for me, I stayed in the army through three enlistments. I was discharged in 1865. In that year I came west to Utah, enticed by promises of some $3,000 to $10,000 which Robert Hawley, of Kansas City, told me I could get to establish myself in business in Salt Lake City. I was given to understand that this money would be furnished by the Mormons as a kind of set-off for the murder of my people. I got nothing from the Mormons, of course, and had to leave the country mighty quick to save my life. They thought, I suppose, that I knew too much. I went to Montana in the spring of 1866, and earned some money that year. In the spring of 1867 I returned to Utah for revenge. That has been my object in Utah ever since, and people down in Southern Utah know it."

"You mean by revenge, I suppose, that you wanted to punish the men who killed your people?"

"That's exactly it. First I hunted Lee up at Old Harmony; I was old enough then to look him in the eyes without getting up on a footstool. He accompanied me to Panguitch, where I met Stewart, Haight, Higbee and a stranger. I applied to them -- I remember it was on a day when Dame was present -- for stock and money that rightfully belonged to my father at the time of the massacre, and which, or its equivalent, I wanted. I couldn't get the least satisfaction, and for four years I tried to get even with them in another way. I worked part of the time and hunted them the rest of the time. Once I got very near them. I found their camp in the mountains where they were scouting and keeping away from the officers, only three or four hours after they had left. But I never could get a fair sight of them. This lasted until 1871, when I went to Montana, worked the whole summer there and came back again to southern Utah. I left Utah again in 1872, for Idaho; returned in the winter of 1872-3, and spent nearly the whole of that winter hunting after those Mountain Meadows fiends. I met Lee toward spring, and was stood off by a promise from him that if I would stay out of the Territory, make no fuss and say nothing I should have $12,000, which they would raise and pay over to me at certain times during the next year. Of course I never got a cent; they never fulfilled any of their promises. I was out of money and had to let them rest until a year ago last New Year's, 1876. Then I started after them again, and got into this trouble about the treasure-box on the stage."

(The "trouble" which Idaho Bill so modestly alludes to was the result of the robbery of a stage station, of which he was convicted at the same term of the court with John D. Lee, and for which he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. -- Ed. Herald.)


I now returned to the story which Idaho Bill had told me in regard to the estraordinary letters from Brigham Young, and gave him, one after the other, the following nuts to crack: -- "(1) Will you swear that you heard Amasa Lyman read the letter dated August 15, 1857, and that you have a correct copy of it so far as the sense and meaning of it go? (2) Will you swear to what you have told me in regard to Mrs. Lee's giving you the original letter from Brigham Young to Lee written after the massacre? (3) Will you swear to the statement you have made in regard to your preservation of that letter from your childhood? (4) Are you able to swear that you have given me from memory an accurate transcript of that letter? (5) Can you swear that the letter is actually in Brigham Young's handwriting? (6) Do you swear that you know the present whereabouts of the letter? (7) Can you produce the letter? and (8) will you produce it to me or to Mr. Howard, United States District Attorney if, on its proof to be genuine, you obtain the promise of your liberty?"

To those questions Idaho Bill gave prompt and definite answers, taking his solemn oath in the affirmative, except when he qualified it by saying that "perhaps he hadn't got every word in the letters exactly straight, but the meaning and almost every sentence he was sure wouldn't be altered to amount to anything if the copies of the letters which I read over to him were compared with the originals." When I called his attention anew to the improbable tale that Brigham Young had so committed himself in writing that Caroline, Lee's wife, had intrusted him, a mere child, with a document which common sense must have assured her might be necessary for the protection of her husband's life, and that she, who was on good terms with her husband up to the time of his execution, omitted to come forward and cite such a letter in his behalf. When I called to his attention these discrepancies and also the fact that neither Lee himself nor his favorite wife, Rachel, who was with him to the last and who must have been informed by Lee of such letters if they were ever written, offered to produce copies of them or asserted them in his defence, Idaho Bill squared himself and entered upon this explanation: --


