William C. Stewart

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William Cameron Stewart, his personal and family background, and his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Stewart, Wm-4.jpg

William C. Stewart


Biographical Sketch

William Cameron Stewart (1827-1895) was born in Enganmore, Inverness-shire in the Northwest Scottish Highlands. In the 1840s or early 1850s, he converted to Mormonism. Like many European converts to Mormonism in the mid-19th century, Stewart saved his money to immigrate to America and joined the Mormons in Utah Territory.

Immigration to America and onto Utah

In 1853, he sailed to America and by early June, he was at the Mormon way-station at Keokuk, Iowa, where all began fitting out wagons with supplies and provisions. Stewart joined the Appleton M. Harmon Company, which departed on the overland trek that month. Stewart, 26, was traveling alone and he was appointed as a caption of ten. They crossed the Missouri River in mid-July, However, a week later, he shifted to Col. Ross's company and traveled the balance of the way in that company.

The Mormon Trail

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 they arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake that fall.

To Cedar City and the Iron MIssion

The Early Ironworks in Cedar City

By the mid-1850s, Stewart had settled in Cedar City in southern Utah. In 1855 he married Mary Ann Clark Corlett (1838-1894) from Salford (Manchester), Lancashire, England.

The Deseret Iron Company

In moving to Cedar City, William Stewaft was settling in an area dominated by 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 provide the answer. 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.

Stewart's Role in the Ironworks in 1857

During this period of 1857, Stewart performed a variety of tasks. In early July, while other were tinkering with the steam engine, Stewart spent five days working on the trough of the raceway carrying water from the creek to the boiler of the steam engine. The following week he spent nearly four days along with others fixing the cylinder of the steam engine. In late July, while other were still working on the configuration of the furnace's chimney stack to optimize its performance, Stewart worked for four and a half days as a carpenter. As they moved into August, he spent another two days as a carpenter. While the large crew of more than 40 built the reservoir to store water for the steam engine, Stewart worked again as a carpenter. However, in the intense period though the remainder of August and into September, there is no mention in the Ironworks account book of Stewart performing any other work for the ironworks.

The majority of the southern Utah militiamen at Mountain Meadows were from Cedar City. Of these, nearly all of them had worked at the Ironworks or supplied raw materials to it. Indeed, in the weeks before the Mountain Meadows Massacre, they had worked intensely together, hauling materials, building a new water reservoir, and making the latest run of the blast furnace. One perennial mystery of the massacre has been why the militiamen mustered to Mountain Meadows in “broken” militia units; that is, from different platoons and companies, none of which had a full compliment of its members. Perhaps the reason lies with the Ironworks. Those in the Ironworks knew each other and had worked alongside one another. Not only was Stewart familiar with those who mustered from Cedar City to Mountain Meadows, he had worked with them at the Ironworks. Perhaps the answer is that the men of the Ironworks were on hand and available and Isaac Haight, who himself had worked closely with them, assigned them to muster to Mountain Meadows.

In the Iron Military District: 2nd Lt. William C. Stewart, Company F, John M. Higbee's 3rd Battalion

Map southern utah 1.jpg

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, William "Bill" Stewart, 30, was 2nd Lt. in one of the Cedar City platoons. See A Basic Account for a full description of the massacre.

Sunday, September 6

On Sunday, September 6, at the Cedar City council meeting to consideractions against the emigrants, Stewart and many prominent members of the church and community were present. Isaac Haight presented the plan to attack the emigrants but Laban Morrill opposed it and extracted a promise that Haight that he send an express to Great Salt Lake City to solicit Brigham Young's counsel. Haight reluctantly agreed. But Haight, his son-in-law, Dan MacFarlane, MacFarlane's fellow Scot, Bill Stewart, and others were angry with Morrill. According to Ellott Willden, Stewart and Dan McFarlane set after Morrill to waylay him on his way back to Fort Johnson. But Morrill avoided them by taking an alternate route home.

