Joseph Smith, Jr's personal bodyguard, Orrin Porter Rockwell
would be known for his loyalty and generosity, as much as his tenacity
and ruthlessness as a lawman in Utah.
he didn't keep a diary, Porter Rockwell's story is blurry. Conflicting information put his birth as
either June 28, 1813, or June 25, 1815, but we know for sure that as a
young man he became personal friends of the slightly older Joseph Smith.
His parents were neighbors of the Smith Family in
when Smith needed funds to publish The Book of Mormon, Rockwell
sold berries and wood to help out.
Following Smith to
New York, the Rockwell
family would become some of the earliest members of the Latter Day Saint
movement, with Porter being baptized in the church on the day it was
founded in April of 1830. At 16, he was the youngest member.
After the New York branch of the church
relocated to Ohio, Porter was sent on to Jackson County, Missouri, the
intended central gathering place for church members. It was in Missouri
that Porter would become proficient with a gun, and would marry his
first wife in 1832. It would also be in Missouri that Porter would be a
suspect in the assignation attempt against former Governor Lilburn Boggs.
On October 27, 1838, Governor Boggs
issued Executive Order 44, known as the "Extermination Order", which
evicted Mormons from Missouri by any means possible, including violence.
Boggs' order was in response to what he called "open and avowed defiance
of the laws" during the conflict between Mormons and their neighbors
known as the Missouri Mormon War. The church members were not welcome in
the state. Tensions had been rising due to the economic and electoral
growth of the church community, along with Joseph Smith's opposition to
slavery. Newspaper articles out of Independence, Missouri in 1833
culminated with Missouri public officials publishing a manifesto that
July which said in part:
"We, the undersigned, citizens Jackson
County, believing that an important crisis is at hand, as regards our
civil society, in consequence a pretended religious sect of people
that have settled, and are still settling in our County, styling
themselves Mormons; and intending, as we do, to rid our society,
"peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must," and believing as we do,
that the arm of the civil law does not afford us a guarantee, or at
least a sufficient one against the evils which are now inflicted upon
us, and seem to be increasing, by the said religious sect, deem it
expedient, and of the highest importance, to form ourselves into a
company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose — a
purpose which we deem it almost superfluous to say, is justified as
well by the law of nature, as by the law of self-preservation."
Church Elders would often meet at Porters
home to discuss ways of protecting members from the Missouri mobs who
were persecuting them. But it would be of no use, as they were
eventually driven out of Jackson County, forced to relocate to Illinois.
Porter remained in Missouri, according to the church, to ensure the safe
passage other other Latter Day Saints out of the state. In May of 1842,
now former Governor Lilburn Boggs was shot by an unknown assailant. The crime was quickly
pinned on Porter Rockwell as revenge for the Executive Order a few years
before. Porter would spend eight months in Jail awaiting trial, but was
acquitted due to lack of evidence.
After his release, Porter made his way to