"Don't you see," he said, "that Lee had lost these letters and had no show? Don't you see that Caroline Lee had parted with the principal letter written by Brigham Young to me, and could not produce it; and don't you see, further, that Rachael probably never saw the letter, and that if she did her statement about it wouldn't have been worth anything in court? What would have been the use of Lee or Rachel or Caroline or anybody else going into court and swearing to such letters if they couldn't show them? Lee supposed these letters were stolen with the rest of his papers years ago from his house at Lonely Dell Ferry. Why, I suppose Lee told me fifty times while we were in prison at Beaver together that if he could only get hold of a letter that Brigham Young wrote him he could snap his fingers at them all. Just to tantalize him I told him about the Brigham Young letter that I have in my possession. I didn't tell him rxactly that I had the letter, I just told him enough of it to let him know that I understood what it was. He said to me, 'Bill, you know a good deal more than I thought you dis,' and from that time he commenced to make up to me and tried to find out all I knew. He promised that if I would assist him when he wanted me to with my testimony he would see that I got out of prison all safe. But I never gave my full confidence to John D. Lee, damn him, I wanted him to die. Notwithstanding his belief that he would get off I never took any stock in it. I was convinced that he was a dead man, sure. He thought to the very last that Brigham Young would save him.Just here lies the final answer to your question why these letters I have got were not alluded to by Lee or his wives in his defence, and why Lee didn't call on me to help him by testifying to what I knew about Brigham Young. He had given up all hope through everybody but Brigham Young. Brigham Young, you remember (or, if you don't, I can tell you), had sent him word, some years before he was arrested, to keep quiet and he would protect him. He had also said to Rachel, in Beaver, 'that if John would stand firm not a hair of his head should be harmed.' The very morning when he left the Penitentiary here and started toward the place of his execution he said to me, 'Bill, I'll be a free man in less than twenty days. They're making a big thing of it; they're going to have quite a show. They're going to take me through a narrow passage, and then they're going to make me sit down on my coffin. It'll be a big scare, Bill, but at the last minute it'll be our way.'"

"Why," exclaimed Idaho Bill afresh, "Lee expected Brigham Young would save him, even after the handkerchief was put over his eyes. He had said to me more than once that Brigham would put up $100,000 or even $200,000 to prevent his death. If Lee had raised the handkerchief from his eyes at the last moment and seen the muzzles of those guns he'd have squawked, by God! Even Rachel, who left here the morning after Lee did, was as confident as he was.I asked her, just as I was saying goodbye to her, whether she believed that the head men of the Church would stick by him, and she replied, 'Yes, Bill, they will. When I was downstairs, day before yesterday, Bishop Hunter said to me, "Sister Rachel, keep your own sounsel and tell Brother Lee to keep his. No harm shall come to him."'"


"I'll go now," continued Bill, "to tell you why I never made use of this letter you think so much of, for my own sake. In the first place -- you can believe it or not -- I got that letter under such circumstances, and I've carried it so many years, that I've held it kind o' sacred. I never thought of using it until the time of my trial, when my counsel down at Beaver asked me one day if I had any papers relating to any of the Mormons in connection with the Mountain Meadows massacre? I told him I had. He didn't ask me the particulars about them; he only said, 'You'd better save them up and take good care not to lose them.' Next, as I've told you, I didn't use the letter in connection with Lee because I didn't believe he could do me any good, as he promised to, and because I knew he was guilty and ought to be executed."

"To tell you the truth, I didn't have much of an opinion of Howard for a good long while. This wasn't for the reason that he helped to get me into this scrape, although I'm as innocent as you are of what they sent me here for; it was because I thought he was dealing too gently with John D. Lee. Lee had all sorts of privileges here; he could go down town without irons, while I was taken out in handcuffs, and for two weeks they kept me back here in a cage. No, sir, I didn't go much on Howard until I heard that John D. Lee was shot. Then I got a new opinion of him and Nelson. Still, he never seemed to take much interest in inquiring about what I knew or whether I knew anything or not. I did send him a short written statement once about the massacre, but I never heard anything from it and suppose he didn't think it was of much account. You are the only man, Mr. [Stillson], that knows anything about this last letter that I have got in Brigham Young's own handwriting."


"Where is that letter, Bill? Is it within reach, where I can be permitted to see it and satisfy myself that you are not mistaken and that it is not a forgery?"

