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A Biographical Sketch 


John Riggs Murdock 




Salt Lake City, Utah 



The early history of the Church is made up 
largely of the strenuous and often unexampled 
efforts of the men and women whose heroic 
toils, sufferings, patience, and faith gave to the 
new movement a greatness and glory that in- 
crease as time goes on. Individual experiences, 
therefore, enriched that early history and give 
us a deeper insight into the real characters of 
the men and women whose devotion and con- 
stancy are as inspiring as they are interest- 

Among those who dedicated to the Church 
and its cause their best efforts, efforts of in- 
tense patriotism, and whose endurance was the 
crowning glory of those times, the name of 
John R. Murdock plays an important part. 
Had others not drawn out from him the story 
of his life, its inspiration and its example 
would have been lost to the world. When the 
manuscript prepared from facts given by him 
was read for his approval his only remark 
was : "They have made quite a man of me." 


He made himself, but the value of his life to 
others he had perhaps never realized. When 
asked how many books he wanted, his reply 
was an edition just enough for his family. 

Certain that the book would find interest and 
value beyond the confines of his home and rela- 
tions, a larger edition is published. The story 
of his life is one which all who would emulate 
his integrity and his example may desire to 

The Author. 



Infancy on the Frontiers 1 

Childhood in Missouri 15 

Boyhood in Illinois 42 

In the Mormon Battalion 74 

Pioneer in Salt Lake Valley 92 

Early Life in Lehi 108 

Life on the Plains 130 

Life in Beaver 154 

. The Evening of Life 178 

Character Sketch 193 

John Riggs Murdock 



John Riggs l.^ was born on the 13th 

of September, 1826. The date of his birth 
places his advent into the world on the thresh- 
old of a new dispensation. It was not only 
the dawn of a new era in the expansion of his 
native country, but it was at the beginning of 
a new era in the development of science, art, 
and invention. A new earth and a new heaven 
were just ushering in upon the human family. 
That year in the world's history was the begin- 
ning of a new life and he was born, therefore, 
into the coming opportunities that were await- 
ing men of pronounced character and unyield- 
ing faith. The opportunities of his environ- 
ments were perhaps not so important in his fa- 
vor as the circumstances of his birth. 


His father, John Murdock, was one of those 
pioneers of New England descent who had 
the courage and the hope to brave the unde- 
veloped regions of the West. He had, there- 
fore, transmitted to his son those peculiar qual- 
ities of life which make of men sturdy and 
courageous pioneers. The mother, whose 
maiden name was Julia Clapp, was a daughter 
of Judge Horace Clapp of Mentor, Ohio, who, 
in turn, was a son of Abner Clapp, a captain 
in the colonial army during the Revolutionary 
War. Abner was himself a direct descendant of 
Captain Roger Clapp, who came over from 
England in 1630 in the ship Mary and John, 
and was captain of Fort Independence in Bos- 
ton Harbor for twenty-one years. Such par- 
entage gave to the boy a rich inheritance that 
marked his life covering a long period of ser- 
vice both in the church and state. 

Another circumstance which seemed effica- 
cious in transmitting to the son the courage 
and independence of religious convictions is 
found in the fact that the father and mother 
were members of the Campbellite Church. 
These followers of Alexander Campbell, who 
was a bold and adroit leader, had been taught 


to rest their convictions upon the reformation 
of those times — a reformation which brought 
men back to a plain and literal interpretation 
of Holy Writ. Whatever, therefore, might be- 
fall the young boy in after life, however mea- 
gre the chances of a public school education, he 
was certainly equipped by the circumstances of 
his birth and a rich inheritance to take a front 
place in the ranks and in the deliberations of 
his fellow men. 

In the midst of this religious awakening in 
northeastern Ohio, a religious movement of 
greater import and of divine purpose was tak- 
ing place in western New York, where the 
Prophet Joseph Smith was the recipient of 
heavenly revelations announcing the advent of 
a new dispensation in the world's history. 
There were in that region of the country, 
between Canandaigoa and Colesville,about sev- 
enty members of the Church of Jesus Christ 
of Latter-day Saints. To them had been com- 
mitted the Book of Mormon and with it the 
duty of making the new message known to 
the inhabitants of the earth. The missionary 
spirit was upon them, and in the year 1830 a 
revelation was given requiring Oliver Cow- 


clery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter 
Whitmer, Jr. to visit the Lamanites, or Indians 
of the West, and make known to them the 
story of their forefathers. As these men set 
out on their westward journey, they soon 
reached the district of country about Kirtland. 
Here Parley P. Pratt met his old friend and 
teacher, Sidney Rigdon, of the Reformed Bap- 
tists Society. 

The testimony of these elders and the mes- 
sage of the Book of Mormon awakened in- 
tense feelings and interest among the Camp- 
bellites, who were in a frame of mind and a 
condition of spirit to receive the new message. 
Speaking of those times Parley P. Pratt, in his 
autobiography, says : 'The interest and excite- 
ment now became general in Kirtland and in 
all the region round about. The people 
thronged day and night, in so much that we 
had no time for rest or retirement." 

"In two or three weeks from our arrival in 
the neighborhood with the news, we had bap- 
tized one hundred and twenty souls and this 
number soon increased to one thousand. The 
disciples were filled with joy and gladness ; 
while rage and lying were abundantly mani- 


fested by gainsayers ; faith was strong, joy 
was great, and persecution heavy. We pro- 
ceeded to ordain Sidney Rigdon, Isaac Morley, 
John Murdock, Lyman Wight to the ministry ; 
and, leaving them to take care of the Church 
and minister the gospel, we took leave of the 
Saints and continued our journey." 

The boy John Riggs at this time was only 
four years of age. From his earliest recollec- 
tion he was brought up amid scenes of conflict, 
and in the society of courageous and faithful 
men. Such a training as befell him, therefore, 
in his youth was, really, one of rare opportu- 
nity. As the development of a manly char- 
acter is, after all, one of the first aims of edu- 
cation, the boy's schooling in a new and won- 
derful life was perhaps after all of greater 
value and consequence to him in his pioneer 
work than the text-book of a schoolroom could 
ever have given. 

Sidney Rigdon was anxious to meet the 
Prophet, and therefore at his earliest oppor- 
tunity set out for Fayette, New York, where 
he and Joseph Smith first became associated 
in the early experiences of the Church. Nor 
was it a matter of small moment to the boy 


and his environments that his father was in 
those early days numbered with such men as 
Rigdon, Morley, Wight, and Partridge. "Tell 
me," says the old adage, "what a man's as- 
sociations are, and I will tell you what he is." 

Soon after this a revelation was given re- 
quiring the Saints in New York to gather in 
Ohio. This was the first revelation on gath- 
ering in this dispensation. This divine re- 
quirement brought the Saints in the spring of 
1831 to Kirtland, where the Saints were re- 
quired to receive the new brethren from the 
East and to divide their lands with them, "un- 
til the Lord should command them to gather 
in the land of their inheritance." This new 
move established the Church in that region of 
Ohio, where John Murdock and his son lived. 

The elder Murdock was in those days also 
closely associated with Parley P. Pratt. In 
their missionary labors there were peculiar 
spiritual manifestations which troubled these 
elders, and in the absence of their Prophet 
they felt somewhat dismayed and in need of 
his guidance. It was a remarkable priv- 
ilege given to man to take part with the Proph- 
et and with the elders whom God had raised 


up as companions for him. Such a privilege 
was accorded to John Murdock. In his auto- 
biography Parley P. Pratt, speaking of those 
times, says : "Feeling our weakness and inex- 
perience, and lest we should err in judgment 
concerning this spiritual phenomenon, myself, 
John Murdock, and several other elders went 
to Joseph Smith and asked him to inquire of 
the Lord concerning these spirits or manifes- 
tations. Here, in Kirtland, in the Prophet's 
translating room, Joseph Smith dictated, in 
their presence a revelation. Elder Pratt, de- 
scribing the revelation, says : "Each sentence 
was uttered slowly and very distinctly, and 
with a pause between each sufficiently long 
for it to be recorded by an ordinary writer in 
long hand. This was the manner in which 
all his revelations were dictated and written. 
There was never any hesitation, reviewing, or 
reading back in order to keep the run of the 

The atmosphere of such divine manifesta- 
tion and such revelations was an atmosphere 
in which the father lived and whose influence 
must have been his guiding star. Having a 
father thus favored,there must have been awak- 


ened in the heart of the boy a confidence that 
could not easily be shaken ; and those who know- 
John Riggs Murdock will be quick to ascribe 
that unyielding faith and devotion in his life 
in some degree at least to the atmosphere from 
which he received his earliest religious con- 

If there were strong influences and great 
men carrying John Murdock along in the 
course of his new-born faith, there were also 
counteracting influences which compelled him 
to take an attitude of firmness and maintain 
the God-given testimony that meant to him a 
new life and a great sacrifice. His wife, Julia 
Clapp, was related to Alexander Campbell by 
marriage, her sister having married a brother 
of this able religious leader. Nor was oppo- 
sition the only trial that beset him in those 
days. To him and his wife were born five 
children, Orrice Clapp, John Riggs, and Phcebe 
Clapp, besides the historical twin babies, Julia 
and Joseph. Upon the birth of the last-named 
two, the mother died, leaving the care of her 
five children to neighbors and friends. This 
happened in the month of April, 1831, before 
John Riggs Murdock had reached his fifth 


year. Speaking of those times in later years 
the subject of this sketch said : "Fresh in my 
memory is the death of my dear mother, 
which occurred in Warrensville township, 
which joins Orange township. There was a 
dreadfully sad scene among her poor children 
following her death. It was simply heart- 
rending to hear little sister Phcebe, only two 
years old, cry out for her mother as if her 
little heart would break. We were staying at 
a neighbor's when father came and told us the 
sad news. He wept most bitterly; for he re- 
alized all the sorrow of the situation." 

The same day that Julia Murdock gave birth 
to her twin children, a similar occurrence took 
place in the family of the Prophet Joseph 
Smith. Nine days later the Prophet's wife, 
Emma, to assuage her grief over the loss of 
her twin children, and to respond to a heart- 
felt sympathy for the unfortunate little ones in 
the Murdock family, took these twins, Joseph 
and Julia. About the time the little ones were 
eleven months old, the Prophet moved from 
Kirtland to a nearby town called Hiram, 
where he lived in the family of Father John- 


In consequence of the rapid growth of the 
Mormon people in that section of the country, 
and the large number of converts made from 
the Campbellite Church, persecution grew in- 
tense. Apostates sought justification in the 
humiliation of those whose teachings and 
authority they later came to despise. An ac- 
count of the death of the twin Joseph and the 
circumstances leading to it is given by the 
Prophet Joseph in his biography of March 24, 
1832: "The twins before mentioned, which 
had been sick of the measles for some time, 
caused us to be broken of our rest in taking 
care of them, especially my wife. In the eve- 
ning I told her she had better retire with one 
of the children, and I would watch with the 
sicker child. In the night she told' me I had 
better lie down on the trundle bed, and I did 
so, and was soon after awakened by her 
screaming, 'murder!' when I found myself 
going out of the door in the hands of about 
a dozen men, some of whose hands were in 
my hair, and some had hold of my shirt, draw- 
ers, and limbs. * * * During the mob- 
bing one of the twins, Joseph, contracted a se- 


vere cold and continued to grow worse until 
Friday, and then died." This was March 22, 
1832. In one day more the children would 
have been eleven months old. Julia, the other 
twin, continued to live in the Prophet's fam- 
ily until she married. 

About this time there began in pursuance 
of revelation a move of the Staints from Kirt- 
land and neighborhood to the land of Zion in 
Missouri. For five years after the death of 
the mother of John Riggs Murdock, his father 
devoted himself to the work of the ministry, 
and the children were placed in the care of 
friends. When this boy was six years of age, 
he, with his brother Orrice and sister Phcebe, 
were placed in the keeping of Caleb Baldwin, 
who left Ohio in 1832 to settle with the Saints 
in Independence, Missouri. 

They were little children to undertake such 
a journey and under such circumstances of 
privation and hardship. The second boy, the 
subject of this sketch, was then already old 
enough to sense in some measure the change 
in his surorundings and the new life he was to 
take on thereafter. It cannot be said, how- 


ever, that he lacked love and friendship and 
the tender care which springs from them. 

The Saints in those days were subject to per- 
secution. Their sympathies, therefore, were 
awakened by every misfortune and suffering 
that came to their fellow men, and especially 
those of their own faith; besides, the father 
of these Murdock children was devoting him- 
self to the ministry. His devotion, therefore, 
to the cause of God and the sacrifice which it 
entails in separating him from his little ones, 
would naturally beget a heartfelt interest in 
their behalf. Caleb Baldwin, the man to 
whose tender mercies they had been entrusted, 
was himself in years to come to undergo tribu- 
lations. Indeed, he must have felt during those 
days of travel between Kirtland and Independ- 
ence a solicitous welfare for the little charges 
entrusted to his keeping. 

When the children reached their destination 
in Missouri, they were separated — a circum- 
stance indeed trying to a childish love for lit- 
tle brothers and sisters. Little Phcebe, a help- 
less child at that time, was given over to the 
care of Sidney Gilbert and wife. Having no 


children of their own, and loving little ones, 
they bestowed an abundance of love and care 
on little Phoebe. She lived, however, to be only 
six years old, having died of the cholera at the 
same time Sidney Gilbert and several members 
of Zion's Camp fell "victims of that dread dis- 
ease. The boy, John Riggs, a little older than 
his departed sister, carried the memories of a 
childish love and devotion and was wont in 
after years to declare : "Truly, she was a 
lovely child !" The oldest boy, Orrice, passed 
on to the keeping of different ones. As those 
days were full of trouble, and men's circum- 
stances changed so often and so radically 
they could not continue their guardianship 
over him. 

The subject of this sketch came under the 
supervision of the Presiding Bishop of the 
Church in those days, Edward Partridge, who 
gave him over to Morris C. Phelps, who had at 
that time no little ones. Thus began the life 
of John Riggs Murdock on the outposts of civ- 
ilization. It was a life in Jackson County. 
where he was old enough to witness the sav- 
age persecutions of his benefactors and of his 
people. The impressions made during that 


time upon a mind so young can scarcely be 
comprehended by those whose peaceful sur- 
roundings are so happyfying, and whose com- 
forts relieve the childish mind of all fear and 




The childhood of John Riggs Murdock in 
Missouri, during those awful days of bitter 
persecution, must have been one of constant 
and intense anxiety. He was too young then 
— for he was only six years old when he 
reached Independence, Jackson county — to 
feel the supporting influence which comes to 
those who understand in some measure God's 
purpose in persecution, and who have the ex- 
perience of faith and an understanding suffix 
cient to comprehend a situation even though 
it be full of distress. This boy would naturally 
cling with fear and anxiety to those in whom 
he trusted. To him the situation was full of 
bewilderment, he could not comprehend the ar- 
guments that were carried on between the en- 
emies and the Saints, and in their contentions 
he could only know that there was for some 
reason a murderous intent in the hearts of 
those who were persecuting his people and his 


The western Missourians of those days were 
Southerners. The blighting influence of slav- 
ery was an object lesson to the Saints, who, 
by their industry in reclaiming the prairie 
lands, stood out in striking contrast with their 
Southern neighbors. Those were days when 
slave-holders had staked their all on the tri- 
umph and supremacy of their cherished insti- 
tution of negro servitude. Politics, therefore, 
in those frontier territories took on a deadly- 
aspect that perhaps has never had an equal in 
the history of our country. The political pow- 
er of the Mormons was to the enemy a subject 
of grave fears, and the struggle to thwart that 
coming power, as they viewed it, became to 
them a matter of life and death. The Mor- 
mons must leave Jackson county. 

The Phelps family, in which the boy lived, 
by reason of its prominence, became one of the 
shining marks against whom the murderous 
assaults of those Mormon haters were directed. 
There were constant gatherings of the mobs 
to intimidate the Saints and to enforce their 
removal from Jackson county. Sometimes 
these mobs and bodies of the Saints came 
into open conflict, but the Saints were in the 


minority, and their opposition only served as 
an excuse to perpetrate upon them the inhu- 
man outrages that characterized their driving 
from the confines of Jackson county across 
the Missouri River north into Clay county. 

A picture of those days, the fifth and sixth of 
November, 1&32, scenes to which John Riggs 
Murdock was in a large measure an eye-wit- 
ness, has been painted, in the Times and Sea- 
sons, and in the biography of the Prophet 
Joseph. Those scenes are here given at some 
length because, though the history of different 
communities, they are nevertheless stirring in- 
cidents that came within the childhood experi- 
ence of John Riggs Murdock : 

"All through this day and the day follow- 
ing (November 6th) women and children were 
fleeing in every direction from the presence of 
the merciless mob. One company of one hun- 
dred and ninety — all women and children, ex- 
cept three decrepit men — were driven thirty 
miles across a burnt prairie, the ground thinly 
crusted with sleet, their trail being easily fol- 
lowed by the blood which flowed from their 
lacerated feet. 

"Other parties during the two days men- 


tioned flocked to the Missouri River, and 
crossed at the ferries into Clay county. One 
of the companies of the distressed women and 
children were kindly lodged by a Mr. Bennett 
for the night in his house." 

If you would see that boy on the banks of the 
Missouri River on the 7th day of November, 
1833, read the scene as portrayed by the 
prophet : 

"The shore began to be lined on both sides 
of the ferry with men, women and children, 
goods, wagons, boxes, chests, provisions, etc., 
while the ferrymen were busily employed in 
crossing them over; and when night again 
closed upon the Saints the wilderness had much 
the appearance of a camp meeting. Hundreds 
of people were seen in every direction ; some 
in tents and some in the open air, around their 
fires, while the rain descended in torrents. 
Husbands were inquiring for their wives ; and 
women for their husbands ; parents for chil- 
dren ; and children for parents. Some had the 
good fotune to escape with their family, house- 
hold goods and some provisions; while others 
knew not of the fate of their loved ones and 
had lost all their goods. The scene was in- 


describable, and would have melted the hearts 
of any people upon the earth, except the blind 
oppressor, and prejudiced and ignorant bigot. 
Xext day the company increased, and they 
were chiefly engaged in felling small cotton- 
wood trees and erecting them into temporary 
cabins, so that when night came on they had 
the appearance of a village of wigwams, and 
the night being clear, the occupants began to 
enjoy some degree of comfort. " 

The Evening and Morning Star contains the 
following description of a meteoric phenome- 
non which gave encouragement to the dis- 
tressed Saints, and for the moment created 
some dismay among their enemies : 

"On the night of the 13th of November, 
while large bodies of the Saints were still in 
Camp on the Missouri bottoms, exiled from 
their homes for the gospel's sake, one of the 
most wonderful meteoric showers occurred 
that was ever witnessed. The whole heavens 
and the earth were made brilliant by the 
streams of light which marked the course of 
the falling aerolites. The whole upper deep 
was one vast display of heaven's fireworks. 
The long trains of light left in the heavens by 


the meteors would twist into the most fantastic 
shapes, like writhing serpents. Its grandeur 
was far beyond the power of words to describe. 

"It is needless to say, then, that this sign in 
the heavens encouraged the distressed Saints; 
that it revived their hopes ; that it calmed their 
fears ; that the coming of their deliverer was 
drawing nigh. Nor need I say that it awed 
the mob, and made a pause in their cruel pro- 
ceedings for a season. But that pause was 
brief; for on the twenty -third of November 
the mob held a meeting, and appointed a com- 
mittee to warn any of the Saints who might 
possibly be found within the borders of the 
county, to leave." 

Of this remarkable manifestation, John R. 
Murdock says : "The stars fell in countless 
numbers; and were as vivid and real to my 
eye as are the immense hail stones or snow 
flakes that may fall in an ordinary storm." 

The boy found himself north of the Mis- 
souri River, in Clay county, when only seven 
years of age, dependent upon foster parents 
who in turn were largely dependent upon the 
hospitality of those whose pity had been reach- 
ed by the inhuman treatment which had over- 


taken the Saints in Jackson county. When it 
is remembered that at this time the Saints were 
poor; that what little they had in Jackson 
county had been destroyed, we can well im- 
agine the touching poverty that existed in 
their midst. The poverty was so great that 
even though the pride of the boy was not 
touched by its existence, he must have felt it 
keenly in the want of the ordinary necessities 
of life, as food would be scant and his raiment 
poor. At his age of life, too, he would be 
deeply sensitive to his unfavorable and uncer- 
tain surroundings. 

Here, too, in the life of John R. Murdock, 
from the period of seven to nine years of age, 
was indelibly impressed upon his soul that in- 
tense and abiding faith in the rightfulness of 
the Saints to the land of their inheritance, of 
Jackson county, which to him was the land of 
promise — the chosen place of the Lord. The 
history of those times recounts the tenacity 
with which the Saints held to the hope of their 
Zion. It was not merely the land they had 
been compelled to leave, measured in dollars 
and cents ; it was not the houses burned from 
over their heads ; it was not the loss of horses 


and cattle, nor the destruction of their mov- 
ables upon which they had centered their af- 
fection ; it was upon a particular spot of earth 
— the Zion of their God — the land of prom- 
ise — the glory of days to come. How could 
they abandon it! It was a part of their faith, 
and their eyes turned back to Jackson county 
with a yearning of a steadfast purpose and an 
unyielding faith. 

While the Saints generally had their hearts 
set upon Jackson county, this boy was receiv- 
ing those early impressions of life which are 
written both on and in the human soul. It is 
not, therefore, to be wondered that all his life 
long there was a sacred corner in the heart 
of John Riggs Murdock, where he treasured 
up a loving and abiding faith in the thought of 
Jackson County. It was a part of his life. He 
spoke about it from the pulpit, he referred to 
it in private conversation, but what he said 
must have been small in comparison with his 
thoughts and feelings about the chosen Zion 
of the Lord. 

The people then had not abandoned their 
hope of a favorable opportunity to return to 
this chosen spot. That hope has never been 


abandoned by the Latter-day Saints, even those 
born at times long subsequent. If in the chil- 
dren of the Covenant who had never seen 
Jackson county there is inborn hope for the 
redemption of that promised spot of earth, 
what must be the feelings of a man toward it 
who, as the subject of this sketch, from his 
ealriest recollections kept tenaciously to the 
promise which had been given him respecting 
the Zion of his God. Perhaps in the decline of 
life, when he stands on the shores of the great 
hereafter, no thought has been more cher- 
ished by him than that of the ultimate return 
of the Saints to Jackson county. 

He felt as others of his time felt, that when 
he left Clay county it would be to drop back 
again across the Missouri River to receive the 
land there given the Saints as an inheritance. 

From Clay county he went with the Saints 
to Caldwell. For him in this new county 
there began a new training. It was the birth 
of uncommon responsibilities which were to 
develop a character for manhood, persistency, 
and industry that gave him much of the prom- 
inence and prestige he enjoyed in after life 
among his fellow men. 


During the stay of John R. Murdock in 
Clay county, he naturally shared the experi- 
ences of his fellow outcasts. The hardships 
which such a condition works upon a boy are 
usually greater than those encountered by per- 
sons of mature years, who have the physical 
powers to withstand the cold, want of food 
and other trials. After he had been baptized 
by his father in Clay county, on the 14th day 
of September, 1834, the day after he was eight 
years of age, he came properly under the des- 
ignation of a Mormon. He was then old 
enough to sense, in some measure, the situa- 
tion, and feel the humiliation to which he and 
his older brethren had been subjected. In his- 
life, the years of 1835-36-37 and 38, when he 
was nine, ten, eleven and twelve years old, 
experiences came to him which had much to do 
with the convictions on the important question 
of Mormonism' throughout all his subsequent 
life. Those were, indeed, rare experiences for 
a boy who was of his age, an age in which 
the memory plays so important a part and 
impressions are so lasting. 

The history of those years, from the stand- 
point of his youth, are worth here a brief re- 


capitulation. He had been an eye-witness of that 
awful hatred known only in religious persecu- 
tion. It was a hatred both vile and murder- 
ous. As he looked into the faces of the men 
who drove him and his foster parents from 
Jackson county, he must have felt something 
of the terror that only such a murderous hatred 
can forget. When he settled in Clay county he 
felt the sympathy which the people, who re- 
ceived the refugees bestowed in consequence 
of the pity which they felt for those unfortu- 
nate exiles. There would naturally be awak- 
ened within the boy a deep sense of gratitude 
for the slightest favor bestowed, but that grat- 
itude was not left long undisturbed; for the 
shelter which he received in Clay county was 
only temporary, and he with his people, was 
first coldly invited to leave the county and 
later were threatened if they tarried long. It 
is not easy to describe what a boy's conception 
of a free government was under such circum- 
stances. Then he must have gradually awak- 
ened to the fact that no government is more 
just than the people who maintain it. How- 
ever, the people moved to Caldwell county, 
where the broad prairie was considered in those 


days unfavorable for the purposes of settle- 
ment. The county was comparatively free from 
inhabitants and it looked as though the Mor- 
mons might dwell there in peace with them- 
selves. He had now arrived at that age of life, 
although still young, where his services could 
be extensively utilized. At eleven years of 
age he says that he plowed and cultivated ten- 
acres of land. He also remembers, among the 
early experiences of his boyhood, the fact that 
he drove a team at the time the excavation 
was made for the foundation of the Temple 
in the town of Far West. 

