Table of Contents:
The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact
(by permission of the author)
On September 26, 1886, George Q. Cannon, Hyrum B. Clawson, Franklin S. Richards, and others, met with President John Taylor at my father's residence at Centerville, Davis County, Utah, and presented a document for President Taylor's consideration.
I had just got back from a three days' trip, during most of which time I had been in the saddle, and being greatly fatigued, I had retired to rest.
Between one and two o'clock P. M., Brother Bateman came and woke me up and asked me to be at my father's home where a Manifesto was to be discussed. I went there and found there were congregated Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, L. John Nuttall, Charles Birrell, George Q. Cannon, Franklin S. Richards and Hyrum B. Clawson.
We discussed the proposed Manifesto at length, but we were unable to become united in the discussion. Finally George Q. Cannon suggested that President Taylor take the matter up with the Lord and decide the same the next day.
Brothers Clawson and Richards were taken back to Salt Lake.
In his 1925 version of the Lorin Woolley story, B. Harvey Allred supplied the following additional, but somewhat conflicting, information:
The Allred version does not agree with the 1929 Musser version on several important points. Musser lists by name those who were purportedly at the meeting, and it does not include the names of "two other apostles." The claim that the manifesto allegedly presented to President Taylor was "very similar" and "in similar form" to the Woodruff Manifesto of four years later is dubious. The Woodruff Manifesto is a rebuttal to the Utah Commission report of 1890: it denies the charges contained in that report. It mentions the Endowment House being taken down because of these charges. It refers to antipolygamy laws that had been passed and pronounced constitutional since 1886. It denies that polygamy was either being taught or contracted, and so on. None of these statements and claims would have been either true or pertinent in 1886.
Musser lists George Q. Cannon, Hyrum B. Clawson, Franklin S. Richards, John T. Caine, and James Jack as members of the committee "to get up a statement or manifesto," whereas Allred claims that the purported document was "prepared by some of the most bitter opponents of this doctrine, members and nonmembers of the Church, with slight assistance from two of the faithful brethren." It would seem that Allred got this manifesto mixed up with the Woodruff Manifesto of 1890 and used that Fundamentalist argument here by mistake.
There is no mention of such a manifesto in any of the journals of those supposedly involved, nor is the alleged manifesto filed in the Church Archives. Surely such an important document as this one, a document that supposedly elicited a revelation, would have been preserved in President John Taylor's or President George Q. Cannon's document files.
The allegation that "the contents of that document, and the requests and demands constantly coming in from other sources, were the subjects under almost constant consideration" is open to question. There is not a single mention of this subject in the journals or correspondence of those said to have been involved. President Taylor's daily journal makes no mention of such agitation. President Cannon's journal is devoid of any mention of the alleged demands. President Taylor's correspondence file for 1886 does not yield any such mention. The Journal History of the Church is likewise lacking in such a sentiment. Surely, if such a subject were "under almost constant consideration," it would have been mentioned somewhere in the voluminous records of the time.
According to the 1929 Musser account, Lorin Woolley "had just got back from a three days' trip" on September 26, 1886, whereas Allred reports it as being either a one or two-day junket. The Musser version does not state what the nature of this trip was, but Allred reported that its purpose was "to convey and guard Apostle Brigham Young [Jr.,] to a place of concealment in the mountain valleys north and east of Salt Lake." A recent pseudohistorical work on the life of John Taylor confirms this, claiming that Deputies had surrounded the house of Brigham Young, Jr. . . . Lorin's job was to get Young Briggie out of the house, past the deputies, and on the underground rail way to a safe retreat in the canyons. . . . Three days later he returned home, mission accomplished.2
Brigham Young, Jr.'s daily journal does not report him being in Salt Lake City at this time, but rather shows that he was traveling in Arizona and New Mexico. Relevant journal entries are as follows:
The distance from Salt Lake City to Taylor, Arizona, and back would have been far too great to travel on horseback in three days, even if Brigham Young, Jr., had returned with Lorin Woolley, which his journal does not report to be the case. This aspect of the Woolley story thus has no basis in fact.
The 1925 Allred account reports Lorin Woolley returning from his trip "in the late afternoon of September 26," and going to bed "in the early evening, that he might be prepared for his watch as guard of President Taylor at midnight." The 1929 Musser account has Lorin Woolley back from his trip, asleep, wakened "between one and two o'clock p.m.," and attending a meeting where the purported manifesto was discussed before he took his position on the evening watch to guard President Taylor. It would seem that the meeting of Sunday, September 26, where an alleged manifesto was discussed, is a late addition to the story; hence the discrepancies between the two accounts.
Presentation of Manifesto
Of the alleged participants at this purported special meeting held in the early afternoon of Sunday, September 26, 1886, to present the claimed Cannon Committee manifesto, three kept journals are extant and can be compared with Lorin Woolley's story. Samuel Bateman, one of the purported participants, recorded his activities of September 26 as follows:
President Taylor's daily journal, kept by his personal secretary L. John Nuttall, contains the following entry for September 26, 1886:
George Q. Cannon's journal corroborates the above accounts and gives additional detail:
It would seem, from all available evidence, that the meeting held on Sunday afternoon, September 26, 1886, was nothing more than the usual sacrament meeting that was held each Sunday, an assumption borne out by the journal entries for each Sunday during that period of time.
