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Kingdom of the West (Part 8 of 9)

Historian Will Bagley has contributed to several volumes of western History called Kingdom of the West.  He’ll introduce us to the set.

Will:  Let me introduce the series first. This is the Kingdom in the West series[1]. It began in 1997 with publication of the original journal, The official journal of the Brigham Young company, which had sat in LDS archives for 150 years, until I asked to edit it. Much to my surprise, they let me do it. It sold quite well and Bob Clark, who ran the Arthur H. Clark company at the time, knew how to promote books and did a bang-up job. The first 10 volumes of the series were published in Spokane, Washington, and they had a promo that Bob was so brilliant at writing and he can always predict, to about a copy of how many books he can sell.

GT:  Wow.

Will:  Then in 2007 or so, when we had eight or nine volumes already completed, Bob sold the company to the University of Oklahoma Press. The series essentially lost its bearings. But I don’t claim to be a marketing manager, but it was probably that I had taken too long and I had wasted too much time. But I did get, eventually, over 22 years, all of the 16 volumes, I hope, not all of them, but a lot of them. I’d always hoped to end the series with a book on Utah’s Indians.

[1] The first 12 volumes can be purchased at

And we will learn more about Native Americans in Utah.  Will also thinks he helped open up Church Archives to research.  He also gives a surprising quote that Mormons shouldn’t be afraid of Church history.

Will: This is Washakie, the great leader of the Shoshones, who lived almost 50 years longer, and it’s the youngest picture we have of Wakara, no…

GT:  Washakie.

Will:  It’s the earliest picture we have of Washakie, and since Washakie lived into the 1890s, we have a lot of pictures of Washakie.

Will:  This character is named Parishort. You’ll notice he’s clutching a piece of paper in his hand, because Indians all wanted to figure out how to make paper talk which is how they referred to writing. Then we have a buffalo robe with pictures of a fight between Indians and soldiers. But one thing I wanted to do with this book, was give Utah’s Indians voices. I was amazed at how eloquent those voices turned out to be. I had several advantages in compiling this selection from Mormon archives. Ardis Parshall, who’s quite a talented journalist and historian, did a transcription of several hundred letters for Floyd O’Neil, who collaborated on the book and I was able to search those.

Will:  But then Church archives had been quite tightly locked up for most of the time I was working on Kingdom in the West. I think I can credit Kingdom in the West, at least partly, getting the LDS Church to open up its archives, because history is not a threat to Mormons. Mormons are Mormons for many, many reasons. But history, I don’t think is one of them. Now, the trouble for me when they open up the archives, and this was done, largely I think, at the insistence of Rick Turley and Marlin Jensen–it was both liberating and time consuming. Because I now had to go back and compare the transcripts I’d done and the partial type scripts to what I could see on the PDF files. So that took years and years and years. The main treasure I found was way, way back probably 25 years ago. It’s where I got this magnificent title, “The Whites Want Everything.”

Check out our conversation…

Will Bagley has written several volumes of the “Kingdom of the West” series.
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Trials of Lee/Forgery

John D. Lee was convicted in the second trial for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Will describes what he believes was a deal between prosecutors and the LDS Church.

Will:  Anyway, Sumner Howard, or a member of his team, his assistant goes before Judge Borman, and says, “Judge, I have eaten dirt, and I have rolled around in the dirt, but I’m going to get the job done.” Borman is, of course, a little puzzled by this. But the job at this time is to convict John D. Lee. Howard, in his letter following Lee’s execution, explains “I knew that the only way I would be able to get a conviction was to come to a deal with the Mormons.”  That’s exactly what happens. Essentially, the first thing Borman does is drop the indictment against William Dame. The Church/Brigham Young has put his own attorneys on the defense of William Dame. So, once Dame is essentially turned out of jail, the focus shifts to the next likely candidate who is John D. Lee.

Do you think there was a deal to convict John D. Lee?  We’ll also talk about a forgery connected to the Massacre and why Bagley included it in his book, Blood of the Prophets.