There were busy and stirring scenes in Far 
West during the years of 1836, 1837 and 1838. 
It was the County Seat, the center of the re- 
ligious and political organizations of the peo- 
ple. He saw his father there at the conference 
of 1837 chosen the senior member of the high 
council, which was organized for that stake of 
Zion. With that body of men might be seen 
a number of strong characters, whose associa- 
tion with his father not only had an impres- 
sion upon the boy, but awakened within him 
feelings of admiration by reason of what he 
saw and heard. He also learned at that time 


the importance which the Church had placed 
upon the Word of Wisdom, for by unanimous 
vote the people agreed that they would not 
support any store or shop which sold intoxi- 
cating liquors, tea, coffee., or tobacco. The 
leaders of the Church were anxious to secure 
the favor of the Lord by the observance of his 
requirements. They were anxious to fortify 
the brethren against the practices which lead to 
indulgence and disunion. 

The Church, however, was not to escape 
temptation ; and if its members avoided one 
snare, others were laid to trap their unwary 
feet. There were other temptations besides 
self-indulgence. Best of opportunities were 
given to gratify selfishness in those who felt 
the inner temptation. 

Into Caldwell and two or three of the other 
adjoining counties, the Saints were coming 
from Canada and Kirtland, and it was not 
long before there were some twelve thousand 
people among the Saints in Missouri. This 
influx of population naturally created a rise 
in land values. The old settlers could not re- 
sist the temptation to speculate at the expense 
of the new-comers. Along with this selfish- 


ness there developed among them feelings of 
pride which resulted in division and later in 

Here the boy must have listened to the con- 
tentions that were the outgrowth of strife and 
rivalry. He saw the witnesses to the Book of 
Mormon fall by the wayside. He saw apos- 
tles undertake to bring trouble and calamity 
upon the Prophet. Those men who were op- 
posing the counsels of the Prophet and violat- 
ing his instructions, no doubt, had their "strong 
arguments." Fortunately for him his father 
and his foster parents, those responsible for his 
welfare, did not falter. The. foster father of 
his sister, Sidney Gilbert, had declared to the 
Prophet in the strength of his manhood that he 
would rather die than go on a mission. Death 
speedily overtook the man in the days of the 
cholera plague. Those were days that laid the 
foundation of that faith in John Riggs Mur- 
dock which served in future life to guard him 
against the sophistries of men and the dangers 
of selfish ambition. He had learned in his 
youth, perhaps the most important lesson in 
Mormonism; namely, that there is no safety 
for men who have not a spiritual guidance 


stronger and surer than the reasons and argu- 
ments of their fellows. It was in those days, 
too, that John R. Murdock learned that might 
was not right. The brute force which was the 
only superior power that the Missourians 
could claim, stood out in striking contrast to 
the intelligence, industry, virtue,and refinement 
of the Latter-day Saints. He also saw the ex- 
cuses which querulous men made use of as a 
justification for their violence and injustice, 
and he therefore throughout the remainder of 
his life avoided those who were given to con- 
tention and strife. 

The Prophet Joseph had been in Far West 
in 1837 and had given the people an organ- 
ization and directed the work of their colon- 
ization. He then returned to Kirtland, to 
look after the Saints there. But the Prophet 
could not travel fast enough between these dis- 
tant places to subdue the contentions and en- 
mity which the evil one created. In the spring 
of 1838 Joseph felt that his presence was need- 
ed more with the Saints on the frontier, that 
he must quit Kirtland if his life were to be pre- 
served. He was soon followed by the majority 
of the Saints in Ohio. Gathering was going on 


rapidly in Missouri. On the 4th of July, 1838, 
he witnessed the laying of the corner-stone in 
the excavation which had been prepared the 
year before in Far West. The people of Mis- 
souri clearly foresaw that Caldwell county 
would not satisfy the requirements of the Lat- 
ter-day Saints. Their immigration was natur- 
ally a source of some alarm. They entertained 
a fear of the Mormon people, whose increasing 
numbers they considered a menace to their 
power. They were slave holders, and were 
anxious that the slave power should predom- 
inate in every new state of the West. The 
chasm between the slaveholders of the South 
and the people of the North was growing wider 
and deeper. That "peculiar institution," if it 
prevailed, must do so by political supremacy. 
The Mormons did not contend against slavery, 
but that made no difference, for in biblical 
language the Missourians declared that, "those 
who are not for us are against us." 

It is sometimes said that politics has been 
the chief cause of trouble to the Mormon peo- 
ple from the earliest period of their history. 
Xo doubt politics had much to do with driving 
the Saints from Missouri, but Mormons like 


to vote. They want to exercise their fran- 
chise as freely as other people do, and some- 
times they like to vote for their friends. The 
bringing of 12,000 people into the state of 
Missouri within a short time would naturally 
create some apprehension, and no doubt there 
appeared upon the horizon of the Missourians 
of those days the bug-a-boo of Missouri un- 
der Mormon dominion. In Daviess county, in 
the year 1838, a few Mormons undertook to 
exercise their franchise, and they had no doubt 
been persuaded by their Gentile brethren, that 
it was not only their privilege but their right 
to do so, and it may be true that they had a 
kind of balance of power that the mobocrats 
feared and determined should not be exercised. 
A row resulted and false rumors spread 
throughout the state in the wildest manner 
about the Mormons. 

Under ordinary circumstances such an ex- 
citement and such an appeal to arms could not 
have been brought about. It is perhaps not 
wholly correct to say that the ministers did it. 
It was in part a question of animosity on the 
part of slaveholders towards those of New 
England descent, whom the slaveholders of 



those days so cordially hated. It was in any 
event the wrath of the evil one let loose, but be- 
yond all we now see the ringer of God pointing 
to other lands, to another destiny, to a great- 
er people located in the valleys of the Rocky 
Mountains. No explanation of those awful per- 
secutions, and of the hatred of those days is 
sufficient to make clear Mormon history in 
Missouri, which does not recognize the hand of 
God in the destiny of a peculiar people 
whose future was to serve his almighty pur- 

Troubles came thick and fast. At first the 
out-posts were attacked. The Saints at De- 
witt were surrounded and compelled to gather 
at Far West. Later came the massacre at 
Haun's mill; and in the midst of it all Gov- 
ernor Boggs' awful decree of extermination. 
Under such circumstances the people could not 
have failed to see that the coining storm was 
irresistible, and that they must leave the state. 
It was no longer a question of what to do, but 
how to do it. They were in dire distress. The 
enemy was giving them no quarter. There 
might have been seen in those days men and 


women fleeing in all directions toward Far 

While all these things were going on John 
R. Murdock lived with the Phelps family about 
two and one-half miles from the town. While 
he was there, Col. Hinkle, in charge of the 
militia, betrayed the Prophet Joseph into the 
hands of the mob. There the boy heard the 
awful howls, wild demonstrations of delight 
over the treachery which had brought the 
Prophet and other leaders of the Church under 
its control. He felt the suspense that was com- 
mon to his people when the word reached 
his ears that these leaders had been court- 
martialed and sentenced to death. If older 
ones could see no escape for those they loved 
from what seemed certain death, what must 
have been the thoughts and feelings of this 
boy! If the situation taxed their faith, what 
must have been his trust in the providences of 
God ! The release from a situation so threaten- 
ing, from death apparently so certain, must 
have taught him throughout all his subsequent 
years, that faith, after all, is the highest and 
strongest assurance that man can have under 
such trying ordeals of life. 


Perhaps this boy did not fully sense the dan- 
gers with which he was surrounded and the 
future hardships which then immediately 
awaited him. His foster father, Morris Phelps, 
was taken prisoner and subjected to the great 
indignities that befell the Prophet, Parley P. 
Pratt and others. At this period of life, when 
he was only twelve years old, some of the re- 
sponsibility of the family fell upon him. He 
was brought into contact with the officers of 
the militia, who used the boy in securing 
horses and to make such trades as the officers 
thought advantageous to them. 

He was thus brought into the whirl of ex- 
citement and danger which then prevailed. At 
Far West he was a witness to many evil acts 
of an infuriated, low-minded mob. 

When the people in Far West gathered on 
the public square to listen to the words of Gen- 
eral Clark and learn from him their doom, 
John R. Murdock again felt those cruel un- 
certainties of days to come more keenly than 
he felt his situation when he crossed the river 
some years before from Jackson into Clay 
county. Did he realize the meaning of those 
words which fell from the lips of General 


Clark? Did he know their awful import? 
What feelings of misgiving they must have 
awakened within his breast when those awful 
words were made clear to his understanding! 
General Clark said: "As for your leaders, 
do not think, do not imagine for a moment, do 
not let it enter your minds that they will be 
delivered, or that you will ever see their faces 
again; for their fate is fixed, their die is cast, 
their doom is sealed. I would advise you to 
scatter abroad and never again organize with 
bishops, presidents, etc., lest you excite the 
jealousy of the people and subject yourselves 
to the same calamities that have now come up- 
on you." 

The Saints now well understood that they 
could not remain another season in Missouri. 
It was not so much a question of what they 
should do, as what they could do. They must 
leave. The people of Illinois along the Mis- 
sissippi river offered them a place of refuge. 
The people of Illinois were Northerners and 
comprehended the misfortunes of the Mor- 
mons who had fallen into the hands of the irate 
Southerners of Missouri. Then the awful suf- 
ferings of the Saints called for action and 


they began immediate preparations during the 
winter of 1838 and 1839 to cross eastern Mis- 
souri to the state of Illinois. 

In those days travel was not only slow but 
difficult. Extensive preparations had to be 
made for even short journeys. The people 
were using every endeavor to save all that they 
could from the loot of the mob. Their horses 
and cattle had been driven away. Besides the 
theft to which they were subjected, there was 
malicious deviltry in much that the mob did. 
It destroyed property in the most wanton man- 
ner. Sometimes mobocrats w r ould shoot down 
a cow while some girl was milking it. Then 
they brought to their aid all sorts of cunning 
devices to excuse their theft and robbery, when 
they preferred to conceal notoriously open and 
wicked conduct. At the point of their guns 
they compelled the Mormons to sign away 
their property for the alleged purpose of de- 
fraying the expenses of the war. 

The young Murdock boy was an eye-witness 
of those, trying days. The hardships of the 
people were his hardships. Being naturally 
sensitive, he felt keenly the ourages which he 
constantly saw perpetrated upon his people. 


His home had been broken up by the capture 
of its head. Fortunately, how ever, he enjoyed 
in some measure the protecting care of his fos- 
ter mother, Laura Phelps, who was the daugh- 
ter of Timothy B. Clark, a well-to-do man in 
those days. This brought him into associa- 
tion with such men as William O. Clark, a 
great preacher in the early history of the 
Church. He was also associated with Ezra T. 
Clark, another member of that family. The 
Clarks had considerable property for those 
days. Much of it consisted of cattle and 
horses. In those times the experiences of John 
R. Murdock in handling horses and dealing in 
cattle gave him a ripened judgment far be- 
yond his years. Those days also developed 
within him a rare judgment in handling all 
kinds of live stock, a judgment which turned 
to most excellent account in later years of life. 
In the spring of 1839 he was entrusted with 
one hundred head of the Clark cattle, which he 
had to drive from Far West to Illinois. In 
that migration of the Saints the people went in 
small squads. The individual responsibility 
was much greater than it was where they trav- 
eled in large parties. The boy, however, gave 


excellent account of himself in this new re- 
sponsibility. However, such a trust would not 
have been imposed upon him had he not given 
evidence earlier in his boyhood of his fidelity 
to every duty to which he had been called. Al- 
though a youth he must have established a rep- 
utation for industry, care, and judgment far be- 
yond that enjoyed by boys of that age, for he 
was not yet thirteen years old. 

He here also learned the first lessons which 
taught him the superiority of Brigham Young's 
leadership — a leadership that placed him in 
good service in Nauvoo in the exodus from 
Illinois and in the settlement of Utah. Thomas 
B. Marsh had fallen and in the absence of Jos- 
eph the leadership of the quorum of the twelve 
apostles fell upon Brigham Young, who im- 
mediately began, after the arrest of the Proph- 
et, preparations for the migration of the Saints 
beyond the confines of Missouri ; but Brigham 
was not left long at liberty to carry out this 
exodus. His enemies drove him from the scene ; 
and Heber C. Kimball, who sought to take up 
the work where Brigham Young left off, was 
also handicapped. A committee had been ap- 
pointed to prepare for the exodus and to se- 


cure opportunities for all to leave, the poorest 
as well as those who were well-to-do. 

The journey of John R. Murdock across 
Missouri, with his herd of cattle, in the spring 
of 1839, was the history of a hardship com- 
mon to the men and women of that time. 
Through the mud and rain he made his way 
as best he could, a mere child upon whom 
fell a responsibility to see that his cattle did 
not scatter, that none of them escaped him, 
that they were properly fed and watered and 
so driven as not to diminish their value when 
they reached their journey's end. 

Nor was it merely a matter of toil, of want, 
or of excessive responsibility. He was old 
enough to ask himself some thoughtful ques- 
tions. What did it all mean ? Whither was he 
going? When would he find a permanent rest- 
ing place ? How would he fare in a new land ? 
How would his new neighbors treat him? 
He must have wondered at the providences of 

However he had seen the hand of God man- 
ifest. He had reason to trust his leaders and 
somehow and somewhere he must have felt 
that peace and protection of God awaited him. 


On the 26th day of April, 1839, in fulfill- 
ment of a prophecy which the enemy had de- 
clared should not come true, the Twelve, from 
the home of Timothy B. Clark, made their 
way early in the morning to the public square, 
where they placed in the ground a cornerstone 
of the temple, held meeting, sang, spoke, and 
finally took their departure for the East, pre- 
paratory to their missions, to which they had 
been called to the nations of the earth. At 
this time Wilford Woodruff and George A. 
Smith were called to the quorum of the twelve 

In the spring of 1839, John R. Murdock 
reached a land where he entered upon new ex- 
periences which characterized his stay in that 
state. To those who in youth enjoyed the 
quietude of home and peaceful surroundings, 
the early life of this boy is not comprehensible. 
From the days of his earliest recollections he 
lived in the midst of turmoil and persecution. 
The anger of the mob and their awful fury 
were the commonplace experiences of his early 
days. The atmosphere he breathed was charged 
with anxieties, hardships, responsibilities, and 
uncertainties. He became in those early days 


surely a child of emergencies, and was taught 
to prepare himself for whatever fell in his way 
to do. It was in those days that he learned to 
make the most of every opportunity and so it 
happened, in later life, that he was found put- 
ting to good account resources of which others 
had neither the courage nor the ability to avail 
themselves. He has carried out in mature 
years the lessons which he learned in child- 




When the Saints saw that further effort to 
hold their own in Missouri would be fruitless, 
they began to look about for a new home. At 
this time Iowa was a territory, and to the 
northwest of them lay a district of country 
known as the Half-breed tract. Some effort 
was made to secure in Iowa land on which they 
might settle. The country across the Missouri, 
to the west of them, was the home of the red 
man, and a movement in that direction seemed 
quite impossible. 

News of the sufferings of the Saints reached 
the ears of their neighbors on the east in Illi- 
nois, just across the Mississippi, in Adams 
county. A feeling of pity was awakened and 
the citizens of Quincy, in a friendly and hos- 
pitable attitude, offered their good services 
to the people in the hour of their need. 

As the road went in those days, John R. 
Murdock had to travel with his cattle from Far 
West, about two hundred miles. New condi- 
tions awaited him, but he was a boy and could 


forget, perhaps, sooner than those of mature 
years. However, by nature he was strong in 
his judgments, wedded to people and condi- 
tions he liked, and it was not easy for him to 
break loose. When he reached Quincy, Mor- 
ris C. Phelps was in prison in Missouri. Mrs. 
Phelps was making preparation to relieve her 
husband or to render him, if possible, some as- 
sistance in making his escape, and if that were 
impossible, to remain near by to offer such help 
and comfort as her presence would give to him. 

At this time, however, the boy's father felt 
the need of his assistance, and may, perhaps, 
have thought that it would relieve his foster 
parents from some feeling of responsibility if 
he took his son home at this time. 

John was loath to leave the Phelps home ; 
his foster parents were dear to him, and he 
says that for a long time after he was home- 
sick because of the separation. However, he 
was obedient to his father's wishes, and with 
his brother Orrice he began to open a new 
farm in Adams county, Illinois. The low- 
lands and the wooded country of western Illi- 
nois were quite unlike the prairie country 
with which he had been familiar in Missouri. 


and he therefore found it necessary to adjust 
himself to his new environments. 

But the Saints did not remain long in Adams 
county. They had been welcomed by the peo- 
ple, and as long as they were an object of pity, 
feelings of kindness and hospitality were ex- 
tended toward them; but they were a strong, 
vigorous class, made up of men and women of 
the deepest convictions and they further pos- 
sessed indomitable wills. Their progressive 
methods, their independent character, and above 
all their pronounced religious views were so 
much at variance with the sects of that age 
that it became necessary for them to locate in 
a place where they could work in harmony 
with their own characteristics. Indeed, some 
apprehension began to be felt by a certain class 
in Quincy, who imagined the Mormons would 
lower the standard of wages. 

On the 22nd of April, 1839, the Prophet 
reached his people in Illinois. Brigham Young 
and others had already explored the country 
northward for a suitable location, but no defi- 
nite conclusions had been reached. The Prophet 
therefore began at once to investigate the situ- 
ation, and finally determined to locate fifty 


miles north of Quincy, at a little place in the 
bend of the river, called Commerce. Land was 
bought from Hugh White and Daniel H. Wells. 
This land became the nucleus of a series of 
purchases which later became the city of Nau- 
voo. This move meant another change for 
John R. Murdock, who went with his father to 
work on the new farm at Nauvoo. Here he 
assisted his father in raising two crops ; and 
at intervals, when not occupied on the farm, 
he labored in making cooper ware. 

While the Saints were struggling to subdue 
the soil in and about Nauvoo, another short 
change came to the life of the boy. Levi Mur- 
dock, a relative from Indiana, visited the boy's 
father and persuaded the latter to allow him to 
take the boy home with him to Indiana. Here 
he remained with his relative from fall to the 
following spring, a period of about eight 
months. That was another change — a change 
not only in environment, but in the social life 
and experiences of the boy. Here he was oc- 
cupied in making sugar from the maple sap. 
All these changes at that peculiar age of life 
had much to do in training him for a life of 
emergencies, and thus it happened that in later 


years he was always ready for the exigencies 
of any occasion. From his infancy he learned 
to become an opportunist, and as a conse- 
quence could more easily make himself the 
master of almost any situation than could those 
whose experiences were all of one peculiar kind. 

The boy, however, had convictions of his 
own. There were developed within him pur- 
poses in life from which he could not be turned. 
He therefore decided to return to his father's 
home at Nauvoo ; but between him and the 
Mississippi river there was a distance of some- 
thing like three hundred miles to be traversed. 
The country was partially settled, the journey 
a long one, and the difficulties great. He had, 
however, by this time, put to the test the pos- 
sibilities of his own energetic nature. He was 
not easily daunted. He had been doing things, 
hard things, from his earliest recollection; so 
he started out afoot with his knapsack and with 
only one dollar and twenty-five cents in money. 
The road was lonely and sometimes the set- 
tlements were as far as thirty miles apart, but 
he was persistent and finally reached his fath- 
er's home in safety. 

On his arrival home he accepted an offer to 


work for a man by the name of John Garner, 
and was put to work breaking up, with a large 
plow and five yoke of oxen, the prairie land 
which Garner was bringing under cultivation. 
This employment he pursued for two seasons. 
He evidently gave satisfaction to his employer, 
as he expected to return and continue his work 
of breaking up the prairie. 

Before he took up the work of another 
season, his father required the boy to do some 
work for a man named Lott, in payment of 
two bushels of turnips which his father had ob- 
tained. This new work brought the boy un- 
der the favorable notice of Cornelius P. Lott, 
who was at this time the superintendent of the 
Prophet Joseph's farm. The attachment of 
Father Lott for the boy led him to induce 
John R. Murdock to remain with him, thus his 
surroundings were again changed. He had to 
adjust himself once more to a new home, and to 
make himself agreeable to its inmates and use- 
ful to his employer. This brought him into 
contact with Almira Henrietta Lott, a daugh- 
ter of his employer, a girl at that time about 
thirteen years of age, and whom he subsequent- 
ly married. 


This arrangement with the Lott family 
brought John R. Murdock into somewhat clos- 
er relations with the Prophet, as he now be- 
came an employee on Joseph Smith's farm, 
about three miles east of the Temple in Nau- 
voo. The farm land belonging to the Saints in 
Nauvoo during that time naturally extended 
to the east of the Mississippi into Hancock 
county. Much of this land was prairie, and 
had to be broken up by means of strong teams, 
consisting of four or five yoke of oxen. On 
the farm where the boy was now employed, 
there was a large frame building, about forty 
by sixty feet, the timber of which he had 
hauled. Around the farm was one of those 
peculiar so-called "worm" railed fences. Be- 
sides, the land was fenced in part by sod. The 
house on this half-section farm was a frame 
structure of eight rooms, four on the ground 
floor and four upstairs. 

This farm lay, so to speak, along the cross 
roads of the country. Nauvoo became the larg- 
est city in the state, and travel therefore would 
be naturally quite extensive from this City of 
the Saints in the direction of Carthage, of 
Ouincy, of Monmouth and other places. In 


those days, with the exception of the river 
traffic, most travel was by horse teams ; and 
the farm house of Joseph Smith was naturally 
in itself an attractive place. 

There was a newspaper in the City of Nau- 
voo, known as the Times and Seasons, and 
later there was established in that neighbor- 
hood the Warsaw Signal. For a time also 
there was a newspaper in Carthage, but gen- 
erally speaking, much of the information in 
those days came by word of mouth ; and as 
those were exciting times, as well as busy 
times in the history of the Church, this boy. 
no doubt, listened with intense interest to those 
discussions which occupied the thoughts and 
feelings of his fellow religionists. 

The Saints had not been long in the coun- 
try before some of the Missourians began to 
kidnap the Mormons in out-of-the-way places, 
take them across the Mississippi and subject 
them to inhuman treatment. As a matter of 
self-protection and to guard against the disposi- 
tion on the part of some to scatter out in dif- 
ferent parts of the state, the Saints were coun- 
seled to settle exclusively in Hancock county, 
and across the river in Iowa in Lee county. 


This call centered the activity of the Saints 
within narrower limits and had a tendency to 
give to that part of the country a more per- 
fect cultivation than the land in the west re- 
ceived in those days when the people were 
scattered over large areas. The rapid manner 
in which Nauvoo grew and the marvelous 
growth of wealth in so short a period, all dem- 
onstrate the superiority of the co-operative 
methods employed by the Saints at that time. 
This rapid growth, both in wealth and popu- 
lation, naturally excited the enmity of the av- 
erage westerner in those days. Here, too, the 
Saints learned important lessons in agriculture : 
and the boy, who was then, as afterward 
throughout his entire life, a close observer, re- 
ceived valuable lessons in tilling the soil. His 
training on the Prophet's farm, and his experi- 
ences in Missouri had, therefore, taught him 
to gather up all the available resources with 
which he was surrounded, and apply them to 
his immediate needs. This training, together 
with his natural adaptability, made him in after 
life an excellent financier. 

