The guard house at Fort Douglas where Bill Hickman
was held in protective custody in 1871-72.
Hope Hilton, Wild Bill Hickman and the Mormon Frontier, Signature Books, 1988

This page is still under construction.  Please do not copy it until you no longer see this message.
7 October 2001

Bill Hickman Writes To His Daughter

  These are copies of letters from William Adams Hickman to his daughter, Sarah Catherine Butcher.  Careful study will reveal more written between the lines of these documents than in them.  The location of the originals is unknown, but certified copies were made by hand and notorized by John T. Caine a very short time after they were received.  Page numbering seems to have been done later.  The copies were apparently received by Leona P. Holt from the LDS Church Historian's Office, and a later generation copy was provided to me by Marlene Butcher Gates.  The line breaks, spelling and punctuation have been kept as true to the certified copy as possible, so that if you have a copy you should be able to follow along.

  As you read, you should be aware that Bill uses language that may be today considered offensive, but he was a product of the American frontier, where that was the way people communicated.  Were he writing today, he would most certainly express himself by selecting different words.

  In the first letter Bill complains about his treatment by the LDS Church, especially at the hands of his Bishop, Archibald Gardner:

   Camp Douglass Jan. the 7./[18]72

Katharine Butcher

My Dear Daughter,
You were here some 3
days ago and asked me many questions and
desired me for your dear sake as pa's ever affe=
ctionate and faithful daughter to show mercy
which disposition in you I highly appreciate,
but my daughter let us look at the past, and
well consider the present and then Judge what
would naturally be the results of the future -
First my daughter you know from the days
of Missouri when you was a small child
you never heard your pa say anything else
but Mormonism was true up to the time when
you saw me 3 days ago.  You then you heard the
same from me that you had heard from the
time you was old enough to understand anything,
which principles I have ever tryed to maintain
and sustain, And after the assassination of that
great and good man Joseph Smith the Prophet
of God, I took a solemn Oath to Stand up against
all opposition that might come against the Latter
day Saints and specially for those who might stand
at the head of Gods Kingdom - After B Young
took the leadership of the Church -
I took the position of sustaining the
Church and especially its officials and above
all B Young - I have in time gone by, told
him so and said to him, I would stand
by him and stay with him unto Death,
unless he backed me off.  This you know
I have done.  I always obeyed his council
and never disobeyed it.  I studied his
interest and was always on the lookout
for his welfare and safety, ten times as
much as my own - I went and came at
his bidding.  I spent my own time and
used my own means.  I made my own
living and plenty to support my family
in better state than any of my neighbors
I gave more to the poor and done more for
the needy than all my neighbors put to=
gether.  I swindled no Saint but went outside
and gathered in property in abundance.  And
never can it be said at any time but what
I always done honour to our people in
all my business transactions, while
hundreds have got wealth in abundance
by swindling the poor &c.  Now as you Know
some considerable of this, I need not rehearse it,
but probably you do not know that for all my
work and prorations for B Young, that I never
got a dollar, no not one, neither did he
ever make me a present of the worth of
a pocket knife, but this was nothing - I had
plenty, was able to make plenty so long
as I was let alone, but it many times look
strange to me to see those who never raised a
finger, receiving favours from him, such
as I never would have thought of getting;
while to your certain Knowledge I never
had anything too good for him neither did
I ever have anything that I could not spare for
him.  You will recollect when we came to Council
Bluffs in the fall of /47 - that I had but two
horses, I gave him both of them, we had
to live hard, and I worked almost day and
night until we started to the valley in the
Spring of /49 - since which time I gave
him two number one horses - I herded his
cattle in the Summer of /50 which would have
come to fifty or a hundred dollars.  I lost
none and charged him nothing, when I
returned from California out of the few hundred
