Orrin Porter Rockwell
Famed frontiersman, lawman, scout, and gunman, Porter was born in Belcher, MA, on 28 June 1813. His family later moved to New York where he became a boyhood friend of Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As an early settler in Missouri, Rockwell was caught up in the so-called Mormon War of 1838, in which the Missouri militia, acting on orders from Governor Lilburn Boggs, drove the Mormons from the state. During this period Porter became identified with the Danites, a Mormon militia unit organized to protect church members from their enemies. In 1842 Rockwell was arrested in St. Louis and charged with the attempted murder of Governor Boggs. More than nine months later Rockwell was freed and returned to Nauvoo. On Christmas Day, 1843, Joseph Smith promised him: “So long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, [you] need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.” For the next thirty-five years Porter faced outlaws, Indians, and war without being harmed. In 1855, while in California, he cut his hair to provide a wig for Agnes Smith, the widow of Don Carlos Smith, the younger brother of Joseph Smith, who had lost her hair due to typhoid fever. Porter grew his hair back, not willing to face outlaws and enemies without the prophet’s promise.
In 1844 Rockwell, in defense of others, shot and killed Franklin A. Worrell in Hancock County, Illinois. Worrell, a leader of those assigned to protect Joseph Smith and others in the Carthage Jail, is often cited as the first of many men killed by Porter in the defense of others, or as an officer of the law. In both Nauvoo and Utah, Porter was a member of the Council of Fifty. He was a guide and hunter for the Mormon Pioneer Company of 1847. Appointed a “Deputy Sheriff for Life” in Utah Territory, he was often called in to track down notorious outlaws. He was assigned by Brigham Young to make peace treaties with the native population of the territory. As an officer in the Nauvoo Legion, Porter led his men against the U.S. Army in the Mormon war of 1857-58. In his later years Rockwell raised horses and cattle in Skull Valley and established several profitable businesses and mines. At the Point of the Mountain he built the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel where he also maintained Rockwell’s Station for the Pony Express and Overland Mail Company.
Porter died on 9 June 1878, just short of his sixty-fifth birthday, at the Colorado Stables he owned on State Street and Broadway. After a night of illness he awoke, put his boots on, then fell back on the bed and died. Never a polygamist, Porter married Luana Hart Bebee, Mary Ann Neff, and Christina Olsen. The father of sixteen, he also adopted two Indian children.(*)
- Orrin Porter Rockwell (Monument in Lehi)
- Porter’s Place
- Porter Rockwell’s Cabin
- Porter Rockwell’s Grave
- Rockwell Station
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