J.H. Beadle

  He wasn't a Hickman, but as editor of Bill's book, Brigham's Destroying Angel he figures prominently in Hickman history, so we are providing here an opportunity to learn more about him.

John Hanson Beadle, journalist and author, was born in Liberty township, Parke County, Indiana, Mar. 14, 1840, son of James Ward and Elizabeth (Bright) Beadle.  As a youth of twenty-one he enlisted in the 31st Indiana infantry for the Civil War, serving as a private until 1862, when he was discharged for disability.  He then entered the State University of Michigan, where he studied law in addition to his regular subjects, and was graduated in 1867.  He was admitted to the bar, but afer practicing in Evansville, Indiana for one year, abandoned that profession for the career of a journalist.  His first newspaper work was done for the Cincinnnati Commercial following which he spent eight years in the far West, the first year as editor of the Salt Lake Reporter.  His Life in Utah, Western Wilds and the Men Who Redeem Them, and The Undeveloped West are the results of his experiences in the western states.  In the latter years of his life he wrote editorials and historical and political articles for the American Press Association.  Subsequently he made an extended tour of Canada and Nova Scotia and in 1890, through Europe.  Out of this latter experience came A Hoosier Abroad.  He was married Dec. 25, 1872, to Jennie, daughter of James Cole, of Evansville, Indiana, and had five children:  Helen Marjorie; James Ward; Bessie Cole; Mary Eliza; and John Bookwalter Beadle.  He died in Washington, D.C., Jan. 15, 1897.
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 27, pp. 344-345

  Beadle wasn't friendly to the Mormon Church, a passion that becomes very evident in his writings.  In addition to Brigham's Destroying Angel, two of his other books are available for viewing on the internet.  Click on the underlined text below to read them:

Life in Utah; or the Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism, 1870
The Undeveloped West; or Five Years in the Territories,1873


On 31 March 1971 noted Mormon historian Leonard Arrington gave a lecture before the University of Utah's Center for Studies of the American West discussing two noted anti-Mormons of the Nineteenth Century, Kate Field and J.H. Beadle.  The portion of the lecture dealing with Beadle is presented here:

...John Hanson Beadle, though equally as serious as Kate [Field] on the Mormon question, was a clever and popular journalist.<28>  His caustic remarks about the pretensions of Western communities, his savage wit in describing Western personalities, his remorseless judgments of Western boosterism remind one of the late H. L. Mencken.  As with Mencken, Beadle's humor, at least on matters about which he felt keenly, was an instrument of ridicule and derision.  He was a master of caricature--the deliberate exaggeration of defective qualities and characteristics in order to convey an image of absurdity and ludicrousness.  Just as Mencken's "The Hills of Zion" and "The Sahara of the Bozart" were intended to produce profane laughter at the pretensions of the Bible Belt, Beadle's anti-Mormon columns and books were a veritable bastinado of hyper-
bole, designed to quash any incipient admiration for Mormon industry, sobriety, and brotherly love.

To give some examples, Beadle described George A. Smith, jovial and popular (with the Mormons at least) member of the First Presidency and Church Historian, as "a round, fat, and unctuous man with pig-eye and soap fat chin." <29> Daniel H. Wells, who had also been a member of the First Presidency, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, and Superintendent of Public Works, was "the most dangerous man in the Priesthood . . . his face and head bear involuntary witness to the truth of Darwinism."<30>   Beadle's most suggestive asides, as one might suppose, were at the expense of Brigham Young. The symbolic stone lion over the pillared portico of the Lion House was a "sad misapplication," he wrote; a bull would have been a more appropriate emblem.<31>  In harmony with this he suggested that the eagle--"a strict monogamist"--perched on Eagle Gate was also inappropriate; it should be replaced by a polygamous rooster. <32>   Nor were his taunts restricted to persons.  The Salt Lake Tabernacle was an "oblong nondescript"--"like nothing else in the heavens above, or the earth beneath, or probably the waters under the earth." <33>  The University of Utah, which then went under the name University of Deseret, had only one building, and it looked "like a tolerably respectable second rate grocery store." <34>

