The Runaways

“[T]he decade of the 1850s began harmoniously enough. . . . The cordial atmosphere continued briefly after the arrival Fillmore’s appointees in 1851. . . .

Almost from the first day the Saints had trouble with the new [territorial] officers. The Government had given [Almon] Babbitt $20,000 to deliver to governor [Brigham] Young for the construction of a statehouse, but this wayward Mormon doled out the sum in exasperatingly small amounts. Secretary [Broughton] Harris was equally unmanageable, his possession of another $24,000 in gold making him the more uncooperative. . . .

If the sniping of Babbitt and Harris was irritating to a man of Young’s nature, the actions of the bumbling [Associate Justice Perry E.] Brocchus enraged him and his people. On July 24, 1851, the Mormons had celebrated Pioneers’ Day, commemorative of their arrival in the Valley in 1847, and as usual on such occasions their thoughts had turned to their sufferings in Missouri and Illinois. Daniel H. Wells, which had fought the Gentiles in Nauvoo, spoke bitterly of these wrongs. He also introduced the martyr-mongering myth, later to be frequently heard in Utah, that the requisition of the Mormon Battalion in 1846 had been intended as a blow at the weakened and homeless Saints. Brigham Young, perhaps remembering Zachary Taylor’s opposition to the Mormons’ request for statehood, asserted that Taylor was undoubtedly suffering the torments of Hell for his wickedness. . . .

[Brocchus] accordingly felt a patriotic sermon, delivered with suitable rhetorical flourishes and a nice wit, was necessary to remind the people of their duty as citizens. . . . [His] inference that the Mormons’ patriotism was questionable caused restlessness among the members of the audience, but Brocchus, engrossed in his subject, was unaware of it. Now near the end of his speech, he turned from patriotism to morality. In a transparent reference to polygamy and with possibly an attempt at facetiousness he lectured the women at some length on the importance of virtue. . . .

Instead of receiving exuberant applause for his efforts, Brocchus found himself in imminent peril of an unpleasant death at the hands of an incensed throng of Mormons. . . . Afterward Young said that could have loosed the congregation upon Brocchus with a gesture of his little finger, but he satisfied himself with a tongue-lashing. The ashen-faced Brocchus, with [Chief Justice Lemuel] Bradebury and Indian Agent henry R. Day, who shared the platform on that unhappy occasion, was thankful to escape with his life. . . .

The excitement attendant upon the speech convinced Brocchus, Harris, and Brandebury they could no longer fulfill their duties in Utah, and within a week they were making preparations for departure.”