dollars I made I gave him fifty, but what
of all this - I supposed I was doing gods service
and I took pleasure in it - I took pleasure
in walking the Streets many a Night all alone
to see if anything was going on wrong that
would have tendency to hurt him - and
when in times past there was anything said
about what I had done or was doing never
was the time I said a word or I was or had
been doing so and so by order of B Young.
I packed everything that was put upon
me and Kept clear his skirts, and in fact
I would at any time have laid down my life
for him - but what has been the result he
has ceased to hear the truth and long since
been governed by shallow brained blowhards,
and a vile set of lying City officials and some
Bishops such as Gardener who has stated
to as good people as there is in West Jordon
that it was nor harm to eat my cattle - he
who raked Jordan river on Nigger Toms
says so for stolen cattle hides, who was not
in the least disposed to believe over 40 of us
and repremanded Geo Shields when on the way
down mob like thirty of them when he said I was
not guilty of any such thing, who has so often
said he would use me up amidst my every
effort to please him by responding for years
to his every call - and after paying him over
a thousand dollars in tithing and donations
I asked the privelidge of my family to have
the benefit of the endowment house which was
refused on the grounds that if he gave me
a recommend it would be against his
influence - I talked with B Young about
it, he told to go to Bro Kimball.  Bro Kimball
told me I must have a recommend from
my bishop.  And the consequence was I
never got one of my family in the endowment
house after his reign commenced many
of those who my money had helped to bring
on had recommends right under our noses -
he was full of deception and lying and to
my certain knowledge has got up on Sunday
him and his after eating my cattle and cried
thief - thief with all the intonations that could
be that I was stealing everything - this went
on as you well know untill out of a hundred
and fifty head of cattle I had none, while all
my neighbours lost none or but few, what do
I think of such a man - he is a villain
from the ground up, but yet he is sustained
and his damnable deeds tolerated, to use the
language of B Young when I wanted an
investigation of my case after I had come
home 4 years ago last spring, O Bro Gardner
was [?] whirling on his heel when I asked him
to hear me as much as to say Kiss his Ass -
You want me to be merciful, thats all
good my daughter but let us look after this
man a little further while we were talking
about him, was not my house watched
4 years ago last Spring by his dirty thieves
and his armed villains stepping into my
house with Kocked guns and pistols in
hand - Yes I seen them and through the
mercy of God I escaped, and to continue,
what was the condition of things in the
fall following why that low bred dog
Sam Bateman with ten men watched
me day and night for weeks, and twice
while laying in the brush seen them with
pistols in hand step into my tent after
midnight.  Finally they set the time to make
a finish of me, but thanks be to my God
I understood it all and left - and
poor Sam made greate lamentation that he
had lost 3 weeks watching me and now
I had got away after all - may be he well
deny this - O pa you must be mer=
=ciful.  Yes daughter that's right, but to go
on, who sent Brig Hampton after me who
followed me with two others to deep creek
with the story in their mouths that I had
Killed a Gentile close to the City and robed
him of ten thousand dollars   Yes who sent
him out of the City - well you guess -
I know - may be he would deny it my proofs
are in Bingham Cannon and more than
one.  O yes pa be merciful   May I ask
you who has managed everything in this
country, well you know.  I will tell you
I have told them most of these things
and for an Answer I think I just about
got a grunt or nothing more in substance,
but to continue on with this trip
while I am at it - You know I was
sick while gone, yes I lay 4 months
a mere sceliton among strangers - well
I wrote home to B Young stating facts
as I have to you and the answer was
the wicked fleeth when no man pursueth.
O the falsehood and hipocracy my god, my
God, where has right and truth fled to,
probably to those police together with the
Probate Court.  Old Smith at their head,
who when I had detected and found three thieves
in posession of some 5 or 6 thousand dollars
worth of Stolen goods - they would take the
reward my earnings and set the burglars
to swear against me in order to cover their
