NOTES ON THE LIFE OF "BILL" HICKMAN
FROM JOURNAL HISTORY OF THE LDS CHURCH
William Hickman was born April 16, 1815 in Warren County, Kentucky, and died August 21, 1883, at Lander, Sweetwater, Wyoming. He was a son of Edwin and Elizabeth Adams Hickman. His mother was a cousin to John Quincy Adams. The following notes record one phase of the life of Bill Hickman, while his son's story tells of his character as a father, neighbor and defender of his church and friends.
May 6, 1839. Wm. A. Hickman was received into the Seventies Quorum in the general conference of the Church, held in Quincy, Ill.
June 6, 1841. Hickman was one of those who went to rescue Joseph Smith after his arrest in Nauvoo. They crossed the river in a light skiff during a rough storm.
March 11, 1853. "During the past night, the notorious Ike Hatch was shot through the bowels while riding in the Big Field, by Wm. A. Hickman."
October 20, 1856. (Taken from The Mormon, published in Salt Lake City: The editor said in reply to "Correspondent" from Norwalk, Conn., "The 'notorious Bill Hickman,' as the correspondent calls him, is a United States Deputy Marshal for Utah, a man that none can fool with, and this the rowdies that come to Salt Lake will soon find out. I know he is a terror to them, for he will not be imposed upon by them, neither suffer his friends to be imposed upon. In regards to his being 'sent to the Indians with goods,' what of it, Gov. Young is Supt. Of Indian Affairs, and I expect had a perfect right to send whom he pleased. Hickman being well acquainted with the Indians and their Chief, and understanding their language, was certainly a fit person to send."
April 22, 1859. It was rumored that five marshals started from Camp Floyd yesterday sworn to arrest Bill Hickman or kill him on the spot. A young man (a friend of Hickman's) rode across the mountains from the camp to Hickman's ranch and told him; he rode so fast that his horse died an hour afterward. The young man then crossed the river to Mayo's brewery and met the marshals, who were very solicitous to know his business; he told them he was going to the city to buy liquor.
December 25, 1859. About 1 P.M. a disgraceful affair occurred in Main Street near Townsend's Hotel. It appears that on Saturday a difficulty occurred between Wm. A. Hickman and Lot Huntington about the division of some stolen property. They agreed to settle the matter at 10 this morning. Hickman and his party were seen to be counciling together in Gilbert and Gerishes' backyard about 1 P.M. Hickman and Huntington met in the street; a few words passed between them, and Huntington gave Hickman "the damned lie." Hickman drew his knife and made a pass at Huntington. Huntington prevented him from cutting him. Huntington then drew his pistols and fired at Hickman; the ball struck his watch and glanced and entered his thigh and split off a piece of the bone, inflicting a very dangerous wound. When the shooting commenced Hickman's party joined and about 40 shots were fired at Huntington; one took effect in his thigh, another through the sleeve of his coat. After emptying his pistols, he ran into the house of Geo. D. Grant. Hickman's party followed to the door. They were persuaded by G.D. Grant to retire and let Huntington alone as he was shot twice. Hickman and party retired to Hickman's son-in-law's house and a physician was sent for.
picture supplied by
Warren Wade Hickman (31 Aug 1862 to 8 Feb 1920), his wife,
Barbara Woodland, and their infant daughter, Minerva Ray
photographed in 1886 or 1887. Minerva Ray died shortly
after the picture was taken.
A SON'S TRIBUTE
Wm. A. Hickman was elected by the people to be a member of the first legislature of Utah, which met at Fillmore. I have been told by Church members that he was called by Brigham Young to go to Fort Bridger, Green River, and he performed a great mission while there. He had his ferry so the Saints could cross and come on to Utah. I have always been led to believe that my father, William A. Hickman, was to Utah what Daniel Boone was to Kentucky; a great Indian fighter in early days and a dealer in fine horses. My mother has often told me how in early days he protected and guarded Brigham Young. His first wife told me and others that she was present when Brigham Young laid his hands on his head and blessed him, that he might be able to protect the Saints from wild savage Indians and outlaws.
My mother, Minerva Wade Hickman, was sixteen years of age when her father, Moses Wade, and her brother, Edward D. Wade, were called to go with the Mormon Battalion leaving her with an invalid mother, who died while at Winter Quarters, leaving her a lone girl in the world. There being so much sickness in the camp, it was very difficult to secure assistance. Bishop Vinson Knight came and said "Minerva, I have found a man who will help you. He is William A. Hickman." Father went and made the coffin and hauled her mother to the grave. My mother, having promised her mother on her death-bed that she would stay with the Saints, came to the Valley. She married the man, William A. Hickman, who had befriended her in her sorrow. They arrived in Utah in the fall of 1849.