"It is in Southern Utah. Of course you won't ask me to say exactly where it is until I can understand what good it will do me. I'm in here for ten years, and that letter is the only thing, by God! that I've got to help me in all this world. I've got to take care of myself, and I ain't sure which side I might do the best with."

Just before I bade adieu to Idaho Bill he said: -- "I'll tell you another little thing that you put into the paper if you want to. A year or two ago, when I was down south, I used to run about New Year's with one of Haight's daughters named Ella. She was about sixteen or seventeen years old. Once, when we got to talking about Mountain Meadows, she said to me, 'Bill, if ever pa gets snubbed they'll see some letters that he's got that'll show up Brigham Young mighty quick.'"

Note: See also the 1877 Wm. Sloan letter and the 1877 J. D. Lee letter, which accompanied the above article in the New York Herald of May 17, 1877.



Volume XXIV, Number 1 (November, 1960)

Crusade  against  Theocracy:
The Reminiscences of Judge Jacob Smith Boreman
of Utah, 1872-1877

Edited by
Leonard J. Arrington

"Reminiscences of My Life in Utah on and off the Bench"...These reminiscences are on 106 leaves, 8 vols., in the handwriting of Judge Boreman and appear to have been written from diary notes and other memoranda about the year 1895...

criminals outside of the Territory & brought back. They feared that if they made any appropriation that could be so used, then Mormon friends who were fleeing from justice & charged with murder at Mountain Meadows would be arrested and brought to court. Some of these men thus charged, namely, William C. Stewart, Isaac C. Haight, and John M. Higbee, were often heard of & much of the time they were in Arizona & could have been arrested.

I once spoke to Charles Devens, attorney general of the US [1877-1881], when I was on a visit to Washington, D. C, and asked him to do what he could to get money from the general government to arrest these men and he informed me that he would do so & would communicate with Marshal Michael S. Lamasy on the subject & that the Marshal would confer with me. [27]

Nothing ever came of this as I never heard of any such matter coming to the US Marshal. Besides the men whom I had sent to the penitentiary as above stated, & the three men charged with murder at Mountain Meadows, there were other criminals who had escaped from imprisonment in Utah & who were in Arizona or in Nevada & could be arrested, but as I stated there was no money appropriated by the Territory to pay any one to arrest any of these men.

Two of these criminals were from the 2d District & had escaped from jail in Beaver City -- one was called "Idaho Bill" (his proper name I do not recall) and the other Ben Zasker [sic - Tasker] -- the latter (Zasker) was a noted horse-thief and was convicted of murder in 2d District & was awaiting sentence. He was no doubt helped away, but who did the helping was never known. Zasker lived at Tombstone in Arizona. "Idaho Bill" had secured a way out of the small jail in Beaver & then set fire to it & ran away by the light of the burning. [Here Boreman makes a note to himself to check his penciled reminiscences.] On Wednesday July 2d [[1879]] I had a novel experience. For the first time in my life I was requested to perform a marriage ceremony. I looked up the Territorial Statutes in order to ascertain whether I had the necessary...

27 On Jan. 7, 1879, Boreman wrote Devens that Haight, Stewart, and Higbee had successfully evaded capture for four years largely through the aid and protection of southern Utah Mormon settlers. Boreman proposed (1) that the attorney general's office take matters in hand by offering a $500 reward for the arrest of each man, (2) that the U. S. marshal appoint one man to undertake the arrests, (3) that this one person be empowered to employ six to eight agents, including secret agents, familiar with the land and the people, to assist him, (4) that the actual expenses of all such men be paid, whether or not they were successful in making the arrests, and (5) that the whole matter of the reward and the employment of agents be kept secret in order to prevent a tip-off. Boreman recommended William Stokes, the deputy U. S. marshal who had arrested John D. Lee, as the best man to undertake the arrests. Boreman to. Devens, Jan. 7, Nov. 20, 1879, Huntington Library, MSS. HM 16924 and HM I6925. Devens replied to Boreman on Dec. 15, 1879 (HM 16931), that he had written the marshal in Salt Lake City authorizing him to offer the $500 reward and attempt to. "bring the guilty to justice' The arrests were never made. None of the accused men. -- Higbee, et al. -- was ever apprehended. Some went to southern Colorado and southern Arizona; others returned eventually in their old age to Utah.

