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Friday, June 17, 2011

The End of the Utah Expedition and Camp Floyd

In the months preceding the Civil War, James and his family were still living in Fairfield, Utah, near Camp Floyd.(1)  Two new babies were born in 1859, Charles Harrison born to Maria on March 10, and Robert Mahlon born to Hannah Jane on October 21 at Cedar Fort.  As an excommunicated Mormon, James no longer demonstrated any allegiance to the Church or its leaders, although his wives and children were still members in good standing.

Early in 1859, when there was strong suspicion that Johnson’s Army might renege on the agreement that President Buchanan had made with Brigham Young, the Mormon militia began covert activities to spy on Camp Floyd.  They stood ready to send up a smoke signal should any federal troops advance towards Salt Lake City.  In March, James reported that a few Mormon militiamen intercepted him in the desert near Camp Floyd and attempted to purchase his complete stock of powder and lead.  He flatly refused them, and reported their activities to Judge Sinclair.(2)

During 1859 James was plagued with financial problems.  In June he was charged in a lawsuit brought by the county assessor for delinquent taxes on his property in Salt Lake City.(3)  On June 22, he was summoned again by the probate court for Salt Lake County, this time in a case brought by Silas Richards,(4) against fifteen individuals including James Gammell, W.A. (Bill) Hickman, and Orin Porter Rockwell.  James and several others, who had not been summoned as of June 22, appeared before the judge on July 2.(5)  Silas Richards, a businessman, had likely employed each of these men and was probably suing for breech of contract.

In August, James was summoned in the aftermath of a murder investigation. The victim was a man named Franklin E. McNeil,(6) who was shot on the night of August 4, at the California House (a hotel) in Salt Lake City.  Investigators believed that a man named Joseph Rhodes had shot McNeil.  The magistrate issued a warrant for Rhodes, but apparently he had escaped during the night.  The next morning (August 5) U.S. Attorney Andrew Wilson took McNeil’s dying statement at the California House.  McNeil didn't know who had shot him.  He said it happened about 11 o'clock at night.  “He had come from his room down to the outside of the hotel, to make water, and while there two men came up, one of whom said, ‘Frank, is that you?’ and the other man shot him with a pistol.”  The shooter ran, and McNeil fired his pistol at him, but did not hit him.  McNeil supposed it was Joseph Rhodes who had shot him.  There had been a quarrel between the two the night before in the bar room of the hotel, when Rhodes had fired a pistol at him, missing his head, but burning his hat.  McNeil thought the man who had spoken to him was Lot Huntington.  A warrant was issued for Huntington, who was questioned by the judge.  Since there was no evidence to implicate him, and since McNeil had stated before he died that he was mistaken about Huntington, he was discharged.  The case went before the grand jury, and they found “a true bill of indictment” against Joseph Rhodes.(7)

The argument between McNeil and Rhodes was apparently sparked by some violation of the ‘code’ that had been adopted by a gang of government stock thieves of which both men were presumed members.(8)  Clearly, Rhodes was charged with the murder of McNeil, but just a few weeks later James became involved in the proceedings.  He was summoned to 1st Judicial District Court on Thursday, August 25, at 9:00 am:  “Mr. Thompson moved for a rule against Mr. Gammell and another in the case of the murder of McNeil.(9)  (James was supposedly at Fort Bridger with the Simpson expedition on August 25.)  A few days later the Deseret News mentioned a pending civil action:  “Monday, August 29, 10 a.m…In the case of C. A. Perry & Co. vs. McNeal [sic] and Gammel [sic], Mr. Thompson moved that a scirefacias be issued to compel the heirs of McNeal to appear in cause.”(10)  C.A. Perry & Co. had filed a lawsuit against James back in May 1855, demanding payment for goods delivered.  In this 1859 case it appears that James may have had business dealings with Frank McNeil, and that Perry had sued Gammell and the murdered man’s heirs for the payment of debts.

Despite the increased number of ruffians and outlaws who invaded Utah along with the army, its occupation did have some unforeseen benefits.  As the conflict between Camp Floyd and the Mormon community became less of a threat, Utah citizens began to see that the camp had a positive influence on their economy.  Before the camp was established, the Mormons were desperately poor.  Since the start of the Utah War, or the Utah Expedition as it was called in Washington, all supplies from the east had been stopped:

Thus the community had become utterly destitute of almost everything necessary to their social comfort.  The people were poorly clad, and rarely ever saw anything on their tables but what was prepared from flour, corn, beet molasses, and the vegetables and fruits of their gardens.  They were alike destitute of implements of industry, and horses, mules, and wagons for their agricultural operations.  Utah was truly very poor at that period; indeed, never so poor since the Californian emigrants poured into Great Salt Lake City in 1849.(11)

The presence of the army soon changed all that.  Businessmen like James Gammell began to trade directly with the camp.  In the process he became acquainted with the Walker brothers, for whom Camp Floyd “laid the foundation of their fortunes.”  The mutual benefits of these commercial ventures “softened the feelings of hostility between the citizens and the soldiers, and the Utah Expedition became transformed into a great blessing to Utah, and especially to the Mormon community.”(12)  Living as close to Camp Floyd as he did, it is reasonable to assume that James profited from the occasional sales of army surplus merchandise:

Periodic auctions of condemned food and surplus animals and equipment offered bargains in such wanted items as mules, bacon, boots, and doubletrees.  One of the largest of these sales was the disposal of some 3,500 large freight wagons by Russell, Majors and Waddell, for $10 each.  The wagons had cost from $150 to $175 a piece in the Midwest…Large numbers of oxen and mules were also sold by the firm in the territory, for as little as $25 to $50 per yoke…The benefits of the unintentional helping hand of the potentially hostile forces of occupation continued until the summer of 1860.(13)