In June, 1841, an effort was made, through 
a requisition by Governor Boggs of Missouri 


and Governor Carlin of Illinois, to have Joseph 
Smith brought back again to Missouri to be 
tried on the charges under which he had been 
indicted before he escaped from that state. It 
was now over two years since he had left Mis- 
souri; and while the Saints were staggering 
under the blow that had been so cruelly inflict- 
ed upon them by the Missourians, the latter, no 
doubt, felt that the Saints would fall beneath 
it. However, their recovery and their wonder- 
ful success in building up the City of Nauvoo, 
led the Missourians to break out again in their 
animosity against the Mormons. What could 
have been the thoughts of this young man. 
when, now only fifteen years old, as he beheld 
the malicious purpose with which his Prophet 
and his people were hounded. Could he have 
anticipated, then, another exodus? If not at 
that time, he must have thought such a thing 
possible, when he learned of the predictions of 
the Prophet in August, 1842, while the Mont- 
rose, Iowa. In his prediction there the Prophet 
says : "I prophesied that the Saints would con- 
tinue to suffer much affliction and would be 
driven to the Rocky Mountains, many would 
apostatize, others would be put to death by our 


persecutors, or lose their lives in consequence 
of exposure or disease, and some of you will 
live to go and assist in making settlements and 
in building cities and see the Saints become a 
mighty people in the midst of the Rocky 

John R. Murdock learned in Nauvoo some 
of the peculiar methods of the adversary. 
Among the Saints then, unscrupulous charac- 
ters were found. Men would take advantage 
of agitation and excitement and prejudice of 
the times to gratify their own evil inclinations. 
At times the country round about was infested 
by thieves ; men followed their natural inclina- 
tions under a religious guise. They con- 
cealed under the cloak of sanctimony their ill- 
gotten gains and the fruits of their thefts. 
There were those, no doubt, naturally honest 
who were now and again made the victims of 
evil deceptions; but John R. Murdock was not 
among that class. He was a boy, as he since 
has been a man, of pronounced convictions, 
and from the outset of his life in his childhood 
days, he was most fortunate in his surround- 
ings. He had before him the example of ex- 
cellent men ; he was industrious and was car- 


rying out a definite injunction by earning his 
bread by the sweat of his brow. Those who 
knew John R. Murdock in later life well un- 
derstood that he was a good judge of men. 
He was not easily carried off his feet in ex- 
citement, and his excellent discrimination en- 
abled him to determine a safe and correct pol- 
icy to pursue. To that judgment, which was 
so pronounced in him in after life, he brought 
the experiences of his boyhood days. 

When in and about Nauvoo he learned the 
lesson of discerning good from evil spirits. 
Those who have had familiar acquaintance 
with John R. Murdock know how quick he al- 
ways was to gather up the experiences of those 
early days and apply them as a test when new 
conditions arose and when men, through their 
sophistries, undertook to mislead either him or 
his friends. His experiences in those early 
trying times were indeed remarkable, and it is 
doubtful whether any one in the Church had 
a more varied and remarkable career, both in 
childhood and in boyhood than that which fell 
to his lot. 

An attempt on the life of ex-Governor Boggs 
of Missouri, on May 6th, 1842, gave rise to re- 


nevved effort to secure the Prophet Joseph's 
presence in the state of Missouri. Another 
requisition was therefore made by the governor 
of that commonwealth on the governor of Il- 
linois. The Prophet, however, was not in Nau- 
voo, but had gone on a visit with his wife to 
her sister's home in Dixon, Iowa, where the 
Prophet was seized unawares and after some 
effort secured an investigation of his case on 
the writ of habeas corpus before the officers in 
Nauvco. His return to Nauvoo created con- 
siderable excitement throughout the city and 
in the surrounding neighborhood. There was 
a grand demonstration on his return, people 
going out by the thousands to meet him. These 
interesting times were all familiar to John R. 
Murdock, who during his labor on the Proph- 
et's farm, had frequent opportunities to meet 
him, to learn something of the character, dis- 
position and life of the Prophet Joseph. Of 
him he says : "He was one of the noblest and 
most admirable men that one could ever meet, 
both for his physical and mental attractions. 
Any one in his company would feel that he was 
with his superior, yet he was so kind and so 
lovable. He often brought his family to 


the farm, for his family and Father Lott 
were on terms of great intimacy. We all 
passionately loved and revered our Prophet. 
He used to relate to us many instances of his 
life. In common labor, as mowing, chopping, 
cradling, and so forth he was an expert. He 
scarcely ever met his equal as an athlete, and 
he took great delight in all healthful sports." 
This boy's conception of the Prophet was 
unlike that of the sectarian world in his day. 
There was nothing unscriptural in a young 
man acting as a Prophet of God, since both 
Samuel and Daniel of old were youths, but 
somehow or other the idea of old age is as- 
sociated with the ideas of both prophets and 
patriarchs. The long flowing beard, the grace- 
ful mantel, the slow, dignified movement, long 
hair, and the absent gaze were the leading fea- 
tures in the portrayal of prophets by the great 
artists of the middle ages. Joseph Smith was 
a young man, worked on the farm beside this 
boy, John R. Murdock, and told him in the sim- 
ple language of childhood the experiences of 
his prophetic career. There was nothing in the 
Prophet's appearance to arouse any feelings of 


superstition; he was a man lovable, confiding, 
and inspiring. 

John R. Murdock had learned from his ear- 
liest recollection that political differences were 
a source of intense animosity among those who 
belonged simply to the contending national par- 
ties of his time. These parties were like 
great mill-stones, grinding whatever came be- 
tween them. He further learned that bitter as 
political controversies could be, that religious 
hatred united with political hatred constituted 
the most awful enmity that can enter the hu- 
man heart. It required the utmost adroitness 
to keep from between these two mill-stones of 
political contentions — an adroitness which the 
Saints of God, then, and even in earlier times 
in the history of ancient Israel did not pos- 
sess ; for the children of darkness are shrewder 
in their generation than the children of light. 

The writer can not here refrain from an- 
swering the very common accusation that po- 
litics on the part of the Church is the source 
of the Church's trouble. In such accusations 
the inference is drawn that the elders of the 
Church are therefore responsible for the per- 
secutions which beset the Saints. Now. as a 


matter of fact, there is nothing new in the as- 
sertion that politics have been a source of trou- 
ble to the Saints of God ; but it must be remem- 
bered that politics were a source of trouble to 
God's children in ancient days. If the reader 
will take up a map of ancient history, he will 
quickly see that Palestine of ancient times lay 
between the Assyrians on the east, and the 
Babylonians on the west. These great nations 
were constantly at war with each other. The 
ancient Israelites sometimes held the balance of 
power between them, and these nations were 
constantly seeking the favor of the Israelites, 
so there grew up among the Saints of God in 
those days a partisan spirit. Some were 
classified with the Babylonians, and others 
with the Egyptians. Sometimes the prophet 
of God took a hand in politics, and warned the 
Saints in those days against relying on one 
or the other of these great nations. The read- 
er will find frequent references in Isaiah to 
his warnings against the trust which those of 
the Egyptian party put in that country, and in 
its horses and chariots. There were political 
contentions in the days of Christ. Political 
persecutions followed the Saints of God in the 


days of the apostles, and later throughout the 
Roman empire. It may be remarked that from 
ancient times up to our own day there has been 
a peculiar disposition to look to one or another 
great party for some sort of political salvation. 

In the days of Joseph, the Prophet himself 
and the Saints generally no doubt struggled 
to keep from being drawn between the mill- 
stones that ground the Saints then, and that 
have ground them in past days. Perhaps the 
Lord was not averse to the grinding process. 
Before the bran can be separated from the 
flour, some sort of grinding has always been 
found necessary. When the wheat has been 
ground, a slight breeze and a little bolting sep- 
arates easily the bran. So in God's dispensa- 
tion the religious persecutions of the times 
have kept separate the nourishing kernel, the 
bread of life, from the bran, which is found in 
the companionship of those unworthy ones who 
somehow or other gain fellowship in the society 
of the elect. 

During the closing year of the Prophet 
Joseph's life, John R. Murdock, though then 
between seventeen and eighteen years of age, 
learned considerable about politics in church 


and state. He learned that political power was 
really the only power that a majority of the 
people of Illinois either respected or hated, ac- 
cording to their political affiliations. The ex- 
cuse for here commenting on church and state 
in his biography is his well known views, ex- 
pressed both in public and private on the sub- 
ject. The writer here comments upon conver- 
sations which he had with Elder Murdock on 
political topics. John R. Murdock used to say 
that the two greatest public influences were 
political and religious, and he thought it un- 
fortunate that men exercising the powers that 
arise from these influences could not be more 
tolerant toward each other. In past ages the 
church overawed the state and assumed pow- 
ers it had no right to exercise. Now the pen- 
dulum is swinging to the other extreme, and 
the state is becoming intolerant toward the 
church. "For my part," he was wont to say, 
"I have come to recognize the political power 
of the saloon element, the political power of or- 
ganized labor, the political power of wealth and 
great corporations, and I expect that influen- 
tial religious men will have their share of po- 
litical power. They are naturally leaders in 


society and have their convictions on matters 
of state. The fact is, there must be some al- 
lowances made on both sides if we are to get 
along well. We must learn to respect each 

He was not mistaken, however, about the 
motives which governed those that expelled the 
Saints from Nauvoo. The motives could not 
be accounted for in political differences. The 
awful hatred of those times was deeper than 
politics, deeper than social differences. It ex- 
tended to the very depths of hell. 

When the Expositor printing press was de- 
stroyed by order of the mayor of Nauvoo be- 
cause it was a public nuisance, the whole at- 
mosphere of the Saints was charged with fear, 
dread, and deep-seated anxiety. Mob violence 
even without the law began to manifest itself 
so intensely that he expected something like 
the same treatment which the Saints received 
in Missouri. There was one difference, how- 
ever, which was manifest, the Saints were more 
numerous. They had a w r ell organized militia. 
The most natural question that people asked 
themselves in those times was whether they 
should stand their ground and fight it out. 


Numerous as they were, they were not in num- 
bers sufficiently strong to cope with the state 
of Illinois and perhaps with the state of Mis- 
souri. If the Saints were more numerous, 
the enemy had likewise grown to immensely 
greater proportions. What the Latter-day 
Saints would do under the circumstances 
was the absorbing topic of the times. 

Young Murdock had an unbounded faith in 
the courage and wisdom of the Prophet, and 
he went to Nauvoo to learn all that he could 
about the situation. He was present there when 
Joseph Smith stood upon the framework of an 
unfinished building, in full uniform, surround- 
ed by the Nauvoo Legion, of which he was a 
member, and listened to the remarkable words 
that fell from the Prophet's lips on that oc- 
casion : "I call God and angels to witness that 
I have unsheathed my sword with a firm de- 
termination that these people shall have their 
legal rights, and be protected from mob vio- 
lence, or my blood shall be spilled upon the 
ground like water, and my body consigned to 
the silent tomb. While I live I will never 
tamely submit to the dominion of cursed mob- 
ocracy. I would welcome death rather than 


submit to this ; and it would be sweet, O, sweet, 
to rest in the grave, rather than submit to this 
oppression, agitation, annoyance, alarm upon 
alarm any longer." 

What must have been the effect of such 
words as they fell on the ears of this boy, not 
yet eighteen years of age! The words were 
somewhat ominous, and were prophetic of the 
great tragedy which ended the Prophet's life. 
It was a solemn occasion — one of those which 
men do not forget after having witnessed such 
a scene as followed the Prophet's declaration. 
There are some things in this world that are so 
solemn and so impressed upon the recollection 
of the past that they are never forgotten, and 
it is safe to say that this boy's subsequent life 
carried with it a touch of the solemnity which 
he felt on that occasion ; besides, it was an oc- 
casion which he often called to mind and upon 
which he frequently conversed in the subse- 
quent years of his life. 

That the Prophet was fully conscious of his 
approaching death is found in his request that 
his brother Hyrum go with his family to Cin- 
cinnati, so that he might succeed the Prophet 
as President of the Church, in case his fore- 


bodings were realized. There was in those days 
a movement to and fro between Carthage and 
Nauvoo. Along the road was Joseph's farm, 
where young Murdock labored. That farm 
was a source of great pride to the Prophet. It 
was well kept by those who were intrusted 
with its care. 

At first the Prophet acted with a view to self- 
preservation. He would have gone to the 
Rocky Mountains in quest of peace, and to be 
isolated far from his enemies. One naturally 
asks the question, would the Saints have fol- 
lowed him ; would they have abandoned their 
beautiful Nauvoo; and if they had done so, 
would they not have looked back upon the 
"flesh pots" of that beautiful city and longed to 
return? That was not what happened. They 
were driven, plundered, outraged. When they 
set out upon that great pioneer journey there 
were no regrets left behind them. In it all they 
now see God's providence; and the lessons of 
that exodus are sources of faith to hundreds of 
thousands of people who have realized more 
fully as a consequence, that they are God's peo- 
ple, and like Israel of old are, after all, depend- 
ent upon his mercies. 


There was also another testimony — that 
which Joseph sealed by his blood. That tes- 
timony grows in significance and in far-reach- 
ing consequence to the Latter-day Saints, as 
time goes on. When, therefore, the Prophet 
yielded to the demands of his enemies and set 
out upon that fatal journey from Nauvoo, 
John R. Murdock was one who gazed in wond- 
erment and silence upon the Prophet, who 
declared that he was "going like a lamb to the 
slaughter, but calm as a summer's morning." 
"I have," he said, "a conscience void of offense 
toward God and all men. I shall die innocent, 
and it shall be said of me, he was murdered in 
cold blood." 

The Prophet halted at his farm, where the 
boy had another opportunity of witnessing the 
man whose influence upon his young life had 
been more powerful than that of any other 
man. That influence upon him gave a setting 
to the character of his manhood, and to the 
unyielding faith which carried him through 
trying places, and was in a measure to him a 
guiding star throughout life. 

"If one of you had such a farm," said Jos- 
eph, "and knew you would not see it any more. 


you would want to take a good look at it for 
the last time." Did the boy take a good look 
at the Prophet? He had always looked upon 
him with admiration and reverence ; but a boy 
so young would not have realized what it all 
meant. He was like the disciples of Jesus, — 
there were things that he ought not to know, 
for he could not endure them. So we trace 
him throughout life, moving day by day ac- 
cording to the light and testimony which God 
vouchsafed for his guidance. That to John R. 
Murdock was given the privilege of a witness 
at such a time in the history of his life, and 
in the history of the Church was perhaps one 
of the greatest sources of pride that he ever 

As the Prophet stopped at the farm and bade 
the Lott family there good-bye, he did not for- 
get the boy who was with them. He says that 
the Prophet was escorted by a party consisting 
of about twelve mounted men. Among them 
were officers of the state, who had arrested him. 
There were also some of the brethren present. 
The boy was at the farm when the news of the 
awful tragedy at Carthage was brought by 
George D. Grant. He was also a witness of the 


lamentations of the people, and joined in the 
mourning which the Saints manifested over the 
death of their Prophet. It is said : "The 
groans and sobs and shrieks grew deeper and 
louder till the sound resembled the roar of a 
mighty tempest, or the slow, deep roar of a 
distant tornado." He was also present at the 
Mansion House where the bodies lay in state 
for some time. He witnessed the funeral ser- 
vices which were held there, and was among 
those who, in a prayerful and silent demeanor, 
were wondering who could and who would 
take the Prophet's place. He knew that Joseph 
Smith was not the Church, and was old enough 
to understand that the mantle of the Prophet's 
authority had been placed upon the leaders' 
shoulders by divine authority. He still had 
faith that the same divine power would desig- 
nate the future leader to the people, and that 
Joseph's mantle would fall where God de- 
signed it should be. 

The young boy must have shared between 
the memorable 27th of June, 1844, and Febru- 
ary, 1846, much of the uncertainty that per- 
vaded the body of the Saints settled in and 
about Nauvoo. Between twenty and thirty 


thousand people were numbered among the 
Prophet's followers. From every worldly judg- 
ment their case seemed hopeless. The Nau- 
voo Legion numbered about five thousand. It 
could not cope with the overwhelming forces 
of the Illinois militia. Although the Prophet 
was dead, the hatred towards the Saints had 
not abated; indeed, they felt it more keenly 
than ever because Joseph stood between them 
and the murderous intent of blood-thirsty 
mobs. The people were put upon their own 
mettle. Each one now, more than any other 
time in the Church, must decide for himself and 
cast his die for good or ill. Those who were 
weary and heart-sore might drop by the way- 
side if they chose. 

The Prophet, however, had foreseen the 
days of trial which awaited the Saints. As he 
turned his gaze for the last time upon Nau- 
voo when leaving it for Carthage, he re- 
marked : "This is the loveliest place and the 
best people under the heavens. Little do they 
know the trials that await them." "Boys," he 
said, as he passed the Masonic Hall, "if I 
don't come back, take care of yourselves." 
Joseph knew and declared what the Saints have 


confirmed by subsequent experience: "They 
seek the blood of every man in whose heart 
dwells a single spark of the fulness of the gos- 

If Nauvoo was dear to the heart of its 
founder and Prophet, it was also dear to the 
hearts of the people. They were not recon- 
ciled to the thought of its abandonment. It9 
enemies, by their intolerance and cruelty, not 
only caused distress and mourning, but had 
awakened a spirit of resistance in the hearts of 
the Saints. John R. Murdock was a member 
of the Nauvoo Legion. Would he have to 
yield to the demands of the enemy, or would 
he have to fight? He was ready to respond 
to the call of duty and held himself ready for 
action at the bugle call. The thought of a 
struggle at arms could not have carried with it 
in his heart much hope of success. 

Little by little the pressure upon the Saints 
grew stronger and stronger. They witnessed 
the determination of the enemy to drive them 
— God alone knew where ! The Saints before 
long learned that they must go. When it came 
John R. Murdock's turn to look for the last 
time upon that farm which his own hands had 


helped to beautify, he felt something of the 
sorrows which the Prophet realized when he 
said good-bye to it. 

Upon the Prophet's death, John R. Murdock 
came under a new leadership — a leadership 
whose strength and spiritual guidance he rec- 
ognized from the outset — a leadership to 
which he became thoroughly devoted in the 
upbuilding of his own manhood and in the up- 
lifting of the communities over which he pre- 
sided for many years. As the new leadership 
fastened itself so strongly upon the life and 
character of this young man, it is interesting 
to know how he first came to recognize it, and 
then we shall see why he was always loyal 
to it. 

He was not eighteen years old when the 
Prophet and his brother Hyrum were mar- 
tyred, but he was old enough to consider seri- 
ously what was at that time a new and im- 
portant question — the leadership of the 
Church. There had been a First Presidency 
and there was a quorum of the Twelve Apos- 
tles upon whom the Prophet had conferred the 
keys of the new dispensation, and whose right 
it was to exercise the power of control when 


the Prophet should pass away. Sidney Rig- 
don, however, was a counselor to the Prophet 
Joseph at the time of the latter's death. The 
people had not learned then what is now sim- 
ple and commonplace knowledge, that the 
death of the president ends the control of the 
presidency. Sidney Rigdon had been sent to 
Pittsburg, and Joseph had thanked God that 
he was out of the way ; for the Prophet knew 
the decline in Sidney Rigdon's faith and his in- 
ability to lead the Church. It is said that there 
were at that time three different views on this 
important question of Church discipline. There 
were those who thought Sidney Rigdon should 
lead, become a "guardian of the Church ;" oth- 
ers looked to the Twelve, and there were oth- 
ers, who though perhaps not different, were 
nevertheless in a state of confusion without 
any particular conviction upon the subject. 
Those who were supporting Sidney Rigdon 
were not a body of men who commanded the 
respect of the most faithful Latter-day Saints. 
Sidney Rigdon made his appearance upon 
the scene shortly after the death of the Prophet 
when only a few of the Twelve were present. 
A day was appointed when the matter of lead- 


ership should be presented to the people. For 
them, it was their utmost good fortune that 
Brigham Young and a sufficient number of 
the Twelve, constituting a majority, appeared 
upon the scene just before this important meet- 
ing — perhaps the most important meeting in 
the Church — convened. The question of lead- 
ership was involved, and the people were to 
vote upon that question. Sidney Rigdon had 
some time before addressed the Saints. They 
listened respectfully to his message. His 
claims did not satisfy. His spirit did not feed 
their hungry souls. President Young also ad- 
dressed the people. 

It was the good fortune of John R. Mur- 
dock to be present at this meeting and deter- 
mine for himself the guidance to which there- 
after he would give his loyalty. Of Brigham 
Young's remarks, he said : "It was the great- 
est manifestation I ever beheld, for the voice, 
the gesture, the whole appearance of President 
Young was just exactly as if the Prophet Jos- 
eph stood there in person." Such a spiritual 
manifestation must indeed have deeply im- 
pressed this young man. He had seen the stars 
of heaven fall in a most miraculous manner 


he had seen remarkable prophecies fulfilled, 
the healing power of God had been abundant- 
ly manifested within his observation; the 
prophetic character of Joseph Smith had indel- 
ibly marked itself upon his soul ; but the ap- 
pearance of Brigham Young on that occasion 
was the greatest manifestation that he ever be- 

No wonder the young man gave instant loy- 
alty to the new leadership. No wonder that 
his devotion was rewarded by the honorable 
and trusted positions which he held in the 
Church. From that day on he followed the 
new Prophet as a guiding star. Nor was his 
confidence and loyalty ever weakened or ever 
surrendered to any exigency or even to any 

He witnessed nearly two years of the trying 
scenes in and about Nauvoo, after the Proph- 
et's death. He saw men in high places fall by 
the wayside. He witnessed the spiritual mani- 
festations grow obscure in those who were 
contentious and who claimed honor at the 
hands of the people. He was, therefore, pre- 
pared to leave Nauvoo and those who were 
recreant to the cause of God behind him. 


Those parting scenes were object lessons in his 
life, and he never forgot them, nor did he 
forget the lesson taught by those unworthy 
leaders he left behind when he said good-bye 
to Illinois. 




John R. Murdock, when the advanced com- 
pany of Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, was 
not quite twenty years of age. He was in the 
prime and vigor of early manhood and had al- 
ready at that time of life more experience in 
pioneer work and encountering the difficulties 
of a new country than come to most pioneers 
in an entire lifetime. His early experiences 
fitted him for the new undertaking — an under- 
taking that was to tax his energies and en- 
durance more than anything he could imagine, 
even from the uncertainties of those times. He 
knew something about what it required to 
make a long journey, and well he realized the 
truth of the old adage, "Well begun, half 

The Saints began their exodus from Nau- 
voo on the fourth and sixth of February. They 
exchanged the conveniences of their homes for 
tent life in midwinter. Fast as they crossed 
the Mississippi they gathered at Sugar Creek, 
where they remained some three weeks pre- 


paratory to a general advancement along the 
journey. Intense cold came upon them. The 
Mississippi froze over so that wagons could 
cross on the ice. While such conditions fa- 
cilitated the movement of the Saints over the 
river, it entailed intense suffering. When a 
thaw came the roads were almost impassable. 
In the midst of these difficulties the young man 
was gaining a new experience. He was learn- 
ing something of the helplessness of a large 
class of people in the midst of difficulties. He 
discovered that many were wholly unfitted for 
emergencies, that they had to be instructed; 
and from the outset his own valuable experi- 
ence naturally made him an instructor of the 
helpless in those times, and consequently, 
though young, a leader among his fellow-men. 
Along the route across Iowa there were 
three important stations, Sugar Creek, Garden 
City, and Pisgah. Just about the time the ad- 
vance company reached the banks of the Mis- 
souri river, there appeared at Mount Pisgah, 
James Allen, a captain in the United States 
army. In his communication to the Saints he 
says : "I have come among you, instructed to 
visit the Mormon camp and accept the service. 


for twelve months, of four or five companies 
of the Mormon men who may be willing to 
serve their country for the period in our pres- 
ent war with Mexico." The leaders, however, 
at this time were located at Council Bluffs, 
and Captain Allen set out at once for that 
place for the purpose of consulting them. On 
July the first, he held an interview with Presi- 
dent Young, to whom he presented a commu- 
nication from Col. S. W. Kerny, in which the 
colonel says : "Sir — It is understood that there 
is a large body of Mormons who are desirous 
of emigrating to California for the purpose of 
settling in that country, and I have therefore 
to direct that you (Captain James Allen) will 
proceed to their camps and endeavor to raise 
from amongst them four or five companies of 
volunteers to join me in my expedition to that 
country. You will give the Mormons distinct- 
ly to understand that I wish to take them as 
volunteers for twelve months, and that they 
will be marched to California, receiving pay 
and allowances during the above time, and at 
its expiration they will be discharged and al- 
lowed to retain, as their private property, the 
guns and accoutrements to be furnished to 


them at this post. Each company will be al- 
lowed four women as laundresses, who will 
travel with the company, receiving rations, and 
the other allowances given to the laundresses of 
our army. Considering the foregoing conditions, 
which are hereby pledged to the Mormons, and 
which will be faithfully kept by me and other 
officers in behalf of the government of the 
United States, I cannot doubt, but that you will 
in a few days be able to raise five hundred 
young and efficient men for this expedition. 
Signed at Fort Leavenworth, June 19th, 1846." *j 

It will be noted that the letter of Colonel 
Kerny to Captain Allen contained an assur- 
ance that the Mormons would be treated fairly 
in the matter and the pledges made with them 
kept. This call for volunteers brought about 
important changed conditions. The young 
men qualified for enlistment were of that class 
greatly needed for the hardships of pioneer 
work among the Saints, and such a condition, 
therefore, made the exodus of the Mormon 
people across the plains from the Missouri 
river all the more trying. 

