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The Life of Porter Rockwell
































1700 S. 500 E., SALT LAKE CITY






















  The Rockwell’s were a large family of 9 children. When Porter was four years of age, the Rockwell’s moved from where Porter was born in Massachusetts to New York, about 2 miles from downtown Palmyra.

  Palmyra then was about the same size it is now, but some predicted it was the next metropolitan boom. The Erie Canal was soon to stretch right through the area which could bring trades from all over the world.

  Like the Smith’s, the Rockwell’s were just humble farmers covet. The Smith’s farmstead was about 1 mile north and the two families became very close. And although Joseph Smith was in his early teens little Porter followed him everywhere, even though Joseph was six years older than him.

 When Joseph was fourteen, he had an incredible experience of being visited by the Father and the Son in the grove behind his home. It was at that pivotal point that the Smith’s began to lose all of their friends in the Palmyra area, and not only that but were constantly ridiculed. Except, by a humble few, such as Martin Harris, and the Rockwell’s.

  Joseph himself wrote that he never liked going in to town for supplies, except when his big brother Alvin came with him. No one ever made fun of him when Alvin was around.

  Three years later he was visited by the Angel Moroni giving him instructions pertaining to the mission of the restoration and the part that Joseph would play in it. The Rockwell's were among the first to hear these accounts from the Prophet's own lips. Elizabeth D. Roundy, held an interview with Porter late in his  life. She wrote from the interview that “Porter begged his mother to allow him to sit up and keep the pine torch burning, their only source of light in the evening [in order to listen to the young Prophet tell of his visions, angels, and a gold book]. He became so convinced of his new friend's account that Porter worked daily, after farm chores, picking berries and chopping firewood by moonlight, giving all his money to the Prophet to help print the Book of Mormon.”

  Shortly after the publication of the Book of Mormon, over 60 followers met in this 20 square-foot log home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York on April 6, 1830. Here they sustained and set apart Joseph as the President of the Church, took the sacrament for the first time in this dispensation and set forth the order of the Church by revelation.

  Right after they walked to the river for baptism. From Joseph’s own journal, "The Church of Jesus Christ, organized in accordance with commandments and revelations given by Him to ourselves in these last days, as well as according to the order of the Church as recorded in the New Testament. Several persons who had attended the above meeting, came forward shortly after, and were received into the Church; among the rest, my own father and mother were baptized, to my great joy and consolation; and about the same time, Martin Harris and Orrin Porter Rockwell." On the official records of the Church, Porter is listed as the Tenth member to be baptized into the Church and since he was only sixteen years of age he was also the youngest member of the Church for many months afterward, and so at the time of his death was the longest living member of the Church. Porter’s mother and sister were also baptized that day, his father, although a great supporter of the work, waited two more years.


 The early days of the Church is the story of constant growth and constant persecution. The Church moved many times to keep the Saints safe, moving the Church from to Palmyra to Kirtland, Ohio. During this period, the Prophet, by revelation, designated Independence, Missouri as Zion, the New Jerusalem, and the new gathering place of the Saints. Immediately, Saints immigrating from New York passed Kirtland to Missouri.

 The Rockwell's, were part of the Big Blue Branch and operated a ferry on the Big Blue River. Over a 1,000 Saints met on the 3rd General Conference of the Church. It was here that Porter met Luanna Beebe, and was the first marriage performed in Zion being married by the Prophet himself.

 Again persecution became apparent – but there was nothing like Missouri. Mobs came through the LDS villages and killed, tormented and burned down homes. About 1,200 homeless Church members now lived in wagon boxes, tents, or dugouts in the hillside. Governor Lilburn W. Boggs from issued an Extermination Order stating, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary, for the public peace.”

 After a court of inquiry was held in Independence, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, and Alexander McRae were sent to Liberty Jail. While they were in prison, over 8,000 Saints crossed from Missouri into Illinois to escape the extermination order in the middle of winter.  Porter is remembered as being the most common visitor to the brethren imprisoned in Liberty. He would empty the chamber pot, pass edible food and water through the bars, and had even snuck in several pry bars and a couple shovels to assist the brethren’s digging at night to escape. This continued until the day a shovel was knocked loose out of Porter’s coat and hit the floor. While the guards stood shocked, staring at the fallen tool - Porter fled out the open door, that was his last visit to the jail. Over time the guards at Liberty Jail finally became so convinced of the brethren’s innocence, they allowed the prisoners to escape and even let them buy two of the guard’s horses.

 The Saints then moved north up the Mississippi River to Commerce, Illinois. They began buying the swamp infested land and built the city of Nauvoo, a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful.” Here the Saints prospered, although their enemy at the gates, they thrived in relative peace.

 Dr. Truman G Madsen relates the following, “Another of the Prophet's trials in the home related to the burdens imposed on their marriage by his persecutors, burdens that Emma too had to carry. Often they would think they had a moment of peace, and then there would come the rude shock at the door: another lawman, another lawless-man, another subpoena, another cry, another warning. Even in Nauvoo, the Church well established and to some degree respected, there was a situation where two little girls were charged with keeping their eyes open for anyone who came within a block of the house. They would rush to the house and say, ‘Someone suspicious-looking is coming.’ Sometimes the Prophet would literally leave, sometimes he would hide, and sometimes it would turn out to be a friend who looked disreputable, such as Porter Rockwell. Joseph would scoop up the children and run out and say, ‘Now, now, he's not all that bad, is he?’ "

 One night, back in Missouri, someone shot through the home of Governor Boggs hitting him in back of the head. Despite the severity of his injury, he survived. Recently apostatized John C. Bennett wrote Boggs telling him that the Prophet had ordered Porter to do it. Joseph and Porter went into hiding for several months. Eventually Rockwell was captured while trying to get back to Nauvoo from St. Louis, after spending several months in hiding. One of the few first-hand accounts we have from Porter is of this time of imprisonment in Missouri for the attempted assassination of former Governor Lilburn W. Boggs.

 Apostle Willard Richards wrote in a letter to General Bennett, “We live in a country of news and new things, & when we can get nothing new, sometimes use the old over again so we can get nothing new, sometimes use the old over again so we will take Missouri once more for by intelligence just received, she has succeeded in capturing our friend O.P. Rockwell and is holding him custody to await trial for the shooting of Boggs. We are assured of his innocence, and shall offer him no exertion to give him a fair trial & procure his acquittal. Rockwell was imprisoned in St. Louis jail on the 6th inst and remanded from there to Jackson County on the seventh . . . Query whether the trial shall be before the judiciary of Mo. Or on Habeus Corpus before the U.S.C.C.? We have some evidence here, to show that J.C. Bennett is actuated by malice & revenge, and he is the principal witness – it is necessary to destroy his testimony in the case . . . . Gen. Smith is anxious that you should appear at the trial, and wishes me to inform you of the fact, believing your testimony in the case to be of the utmost importance; which, together with your united energies will be sufficient to break down all prejudice, destroy all intrigue, & insure an honorable acquittal discharge . . . . Rockwell is innocent & must be saved.”

 Here is some of the account that was published in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo as the editor wrote it directly from Porter’s own words, "I was  put into the St. Louis county jail, and kept two days with a pair of iron hobbles on my ankles. I was visited by Joseph Wood, an apostate who professed to be a lawyer. He was accompanied by Mr. Blanerhasset, who told me that everything I had would be taken from me, and proposed to take charge, keep, and return to me any property I might have with me. I let him have a pair of pistols, a bowie knife, and watch, which he never returned to me.

