Philip Klingensmith

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Philip Klingensmith, his personal and family background, and his involvement in and statements about the Mountain Meadows Massacre

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Philip Klingensmith

1815-1881 (or later ?)

Biographical Sketch

Early Days: Westward from Pennsylvania

On his father's side, Philip Klingensmith descended from German emigrants who settled in central Pennsylvania. But his grandfather moved to western Pennsylvania and established Fort Klingensmith. His parents settled in backcountry Westmoreland County, west of the Allegheny Mountains in southwestern Pennsylvania. When a young man, Klingensmith moved to Ohio, then Indiana.

In 1841 he married Hannah Henry Creemer in Tippecanoe County, Indiana and he also joined the Mormon Church. They briefly lived in Indiana, then again moved westward to the main center of the church, Nauvoo, Illinois.

Migration to Utah

They departed Illinois in 1846, suffering losses in common with others. From mid-1846 to early 1849, they passed in the temporary Mormon settlements in western Iowa. In 1849, they joined the Howard Egan Company which departed in mid-April from the outfitting post in Pottawattamie County on their westward trek. Besides Philip, 34, there were Hannah Henry Creemer Klingensmith, 23, Moroni, 3, and Hannah, 1.

The Mormon Trail

By departing early in the spring, they were ahead of most of the flood of "forty-niners" bound for the California Gold Rush that year. Hannah Klingensmith was in late-term pregnancy for most of the trek. In mid-July while stil three weeks from their destination, she gave birth to a baby girl. Mother and infant survived the ordeal. The family 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 they arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in early August.

To Cedar City and the Ironworks

The Early Ironworks in Cedar City

In 1851, they moved to southern Utah where Klingensmith became one of the first settlers in Iron County. From 1852 to 1859, Klingensmith was the bishop of Cedar City. By the mid-1850s, he had embraced polygamy and had three wives. Eventually his wives, Hannah, Margaretha and Betsy, bore him fifteen, four and five children, respectively.

The Deseret Iron Company

Klingensmith was a blacksmith who lent his skills to the newly-formed Iron Mission. Although most of those involved in the ironworks hailed from the British Isles, Klingensmith was among a handful of Americans who contributed to it. Here is a brief summary of the development of the Deseret Iron Company, known more familiarly as the Ironworks. See Summary of Deseret Iron Company for a brief summary of its early development.

The Ironworks in 1857

In April 1857, the delivery of a new steam engine from Great Salt Lake City seemed to breathe new life for the Ironworks. Working from April to June they installed the steam engine and completed the new engine house. In the first week of July, they were ready to begin smelting. They “put on the blast” and had a modicum of success. But they continued to be plagued with problems ranging from poor quality raw materials to smelting equipment that lacked technical sophistication. When in late July the steam engine seized with sand from the dirty creek water, they speedily dug a reservoir to store a supply of clean water for the boiler. They continued making smelting runs through August. All the while crews at the ironworks manned all the necessary functions there, while other crews, mainly miners and teamsters, gathered the raw materials – iron ore, coal, limestone, and wood – necessary to sustain smelting.

The smelting continued until September 13. In other words, around September 3, when a dispute arose between some settlers and several men in the passing Arkansas company, the blast furnace was running nonstop. And when Cedar City militiamen, many of them ironworkers, mustered to Mountain Meadows where they were involved in the massacre on September 11, other ironworkers in Cedar City continued the smelting runs night and day. For additional details, see Smelting at the Ironworks in 1857.

