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Friday, April 22, 2011

Camp Floyd

Photo by Bary Gammell, March 2011
“Camp Floyd [near Fairfield, Utah] is one of the most miserable, disagreeable and uninteresting places that ever disgraced the earth.  It is built upon a dry plain, entirely destitute of grass, or, indeed, any vegetation, except sage, that flourishes where nothing else will grow.  There is no water here except a little dirty stream that runs near the west end of the camp, scarcely large enough to drown a mouse.”  (Utah, a soldier with Johnston’s Army, September 25, 1858.  From the plaque at present-day Camp Floyd State Park.)

While General Johnston’s army and newly appointed governor Cumming waited out the winter in tents in western Wyoming, negotiations were going on in Washington, D.C.  Colonel Thomas L. Kane, a good friend of the Mormons, received permission from President James Buchanan to go to Salt Lake City to attempt to settle the Utah conflict peacefully.  Meanwhile, Brigham Young, still wary of an invading army, ordered the Saints to evacuate Salt Lake City and the northern settlements and to move south.(1)  Each ward was organized into teams of tens, fifties, and hundreds.  Provisions were moved first, then families.  A few young men were assigned to stay behind to irrigate crops and gardens and to guard property.  James Gammell with his family of ten,(2) along with a wagon and team, was listed in the first company of the 19th Ward, Great Salt Lake City, and assigned to move south on March 21, 1858.  While Brigham Young and many church officials moved to Provo, James most likely moved his family just south of Provo to Springville,(3) where he, like most of the refugees, had to build a temporary board shanty to live in. 

Johnston's Army entering Salt Lake City
(from CES student manual)

In April, Colonel Kane accompanied Governor Cumming to Salt Lake City, but without the army, as Brigham Young had insisted.  Young greeted Cumming cordially and delivered to him the territorial records and seal.(4)  After further negotiations, the army finally entered the Salt Lake Valley (guided by none other than Jim Bridger) on June 26, 1858, only to find the streets empty and the city nearly deserted.  One eyewitness reported that the first troops, marching in strict formation, arrived at 10:00 am, and it was 5:30 pm before the rear guard passed through the city.(5)  The column consisted of nearly 3,500 men, including cavalry, artillery, infantry, a band, the quartermasters and commissary officers, and their herds of cattle.  After camping for a few days on the Jordan River, the army marched forty miles south of the capital city to Cedar Valley (west of Utah Lake) where they established Camp Floyd.(6)  By November four hundred buildings had been constructed.  Camp Floyd was the largest military post in the United States.  Its 3,500 troops represented nearly one-third of the entire U. S. Army at that time.  All were dispatched to put down a Mormon rebellion, which never took place.

In July, Brigham Young authorized the Saints to return to their homes, but James and his family (soon to be ten children) didn’t return to their property in Salt Lake City.  At some point they moved to Fairfield and stayed there for at least two more years.  Maria, with her children, Jeannette, Josephine, James, and Charles, lived in one dwelling, and Hannah Jane (known as Jane), along with Isaac (Brown), Hannah Jane (Brown), William, Mary Edith, Francelia, and Robert (who was born five miles north of Fairfield at Cedar Fort) lived next door.(7)

Fairfield, the town adjacent to Camp Floyd, attracted many businessmen like James, who found that they could make a good living by selling their goods to three thousand men who had a weekly wage to spend and no where else to spend it.  Even more attractive was the fact that the soldiers were paid in gold and silver coin, rather than scrip (paper money).(8)  Fairfield soon grew to a population of seven thousand.

Bary Gammell, 2nd gr grandson of James Gammell,
at Camp Floyd Commisary & Museum, March 2011
Photo by Jan Gammell

Asher Hedquist, 4th gr grandson of James Gammell,
at Camp Floyd, April 2011 ( holding a miniature canon)
Photo by Steve Hedquist

The occupying army may have boosted the Utah economy, but it also inflicted serious damage on the moral fabric of the nearby, once sheltered Mormon communities.  Vices like gambling, drunkenness (there were seventeen saloons in Fairfield), prostitution, robbery, and homicide became commonplace in the hell-raising town of Fairfield, and even spilled over into Salt Lake City.