President Young, with the other lead- 
ers, began at once to raise the required 


number of companies. There were not 
enough young men then at Council Bluffs 
to respond to the call. He, therefore, on a 
mounted horse with a few others, set out for 
Mt. Pisgah, that from among the people there 
the necessary number of volunteers might be 
obtained. The sight of a prophet of God rid- 
ing over the hills of western Iowa, to the un- 
believer and Christian minister must have 
seemed indeed a remarkable and somewhat 
ludicrous situation. It is perhaps a circum- 
stance wholly unique in the religious history of 
the world. Those were times of great emer- 
gencies. Leaders had to be practical men, un- 
derstanding from personal experience the 
work at hand, and having the ability to do 
whatever came to hand. It was a peculiar 
quality of generalship, which required unusu- 
al talents and a genius for great things. 

Naturally, such a call would create consid- 
erable confusion. There was hurry and wor- 
ry. On the 20th of July the first companies 
started or set out for their march down the 
Missouri to Fort Leavenworth. John R. Mur- 
dock enlisted in the Mormon Battalion on the 
16th day of July, 1846. From that date it 


would be nearly two months before he reached 
his twentieth birthday. 

This divided the pioneers into two groups. 
The advance body of the Church set out the fol- 
lowing year on its journey for Salt Lake Val- 
ley, and the Mormon Battalion was to reach 
the same objective point around the circuit of 
what are now Colorado, New Mexico, Arizo- 
na, California, and Nevada. 

From the detailed account of these two pio- 
neer journeys as given by the historians of 
each, it is quite within the range of truth to 
say that the Battalion had the greater hard- 
ships to endure. As time goes on, the details 
of this great march across the American des- 
ert come into more prominent interest and are 
appreciated more and more by those valiant 
and enduring men of the [Mormon Battalion. 

Of the march from Council Bluffs to Fort 
Leavenworth, John R. Murdock says : "I 
bade farewell to my friends and people and 
started for California. In the beginning the 
government was unable to supply us with the 
necessary cooking utensils, clothing, etc., for 
the campaign, hence our cooking was very 
crude. We had to mix our bread in the mouth 


of a flour sack, roll our dough on a stick and 
roast it by the fire until it was baked. We 
broiled our meat on the coals and made our 
coffee in any available vessel. In this way we 
traveled down the Missouri river to Fort 
Leavenworth, a distance of two hundred miles. 
There we received our clothing, blankets, 
knapsacks and all other equipments necessary 
for a soldier's kit; we also received here our 
first payment of eight dollars a month. Prep- 
arations were then made to commence our 
march across the plains to Santa Fe. I was 
selected to drive a company team of six mules, 
all wild and unbroken for use except one, the 
saddle mule. In driving around the fort one 
day the team ran away, and I was thrown out. 
and the wagon, which fortunately, was not 
loaded, passed over my body and very nearly 
killed me. I was so badly hurt that I had 
to be carried to camp on a blanket by my 
comrades. The effects of that accident I feel 
to this day. After remaining in Fort Leav- 
enworth for nineteen days we commenced the 
march. I was then able to drive my team. 
We started on the 19th of August, 1846." 
After reaching Fort Leavenworth each sold- 


ier drew $42.00, his clothing money for the 
year. Along with the Mormon Battalion at 
that time some of the elders took the jour- 
ney preparatory to their mission to Great 
Britain. Much of the money paid to the 
soldiers was sent by them to their families 
and brethren at Council Bluffs for the pur- 
pose of aiding the main body of the Church 
in reaching its destination. The missionaries 
were also aided by the liberality of the soldiers 
in making their way to the mission field. It 
will, from these circumstances, be seen that 
the condition of the Mormon Battalion, when 
compared with other volunteers, was most 
unfortunate, and that they had to depend upon 
themselves for the means necessary to supply 
them comfortable clothing on their long and 
hazardous journey. These soldiers, however, 
had left behind them either wives or parents, 
and cheerfully gave their first money to the 
support of those who were comparatively 
helpless. Nor was this all. From Santa Fe 
money was sent back to Council Bluffs to 
sustain the families of the soldiers there. 
Such an expedition as they were setting out 
upon had no comparison anywhere in history. 



The country over which they were passing, v 
so many thousand miles was almost wholly 
uninhabited. Unexplored deserts lay before 
them. Nor had they any knowledge of the 
nature of the country, its vegetation or its 
climate. True, much of it had been explored, 
but knowledge of its explorations had not 
been widely circulated. The leaders had some 
knowledge of certain objective points and of 
the nature of the country that lay between 
them and these forts. 

"It was eight hundred miles," says the sub- v" 
ject of this sketch, "from Fort Leavenworth 
to Santa Fe, and through a very wild country, 
indeed. Except the teamsters, all had to walk. 
There was much suffering on account of the 
want of water and extreme heat in a desert 
country. Being foot-sore we found the march 
terribly hard, and there was much sickness 
from the change of water. In order to reach 
Santa Fe at a given time we had to make the 
last hundred miles of the journey by a forced 
march, and traveled therefore night and day. 
We reached Santa Fe on the 10th of October 

Something of the heat on that journey may 


be gathered from the fact that the thermometer 
at Fort Leavenworth was 101 in the shade and 
135 degrees in the sun. Another circumstance 
was distressing to the soldiers, and that was the 
death on the 23rd of August of Captain Allen. 
He was a kind-hearted man, and from the out- 
set won the confidence and good will of the Bat- 
talion. He was succeeded later by Lieut. A. 
J. Smith, contrary to the wishes of the men. 

The first part of the journey was made 
measurably safe from the fact that on the 11th 
of September the Battalion reached the Arkan- 
sas river whose banks they followed for about 
one hundred miles. It would be quite natural 
for such a body of men to find petty annoy- 
ances that would create some discontent. Be- 
fore they reached their first objective point 
and on the 16th of September Captain Higgins 
was detailed to take a number of families to 
the Mexican town of Pueblo. This circum- 
stance aroused some fear that there might be 
other separations and the Battalion so divided 
as to be thrown among the Missourians who 
were distasteful as well as hateful to them. 
Another circumstance of a more serious nature 
was the conduct toward the soldiers of Doctor 


George P. Sanderson, a Missourian physician, 
to whom was intrusted the health of the men. 
In him they had no confidence and were fully 
assured that he had even administered poison in 
the medicine which he distributed among them. 
They were so sure, that many of them refused 
to take his medicine and preferred to endure 
the sickness from which they were suffering 
rather than to endanger their lives at his hands. 
George Sanderson, like hundreds of others, is 
known to history only through the annals of 
the Church. He never suspected that the char- 
acter by which he would be known in genera- 
tions to come is the character given to him by 
the Mormon people That, indeed, is a remark- 
able circumstance in the history of the Mormon 

Before leaving Santa Fe for Southern Cali- 
fornia, those considered in an unfit condition 
to endure the hardships that were sure to come 
to the Battalion were taken to Pueblo for the 
winter where they arrived on the 17th day of 
November, requiring thirty days for the march. 
John R. Murdock was among those who took 
up that long and memorable journey of eleven 
hundred miles across the southern deserts to 


the Pacific Ocean. At that season of the year 
they were in the highlands of the Colorado and 
New Mexico. They were insufficiently clad 
to endure the cold with any degree of comfort. 
They had not long left Santa Fe before it 
became necessary to send some of their teams 
back. Those who returned encountered un- 
usual hardships. They were equipped with one 
wagon and four yoke of oxen and rations suf- 
ficient for only five days. The distance to be 
traveled by them on their return was three hun- 
dred miles. This was another parting which 
the soldiers of the Battalion regretted, and the 
parting scenes were very affecting. John R. 
Murdock was still among those who made the 
march to California. He says : "We passed 
through a wild, unsettled country whose only 
inhabitants were hostile Indians. Provisions 
were scare at Santa Fe, so we were not well 
supplied with food at the beginning of this long- 
march. The country was rough, rugged, and 
mountainous. Water was to be found only at 
long intervals and there was consequently great 
suffering among the men. We were put on 
half rations and later, on third rations during 
the journey. The sheep and cattle driven along 


for fresh meat became so poor that they had to 
be killed and taken as rations, — a sorry lot of 
stuff it was. The rations were weighed out to. 
us, and two or three little Mexican sheep could 
be hung at once on a pair of hang balances." 

The parts of the country through which they \/ 
passed had large herds of wild cattle, many of 
which were killed and used for food by the Bat- 
talion. These cattle, however, in places proved 
themselves dangerous to the march of the men. 
Sometimes the bulls would lead in a furious 
stampede, and it became necessary for the Bat- 
talion to guard itself by shooting down the cat- 
tle when they could, and by using every pos- 
sible means of keeping out of these great wild 
cattle rushes. Along the road down the river 
San Pedro, the attacks became quite frequent. 
At one time there was what the Battalion boys 
termed a "bull fight." Two men were severe- 
ly injured, one mule was gored to death while 
others w 7 ere knocked down and hurt. "I was 
engaged in the bull fight and was in all the 
forced marches across the desert," says John 
R. Murdock, in giving an account of that jour- 

Those familiar with the character of south- 


ern Arizona, especially from Tuscon to the 
coast, will realize something of the hardships 
to be endured in crossing the deserts at that 
early period in our history. The Battalion 
reached the San Luis Rey mission on the 27th 
of January, 1847, and the San Diego mission on 
the 29th. "I do not believe/' says this young 
Battalion boy, "that the parallel to that march 
to the coast is on record when all circumstances 
are considered. My usual weight was one hun- 
dred and sixty pounds and it was only one hun- 
dred and twenty when we reached the coast. 
During the journey, everything, even the hide 
and parts of the entrails of the animals were 
used for food. The teams became so jaded 
that we undertook to raft a portion of the pro- 
visions down the Gila river. The food was all 
lost in the river, thus greatly lessening the al- 
ready scant supply. We obtained some wheat, 
corn, and beans from the Pima Indians, a tribe 
that lived along the Gila river. Upon the 
southern route there were some deserts from 
seventy to ninety miles in extent and not a 
drop of water was to be found on them. We 
had quite an experience in crossing the Color- 
ado river over which the men had to carry most 


of the supplies and wade the river up to their 
arm pits. From the Colorado to Warner's, the 
first settlement in California, it was about two 
hundred and thirty miles, and there were very 
few watering places. When we reached that 
place we obtained plenty of fresh, fat beef, but 
had nothing else except coffee. We had had no 
flour for weeks. When we reached the coast 
we obtained some provisions, but still no flour.'' 
That his estimation of the difficulties of such 
a perilous journey was well within the truth, is 
fully attested by the statement of their com- 
manding officer, Col. P. St. George Cook, who 
writes as follows : 

"Headquarters, Mission of San Diego, 

January 30, 1847. 

" Lieutenant Colonel commanding congratu- 
lates the Battalion on its safe arrival on the 
shores of the Pacific Ocean, and the conclusion 
of its march of over two thousand miles. His- 
tory may be searched in vain for an equal 
march of infantry ; nine-tenths of it through a 
wilderness, where nothing but savages and 
wild beasts are found, or deserts where, for 
want of water, there is no living creature. 


There, with almost hopeless labor, we have 
dug deep wells, which the future traveler will 
enjoy. Without a guide who had traversed 
them, we have ventured into trackless prairies, 
where water was not found for several 
marches. With crowbar and pick-ax in hand 
we have worked our way over mountains, 
which seemed to defy aught save the wild goat, 
and hewed a passage through a chasm of liv- 
ing rock, more narrow than our wagons. To 
bring these first wagons to the Pacific we 
have preserved the strength of the mules by 
herding them over large tracts, which you 
have laboriously guarded without loss." 

During the sojourn of the Battalion in the 
San Luis Rey and San Diego mission the sol- 
diers did not relax their energies, but set them- 
selves at work building houses and giving an 
air of life to everything about them. "My 
company," he says, "was stationed at San Luis 
Rey, about one hundred and fifty miles below 
Los Angeles. At the latter place the other 
four companies of the Battalion were stationed. 
Later, Company B, the one to which I belong- 
ed, was sent to San Diego, about fifty miles 


further south. While in that country there 
grew up quite an extreme practice among the 
soldiers of hunting and purchasing wild horses, 
and some of them won for themselves a rep- 
utation in their successful efforts in riding 
them. Company B remained in San Diego 
until about the first of July, 1847, when it left 
for Los Angeles where it joined the other com- 
panies of the Battalion. 

Some persuasion was offered to induce the 
soldiers to re-enlist, but the great majority of 
them understood very well that they were need- 
ed by the Saints who were then on their way 
across the plains. They were mustered out on 
the 16th of July, 1847, just one year from the 
day they enlisted. Preparations were immedi- 
ately begun for their homeward journey. There 
were two routes open to them, the southern 
and the northern. It was now mid-summer 
and the unexplored deserts of southern Cali- 
fornia and Nevada were evidently thought to 
be dangerous for the return journey. The 
northern route was therefore selected, and after 
appointing officers, the Battalion made its way 
in the direction of the Sacramento Valley. 

From Sacramento they crossed the Sierra 


Nevada mountains and reached the head-wat- 
ers of the Truckee river. While in this part of 
Nevada, they met Samuel Brannan who had 
taken a company of Saints by water to Cali- 
fornia. Brannan gave the soldiers a very dis- 
couraging account of the conditions in Salt 
Lake Valley, where, he said, there was a heavy 
frost every month in the year. The climate, he 
said, was so dry that nothing could be raised 
without irrigation, and the water was so cold 
that it would freeze the seeds that were put 
into the ground. Captain James Brown, how- 
ever, who met them about the same time, 
brought word from the Twelve Apostles that 
those who had not means for their support had 
better return to California for work, and come 
to the valleys later on. John R. Murdock. 
however, forged his way along by the way of 
Humboldt, Goose Creek, and Fort Hall, which 
was then situated on Snake river about two 
hundred miles north of Salt Lake City. Here, 
he and his comrades obtained some provisions. 
They paid fifty cents a pound for bacon, and 
twenty-five cents a pound for flour. Leaving 
Fort Hall they crossed Bear river and reached 
Salt Lake City, October 12th, 1847. 




The members of the Mormon Battalion who 
came in that year increased the number now 
located in the "Old Fort" to something like 
eighteen hundred. The son, John R., found 
his father and family who had only a short 
time before arrived in the valley. The vicis- 
situdes of the father had been those common 
to the Latter-day Saints in general. After 
the death of John's mother, the father mar- 
ried in 1836 Amaranda Turner in the state of 
Xew York. This wife he took with him to 
Missouri, where, after about a year's residence 
in that state she died, leaving no children. 
In 1837, the father married Electa Allen, by 
whom he had three children, Gideon, Hyrum. 
and Rachel. This third wife died in Nauvoo in 
1845. Before starting West he married a fourth 
wife with whom he journeyed across the plains 
to Salt Lake City. This wife,however, survived 
her husband but never bore to him any children. 
When, therefore, the son reached Salt Lake 


City, he found his father, the last wife, and the 
three children of Electa Murdock. 

As the "Old Fort" was the home of the pio- 
neers during the summer of 1847,the Murdock 
family lived there. The son, ever dutiful to the 
obligations he felt toward his father, began at 
once to make his first home in the valleys. 
"We made adobes and built a little house in the 
"Old Fort." I went into Red Butte and ob- 
tained timber to finish the house and got 
some fencing and firewood for the winter. I 
also made further preparation by getting 
forage for the stock." 

His life that winter in the "Old Fort'was re- 
lieved of those intense hardships through which 
he had passed in the deserts of the South. It 
was a mild winter and the Saints had such so- 
cial fellowship and pastime as to give some re- 
lief to a situation that was difficult in the ex- 
treme. Much of the winter was favorable to 
plowing, so that there were opportunities for 
a busy life. In the canyons and on these arid. 
parched lands might be seen the active work 
of Utah's pioneers. 

"In the following spring,'" John R. Murdock 
says, "I took up a piece of property in Mill 


Creek near Neff's mill I built a log house and 
father's family moved up there. I brought a 
one-half bushel of wheat all the way from Cali- 
fornia with me. This, I planted, and reaped 
from it about ten bushels of wheat. This, with 
the small quantity of immatured corn which 
we had raised.constituted the next year's supply 
of breadstuff for the family." 

AYhen the necessity of reserving all the seed 
possible for another year's planting is consid- 
ered, it will be seen that the food supply in the 
Murdock home was indeed scanty. However, 
the supply, small as it was, was enjoyed with 
feelings of gratitude over the miraculous man- 
ner in which it had been obtained. It was the 
cricket year in the history of Utah. The Saints 
had watched their grain fields go down before 
the devouring pest and wondered what was to 
become of them. They had already an insuf- 
ficient supply to last till harvest time. The 
Pioneers who reached the Valley in July, 1847, 
broke up some ground, did some planting, but 
of course, had no harvest. When, therefore, 
the crickets began to devour the crops, the 
Saints must have felt themselves doomed to 
starvation. There was nothing to support their 


courage or to offer hope but that faith in God 
which they had learned to value in their stren- 
uous experiences of the past. They never lost 
the conviction that they were God's people. Re- 
liance on Him would bring them some relief 
they knew. How it would come they could not 
imagine. To them, it was a new, a queer exper- 
ience. It is remarkable that in all their history 
in those early days no two experiences were 
alike, except, it may be said that re- 
liance on God and his deliverance constituted 
an experience. In every case the circum- 
stance was unlike everything that had gone 
before it. They had now a new manifesta- 
tion of God's providence. Sea-gulls came 
in great swarms and devoured the crickets, and 
saved to them something like half a crop. It 
was a remarkable experience in the life of a 
people, — an experience which the men and wo- 
men who went through it had to confirm their 
faith and treasure up as a beautiful remem- 
brance in after life. It was one of the choice 
souvenirs in the life of John R. Murdock. He 
proudly adds his testimony to that of the oth- 
ers : "I wish to say that 1 experienced the 
cricket ravages on the crops of all kinds in this 


Valley. The insects came in countless num- 
bers. I witnessed the phenomenon of the gulls 
coming and destroying them. We all regarded 
this as very miraculous." 

There was nothing spectactular in the exper- 
iences which followed the harvest of 1848. 
This scanty provision meant distress, and in the 
quietude of the home men and women were put 
to those severe tests that require fortitude and 
faith. It was that silent endurance which, af- 
ter all, is the strongest test in the character of 
men and women. The story of how they lived 
has been told again and again. It is a grand 
story, even though a sad one. "We had to dig 
thistles and sego roots and every kind of weed 
that could be made into greens, and even this 
kind of food, too/' he says "was very scarce. 
At this time father's family consisted of his 
son Gideon, his son George, and two adopted 
daughters." It was a large family for such a 
meagre supply, but they like others, bravely 
made the most of a trying situation, which was 
not at all new to the young man who had just 
undergone the ordeals of the Mormon Battal- 

The farm' work of 1848 did not constitute 


all the summer's labor of the subject of this 
sketch. Pres. Young was on his way from Win- 
ter Quarters to Salt Lake Valley. The Pre- 
sidency of the Church had been organized on 
December 27th, 1847. It consisted of Brig- 
ham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard 
Richards. These leaders started out from Elk 
Horn early in June of 1848. The first com- 
pany, consisting of one hundred and twenty- 
nine souls and having three hundred and nine- 
ty-seven wagons, was led by Pres. Young; 
the second, with six hundred and sixty- 
two souls and two hundred and twenty-six 
wagons, by H. C. Kimball; the third, with 
five hundred and twenty-six souls and one hun- 
dred and sixty-nine wagons, by Willard Rich- 
ards. Willard Richards had been detained by 
the misfortunes that overtook his company, but 
Pres. Young was closely followed by Heber C. 
Kimball and made good progress. 

They needed aid, and competent young men 
were required to take fresh teams and go out 
to meet these companies whose arduous jour- 
ney had told upon man and beast alike. These 
pioneers now enroute were made up of men, 
women, and children. In the selection of aid 


for them, it is quite natural that John R. Mur- 
dock, whose experiences were so favorable and 
whose ability in such trying places had been 
thoroughly tested, should be called. He took 
his team, therefore, and under the Captaincy 
of Ira Eldredge went back with others to meet 
Pres. Young. They made roads through Par- 
ley's canyon and Park down Silver creek in 
order to intercept the other road at the mouth 
of Echo canyon. They came upon Pres. 
Young and company at the head of the Sweet- 
water, about three hundred miles from Salt 
Lake. They also met Pres. Kimball's company 
which was close in the rear. 

John R. Murdock naturally felt some inter- 
est in the second company where he met his 
old time benefactor, Father Lott, and his 
daughter Almira, who was awaiting an op- 
portunity to fulfil an engagement of matri- 
mony. The two, therefore, had an oppor- 
tunity to rehearse the strange and wonderful 
experiences they had both undergone since 
their parting in Iowa. 

In those trying times, the renewed associa- 
tions of old friends must have afforded a joy 
indescribable. Toil, anxiety, hardships, and 


suffering created a brotherhood that those 
who have known naught else but prosperity 
could hardly understand, much iet,s appre- 
ciate. There developed within those early pio- 
neers a brotherly love, a friendship, a hospital- 
ity that was indeed beautiful ; and the friend- 
ship of those early days left little opportunity 
for criticism and distrust. Those who remem- 
bered the deep friendships of Utah's pioneers, 
and the generous hospitality of those early days 
know something of the fruits of hardship 
which gave rise to such splendid results. The 
young man, with others of the relief party, 
loaded their teams from' President Young's 
train and accompanied him into Salt Lake 
Valley, which they reached on the 20th of Sep- 
tember, 1848. 

The arrival of the First Presidency of the 
Church gave new life to the Saints in the Val- 
ley. On the 8th of October a general confer- 
ence was held in the old Bowery which had 
been built in the Fort. The new Stake Presi- 
dency was organized, consisting of Charles C. 
Rich as president and John Young and Erastus 
Snow as counselors. 

The new-comers neither had nor brought 


with them sufficient food for the winter; and 
the fact that the crickets had destroyed one- 
half of the crop of the Saints that year made 
the outlook for the winter of 1848-9 a dreary 
one, indeed. The Saints, however, had taken 
all available means to provide every comfort 
possible, however meagre. The young man 
cut hay, hauled it, and supplied wood for the 
needs of his father's family, and late that year 
engaged himself to work for John P. Barnard, 
who had taken up a farm between what is 
now known as Centerville and Farmington. 
This farm had to be fenced, and young Mur- 
dock was sent to North Mill Creek to chop 
timber for that purpose during the winter. 

That winter is well remembered by the ear- 
liest settlers as one of the severest in the his- 
tory of Utah. Chopping timber, therefore, 
"waist deep in snow," as he says, was in no 
sense a comfortable occupation. The hardships 
of that winter was likewise one that tried his 
powers of endurance, but the young man kept 
faithfully at his post and after the farm work 
was finished his employer, Mr. Barnard, 
wished him to rent it from him. This John R. 
consented to do, and began at once to break up 


the new ground. He was thorough in his 
work and therefore successful. He planted 
some wheat, a considerable amount of corn, 
and reaped a good harvest during the sum- 
mer of 1849. This enabled him to supply him- 
self and to assist his father. 

John R. Murdock was also a witness of an- 
other of those remarkable interpositions in fa- 
vor of the Latter-day Saints, which they have 
always regarded as divine. During the winter 
of 1848-9 the excessive cold and short rations 
naturally created a spirit of gloom. The Saints 
were in need of comfort and encouraging 
words to buoy them up in those days when they 
were so beset by misgivings as to their future 
ability to succeed in their newly chosen home. 
At one of the meetings at which the half- 
starved and poorly-clad Saints had gathered, 
Heber C. Kimball, in one of his prophetic out- 
bursts, declared to the people that states' 
goods, food, and raiment to supply their needs 
would soon be sold in Salt Lake City cheaper 
than they were sold in St. Louis. How could 
such a thing be ! Some of the leaders were 
openly skeptical over such remarks whose ful- 
filment was wholly beyond the comprehension 


of the people. But the prophesy was ful- 
filled, as the eastern merchants had loaded large 
numbers of teams with merchandise which 
they were transporting to California in order 
to provide the miners there with merchandise. 
The excitement, however, became so strong 
when they reached Salt Lake City in the fall of 
1849 that they abandoned their merchandise in 
order to reach the gold fields at the earliest 
possible moment. They sold merchandise and 
teams at whatever price they could get, and 
made any sacrifice necessary to get fresh ani- 
mals. The story of this relief to the Saints is 
told in a few brief words by John R. Murdock : 
"For one good mule I received three yoke of 
good oxen and a new wagon. This provided 
me with a team so that I could go right on and 
make a home for my wife." 