Note 1: Judge Boreman was mistaken, in thinking back to the year 1879 and recalling a convict named "Zasker" who "had escaped from jail in Beaver City" along with "Idaho Bill." The criminal's actual name was Benjamin Tasker, who, in Ben Tasker, Southern Utah, 1870s is described as "a notorious cattle rustler in Southern Utah in the 1870s and 1880s." -- From Eunice Cropper and Edna Taylor's "History of the Life of William Pulsipher," comes some additional information: "...Washington County ranchers believe that much of the rustling was conducted by a group of renegades living at Desert Springs in Iron County, a stage stopover between Silver Reef and Pioche, Nevada. The leaders of the group, Ben Tasker, Idaho Bill, and Black Jack Ketchum were elusive criminals who had been arrested several times, but were always released for lack of evidence..." -- Their periodic "releases" might better be termed, "breaking-jail."

Note 2: "Desert Spring(s)" was a stagecoach stop at the southeastern foot of Iron County's Mt. Elenore, at a site about three miles northwest of the later village of Modena. "Idaho Bill" apparently became associated with the Tasker bunch there in the early 1870s, in the gang's cattle rustling operations, and later graduated to stage hold-ups. -- (see Lyon & Williams' 1995 Great & Peculiar Beauty: A Utah Reader and James H. Beckstead's 1991 Cowboying: a Tough Job in a Hard Land.

Note 3: In the Wild West magazine's on-line article on "Wells Fargo Guard Eugene Blair," the following is recorded: "On occasion, Blair guarded a prisoner instead of a strongbox. In February 1876, he escorted desperado Richard [sic - William] "Idaho Bill" Sloan from Pioche to Salt Lake City. Bill and his gang had taken over the stage station at Desert Springs the month prior, causing all sorts of mayhem, and had eventually been arrested in Pioche, strutting around the streets like a walking arsenal. An acquaintance of Blair's recalled the incident: 'Bill was a desperado and a dangerous one... but at Pioche, Nev., he submitted to arrest as peacefully as a lamb when Eugene Blair came for him.... The prisoner was handcuffed, of course, and Blair sat beside him in the coach. It was generally thought that Bill's friends would try to rescue him somewhere on the road, which led him [Blair] to say to him: Bill, I've heard that your friends are going to get you away from me between here and Carson if they can. Likely enough they will, but it's fair to tell you that it'll never do you any good, for I shall shoot you dead at the first break they make. It's as well to have the matter understood between us.'" -- see also: Chris Penn's "Eugene Blair: A Terror to Road Agents," in Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, (July–Sept., 2006) and R. Michael Wilson's 2007 Encyclopedia of Stagecoach Robbery in Nevada.

Note 4: In Vol 6 (pp. 338-339) of Kate Carter's Heart Throbs of the West, Under the title "Rugged Men of the West: Two Pioneer Mail Carriers," is the following: "Benjamin Amos McBride... was one of the first riders on a line carrying mail and passengers from Beaver, Utah, to Pioche, Nevada, and return. Frequently he had little rest for several days.... One night, at the Desert Springs stagecoach station, he met two notorious desperadoes, Idaho Bill and California Johnny. They were very drunk, and when the driver went to care for his horses Idaho Bill took the "treasure box" out of the coach. Ben had no trouble from the two. He said, 'They were after gold bullion, not mail.' -- One time at Desert Springs, Ben awakened early to discover that his clothes were missing. But when the stage returned, his clothes were given to him with a note from Idaho Bill, which read, 'I didn't want your clothes, only for the warmth they could give me for a little while.'"


