THE NEW YORK HERALD.
Whole No. 14,878
New York City, Thursday, May 17, 1877.
"Idaho Bill," one of the Captive
Children, Tells His Tale.
REMARKABLE EVIDENCE OBTAINED BY OUR
SPECIAL SALT LAKE COMMISSIONER.
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.
GARRULOUSNESS IN PRISON.
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.
LOST PAPERS IMPLICATING BRIGHAM.
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.
A BRAND FROM THE BURNING.
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."
THE MURDEROUS SIEGE.
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.'"
A MOTHER'S APPEAL.
"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.)
A DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH.
"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."
A SAINTLY QUARREL.
"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.
AN EMISSARY FROM BRIGHAM.
"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.'"
THE DEATH WARRANT.
"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
"Not at all. It is only a copy. Have you got the original?"
"Well, no; that's so," answered Bill, gruesomely.
A STARTLING REVELATION.
"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
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."
THE PROPHET'S FEAR.
Here is the letter:
Salt Lake City, (Date not recollected
Brother John D. Lee: --
exactly, but as intimated above. )
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.
EXODUS OF THE CAPTIVE CHILDREN.
"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."
SEEKING VENGEANCE IN UTAH.
"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.)
CONFIRMATION BY OATH.
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: --
FAITH IN BRIGHAM.
"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 THE LETTER?
"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.