A more serious threat than the army itself was the arrival of three United States judges.  Each one of them seemed determined to undermine the Latter-day Saint way of life.  The new hard-line federalists, Delany R. Eckles, Charles E. Sinclair, and John Cradlebaugh, attempted to punish the Mormons for treason and polygamy, as well as for the Mountain Meadows massacre.  Judge Cradlebaugh set up court in Provo and took 1,000 soldiers with him to back his work in court, causing hysteria among the townspeople.  Governor Cumming soon ordered these troops back to Camp Floyd.

James Gammell became involved in several of the court trials convened by the new judges.  Once again we see the impetuous side of his personality that was evident even as a young man during the Canadian rebellion:  Whenever there was a conflict, he was there!  Years later, in a letter to his sister, Jane, he wrote that his family sometimes grew impatient with his quest for adventure:  “I got home on New Years Eve after an absence of thirteen months...on the Bare River lumbering…but made a bad job of it to the amount of over five thousand dollars with but very little simpathie at home for they say I had no need to go, but times was dull here and I must have excitement…”(9)

During the eight years since his baptism, James was considered to be a devoted Mormon.  Perhaps at times he felt guilty about his occasional drinking sprees and his failure to pay his taxes, but mostly he worked hard and contributed his many talents to the building of Salt Lake Valley.  He was a loyal family man, and he provided for his two wives and his many children.  He served a mission to Texas, although preaching was probably not his strong suit.  It is difficult to imagine him studying the scriptures, or any book for that matter. He was a man of action, not a man of letters.  Mundane matters like earning a living sometimes trumped his loyalty to his religion.

Just as the year 1858 brought serious challenges to the territory of Utah, it presented another turning point in the life of James Gammell.  On November 14, he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church.  The reason for his excommunication, cited in LDS Church records at the time, was apostasy.(10)  No specific details were given.  The plaque on James’ gravestone gives this explanation: ”Excommunicated by Brigham Young because of what he found out about Mountain Meadows massacre.”  Family members have generally accepted this explanation, although it is not necessarily supported by any primary sources of that time.  We know that James was involved in Judge Cradlebaugh’s investigation of the massacre, but that investigation didn’t begin until four months after James was excommunicated.  Since a person would hardly be disciplined for something that he may do in the future, it makes more sense to research what happened in the time leading up to November 14, 1858.
  1. Nearly 30,000 Mormons relocated during this crisis. When the details of the Utah conflict was published in eastern newspapers, President Buchanan came under strong criticism. Thus it became known as “Buchanan’s Blunder”.
  2. James’ family consisted of two wives and eight children.
  3. Excerpt from Hannah Jane Davis Gammell’s obituary: “She came to Springville in 1856, and after a residence here of several years removed to Cedar Valley and Camp Floyd, returning to Springville in 1874, which has been her home ever since.”
  4. Church History in the Fulness of Times, p. 375.
  5. Campbell, Eugene E., Establishing Zion, p. 247, Salt Lake City, 1988.
  6. Camp Floyd was named after then Secretary of War John B. Floyd.  The site is now Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park and Museum, located 25 miles southwest of Lehi, Utah, near Fairfield on Utah State route 73.
  7. 1860 US Census, Fairfield, Cedar, Utah Territory, taken October 9, 1860. James Gamble [sic] age 46, real estate valued at $2,000 and personal estate $1,000. (James Gammell’s nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth was living in Cache County with her maternal grandparents.)
  8. Tullidge, Edward William, History of Salt Lake, 1886, pp. 247-250.  A Government safe, containing $580,000 in gold, was freighted to Camp Floyd by ox team.
  9. James Gemmell, letter written January 1, 1870, from Sheridan, Montana, to his sister, Jane, in Texas.
  10. Apostasy is defined as rebellion or a falling away. It may refer to such offenses as insubordination, doctrinal differences, or failure to sustain, or hostility towards, the leaders of the Church. 

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