(1877 Sumner Howard Letters)

United States Attorney's Office,    
Salt Lake City, February 12, 1877"    
Hon. [Alphonso Taft]
Attorney General Washington D.C.
    In pursuing the investigation of the Mountain Meadow Massacre, beyond the conviction of John D. Lee, I have found a witness, one Charles Francher, alias Idaho Bill, alias Richard Sloan, whom I have recently convicted of robbery, and who is now serving his sentence of imprisonment in the Utah Penitentiary, whose identity [---] have been one of the children saved from the massacres. The story he tells, if I can find corroboration of the same, will be of great service to me. In one of the years 1858, or 1860, Dr. Forney, as Special Agent of the War department, came to this Territory, to gather up the children of the murdered emigrants, from the Mormons, who had adopted them, and returned with Dr Forney and in which a boy "Charles Francher" is mentioned. Probably the Charles Fancher referred to by the District [Attorney?]

    As Dr. Forney was superintendent of Indian Affairs for Utah, the Indian Bureau may be able to furnish some information as to his reports of the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
Very respectfully,    
Your obedient servant    
[Sumner Howard]    

[date and place missing]    
The Honorable [Alphonso Taft]
The Attorney General. Secretary of War.

Report 1013. Reports from Dr. Forney about Mountain Meadow massacre and the recovery of the surviving children of the murdered Arkansas emigrants, forwarded by Col. A. S. Johnston, are here with [enclosed].

Dr. Forney in his letter says that most of the children know their family names, but does not give them in his letter.

As Dr. Forney was Supt. of Indian Affairs for Utah as some correspondence must have passed between him and the Interior Dept. -- it is presumed that the [Superintendent?] of Indian Affairs can give some information also about Dr. Forney's reports.

The report of Capt. J. H. Carleton gives the name of the children in which one "Charles Francher" is mentioned.

Source: Anna Jean Backus' 2004 Mountain Meadows Witness, p.. 262-63, quoting transcriptions of Howard's letters preserved in the U.S. National Archives.


(1877 William Sloan Letter
to Sumner Howard)

February 16, 1877.    
"The Train split up at Union Fort, eleven miles south of Salt Lake City. Father took charge of the train and started to move on to California. The first camp was Lehi; second Provo; third, Springville -- camped there one or two days; fourth, Pondtown; fifth, Salt Creek; sixth, Levan; seventh, Sevier -- there camped a day or two -- eighth, Round Valley; ninth, Cedar Springs; tenth, Fillmore; eleventh, Corn Creek; twelfth, Dry Camp in Dog Valley; thirteenth, Cove Creek; fourteenth, Pine Creek; fifteenth, Indian Creek; sixteenth, Beaver; seventeenth, Buckhorn Springs; eighteenth, Parowan; nineteenth, Cedar City, and bought flour; twentieth, Iron Springs; twenty-first, Antelope Springs; twenty-second, Dry Camp; twenty-third, Mountain Meadows; camped about a hundred yards southeast of the Springs -- were driven into camp by the Indians."

"Camped there six or seven days. The Indians and the Mormons were killing the stock and wounding the emigrants. The flag of truce came and father surrendered, giving up the arms, and then John D. Lee came in and sat down. Father was burying a woman that was shot. The next that came was Higbee. He told Lee that Haight said hurry up. That the Indians were mad and so was he. Then father had the arms put into a wagon, and four wounded men and a boy and girl were put into the same wagon and the children all into another wagon. Then father had the families all fall into ranks, when Higbee ordered the wagons to move out of the corral and the families to follow. When we all got out of the corral the teams went one way and the families went to the right and we to the left. John D. Lee followed behind our wagon, and when we got over a little ridge we heard the firing of guns, and, a few minutes afterward, the Indians and a few Mormons came around us and took the wounded out of the wagon and killed them, but John D. Lee did not kill anybody. He begged them to spare our lives. Jake Hamblin, McMurdy and McKnight took a hand in the killing. Lee cried, saying, 'For God's sake, spare the children.'"

"Then they took us children to Hamblin's rancho and stopped all night. They took us to Cedar the next day, and then Groves took me to Lee's. Caroline Lee took care of me. I was there six months when Hamblin came and took me out and asked me if I knew who killed the whites. I told him that 'the Indians did it,' for Mrs. Lee said for me to tell them so or they would kill me."