“About midnight, was taken into the stage coach in charge of Fox, and started for Jefferson City. There were nine passengers, two of them women. I sat on the middle seat. One of the men behind me commenced gouging me in the back. I spoke to him, and told him that it was dark, and I could not see him, but that he was no gentleman. One of the ladies whispered to him, and he ceased the operation.

“The next night, the driver, being drunk, ran against a tree, and broke the king bolt; and not knowing what to do, ironed as I was, I crawled into the boot, and found an extra bolt, and in the dark fixed the coach, got it off the tree, and we started on. Soon after, ran against a bank, and could not move. I was asleep at the time, but the bustle awake me, when I told them, if they would take off my irons, I would get off and drive, as the driver was too drunk to manage the horses. They refused. I, however, got hold of the lines, and, by the help of other passengers lifting at the wheels, got it righted, and I drove to the next stand, near the Osage river. The roads were very bad, and the load heavy; so we got along slowly.

“We were two days and two nights from St. Louis in reaching Jefferson City, where I was lodged in the jail. 

“Sheriff Reynolds told me afterwards that when he looked into the stage he took me for the guard, and the officer for the prisoner, for he looked like the guilty one. Was about four days going to Independence: arrived there just at night. A large crowd gathered around, making many remarks. Some were for hanging me at once. I was then placed in the jail. In two or three days, underwent a sham trial before a justice of the peace. The courthouse was crowded, and the men were armed with hickory clubs. They set on boys from ten to twelve years of age to kick and punch me, which they did repeatedly, while in court.

“The magistrate committed me to prison for my safe preservation, as he was afraid the people would kill me; but he could find no crime against me.

  “I was re-committed to jail, still wearing the iron hobbles, and was kept in the upper part in the day-time, and in the dungeon at night, with a little dirty straw for a bed, without any bedding, no fire, and very cold weather. For eighteen days I was not free from shaking with cold. I then got permission to buy 1.5 bushels of charcoal, which I put into an old kettle, and kept a little fire. When that was gone, I could not obtain any more.

  "After I was arrested at St. Louis, I was visited by Joseph Wood, an apostate "Mormon," who professed to be a lawyer. He was accompanied by Mr. Blanerhasset, who told me that everything I had would be taken from me, and proposed to take charge, keep, and return to me any property I might have with me. I let him have a pair of pistols, a bowie knife, and watch, which he never returned to me.

  "After the weather got a little warmer, they furnished me with a few old newspapers to read. A family lived at the corner of the jail. The women once in a while used to send out a little negro girl with a small basket of victuals. She handed up to the grate a big Missouri whip-stock, with a piece of twine, which I tied to the pole and drew up the basket, and let it down again.

  "I made a pin-hook and tied to the twine, and baited with a chunk of corn-dodger hard enough to knock a negro down with, and stuck it out of the grated window and fished for pukes [a derogatory term for Missourians]. When passers-by came along, they would stop and gawk at me awhile, and pass on.

  "A preacher who had a family of girls lived on the opposite side of the street. The girls would watch and laugh at them, and call out and ask me if I got any bites. I replied, No, but some glorious nibbles.

During this trying ordeal, Porter had several cell mates, a couple of whom he tried to escape with. One cellmate, named only Watson, had a visitor named Matthew Field, wrote of Rockwell, “He is a man of fair proportions and good looks, apparently about twenty-eight or thirty. His eye has in it something between cunning and insanity, but you look in vain for any indication of the desperate and determined villain. He was laughing joyously during the whole period of our visit and replied in a merry and nonsensical manner, which we were told had made him ever since his arrest; whether assumed or not, it may, perhaps, be difficult to determine. . . .  his cunning, roving eye was scanning intently everybody present, as it seemed clear that there was no soul in the merriment he affected. He was heavily ironed and when we moved to go, he quietly descended to his cell with his only companion, Watson.”

  “Numbers were put into the jail with me at different times, and taken out again. One of them, who was charged with a fraudulent issue of U. S. Treasury notes. He would frequently call for a good supper and pay for it, which was allowed him, but not allowed me. I was fed on cold corndodger and meat of the poorest description; and if I did not eat it all up, it was returned the next time.

 "He was very anxious to escape, and urged me to undertake it with him. He ordered a good supper, and he ate very heartily. I would not eat, telling him that he could not run if he ate so much. Nearly dusk, as the jailer came in to get the dishes, we sprang to the door, and I locked him in, and threw the key into the garden. In coming down stairs, we met the jailer's wife. I told her that her husband was unharmed; I had only locked him up. We had a board fence to climb over, which was about twelve feet high. I climbed it and ran about twenty rods, when he called me to come and help him over, which I did. If I had not, I should have escaped. The pure air had so great an effect upon me, that I gave out and slacked my pace, The populace of the place came up, and I told them to run; they would soon catch him; and that I had given out and could not run. They soon returned with him. I fell into the crowd and walked back to the jail yard. Sheriff Reynolds laid his hand upon my shoulder, he being the first to approach me. Asked where the key was. I told him, In the garden.

  “Smallwood Nowlin was the first who proposed to hang me on the spot, when Reynolds gave me a push towards the crowd, and said, "There he is! Do what you please with him." Nowlin's son in-law stepped up to me to lay hold of me, when I told him to stand off, or I would mash his face. He stepped back – even with my hands tied behind me. A rope was passed along over the heads of the people into the room to a bald-headed man. About this time pistols could be heard cocking in every part of the room, and bowie-knives were produced as if for fight. But in a few minutes Reynolds cleared the room all but three or four persons.

  “I was then put into the dungeon, my feet ironed together, my right hand to my left foot, so close that I could not half straighten myself. The irons, when put on my wrists, were so small that they would hardly go on, and swelled them; but in eighteen days I could slip them up and turn them around my arm at the elbow. About a month after the court sat, my irons were taken off, and I was so weak that I had to be led to the court room by the officer. I was notified that a bill was found against me for breaking jail, and that the grand jury had failed to find a bill against me on the charge of shooting Boggs, as charged in the advertisement offering a reward for my apprehension. I was then ordered back to jail, and ironed again in the same way. Mr. Doniphan was appointed as my counsel and asked for and obtained a change of venue to Clay County, which is in another district.

  “When the officers came to Independence jail for me, they requested me to get ready in a hurry, as they feared the mob would kill me. I told them I wanted to put on a clean shirt as I had not been permitted to enjoy the luxury of a change of linen for several months now. While I was changing my shirt, the officers several times told me to hurry, or the mob would be on me and kill me.

  “When I got ready to start, the officers furnished me a very hard-trotting horse, with a miserable poor saddle, tied my feet under the horse with ropes, and my hands behind my back, and started off at a good round trot, in charge of two officers. In a short time a strange gentleman fell into our company, who was also on horseback. It was six miles to the ferry, where we could cross the Missouri river. When we got there, we saw the boat land on the opposite side, when several men got off the boat, and took a course to the woods, through which the road ran. The boat returned. This stranger asked-- "Where are those men going?" and was answered-- "They are going to the woods to hew timber."