Monday, September 7

On Monday morning, September 7, John D. Lee led his Paiute contingent in a surprise assault on the emigrant camp. That afternoon back in Cedar City, Isaac Haight ordered militiamen to assemble and quickly make preparations and depart for Mountain Meadows. At sundown, town herdsman and fellow militiaman, Henry Higgins, observed a militia detachment of approximately twenty-five armed men departing Cedar City in wagons or on horseback. Besides Stewart, he mentioned William Bateman, Ezra Curtis, Samuel Pollock, Alexander Loveridge and John M. Higbee. John D. Lee confirmed that William Stewart arrived at Mountain Meadows in one of the companies from Cedar City. Multiple witnesses attested Bill Stewart's prominent role at Mountain Meadows.

Stewart, Wm.jpg

Tuesday, September 8

It was probably on Tuesday, September 8, at Hamblin's Ranch that Bill Stewart asked Ellott Willden for his pistols, saying that he was going after the emigrant riders returning toward Cedar City in search of their stray cattle. Stewart, Joel White and Benjamin Arthur pursued them and when they encountered William Aden and the other riders, Stewart shot and killed Aden while White fired on the others. However, one rider escaped alive and retreated to the protection of the emigrants' fortified camp.

Wednesday, September 9

There seems to have been another encounter between Stewart and several emigrant riders. The second episode probably occurred on Wednesday evening when Stewart and other militia sentries tracked two emigrant riders who were returning toward Cedar City seeking Mormon assistance. According to Ellott Willden, Stewart and his sentries killed both of these men.

Thursday, September 10

On Thursday, September 10, more militia reinforcements arrived at the meadows. That evening, according to John D. Lee, nearly 25 Cedar City citizens attended the war council. However, although it seems likely that Bill Stewart was present at the council, Lee failed to mention Stewart by name. But whether present or not, his earlier actions were at the center of the debate that evening. The fact than an emigrant had survived the fusilade of the Mormon sentries and escaped to rejoin his compatriots figured prominently in the arguments for "silencing" the entire company. "The killing of Aden is what caused, more than anything else, the decision to destroy the whole company" because, Ellott Willden explained, the retreating man "was supposed to have reported in the camp that the whites were in league with the Indians to kill the emigrants." "After that," continued Willden, "it seemed to become necessary to kill all to silence the rest. . . ."

Friday, September 11

In the main massacre on Friday, September 11, many witnesses mention Bill Stewart's prominence. The plan was to have mounted riders sweep the field to cut down those who escaped the initial fusilade. However, according to Ellott Willden, Bill Stewart and Joel White were so enthusiastic in pursuit of fleeing emigrants that Stewart was mistaken for an emigrant himself and nearly shot by his own forces. "[W]ild with enthusiasm," Willden said, Stewart raced after one fleeing man for several hundred yards before killing him. "It was well known," Willden maintained, that Stewart along with John D. Lee and Philip Klingensmith "were the most bloodthirsty."

After the massacre, Lee saw Higbee, Klingensmith and Stewart looting some of the bodies.

After returning to Cedar City, Bill and Mary Ann Stewart took in one of the surviving children, eighteen-month-old Felix Marion Jones.

Family Life

Stewart and his family remained in Cedar City and his wife bore him seven children.

In Jacob Hamblin's Expeditions to the Hopi Mesas

Map of the Hopi Mesas.

In fall 1858, Jacob Hamblin decided to visit the Indians who intrigued him so much, the Hopi. Over the years he would make many trips to the Hopi Mesas and Navajo lands. In fall 1860, Hamblin set out again for the Hopi Mesas. This was Hamblin's third crossing of the Colorado. Among those who journeyed with him was George Smith, Jr., the son of Mormon leader George A. Smith. After crossing the Colorado River at the Ute Ford, or Crossing of the Fathers, they proceeded as far as Quichintoweep near Moenkopi Wash. There hostile Navajos fatally wounded George Smith, Jr. and he died within hours. The party was forced to abandon his body and retreat without reaching the Hopi Mesas.

In February 1861, Hamblin returned to Arizona to recover the remains of George Smith, Jr. Bill Stewart, Sam Knight, Amos Thornton, and others accompanied him on this fourth crossing of the Colorado River. Following their previous route they arrived at the Ute Ford and crossed to the south of the river. Traveling generally southeast, they passed the Inscription House ruins. Fearing to go farther into Navajo lands, they sent their Paiute companions ahead to retrieve what they could of Smith’s remains. Then they returned to Utah via the Ute Ford without going to the Hopi Mesas.

