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About Moroni Clawson

Moroni Clawson Lncde: 8 Moroni Clawson was born 1 Jan 1837 in near Far West, Caldwell, Missouri. He died 17 Jan 1862 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and was buried 1862 in Draper, Salt Lake, Utah. He was sealed to his parents on 15 Jan 1958 in the Idaho Falls temple. Moroni was baptized 1847. He was endowed 22 Jun 1911 in the Salt Lake temple. Moroni married Eliza Manhardt, daughter of William Manhardt and Jane Gates, on 1 Jan 1859 in Draper, Salt Lake, Utah. They were sealed 22 Jun 1911 in the Salt Lake temple. Eliza was born 26 Apr 1842 in Harmony, Lee, Iowa. She died 13 Apr 1934 in Morgan, Morgan, Utah and was buried 15 Apr 1934 in Morgan, Morgan, Utah. She was sealed to her parents on 21 Jun 1911 in the Salt Lake temple. Eliza was baptized 14 Aug 1864. She was endowed 14 Sep 1874.


DEATH:Shot by Salt Lake City police while "trying to escape".

BURIED:In Salt Lake City Cem., later disintered and moved to Draper Cem.

Inscription: Born Caldwell, Missouri

Note: Cemetery records indicate variant name 'Moina Clawson'



Draper Corporation Cemetery


Salt Lake County

Utah, USA

Plot: A-23-8

Moroni Clawson History

A history of Moroni Clawson


Moroni, known as 'Rone most of his life, was born in Caldwell County, Missouri, 1 January 1837, to Moses Clawson and Cornelia Brown. His family were Mormons and were forced to leave Missouri in the winter of 1839/40. They crossed the Mississippi River and settled in Pleasant Vale, Pike County, Illinois with a few of their friends. Cornelia's brother Ebenezer Brown married William Draper's widowed sister Phoebe. William Draper was the branch president of their local group. After a couple of years the family moved to Lima, Hancock County, Illinois. When Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, Moses Clawson was on a mission in the east. After his return, his neighbors burned out him and other Mormons in outlying areas. They moved into Nauvoo until the exodus to Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1846. They lived in Iowa until they emigrated to Salt Lake City, arriving 27 October 1849. 'Rone was now 11 years old. In 1850 Moses Clawson was called on another mission to England for three years. When he returned in the fall of 1853, his wife was dying of tuberculosis, the family had apparently been scattered with relatives and friends. 'Rone and his brother, George Washington, were likely, either on their own or perhaps living with their uncle, Ebenezer Brown, in Willow Creek (now Draper), Utah. One month before Cornelia died, Moses married a second wife whom he had met in England, Sarah Ann Inkley. His new wife was much younger and many of Cornelia's children resented his marrying her, especially prior to Cornelia's death. Some felt Cornelia died of a broken heart.

'Rone and George were very close. After George married Ellen Manhardt in 1854, 'Rone likely lived with them in Willow Creek at least part of the time. 'Rone was 16 years old in 1853, old enough to do what he wanted. On 1 January 1859, 'Rone married Eliza Manhardt, a sister to his brother's wife, Ellen. They also lived in Willow Creek.

'Rone had grown up during a rough period of Mormon history and was in with a tough gang, the "Hounds" lead by William "Wild Bill" Hickman. The Deseret News 21 March 1860 tells of indictments and convictions of larceny (cattle rustling) in Salt Lake County for Moroni Clawson, C. A. Huntington and Martin Wheeler. The Mormons ran cattle free on the western side of Salt Lake valley and some felt loose cattle were available for the taking. It had been going on for quite a while, but now there was a reaction, calling for punishment for "rustlers" to stop the practice. On 28 March 1860 Truelove Manhardt, 'Rone's brother-in-law, was also sentenced to six months in the penitentiary while Charles Manhardt was acquitted. On 4 April 1860, Judge Eckels, a gentile, anti-Mormon, moved the prisoners to Camp Floyd where he released them as reported 11 April 1860. Charles Manhardt was arrested again on another larceny charge. He tried to escape with two associates who drew pistols, but the sheriff was able to secure Charles and the others fled. In the same 11 April Deseret News, an announcement to the New York Tribune was printed: "Judge Eckels of Utah has resigned his place on the Bench, and report says Judge Sinclair and Cradlebaugh will also resign or be removed. There is conflict of opinion between those judges and Gov. Cumming. . ."

During this period of time in Utah the outlaws, or those on the fringe of the law, were able to steal from the Mormons and sell to the Army at Camp Floyd, or steal from the Army and sell to the Mormons. In each case, there were no questions asked as long as they didn't try to resell the cattle or mules back to the same party. This practice also fostered more distrust between the Mormons and the Army.