  “We then crossed, and took our way for Liberty. When we left the boat, we saw no signs of people, nor heard any sound of axes. After traveling some two or three miles, the woods became dense and brushy: we heard the crackling of brush, and the noise of men traveling through it. The officers and stranger appeared frightened, and urged speed, keeping close watch. We came to an opening in the woods, when the noise of crackling of brush ceased. We traveled safely to Liberty, where this stranger told his friends that he overheard several men in Independence planning to waylay me in the thick timber on the Missouri bottom, at the place where we heard the noises; but his being in company counteracted their plot. I was then lodged in Liberty jail. In a few days afterwards I learned that the men who went into the brush told it, that they went into the woods according to agreement to waylay me; but when they saw this stranger, it frustrated their plans.

  “In about ten days, on pretext of informality in the papers, I was remanded back to Independence jail. It was rumored that I was again going to be waylaid, when the two officers from Clay county took me by a different road, and so I escaped the second time.

  “When I was put in Independence jail, I was again ironed hand and foot, and put in the dungeon, in which condition I remained about two months. During this time, Joseph H. Reynolds, the sheriff, told me he was going to arrest Joseph Smith, and they had received letters from Nauvoo which satisfied them that Joseph Smith had unlimited confidence in me, that I was capable of toting him in a carriage or on horseback anywhere that I pleased; and if I would only tote him out by riding or any other way, so that they could apprehend him, I might please myself whether I stayed in Illinois or came back to Missouri; they would protect me, and any pile that I would name the citizens of Jackson county would donate, club together, and raise, and that I should never suffer for want afterwards: "you only deliver Joe Smith into our hands, and name your pile." I replied-- "I will see you all damned first, and then I won't."

  “About the time that Joseph was arrested by Reynolds at Dixon, I knew that they were after him, and [yet had] no means under heaven of giving him any information. My anxiety became so intense upon the subject, knowing their determination to kill him, that my flesh twitched on my bones. I could not help it; twitch it would. While undergoing this sensation, I heard a dove alight on the window in the upper room of the jail, and commence cooing, and then went off. In a short time, he came back to the window, where a pane was broken: he crept through between the bars of iron, which were about two and-a-half inches apart. I saw it fly round the trap-door several times: it did not alight, but continued cooing until it crept through the bars again, and flew out through the broken window.

  “I relate this, as it was the only occurrence of the kind that happened during my long and weary imprisonment; but it proved a comfort to me: the twitching of my flesh ceased, and I was fully satisfied from that moment that they would not get Joseph into Missouri, and that I should regain my freedom. From the best estimates that can be made, this incident occurred about the time when Joseph was in the custody of Reynolds.

  "In a few days afterwards, Sheriff Reynolds came into the jail and told me that he had made a failure in the arrest of Joseph.

  “After the lawyers had been about two months making out fresh papers, I was again conveyed to Liberty jail on a miserable horse, with feet and hands tied as before, but [by] a different road.

  “In a few days afterwards, my mother found where I was, and she came to see me and brought me $100, whereby I was enabled to fee Mr. Doniphan for his services as counsel.

  “The time of trial being continually delayed, I began to be uneasy. I was handcuffed in the dungeon, which is the basement story of the prison, and is about nine feet high. I took down the stove-pipe, pushed my clothes up through the stove-pipe hole, and then crawled through the hole in the floor, which was made of logs about fourteen inches thick, into the upper room. The hole was so small that it scratched my flesh, and made me bleed from many wounds. I then examined the inside door, and with the bail of the water pail I unbolted it; but finding I could not get through the outside door, I returned to my dungeon through the same narrow pass.

  “The following night I made another attempt through the same way; but, failing to get through the outside door, I lay down on the upper floor, where the boys who were bringing my food next morning found me. They made an alarm, when five or six men came and again conveyed me down into the dungeon. It caused quite an excitement.

  “My mother, learning that Mr. Doniphan had returned home, went to him, and prevailed on him to come and speak to me at the dungeon grate. While he was talking to me, a little boy, the son of a poor widow, about five or six years old, who had previously been to see me, finding I had no fire, had run home and brought some fire and chips to the grate. Mr. Doniphan said-- "You little devil you, what are you doing here with this fire?" He replied, "I am going to give it to Mr. Rockwell, so that he can warm him." Doniphan then said-- "You little devil you, take this fire and leave;" when the little urchin replied (looking him in the face)-- "Mr. Doniphan, you go to hell:" I am going to give Mr. Rockwell this fire, so that he can warm him;" and he pushed it through the grate, gave me the chips, and continued to supply my daily wants of chips and fire while I continued in the dungeon.

  “From Mr. Doniphan I learned that a special term of court was called, and my trial would come on in about fifteen days. The night following this visit, some men came to the grates of my dungeon, and asked if I wanted to get out. I told them, No, as I had been informed that day that I should have a trial in a fortnight. They replied-- "Honor bright: if you wish to get out, we'll let you out in a few minutes." I replied that I would rather remain, as my trial would come on so soon. Next morning one of the men came, put some money in the cleft of a stick, and put it through the hole to me. He refused to tell his name; but I knew by his voice that he was one of the men who came to me in the night.

  “The trial came on according to my last notification. I was tried for breaking Independence jail; and although the law of Missouri reads that, in order to break jail, a man must break a lock, a door, or a wall, still Judge King ruled that it was breaking jail to walk out when the door is open; and under this ruling the jury brought in a verdict of "five minutes' imprisonment in the county jail;" but I was kept there four or five hours, during which time several attempts were made to get up some other charge against me.

  “About 8 P.M. on December 13th, General Doniphan took me out and told me I must take across the country on foot, and not walk on any traveled road, unless it was during the night, as they would be apt to follow and again take me, as they did not care on what grounds, so they could make me trouble.

  “I accordingly started, accompanied by my mother, and went to the house of a widow, where I obtained my first supper in freedom for more than nine months. We then traveled two miles and obtained $4.

  “I then took through the woods to the road, where I heard two men riding on horseback. I hid behind a shady tree, and overheard one of them say, "He has not been gone many minutes: we shall soon overtake him."

  “I went round the houses and traveled in the fields by the side of the road. The moon was in its first quarter, and I traveled during the night about twenty-five miles. I carried a little food with me, and next day traveled on the road, and walked past Crooked River to a Mr. Taylor's, with all the skin off my feet.

  “A neighbor offered to take me in for the night, if I would go back two miles. I did so, found his wife very cross with her husband, who said, "Stranger, you see my wife is very cross. I have got some whisky; let's drink: my wife will soon have something to eat." When supper was eaten, she became good tempered. I stayed in peace through the night. Next morning I ate breakfast with them, and gave them fifty cents, when the man brought out a horse, and sent a little boy with me fourteen miles, which was a very great relief to my weary feet.

  “The next night I stopped near where the Haun's Mill massacre took place.

  “The third day I walked till noon, and then hired a man to carry me the remainder of the day for seventy-five cents. Stayed at a house where I was well acquainted; but the people did not recognize me, and I did not make myself known. Paid fifty cents for supper, lodging, breakfast, and being sent twelve miles on horseback the next morning.

  “I then continued my journey about thirty miles, where I rested three days to recruit my feet. I was then carried twenty-five miles on horseback, and walked the same day twenty-five miles. The day following I walked forty miles, and then waited another day and engaged a man to carry me to Montrose, to which place I was three days in going. I immediately crossed the river to Nauvoo in a small boat, and came straight to the Mansion."