"The next who came was Amasa Lyman. He wanted to know of me who killed the emigrants. I told him that the Indians did. He asked John D. Lee to see some letters that he had and Lee showed them to him. Lyman read them and handed them back to Lee, telling him to save them, as some day they would do him some good. Mrs. Lee then called me away, and told me to go back and listen to every word that they said, and to come and tell her. I did so, and heard Lyman say to Lee that some day he and all the rest would have to answer for what they had done; that Brigham was to blame, and so was George A. Smith' that he (Lyman) was sorry for it, and that it would hurt the Church. Then I went to Mrs. Lee and told her what they said. She told me every day that the Mormons killed my father and mother, but I must not tell any one or the Mormons would kill me.If any of the murderers came around she would tell me who they were. Stewart came and quarreled with Lee, and she told me he helped to kill the emigrants."

"Now I want time to straighten myself out, for outsiders will say that it is a play to get out of prison; but it is not so. I am telling the truth. I have got the worst of it ever since I have been arrested. I have had no show to build myself up. They have told Colonel Nelson a thousand lies while I have only told him two. One of them was last spring, at Beaver, and the other was last fall. It was about Fenn when you telegraphed to ______ to know if _____ had been seen down that way."

"The Mormons were glad to hear that I was arrested. Now, I want time to prove up what I say.I am alone here -- without friends, with the exception of one sister. I have not told you half that I can about the Mountain Meadows massacre. Mrs.Lee drilled me to recollect everything. I think I have given you the camps right. I have travelled them often since for the purpose of catching Higbee, for he is the one who killed my father. I tried to get out last fall to get him, but no one would believe me. I will close and trust to you, hoping that you will not be like the rest. Yours, truly,   CHARLES THATCHER."

Source: Jerome B. Stillson's May 8, 1877 telegraphed report from Salt Lake City, entitled "Startling Revelations...," and published in the New York Herald of May 17, 1877.


(1877 John D. Letter
to Sumner Howard?)

[undated - c. Feb.-Mar., 1877]    
The man, known as Idaho Bill, I most positively believe is one of the children who were saved at the Mountain Meadows massacre, and that he is the son of Captain C. Fancher, of the Arkansas company of emigrants. He was about nine or ten years old when I rescued him. The facts are these: -- The Indians attacked the wagon that contained the children at the Meadows; one of them seized this lad by the hair of the head, jerked him down and cut his chin on the wagon box. I took him home; he lived with my wives Rachel and Caroline, and often slept at the foot of the bed with Caroline. This she indulged him in because he was so frightened about the Indians that he would scream out in his sleep. While living with her he cut the big toe of his left foot near the second joint. He was of rather dark complexion, with keen black eyes and black or rather dark brown hair, which was as coarse and straight as an Indian's. One day Jacob Hamblin came and took him him out of the door to talk with him. It was in the evening, and before he went out I told him to say nothing to Hamblin, not to speak of his own father and not to mention the names of any of the company, for if he did somebody would kill him. The night that Dr. Forney took him away he and the other children were put into a tent. After dark he came back to the house and wanted his mother, as he called Caroline, to give Dr. Forney some money to let him stay with us. But that couldn't be done, and he had to go away.

Since that time I had never seen him until he was brought here and put in prison. I went to see him; he shook hands with me and called me 'Uncle John,' just as he did when he lived with me in 1857. I said, 'I have heard of you, but never saw you as I know of.' 'Oh yes, you have, many a time,' said he, with a smile. 'Where,' I asked. 'I will tell you some time," said he. My wife Rachel was present and remarked 'that she had certainly seen him before,' and he responded, 'That's so, Aunt Rachel.' One day he asked me how my wife Caroline got along and how many children she had and how times were with her. Said I, 'Where did you get acquainted with my wife Caroline?' He answered that he had known her a long time ago -- he would not tell me when or where -- but he said he might be of use to me some day; that I had been a father to him and that he hoped some time to show his gratitude. When I went to my trial last May in Beaver he told me he would see me there and tell me all about it. He asked me, particularly, to have Aunt Caroline come there and see him. I got out of prison on bail and went away before he got down to Beaver. I saw him no more until his trial at Beaver last September.

Source: Jerome B. Stillson's May 8, 1877 telegraphed report from Salt Lake City, entitled "Startling Revelations...," and published in the New York Herald of May 17, 1877.

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