Beadle was equally merciless on Mormon customs and predispositions.  In Utah, he insisted, there is "more downright lying to the square mile than in any other region on this continent . . . the Jews lie for gain, the Gentiles from association, and the Mormons 'for Christ's sake.' " <35> The Mormon practice of seeking counsel from the Bishop he characterized in this manner: Brigham Young tells the women of the territory, "If you see a dog run by the door with your husband's head in its mouth, say nothing till you have consulted with the bishop." <36>  Polygamy, he concluded, enabled the Mormons to
settle "in one master stroke . . . the woman question, servant-gal-ism, and division of labor." <37> As for the Mormon people, they were a "low-browed, stiff-haired, ignorant, and stolid race." <38>  To be more specific, the residents of Heber City were "a race of simple shepherds, with reason scarce above the sheep they drive." <39>  An old politician such as Stephen A. Douglas sinks and fails, and all at once it is apparent that he does so because "he damned Brighamism."   "What a noise and dust we Kick up" said the fly on the coach wheel!" <40>

Obviously, Beadle's sarcasm went beyond the bounds of amusement; it served to create and maintain a stereotype that destroyed all notions of Mormon individuality.  "The object of ridicule is to kill," wrote Victor Hugo.  "Men's laughter sometimes exerts all its power to murder." (II, 305)   The images of Mormonism projected by Beadle and other writers of the period were designed to titillate, horrify, and provoke the nation's conscience: the "lewd twinkle" in the eye of the Prophet, the "verilies" in the conversations of the fanatical faithful, the secret signs of the Danites, the dejected sighs of the plurals, the gibberish which authors claimed to be "regular fare" in the Tabernacle--these were the images that were tirelessly repeated in the "literature" of the time.

John Hanson Beadle was born in 1840 in a log cabin built by his father in Park County, Indiana, west of Indianapolis.<41>   His father was a farmer and a country merchant who made annual trips with flat boats of grain and other provisions to New Orleans.  A community leader, he was justice of the peace, county commissioner, and sheriff.  In 1859 "just out of college" and being asthmatic, young John Beadle made his first independent venture away from home, working and traveling in Minnesota.  When the Civil War commenced, he enlisted as a private in the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry, but was discharged after a year because of asthma.  He then enrolled at the University of  Michigan, and graduated with an LL.B. in 1867.  Legal practice was short-lived, for when John's asthma reappeared in acute form, his doctor advised him to move west.  Casting about for some way to finance his western travels, Beadle offered to report his journeys to vari-
ous eastern newspapers.  His offer was finally accepted by the Cincinnati Commercial and Beadle's articles appeared in this paper for the next twelve years.

Now twenty-eight years old, Beadle visited cities and rural areas in Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, and reported on conditions in each part of the country he encountered.  He was not a romantic, and his articles pricked the bubble out of many a pretending "metropolis."   Running out of money, he signed on with a freighting outfit headed for Utah.  The train contained some young Mormon men, and Beadle was sufficiently impressed with them to want to know more.  His first impressions of Salt Lake City, as reported in September 1868, were reasonably favorable, if a little self-assured: "I had been treated with considerable courtesy," he wrote, "and began to conclude the Mormons had been maligned, and often held long arguments in favor of those whom I suspected to be a much misrepresented and persecuted people."'<42>  In a second letter, written only five days after his arrival in Salt Lake City, he stated

I am already half convinced that for the majority of these people Mormonism is just as good as any other religion would be. It serves to hold them together, to utilize and direct their energies, and just now I fail to see how such a mass of ignorance could be molded and managed by aught save a giant superstition.... They might, indeed, be induced to give up Mormonism, but they are not capable of coming up to Methodism or Presbyterianism. Perhaps God's grace might raise them to it, but I think it would take a double dose.<43>