 George Q Cannon wrote, “There seemed no human possibility of Porter Rockwell's deliverance; his murder was decreed before his arrest; and no one of the brethren would be permitted to enter Missouri to assist him with advice or bail, under penalty of death. And yet on the 15th day of March the Prophet publicly declared: ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I prophecy that Orrin P. Rockwell will get away honorably from the Missourians.”

 Porter's mother managed to make a visit to see him in this awful state and returned to Nauvoo in search of the Prophet Joseph Smith to raise money for legal expenses. The Prophet did so and the necessary funds were raised to hire Alexander Doniphan for his defense. After nine long months of imprisonment Porter was sentenced to five minutes in jail for trying to escape (several times), which lengthened into four hours. Upon Doniphan's demands Porter was finally released. Doniphan gave him all the money on his person, four-dollars, and encouraged him to run back to Nauvoo as fast as he was able.


 The Prophet’s own journal records the end of Porter’s long journey home many days later, “A large party supped at my house, and spent the evening in music, dancing, &c., in a most cheerful and friendly manner. During the festivities, a man with his hair long and falling over his shoulders, and apparently drunk, came in and acted like a Missourian. I requested the captain of the police to put him out of doors. A scuffle ensued, and I had an opportunity to look him full in the face, when, to my great surprise and joy untold, I discovered it was my long-tried, warm, but cruelly persecuted friend, Orrin Porter Rockwell, just arrived from nearly a year's imprisonment, without conviction, in Missouri.” After cleaning up, the Prophet requested him to relate his nine month ordeal. With great compassion for his sufferings, the Prophet pronounced upon Porter the famous blessing, “Orrin Porter Rockwell, cut not thine hair and no bullet nor blade shall hurt thee, no harm shall come upon thee nor enemies have power over thee.”

 The Prophet then allowed Rockwell to stay in his home and establish a temporary bar / barber shop in the Gentlemen's Parlor of the Mansion House until Porter could get back on his feet. This was cut short when the Prophet's wife Emma returned from a furniture buying expedition in Boston. The Prophet then helped Porter build a similar establishment across the street.

 Soon after the Prophet called upon Porter to be his own personal body-guard, which was a duty Rockwell was honored to accept. During the few short years between this blessing and the Prophet’s death, Rockwell did manage to prove himself in this capacity, The Prophet’s journal tells us, “While at Hamilton’s [Hotel] Chauncy L. Higbee offered some insulting language concerning me to Orrin P. Rockwell (and was knocked senseless), Rockwell had resented Higbee's language nobly as a friend ought to do.” Another time Rockwell spotted Chauncy’s brother and fellow apostate, Francis Higbee, on the street and accused him of scheming to kill the Prophet. Higbee made the mistake of cursing Rockwell and was sent sprawling. In the brief scuffle Higbee's hat fell on the dirt and a letter sailed from its lining. When Higbee scrambled for the paper, a second punch flattened him. Rockwell, deciding the letter might be important and unable to read it himself, took the document before the High Council where it was found to be a message telling Higbee that seventy men waited on the Iowa side of the river for a signal to attack Nauvoo. That night the mob was met by the entire Nauvoo Legion and quickly retreated.

  When the Prophet organized a new female organization in the Church called the Relief Society, Porter's mother was one of it's original members.

 The Prophet’s confidence and trust in Porter was only parallel to few other men. The Prophet even appointed Porter as a member of the Nauvoo Council of Fifty, an organization that provided a pattern of political government under priesthood and revelation. Members of the council were to keep with the ethics of scripture while incorporating protections and responsibilities of the Constitution of the United States, to follow God's law and seek to know the Lord’s will for his people and provide a symbol of the future theocratic kingdom of God. The Prophet himself sat as council president, with the remaining members seated according to age, beginning with the oldest.

  The first known anti-Mormon newspaper was called the Nauvoo Expositor, founded by apostate William Law, a former counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, and ran by several other brethren once trusted by the Saints, was dedicated solely for the purpose of criticizing anyone or anything in the Church. The Nauvoo City Council declared the Expositor a public nuisance by the regulations of the City Charter and a threat to the peace and therefore ordered the press and the paper destroyed. Although Porter was not in charge of the ordeal, he is usually the only one cited by critics as throwing the press into the street busting it to pieces. The decision to suppress the Expositor, while legal for the day under the laws set by the City Charter only worsened a tense situation. The offended apostates never seemed to acknowledge that Mormon presses had been destroyed by mobs acting with no legal authority whatever and were not punished or even criticized at all. There were many excuses the mobs used to arrest the Prophet Joseph, more than 37 times during his life, but many consider the destruction of the Expositor the straw that broke the camel’s back.

 On at least 19 different occasions, beginning as early as 1829, Joseph Smith told the Saints that he would probably not leave this life peacefully.

 Chancy Higbee again while in Nauvoo was being harassed by Rockwell and continually threatening his life. Nauvoo, Sheriff Backenstos assured Higbee that he should be protected until it became apparent that Backenstos could not; whereupon Rockwell was arrested. When the militiamen disarmed Rockwell they found weapons enough in his stronghold to fire seventy-one rounds without reloading, plus an array of knives. The Sheriff finally convinced Higbee to leave town since Rockwell hadn’t actually committed any harm and had to be released.

 The Prophet had told the Saints that Nauvoo was not to be the final resting place of the Church and had talked to many leaders of the Church of the Rocky Mountains. He had even drawn a map to the Salt Lake Valley for Brigham Young. Illinois Governor Thomas Ford wrote to Joseph Smith, insisting that the city council members stand trial before a non-Mormon jury on a charge of causing a civil disturbance on account of the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor Press. He said that such a trial would satisfy the people He also promised all the men complete protection during the trial. Even though he thought Ford, at the time, had the best intentions, the Prophet did not believe he could fulfill this pledge. They decided it was now time to start the journey west. The Prophet told the Saints before he left that all the mobs wanted was his own blood, but if he left, he promised them “that not a hair of your head should be harmed.” Joseph, Hyrum, Willard Richards and Rockwell crossed the Mississippi in a boat owned by Aaron Johnson. The boat was leaky and while Rockwell rowed, the others bailed water with their boots and shoes to keep it from sinking. They crossed to the Iowa side of the river and the next day Rockwell went back to Nauvoo for horses, returning in the afternoon with Reynolds Cahoon, who had been guarding the Mansion House, Hiram Kimball and Lorenzo Wasson, Emma Smith's nephew. Reynolds Cahoon gave Joseph a letter from Emma and at the same time he reminded the Prophet that he had always said that if the Church would stick with him, he would stick with the Church. These three men chastised Joseph for running away. After accusations of cowardice, and much persuasion, Joseph decided to go back. He remarked, "If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself.” Porter Rockwell, when asked what he thought should be done, replied to the Prophet with a nineteenth-century phrase-"As you make your bed, I will lie with you." Said Joseph, "Hyrum, you are the oldest, what shall we do?" Hyrum answered, "Let us go back and give ourselves up." The Prophet responded, "If you go back I will go with you, but we shall be butchered." Rockwell again rowed them back, as the Prophet prepared to leave Nauvoo for the county seat of Carthage, about 20 miles away, he knew that he was seeing his family and friends for the last time. He prophesied, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning.”

 Although Porter and several others accompanied the Prophet on the way to Carthage, the Prophet stopped them about half way and ordered them to go home. During his stay at the Carthage jail, the Prophet wrote several letters home and to the Twelve Apostles. One of those letters was to instruct Porter not to come to Carthage for fear of his life.

