Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In Honor Porter Rockwell's Birthday

June 28 is Orrin Porter Rockwell’s 202nd birthday. Porter was known for many things in his lifetime. He was reputed to have killed many men as a gunfighter, as a religious enforcer, and Deputy United States Marshal. It is said that Rockwell once told a crowd listening to United States Vice President Schuyler Colfax in 1869, "I never killed anyone who didn't need killing".
After retiring as Territorial Marshall, Porter spent most of his days out on his Ranch in Government Creek. His closest neighbors were several miles away, the Bennion family. The youngest son Glenn wrote several articles in the Deseret News concerning his famous boyhood neighbor, one in particular said, “Rockwell, has come to figure in anti-Mormon literature as a murderer for loot at the behest for Brigham Young. So persistently has this killer aspect been held up that even some Later-day Saints have thoughtlessly accepted it as the true picture . . . Now there was nothing mild about Orrin Porter Rockwell. If the adverse characterization of Rockwell referred to is a thoughtless and an untrue one, then what shabby gratitude it is for a lifetime of service and sacrifice to the Church and to the prophets he loved! For Rockwell was the trusted messenger, the faithful bodyguard, the loved friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Time after time he breasted the mountain snows and icy winds of the plains . . . in such winters that no other man in the Church, except possibly Howard Egan or Ephraim Hanks could have made it through. His whalebone toughness as an endurance rider became proverbial throughout the nation. Perhaps no one, to the extent of his peculiar talents, ever offered his life more times or endured more exposure and physical suffering than did Rockwell for his Church, and all of this without thought or any material reward.
“ . . . I have listened to stories about him told by my father and uncles who did ride with him, both on the range and on the trail of outlaws. I have talked with most of his old-time ranch neighbors, and all these, whether Mormon or Gentile, regarded him as an honorable, and trustworthy friend and neighbor to the law-abiding, but the implacable foe of lawlessness and a terror to outlaws.
“No doubt Rockwell had his aberrations. He was uneducated, in the sense that he could not read or write. The light of the Gospel did not entirely rid his mind of the popular superstitions of his native New England. He had a weakness for alcohol that grew upon him . . . If in the performance of his duty as an officer of the law he sometimes administered short shrift to the lawless, it must be remembered that he lived in a day when officers courageous enough to make a stand for law and order were mighty few and badmen were numerous and bold. Why glorify the vigilantes of Montana for rising up and ridding their towns of outlaws and condemn Rockwell for what was not only just as justifiable, but was also legal.”
In my study of the man, Porter Rockwell was an honorable man but would defend himself, the Church, the prophet, and any other person who was unjustly treated with a tenacity that would have scared most people away. I think he liked a “bad” reputation because it put him at a tactical advantage right away.
When asked about travelling security this was his advice.
“Porter advised Burton to carry a loaded double-barreled shotgun, sleep in a "dark camp" (unlit, miles from where supper was cooked), to never trust appearances, and to avoid the main trail, where "White Indians" (so-called because they were white robbers who disguised themselves as Indians to pass off blame) preyed on travelers.”
He was a believer in firepower (double-barreled shotgun) and situational awareness (to never trust appearances).
I honor Orrin Porter Rockwell and remember him fondly as a sheepdog and General Authority in good standing.

Semper Paratus
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