GT  1:42:58  All right, so I want to ask you one more question, and then we can move on to your other book The Whites Want Everything, if we can talk about that, if that’s okay. I was a little bit surprised. I’ve talked with George Throckmorton and Steve Mayfield. George is a big forensic expert. In the appendix to your book, “Blood of the Prophets,” you have included what people have referred to as the Dead Lee Scroll.

Will:  I invented that.

GT:  (Chuckling)  That’s right. I forgot about that. So, there was a plate of lead with like a confession from John D. Lee found in Lee’s Ferry, I believe. You can give us more information on that. George says it’s a forgery, and I was surprised that you had put it in the appendix to your book.  Why did you do that?

Will:  Because it was breaking news. It had just happened. They actually found that Dead Lee Scroll as the Olympics were coming up, also as “Blood of the Prophets” was about to be released. You couldn’t have planned any promo campaign for a book any better than that. At first I thought, “Well, this got to be a forgery.”  Then when I read the text I thought, “It matches up. It’s what Lee feels like.”  He is sick at that time, according to his journal. So I put it in the book. Now, Rick Turley and I went to Page, Arizona, and we went into a National Park Service museum, or maybe, it was either a park service or a BLM Museum.  Rick Turley and I go, along with all the Utah Westerners, we go into the museum at Page, Arizona, that has the Dead Lee Scroll. I’d never seen it. I think Rick had already seen it. But they pull it out, and on the spot, Rick and I have a debate over whether this is an authentic document, wherever it came from, or a forgery. Rick is really on. He’s convinced this is a forgery.

We’ve got some photos of Lee’s Ferry and the Dead Lee Scroll in the video, so be sure to check out our conversation on Youtube….

Will Bagley discusses the Trials of John D. Lee, and the Dead Lee Scroll.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Will!

449: MMM Cover Up (Bagley)

448: John D. Lee’s Role in Massacre

447: Bagley Critiques Turley

446: Buchanan & George Smith’s Role in MMM

445: Handcart Disasters & Mormon Reformation

444: Will Bagleyon Juanita Brooks


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MMM Cover Up

It took 18 years to start the first trial of John D. Lee for the atrocities at Mountain Meadows.  Why did it take so long?  Historian Will Bagley believes LDS Church leaders covered up the crime.  How does he come to that conclusion?

Will:  But, what I’m saying is that the event that Wilford Woodruff records is staged, and in Lee’s account, which is of course untrustworthy, Brigham Young tells him, “Don’t even tell Heber about this,” which is a tribute to Heber C. Kimball. But we’re now dealing with the cover up, which begins in 1857, and for my money is still going on.

Will:  But there’s so much of the cover up that I find despicable. For instance, the “investigations.” We have detailed accounts of the conspiracy that was mounted against Mormon leaders to deceive them. These are absurd notions. Who does Brigham Young send down to Southern Utah to investigate what caused the Mountain Meadow’s Massacre? George A. Smith! What better guy!  It would be like send Dick Cheney to investigate what happened in Iraq.

But they actually visit the Meadows and they come up with a likely scapegoat, because at the end of one of Smith’s letters, he says, “And we don’t really know what John D. Lee was up to, but he seems to have been involved in this somehow.” So they already know who they’re going to eventually hang it on. And why did they pick John D. Lee? Because the other two guys are untouchable. The other two guys, senior officers are William Dame and Isaac Haight. Now in the church’s tale, they say, “Well, once Brigham Young realized what was happening in 1870, he excommunicated the main murderers.” No, he didn’t. He didn’t excommunicate Dame. He did excommunicate Haight.

Do you agree there was a cover up?  Check out our conversation….

Will Bagley describes the cover up on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Will!

448: John D. Lee’s Role in Massacre

447: Bagley Critiques Turley

446: Buchanan & George Smith’s Role in MMM

445: Handcart Disasters & Mormon Reformation

444: Will Bagleyon Juanita Brooks