 On the 27th day of June, Porter went to an upper room in the Mansion House to get a hat he had left there. As he entered the room, he was surprised to find it occupied by Governor Ford of Illinois and a few of his militia officers, the man who had promised protection to the Saints, but who had done nothing to safe-guard them. The men were listening to the governor, who was standing behind a chair. Just as Port entered the room, the governor stated, “The deed is done by now.” All was suddenly quiet in the room when Porter walked in, and with apologies he hastily left. It appeared that Ford had deliberately absented himself from Carthage. Shortly after five o’clock in the afternoon, a mob of about 200 men with painted faces stormed the Carthage Jail, shot and killed Joseph and his brother Hyrum, and seriously wounded John Taylor. Only Willard Richards remained unharmed. Upon hearing shouts of “the Mormons are coming,” the mob fled, as did most of Carthage’s residents. Willard Richards cared for the wounded John Taylor, both of them mourning their slain leaders. Hyrum’s body was inside the jail, while Joseph, who had fallen from a window, lay beside the outside well. The mobbers then propped up his body against the well and shot him four more times

 President James E Faust commented, “Some of the enemies of Joseph Smith exulted in their infamous deeds; and many proclaimed that the Church, which he had restored and for which he had given his life, would die with him. But, to the surprise of its enemies, the Church did not die nor did the work of Joseph Smith cease with his mortal death. What has transpired in a century and a half bears eloquent testimony to the eternal nature of the work of this singularly remarkable man, Joseph Smith."

 The first actual record of Porter killing anyone is on this same day of murder and conspiracy. Carthage Gray, Frank Worrell was a Commander in the Grays and is still held as being most responsible for the attack on the jail. The full meaning of Ford's words in the Mansion House did not impress themselves upon Porter's mind until a short time later when he was talking it over with Gilbert Belnap. Belnap had rode into Nauvoo with news of an attack on Carthage, Rockwell with Belnap then rode full speed toward Carthage. Not far into the journey they saw a man in a buckboard racing wildly in their direction fleeing for his life and being pursued by a mob. Upon closer inspection it was Nauvoo Sherriff Jacob Backenstos, who shouted for help upon seeing Rockwell and Belnap, calling on them to save his life. Porter and his companion dismounted, drew their guns and Rockwell fired. This one shot hit Worrell center in the chest and flipped him from the back of his horse. The rest of the horsemen from Carthage decided to retreat upon their leader’s sudden death.

 Shortly after the martyrdom, Joseph Smith III, wrote, “.... extending my hand, (Rockwell) shook it warmly, put an affectionate arm around my shoulders, and said, with much emotion, ‘Oh, Joseph, Joseph! They have killed the only friend I have ever had!’ He wept like a boy. We spoke but little, for even then an air of suspicion had crept abroad in the city, and whoever was friendly to my mother or her family was under surveillance. I tried to comfort him, but to my astonishment he said, ‘Joseph, you had best go back. I am glad you came to meet me, but it is best that you are not seen with me.  It can do me no good and it may bring harm to you.’ "

 The Prophet left behind a testimonial concerning his friend, Porter Rockwell, “There is a numerous host of faithful souls, whose names I could wish to record in the Book of the Law of the Lord; but time and chance would fail. I will mention, therefore, only a few of them as emblematic of those who are too numerous to be written. But there is one man I would mention, namely Orrin Porter Rockwell, who is now a fellow-wanderer with myself, an exile from his home, because of the murderous deeds, and infernal, fiendish dispositions of the indefatigable and unrelenting hand of the Missourians. He is an innocent and a noble boy. May God Almighty deliver him from the hands of his pursuers. He was an innocent and a noble child and my soul loves him. Let this be recorded forever and ever. Let the blessings of salvation and honor be his portion”


 Before the Prophet’s death he had even instructed the Saints to “always follow the majority of the Twelve, and you will never be led astray.” The martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum only increased the Saints commitment to completing the unfinished Nauvoo Temple. They did so under the ever increasing threats from violent mobs who were intent on compelling the Saints from Nauvoo. The Saints were so anxious to receive their temple blessings before leaving Nauvoo that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others of the Twelve Apostles remained in the temple both day and night until almost 6,000 Latter-day Saints received their endowments before leaving Nauvoo. The Rockwell’s were among those endowed. As they turned their eyes toward their western migration, the Saints were bolstered in faith and secure in the knowledge that their families were eternally sealed together.

 By the end of 1845, Church leaders possessed the most up-to-date information available about the wild frontier. Under the direction of Brigham Young, the first group of Saints began their journey. Two weeks after the first crossing the Mississippi River, the river froze over for a time. Though the ice was slippery, it supported wagons and teams and made the crossing easier. But the cold weather caused much suffering as the Saints plodded through the snow. In the encampment at Sugar Creek on the other side of the river, a steady wind blew snow that fell to a depth of almost eight inches. Then a thaw caused the ground to become muddy. Around, above, and below, the elements combined to produce a miserable environment for the 2,000 Saints huddled in tents, wagons, and hastily erected shelters while they waited for the command to continue on. The most difficult part of the journey was this early stage through Iowa. The faith, courage, and determination of these Saints carried them through cold, hunger, and the deaths of loved ones. It took the Saints 131 days to travel the 310 miles from Nauvoo to the settlements in western Iowa where they would pass the winter of 1846–47 and prepare for their trek to the Rocky Mountains. This experience taught them many things about travel that helped them more quickly cross the 1,000 miles of the great American plains, which was done the following year in about 111 days.

 Just before the journey west, Porter’s wife Luana had left him and taken his children and remarried. But because Porter had no additional family to care for on the journey, his resources as a scout and hunter became an essential part of the migration.

 On 21 July 1847, Porter was one of the first five of Orson Pratt’s advance company to see the Salt Lake Valley. Three days later, President Brigham Young, who was ill with mountain fever, was driven in his carriage to the mouth of a canyon that opened onto the valley. As President Young looked over the scene, he gave his prophetic benediction to their travels: “It is enough. This is the right place, for I have seen it in vision.”

 Having successfully brought the first company of Saints across the plains to Utah, President Brigham Young now turned his attention to establishing God’s kingdom in the desert. Through his vision and leadership, what was once an empty desert became a thriving civilization and a haven for the Saints. Soon after their arrival, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve felt impressed that the time had come to reorganize the First Presidency. As President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Brigham Young was sustained as the President of the Church on a return trip to Iowa, where the majority of the Saints still were.



While most Saints moved to the Rocky Mountains by traveling overland from Nauvoo, a group of Saints from the eastern United States traveled a sea route on the ship Brooklyn under the leadership of Sam Brannan. Brannan had continuously pushed Brigham to move the Saints to California but Young wouldn’t listen. Brannan told those Saints with him that they would sail around South America to California and then travel east to the Rockies, a much less physically arduous journey. However, when they arrived in California, Brannan convinced those who traveled with him that Young would surely keep moving west to California. Even when news reached them that the Saints had settled in the Rockies as planned, the majority of the Brooklyn’s passengers remained in California under better circumstances. Bent on greed, Brannan, as their trusted leader, collected tithes and offerings for the Church but kept all for himself thus becoming one of the wealthiest men in the State. Porter traveled on a semi-annual basis to collect tithes from the many outreaching settlements in all directions from Salt Lake City. When the time came to go to California, Porter reached Sam Brannan's saloon in Sacramento to collect tithes, a great deal of which was gold which Brannan had levied against LDS miners for tithing. When Brannan flatly refused to surrender a single ounce of dust, Rockwell produced a hogleg as a persuader. "Sam, we come for the Lord's money." Upon hearing of Porter's success, one journal recorded, "When the fear of God has left a mans heart, that is when you send men like Porter Rockwell to drive the fear back in again."