This pleasantly detached and rather engaging flippancy ended when Beadle attended some sessions of the general conference held in the Tabernacle in October 1868.<44>  This was the conference at which the single most important policy crisis of the nineteenth century Mormon experience in Utah came to a head.  The transcontinental railroad was about to be completed; economically, at least, Utah was about to join the Union.  To those who loved the Kingdom, the specter of a deluge of invading Gentiles was alarming.  After intra-administration debate, and no doubt prayerful consideration, Mormon Church officials announced a policy of protection, as they called it, to preserve the exclusivistic commonwealth established in 1847.  The protective policy included a program to boycott non-Mormon merchants, the inauguration of economic cooperation, and a tightly-reigned unity
on political matters.  When a small group of business and intellectual Mormons ("the Godbeites") demurred, they were excommunicated.<45>   All of this stirred the blood of young Beadle.  A believer in Jacksonian individualism, a proud Black Republican, and a firm advocate of liberty of conscience and action, Beadle thought he detected in the Mormon conference the old patterns of European autocracy which the new American Republic had sworn to throw off.<46>   Group economics, group politics, group marriage--Beadle saw these as part of a pattern of theocratic despotism.  "When the 'Church of Jesus Christ' forbids its members to buy, or sell only within certain limits, regardless of their private interests," he wrote in his next article, "do you not suspect that Church is going a little beyond what Christ commanded, that it is taking charge of the individual conscience in a matter which ought to be left free?" <47>

Beadle was so angered by the (to him incredible) things he saw and heard in the conference that he walked into the office of Utah's "Gentile" newspaper, the Salt Lake Daily Reporter, formerly the Union Vedette of General Patrick Connor's soldiers at Camp Douglas, and wrote a short and vicious letter against the boycott and "the Mormon hierarchy: "

Mormonism boasted that it had produced a city of quiet and order; and so it had--the quiet of mental stagnation; the order of a perfect religious conformity, of a system which brooked no schism and of which the advocates knew they were right, and wanted no one about who did not think as they.<48>

The Reporter's editor-publisher, S. S. Saul, was impressed; this man was no crank but a trained lawyer and persuasive writer.  Saul asked Beadle to stay and edit the paper while he (Saul) went east.<49>  Later Beadle and two friends entered into a contract to buy the paper from General Connor, still the real owner of the paper, agreeing to pay $2,500 at the rate of $300 per month. Prior circulation and the
removal of the paper to Corinne in April, 1869, made payment impossible, and after a few months the newly-designated Corinne Daily Reporter folded.<50>  Not before it had inflamed some of the local citizenry, however.  On one occasion Beadle was "beat up" by the son of a Brigham City man that Beadle had slandered.<51> On another occasion Beadle accidently shot himself while target practicing.  The newspaper story said that Beadle had "sat down and dug the ball out with his pen knife."  An anonymous respondent wrote in to predict: "He'll get a Mormon ball one of these days which will make digging in the ground necessary." <52>

In addition to his newspaper editorials and commentaries, and his periodic letters to the Cincinnati Commercial, Beadle energetically turned out several massive books about the West.  He had been in Utah scarcely more than a year when he published Life in Utah; or, The Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism.  Six editions of this 669-page book appeared between 1870 and 1904, and there was also a German edition. In 1872, Beadle published Brigham's Destroying Angel; Being the Life, Confession, and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill Hickman, The Danite Chief of Utah.  In his preface to this book Beadle declares: "Mormonism only becomes peaceful with the world in the degree that it ceases to be Mormonism." <53>

Shortly after the Hickman book appeared, Beadle returned to Evansville, Indiana, where he married, on Christmas Day, 1872, Jennie Cole.  The couple subsequently had five children.  Still in Indiana, Beadle published, in 1873, an 823-page volume entitled The Undeveloped West; or, Five Years in the Territories.  In this book he refers to himself as the Gentile Prophet--a not inappropriate name for him.  A revised edition came out in 1877 under the title, Western Wilds and the Men Who Redeem Them.  Three subsequent editions rapidly ap-
peared. Incidentally, these books are filled with fascinating sketches, and Beadle himself drew most of these.

Always the moralist, Beadle, during this stay in Indiana, became interested in the Women's Temperance Movement, and wrote a series of letters on the subject to the Cincinnati Commercial.  These reveal, again, his distrust of authority. He lamented that the temperance movement had been taken from the hand of the religionists, who urged sobriety through admonition, and that it had become the subject of legislation. It was foolish to pass a law which said, "You shall not drink except as we prescribe by law." <54>  Since Cincinnati was the center of liquor distribution in Ohio, Beadle's point of view was no doubt appreciated by the publisher of the Commercial. Beadle traveled in Ohio and Indiana, describing temperance workers meetings, the attitudes of druggists and saloon keepers, and even accompanied the noted leader of the temperance movement in Ohio, Dio Lewis, on one of his speaking tours.<55>  Out of this experience came another book entitled The Women's War on Whiskey: Its History, Theory, and Prospects (Cincinnati, 1874).