From late April to September, those working up the canyon in mining or hauling wood, coal, limestone, rock, sand or “adobies” to the ironworks were Isaac C. Haight, James Williamson, George Hunter, Joseph H. Smith, Ira Allen, Ellott Wilden, Swen Jacobs, Alex Loveridge, Joel White, Ezra Curtis, Samuel McMurdie, Samuel Pollock, John Jacobs, John M. Higbee, John M. Macfarlane, Samuel Jewkes, Nephi Johnson, Thomas Cartwright, William Bateman, Elias Morris, Benjamin Arthur, Joseph H. Smith, Robert Wiley, and Philip Klingensmith. Those working at the ironworks on the furnace, engine, coke ovens or blacksmith shop included Elias Morris, John Humphries, Ira Allen, John Urie, Benjamin Arthur, James Williamson, Joseph H. Smith, Samuel Jewkes, Joseph Clews, Richard Harrison, William C. Stewart, William Bateman, John M Macfarlane, John M. Higbee, John Jacobs, George Hunter, Samuel Pollock, William S. Riggs, Alex Loveridge, Ellott Wilden, Ezra Curtis, Eliezar Edwards, Swen Jacobs, Joel White, and Thomas Cartwright. (The two lists overlap because some worked both in the canyon and at the Ironworks.) Other prominent figures at the ironworks who were not later involved at Mountain Meadows were Samuel Leigh, George Horton, James H. Haslem, Laban Morrell, John Chatterley, Thomas Gower, Thomas Crowther and others.

Klingensmith's Role at the Ironworks in 1857

During this period of 1857, Philip Klingensmith’s specific role was as a teamster. In April, Klingensmith logged 383 hours in hauling "sundries" associated with the new steam engine from Great Salt Lake City to Cedar City. The only other time Klingensmith worked for the ironworks was in the intense period near the end of August when they worked to sustain the iron run. Klingensmith hauled three-quarters of a ton of coal to the ironworks. It is surprising that Klingensmith did no blacksmithing for the ironworks in 1857. However, it may not have been necessary because they already had men like John Urie who were competent blacksmiths. While they were fabricating implements for the boiler, steam engine, and blast furnace in 1857, perhaps Urie had a more specialized set of ironmaking skills than Klingensmith. At any rate, Klingensmith did very little work for the ironworks that year.

In the Iron Military District: Private (also Bishop) Philip Klingensmith, Company D, Isaac Haight's 2nd Battalion, Cedar City

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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 1857, Klingensmith, 42, was a private in one of the Cedar platoons in Captain Joel White's Company D. White's company was attached to Major Isaac C. Haight's 2nd Battalion. Klingensmith was also the bishop of Cedar City. See A Basic Account for a full description of the massacre.

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In September, while the Fancher-Baker party traveled from Cedar City toward Mountain Meadows, Klingensmith and White carried a message to Pinto concerning the emigrant party, passing John D. Lee en route. In the days of September 7-11, during which the train was besieged, Klingensmith was among those who mustered to the Mountain Meadows.

On Thursday evening, September 10, Klingensmith attended the war council meeting and was one of the prominent participants.

On the day of the massacre, Klingensmith was among the militia guard who accompanied the emigrant men from their wagon circle. When the signal was given, Klingensmith wheeled on the man beside him, then shot and killed him. He later played some role with the surviving children.

In Judge John Cradlebaugh's 1859 arrest warranty, neither Klingensmith nor his counselor Samuel McMurdie was named, a curious anomaly. This has led to conjecture that one of them may have been among the secret informants to Judge John Cradlebaugh in 1859. But whomever the militia informants may have been, Judge Cradlebaugh's inquiry led to the issuance of an arrest warrant for 38 militiamen, most of whom were from the area around Cedar City.

Klingensmith's Peripetic Life

From 1851 to the early 1860s, Klingensmith and his families would live in Parowan, Cedar City, Beaver, Toquerville, the upper Virgin River, and elsewhere. In 1861, Klingensmith moved to Washington County and settled for a time in Adventure on the Virgin River. It was situated west of present-day Zion National Park between modern-day Grafton and Rockville. The following year the townsite was moved to Rockville.