 When Rockwell in later years, dictated the story of his life, he said that "some years after 1847 he was in California, probably on a similar trip, and met there the widow of Don Carlos Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. When he saw her, she was just recovering from typhoid fever, in consequence of which her hair had fallen out. He had no money to give her, so he had his hair cut to make her a wig, and from that time he said that he could not control his desire for strong drink, nor his habit of swearing."

 When word of the California Gold Rush hit Utah, many faithful families left for the Pacific, President Young warned those that left that they would not prosper as much as those that remained in the Rocky Mountains. Porter seemed to attempt to find the grey area of this prophesy. Although he maintained residence in Utah, every chance to go to California would take him much longer to return. He had several gold claims and even opened up a saloon/hotel, and stable on Murderer’s Bar. He would also use these opportunities to buy high-grade whiskey for his saloon at the Point of the Mountain in Utah. Brigham never mentioned any worry of Porter's honesty with the small fortune he had collected in tithing  hidden in the wagon while spending days upon days combing his claims for scraps of gold. That money was Lord's sacred tithing from faithful Latter-day Saints, and Porter never seemed to be tempted by that treasure.


 As Brigham Young called members of the Church as colonists, and moved further into the frontier, they often had dealings with the Native Americans. Several times Porter was used to assist these colonies to protect them from Indian attacks. Unlike some settlers of the West, President Brigham Young taught the Saints to feed their native brothers and sisters and try to bring them into the Church. At one time, there appeared a great number of orphaned Indian children, Young asked the general membership of the Church to adopt one if they could. Porter adopted three. Porter was even called on several missions to the Lamanite (Native American) people, his companion each time was Elder George W Bean, who wrote, “Orrin Porter Rockwell, as I knew him, was a diamond in the rough. It was great to know his inner self. His honest loyalty to church, country and friends was deep and lasting. He abhorred deceit and intrigue as did I. He knew the need and power of prayer, and did I. He was above average height, quick in movement, with strong arms and chest, and grey eyes--cool and searching. He was always well armed since his Nauvoo experiences, although the Prophet Joseph told him to wear his long hair and he would never be killed by an enemy. He held to that promise and on many occasions when he stayed over night with me, my wife Elizabeth would plat or braid his hair.... His mouth was expressive of his moods, whether jovial, reckless, worried, or pleasant....His humor made his stories click. In our missionary work, he was humble and earnest. We spent many years of dangerous and worthwhile service together in teaching the Red Men the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of their origin and duties, and in aiding the officials of Government to subdue and punish outlaws.” The Native American people had a great respect for Rockwell. One, for the blessing of the Prophet not to cut his hair, but also for his superior tracking, wood carving, and disciplines with animals. These great talents in the frontier were mastered by these people, and rarely did they meet an equal among their white neighbors to match, or in Rockwell’s case, exceed their own abilities.

 During this period of high adventure in his life he met and married Mary Ann Neff, and together they lived for a time up Little-Cottonwood Canyon at the Neff’s mill. This brought him great respect from his in-laws in his contributions to the family in general labors of operating and maintaining the mill, and gave him a place to escape city life up in the mountains. Pioneer Robert Gardner wrote in his journal of the time he was working up Mill Creek Canyon and had a serious accident. A log struck his leg and peeled a big chunk of flesh off right to the bone. Painfully, and with some fear because of the amount of blood he was losing, he made his way to Father Neff's at the mouth of the canyon, where he called out for help. Porter came out to offer assistance. Porter applied liquor directly to the wound and then helped Gardner into the Neff home and had him sit near the fire. He washed Gardner's leg and got a handful of fine salt and laid it on the bone. Then he pulled the flesh back up over it and sewed it closed with a needle and some silk thread. When the wound was closed, Rockwell bandaged it with a flannel cloth-thus saving Robert Gardner's leg and possibly his life.

 In 1857, United States President James Buchanan was under intense pressure from the newly formed Republican party, which had campaigned strongly in the year previous against polygamy and slavery. Slavery was not only legal, but a significant economic factor in fifteen states at the time. Polygamy, practiced largely by the Church in far-off Utah territory, made a much softer target to the President to avoid political strife from those in favor of slavery. In addition, several Mormon apostates reported a rebellion brewing in Utah against the United States that would soon grow too large to contain. Buchanan removed Brigham Young as governor and appointed Alfred Cumming in his stead, although he failed to tell Young this fact, and ordered five thousand troops under the command of Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston to quell the rebellion.

 When the Saints first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley Brigham Young prophesied that if their enemies would leave them alone for ten years, the Saints could flourish so large no surge could drive them out again. Brigham Young received news of the approaching army when Rockwell, along with Abraham O. Smoot, found him at a Church wide anniversary celebration commemorating ten years in the Valley. Rockwell had learned of the advancing army while on a mail run to the east.

 Adopting the view that a military force of undeclared intentions is by default hostile, Brigham made preparations to defend the territory against invasion. The Utah Nauvoo Legion, under the command of several officers including Rockwell and Lot Smith, began a campaign that avoided direct military confrontation. Not to bring injury to US forces, but to harass them on the journey west and cause confusion and delay. They operated against the army's supply trains and communications, crippling the army's ability to carry out offensive operations, but avoiding bloodshed.

 Lot Smith recorded the following event, “Rockwell and I were good friends, on the following basis; I did as I pleased and he, regularly, damned me for it. When we arrived within sight of the camp, I discovered a herd of cattle numbering about fourteen hundred head on the bottom lands below. We were on the bluff. I told Porter we would take those cattle. He said that was just like me. The stock was left there as a trap laid on purpose to catch me. The troops had found out what a dam fool I was and that I didn't know any better than to put my foot into that kind of a trap. The willows were full of artillery, and the minute I exposed myself among the stock they would blow me and my command higher than Gilderoy's kite. I told him to sit down and I would go and take the cattle myself. He replied very roughly that he would see me in "limbo" first, and that he had waited forty years for such a chance, and now I wanted to spoil it. While he stopped to survey the situation with the glass, I started down the bluff, only about one-third of the men being able to keep up as we rushed down the steep descent. Porter came on in a terrible rage, swearing at me for going so fast, and at the men for being too slow. He wanted me to wait for them all to catch up. There was however, no time to wait. We had to run about two miles to reach the cattle, and by the time we got to them the guards had yoked up teams...We intercepted them, unyoked the cattle and turned their heads the other way...The Mormon boys then gave a shout.... The Army guards were frightened as badly as the cattle and looked as pale as death. They came to me and asked me if we were going to take the stock. I replied that it looked a little as if we would. Captain Roupe, the head wagon master was with this company of guards and appeared to be as badly scared as any of them......We returned to where his men were, they made what appeared to me at the time a most singular request. They wanted to know if I would give them their arms back. As we hadn't seen their arms, this request led to an inquiry, when we found that on seeing us coming down the bluff, so much like a lot of wild men, they threw their guns away, some one saying if we found them unarmed we would spare their lives. I told the men they could go and get their guns as we had all we wanted.... about fifteen of our men came back over the bluff where they were following the cattle...thinking that Porter and I had got into a flight. When they found us all right, they returned...to camp. Rockwell told Roupe to tell Colonel when he got to camp that we had commenced in earnest, and would kill every man of them if he didn't liberate his prisoners...They were the worst frightened men I ever saw.  As we rode along in the darkness together, he (Rockwell) thoroughly enjoyed reflecting upon the events of the day. He would repeat what he had said to the guards and chuckle to himself over their discomfiture until his sides ached. Rockwell went in with the cattle, very much to my regret. I never found many men like him. I think our officers were afraid that he and I could not get along together. But we could.”