According to the records reviewed, neither the father John Woolley nor his son Lorin Woolley were present at this meeting. John W. Woolley was a member of the Davis Stake high council and traditionally attended his ward and stake meetings. (Stake minutes show that he attended a high council trial on the evening of Saturday, September 25.) His son Lorin Woolley was married, and in 1886 he lived at his own home in Centerville with his wife, Sarah Ann, and two small children. Ward records show that he typically attended his meetings and took an active part. There are no ward records extant for the latter half of 1886, but we may safely assume that John and Lorin Woolley were engaged elsewhere since they were not listed as being present at the sacrament meeting held by President Taylor's party on Sunday afternoon, September 26, 1886.
Hyrum B. Clawson's Visit
Bishop Hyrum B. Clawson was visiting President Taylor on this particular weekend, but not for the reason alleged in the Lorin Woolley story. Bishop Clawson was managing the Beck, Bullion, and Champion Mine in Eureka: it seems that with his absence in Arizona during the summer, the mineworkers had not been paid for some time, and they demanded their back wages before continuing work. With the aid of attorneys from Provo, the men had attached liens against the mine.
In view of the situation, Bishop Clawson made a partial payment of wages with available funds to those who agreed to withdraw their liens in return for a promise of the remainder. This proved unsatisfactory to some, who formed a grievance committee. With their lawyers, the dissatisfied mineworkers went to Salt Lake City and presented their full demands to James Jack, financial clerk of the Church. In order to satisfy the demands Jack was obliged to mortgage some Church securities and to take some other measures to raise money quickly.
On September 27, 1886, Jack wrote a letter to President Taylor explaining what he had done, since he had not had time to consult with the First Presidency in the matter. In his letter he stated: "Brother Clawson will no doubt explain the situation to you fully." In this letter he also included the legal agreement he had entered into with the Beck Mine on behalf of President Taylor.
Bishop Clawson apparently had returned to Salt Lake City and communicated his visit with President Taylor to James Jack before the letter was sent, and the following postscript was added: "Since the foregoing I have seen Brother Clawson, and he informs me that you approved of my action."7
The next day James Jack received the following confirmation of his action from President Taylor:
Thus, Bishop Clawson had been requested "to come out on important business that required immediate attention" concerning the Beck Mine, not as part of a committee to induce President Taylor to relinquish plural marriage in the Church.
In President Cannon's journal he indicates that he, Bishop Clawson, and President Taylor discussed "the political condition of affairs of our people in Arizona." This reinforces the fact that Bishop Clawson had been in Arizona during the summer and was, therefore, not meeting with President Cannon's purported committee, as reviewed earlier.
Franklin S. Richards Role
Franklin S. Richards, another of the alleged participants in the special meeting, was purportedly taken back to Salt Lake City that evening with Bishop Clawson. That he did not attend the above-noted meeting is indicated by the fact that he was not mentioned in any of the three journals cited above. This is corroborated on the basis that, as the attorney for the Church, he was busy in Salt Lake City de fending convicted polygamists in court, and generally communicated his activities to President Taylor by mail. He wrote a letter to President Taylor and President Cannon, dated Saturday, September 25, 1886:
Again the following week, Franklin S. Richards wrote a letter to President Taylor dated October 4, 1886:
Thus, of the purported committee consisting of George Q. Cannon, John T. Caine, James Jack, Hyrum B. Clawson, and Franklin S. Richards, only President Cannon and Bishop Clawson were at the John Woolley home at the time specified. Why weren't Caine and Jack there as part of the alleged committee? Both were in Salt Lake City on that date, so certainly distance was not a problem. Caine was mentioned in the 1912 version as being present, but was omitted from the 1929 account. If they were the "others," why not mention them by name? After all, they had supposedly worked all summer to write the manifesto that was to be presented at the meeting. Why not have the entire committee there for reinforcement? If they were not the "others" referred to, who would Lorin Woolley claim the "others" were, and why not mention them by name?
It is apparent that the committee allegedly formed to draft the "Cannon Manifesto" was in fact nonexistent, and the meeting Woolley claims was held to review the alleged documents is likewise without foundation in light of contemporary records.
1. B. Harvey Allred, A Leaf in Review, 2d ed. (Draper, Utah: Review and Preview Publishers, 1968), pp. 183-84. This account was allegedly told by Lorin Woolley in 1925 and was written down by Allred at that time.
2. Samuel W. Taylor, The Kingdom or Nothing (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company/London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1976), p. 365.
3. Brigham Young, Jr., Journal, September 24, 1886, to September 27, 1886, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
4. Diary of Samuel Bateman, 1886-1909, p. 5. Do refers to the place where President Taylor's party was staying. Rather than write out the name of the place in each day's entry, Bateman mentions it each time a move was made, and then in succeeding entries he uses the "Do" as a contraction of ditto. In this entry, "Do" refers to the John W. Woolley home in Centerville.
5. The President's Office Journal, September 26, 1886.
6. George Q. Cannon Journal, September 26, 1886, First Presidency Vault, Salt Lake City.
7. James Jack Letter File, September 27, 1886.
8. President John Taylor Letter File, September 27, 1886.
9. Franklin S. Richards Correspondence File.