Date: January 27, 2011 09:03AM
Notwithstanding the fact that Brigham Young was warned by his own brother that Bill Hickman was "a cold blooded murderer," he continued to use him in early Utah to rob and assassinate enemies of the church. Mrs. Hilton informs us on page 62 of her book, that in 1857, "hands were laid on Hickman's head and he was given a blessing by church patriarch, John Young: '...You shall have power over all your enemies, even to set your feet upon their necks, and no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper... If you are faithful you shall assist in avenging the blood of the prophets of God, and assist in accomplishing the great work of the last days...' "
On April 25, 1865, Bill Hickman wrote a letter to Brigham Young in which he confided: "If you want me to do anything, just let me know it.... If you want this or that, or whatever you may think, I will try. Or if you want my life you can have it without a murmer or a groan, just let me know late or early. I will be there, and there will be no tale left behind... I am on hand." (Ibid., p. 113)
Bill Hickman was known to have killed many people in early Utah, yet he seemed to have been shielded from prosecution by the Mormon Church. Orrin Porter Rockwell was another murderer who received protection from the church. Rockwell was one of the first to become a member of the church and soon became one of Joseph Smith's intimate friends. In Missouri, he joined the dreaded Danite band, served as a bodyguard for Joseph Smith, and was initiated into the secret Council of Fifty.
Both Hickman and Rockwell participated in the Aiken massacre. Although this slaughter did not involve as many people as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, it was certainly one of the cruelest deeds the early Mormons ever perpetrated. J. H. Beadle gave the following information concerning this cold-blooded transaction:
"The party consisted of six men... on reaching Kaysville, twenty-five miles north of Salt Lake City, they were all arrested on the charge of being spies for the Government!... The Aikin party had stock, property, and money estimated at $25,000. Nothing being proved against them they were told they should be 'sent out of the Territory by the Southern route.' Four of them started, leaving Buck and one of the unknown men in the city. The party had for an escort, O. P. Rockwell, John Lot, ____ Miles, and one other. When they reached Nephi, one hundred miles south, Rockwell informed the Bishop, Bryant, that his orders were to 'have the men used up there.' Bishop Bryant called a council at once, and the following men were selected to assist: J. Bigler (now a Bishop,) P. Pitchforth, his 'first councillor,' John Kink, and ____ Pickton.... The selected murderers, at 11 p.m., started from the Tithing House and got ahead of the Aikins', who did not start till daylight. The latter reached the Sevier River, when Rockwell informed them they could find no other camp that day; they halted, when the other party approached and asked to camp with them, for which permission was granted. The weary men removed their arms and heavy clothing, and were soon lost in sleep... the escort and the party from Nephi attacked the sleeping men with clubs and the kingbolts of the wagons. Two died without a struggle. But John Aiken bounded to his feet, but slightly wounded, and sprang into the brush. A shot from the pistol of John Kink laid him senseless. 'Colonel' also reached the brush, receiving a shot in the shoulder from Port Rockwell, and believing the whole party had been attacked by banditti, he made his way back to Nephi. With almost superhuman strength he held out during the twenty-five miles... ghastly pale and drenched with his own blood, staggering feebly along the streets of Nephi.... his story elicited a well-feigned horror.
"Meanwhile the murderers 'had gathered up the other three and thrown them into the river, supposing all to be dead. But John Aiken revived and crawled out on the same side, and hiding in the brush, heard these terrible words:
" 'Are the damned Gentiles all dead, Port?'
" 'All but one — the son of a b___ ran.'
"Supposing himself to be meant, Aikin lay still till the Danites left, then... set out for Nephi.... To return to Nephi offered but slight hope, but it was his only hope... He sank helpless at the door of the first house he reached, but the words he heard infused new life into him. The woman, afterwards a witness, said to him, 'Why, another of you ones got away from the robbers, and is at Brother Foote's.'
" 'Thank God, it is my brother,' he said, and started on. The citizens tell with wonder that he ran the whole distance, his hair clotted with blood, reeling like a drunken man all the way. It was not his brother, but 'Colonel.'...
"Bishop Bryant came, extracted the balls, dressed the wounds, and advised the men to return, as soon as they were able, to Salt Lake City....
"According to the main witness, a woman of Nephi, all regarded them as doomed. They had got four miles on the road, when their driver, a Mormon named Wolf, stopped the wagon near an old cabin: informed them he must water the horses; unhitched them, and moved away. Two men then stepped from the cabin, and fired with double-barreled guns; Aikin and 'Colonel' were both shot through the head, and fell dead from the wagon. Their bodies were then loaded with stone and put in one of those 'bottomless springs' — so called — common in that part of Utah....