This unexpected supply of all sorts of mer- 
chandise — merchandise which, it must be re- 
membered, was selected for the needs of the 
miners in California, was peculiarly helpful to 
the Saints. It set them up in house-keeping. 
The young man Murdock was, therefore, in 
circumstances favorable to the responsibilities 
of married life, which he entered into with 


Miss Almira Lott, on the 12th day of Novem- 
ber, 1849, at the Lott home, which stood on 
the corner now occupied by the Knutsford Ho- 
tel. The ceremony was performed by Heber 
C. Kimball. The new prosperity of that year 
made it possible to have a wedding supper and 
a good social pastime. 

The city was extended in 1848, and all the 
land lying south of the Fort came rapidly un- 
der cultivation during the summer of 1849. A 
large field fence had been constructed so as to 
separate the farm lands near the mountains 
on the east from the pasture lands of the Jor- 
dan on the west. Young Murdock, some time 
after his marriage, moved to the old Church 
Farm, which is now known as Forest Dale. 
His early experiences in Missouri and Illinois 
and his success on the Barnard Farm naturally 
made him a desirable man for an important 
trust, and it was therefore quite natural that 
Father Lott should want him to assist in the 
development of this large and important farm. 

Before, however, he entered upon his farm 
work south of the city, he was called to par- 
ticipate in one of those early Indian wars 
which the Saints of those early times had to 


meet for the preservation of their stock and of 
their lives. John Higbee had led a number of 
the Saints to Provo. They crossed the Provo 
river and settled what was known in early 
times there, "the old Fort Field." During the 
winter of 1849-50 the Ute Indians made an at- 
tack upon these settlers, and he was called 
from' his home at the old Church Farm to go 
to Provo that he might take part in the defense 
of the people there against the attacks of the 
Ute Indians, who had driven off a considerable 
number of stock and were constantly menacing 
the people. 

General D. H. Wells was in command, and 
young Murdock belonged to the company of 
General Robert T. Burton. Soon after their 
arrival, there was some skirmishing with the 
Indians, and after an effort of a day or two 
to dislodge them, an order was made to cap- 
ture a log house in the vicinity of where the 
Indians were located. This house was taken 
at considerable risk. A number of horses were 
shot, and two men were wounded on their ad- 
vance upon it. Young Murdock's horse was 
shot through the neck and fell just as he 
reached the house. The ball missed the young 


man's head by only a few inches, as he had just 
dismounted and was standing for a moment by 
his horse. After crawling into the house, 
which was done at considerable risk, they were 
fairly well protected. The firing was kept up 
for some time between the Indians and the men 
on the inside of the cabin. In this skirmish one 
man, Joseph Higbee, was killed, and several 
others were severely wounded. The men re- 
mained in the house until after dark, and then 
stole away to their camps. During the night, 
it is said, the Indians took some of the horses 
and went to the mountains. The men, how- 
ever, followed them to Spanish Fork, where 
some of the Indians were overtaken and a 
number of them killed. This fight took place 
in February, 1850. 

The gold excitement in California caused a 
constant stream of emigration through Salt 
Lake City to the Pacific coast during the sum- 
mer of 1850. Those who reached the Valley 
somewhat late in the season were, of course, 
extremely anxious to hasten their journey and 
cross the Sierra Nevada before the cold set in. 
Here they desired to secure new outfits, for 
which they were ready to make almost any 


exchange. John R. Mudock was instinctively 
a lover of good horses and cattle. His experi- 
ences with horses had made him not only skil- 
ful in the use of them, but a splendid judge of 
a good animal. He was, therefore, just the 
right kind of a man to avail himself of the ex- 
cellent opportunities the emigrants afforded in 
horse trading. He knew not only the kind of 
animal the gold-seekers wanted, but his judg- 
ment indicated at once the most desirable ani- 
mals they had to exchange. The fact was, in 
plain English, he was a good horse-trader. Of 
the summer of 1850 he says : "My means were 
limited, and this trading gave me a start in life 
by which I could take care of myself and fam- 

His stay at the Forest Dale farm was not of 
long duration. Father Lott died July, 1850, 
and was buried in what is known as the Salt 
Lake cemetery. His tombstone of native red 
sandstone was the first erected in that City of 
the Dead. "Father Lott," as he was familiarly 
known in his family, was a man who evidently 
enjoyed the confidence of the Church leaders, 
as he was trusted both by Joseph Smith and 
Brigham Young with their leading farming 


operations. In December, 1850, young Mur- 
dock left the farm and lived some time with 
his wife's family at their home on the Knuts- 
ford corner. This left him somewhat at sea. 
and he therefore began to look around for 
some place where he might cast his lot and 
make a home. His lot had been cast a great 
many times, and his feelings respecting the 
permanency of home could not have been very 
strong, in view of the rapid and radical 
changes that came to his life from the days 
of his infancy. Thus far he had been trained 
in the school of emergencies and was always 
ready at a moment's notice to respond to duty's 




"Early in the spring of 1851," says John R. 
Murdock, "I took my family and household ef- 
fects and moved to Lehi and commenced work 
on what was really my first home. In 1850 
my father went on a mission to Australia, and 
was gone over three years. It was the opening 
of a mission in that country. He went as far 
as California with an ox-team, with Rich and 
Lyman's companies of emigrants. I helped 
take care of his family during his absence." 

During the fall of 1850 there was a general 
movement for the colonization of the leading 
towns of Utah Valley. The location of these 
towns was governed by the streams of water 
which flowed from the mountains. This move- 
ment was, of course, attracting the attention 
of those who needed,and were therefore seek- 
ing,new homes. The choice lands immediately 
south of Salt Lake City had been generally se- 
lected, and the farms in the Salt Lake Valley 
by this time were growing so in value that 


men without means could not purchase them. 
Young Murdock, with two of his brothers-in- 
law therefore set out for Lehi, which at that 
time was perhaps not so attractive as some of 
the other settlements, because of its meager 
supply of water. However, young Murdock 
there secured forty acres of land, which he 
commenced at once to cultivate. 

"The first work on my farm in Lehi was to 
take the water from Srping Creek by means 
of a ditch and dam. I then began to break up 
the new land and to put in a crop. I built a 
log house down by Utah Lake, together with 
other settlers. Later we took out a canal from 
American Fork canyon and brought water 
across the bench. This was at that time, per- 
haps, the most extensive canal work that had 
been made. The undertaking was considerable 
because of the distance over which the water 
had to be taken, but the soil in and about Lehi 
was rich and, therefore, inviting." "From the 
first," he says, "there was a continual stream 
of new settlers pouring into Lehi, and as time 
went on, the Indians became very troublesome 
to the people. We all had to move into a 
square fort and guard our stock night and day 


against their encroachments. Some time aftei 
this we incorporated as a city. In a most un- 
expected and rather singular manner I became 
one of the first mayors of Lehi City. It came 
about in this way. As it usually happens, there 
are two parties concerned in the election of city 
officers. The party in power took what I re- 
garded as rather an improper course, and I 
arose in the meeting and undertook to vindicate 
the weaker party, with no thought whatever 
of its resulting in my election as mayor, and 
without any effort on my part. However, it 
seemed that I was the choice of the people." 

John Murdock w r as naturally a leader among 
men. He had strong convictions, and better 
still, he always had the courage to express 
them. His experience and superior judgment 
naturally gave him a pre-eminence among his 
fellow men. It was not at all strange that he 
should be elected one of the first mayors of 
Lehi City. 

During the early days of his residence there, 
the Indian troubles came to the people of Lehi. 
Their homes and cattle were valuable in those 
times, and perhaps the principal source of 
ready money. As the thieving propensities of 


the Indians manifested themselves, protective 
measures had to be adopted. Of these times he 
says : "The Indians again became very trou- 
blesome at the south end of the lake, and we 
sent a party of men to gather up the stock on 
that range which belonged to our people. They 
had succeeded in collecting the stock and 
stopped to eat their supper, when the Indians 
suddenly came upon them and killed three of 
their men, Cousins, Catlin, and George Winn. 
A continual watch had to be kept. We put 
the cattle in corrals at night. I had charge of 
them until the Indian troubles were over." 
Speaking of his early experiences of those 
times he recounts his Indian mission to South- 
ern Utah, with some twenty others, known as 
Parley's company. The purpose of this mis- 
sion was to establish friendly relations with the 
red men and to teach them the art of fann- 
ing. The company broke up new land and 
taught the Indians how to plant and cultivate. 
Quite a number of them were baptized. This 
mission continued over a period of four or five 
months. Later, he went on a similar mission 
to the one in Southern Utah, among the French 
and Indian tribes at Green River, and at Pa- 


cific Springs. Here, they met some success in 
their efforts, and he returned from that mis- 
sion with his brother-in-law, John Lott, to 
Lehi, where he continued to labor on his farm 
until 1856. 

In the fall of 1856 John R. Murdock, who 
was now thirty years old, went with a relief 
party to assist the hand-cart company in its 
struggles to reach the valleys during the se- 
vere cold weather of that season. The com- 
pany was in a precarious condition, and grave 
fears were entertained that the hand-cart peo- 
ple might perish. It was a time of intense 
anxiety, and men everywhere responded, not 
only with willingness, but with anxiety, to the 
call. "Our party," he says, "met the emi- 
grants near Fort Bridger. It began to snow 
on us in Echo canyon and did not cease until 
the snow was three feet deep on the low 
grounds and on the Big Mountain it was at 
a depth of ten feet, largely through drifting. 
In getting over the Big Mountain, I consider 
that I had performed the big feat of my life. 
The train, consisting of about seventy-five 
wagons, had been ploughing in the deep snow 
all day. I went ahead on horseback, leaving 


the rest of the relief party behind. It was very 
difficult, but I managed to struggle through 
the snow to the top of the Big Mountain. I 
was quite alone, but here met two men, with 
six yoke of oxen, who had come up on the 
west side of the mountain. They had come 
from Provo to assist the hand-cart company. 

When I told them their teams were need- 
ed at the farthest end of the train, they said 
they would go back to their camp and remain 
until the next day. I said no, and told them 
that if they would do as I said we would get 
the whole train over that night. I took full 
charge of all; for I realized that many of the 
people would perish if left on the mountain that 
night. My plan was to take the oxen and 
hitch on to the first two wagons and pull them 
through the snow, and thus open the road and 
enable the whole train to pass through. My 
advice was followed, and we succeeded in get- 
ting the entire train over by ten o'clock at 
night. The company then passed on quickly to 
a camp ground, where there was plenty of 
firewood prepared by the men who had been 
left behind. When the train had passed 
through, the cut in the snow bank was ten feet 


deep. You could lay a pole across the chasm 
and a covered wagon could easily pass under 
it. The next day we went into Salt Lake City, 
where the snow was about three feet deep. 
After seeing the company safely in the Valley, 
I returned to my home in Lehi." 

"In 1857 President Young called me to join 
the Y. X. Co., an abbreviation for Brigham 
Young Express Company, to carry the mail 
from Salt Lake to Missouri, a distance of 
twelve hundred miles." "This," he says, "was 
Hyrum Kimball's contract. I accepted the call 
and accordingly took my mules to drive. Por- 
ter Rockwell was in charge of the company, 
which consisted of about ten men. Horace Eld- 
redge and N. Groesbeck, who were going east 
on business, accompanied us. 

"We left Salt Lake City on the first day of 
March, 1857. Travel was so difficult and the 
snow so deep that it took us eleven days to get 
with our pack mules to Fort Bridger, a distance 
of only one hundred and fifteen miles. Not 
wishing to follow further the old emigrant 
road, we took from there a new route across 
the country by what is known as the Bitter 
Creek route, toward Devil's Gate on the Sweet- 


water. We had a great deal of difficulty in 
getting through the country, and there is one 
special incident of this journey that I must 
speak of. We were on the lookout for game, 
especially buffalo, when we came suddenly on 
a herd of five. Porter Rockwell and Craw- 
ford went out and got a shot at them and 
wounded one, and as it was near night we went 
into camp. 

"Crawford remarked to me : 'We can get 
that wounded buffalo, if you are the kind of 
a man I think you are.' We struck out with a 
mule apiece, without having had anything to 
eat since early morning. We took the trail of 
the buffalo, and as there was snow on the 
ground the tracks were rapidly and easily fol- 
lowed. We pursued the buffalo until it was 
almost dark, before we finally overtook them. 
We were at least fifteen miles from camp, and 
attempted to return, but the country was so 
uneven and rough that we lost our road and 
finally were compelled to stop, for our mules 
were tired out and we were also. The night 
we spent there was most terrible. The wind 
blew dreadfully, and there was one of the most 
terrible northwest storms I was ever in. We 


could get no wood anywhere except on a high 
knoll. There we found some green sage brush, 
which we had to pull up by the roots, to make 
a fire of, and we struck the last one of eleven 
matches which we had to kindle the fire. The 
exercise of pulling up the green brush was 
perhaps what kept us from freezing to death, 
for we hadn't a blanket nor a bite to eat. Our 
mules came nearly freezing with their saddles 
on, it was so terribly cold. We were a happy 
pair of men to see daylight again, so that we 
could find our way to camp. We were met by 
a party of men who had set out to find us, 
fearing, almost expecting, to find us frozen to 

After leaving this place, the company made 
its way on to Devil's Gate without further de- 
lay or difficulties. There they found a French 
trading post, where the hand-cart company, the 
year before, had left a large amount of their 
luggage, which Daniel W. Jones and Benjamin 
Hampton were delegated to take charge of un- 
til it could be removed to Utah. After reach- 
ing the regular course of the journey, Fort 
Laramie, Porter Rockwell remained at that 
post and the company then fell under the direc- 


tion of N. Groesbeck. On leaving Fort Lar- 
amie the most direct route to Independence was 
taken, and though the country was not so 
rough and uneven as that over which they 
passed, and the climate very much more 
agreeable, this latter part of the journey was 
made extremely difficult from the fact that the 
men had to walk most all the way in conse- 
quence of the poor condition of their animals. 
At that season of the year they, of course, 
found no grass except that which was dry and 
not very nourishing. The company reached 
Independence the 26th of April, almost two 
months from the time they left Salt Lake City. 
Independence at this time was not only near- 
er to the City of Washington, but it was on a 
direct line from St. Louis, which was then 
the chief commercial city of the West. 
Railroads had not then superseded water traf- 
fic of the Mississippi, and consequently the 
boats coming up that river from New Orleans 
made it not only the most available point for 
landing merchandise, but the Saints who were 
now arriving in large numbers from Europe 
also came by way of New Orleans to St. Louis, 
and thence on to Independence. Here, the 


mail was brought not only from the Eastern 
States, but also from Europe. After procur- 
ing an outfit at Independence consisting of 
light vehicles, mules, and horses, John R. Mur- 
dock set out upon his return for Utah on the 
first day of May with the United States mail, 
and George A. Smith, Doctor Bernhisel, 
Truman O. Angell, a young man, and two 
West Indian planters, as passengers. 

The return journey was more quickly ac- 
complished because of the favorable season of 
the year. There was more grass for the ani- 
mals and the roads were in better condition. 
When out about three hundred miles they lost 
three of their best mules which, however, they 
subsequently found. Although this loss of the 
animals hindered them somewhat, they still 
kept steadily going and made good time. The 
route from' Independence brought them to the 
South Platte, which at this season of the year 
they found some difficulty in crossing. "All the 
passengers," he says, "except the doctor, had to 
wade the river, which was as much as a mile 
and a half across, and was full of mud and 
ice. Though the stream was shallow there were 
numerous holes in its bed which was consti- 


tuted largely of quicksand. I waded out into it 
several rods, but the water was so cold it took 
my breath. I therefore returned to the shore 
at once. All the men, including Brother George 
A. Smith, worked hard and faithfully in get- 
ting the wagons across. The two West Indian 
planters, however, concluded that they would 
prefer to ride the loose mules; so I caught 
two, and after they had mounted them and got 
out into the stream, perhaps one third of the 
way across, one of the mules plunged into one 
of the deep holes and fell. The planter went 
down with him, and while in the water lost 
some of his money and a pistol, which he car- 
ried in his pocket. He turned his mule loose 
and got over the best he could. The other 
planter went a little farther and met a similar 
experience. He lost his knife and other arti- 
cles which he carried in his pockets. When 
they reached the other side of the river they 
looked like drowned rats. When we all suc- 
ceeded in getting over the Platte we made a 
fire and dried our clothing." 

"From the river the party continued its trav- 
els without further incident to Fort Laramie. 
At Horse Shoe, a little stream above Fort Lar- 


amie, they met a party of fifty missionaries, 
who were traveling with hand-carts and were 
on their way from Utah to their mission fields 
in the East. Continuing on their journey they 
reached Salt Lake City the last of May, having 
covered the distance in about one month. 

After remaining at home in Lehi with his 
family for one month, John R. Murdock was 
called to make a second trip with the mail and 
express from Salt Lake City to Independence. 
There were special reasons why his services 
were particularly sought after at this time by 
President Young. The Overland Mail service 
between the East and the Pacific Coast had 
been very unsatisfactory. The mails were long 
delayed in transit, and passenger accommo- 
dations were meagre, and the people of Utah 
were greatly dissatisfied over the contemptuous 
neglect to which they were subjected. Gov- 
ernment contractors had no special desire to 
cater either to the wishes or comforts of the 
Mormons. When, therefore, the time came to 
bid for the transportation of the mail, Hocka- 
day and McGraw were underbid by Hyrum 
Kimball, who took over the government con- 


tract which was organized into a company, 
briefly styled the Y. X. Company. 

The Mormons were, of course, ambitious to 
reform the service by making it expeditious, 
safe and as comfortable as the circumstances 
of those times would permit. Men were there- 
fore needed whose judgment, courage, pru- 
dence, and skill could be relied upon. Brig- 
ham Young had a large acquaintance with the 
men who had proven themselves throughout 
the trying times of Missouri and Xauvoo. Here 
was a man who had such a test, who had been 
a member of the Mormon Battalion, who was 
a minute man, who was quick to size up a sit- 
uation and make the best of it. Such men were 
not easy to find, and it is not therefore to be 
wondered at that John R. Murdock, during 
those early days, and subsequently during the 
emigration period in which practical men were 
required, should be frequently called upon. 
Murdock always had the happy faculty of do- 
ing things— doing them in the right way and 
at the right time. 

The eyes of jealous contractors were upon 
this company. Its conduct would be care- 
fully watched; every failure would be noted, 


criticised, and of course, reported to Washing- 
ton. There must be no failures. President 
Young and the leaders must demonstrate to 
the officials at Washington that they could dis- 
charge this new trust with promptness and 
ability, that the new service which they were 
to render was to be in every way superior to 
the service of those whom the new company had 
superseded. Men called to this work had a 
record to make, not only for themselves but for 
the reputation of the Mormon people. 

"We left Salt Lake City/' says John R. 
Murdock, "about the first day of July, 1857, 
carrying with us United States mail. There 
were three vehicles and six men in the party. 
John Kerr, an agent for Kincaid & Bell, the 
successors of Livingstone & Bell, merchants, 
also traveled with us. He had with him a 
large amount of money, about sixty thousand 
dollars. I also had about thirteen thousand dol- 
lars in Church drafts. We felt, naturally, the 
great responsibility placed upon us. In fifteen 
days we covered the entire distance of twelve 
hundred miles from Salt Lake City to Inde- 
pendence, Missouri. Our stock was fed on 
grass only, but this was good all along the 


road. Our method of traveling was as fol- 
lows : We arose at daylight, hitched up and 
traveled twenty miles, then stopped for break- 
fast and rested an hour or two while our stock 
fed and watered. We then traveled twenty 
miles and made another stop. In the after- 
noon we made a like drive and stopped for sup- 
per, after which we made a fourth drive into 
the night, thus making an average of eighty 
miles' travel each day, for fifteen days." 

That was certainly a marvelous record, and 
it is very doubtful whether it has a parallel in 
all the history of western pioneer life. Those 
who know something of the capacity of horses 
and mules will appreciate the difficulty of cov- 
ering so great distance in so short a time. 
Such persons would naturally ask, "How could 
he do it?" Those who know the man, in the 
first place, know that he is a lover of fine 
horses, and that he has always taken great 
pride in driving a beautiful team'. His experi- 
ence from his earliest boyhood taught him the 
capacity of horses, mules, and oxen. He had 
learned how to treat them ; and what was per- 
haps of greater value to him, was his love and 
sympathy for animals, which naturally respond 


to a friendship which they instinctively feel, 
and that response is always the best there is in 
them. John R. Murdock was always proud of 
that record. 

Speaking of what he considered as a prov- 
idential escape on this second journey, he says : 
"Thirty-five miles above Grand Island on the 
Platte river we stopped for supper and then 
proceeded a short distance, when we saw a 
large body of horsemen on the road, coming 
toward us. At first we thought they were gov- 
ernment troops, as the Johnston Army was 
then moving toward Utah ; but as it advanced, 
we discovered that they were a war party of 
Cheyenne Indians, about forty in number, and 
heavily armed with guns, spears, bows and ar- 
rows. This tribe of Indians was very turbu- 
lent and savage and very hostile to the whites 
at this time. As it afterwards proved, the band 
was out for booty, and was ready to commit 
any depredation. Our vehicles were covered, 
and we had a few loose animals which we were 
driving to stock the road. 'Boys,' I said, 'we 
must act wisely or we may get into trouble. 
We must not stop and let them discover our 
strength.' There were only seven of us in the 


party. The fact that we had loose horses in- 
dicated to the Indians that there must be a 
number of men inside our vehicles, and this 
was confirmed by Mr. Kerr, who, in recapping 
a double-barrel shotgun, discharged it, the shot 
passing through the cover. By this time the 
Indians were within two or three hundred 
yards of us. They stopped suddenly and in- 
sisted that we also should stop. I told the 
boys not to do this, but to go on as fast as pos- 
sible, and I would remain and talk with the In- 
dians. I had an armful of tobacco which I 
had brought to use in an emergency, knowing 
the fondness of the Indians for this article. I 
went up to them and asked for the chief. He 
was pointed out to me. I gave him the to- 
bacco and told him to distribute it among his 
men. I had ridden a little ahead of our party, 
and while I was talking to the Indians and in- 
sisting that they should let us pass on, our boys 
drove by them as fast as they could, without 
any interruption. After we passed, the Indians 
appeared to hold a consultation, but they evi- 
dently decided to give us no further trouble, 
and we passed quickly on to Fort Kearney. 
From that place, a distance of thirty-five miles, 


we traveled without a pause, as we feared they 
would surprise us by an attack if we went into 
camp before reaching the Fort. Such would 
certainly have happened had we stopped and 
permitted them to see how weak we were in 
numbers. Besides, we had just what they 
wanted, about thirty head of good horses and 
a large amount of money in gold and silver. 
This same band of Indians, about a week later 
attacked eighteen men who were driving a gov- 
ernment beef herd on their way to Utah. A 
fight took place near the Platte river. Two 
men were killed and the Indians got away with 
all the cattle." 

The money they carried with them was in 
Mr. Kerr's charge, but Murdock assisted him 
in protecting it, and later in carrying it to the 
bank in St. Louis, whither he went to do some 
business with H. S. Eldredge, the Church 
agent there. 

From Fort Kearney the rest of the journey 
was made to Independence without any further 
adventures. There, the United States mail w r as 
delivered into the custody of the proper offi- 
cers ; but this was the last mail carried by our 
people for the government in those early times. 


Orders had been sent on from Washington to 
Iendependence to the effect that mail directed 
to Utah must be withheld. 