Another blessing directly related to the Utah War was the Pony Express.  The route, established in April 1860, extended from the Missouri River all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  Until that time Utahns were used to receiving news in three months.  Now communication from Sacramento arrived in six days, and from St. Joseph, Missouri in seven days.  However, the Pony Express enterprise lasted only nineteen months.  It ended after the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph line in October 1861.  Great Salt Lake City was the junction of the eastern and western divisions of the line.  Brigham Young was honored to send the very first message over the wire, a note of congratulations to the president of the Pacific Telegraph Company.(14)

Camp Floyd, itself, was a short-term operation, lasting only three years.  The size of the army was diminished over time, beginning in the summer of 1860 when the garrison was reduced to ten companies (about 1,500 men).  In July 1861 Camp Floyd was completely dismantled and its soldiers sent to fight in the Civil War.  Today, very little is left of the once thriving camp.  The evacuation of Camp Floyd led to the largest government surplus sale held in the previous history of the United States—one final windfall for the Mormons:

At one large auction, which commenced on July 16, 1861, the army sold an estimated $4,000,000 worth of property for approximately $100,000…This included iron, tools, and equipment, livestock, stock feed, and a large supply of beans, flour, and other food… [the army also left the Mormons with improved transportation and communication services for their widely scattered settlements.]  Thus ended, wrote William Clayton, “the great Buchanan Utah Expedition, costing the Government millions, and accomplishing nothing, except making many of the Saints comparatively rich, and improving the circumstances of most of the people of Utah.”(15)

Among the auction items purchased by Brigham Young was the safe that had been used by the federal government to transport half a million dollars worth of gold to Camp Floyd.  After the auction came the destruction of army ordnance.  These arms and ammunition were piled up in pyramids at a safe distance away.  Long trains of powder were laid, and on signal the fuse was ignited.  In the early autumn of 1861 the troops marched eastward, and thus ended the famous Utah expedition.(16)  With the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln in March, Utah Territory soon received a new set of more acceptable federal officials and settled into a fairly peaceful existence.  However, in April shots rang out over Fort Sumter, signifying the beginning of a long period of turmoil for the United States.
  1.  1860 US Census, Fairfield, Cedar, Utah Territory, taken October 9, 1860.
  2. Moorman, Donald R., and Sessions, Gene A., Camp Floyd and the Mormons – The Utah War, University of Utah, 1992, p. 117.  Source footnote #63: James Garnmell to Charles E. Sinclair, March 29, 1859, Albert Sidney Johnston Papers, Barrett Collection, Tulane University. (In the book and the original source Gammell is spelled GARNMELL.)
  3.  Salt Lake County Probate Court, civil and criminal case files, series 373, entry 1741 (June 6, 1859).
  4. Silas Richards (1807-1884) is buried in Union Pioneer Cemetery, Sandy, Utah. The inscription on his gravestone reads, “First Bishop of Union.” He settled on Little Cottonwood Creek, and helped build a fort at Union for protection against the Indians:
  5. Deseret News, June 29 and July 6, 1859.
  6. Franklin E. McNeil (1833-1859) was murdered by fellow outlaw Joe Rhodes, who also met a violent end the following January. Frank had come to the Salt Lake Valley to spy on the Mormons and cause them havoc at the request of Johnson's Army. Frank spent quite a bit of time in jail.
  7. Deseret News, Wednesday, August 10, 1859; Message of the President of the United States: Condition of Affairs in Utah, United States Department of Justice, James Buchanan, p. 35. (Alexander Wilson [U.S. District Attorney for the Territory of Utah, 1858-1862] wrote the report of the McNeill case.)
  8.  “Another Man Killed,” Deseret News, Wednesday, August 10, 1859.
  9. Deseret News, August 31, 1859.
  10. Deseret News, September 7, 1859.
  11. Tullidge, Edward William, History of Salt Lake, 1886, p. 246.
  12. Tullidge, p. 247.
  13. Arrington, Leonard J., Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900, Harvard University Press, 1958, pp. 198-99.
  14. Deseret News, October 23, 1861.
  15. Arrington, pp. 198-99.
  16. Tullidge, Edward William, History of Salt Lake, 1886, p. 247-251.  In February 1861, Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, who had replaced General Albert Sidney Johnston as commander of Camp Floyd, was ordered to change the name to Fort Crittenden.  The reason for the name change was to “disconnect the fort from the name of Secretary Floyd, whose plot for secession was exposed, and his Utah Expedition, sinking twenty millions of the nation’s money, considered to be a part of that secession plot.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scrimshaw Engraved by William Gammell

Kim Cox of Corpus Christi, Texas, sent these photos of a scrimshaw engraved by William Gammell, the brother of James Gammell.  (I had to refer to the dictionary for the definition of scrimshaw:  "any of various carved or engraved articles originally made by American whalers usually from baleen or whale ivory.")

This piece was handed down by Kim's grandfather James Bedford Sterns, a grandson of Margaret Jane Gammell (sister of James and William.)  William Gammell and his wife, Jane, had no children, so apparently William's possessions were handed down through his sister's family. 

Scrimshaw engraved by William Gammell
(circa 1848)
Photo by Kim Cox

Thanks to Kim for sending these photos.  The inscription on one side of the scrimshaw reads, "GAMMELL, BROWN, GERAD & FREEMAN."  The inscription on the other side, "TRIP UP THE YUBA CALIFORNIA,"  refers to William's journey to the California Gold Rush. 

Other side of scrimshaw engraved by William Gammell
(circa 1848)
Photo by Kim Cox

Kim's mother, who turns ninety-nine in July 2011, may be able to give us more information about William and the origin of  the scrimshaw.  To learn more about William Gammell, see previous posts dated May 19, May 29, and June 3, 2010.