Leaving Utah

Sometime in the early 1860s, Klingensmith moved to Nevada on the Muddy River and, except for a brief return to Parowan later that decade, he resided outside Utah Territory for the remainder of his life. Around 1870, he lived in Lincoln County, Nevada, where he pursued ranching and mining in several locales.

Klingensmith's 1871 Affidavit Regarding the Massacre

In 1871, Philip Klingensmith was interviewed by Charles Wandell about the massacre and cooperated in preparing a formal affidavit. His was the first statement for attribution of any of the massacre participants. Wandell, under the nom de plume of "Argus," immediately published details of the massacre in the Gentile-owned newspaper, the Corinne Reporter without disclosing Klingensmith's identity. But the following year, Klingensmith's affidavit was published in Utah where it created a sensation. It did much to fan interest in the massacre and spur efforts to prosecute its perpetrators. It is easily accessible today in Juanita Brooks's classic history, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, in Appendix IV, 238-242.

Indicted for Complicity in the Massacre

In 1874. the grand jury seated by Judge Jacob Boreman of the federal court in Beaver, Utah, returned an indictment against Klingensmith and eight other Iron County militiamen. Besides Klingensmith and Lee, the others indicted were important principals or active participants such as William Dame, Isaac Haight, John Higbee, and William Stewart, as well as, for obscure reasons, three privates, George W. Adair, Ezra Curtis, and Ellott Willden.

John D. Lee at trial.

Turning State's Evidence and Testifying in John D. Lee's First Trial

In 1875, the prosecution proceeded to trial on the murder charges against John D. Lee. Klingensmith was brought to the courthouse in Beaver, Utah under subpoena. There he and the U.S. Attorney's office negotiated a plea bargain under which the murder charges against him were dropped in exchange for his cooperation in testifying against Lee.

Thereafter, Klingensmith became the state's star witness in the 1875 trial. Newspapers throughout the United States carried his sensational testimony. Publication of his riveting first-hand account did much to fan interest in the trial of John D. Lee.

Following the hung jury in the first trial, the U. S. Attorney retried Lee in 1876. Again, Klingensmith was called to Beaver for the trial. But for tactical reasons, the new U. S. attorney did not call him to testify.

Final Years

Following the 1876 Lee trial, Klingensmith's wandering life continued. Reportedly, he moved to Arizona and then to Sonora, Mexico. The sources disagree as to when and how Klingensmith died, some holding that he died violently in 1881; others, that he died of natural causes some time later.


Aird, Bagley and Nichols, Playing With Shadows, 269, 277, 318, 458; Antrei, The Other 49ers: A Topical History of Sanpete County, 491; Backus, Mountain Weadows Witness: The Life and Times of Bishop Philip Klingensmith; Bigler and Bagley, Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives, 295-98; Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Appendix IV, 238-242 (Klingensmith affidavit); Brooks, ed., Journal of the Southern Indian Mission, 83, 87, 107, 112 fn. 63, 113, 127, 160-61; Campbell, Establishing Zion, 80; Fielding, ed., The Tribune Reports of the Trials of John D. Lee, 60, 80, 109-10, 111-112, 120, 122, 147, 210, 214-15, 241; Fish, Mormon Migrations, 293; Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, 217, 226, 232, 233, 243, 244, 245, 247, 248, 250, 256, 272, 273, 282-283, 293, 380; Lee Trial transcripts; Moorman and Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons, 135, 142;; Reeve, Making Space on the Western Frontier, 120; Shirts and Shirts, A Trial Furnace, 124, 156, 210, 215-17, 223-25, 236, 239-40, 246, 261, 272, 285, 290-93, 326-28, 331, 344, 346-47, 375, 379, 390-91, 394-95, 397, 464, 486-88, 494; Walker, et al, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 131-33, 141, 142 (photograph), 145, 155-56, 162, 167, 173, 187, 190, 201, 205, 208, 212, 216, 217-18, 219, 223, 230, 254, Appendix C, 259, Appendix D, 265.

For full bibliographic information see Bibliography.

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