As if for a breather after this experience, Beadle returned to Utah in the fall of 1874, where he served as clerk of the First District Court (under judges James McKean, Philip Emerson, and Jacob Boreman).  He also wrote for the Salt Lake Daily Tribune, resumed his letters from the West to the Cincinnati Commercial, and published articles on Utah and the Mormons in Harper's, Popular Science Monthly, and Scribner's <56>

In the late 1870's Beadle made his final break with Utah and returned to Indiana where he bought the Rockville Tribune and wrote editorials and historical and political articles for the American Press Association. He made an extended tour of Canada and Nova Scotia in the 1880's, which was widely reported, and toured Europe in 1890.  Out of the latter experience came A Hoosier Abroad, a copy of which we have not been able to find. Beadle died in Washington, D.C. in 1897, at the age of fifty-seven.

The books and articles of J. H. Beadle are a specimen of the nineteenth century Protestant conscience at work. Particularly suggestive
is Beadle's disgust with the lower-class life which frontier conditions induced.  Almost gleefully, Beadle mailed in reports of abject poverty, inferring that this condition was somehow a product of lack of character.  Santa Fe, to take a non-Utah example, consisted of "mud-walled squares filled with pigs, chickens, jackasses, children, ugly old women, and greasers."  The height of a "greaser's ambition," he wrote, was "a palacio of dried mud, a meal of corn and pimento, and a slip of corn-shuck filled with tobacco and rolled into a cigarette." <57>  As for the Chinese, a "Higher Power" was behind their immigration, for they could "learn our civilization and religion, and carry Christianity and its attendant blessings to their own country." <58> Beadle's publications, as with those of other writers about the Mormons and the West, are filled with men and women who are drawn and tired and stolid, who wore plain clothes, who were not practiced in the social virtues, and who had not the capacity to participate in intelligent conversation. Clearly, the middle-class life of post-frontier Indiana and Ohio was superior!
*  *  *  *
A distinguished lecturer at the University of Utah, William Mulder, some years ago commented that "Mormon news was ... on occasion the country's chief diversion."<59>   The studies of Richard Cowan and Dennis Lythgoe confirm this opinion.<60>  Perhaps one reason for the inordinate interest of Americans in the Mormons was the nation's need for such a diversion. The long and seemingly irreconcilable conflict between the North and the South; the Civil War brutalities and atrocities; the post-Civil War sadness and remorse; economic depression and the concern of farmers, laborers, and small businessmen over the swelling power of the trusts--these issues were so intense and divisive that novels and personal experience accounts about a peculiar people in the heart of the Rockies must have been welcome. Stories of supposed impostures, visions, paranoids, prophets, seraglios, abductions, destroying angels, the giant lake of salt in the remote desert wasteland--what a horrifyingly pleasant fare for the reader in search of escape!  This was a mental safety-valve as welcome as the Turnerian economic safety-valve.
Unfortunately, there was a tendency to congeal and preserve this distorted image of Mormonism. The comforting (to middle-class Americans) stereotypes developed by writers in the 1850's and 1860's tended to remain throughout the rest of the century--and to some extent continued to appear in twentieth century literature and folklore.  The stereotyping of the Mormons was duplicated with Catholics, Irishmen, Jews, Italians, Mexicans, Indians, blacks, and other minorities.

Surely, there is a lesson here.  The mind that sees people only in terms of a group image--that refuses to notice individual differences within the group--that takes no account of the nuances of characters within any society--this is the mind of prejudice and intolerance.  The acceptance of individual differences is an indispensable requirement for sensible human relations.