The army was now on its way to Utah, and 
the w T hole situation was changed. The mail 
contract terminated abruptly, and John R. 
Murdock was again subjected to another of 
those dangerous uncertainties which had fre- 
quently fallen to his lot from his earliest recol- 
lection. He had learned, however, that new 
dangers meant new activities, and that he must 
turn his hand to whatever lay before him to do. 
He was always resourceful, and had no diffi- 
culty in adjusting himself to new and unusual 
tasks. Now that his services for the govern- 
ment were ended he went on to St. Louis and 
from there made his way to Atchison, on the 
Missouri river. Here, he loaded a mule and 
horse train with merchandise for Bell & Kin- 
caid of Salt Lake City. On the return jour- 
ney there was much excitement along the road 
in view of the attitude of the United States 
government toward the Mormon people. He 
had been, however, under fire before, and was 
equal to the dangers and troubles ahead. 
From Atchison he traveled with several de- 


tachments of the United States army on its way 
to Utah. He therefore understood what was 
going on, and from the soldiers learned some- 
thing of what they intended to do upon reach- 
ing Salt Lake City. It was the old story of 
Mormon persecution — a story he knew by 
heart. He was not dismayed, for he had learned 
to trust to the providences of God. On reach- 
ing Devil's Gate, he met Gen. Burton and his 
forces. There, a new and important duty came 
to him'. It was necessary to forward an ex- 
press from General Burton's camp to President 
Young in Salt Lake City. "My errand," he 
says, "was very urgent. I rode day and night, 
and with a change of horses covered the dis- 
tance in four days — a distance of three hun- 
dred and forty miles." He knew how to ride a 
horse as well as how to drive it. Such a ride 
must certainly have taxed his energies very 
greatly. Though it was not famous in poetry 
or in song, it was nevertheless a great feat — 
a record not elsewhere easily found. 

He reached Salt Lake City on the last day 
of Steptember, and after delivering his mes- 
sage repaired at once to his home in Lehi. 
After such a strenuous life and such remark- 


able endurance, he naturally found some relief 
in the quiet and comfort of a home ; but one 
of his children died soon after his arrival, so 
that a journey of remarkable endurance had 
its closing scene in the sorrowg of death. 




The winter of 1857-58 was one full of anxi- 
eties to the Latter-day Saints, who were face 
to face with conditions that might result in an- 
other exodus. Preparations were under way 
for the abandonment of homes, and perhaps 
another exodus was before the people. John 
R. Murdock must have felt in those days that 
the lot of a Latter-day Saint was that of a 
wanderer. But no man in the Church was bet- 
ter prepared for just such emergencies as con- 
fronted the people than he was, since he had 
been inured to them from his infancy. Speak- 
ing of that winter, he said : "I remained at 
home, attending to my private affairs. " He 
had no private affairs that might not be in- 
terrupted ; he had no personal interest that he 
would not gladly surrender to the interests of 
the Church. He knew what was going on at 
the frontier. He understood the movement of 
the army which was then advancing upon 
Utah. He had been intrusted with important 


work, which he had accomplished in a most sat- 
isfactory manner. 

During the trying hours of a threatened in- 
vasion of Utah, President Young remembered 
the kind-hearted man and a loyal friend, Thom- 
as L. Kane, who had visited the Saints while 
they were exiled on the banks of the Missouri 
River. His home was in Philadelphia, and Pres- 
ident Young had assurance of the kindly feel- 
ings of Colonel Kane for the Mormon people. 
Samuel Richards was therefore sent to ask the 
kind-hearted Colonel to intercede in behalf of 
Utah, and to bring to the knowledge of the 
President the untruthful reports upon which 
the army had been sent. Although Col. Kane 
was then in poor health, he at once undertook 
the mission of a peace-maker. He proceeded 
at once to Washington, where he interviewed 
the President and obtained from him a com- 
mission to visit the scenes of trouble and pro- 
mote peace and a proper understanding be- 
tween the Mormons and the government. Col- 
onel Kane set out at once from New York to 
the Pacific Coast by steamer and by the Isth- 
mus. He reached Salt Lake City on the 25th 
of February, 1858, and after a hurried consul- 


tation with the authorities made his way to 
Fort Bridger, where he held interviews with 
the newly-appointed governor, Mr. Cumming. 
He found the hostility against the Mormons 
very great, and General Johnson was bitterly 
opposed to Colonel Kane's mission. Indeed, 
at one time an open conflict between the two 
seemed almost inevitable. 

Colonel Kane returned with Governor Cum- 
ming to Salt Lake City, which they reached on 
the 12th day of April. After the way had been 
paved for an amicable adjustment between the 
newly appointed governor and the Mormon 
people, and prospects of settling the troubles 
were in sight, Colonel Kane set out upon his 
return to the East across the plains. The hos- 
tility of General Johnson to Colonel Kane was 
known to Brigham Young, and he was there- 
fore extremely anxious that their warm-heart- 
ed friend, the colonel, might be conveyed across 
the plains without danger and as expeditiously 
and comfortably as possible. President Young 
therefore selected a sepecial escort of men 
whose proven courage, wisdom, and loyalty 
could be depended upon. He therefore ap- 
pointed for Colonel Kane a tried and proven 


escort of five men, under the direction of 
Howard Egan. John R. Murdock was made a 
member of that escort. Governor dimming 
went with them as far as Fort Bridger. 

Speaking of that mission, John R. Murdock 
says : "We started about the first of May, 
1858. When we arrived at Fort Bridger, we 
found the most hostile feelings against us, and 
against everything concerning the welfare of 
the Mormons. We remained a few hours at 
the Fort and then proceeded on our journey. 
We met several government supply teams, and 
those who accompanied them were also very 
hostile. Nothing of any note on the way trans- 
pired. We made the whole trip, a distance of 
one thousand and sixty miles, in twenty-two 
days, and without a change of animals." 

That, too, was a remarkable journey at that 
early season of the year when feed through the 
mountains was insufficient and when it is re- 
membered that they were crossing a country 
whose feed had been quite thoroughly exhaust- 
ed by the government animals. Upon reach- 
ing the Missouri river, Howard Egan went 
on with Colonel Kane to Washington that he 
might bring back with him to Utah any com- 


munication which the President of the United 
State desired to send to Governor Cumming or 
to General Johnston. Egan's absence on this 
journey caused a delay of the rest of the escort 
at Florence for about six weeks. 

At the end of that period the escort returned 
to Fort Bridger, making as good time on the 
return trip as they had made going East. Egan 
had brought with him important documents 
from Washington to President Young. It was 
necessary that they be forwarded to Salt Lake 
City at the earliest possible moment. The dis- 
tance from' Fort Bridger was one hundred and 
fifteen miles, and to John R. Murdock was 
committed the duty of conveying this important 
document with speed and without delay. He 
covered the distance of one hundred and fifteen 
miles in twenty-four hours. 

"I rode," he says, "the same horse, Painter, 
that I had ridden during the whole trip to 
Omaha and back." Some of these rides of 
John R. Murdock will go into history in days 
to come with the celebrated rides that are char- 
acterized in the poetry of our national hero- 
ism. They are so remarkable as to appear al- 
most incredible when compared with the pres- 


ent endurance of both man and beast. That 
faithful horse, Painter, will hold his place, too, 
in the honorable mention of great deeds. No 
wonder his rider holds his name in loving re- 
membrance, and mentions him with pride when 
recounting his early experiences in Utah. 

"I went home to Lehi and worked at pri- 
vate business until the year 1861." That was 
a very modest account to give of himself after 
so important a mission. In these simple words 
there was no ostentation, no self-glory. It was 
a duty well performed. It was a mission of 
high honor. It was a part of a great history 
in the lives of a great people. It was one of 
those events that time alone could magnify 
and give its true setting in the fame it was to 
bring to the life of a man who did his duty 
humbly as he did it well. He had reason, how- 
ever, to feel grateful ; a child had been born to 
him in his absence. 

Soon after his return, the army came to Utah 
and made its encampment not far from Lehi. 
at a place known as Camp Floyd. The en- 
campment of the army, and the presence of a 
large number of camp-followers gave enlarged 
opportunities to the people in the vicinity of the 


camp and Salt Lake City to speculate and ad- 
vance their material interests. John R. Mur- 
dochs favorable location at Lehi and his in- 
herent genius to avail himself of such oppor- 
tunities was not, however, to be gratified. The 
faithful discharge of one duty made him' all 
the more desirable for new and enlarged re- 

"In the year 1861 I was called," he says, "to 
take charge of a Church train consisting of 
fifty wagons and as many drivers. There were 
four yoke of oxen to each wagon. It was our 
mission to go down to the Missouri river and 
bring emigrants to Utah. After making our 
preparations, we started about the first of May, 
1861. Grass was short, consequently we had 
to use great care in providing suitable food for 
our teams, and to drive prudently until the 
grass improved. Before leaving Salt Lake City 
we loaded up with flour and other provisions to 
meet the needs of the emigrants with whom 
we were to return. These supplies we depos- 
ited at certain points along the road, so that 
we could use them on our return. 

"It generally took about nine weeks to cross 
the plains, and though it was a laborious trip, 


we had a great deal of enjoyment out of it. 
We had musicians with their instruments and 
would sometimes have what the boys called 
'stag dances,' as there were no ladies with us 
on the 'down' trip. There were always several 
trains on the road which frequently camped 
close to ours, so the drivers often mingled with 
?ach other and engaged in such contests as 
wrestling, racing, and jumping. I took a 
great deal of pleasure in such association with 
the boys." 

These trains were generally made up from 
different sections of the territory, and there 
would naturally be some feelings of rivalry 
among them. As these rivalries took on the 
form of honorable contests, they naturally gave 
rise to sympathies and friendships that lasted 
throughout life. How often in after years 
men were wont to say, when introduced to a 
supposed stranger. Yes, I knew him. We 
were old friends together on the plains." To 
know each other on the plains was the badge of 
friendship and the assurance of hospitality. 
How these old-time friends were men and 
women who underwent trials together and re- 
joiced in lasting friendships, those of later 


generations can hardly realize. There is an 
old adage which says : "If you would know a 
man you must first travel with him." 

How unlike, however, were the Mormon 
travelers on the plains in those early days when 
compared with other travelers ! The latter 
were quite contentious from the familiarity of 
their associations with their fellow men. Their 
companies were frequently broken up, hatreds 
were engendered, and sometimes men fought 
to the death. On the other hand, the Mor- 
mons were men and women of religious con- 
victions, who deeply sensed their obligations 
and desired to live in harmony with their fel- 
low men. They were under the watch-care of 
Sod and were taught unity and brotherly love 
by humbly submitting themselves to the direc- 
tion of a kind Providence, both morning and 
night, in an attitude of prayer. They were 
taught to feel the need of divine protection, 
and the approbation of their God. How 
could they have, then, they asked themselves, 
these blessings, if in their midst there were 
not brotherly love and a willingness to make 
sacrifice for the good and happiness of others. 
The relationship of these Mormon emigrants 


was both, instructive and joyful. What, 
therefore, John R. Murdock has to say of those 
days on the plains is full of interest. He gives 
us some insight into a life far from anything 
that we have ever experienced, but into a life 
that had much to do in laying the foundations 
of that faith, love, and friendship that char- 
acterized the beginning of the Church in the 
early history of Utah. 

"Our first trip down," he says, "was without 
any particular incident. We remained at the 
river a short time and then loaded the luggage 
of the emigrants into our wagons. There 
were from sixteen to twenty persons, 
men, women, and children, assigned to each 
wagon. Those who were old enough to walk 
were expected to do so the greater part of 
the way. They would ride, occasionally, 
when the roads were good. I always appointed 
two men whose duty it was to look after the 
passengers. It was certainly novel to see a 
train starting out with everything that could 
be put into wagons and everything that could 
be tied to the outside, such as buckets, cans and 
all kinds of cooking utensils. It reminded one 
of an old turkey with a brood of young ones 


keeping her company. Generally there were 
about seven hundred passengers in one train. 
The organization was systematic and complete. 
It consisted of a captain, an assistant, a chap- 
lain, a quarter-master, hospital steward, a 
camp guard, and a night guard for the stock. 
The chaplain took charge of the religious ser- 
vices, and we had prayer night and morning. 
We also had a choir with its leader. The peo- 
ple were called together by means of a 

This description applies to all the companies, 
which required about nine weeks going and 
coming. The experiences of the emigrants 
were educational as well as fraternal. Frequent- 
ly the teamsters, who were usually unmarried 
men, formed attachments for the young ladies 
among the emigrants. These attachments re- 
sulted in life-long friendships, and sometimes 
in matrimony. 

On reaching home from his trip across the 
plains in 1861, he returned to Lehi to pass the 
winter of 1861 and 62. This gave him no op- 
portunity to till his fields and harvest his crop. 
His stay at home was at a season of the year 
in which it was most difficult to provide means 


of sustenance for his family. John R. Mur- 
dock was a thoughtful man — a man who 
could foresee possible dangers and was there- 
fore constantly on his guard to escape troubles 
that foresight and prudence might protect him 
from. There is seen in his narratives of those 
early experiences a deep-seated satisfaction 
which he felt in the fact that he and those in his 
charge escaped accidents and avoided both dan- 
ger and trouble. The personal conquests of his 
life were the conquests of peace. He put great 
store upon timely prudence, which was a pro- 
tection to himself and others ; and although 
he was pre-eminently helpful in assisting others 
out of difficulty, he found greater satisfaction 
in keeping them from it. He had, therefore, a 
right to speak of that particular satisfaction 
which he felt in the fact that he had lost few 
passengers among all those whom he had 
helped across the plains. 

The spring of 1862 brought to him another 
call. It might seem hard to draft him again 
into a service to which he had devoted so much 
of his life. Why not let others try their hand ? 
It was not, however, work upon which to make 
experiments. The lives, as well as the comfort 


and happiness of thousands, depended upon 
the skill and efficiency with which the emigra- 
tion trains of those days were conducted. Men, 
tried and true, must bear the responsibility. 
Moral questions were involved, and men of 
known moral character were needed. 

John R. Murdock responded again to a call 
in the spring of 1862. Of that year he says : 
"The season was very different from that of 
the year before. It was exceedingly wet, and 
every little stream was filled front the melting 
snows. At Yellow Creek, about seventy miles 
from Salt Lake City, Ave were a whole day 
crossing a little stream not more than twenty 
feet wide. All the low country \near this 
stream was covered with water waist deep. 
All that day we struggled in getting our train 
over a small bridge. While we were at work, a 
man with his family came along and asked to 
cross our bridge. His request was granted. 
He felt so grateful about it that he handed out 
to me a keg of whisky and asked me to have 
a drink. Of course I could not regard what 
he intended to be a treat as something I could 
accept as a personal favor. I told him that 
when I drank all the boys must have the same 


privilege. He told us to take it all. Having 
wallowed in mud and water for ten hours that 
day, without very much to eat, we accepted the 
liquor as a stimulant, especially as we still had 
ten wagons to get across ; and by the aid of 
the stimulant we were enabled to bring them 
all over that night. When we reached Ham's 
Fork we found the entire bottom-lands covered 
for a distance of one-half mile with water, 
which was six feet deep in some places. I 
succeeded in getting my train across in two, 
days, but some of the other trains were three 
weeks in getting over.'' 

Owing to the wet season and the consequent 
high waters, his train that year was very great- 
ly delayed. He reached Winter Quarters about 
the middle of July. There, he met for the first 
time Mary Ellen Wolfenden and her mother's 
family, which consisted of two daughters and 
two grandchildren. Subsequently Mary Ellen 
became his wife. Y\ nile East, during this trip, 
he visited his sister Julia, who had married a 
man by the name of Dixon, with whom she 
went to Texas, where he was killed in a steam- 
boat explosion. She afterwards married John 
Middleton with whom she was living when he 


found her at St. Louis. The visit was a source 
of pleasure to both of them. 

"I went," he says, "by way of Nauvoo to 
see Sister Emma Smith and her family and to 
visit the city where I had lived in former 
times." During the years that he had been in 
the employ of Joseph Smith on his farm he 
became naturally associated more or less inti- 
mately with the Prophet and his family. Be- 
sides, Joseph and Emma Smith had been the 
foster parents of his twin sister and brother, 
whose love and kindness for the little ones he 
had never forgotten. That visit and the joy- 
ful meeting that he had with his sister whom 
he had not seen for eighteen years made the 
trip of 1862 both pleasurable and remarkable 
to him. On his return from these visits, he 
took command of his train and reached Salt 
Lake City early in the month of October. Dur- 
ing his absence, another child was born to him. 
a circumstance which almost resulted in the 
death of the mother. 

"In January, 1863," he says, "I was married 
on the same day to Mary Ellen Wolfenden and 
May Bain. The ceremony was performed by 


Daniel H. Wells in the Endowment House at 
Salt Lake City." 

It must have seemed to John R. Murdock in 
those early days that his life was to be devoted 
wholly to the service of others. For the most 
part, his home consisted largely of a wagon- 
box, and perhaps most of the time he was 
crowded even out of that, and forced to take 
shelter beneath it and between the wheels, that 
is, when he was not required to give up such a 
shelter for the comfort of others. 

The spring of 1863 brought another call, 
and, with the same fidelity that had charac- 
terized his devotion to the Church, he respond- 
ed with promptness. It is a pleasing tribute to 
the life and character of John R. Murdock to 
say that, as he recounts the experiences and in- 
cidents of those trying times, he never once 
speaks of a hardship or a sacrifice. What he 
remembers about that time, and that about 
which he takes the greatest pride is that he was 
able to do it. His experiences, his emigration 
training of 1863, are worthy of quotation at 
some length. They reveal the ambitions of the 
man and show how well he loved to excel in 



action ; for John R. Murdock was more emi- 
nently a man of deeds than of words. 

Recounting the experiences of 1863, he says : 
"There were ten Church trains of fifty wagons 
each. Among the men called to act as captains 
was W. B. Preston. I was partial to him 
then, and have always been since. He was a 
little ambitious, and I was ambitious also. He 
remarked to Bishop Hunter, who had general 
charge of the emigration, that he was going to 
lead all the other trains down and back again. 
Bishop Hunter knew what I had done in past 
seasons, and was very much pleased with what 
he considered my success in handling teams 
and in helping emigrants. He was, perhaps, a 
little partial to me and so he told me when I 
met him at the mouth of Echo Canyon what 
W. B. Preston had said to him, Brother Pres- 
ton being already three days ahead of me with 
his teams. Bishop Hunter, perhaps, meant by 
his words to give me both a warning and a 
challenge. He evidently did not want me 

"I overtook Brother Preston after we had 
traveled about three hundred miles. After that 
I was sometimes ahead and sometimes he 


would be in the lead. However, I had resolved 
in my mind to outgeneral him and to do it hon- 
orably and without injury to our teams. When 
we made our last deposit of supplies at Wood 
River, about one hundred and seventy miles 
this side of Florence, I saw that he intended to 
make good his w 7 ord; and I should, perhaps, 
have allowed him to go in ahead of me without 
any particular exertion on my part to prevent 
it, had it not been for what he said to Bishop 
Hunter. Brother Preston made longer marches 
than usual and arrived first at Loup Fork, a 
branch of the Platte River. There we had to 
cross by ferry. I planned to pass him at that 
point by crossing the river first. I did it in 
this way: When my train reached the river, 
he had all his across the ferry except twelve 
wagons. The river was low. Upon making 
necessary inquiries, I found that by taking a 
certain direction in the river below the ferry 
down to a given point on an island and then 
turning at a certain angle up the river, I could 
reach a landing on the other side near a Cot- 
tonwood tree. Before starting, however, I 
rode up to the ferryman to make some in- 
quiries. Some of Preston's men jokingly re- 


marked that they thought they had lost me. 
In reply I told them I thought I was good for 
the home stretch. They then had no idea what 
my plans were. 

"I called the ferryman aside and asked him if 
there were not a contract between him and 
Mr. Little, who was then a Church agent, that 
the crossing of the river ferry both going and 
coming would be at the rate of one dollar for 
each wagon. He replied that there was, and 
that it would be just the same for my train 
whether I ferried or not. I said, 'all right,' 
and then took to the river. My whole train 
crossed without any trouble, incident or acci- 
dent. When we were all over, Brother Pres- 
ton had still ten wagons to ferry across, and 
he saw that I had out-generaled him. We 
were then about eighty miles from Florence, 
and the important thing was to keep ahead. 
Being well acquainted with the road and wa- 
tering places, I took advantage of suitable 
camp grounds. The first night Brother Pres- 
ton was behind us, as I thought he should be. 

"Here I wish to say that it is my belief that 
I made the best time with ox-teams that was 
ever made on this continent under similar cir- 


cumstances. It was in the long days of June 
and the weather was not excessively hot. Our 
oxen were well 'seasoned' and in good condi- 
tion to travel. We made forty miles the second 
day from Loup Fork. That brought us to Elk- 
Horn, twenty miles from Florence. There were 
at one time fifty men living who could con- 
firm the truth of the above statement, and 
there are some now living who will remem- 
ber this record. 

"We reached Florence a half a day in ad- 
vance of Preston's train. On our arrival we 
found ready for emigration about seven hun- 
dred Saints, a ship load of emigrants. That 
number was sufficient to load my train, which 
was consequently loaded at once. This caused 
Brother Preston a delay of five weeks, as he 
had to wait for the next ship load before he 
could leave with his train." 

This circumstance related by him is given at 
considerable length, as it shows the inherent 
disposition of the man to excel in whatever he 
undertook. The fact that he arrived in Salt 
Lake City weeks ahead of his old-time friend. 
W. B. Preston, was something that always en- 
livened his spirit in after life whenever the 


pleasantries of those days were talked over, 
f^ishop Hunter also must have had faith in 
John R. Murdock when he warned him that 
he would have a strong competitor in the field 
for honors among the emigrant trains of that 
season. No doubt Bishop Hunter felt some 
satisfaction when the man who enjoyed both 
his love and his confidence made good the ex- 
pectations which the venerable Bishop had for 

His home coming that year was not without 
its sadness, for he not only found his wife in 
delicate health, but his son Orrice died not long 
after his return. The spring of 1864, like clock 
work, brought with it a new summons to an 
old service. This time he was called to take a 
mule and horse train across the plains to the 
Missouri River. In this train there were 
about seventy-five wagons, some of which were 
private conveyances that were taking President 
D. H. Wells and Brigham Young, Jr., with 
their families, to the mission field in England. 
The journey was made without any incidents 
worthy of special mention. 

Of that trip he says : "The south fork 
of the Platte was high, and we had a 


dreadful time in crossing it. We reached the 
Missouri river, about six miles above Nebraska 
City. On reaching that city we made our pur- 
chases and loaded up with freight and emi- 
grants. We remained at Nebraska City about 
ten days and then commenced our journey for 
Salt Lake City. The first night out, our 
horses stampeded and scattered all over the 
country. It took us four days to find them 
and get them together again. After that we 
were frequently threatened with a repetition 
of a similar experience. We consequently 
had to keep men mounted all the time to pre- 
vent another stampede. 

"One who has never seen animals stampede 
can scarcely understand the nature of it, nor 
how impossible it is to stop a stampede when 
once it begins. The horses and mules would 
all be scattered over quite an area of ground 
quietly feeding and at any little noise they 
would all jump together and away they would 
go like a flash. We continued our journey, and 
at the south fork of the Platte we were over- 
taken by two families. One was that of Judge 
Gilchrist. They had made forced marches to 
reach us and to travel in our company to Utah. 


On our way home I was met at the mouth of 
Echo canyon by my devoted wife Almira. Up- 
on reaching Salt Lake City and unloading my 
train, I returned with her to Lehi." 

Speaking of these "emigrant days," John R. 
Murdock says, more in a spirit of satisfaction 
than in boasting: "I think I am safe in say- 
ing that I brought more emigrants to Utah 
than did any other one man. I was also most 
successful with my teams and lost but very 

He may easily be excused for entertaining 
a feeling of pride over such a record. Those days 
of emigration responsibilities characterized 
John R. Murdock as a man of affairs — a man 
fitted by nature and experience for a great va- 
riety of duties and responsibilities. This trip 
of 1864 was made when he was forty-four 
years of age. Certainly there was nothing in 
his life from childhood to this fulness of his 
manhood that could in any way be regarded as 
a rut. Experience and schooling made him 
pre-eminently a well-qualified man for those 
days. Thus far in life there had been no fail- 
ure on his part to limit the confidence of the 


leaders of the Church in the trust that might be 
reposed in the man. 

In those days the Church was growing rap- 
idly. New counties were in process of form- 
ation and men of genius and leadership were 
needed as much in these new and growing 
counties as they were needed upon the plains. 
John R. Murdock had demonstrated his ability 
to preside over people on camp-grounds and in 
emigrant trains. Could he preside over them 
in their newly-chosen homes where they were 
to enjoy greater comforts and a larger meas- 
ure of individual initiation? He could lead in 
those peculiar experiences which had fallen to 
his lot from childhood. Success, however, in 
leadership under trying circumstances is one 
of the best evidences of leadership in the wider 
opportunities and broader fields of life. Up to 
this age of life he had lived in the enjoyment 
of a pre-eminent confidence which the lead- 
ers of the Church had always shown him. 
Nothing had occurred to limit that confidence, 
and what they thought of him then is shown by 
the honors that fell to him later in life. 




