David W. Tullis

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David W. Tullis, his personal and family background, and his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre

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David Wilson Tullis


Biographical Sketch

Early Life in Scotland

A native of Fifeshire in East Central Scotland, David Wilson Tullis was a Scottish Lowlander whose family left Scotland and immigrated to American. Tullis later moved west to frontier Utah were he pioneered in southern Utah.

Tullis was born in 1833 in Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland, the son of David Tullis and Euphemia Wilson. The family occupied itself in farming and drayage. They may have also fished in the nearby Firth of Forth.

Immigration to American and onto Utah

In 1849, the Tullis family immigrated to America. While working in St. Louis, Tullis heard the Mormon preaching and joined the Mormon Church. When his parents died in the mid-West, Tullis remained there until he could gather the means to make the trek across teh plains.

In 1852, having gathered the necessary outfit and provisions, Tullis joined the Moses Clawson Company which departed in early June from the outfitting post at Keokuk, Iowa. At Kanesville, Iowa (present day Council Bluffs), they organized the company. Twenty-year-old Tullis had no family members accompanying him.

The Mormon Trail

Travel on the overland trails was extremely heavy that due because of the continued excitement caused by the California Gold Rush. As with previous seasons, cholera was endemic and some member of the company died from cholera. They passed the usual milestones on the trail: Fort Kearney, the South Fork of the Platte River, Chimney Rock, Fort Laramie, the Sweetwater River, Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, Green River, Fort Bridger, Bear River, and Weber River. After suffering the usual hardships of overland trail the company arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in mid-September.

Indian Interpreter in the Southern Indian Mission

A Reconstruction of Fort Clara, 1855-1862

In fall 1853, Tullis was among those called to the Southern Indian Mission and in 1854, he moved to southern Utah, first settling at Fort Harmony, then briefly in Cedar City where he learned the stone mason trade, then to Fort Clara on the Santa Clara River.

In 1856, Tullis and others pioneered the village of Pinto in Iron County, midway between Cedar City and the Mountain Meadows. Among the group with Tullis were Thales Haskell, Amos G. Thornton, Richard Robinson, Benjamin Knell and others. For several years they expanded the Pinto settlement in the summer and returned to Santa Clara in the winter.

In the summer of 1857, when Jacob Hamblin pioneered a mountain ranch at the nearby Mountain Meadows, Tullis moved there to work for Hamblin. Samuel Knight and his wife also ranched there that summer.

The Iron MIlitary District: Private David Tullis, Company H, in John D. Lee's 4th Battalion

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In 1857, the Iron Military District consisted of four battalions led by regimental commander Col. William H. Dame. The platoons and companies in the first battalion drew on men in and around Parowan. (It had no involvement at Mountain Meadows.) Major Isaac Haight commanded the 2nd Battalion whose personnel in its many platoons and two companies came from Cedar City and outer-lying communities to the north such as Fort Johnson. Major John Higbee headed the 3rd Battalion whose many platoons and two companies were drawn from Cedar City and outer-lying communities to the southwest such as Fort Hamilton. Major John D. Lee of Fort Harmony headed the 4th Battalion whose platoons and companies drew on its militia personnel from Fort Harmony, the Southerners at the newly-founded settlement in Washington, the Indian interpreters at Fort Clara, and the new settlers at Pinto.

In September 1857, the 24-year-old Tullis was a private in the Fort Clara First Platoon, one of two platoons there, in Company H under Captain Alexander G. Ingram, attached to Major John D. Lee’s 4th Battalion. See A Basic Account for a full description of the massacre.

On Saturday, September 5, Tullis later told federal investigators, he encountered the emigrant train as it entered the valley of Mountain Meadows.

On Friday, the 11th, according to Tullis family lore, Tullis feigned illness to avoid being called up to participate in the final massacre. This same lore reports that Tullis told his son what he had learned from Indians about the massacre. However, his son refused to tell what he heard because it was "too bad to tell," a very common reaction for decades after the massacre.

In 1859, federal Indian Superintendent Jacob Forney listed Tullis in his list of the "most guilty" but Forney's opinion does not appear to be substantiated. One of the seventeen surviving children -- six-year-old Rebecca Dunlap -- later claimed that an "Englishman named Tullis" was the murderer of one of her parents. But Tullis was not listed in the Judge John Cradlebaugh's arrest warrant nor mentioned during the 1875-76 Lee trials nor by John D. Lee in his postumously-published memoir nor, finally, in William Bishop's "list of assassins" which he appended to Lee's autobiography.

Setting Down Roots in Pinto

Map of Washington County, Utah

In 1862, 28-year-old Tullis married a 40-year-old widow, Mary Alice Hardman Eccles (1821-1883), of Lancashire, England. Two years later, Tullis married Mary's 16-year-old daughter, Martha Eccles (1847-1915), also of Lancashire. Mary Alice bore him one child and Martha eventually bore him twelve. Although such relationships may offend modern notions of romantic and exclusive marital love, these particular unions endured and seem to have worked.

In 1874, Mormon leader Erastus Snow organized the United Order, a Mormon community cooperative, in Pinto. Later, David Tullis was appointed one of the appraisers of the co-op.

Besides farming, Tullis herded dairy cows which provided him with a cash crop of cheese and dairy products. He contributed his skills as a stone mason to the rock meetinghouse and other buildings in Pinto.

David and Martha Eccles Tullis

Mission to Scotland

Map of Scotland

Beginning in 1882, David Tullis returned to his native Scotland on a church mission. Returning after fifteen months abroad, he continued his previous pursuits.

Family records report that Tullis was a large, handsome man with blue eyes who in later years had wavy, white hair. Although he had little formal education, he was gregarious and intelligent. According to family lore, Tullis followed the Scottish virtues of cleanliness, order, and economy. He provided generously for his fellow Scots and had a local reputation for singing, clog dancing, and waltzing. In later years, he spent winters in nearly Gunlock to take advantage of its milder weather.

Final Years

In 1902, Tullis died at the age of 69 and was buried in Pinto, survived by his second wife and ten children.


Bagley, Blood of the Prophets, 154, 239; Brooks, ed., Journal of the Southern Indian Mission, 2, 90, 91, 92, 100, 103, 105, 109, 112, 115-117, 119, 124, 125, 134; Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Latter-day Saints, 776 (Santa Clara Ward); Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, ; Lee Trial transcripts; New.FamilySearch.org; Tullis family records; Statement of David Tullis, in Forney Report, 1859, in Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Appendix IX; Turley and Walker, Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Jenson & Morris Collections, 212-213, 268-270; Walker, et al, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 149, 152, Appendix C; Woodbury, “A History of Southern Utah and its National Parks, Utah Historical Quarterly, 12/3-4 (Jul.-Oct. 1944), 144, fn 36.

For full bibliographic information see Bibliography.

External Links

For further information on David Wilson Tullis see:

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