"Meanwhile Rockwell and party had reached the city [Salt Lake City], taken Buck and the other man, and started southward, plying them with liquor.... they reached the Point of the Mountain. There it was decided to 'use them up,' and they were attacked with slung-shots and billies. The other man was instantly killed. Buck leaped from the wagon, outran his pursuers, their shots missing him, swam the Jordan, and came down it on the west side. He reached the city and related all that occurred, which created quite a stir. Hickman was then sent for to 'finish the job,' which he did as related in the text." (Brigham's Destroying Angel, pp. 206-210)
Bill Hickman claimed that he was summoned to Brigham Young's office. When he arrived, he asked President Young what he wanted. Young answered: " 'The boys have made a bad job of trying to put a man out of the way. They all got drunk, bruised up a fellow, and he got away from them at the Point of the Mountain, came back to this city, and is telling all that happened, which is making a big stink.' He said I must get him out of the way and use him up." (Ibid., p. 128) Hickman goes on to say that the last surviving member of the Aiken party trusted a man by the name of George Dalton. Dalton was able to lure the man out to a secluded spot beyond "the Hot Springs three miles north of the city" where Hickman was waiting in ambush and shot him "through the head." (Ibid., p. 129) The next day Bill Hickman "went to Brigham Young's, told him that Buck was taken care of, and there would be no more stink about his stories. He said he was glad of it. Buck was the last one of the Aiken's party..." (pp. 129-130)
There can be no doubt that the Mormons did take the Aiken party as prisoners and murdered them as related by J. H. Beadle and Bill Hickman. Under the date of Nov. 3, 1857, Hosea Stout recorded the following in his diary: "Cal mail came and six cal prisoners taken at Box Elder supposed spies" (On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, vol. 2, p. 644). On Nov. 9, 1857, Hosea Stout recorded that he himself was "guarding the prisoners from Cal." Finally, on Nov. 20, 1857, Stout made this very revealing entry in his diary:
"O. P. Rockwell with 3 or four others started with 4 of the prisoners, which we had been guarding for some days, South to escort them through the settlements to Cal via South route The other two are going to be permitted to go at large and remain till spring and the guard dismissed." (Ibid., p. 645).
Mormon writer Harold Schindler has done an excellent job of compiling the evidence concerning the Aiken massacre. His research leads to the unmistakable conclusion that Rockwell was involved in the bloody deed (see Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder, 1966, pp. 268-279).
Less than two years after the Aiken massacre, U. S. Marshall P. K. Dotson held a warrant for Orrin Porter Rockwell's arrest. Dotson found it impossible to make the arrest, and Rockwell retained his freedom for twenty years. He was in full fellowship with the Mormon Church during this period, and on June 1, 1873, he was called on a mission to Grass Valley (Ibid., p. 356). Finally, on Sept. 29, 1877, Rockwell was arrested for his part in the Aiken massacre. He was 64 years old at the time. On June 9, 1878, Orrin Porter Rockwell died, and therefore he did not have to face a trial which could have been very embarrassing for the Mormon Church.
Another of the murders under this dispensation, which Judge Cradlebaugh mentioned as "peculiarly and shockingly prominent," was that of the Aikin party, in the spring of 1857. This party, consisting of six men, started east from San Francisco in May, 1857, and, falling in with a Mormon train, joined them for protection against the Indians. "When they got to a safer neighborhood, the Californians pushed on ahead. Arriving in Kayesville, twenty-five miles north of Salt Lake City, they were at once arrested as federal spies, and their animals (they had an outfit worth in all, about $25,000) were put into the public corral. When their Mormon fellow-travellers arrived, they scouted the idea that the men even knew of an impending "war," and the party were told that they would be sent out of the territory. But before they started, a council, held at the call of a Bishop in Salt Lake City, decided on their death.
Four of the party were attacked in camp by their escort while asleep; two were killed at once, and two who escaped temporarily were shot while, as they supposed, being escorted back to Salt Lake City. The two others were attacked by O. P. Rockwell and some associates near the city; one was killed outright, and the other escaped, wounded, and was shot the next day while under the escort of "Bill" Hickman, and, according to the latter, by Young's order. *
* Brigham's "Destroying Angel," p. 128