The late Bishop Alvin Nichols of Brigham City told me, "The first time I ever saw your father was in Missouri. I went to see him on business with regards to the Saints. He asked me to stay to dinner and he went to the field, got some corn, shucked it and ground it in a coffee mill and made the finest bread I ever ate." President Haskins of Malad Stake said to me, "I lived by William A. Hickman. He was a good neighbor, generous and kind to the poor." Abe Romrill, now of Marsh Valley, worked for my father three or four years. He said that he never worked for a more honest man than William A. Hickman.
Not long since, I met George Goodhart from Soda Springs, Idaho. He said, "The first time I ever met your father, he and Port Rockwell and Lot Smith were camped on Green River and at that time I was a boy working for the American Fur Company. I was sent with a message to some of the trappers some distance away. Not finding them at night, I came across some gentle horses. I got down and examined the hobbles and could tell they belonged to white men. I got on my horse again and could see a fire a short distance away. I rode on the bluff above and could see three men by the fire. I called, 'Hello, white men's friend,' and they answered and told me to come around and camp with them. One piloted me into camp. He took my horse and put it with theirs. They had a kettle of venison on the fire', the finest I ever ate. After supper I told them how glad I was not to have come across any of them damn Mormons. They asked me why. I told them that the Mormons killed people on sight, murdered the emigrants and that I was more afraid of them than of the savage Indians. Port and Lot slept together. I slept with Hickman. Next morning one of them gathered the horses, and at breakfast I told them everything bad I had ever heard about the Mormons and how I hoped I would not come across any of them. I told them some Mormons had been seen in that vicinity. After breakfast I saddled my horse. One of the men tied a good lunch on my saddle. After I was on my horse, Hickman said to me, 'How have we treated you?' I told him, 'Fine.' I could not have been treated better, and I also told him how pleased I was to have found them. Then he said, 'Tell your company we treated you to the best we had and we are Mormons. Tell your company that we are Port Rockwell, Lot Smith and Bill Hickman.' I was never so scared in all my life. My heart seemed to jump to my mouth. I leaned over and ran my horse as fast as he could go. I expected to be shot every second, but no shot came. Some years later I was at Lehi, Utah, at the time the Indians were making trouble. My horse was shot from under me and Port Rockwell generously gave me an iron gray horse. It was the best I ever owned."
General Connor and Seth M. Blair, the first prosecuting attorney of Utah, spoke well of my father. I could name more who have spoken well of him to me, all of which led me to believe that he did a great deal of good for Utah and her people.
He had ten wives, whose names are as follows: Bernetta Berckhart, Sarah Luce, Minerva Wade, Sarah Meacham, Eliza Johnson, Martha Howland, Hannah Hor, Mary Hor, Margaret Hetherington and Jan Hetherington. He was the father of thirty-five children.
J.H. Beadle, who wrote my father's history, had only one object in view, and that was to slander the Mormons. He admits that he changed the original manuscript in some respects, and I may say many. His corroborative evidences, as he calls them, in the appendix, proves that. He never spoke of Brigham Young as being governor and executive officer who wanted law and order, or that the Mormons had been driven from their homes and had endured great suffering. My oldest sister, Catherine, saw the manuscript and she said it was changed to a novel form, much to her and to my father's sorrow. Father told his brother, Dr. G.W. Hickman, that there are many things in that book that Beadle had written unauthorized and that were entirely untrue. Beadle got his data, then went East and wrote the book and published it without my father ever seeing the manuscript. Beadle might in justice have said that Utah, like all other states in her early days, had outlawry and Indian troubles, and that Hickman, as an officer, tried to protect the people from such conditions.
The last time I saw my father was at Murray, Utah. We were camped there. Bishop Hunter came along. I heard him say to my father that he had' been misrepresented and greatly wronged. My father replied, "Let it go, things will be made right some day." I knew him to be a kind and loving father. People seemed to like him wherever he went. All his family speak of him in the kindest affectionate way, and tell of his charitable deeds, not only at home, but abroad.
I review some of these events for two reasons. One is because they portray my father as I knew him, for to me he was an embodiment of generosity and gentleness. The other is because in those early days of rough pioneer life men became bold and daring, and often did things which we today, with milder civilization, would refrain from doing. For these reasons, my father, like Porter Rockwell and others, often did things that brought criticism upon themselves, but what would the country have done without such daring men? They were willing to give their lives to save and protect the people and vouchsafe to coming generations a country free from the savage Indian and murderous enemies of the pioneers.
--(Warren W. Hickman. Copy L.D.S. Historian's Office.)
--Kate B. Carter, ed., Heart Throbs of the West (Daughters of Utah Pioneers), Vol. 6, 1945, pp. 427-430
To learn more about Bill Hickman, click here. To learn about Bill's brother, Warren D. Hickman, click here. To return to the Hickman Family index page, click here.