 On several nights the Legion would creep up as close as possible without being spotted, mount up, and ride throughout the camp shouting and firing their weapons in the air. This produced the only fatality of the Army as an older soldier suffered a heart-attack from the fright and died.

 After these incidents and many others the Army was finally forced to abandon all hope of reaching the Valley before winter. Many times Brigham even sent the Army food to sustain them since the Legion had scared off all their cattle. This delay in the army’s forward movement gave Young the necessary time to evacuate the inhabitants of Salt Lake City thirty miles south to Provo for refuge. In April of 1858, after meeting with Army officials and obtaining assurances that the troops would not be permitted to harass Mormon settlers, Young resigned as governor. Within a few weeks the army was allowed to enter the Salt Lake Valley. Most of Salt Lake City was abandoned by the time Johnston's Army entered the city. War was avoided as the army realized there was no rebellion. For the next several years, the Federal Government, distracted by the Civil War, largely left Utah alone. The Army, with Rockwell as guide, settled West of Lehi in order to keep an eye on things and Saints slowly filtered back to their homes. Not long afteward, Porter set up the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel at the Point of the Mountain, a half-way point between the Army camp and Salt Lake City. Here he hauled in California Whiskey for the troops traveling back and forth and made a profitable fortune.

 Life in Utah was very fruitful for Rockwell, however, he lost his second wife Mary Ann during the birth of a child. Many years would pass before he married his third wife, Christina, the nanny living on the Rockwell Ranch. Christina bore four more children so that Rockwell had a total of fifteen sons and daughters. There are countless journal stories of Porter, most mention just a brief encounter, while others mention details that help fill in the gaps of his colorful history. During the winter, children remember him tying their sleighs behind his carriage and pulling them through the great wide streets of Salt Lake City at full speed to the distress of many parents.

 Rockwell was described as having a large and powerful physique, and his appearance was rendered more striking by his long and flowing hair. "No woman," states his daughter Mrs. Reid, "ever had more beautiful hair than my father, and we were all proud of it.It is said that a gentler and more faithful father and husband is seldom seen," and one commentator on his life makes this satisfactory conclusion: "A righteous judge will not with-hold from him the reward due to those who have been true and valiant to the end."

 Jules Remy, a French scientist on his journey to California, stopped in to Salt Lake City, to meet Brigham Young, and while in a downtown saloon, Rockwell walked in, ordered the bartender to lock down the saloon and invited anyone not ready to drink to leave. Remy and his associates remained with intrigued curiosity, “What appears clear to us is that Rockwell is incapable of doing wrong except under the impression that he is doing right; so persuaded are we of this, that we would trust him with life and property without any hesitation. He is a lion in a lamb's skin, that we admit; but a brave and generous lion, full of heart and greatness, capable of the grandest devotedness, ready to sacrifice himself in behalf of any one who has gained his esteem, without exception of sect or person. ...He is of the stuff from which heroes are wrought, and if the blood of heroes can be inferred from the expression of the face, or the qualities of the heart, one would swear there were traces of lofty origin in him...He was wished to put him for the purpose of avenging our reported death . . . but exposing ourselves alone in the desert...won for us a place in his affection. He proposed to escort us as far as California, and had we accepted his offer, he would have accompanied us happy and content, without the remotest thought of any advantage to himself, proud of being able to give us this proof of his sincere regard.'

 Another visitor to Utah, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, a columnist for the Atlantic Monthly wrote, “...Next to Brigham Young, he [Rockwell] was the most interesting man and problem that I encountered in Utah. His personal appearance in itself was striking.... very strongly made; broad across the shoulders, and set squarely on the legs. His arm was of large girth, his chest round as a barrel, and his hand looked as powerful as a grizzly bear's. His face was of the mastiff type, and its expression, fidelity, fearlessness, ferocity. A man with his massive lower jaw, firm mouth, and good-humored but steady and searching eyes of steel blue, if his fanaticism takes the Mormon form, must infallibly become like Porter Rockwell. Organization and circumstances combine to make any such man a destroying angel.... I was familiar with most of them from the biblical examples.... Out of this mass of conflicting and particular angels I had abstracted an ideal and general angel; but when I suddenly cam on a real one, in Porter Rockwell, I was surprised at his unlikeness to my thought. His hair, black and iron streaks.... He was very obliging in his manners; placeable, jocose, never extravagant when he conversed, save in burlesque. No one ignorant of his career would take him on sight for a man of bad disposition in any sense. But he was the most terrible instrument, which can be handled by fanaticism; a powerful physical nature welded to a mind of very narrow perceptions, intense convictions, and a changeless tenacity. In his build he was a gladiator; in his humor, a Yankee lumberman; in his memory, a Bourbon; in his vergeance, an Indian. A strange mixture, only to be found on the American continent.”

 By far the most famous Gentile account comes from Sir Richard F Burton, who wrote a very detailed record of his trip to America and the Mormon frontier in a book called City of the Saints. He wrote, “Porter Rockwell was a man about fifty, tall and strong, with ample leather leggings overhanging his huge spurs, and the saw-handles of two peeping revolvers peeping from his blouse. His forehead was a little bald and he wore his long grizzly locks after the ancient fashion of the U.S., plaited and gathered up at the nape of the neck; his brow puckered with frowning wrinkles contrasted curiously with his cool determined gray eyes, jolly red face, and well touched up and laughing good-humored mouth. He had the manner for a jovial, reckless, devil-may-care English ruffian . . . After a little preliminary business about a stolen horse, all conducted on the amiable; he pulled out a dollar, and sent a boy to the neighboring distillery for a bottle of Valley Tan. The aguardiente was smuggled in under a cloth, as though we had been receptacles in a Moslem country, and we were sassed to join him in a "square drink," which means spirits without water. The mode of drinking was peculiar. Porter, after the preliminary sputation raised the glass with a cocked little finger to his lips, with the twinkle of the eye ejaculated ‘Wheat!’ that is to say ‘good,’ and drained the tumbler to the bottom: we acknowledged his civility with a ‘here's how,’ and drank Kentucky-fashion, which in English is midshipman's grog.

 ”Of these ‘square’ drinks we had at least four, which however, did not shake Mr. Rockwell's nerve, and then he sent out for more. Meanwhile he told us his last adventure, how when ascending the canyon he suddenly found himself covered by two long rifles; how he had thrown himself from his horse, drawn his revolver and crept behind a bush, and how he had dared the enemy to come out and fight like men . . . When he heard that I was preparing for California he gave me abundant good advice--to carry a double-barreled gun loaded with buckshot; to "keep my eyes skinned," especially in canyons and revines; to make at times a dark camp  . . . and never to trust to appearances in Indian country . . . I observed that, when thus speaking, Porter's eyes assumed the expression of an old mountaineer's, ever rolling as if set in quicksilver.  For the purpose of avoiding ‘White Indians,’ the worst of their kind, he advised me to shun the direct route, which he represented to be about as fit for travelling as hell for powder magazine.”