rascallity and kept them at it 3 months, although
they did not make their point, the theives done
so well they got off with a promise of a pay
something sometime yes you know this.
What did they try to do with me - imprison
and I gave a hundred and eighteen thousand
dollars bail.  Who winked at this and would
not hear a word.  Well now my daughter
I am arrested on several charges and
many think it a great crime in me that
I am not willing to pack all the charges
that are on me, submit and say nothing
Well had I have had the treatment that a
common dog should have had I would have
done it unto death - now suppose I had my
family together which was the best governed
family in Utah  Could I not in all good
faith have left them went to Mexico and
let everything be laid on me - I would
have taken pleasure even in death for
my friends, but they say I am a traitor -
who is the traitor - when last fall I was
accused of killing a desperado Spaniard who
had taken my wife while I was run off by
those Murderers four years ago and he the
villain making his brags how he intended
to seduce my daughter your sister -  The
Deseret News the main Mormon organ under
the control and dictation of the leading man -
says that well known desperado has killed
a Spaniard a good man and wounded a
frenchman - he who has so often through his
cunning escaped the ends of justice - they
hoped he would be caught and the ends
of the law fully awarded to him - and again
what did they say when I was arrested
and brought here, they hooted again and
pated the Marshall for the good thing he had
done - do you suppose for one moment
that I am able to fight the gentiles with the
Mormon aid that was on hand and offering
to help them wishing writs to arrest me
&c, thats a biger fight than I can make
- I am thrown off have been refused an
investigation. |Here a break occurs in the original
     Mss.                 John T. Caine |
- have had it but I could have made twenty
thousand dollars out of it in one year,
but no I could not get it - It was left
for others and the desert has no turnpikes
yet - If I asked a favour that there was
money in that no one had any claim in
I could not get it - well you know how I
have been treated, as regards the breaking
up of my family, that good and quiet
family have through council been scattered
some one way and some another - and
when I did not stay at home to be killed
I was cut off of the Church because I fled
to save my life and Geo A Smith sit by
who I have done so many favours and never
said a word - well this was one of the made
up cases and throughly ordered all the
way down - well upon the whole what
have I got to live for - first my religion
and second my posterity and friends -
I also live to help God's people and good
men - but God's would be the rascals,
traitors, robbers, assasins and seekers
of my destruction.  I am under no obligation
to let those whose lies have been believed
and truth crowded out take care of those
who have believed them and I for one want
to see if God Almighty will assist and
sustain a set of scoundrils and have
the innocent destroyed, - my prayer is,
thy will be done O father of heaven and
earth and not mine - I have done nothing
through fear or with the expectation of
reward.  The many and damnable abuses
I have received has caused the charms
of life not to be longer desirable, but
I have faith to beleive I will yet according
to the prophecies placed upon me see Zion
established and flourish and my posterity
gathered to rejoice - the lord will bring
it about in his own way - while all
corruption will go to its own place -
  The past I have scarcely lived through
as for the present I know there is no honour
while you would ask mercy for certain
ones they to my certain knowledge are
seeking any way to destroy me even up
to this day - the full ends of the future
I know not, but one thing I do know
God Almighty rules and reigns, and it
him I thank for all my existance.  In
spite of all that men can do - I have since
I came here had to make statements -
- I have written a rough book but no more
rough than true.  I knew what I had to
contend against but yet although no favour
would be shown me or if any a more blind
to answer their own ends - I will be mer=
-ciful - I have and always had influence
I have it still in some respects - I will
use it according to your request - but
I must do it in my own way and if things
move quietly through in a right manner
I can, I will, yes daughter I will -
but if I am compelled I have only begun
to withstand a few things that have come up