There is also another lesson.  In making changes in the children they bought, Victor Hugo wrote, "The comprachicos not only deprived a child of his natural lineaments, not only took away his face from the child, but they also took away his memory." (I, 31) This works both ways.  By twisting Mormon history in the interests of denigration and destruction, nineteenth-century writers made it difficult for us to know just what our heritage is.  But the reverse is also true: It is equally difficult to recognize our heritage in the manufactured image presented by some well-intentioned members of our own faith.  To manipulate the image of the past, whether by distorting it out of prejudice or mistaken reform, or by prettying it up for the supposed edification of future generations, is not significantly different from the labor of the odious comprachicos who, in L'homme qui rit, produced terrifying monstrosities.  In striving not to be manipulators, let all of us who love history strive to pass on images of authenticity and reliability.

--Leonard J. Arrington, Kate Field and J. H. Beadle: Manipulators of the Mormon Past (pamphlet), 1971, pp.12-20.

To see a register to the Leonard Arrington papers at Utah State University, click here.
To see the book Brigham's Destroying Angel, click here.
To return to the Hickman Family index page, click here.


28. Unless otherwise indicated, the biographical information on Beadle is taken from his many books, which contain autobiographical material.

29. John H. Beadle, The Undeveloped West; or Five Years in the Territories (Cincinnati, 1873), p. 111.

30. Ibid.

31. John H. Beadle, Life in Utah; or, The Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism... (Cincinnati, 1870), p. 244.

32. Salt Lake Daily Reporter, March 27, 1869.

33. Life in Utah, p. 241.

34. The Undeveloped West, p. 686.

35. John H. Beadle, Western Wilds, and the Men Who Redeem Them . .. (Detroit, 1877), p. 102.

36. Ibid., p. 506.

37. Life in Utah, p. 235.

38. Ibid., p. 249.

39. The Undeveloped West, p. 685.

40. Salt Lake Daily Reporter, October 30, 1868.

41. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York, 1921), XVIII, 344-345; XVII, 314-315; South Dakota Department of History Collections (Aberdeen, 1906), 111, p. 87.

42. Life in Utah, p. 259.

43. Cincinnati Commercial, October 1, 1868, p. 11.

44. Beadle, Western Wilds, p. 113-114.

45. A review of these events is given in my Great Basin Kingdom (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), Chap. VIII.

46. Western Wilds, p. 399-400.

47. Salt Lake Daily Reporter, November 1, 1869. Of the boycott, Beadle later wrote: "It was amusing and provoking to take a walk along Main Street that winter, and see the melancholy Jews standing in the doors of their stores looking in vain for customers ... their disgust was beyond expression, and their causes against Brigham not loud but deep." The Undeveloped West, p. 116-117.

48. The Undeveloped West, p. 115, 249-250.

49. Saul introduced Beadle to his readers by saying, "The services of a gentleman recently from the east, who drives a glib and pungent quill, have been secure upon the Reporter." Salt Lake Daily Reporter, October 20, 1868.

50. The Undeveloped West, p. 115-116.

51. In a subsequent hearing, the youth was fined, while, to use the words of T. B. H. Stenhouse, editor of the Salt Lake Telegraph, "the slanderer goes free, having escaped with the whipping only." Salt Lake Telegraph, November 6, 1869.

52. Undated clipping in the J. H. Beadle Scrapbook, Library of Congress--microfilm copy, Utah State Historical Society Library, Salt Lake City.

53. Salt Lake City, 1872. The book was reprinted in 1904. On re-reading Brigham's Destroying Angel after completing the reading of Beadle's other books, one feels certain that Beadle did some retouching of the Hickman manuscript, if he did no more than that. There are phrases in the Hickman confessions that are typically Beadle. This may or may not mean an inaccurate confession, but it does mean some friendly editorial assistance, if not ghost-writing, and probably a market orientation.

54. Cincinnati Commercial, January 15, 1874.

55. Ibid., February 11, 1874.

56. John H. Beadle, "The Silver Mountains of Utah," Harper's, LIII (October, 1876), 641-651; "Social Experiments in Utah," Popular Science Monthly, IX (August, 1876), 479-490; "Mormon Theocracy," Scribner's Monthly, XIV (1876), 391-401.

57. The Undeveloped West, p. 448-490.

58. Ibid., p. 325.

59. William Mulder, The Mormons in American History (Salt Lake City, 1957), p. 13.

60. Richard O. Cowan, "Mormonism in National Periodicals" (Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford, 1961) ; Dennis L. Lythgoe, "The Changing Image of Mormonism in Pediodical Literature" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Utah, 1969).