Pearce's Ferry near Grand Wash on the Colorado River. In the 1862 expedition, they crossed the Colorado at Grand Wash.

In November 1862, Bill Stewart, Nephi Johnson, James Pearce, Ira Hatch, and others accompanied Jacob Hamblin on his fifth crossing of the Colorado, the historic journey in which they circled the Grand Canyon. Heading south from St. George, they brought a boat in a wagon but could not find a passable route to reach the Colorado River. Abandoning the boat, they build raft instead and crossed the river at Grand Wash below the Grand Canyon. En route to the Hopi Mesas they visited the Hualapais and then discovered the magical canyon world of the Havasupais in Havasu Canyon. They passed the San Francisco Peaks and crossed the Little Colorado River.

Walpi on First Mesa.

Upon arriving at the Hopi Mesas, they joined in the ceremonials at Old Oraibi. When the explorers departed, Ira Hatch, Thales Haskell, and Jehiel McConnell were selected to stay at the Mesas to become better acquainted with Hopi ways. Meanwhile, Hamblin, running low on food, sent Nephi Johnson and others ahead to find Indians with whom they can trade for provisions. They returned to Utah with four Hopis via the Ute Ford (Crossing of the Fathers), completing a historic circling of the Grand Canyon. This was Bill Stewart's last time to accompany Hamblin on his expeditions across the Colorado River.

Indicted for Complicity in the Massacre

In 1874, a grand jury sitting in the federal district court in Beaver, Utah, returned an criminal indictment for murder against nine current or former Iron County militiamen for their complicity in Mountain Meadows Massacre. William Stewart was included with such principal figures as Col. William H. Dame, Major Isaac C. Haight, Major John M. Higbee, Major John D. Lee, and Cedar City bishop Philip Klingensmith, all of whom played prominent and well-attested roles. In addition, the indictment also included three militia privates, George Washington Adair, Samuel Jewkes, and Ellott Willden.

Stewart, Haight and Higbee Flee to Avoid Arrest

As federal marshals fanned out across Utah Territory and beyond to serve arrest warrants, Bill Stewart, Isaac Haight and John Higbee fled to avoid arrest. They went into hiding and Stewart remained a fugitive. He fled to Arizona.

Final Years

Mormon Colonies in Mexico.

By the early 1890s, Col. William Dame, Major Isaac Haight, Major John D. Lee, and Bishop Philip Klingensmith were dead and Bill Stewart had fled the country to the Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Stewart died there in 1895, around the time the Mountain Meadows prosecutions were finally closed. Higbee had hid out into the 1890s and then he quietly returned to Cedar City where he maintained a low profile. In 1895, the federal indictment against Iron County militiamen for their complicity in the Mountain Meadows Massacre was finally dismissed.


Aird, Bagley and Nichols, Playing With Shadows, 278, 280, 281; Bagley, Blood of the Prophets, 120, 128, 133, 142, 148, 153, 205, 226, 229, 242, 283, 290, 309-11, 323, 325; Bigler and Bagley, Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives, 235, 328, 345, 411, 413, 421; Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, 67, 176, 194; Brooks, ed., Journal of the Southern Indian Mission, 106; Compton, A Frontier Life, 189-91, 208, 211; Fielding, ed., The Tribune Reports of the Trials of John D. Lee, 42-43; Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, 230, 235, 244, 273, 293, 380; Lee Trial transcripts; New.Familysearch.org; Novak, House of Mourning, 171; Solomon, Joseph Knight, 100; Turley and Walker, Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Jenson and Morris Collections, 111, 150, 159-60, 189, 191, 202, 206, 209, 216-17, 220-21; Walker, et al, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 157, 159, 160, 163-64, 167, 200, 207, 219, 229-30, Appendix C, 262; Woolley, Personal History of Isaac Haight, 100 (photo).

For full bibliographic information, see Bibliography.

External Links

For further information on William C. Stewart, see:

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