Emigrant trains passing through Utah and on the Oregon and California trails were losing cattle for which the Indians were being blamed, but some were known to be gangs of white men disguised as Indians. Of those white gangs were some Mormons. Since Missouri, some Mormons felt justified in stealing from the gentiles in partial payment for Mormon losses.

The federal authorities were constantly looking for evidence of Mormon leader involvement in these and other crimes. They were willing to forgive even murder in exchange for testimony or assistance against the Mormon leaders. This is not much different than today's plea bargaining in conspiracy cases, which are difficult to prove without insider cooperation. Some of George Washington Clawson's descendants say they have proof of 'Rone working with the federal authorities trying to prove Mormon involvement in the emigrant cattle thefts, Orrin Porter Rockwell in particular. They claim Porter ordered 'Rone's death to prevent that testimony.

The Draper Ward Records record Moroni Clawson's excommunication on October 13, 1861 without further comment.

The Army Camp Floyd had a maximum of 3,500 soldiers with 10,000 head of cattle and a town of 3,500 more called Fairfield, the third largest city in Utah. By 1860 due to the approaching Civil War Camp Floyd was reduced to 700 men. "By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, Johnston had defected from Utah to take command of the western front for the Confederacy." ". . . Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, for whom the fort had been named also left. After that the fort was renamed Camp Crittenten, the new Secretary of War. The fort was abandoned in July 1861. Patrick Conner and the California volunteers arrived in Salt Lake City October 20, 1862 and built Fort Douglas. There were a number of months with no federal Army in Utah.

A new governor, John W. Dawson, took office in late 1861 and three weeks later left. He did not treat the Mormons well, and was given poor treatment in return. A scandal involving a married lady and Dawson apparently caused the governor to fear for his life in Utah. The Deseret News on 1 January 1862, reported his leaving Salt Lake City under the above circumstances and in company of his physician, Dr. Chambers, and bodyguards, Lott Huntington, Jason and William Luce, and Moroni Clawson.

A letter from the ex-governor Dawson told what happened as he left Salt Lake City from his view, dated 7 January 1862 from Bear River Station, Utah and printed in the Deseret News 22 January 1862.

He states that he and Dr. Chambers were attacked and robbed at Mountain Dell, Ephraim Hanks mail station, on 31 December 1861. He had left Salt Lake City that afternoon by Overland Stage. When nearly out of town, "Ephraim Hanks rode up and said that there were some desperate men in the city who might follow me. . ." The governor asked his help to guard him, but having other business, Eph said he would send Moroni Clawson who would do just as well. Clawson shortly came up and introduced himself. Jason Luce also came up riding a mule which the governor asked to ride. Lott Huntington mounted Clawson's horse and Clawson and Luce rode in the coach. Later Clawson took his horse and Huntington rode in the coach. Clawson and the governor rode ahead to the mail station. After supper, the crowd got drunk and increased in numbers. Clawson went to Hank's sleeping apartment, where he often spent the night when passing, assuring the governor there would be no trouble. 'Rone knew trouble was likely and wanted a witness that he wasn't involved. Shortly after the governor found blankets, etc. had been stolen from the stage. As he was returning, he and Dr. Chambers were beaten by first the stage driver, Wood Reynolds, and Jason Luce and others. Moroni Clawson was listed as one of his attackers. At the least, 'Rone was not doing the job he was being paid to do.

Later indictments were issued for the arrest of Lott Huntington, Moroni Clawson, John M., Jason and Wilford Luce, Wood Reynolds, and Isaac Neibaur.

Two weeks later, Giles Mottin, an Overland Mail Company employee, reported the loss of $800 from a tin box hidden in Townsend's stable. Suspicion at once centered on Lott Huntington and John P. Smith, for whom warrants were issued.

Lott Huntington and John P. Smith stole a horse "Brown Sal" from John Bennion who was at tithing settlement. John's son Sam was angry at the loss and with some friends tried to follow the outlaws. As Huntington and Smith left town, they went to Willow Creek and convinced Moroni that he should go to California with them because of the arrest warrant out for him. They left, three men and only two horses, one man walking. (Moroni left his horse with his family.) Moroni would not ride the new horse not knowing if it was theirs. Porter Rockwell's help was enlisted and he followed them to Faust's mail station in Rush Valley. He and a posse surrounded the station in the cold night and waited until morning. ON being told to give up, Lott Huntington came out guns ready, he was a crack shot so no one gave him a target. He went to the corral and got Brown Sal. While lifting the logs to get out, Brown Sal bolted leaving Lott vulnerable and Porter shot him dead. Clawson and Smith gave up. Porter took Lott's body and the two others back to Salt Lake City by stage the next day, 17 January. In Salt Lake City, Porter turned Clawson and Smith over to four Salt Lake City Police and went to care for his horse. He heard shots and went out to find them both dead "trying to escape". Bill Hickman saw the bodies and wrote in Brigham's Destroying Angels, "They were both powder-burnt, and one of them was shot in the face. How could that be, and they running?"

From Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints, p. 419:

The Salt Lake police then earned the reputation of affording every desperate prisoner the opportunity of escape, and, if embraced, the officer's ready revolver brought the fugitive to a "halt," and saved the county the expense of a trial and his subsequent boarding in the penitentiary. A coroner's inquest and cemetery expenses were comparatively light.

All three were buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, 'Rone in the potter's field since no one claimed the body. It was a while before 'Rone's brother, George, heard what had happened and came to claim the body. (George had been out west of Salt Lake building mail stations.) He was mad that he had been buried in the potter's field and sought permission to move the body, either by his mother in the same cemetery, or to the Willow Creek cemetery where he lived. The story as given in The Great Salt Lake says he was reburied in Willow Creek. When George disinterred his brother, he found 'Rone's body naked and lying face down. Later, one of the Salt Lake police, Henry Heath, visited Willow Creek and was verbally attacked by George for the condition he found the body. Henry finally convinced George that his brother was buried fully clothed, in fact, Henry had purchased burial clothing for him out of his own pocket. Upon Henry Heath's return to Salt Lake, he personally lead an investigation into the burial, questioning the grave digger Jean Baptiste after having found many clothes, shoes, etc. in his house. An estimated 300 graves had been robbed. Jean (also known as John Baptiste) admitted to at least a dozen graves. Those who found articles from their relatives wanted to hang him. Judge Elias Smith on 1 February recorded his partial admission of guilt. After a trial and at Brigham Young's suggestion, he was banished, taken by wagon to Antelope Island, then by boat to Fremont Island in the Great Salt Lake, May 1862. Sheriff Robert T. Burton authorized Henry W. Miller of Farmington to transport him there. In August 1862, Dan Miller reported that Baptiste had escaped by killing a heifer and used strips of its hide to build a raft from lumber taken from the Miller cabin.

George Clawson spent several years trying to clear his brother's name of the horse stealing and beating of the governor, to no success. He moved to Salt Lake city and rented Porter Rockwell's home for that purpose. Later he gave up, disillusioned with the civil and Church authorities, and moved to Farmington, Utah. George W. Clawson became inactive in the L.D.S. Church.

Moroni Clawson's wife, Eliza, had a one year old daughter when her husband was killed and was pregnant with their only son, Moroni, who was born 24 July 1862. She never remarried.

Moses Clawson's second wife, Sarah Ann Inkley, said they picked up some seeds of the locust trees growing along the street where Moroni was shot. They planted them in front of their home in Toquerville in Southern Utah where they lived several years later.

"J. W. Dawson, Unpopular Governor", Article by David E. Miller, History Department, University of Utah, Salt Lake City Tribune, Sunday April 15, 1956.

Deseret News January 1, 1862, January 8, 1862, January 22, 1862.

Deseret News April 11, 1860, March 21, 1860, March 28, 1860

April 4, 1860.

Porter Rockwell, A Biography, by Richard Lloyd Dewey (1986) pp. 269-274

Orrin Porter Rockwell, Man of God, Son of Thunder, by Harold Schindler (1966), pp. 312-315.

The Great Salt Lake, by Dale Morgan (1947), pp. 272-282.

Note: Eliza Manhart, Moroni's wife, and George Washington Clawson, would not discuss the subject of Moroni's death and the circumstances surrounding it in later years. All the stories handed down in the families of Moses Clawson were short, lacking accurate details and misleading. No one seemed to have the full story.

Marion L. Clawson and others have tried to collect the family stories and other accounts of these incidents for many years to establish the truth as far as it could be determined.

I used the notes and stories he gathered along with newly published and original materials to edit this updated version of Moroni's death.

Neil Clawson

August 1991

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Moroni Clawson's Timeline

January 1, 1837
Far West, Caldwell, Missouri, United States
January 15, 1860
Age 23
Draper, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
January 17, 1862
Age 25
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
January 1862
Age 25
Draper, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
July 24, 1862
Age 25
Draper, Salt Lake, Utah, United States