In the fall of 1864 the settlement of various 
counties throughout the territory had become 
so rapid, and the growth of the various towns 
so great, that satisfactory presiding officers 
were in great demand. Beaver City and the 
outlying districts, in that year, needed a man 
whose influence would promote harmony and 
whose leadership would be sufficiently strong 
to bring the contending elements together. 
There were circumstances in the settlement, 
growth, and environments of the country 
there which required not only an upright, cap- 
able man, but a man of discerning judgment 
and tactful methods. "It gave me a severe 
shock," said John R. Murdock, "when upon 
invitation I entered the office of President 
Young and learned that he wanted me to be 
the Bishop of Beaver." 

In Lehi, in those early days, a strong class 
of men had gathered — men who subsequently 
figured prominently in the history of the 


Church—men like Abram Hatch, Canute Pe- 
terson, John R. Murdock, and others. Natur- 
ally, there sprang up among them feelings of 
friendship and mutual good will. It was the 
boast of the people in Lehi in later years that 
the little community had been honored by the 
call of so many presiding men from its midst. 
One might very safely have predicted that 
John R. Murdock would receive some such re- 

"I was received very kindly and apparently 
very favorably by the people, who expressed a 
willingness that I should come and preside over 
them." After looking over the situation, he re- 
turned to Lehi, where he gathered his cattle 
and took them to his new home to winter. 
However, he remained at Lehi through most 
of the winter of 1864 and 65, and in May re- 
turned to his new home, and by the fall of 
that year had all his family with him prepar- 
atory to another beginning which he was to 
make in life. "I bought a farm and some town 
lots and built houses for my family to live in. 
I also immediately set about building school- 
houses, a meeting house, and other public 
buildings. I was very zealous in this labor and 


carried a great part of the responsibility of it 

His appointment, however,as Bishop brought 
with it a general responsibility of looking after 
the welfare of all the settlements in the county. 
And when, therefore, after about ten years all 
the settlements of the county were organized 
into a stake, John R. Murdock was chosen its 
President. From the outset he found the peo- 
ple considerably divided into factions, but he 
insisted that he was the Bishop of all of them 
and kept himself aloof from factional interests 
and individual favoritism. His position was a 
delicate one, as Beaver was then, as it has since 
been, made up of a great diversity of elements. 

In those early days the southern settlements 
were considerably removed from the center of 
commerce. One of the first problems which 
confronted Bishop Murdock was to learn and 
make available the best resources of the people 
in that community. Beaver, like most other 
parts of the Territory, offered opportunities 
for cattle and sheep, but its water supply was 
limited, and the farming interests of the peo- 
ple could not be made very extensive. How- 
ever, he set himself to work at figuring out 


every available resource. It was not long be- 
fore he organized a co-operative woolen fac- 
tory with a capital stock of forty-five thousand 
dollars, and subsequently a mercantile co-oper- 
ative institution with a capital stock of twenty 
thousand dollars. During these times, the cat- 
tle interests of John R. Murdock greatly in- 
creased, and his horses, sheep, and cattle, to 
whose care he gave scrupulous attention, 
brought means at his command. 

In those early days he was fortunate in 
gathering around him men of good judgment 
and loyal friendship. One of these men whose 
support was always valuable and whose friend- 
ship he appreciated was M. L. Shepherd, a 
man of vast energies and financial abilities. 
Murdock and Shepherd, who had much in 
common in native ability and experience, saw 
eye to eye. They were quick to avail them- 
selves of the resources about them. They ac- 
cumulated wealth and became the leading spir- 
its in the establishment of those co-operative 
institutions which supplied labor and devel- 
oped commerce of the community. Speaking 
of the factory the former said: 'This insti- 
tution has always been a credit to the people 


and has proven a great benefit to them both 
by supplying good articles of goods, and work 
for the people." ; | ^Jg 

"In those early days, we had a good deal of 
trouble with the Indians, as they were con- 
stantly driving off our stock." Speaking of 
himself and others, he says : "We established 
an outpost on the Sevier river called Fort 
Stanford. This we furnished with supplies 
and men and were obliged to keep it up for 
our protection. We organized companies of 
militia and I was chosen lieutenant-colonel. 

"Among other incidents of those times that 
took place with the Indians, there is one I must 
relate. The people of Beaver had come to- 
gether for the purpose of putting a roof on 
the meeting-house and nearly all of the men 
in the county were assisting in the work when 
word came to us that the Indians had attacked 
John P. Lee's home, located on South Creek, 
about eight miles from Beaver. The word 
was brought to us by two little children, one, 
Charley Lee, about twelve years old, the other, 
a little girl by the name of Baker, a child per- 
haps ten years of age. Mrs. Lee had put them 
out of the back of the house opposite the side 


attacked by the Indians. The children went 
through the brush and consequently were not 
seen by the Indians. The little ones ran all the 
way to Beaver. There was the greatest pos- 
sible haste made and men rushed to the scene 
as soon as they heard the news. They se- 
cured their horses and equipments and were 
off within twenty minutes. I took with me in 
my buggy a surgeon, as a man by the name of 
Jos. L. White, who lived at that time on South 
Creek, had been wounded in the shoulder by 
a shot from one of the Indians' guns. The 
Indians had surrounded the house, which had 
a lumber roof, which they set on fire. While 
Lee stood at the door with his large blunder- 
buss, keeping the Indians out and resisting the 
Indians who were trying to break in, Mrs. 
Lee succeeded in putting out the fire with her 
pans of milk. The situation had been very 
critical before we reached the scene. Mr. and 
Mrs. Lee both displayed remarkable courage 
and presence of mind, but before we reached 
the spot the Indians became frightened and 
withdrew. Two of them, however, were killed 
by shots from Lee's gun and pistol. We took 
the wounded man and the Lee family, with all 


their household effects, back with us to Beav- 

The trouble of longest duration with the 
Indians was their practice of stock stealing. 
Cattle and horses were often about the only 
resource that many people had, and their loss 
from the depredation of the Indians was often 
a source of distress. Several expeditions were 
organized against these troublesome outlaws; 
and large expeditions, time, and money were 
required to stamp out a practice that was so 
destructive to their interests. 

In the course of time, in the district of coun- 
try lying west of Beaver City, mining interests 
were developed and markets were opened for 
the products of both the farm and the ranch. 
The growth of the town and the demands of 
the mines gave rise to new resources — re- 
sources that John R. Murdock was one of the 
first to discover and appropriate. 

"E. W. Thompson and I," he says, "sent 
teams to the eastern frontier, where we pur- 
chased the first saw-mill ever brought to Beav- 
er or to the southern part of Utah. We put 
it up on South Creek, where it worked very 
successfully for a number of years. The coun- 


try, however, had no extensive forests, and 
the lumber trade could not, therefore, continue 
very long. The saw-mill answered the purposes 
of those times and supplied the lumber neces- 
sary for improving the town and multiplying 
new homes. It was an additional factor in the 
employment of both capital and labor." 

A matter of some importance to the people 
in the early days of Beaver was its town gov- 
ernment. John R. Murdock was called to pre- 
side over the religious destinies of the place. 
Beaver City had no charter. Upon his elec- 
tion to the territorial legislature in 1867, he 
succeeded in getting a bill through, giving to 
his home town a charter, in consequence of 
which a municipal government was organized. 
There was some friction at first, owing to the 
fact that the people were divided, but he fin- 
ally succeeded in harmonizing most of them. 

Speaking of his legislative experience he 
says : "I was elected to the legislature for 
four consecutive terms. I was also a mem- 
ber of the Territorial Convention over which 
General Barnum presided. The object of that 
convention w r as to draft a state constitution." 

Only four years had elapsed since his trip 


across the plains in 1864. They were years 
of a busy life in which he was the leading fac- 
tor in the establishment of industrial life in 
Beaver City. They were years devoted to the 
care and comforts of his family, a period in 
which he was given opportunity to discover 
and develop resources necessary for the well- 
being and happiness of the people over whom 
he presided. 

At the close of four years after his call to 
Beaver, and in the spring of 1868, he was 
called to conduct a train of seventy-five wag- 
ons to Laramie City for the purpose of bring- 
ing to Utah the emigrants who were arriving 
there. By this time the railroad had made its 
way across the plains and was ascending the 
eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. The 
days of emigrant trains were soon to be a thing 
of the past. But the later chapters, as well as 
the earlier ones in John R. Murdock's pio- 
neer experiences in Utah, were filled with ac- 
counts of emigration companies and episodes 
of a trying character on the plains. 

Speaking of this, his last experience of 
that kind, he said: "I had seventy-five wag- 
ons in my train. Fiftv of them belonged to the 


Church, and twenty-five were private convey- 
ances. That year, as I remember, six other 
companies were called for a similar purpose. 
They were ahead of mine on the way down, 
but they consisted of only twenty-five wagons 
each. It was the custom among those com- 
panies to load in the order of their arrival. Of 
the two trains ahead of me, Joseph Rawlins 
was in command of one and Chester Love- 
land of the other. After loading their trains 
they set out for home. Just as they were leav- 
ing, a shipload of passengers arrived by train 
at Laramie. I, therefore, loaded my train at 
once and followed the advanced companies. 
The authorities had advised us to break a new 
road for about one hundred miles over the old 
emigrant road on the lower waters. The object 
of this was to avoid the railroad men who 
were then engaged in large numbers in the 
construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. 
The two companies in advance followed the 
new road, but my company was so large, and 
some of my teams were so heavily loaded that I 
decided, after due deliberation^ follow the old 
road. This seemed under all the circumstances 
about the only thing that I could do, and I 


kept along the old Bitter Creek route. The 
water of that creek was correctly named, for 
it was bitter indeed. Fortunately, I had two 
loads of empty barrels, which I was taking as 
a part of my freight. Before starting out, I 
took the precaution to fill these with good 
water for the use of the emigrants. 

"Before Rawlins left with his company I vis- 
ited his camp to bid him good-bye and speak 
encouraging words to the emigrants. He re- 
marked that as I had a large train and my pas- 
sengers had not yet arrived he would reach 
Salt Lake and forget all about his trip before 
I got there. 'Yes, I suppose so/ I replied." 

That was just the kind of a remark to put 
the spur deep in the flesh of John R. Mur- 
dock; competition always gave a healthy im- 
pulse to his efforts. He naturally loved to 
excel, wanted to do greater things than others, 
and was always excessively proud of a good 
record. All things being equal, his determina- 
tion not to be outdone never forsook him. If 
there was anything in this world he knew, per- 
haps as well as any man, it was how to get the 
best in a team out of it. He knew how to 
keep things going. He could keep in mind at 


the same time a large number of things to be 
done immediately, and he rarely ever lost his 
presence of mind. He foresaw danger and 
provided against it, and made allowances for 
every possible contingency which a fertile mind 
could create. 

Note what he says of this return trip to 
Utah : "We did not have to wait for our load, 
and we made very good time down the Bitter 
Creek road and across Green River, where we 
intercepted the old pioneer road. On our ar- 
rival there, we learned that Rawlins and Love- 
land had not yet passed. They had been de- 
tained by the heaviness of their loads and by 
the Indians, who had driven away some of 
their stock. The stock, however, they succeed- 
ed in recovering, but not without delay. We 
pushed on with our train and reached Salt 
Lake City without any serious accident except 
that one boy broke his leg. The emigrants 
were unloaded in Salt Lake and I returned 
home to Beaver with my private loads of 

Besides the experiences of a pioneer and 
those of a legislator, a new duty came to Pres- 
ident Murdock in the appointment from the 


Territorial Legislature which made him the 
probate judge of Beaver county. This posi- 
tion he held for four years. During that time, 
he entered the town sites of Greenville, Adams- 
ville, and Minersville. This authority was 
conferred by the territorial law on the pro- 
bate judge. 

In the winter of 1874, he again took up his 
work in the legislature. This work made him 
more or less familiar with conditions existing 
in every part of the territory. The work also 
brought him in contact with the leading men of 
those times, and enabled him to bring back to 
his people in Beaver the experiences, sugges- 
tions, and observations of others similarly lad- 
en with responsibilities. While he was gen- 
erous in giving out to others the results of 
his own experiences, he was equally anxious to 
gain information from every available source. 
He made inquiries about the best breeds of 
stock, about the best implements for the farm, 
about the best methods of developing the re- 
sources which he thought were within the 
reach of his people. He not only possessed 
the rare faculty of accumulating means from 
the resources about him, but he was zealous in 


urging the people to avail themselves of the 
very same opportunities that came to him. He 
rejoiced in the prosperity and progress of 
others, and he therefore did much to promote 
the spirit of industry and prudence among 
those over whom he presided. 

However successful the life of John R. 
Murdock may appear in its material aspects, 
however well he performed every duty as- 
signed to him, and however enviable his repu- 
tation to others may seem, he nevertheless had 
his own afflictions. He learned to his sorrow 
that there are troubles enough in this world to 
go round, and that as a rule, each man has his 
share. One after another of his children died, 
and with their precious little bodies he buried 
ambitions and fond hopes which he had cher- 
ished concerning them. As one reads the 
story of his life, of the hardships he endured, 
of his exhausting journeys and bodily priva- 
tions, one can scarcely withhold the thought 
that may be, after all, the remarkable physical 
energies which were lavishly given for the 
safety and welfare of others, were indirectly 
the physical disinheritance of his own off- 
spring; and yet he has lived on to a remark- 


able old age and in the enjoyment of a sturdy 
and splendid manhood. 

In 1878 he was called to mourn the loss of 
his first wife, the honorable mother of a large 
family, though at the time of her death only 
forty-nine years old. 

Throughout all his maturer years he had re- 
sponded to a variety of calls which he had al- 
ways sacredly regarded as missions. In 1880 
a new mission came to him. It was a call, up- 
on the recommendation of John Morgan, to 
preach the gospel in the Southern States. In 
the experiences of his mission in Tennessee he 
mentions the acquaintances he made and refers 
to the work of B. H. Roberts and James T. 
Hammond in that mission. It has been said 
in this biography that President Murdock took 
pleasure in the thought of the ,things he did, 
but he took no less pleasure in the friends he 
made. It was always a source of gratifica- 
tion to him to claim the friendship of men and 
women whose character and integrity he es- 
teemed. His friendships were, after all, more 
valuable acquisitions than the accumulation of 
wealth. In speaking not long since about the 
remarkable experiences and the life of Presi- 


dent Murdock the writer was told by the party 
with whom he was conversing that he was 
personally not very well acquainted with John 
R. Murdock. What he knew of him he knew 
chiefly through his old and intimate friend, 
Erastus Snow. "Erastus Snow," said he, "es- 
teemed President Murdock as one of his best 
and staunchest friends." Strong friendships 
that last throughout a man's life — friendships 
with men likewise tried and true are perhaps 
the best factors in determining the inmost 
qualities in the life of a man. 

"From Tennessee I went to Nauvoo, 111., to 
visit my sister Julia. She had been very un- 
fortunate in her second marriage. I found 
her at the home of a Mr. Moffet, whose wife 
took care of her with a sisterly tenderness. 
Julia's foster mother, Emma, had died, and she 
was left without a home and under the most 
distressing circumstances. She was suffering 
from a cancer in her right breast. This was 
caused by a severe blow that she had received. 
I remained with her about one month, but on 
leaving I left sufficient means to provide for 
her and to cover the expenses of her burial 
and of a tombstone. She died soon after mv 


departure and was buried in the Catholic cem- 
etery, having been converted to that faith 
through her husband's influence. On leaving 
Nauvoo I returned to Tennessee and continued 
to travel among the people there until the year 
1881, when I was released and returned home, 
where I resumed my ecclesiastical duties." 

Soon after his return from the Southern 
States, the Edmunds Bill of 1882 was passed. 
The law, however, was not enforced with re- 
spect to the offenses against polygamy until 
the latter part of the year 1884, when the so- 
called raid began. For four years the most en- 
ergetic and drastic measures were taken to 
imprison every man within the territory who 
acknowledged or sustained more than one wife. 
The courts allowed the widest scope to be given 
to the interpretation of the law which was 
aimed exclusively at the Mormon people. 
Through a peculiar combination of circum- 
stances John R. Murdock escaped prosecution, 
but the sympathy which he manifested for his 
brethren who were arrested during those try- 
ing times was both magnanimous and sincere. 
The court for his district held its sessions at 
Beaver City. Some of the outlying districts 


were more than one hundred miles from this 
judicial center. A regular corps of deputy 
marshals scoured the country in quest of poly- 
gamists and of fees. Men and their wives 
were brought to Beaver, where many of them 
were strangers. These had no opportunities to 
provide themselves with assistance and they 
must either give bonds or go to jail. The re- 
quirement of the court in the matter of bonds 
was strict. Only those of well-known ability 
to meet financial obligations were accepted. 
John R. Murdock's financial standing in Bea- 
ver was first-class and he was ever ready to 
render every possible assistance to his unfor- 
tunate brethren, and went on the bonds of 
not fewer than fifty different men. Nor was 
this legal and financial assistance the only ex- 
pression of his kind-hearted sympathy toward 
those in distress. The hospitality of his home 
was a source of comfort and consolation to 
many. The fact that his assistance was so gen- 
erally sought by men who needed bonds is a 
splendid testimonial of the confidence that his 
friends in southern Utah had in him. They 
had known him for many years and his integ- 
rity and generous impulses were an assurance 


that he would come to their relief in the hour 
of distress. Many a man well remembers that 
in him the old adage was fulfilled, "A friend 
in need is a friend indeed." 

John R. Murdock for many years of his life 
filled one of the most trying positions of any 
Stake President in the Church. He not only 
had the opposing elements, and some of them 
were bitter from a religious point of view, but 
he also had more or less of the contentious ele- 
ment within the Church to reckon with. That, 
however, which was not least among the diffi- 
cult problems which he had to solve was his re- 
lationship and that of his people to the soldiers 
who, two miles and a half east of Beaver, oc- 
cupied Fort Cameron. A military post under 
ordinary circumstances so near a community is 
always a source of more or less friction. In 
his case the difficulties were doubly great. The 
preservation of the morals of the people, espe- 
cially those of the young people, required his 
careful, constant watch care. The officers at 
the Fort manifested in numerous ways their 
respect for the religious leader of the com- 
munity near which the soldiers were stationed. 
In view of the religious differences and at 


times the great unpopularity of the Mormon 
people, it was often extremely difficult to avoid 
contentions. All things considered it may 
fairly be said that President Murdock conduct- 
ed himself wisely under the peculiar circum- 
stances and under the delicate relations which 
existed between citizens and soldiers. 

When, later, General "Phil" Sheridan came 
to Utah and visited Fort Cameron, he was re- 
ceived by the officers and troops at Milford, 
the railroad terminus. John R. Murdock from 
the days of his Mormon Battalion experiences 
felt a special pride in military discipline. He 
had been a soldier in his country's service, had 
undergone severe trials, and had always con- 
ducted himself in such a manner as to make 
him proud of his military record. Quite a 
number of his family before him had enjoyed 
distinguished military honors and it is not too 
much to say that he inherited military tend- 

As he had been a soldier in the service of 
his country and was perhaps the most con- 
spicuous citizen in the community at Beaver, 
he felt it a pleasure as well as a duty to wel- 
come at Milford the distinguished military 


hero of the Shenandoah Valley. The General 
accepted the invitation to ride in President 
Murdock's carriage and the two now made 
their way to Fort Cameron. 

When the war department at Washington 
finally determined to abandon Fort Cameron, 
its buildings were offered for sale at public 
auction. John R. Murdock felt that it was 
very desirable that these buildings and the 
land, as soon as it could be secured from the 
general government, be devoted to some pub- 
lic use. He therefore enlisted with him the 
support of the Church and the aid of his son- 
in-law, Philo T. Farnsworth, in the purchase 
of the buildings. 

The government had expended something 
like two hundred thousand dollars in the con- 
struction of the Fort, which occupied a beau- 
tiful spot at the mouth of Beaver Canyon. 
The buildings were large and so erected as to 
leave a broad public square in the center for 
parades and military drills. All these build- 
ings were bid in by the above-named parties 
at the modest sum of forty-eight hundred dol- 
lars. Later, President Murdock succeeded in 
securing the title to the land upon which the 


buildings stood, as they would be of no value 
without it. 

A guard was assigned to the Fort as a pro- 
tection against the vandalism that might have 
soon made the place comparatively worthless. 
As soon as patents for the land were secured 
steps were taken to make some disposition of 
it for the benefit of the public. It was finally 
determined by these two liberal and patriotic 
citizens to contribute their share of Fort Cam- 
eron to the Brigham Young Academy of Provo 
in order that a branch school of that institu- 
tion might be established there. The gift was 
gratefully accepted, and the organization of 
the Beaver Branch as it was familiarly known 
was effected. 

The school opened under favorable circum- 
stances ; from the outset there were something 
like two hundred in attendance and the school 
yearly increased in both numbers and effici- 
ency. Nor was this the end of John R. Mur- 
dochs efforts. He, with a few other leading- 
men, pledged himself to render financial sup- 
port to the school of something like twelve 
hundred dollars annually for a given number 
of years. He was a loyal supporter of the in- 


stitution, and manifested a special pride in its 
progress, and was liberal in the expenditure of 
means for its growth. 

Much of his time in subsequent years was 
given to the improvement of the buildings 
which he frequently visited and whose im- 
provement he often planned. He was always 
on hand when educational men visited the 
school and showed them every courtesy and at- 
tention. He was an appreciative man and was 
a strong admirer of good quality and intellec- 
tual refinement in manhood and womanhood. 
From the day of its dedication by Apostles Ly- 
man and Teasdale he worked unceasingly to 
promote its usefulness, not only to the com- 
munities in Beaver County, but to the commu- 
nities throughout southern Utah. 

He continued to preside over the Beaver 
Stake until 1892, when, to the surprise of the 
people and to the Church leaders, he offered 
his resignation. He was sixty-six years of age 
and had borne the burden of public responsi- 
bilities in a most liberal manner from the time 
that he entered the Mormon Battalion. All 
the best years of his life had been devoted to 
his Church and his state with scrupulous re- 


gard for claims that both laid upon him. 
It was not an easy matter to find a suitable 
man to succeed him, as his leadership over the 
people was pronounced, both from the stand- 
point of their financial and religious interests. 
The First Presidency, therefore, accepted his 
resignation with great reluctance. He was, 
however, in his retirement universally esteemed 
as a leader, and the people manifested their high 
regard for him whenever there was an oppor- 
tunity to do him political honor. 





After laying aside the public cares and re- 
sponsibilities of a life that made large and 
constant demands upon his physical, spiritual, 
and intellectual power, he felt some freedom in 
moving about at his own pleasure, and of ren- 
dering service wherever and whenever an op- 
portunity offered. John R. Murdock, while 
a careful man in the administration of his pri- 
vate affairs, was nevertheless open-hearted and 
generous in every public undertaking. He was 
kind to the poor, quick to respond in the hour 
of distress, and generous to all classes. A 
federal officer who served some years in the 
district of Beaver once said of him : "Whenever 
there was a paper passed around soliciting 
private contributions, it was first taken to John 
R. Murdock, who was always expected to head 
the list. Opposite the amount contributed was 
usually found the word paid. The officers of 
the court, in various charities, felt compelled, 
through a sense of pride, to contribute half the 
amount given by a Mormon Bishop. He often 


placed his contribution at a figure which his 
non-Mormon friends did not always' like to 
meet by the donation of one-half that given by 
him. He was certainly a generous-spirited 
and charitable man." 

His interests and contributions covered a 
wide field. Not least among his contributions 
was his support of the Temples. In these build- 
ings he felt a special pride. 'To the Saint 
George Temple," he said, "I subscribed be- 
tween four and five thousand dollars ; to the 
Manti Temple I gave over six thousand ; and 
to the Salt Lake Temple, near the time of its 
completion, fifteen hundred and twenty-five 
dollars, in addition to former donations." He 
was one of the body of men who met in Salt 
Lake City in 1892, at a special meeting of the 
leaders of the Church, which included stake 
presidents, to take into consideration the best 
ways and means for the completion of the Salt 
Lake Temple. A special effort was put forth 
to bring about the completion of that edifice 
in order that it might be dedicated in the 
spring of 1893. To finish it, something like 
twenty thousand dollars were required. At a 
priesthood meeting the matter was laid before 


these leading men. John R. Murdock prompt- 
ly arose and suggested that those present on 
that occasion first determine what they them- 
selves could do before appealing to the people. 
President Cannon approved the suggestion and 
asked him to start the contribution. This he 
did by setting the pace at one thousand dol- 
lars. Thereupon a person was appointed to 
go through the audience and receive the con- 
tributions of others. President Murdock was 
then asked if he would not bear the expense 
of one of the three beautiful art windows in 
the interior of the Temple. He promptly re- 
sponded in the affirmative, and gave as above 
mentioned on that occasion fifteen hundred and 
twenty-five dollars. When there is taken into 
consideration his years of gratuitous service to 
the interests of the Church in bringing emi- 
grants to the valleys of the mountains, in pro- 
viding ways and means for the support of pub- 
lic institutions, the public-spirited manner in 
which he met any call legitimately laid upon 
him, it will be conceded that few men in Utah 
have done more to entitle them to the respect 
of the people than he has done throughout a 
lifelong service. 