 Rockwell's time as Territorial Marshall was unprecedented, and he watched several court-ordered executions. Some didn’t make it to a proper execution or even trial because while being apprehended or making an escape Porter was forced to defend himself. Thus the culprits skipped the judicial process and were taken straight to the cemetery. Many times he was hired by Wells Fargo to ride “shotgun” along with the paid load, or to hunt down stage coach robberies and collect what loot could be returned. He was always considered the most trusted man for any job. One particular robbery in the barren Skull Valley in the western deserts of Utah left the Stagecoach drivers dead and the culprit fled with over $40,000 in gold. Although careful as the robber was, Porter was still able to find him sleeping against a tree. The man had taken great effort to supply himself with many days food and water at this spot, while Porter had nothing except what remained of his original supply. For nine days Porter watched him night and day, lived off the land and remained hidden. Finally the man went to a certain spot and began digging. As the man pulled the last sack of gold out of the hole Porter stood behind him with a gun to his neck. After evaluating the situation however, he realized only half of the gold was present. The man had made two deposits and now it was too late to find out where the second one was secreted. Exhausted, Porter took him to his home on Government Creek, tied the man down to a chair, and told a stable boy not to take his eyes off him while Porter got some much needed rest. The boy, unfortunately, fell asleep and the robber escaped. Porter, who woke up to the sounds of a galloping horse, scrambled to the door and managed to squeeze off a round, which hit the man in the leg from a great distance away. Porter tried to catch up, but the robber was too far ahead of him. Arriving in Tooele, Porter investigated the town and discovered the man had received some care for his leg in town and escaped penniless. Porter returned the stolen gold to Wells Fargo in Salt Lake City and tried to convince them to let him continue the hunt for the man and the remainder of buried treasure, but Wells Fargo was satisfied with what had been returned and refused to continue to pay Rockwell his $5 a day salary.

 After retiring as Territorial Marshall, Porter spent most of his days out on his Ranch in Government Creek. His closest neighbors were several miles away, the Bennion family. The youngest son Glenn wrote several articles in the Deseret News concerning his famous boyhood neighbor, one in particular said, “Rockwell, has come to figure in ant-Mormon literature as a murderer for loot at the behest for Brigham Young. So persistently has this killer aspect been held up that even some Later-day Saints have thoughtlessly accepted it as the true picture . . . Now there was nothing mild about Orrin Porter Rockwell. If the adverse characterization of Rockwell referred to is a thoughtless and an untrue one, then what shabby gratitude it is for a lifetime of service the sacrifice to the Church and to the prophets he loved! For Rockwell was the trusted messenger, the faithful bodyguard, the loved friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Time after time he breasted the mountain snows and icy winds of the plains . . . in such winters that no other man in the Church, except possibly Howard Egan or Ephraim Hanks could have made it through. His whalebone toughness as an endurance rider became proverbial throughout the nation. Perhaps no one, to the extent of his peculiar talents, ever offered his life more times or endured more exposure and physical suffering than did Rockwell for his Church, and all of this without thought or any material reward.

 “ . . . I have listened to stories about him told by my father and uncles who did ride with him, both on the range and on the trail of outlaws. I have talked with most of his old-time ranch neighbors, and all these, whether Mormon or Gentile, regarded him as an honorable, and trustworthy friend and neighbor to the law-abiding, but the implacable foe of lawlessness and a terror to outlaws.

 “No doubt Rockwell had his aberrations. He was uneducated, in the sense that he could not read or write. The light of the Gospel did not entirely rid his mind of the popular superstitions of his native New England. He had a weakness for alcohol that grew upon him . . . If in the performance of his duty as an officer of the law he sometimes administered short shrift to the lawless, it must be remembered that he lived in a day when officers courageous enough to make a stand for law and order were mighty few and badmen were numerous and bold. Why glorify the vigilantes of Montana for rising up and ridding their towns of outlaws and condemn Rockwell for what was not only just as justifiable, but was also legal.”

 Rockwell seemed to have a knack for enterprise and had no trouble in becoming very wealthy in the Salt Lake Valley. During his lifetime he established the family owned ferry operation at the Big Blue in Missouri; the taxi service in Nauvoo; three taverns in the California gold fields, a brewery in the Salt Lake Valley; and a vast cattle-horse ranch in the desert mountains of western Utah, estimated at 4,000 head. Porter paid $7,500 to Wells Fargo to purchase one and a quarter acres to build the expansive Colorado Stables. He owned 319 acres and an additional 212 acres at the Point of the Mountain at the Hot Springs Survey for the famous Hot Springs Brewery Hotel and Pony Express Station with a Mail contract which alone brought him $2,100 annually. In addition he owned two sections near Provo, 20 acres near American Fork, and 22 acres in Dry Creek.

 Porter also owned a gold mine at Bear River which was apparently quite productive. He was, therefore, quite distressed to hear that trespassers had dug within four inches of the load. In a meeting with President Young he sought the prophet’s counsel on what to do. In a sermon in Farmington, Utah Brother Brigham related how he calmed Porter by saying, "...[Port] you ought to know better; they may strike within four inches of that load...but they will never find it." Brigham continued the story that his prophecy held true and even Porter himself couldn’t find the load upon his return to the claim.



On June 8, 1878 Porter escorted his daughter Mary to a performance at the Salt Lake Theatre and then afterwards spent an hour at a nearby saloon.

 He then went to the Colorado Stables about midnight where he kept a bed for himself in the rear. Within a few hours he was awakened and complained of being cold, then a sudden wave of nausea overcame him. His illness continued into the next afternoon and progressed into congestive chill and violent vomiting. Finally, tired of being sick and determined not to let affect him any longer he decided to sit up in bed to pull on his boots. Suddenly he lurched back onto the bed unconscious. A physician was quickly brought to the stable and for some time he performed CPR, but it was too late. Within a few hours several hundred people crowded the stables in disbelief. The immortal Rockwell had passed on at the age of sixty-five. An autopsy later confirmed by four physicians testified of failure of the heart to pump caused by a suspension of the nervous system. 

 Nearly thirteen hundred people filled the Fourth Ward assembly hall on June 12 for the funeral. Joseph F. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in eulogy, "They say he was a murderer; if he was he was the friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and he was faithful to them, and to his covenants, and he has gone to Heaven and apostates will go to hell.... Porter Rockwell was yesterday afternoon ushered into Heaven clothed with immortality and eternal life, and crowned with all the glory which belongs to a Latter-Day Saint. He had his little faults, but Porter's life on earth, taken altogether, was one worthy of example, and reflected honor on the Church. Through all his trials he had never once forgotten his obligations to his brethren and his God."

 Many years later, his last wife Christine received her Patriarchal Blessing which stated, “Orrin is one of God's noble sons.... The Lord has been merciful unto him in doing good deeds that he did, in protecting the life of the Prophet Joseph. The Lord will pass by his weaknesses, and it is all right with him.” Another Patriarch in blessing his daughter made this significant statement: "Thou art favored of the Lord in thy parentage, and blessings of the Lord through thy fathers will rest upon thee."