IILOT SMITH 1830-1892
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Orson Pratt Brown - American Civil War History
Lot Smith was a frontiersman and early Mormon Church member. Noted chiefly for his military exploits connected with the Utah War, he lived for nearly three decades in the Davis County town of Farmington and led a colonizing mission to Arizona in the late 1870s and 1880s. He was born in 1830 in Oswego County, New York, to William O. and Rhoda Hough Smith. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a youth and was part of the exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois. At sixteen he was said to be the youngest member of the Mormon Battalion, with which he made the entire march to California in 1846-47. He participated in the California Gold Rush and brought to Utah a modest grubstake in gold dust to help establish himself.
In 1849 he rejoined his family in Farmington, Utah. At Farmington, he served one term as county sheriff, emerged as an officer in the Nauvoo Legion, and acquired a considerable reputation as a livestock man. In 1857 he outshone more famous figures Orrin Porter Rockwell and Robert Taylor Burton in leading a militia force against the supply trains and livestock of the approaching Utah Expedition under General Albert Sidney Johnston. Burning several wagon trains and seizing 1,400 animals, he was instrumental in forcing the army to winter near Fort Bridger, Wyoming. An action which earned him the title "Mountain Fox."
Early in 1862, the Civil War began. By that Spring, following deployment of the U.S. Army's 4th Cavalry Regiment into Tennessee, a disturbing lack of military influence was felt along the Overland Trail. As a result, the Shoshone Indians increased their murderous depredations against travelers and commercial shippers following the route through the Rocky Mountains.
Finally, in April, 1862, LDS Church President Brigham Young received a telegram from United States President Abraham Lincoln authorizing him to raise, equip and arm a company of cavalry for service on the Overland Trail, to be funded by the U.S. Government. (See Deseret News, 7 May 1862.) When requisitioned on short (two day) notice by Territorial Adjutant General Daniel Wells, the Legion’s horses were quickly supplied by Orin Porter Rockwell.
Under command of Major Lot Smith (the Mountain Fox), Utah Territory’s Nauvoo Legion horse soldiers took to the field in Wyoming.
Later, under an appointment from President Abraham Lincoln, he commanded a volunteer unit guarding the telegraph line in northern Utah and Wyoming during the early part of the Civil War.
Like many Mormons of his era, Smith was a polygamist, taking in all eight wives. Although he was reputed to be have an explosive temper and to be harsh with his wives and children, his was a close family characterized by loyalty and intrafamilial business associations as his sons and daughters matured.
Early in 1876 the First Presidency called two hundred “missionaries” to be part of four companies under Lot Smith, Jessie O. Ballenger, George Lake, and William C. Allen. By year's end four struggling colonies were established in the lower valley of the Little Colorado. For many years these citizens in Arizona struggled to harness the water of the river through dams. By 1880 other colonizing parties settled along Silver Creek, a major tributary of the Little Colorado, further upstream, and near Mesa, in central Arizona. One successful village was Snowflake, named after Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who encouraged the colony, and their leader, William J. Flake.
For this pioneering venture Smith's decisive and hardbitten character proved to be both a boon and a cause of friction. He quickly confronted jurisdictional problems related to Brigham Young's sometimes ambiguous assignments. At Sunset, near present Winslow, Arizona, he became president of the Little Colorado Stake as well as president of the Sunset United Order, in which he was the dominant figure. He built large herds and bred excellent strains of horses but also quarreled with his fellows over the distribution of property, contributing to much discord and a disputed settlement of the order's affairs in 1886. Enmity lingered for generations among the families of the participants.
After 1886 Smith's associations with the Mormon community cooled as he increasingly devoted his energy to ranching at Tuba City and elsewhere in northern Arizona. Yet, by inclination and the fact that polygamists had little other recourse, he remained a committed Mormon. During his last years, relations with his Indian neighbors became increasingly tense as the rangeland around Tuba City was overgrazed. In 1892 Smith shot several Navajo sheep that had been turned into a meadow he had fenced. A Navajo herder in turn shot several of Smith's cattle. Finally the two exchanged shots with result that the old Mormon was mortally wounded. He was buried near the contested pasture. A decade later, his remains were returned to Farmington, where his grave became something of a symbol of the Mormon pioneer as frontiersman, soldier, and Indian fighter.
(2) Spouse: Jane WALKER
(3) Spouse: Julia Ann PENCE
(4) Spouse: Laura Louisa BURDICK
(5) Spouse: Alice Ann RICHARDS
(6) Spouse: Alice Mary BAUGH
(7) Spouse: Mary GARN
(8) Spouse: Diantha Elizabeth MORTENSEN
PAF - Archer files = Captain James Brown + (7) Phebe Abbott > Orson Pratt Brown
Photos and information from:
Charles S. Peterson, "Take Up Your Mission: Mormon Colonizing Along the Little Colorado, 1870-1900" (1973);
C.S. Peterson, "A Mighty Man Was Brother Lot: A Portrait of Lot Smith, Mormon Frontiersman," Western Historical Quarterly I (October 1970);
Harold Schindler, Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder (1983);
Grant Gil Smith, The Living Words of Alice Ann Richards Smith (1968);
Junius F. Wells, "The Echo Canon War: Lot Smith's Narrative," The Contributor IV (1883).
Additions, bold, [bracketed], some photos, etc., added by Lucy Brown Archer
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