From the time that John R. Murdock, a 
mere child, had been consigned to the tender 
mercies of strangers, to his later years in Utah, 
he had known but little of his people who re- 
mained at their homes in Ohio. He was a 
child, and therefore not of much consequence 
to them, especially in view of the fact that his 
lot had been cast with an unpopular people. 
His family on his mother's side had rendered 
a considerable military service. His Uncle 
Henry Clapp, his mother's brother, had a son, 
Major William H. Clapp, who was then sta- 
tioned in the Sixteenth United States Regi- 
ment at Fort Douglas. About the time of his 
retirement from eccleiastical services, his Un- 
cle Henry came to Utah for the purpose of 
visiting his son, the major. The cousin bore 
the distinguished honor of having fought in 
the Union Army during the rebellion. 

While in Utah his uncle paid him a visit in 
Beaver. They had not seen each other for 
more than sixty-five years. The prominence 
of the nephew in the affairs of Utah Territory 
made him a worthy object of honor to his 
Uncle Henry Clapp. It was on this visit that 
the nephew learned of the Clapp genealogy, 


which had been followed back to the tenth cen- 
tury, and in this genealogical record the family 
name of Clapp was traced back to King Ca- 
nute's court in England. The publications 
contained the names of ten thousand six hun- 
dred people. To John R. Murdock the dis- 
covery of this record was a matter of first im- 
portance. After his resignation from' the pres- 
idency of Beaver Stake, he was ordained a pa- 
triarch. This gave him not only the opportunity 
to perform the functions of his new calling, 
but to labor in the Temples, which he had 
helped to erect for the salvation of his kindred 

In the evening of life he could surrender 
himself to the spiritual enjoyment that comes 
from associations in the House of God. To 
him it was miraculously marvelous that in the 
hour of a genealogical need the publication of 
such a family record was brought to his knowl- 

He was one of those who in 1893 enjoyed 
the privilege of taking part in the dedication 
of the great Salt Lake Temple, which for so 
many years had been in the process of con- 
struction. It was a grand occasion in his life, 


an occasion in which his family could partici- 
pate with him. His oldest daughter, Mrs. P. 
T. Farns worth, had moved from Milford to 
Salt Lake City, where the hospitality of her 
home was enjoyed by her father. 

In the year 1892 John R. Murdock was ap- 
pointed a member of the Utah Agricultural 
Commission to the World's Fair. In the fol- 
lowing year, in September, with his wife Mary 
Ellen, he paid a visit to that great exposition. 

After the death of his first wife, his wife 
Mary Ellen, who had always been prominent 
in the counsels of his family, became a strong 
supporter of those liberal policies which char- 
acterized the later years of his life. Her devo- 
tion to the Church and her pride in its material 
welfare made her enthusiastic over the comple- 
tion of the Temples. In educational matters 
she seconded the efforts of her husband, who 
did so much to establish and maintain the 
academy which subsequently bore his name. 
Mrs. Mary Ellen Murdock will always be 
gratefully remembered by those who enjoyed 
the hospitality of her home during those try- 
ing hours when men and women were sorely 
afflicted by the persecutions which so many of 


the people had to bear from 1884 to 1890. 
In later years it was her good fortune to enjoy 
the opportunities of visiting with her husband 
many of the early land marks of Church His- 
tory, and at a time when her husband felt the 
need of her companionship and care. 

She had accepted the principle of plural mar- 
riage, which she consistently supported and 
faithfully carried out. In the early efforts of 
members of the Church to practice a belief 
against the traditions of centuries and the sel- 
fishness of human nature, her faith predomi- 
nated ; and in the evening of life, after all the 
disturbances, discords, and trials of her earlier 
year had been overcome, she saw no reason to 
recant or doubt the principle she had done so 
much to perpetuate and honor. On her jour- 
ney, therefore, to the East, her testimony was 
mingled with her husband's wherever oppor- 
tunity afforded. 

The World's Fair was the greatest in- 
dustrial exhibition that the world had ever 
witnessed. John R. Murdock passed through 
its buildings and witnessed there the achieve- 
ments in science, art, and inventions. He 
was impressed by the wonderful changes that 


had taken place since his boyhood days when 
he himself was a humble and despised citizen 
of Illinois. The contrast to his mind was strik- 
ing. The marvelous and the wonderful changes 
were so great as to be miraculous to him. 

He himself, however, was not without his 
honorable place in the march of modern civ- 
ilization ; he was a pioneer to the new and un- 
developed West. Within his own life there 
was a wonderful story of change and progress. 
What he himself had witnessed within his life- 
time was a most remarkable transformation in 
the life, opportunities, and achievements of 
men. Few men were in a better position to ap- 
preciate that great exposition than he was. He 
mentions, too, with pride the satisfaction he 
felt in the distinguished place occupied at the 
World's Fair by the great Tabernacle choir. 

As the vision of this remarkable progress 
crowded upon his mind, he became reminiscent ; 
he remembered the beginnings of his own life 
and longed to visit the places where he had 
passed his childhood. After his stay at the 
Fair he visited his birth-place in Orange town- 
ship, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In the well- 
kept cemetery there, his mother had been laid 


away in his early childhood. He was told that 
she was the first person to occupy a grave in 
that city of the dead. 

Orange township is about fifteen miles east 
of Cleveland. While in that neighborhood he 
also visited the town of Mentor, which is 
about six miles west of Painesville. Mentor 
was the home of his mother's family. While 
there he listened to an address by Governor 
McKinley, a governor who subsequently be- 
came president. It evidently made a most 
favorable impression upon him. He refers to 
President McKinley as an impressive and in- 
spiring speaker. During the upheaval in 
Utah over the silver question, John R. Mur- 
dock stood firmly in 1896 for President Mc- 
Kinley and his policy. 

From Ohio he returned to Chicago, where 
he visited the principal places of interest. Its 
great mercantile houses interested him and 
the stock yards excited his wonder. His trav- 
els abroad were in striking contrast with his 
travels during his frontier life. He had both 
the means and the inclination to enjoy such 
a tour. He returned to his home in 
October of that vear. 


The last years of John R. Murdock's life 
were characterized by strong political color- 
ing. When the people of Utah divided upon 
national party lines he cast his lot with the 
Republicans. In the fall of 1894 he was ap- 
pointed a delegate from Utah to the national 
Republican league which met that year in 
Denver, Colorado. 

About that time his life was tinged with 
sadness through the death of his oldest son. 
familiarly known as "Johnny." He had 
died at McCammon, Idaho, while on his way 
from that place to his father's home in Beaver. 

The division of party lines created consider- 
able excitement throughout the territory. It 
was a newly found occupation to many of 
Utah's prominent men. The political excite- 
ment of those times pointed to the early ad- 
mission of Utah as a state. Fraternal good 
feeling was quite universally manifested. Con- 
gress passed an enabling act, calling for a con- 
stitutional convention, which met in Salt Lake 
City on the 4th of March, 1895. To this con- 
vention he was elected a delegate and was 
made chairman of the water and irrigation 
committee. He was also a strong advocate of 


woman's suffrage. He took a general interest 
in all those constitutional provisions which 
safe-guarded the rights of the people of Utah. 

In November of that year, when the first of- 
ficers were elected, the state went Republican. 
Men of all classes, without respect to religious 
differences were elected to office. The advent, 
therefore, of Utah to statehood was an im- 
portant milestone in the history of his life in 

On the 7th of April, in Salt Lake City, the 
first Republican convention was held. John R. 
Murdock was a delegate and became its first 
chaplain. John E. Dooly was chairman, and 
Julia Farnsworth, subsequently Julia Lund, a 
granddaughter of President Murdock, was sec- 

The year 1897 was a jubilee in the history 
of the Utah pioneers. It was fifty years since 
the Mormon leaders had first entered the val- 
ley of Great Salt Lake. It was, therefore, fit- 
ting that a celebration in honor of those vet- 
erans be held. It was a joyous occasion. All 
classes took part in the celebration. To wear 
the pioneer's badge on the 24th of July, 1897, 
was a rare distinction bestowed upon those 


entitled to the honor. Among them' was John 
R. Murdock, a member of the Mormon Bat- 
talion, whose hardships exceeded even those 
of the pioneers. The legislature had appropri- 
ated to each county one hundred and twenty- 
five dollars with which to prepare some ap- 
propriate display in the parade on the 24th. 
President Murdock was made an agent for the 
expenditure of this fund for Beaver county, 
and prepared a sulphur grotto float, which 
was indeed a unique display. His daughter 
Almira was chosen as Beaver county's queen 
on that occasion. 

In the parade he was assigned to the com- 
mand of the survivors of the Mormon Bat- 
talion, about thirty-five in number, a distinction 
which he truly merited, not only as a part of 
the organization, but because of his conspicu- 
ous and prominent part in the pioneer life of 
Utah. To him it was a great day. Between 
that day and the day when he was marshaled 
into the service on the banks of the Missouri 
river there lay fifty years of remarkable vicis- 
situdes and experiences. No wonder his heart 
was touched. He never dreamed of such hon- 
ors during all the years in which he was win- 


ning a title to them. No wonder he said, 
"When I saw those venerable survivors of the 
Mormon Battalion and the Utah pioneers the 
tears would come to my eyes. The scene was 
indeed sublime and pathetic." 

As time went on, the political affairs of Utah 
became more interesting. The political major- 
ities of the Republican party were swept away 
by the free silver excitement. Utah cast an 
overwhelming vote for Mr. Bryan. However, 
in the fall of 1898 John R. Murdock was nom- 
inated by acclamation as a representative to 
the state legislature. He at first declined the 
honor of the nomination, but finally yielded to 
the persuasion of his friends, who were not 
mistaken about the loyalty of the people of 
Beaver county to him and the support he 
would receive from them. Though the county 
had always been Democratic he was neverthe- 
less elected, November 8th, to the third state 
legislature. He was the senior of the house. 
He belonged during the session of the legisla- 
ture of that year to a frail Republican minority. 
He witnessed the exciting scenes in the bitter 
contest for the election of a United States sen- 
ator ; and in that body of men who were exhib- 


iting the greatest factional enmity, he became 
a peacemaker. A man of naturally generous in- 
stincts, his influence was persuasive upon oth- 
ers. He did much to mitigate animosities that 
had been almost unbearable. 

During those experiences, however, he 
formed new friendships which became to him 
a source of satisfaction in subsequent years. 

His political influence was no greater than 
his interest in those conventions which were 
called to promote the material welfare of the 
West. He was a member of the irrigation con- 
gress at Missoula, Montana, in September, 
1899 ; and in 1900 he was a member of the con- 
vention that nominated James T. Hammond 
as a representative to congress. Though ad- 
vanced in years, his manly form became con- 
spicuous in political assemblies and various 
conventions of the people. His interests had 
grown far beyond the stake over which he 
formerly presided. He took a special in- 
terest in the proposed projects for the irriga- 
tion of the great West. His extensive travels 
over the western deserts gave to him a sympa- 
thetic interest in whatever gave promise of 
their reclamation. 


In speaking of his family attachments, he re- 
fers to the return to Utah of his brother Or- 
rice, who had been with him in the Mormon 
Battalion. 'This brother," he says, "remained 
in California until the year 1848, when he came 
to Utah. Here he married, but upon the death 
of his wife he married a second time and went 
back to Iowa, where he remained for a season. 
Later he went to Nebraska, where his second 
wife died and he returned to Utah in 1896. 




A mother's love throughout a man's life is 
always tender and solacing. In moments of 
depression, in hours of disappointment, and in 
the trying ordeals of this world, especially in 
bodily infirmities, it is indeed one of the surest 
anchors to a man's hope and joy. In childhood 
it is all but indispensable to the clinging nature 
and loving regard of a boy. Those who have 
felt a mother's tenderness and love throughout 
their youth wonder as they look back in life 
how they could have been happy without it. 
There is always something wanting in a man's 
life when he is deprived of that fond sympathv 
and loving care. Their loss constitutes a void 
which nothing else can fill. John R. Murdock 
was thrown out upon the world at a time of life 
when his earliest recollections merely called to 
mind the fact that he once had a mother, but 
her tender care and loving fondness never came 
within any lasting memories. He was a mother- 
less boy and was left to the care and mercy of 


strangers. Such a loss, however, is not with- 
out its compensation. If he had to win his way 
in the world upon the merit of his industry and 
patience, he also learned in life that if he were 
to enjoy the love of others he must win it. 
Life, therefore, with him from the beginning 
was one of conquest. From childhood, his 
life was a struggle for material, spiritual, and 
social betterment, and he therefore realized how 
he came by every confidence, every friendship, 
and every heart-felt devotion that made life 
joyful to him. Throughout all the years of 
his manhood he esteemed the friendships of 
life as the most valuable assets that he acquired 
in his associations with others. If there is any 
one thing in the life of John R. Murdock more 
characteristic than another, it is the deep-seated 
love and confidence which he always mani- 
fested for his friends. That a worthy man, 
tried and true, was his friend was more to him 
than a passing circumstance. Speaking of 
those he knew, especially in trying ordeals of 
earlier days, he is wont to say, "He is my 

Nor was his sense of appreciation for the 
friendship of others any greater than the de- 


votion which he always manifested toward 
those who won and enjoyed his confidence and 
love. His feelings were intense. With him 
there was nothing too good in this world for 
those he esteemed as his friends. His friend- 
ship was always sincere and heartfelt. Who. 
that has seen him meet an old-time companion 
with whom he had been closely associated in 
life, that has not noticed the light of an inward 
and supreme satisfaction beam in his eyes, and 
joy radiate from his whole being. The recol- 
lections, therefore, of those personal associa- 
tions and friendly ties cheered him on his way 
wherever his lot was cast among men. 

Another and peculiar characteristic of the 
man was his native industry and untiring zeal. 
What he put his hands to do he did with all his 
heart. There was about him an inspiring en- 
thusiasm which was always refreshing and en- 
couraging. In early life he had to do things 
whether they were difficult or not, whether they 
were agreeable or disagreeable, tasteful or dis- 
tasteful. He learned, therefore, to apply his 
will power to every task that beset him, nor 
had his tasks been easy ones. If there were 
difficult places to be filled, if a man was wanted 


whose courage rarely or never failed him, John 
R. Murdock was sought after whenever he 
was available. From the habit of conquering 
unusual and difficult tasks in early life, things 
that looked hard to others were easy to him ; 
and when he knew, therefore, a thing could be 
done he was not easily turned from the under- 
taking. What made him helpful to so many 
of his fellow-men was the fact that hav- 
ing learned what he himself could do, he also 
learned what others could do for themselves 
if they would only venture. From the habit of 
doing things he became deviceful, ingenious, 
and had at his command all sorts of contriv- 
ances for getting on in the world. 

Throughout southern Utah the name of 
John R. Murdock is a household word to 
thousands ; his prominent position in the 
Church and his services in political life made 
him conspicuous to the public eye. All those 
days of his public life he deported himself in 
a modest and becoming manner. While he was 
unassuming, he always possessed sufficient dig- 
nity to command the respect of those with whom 
he was associated. He was a leader in the 
highest and best sense of the term. In teach- 


ing others the work and the duties of a pioneer, 
he could point to a model record of his own 
pioneer days. When teaching others whatever 
was necessary to do, he first did it himself, 
and did it well. He was more a man of action 
than a man of words. The experiences of his 
early life taught him prudence, and the diffi- 
culties and triumphs of his early manhood gave 
him wisdom 1 . Perhaps no higher compliment 
could be paid to his consistent, well-balanced 
life than to say that he was always a safe man. 
Throughout all his history he is found on the 
safe side of every question. He was not car- 
ried away by excitement ; for he was cool and 
deliberative. He was not easily deceived, for 
he always possessed a conscientious regard for 
the truth. By nature he was free, frank, and 

To the everlasting honor and credit of John 
R. Murdock, it may be truly said of him, that 
he was a model ex-Stake President. When he 
lay down voluntarily, and from his own high 
sense of duty, the conspicuous office which he 
held for so many years of his life, he must 
have realized that he surrendered an honor 
which he. like other conscientious men, must 


have highly esteemed. From the day he stepped 
out of that office he never manifested the least 
sentiment of dissatisfaction, discontent, or 
envy. His soul never soured, no jealousy actu- 
ated him ; he was just as devoted, loyal, and 
true in the humble walks of life as he had been 
while clothed with the dignities of a high and 
important office. He never descended to things 
that were unbecoming and undignified in one 
who had enjoyed distinguished honors. He 
was just as loyal to his new president as any 
other man had ever been to him. He never be- 
littled his former office or calling. There are 
always misgivings about those who surrender 
authority and the dignities of a high office. Few 
men who stand high in command in life main- 
tain their zeal when in the ranks. It is hard 
for most men in such circumstances to forget 
what they have been and become so wedded to 
principle that its triumph is of more conse- 
quence to them than their own personal ambi- 
tion, or the honors of the world; and when 
President Murdock determined to ask that the 
duties and honors of his office be conferred 
upon others, he did so in the sincerest convic- 
tion .that it was in the interest, first of all to 


the Church, and secondly to his own personal 
well-being. The step he never regretted, and 
the influence of his life was as conspicuous in 
his retirement as it had been in his ministra- 
tions. What has been said may here be re- 
peated, "John R. Murdock was a model ex- 
Stake President." 

That which made the life of John R. Mur- 
dock both interesting and inspiring through- 
out a long and consistent career was the en- 
thusiasm which he brought to every task, and 
an accompanying ambition that never forsook 
him from the period covered between fire of 
youth and the calm of old age. Enthusiasm 
and ambition frequently manifest themselves in 
youth. Their chief value, however, is to be 
found in the will power sufficiently strong to 
make the dreams of youth a reality in after life. 
Those who know the man will readily testify 
that his enthusiasm never waned, that there 
were behind him ambitions that were con- 
stantly urging him to a better and higher life. 

But even enthusiasm and ambition and will 
power are of little value to a man that does 
not sincerely and earnestly work. John R. 
Murdock was never, throughout a long and 


distinguished career, an idle man. In youth 
there was about him a physical prowess that 
enabled him to do extraordinary things and 
accomplish unusual tasks. All through life, 
even after the blessings of material well-being 
came to him, he was the same industrious man 
that he had been in youth and upon the plains. 

In old age, when his physical powers were 
yielding to the decrees of Father Time, his 
mind was occupied in the companionship of 
good books. Knowledge always interested and 
delighted him ; and when the struggles of early 
life gave way to the opportunities of intellec- 
tual pursuits, he manifested an uncommon 
pleasure in the intellectual acquirements of 
men and the progress of human life. With a 
God-given intellect which it had been his good 
fortune in life to enjoy, it is not easy to say 
what his station in the world would have been 
had he been born in a scholastic atmosphere, 
and had he been allowed to enjoy from his 
youth the advantages of good schools. 

The writer, having known President Mur- 
dock for many years, confesses some surprise 
at the achievements of the man, not having 
known his earlier record. A closer study into 


his life and character reveals the fact that John 
R. Murdock was a man highly endowed, and 
a man who put to most excellent service the 
talents and extraordinary powers which a kind 
and benevolent Creator had placed at his com- 
mand. This eulogy upon the life of the man is 
far in excess of that which the writer believed 
he could justly give when he began the task of 
this biography. Little by little and with ever- 
increasing conviction there has grown upon the 
writer an enthusiastic admiration for the sub- 
ject of this sketch, and what he has written has 
been the result largely of a more familiar 
knowledge of the man which the study of his 
career has given. 

Fearing that this eulogy might appear to be 
a highly colored panegyric on the life of John 
R. Murdock, the writer has sought the opinions 
of others, one of which is hereby given by a 
man whose knowledge of men in general, and 
of John R. Murdock in particular, qualifies him 
to speak as one having authority. 

"Are you well acquainted with John R. Mur- 
dock?" asked the writer, of President Francis 
M. Lyman. 

"Yes, indeed," was the reply. "I have known 
him nearlv all my life." 


"What, in your judgment," further queried 
the writer, "were the most striking character- 
istics of the man ?" 

"The most remarkable thing about John R. 
Murdock," he continued, "was his unyielding, 
his undying faith in the prophetic mission of 
Joseph Smith. He is naturally a great student, 
and in late years has been an indefatigable 
reader. You will find him well versed in an- 
cient history and familiar with the history of 
his own country, especially that of the early 
patriots. When he went on his mission some 
years ago to the Southern States, he learned 
perhaps, what he never knew before, the real 
value of the Book of Mormon. He became a 
close student of the book and an enthusiastic 
advocate of its teachings. " 

"President Murdock always possessed most 
excellent business qualifications, and so far as 
I know, all his accummulations of wealth were 
brought about in the most honorable manner. 
He has always attended carefully to the details 
of his business, and has been a hard worker as 
well as an industrious student. He has al- 
ways been a good judge of men, and when on 
the plains he had a happy faculty of getting 
along well with the emigrants and looking af- 


ter their comfort and safety. He was also an 
excellent judge of animals, and I have heard it 
said of him that in those days of the ox-team 
emigration he knew every ox and where every 
ox belonged with respect to the wagon to 
which it was hitched and with respect to the 
team in which it worked. From what I can 
learn, John R. Murdock was perhaps the great- 
est of all the captains that conducted emigrant 
companies across the plains. 

"As a stake president he always gave satis- 
faction and it was some time before the pres- 
idency would consent to his release. He has 
sustained himself well throughout life, and is 
not only a man of affairs but is really quite a 
philosopher. After he was released from his 
duties as president of the Beaver Stake, he 
never sulked, never got into a corner, but stood 
right at his president's side and was helpful 
to him in every possible manner. We have 
always taken him into our private counsels 
whenever we visited Beaver and had business 
of any importance to transact. I consider his 
conduct as an ex-president most commendable. 
Of course, there are those who have criticized 
him. No man who has been as prominent 


among his fellow men as he has been can hope 
to escape criticism." 

The author of the foregoing statement may 
be a little surprised to find it in print, but it 
was given in such a free, frank, and sincere 
manner that the writer has taken the liberty 
to quote the remarks as accurately as possible 
and immediately after they were uttered. 

A study of the life and character of John R. 
Murdock has revealed the fact that many a 
man lives comparatively unknown to the world 
and unappreciated simply because his life of 
extraordinary usefulness and great accom- 
plishments has not been recorded on the pages 
of history. 

At the time of this writing, Jan. 1, 1909, he 
lives in Beaver City at the venerable age of 
eighty-two years. The vision of his mind car- 
ries him back over almost the entire history of 
the Church. With its leading men and its great 
events he has been closely associated. He, 
too, has learned the value of a well-spent and 
useful life. 

Joseph M. Tanner. 

Family of John Riggs Murdock. 


John Riggs Murdock.born September 13,1826. 
Wife, Almira H. Lott, born December 15, 

1829; married November 13, 1849; died 

December 16, 1878. 
His children by her are as follows : 

John C. Murdock, born December 17, 

Julia P. Murdock, born December 23, 1852. 

Orrin P. Murdock, born April 22, 1855 ; 
died September 8, 1863. 

William S. Murdock, born September 15, 
1857; died October 15, 1857. 

Joseph R. Murdock, born May 19, 1860. 

George C. Murdock, born July 6, 1862. 

Orrice C. Murdock, born August 31, 1866. 

Benjamin Murdock, stillborn 1869. 


Wife, Mary Ellen Wolfenden, born November 
12, 1842; married January 10, 1863. 


His children by her are as follows : 

Charles E. Murdock, born December 12, 

Sarah A. Murdock, born November 12, 

1866; died July 27, 1867. 
Mary I. Murdock, born May 18, 1866; 

died August 27, 1869. 
Lillie M. Murdock, born July 9, 1870, 

died Febuary 25, 1884. 
Phoebe J. Murdock, born March 11, 

1873; died December 27, 1874. 
Abraham E. Murdock, born October 6, 

1875 ; died June 6, 1876. 
Albert P. Murdock, (twin) born April 1, 

1877 ; died May 7, 1877. 
Arthur W. Murdock, (twin) born April 1, 

1877 ; died May 10, 1877. 
Almirah H. Murdock, born January 15, 

John R. Murdock, Jr., born July 30, 1883. 


Wife, May Bain, born October 25, 1833 ; mar- 
ried December 10, 1863. 
Alexander Murdock, stillborn, December, 1866. 

Date Due 


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