from your affectionate father

(signed)Wm. A. Hickman

Territory of Utah         }
  County of Salt Lake    } ss

I hereby certify that the
foregoing is a true copy of a letter
addressed Mrs. Katherine Butcher
6th Ward, Salt Lake City, U.T. and
signed Wm A Hickman.
In witness whereof I have here
unto subscribed my name and
( )   affixed my Notorial Seal
at Salt Lake City, this 20th
day of January A.D. 1872.
John T. Caine
   Notary Public

  This next letter is unsigned and undated, but it appears to have been written just a few days later.  He speaks of his devotion to the LDS Church:

My Daughter
I write you again in answer to
your questions on the long letter I wrote
you a few days ago   You want to know
what and how I can or will favour some
coming events - first I am not revengeful
only want what is right - I am and
always was willing to do anything for
good - but few I have any confidence
in - I have done good for many amidst
the many bad feelings that are against
me - and some I hardly think will appreciate
it -    I can and will do as I please and
all Hell can't keep me from it -   I reverence
my god and yield to him, and none other
Praise to his holy name for his goodness -
Mark what I say  if I see men doing
what is right, yes even what you would
say would be right - I would make a come[?]
to time[?] or be off for the hills in a double
quick -  I have suffered enough had
enough trechery - but could I see things
righted in part I would even be willing
to take chances on being betrayed by
some villains again that might follow
but rest assured I beg no more from
no party  I want my rights:  I know
nothing but to love my old friends   let
me see the money paid without lying
that is due me, and its but small
and true men on hand and you dads
the worst wof [wolf?] in the woods talk or no
talk - books written or no books -
I can work it all - when did you ever
know me couch[?] or be any mans dog -
I always made my point -  I am now sorry
and aint got a heart worth a cent -
for I can't say no -  Show me my rights
and I will show you business - be
quick or I can't

Territory of Utah       }
County of Salt Lake  }ss
I hereby certify that the foregoing
is a true copy of a paper written with
black lead pencil, without date or signa-
ture, which accompanied the letter a copy
of which is hereunto attached, the originals
to both apparently being in the same
hand writing.
In witness whereof I have here-
unto subscribed my name and
( )affixed my Notorial seal at
Salt Lake City this 20th day
of January, A.D. 1872.
John T. Caine
Notary Public

  In this third letter Bill complains at the dishonest treatment he had received at the hands of Federal Marshal Robert Bates and the enormous financial losses he had suffered:
Camp Douglas 9 Feb /72
My Dear Daughter Katharine,
Inasmuch as you
seem not satisfied with the many letters
I have written to you, nor the word I send
you by your husband and still ask for
pa to write to you - I will send you a few
lines by your husband -  I am in poor
health and have been for several days -
I am as well treated here as a man could
be under the circumstances but I am
very tired almost worn out and when
I think of my scattered family and their
situation as I keep every once in a while
hearing of -  it renders me quite unhappy
but hard fate and injustice has almost
become a second nature to me -  only two
days ago old Bates so I am told has tooted
his lying horn somewhere in town
against me saying I intended to hang
Brigham - he is a liar - I never
intended to hang, or have anyone hung,
but inasmuch as I was compelled from
injustices I was determined not to pack
everything - I have my own roe to hoe
      no one but the almighty to help me
and ^ I might well suppose from the past
that Bates stories were fully beleived
but to you I will say he is a liar - this is
what I got for my kindness - after I in
my poverty giving drink after drink of
whiskey at my expense and being sociable
with him he must go off and lie about me
- not give me a dollar or even a treat - well
that's Bates.  - he got his skin full of whiskey
without costing him one cent and then he was
ready to tell just what suited him or thought
would suit those he was talking to -  Is it rea=
=sonable to suppose that such a man as Bates
could pick me knowing him as I do -  Well
I guess you don't -   You say I have
friends that would help me -  I have said
enough to you in letters, and also talked
to your husband about debts he knows is
justly due me -  do I see a dollar paid -
one loaned him no - its all talk and no
cider -  I have said I could and would
do favours -  I have done big favours for
some which I am not thanked for -  It might
when too late be that they would talk and act
towards me right. -  I do not want to
hurt anyone but I will have to stand on my
own footing as I have had to do untill the
present unpleasant situation - and should
my children cry for bread they would be
swindled out of it - or, my daughter be
imposed upon by those hellish fiends,
judging from the past would seek occasion
for my destruction - excuse me my daughter
for I can't get on this subject without feeling
almost ungovernable -  I think there is no
use for me to talk or try to favour parties -
I understand they ask no odds of me
and can prove me anything -  If that's the case
let it rip -  I will see it through -  but
should right take place and could I see men
acting like Saints that man dont live that
has more forgiveness in him than I have
or would do more but on this point I would
like to be satisfied (and then business)
You have asked me to write to some of
your friends on certain subjects -  I will
not do it, this is enough, - and if this does
not do you need not ask no more of me -
-  I trust in my God.
May the Lord bless
you and all pertaining to you

  (signed)     Wm A Hickman

Butcher knows my business in town and
there is no excuse for others

To learn more about William Adams Hickman, click here.
To read other letters he wrote at various times, click here.
To learn more about Bishop Archbald Gardner, click here or here.
To learn more about Sarah Catherine Butcher, click here.
To return to the Hickman Family index page, click here.