Admin Note: We’re pleased to have Joe Geisner, a frequent reader and knowledgeable commenter here at the JI post his review of the newly published James H. Martineau journals.
Bill MacKinnon tells the story of his conversation with Everett Cooley, the editor of the “Brigham Young Diary”. Bill says that after the Young diary was published Bill asked Everett what journal was not available that he would like to see available. His answer was the Martineau journals. Other scholars of the west have said that they pictured the Martineau journals secreted away in a bank vault in Los Angeles guarded no less that Wyatt Earp himself. We all have a great hurrah to yell, the BYU Religious Studies Center has published the James Henry Martineau journals.
The story around the journals is at least as interesting as the contents. It seems there has been a branch of the Martineau family that has kept the journals hidden in a Los Angeles vault and then at some point another branch of the family was able to make a photocopy of the original journals. These family members then made at least two copies and donated one to the Huntington Library in Los Angeles and the other to the CHD. These donations happened in the last few years and are one of the new sources that the authors of “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” had access to that Will Bagley and Juanita Brooks did not. Did Martineau add any new information to the massacre? It seems that all hope of this great source for the massacre was more hype than anything. Martineau was on reconnaissance for the Nauvoo Legion on the Sevier River during September 4-11 1857. He was used as a character witness at Lee’s trial and wrote at least two late letters about the massacre. There is a problem with the journals that I am not sure can be addressed without examination of the originals. What entries or how much of an entry is contemporary or in retrospect. He has the details in the letters and diary entries all missed up about the massacre. We can expect this since he was not there, but he has details that the murders were using to hide their crime. Some of these lies include the Indians did it, the emigrants were in Cedar City and the meadows for three weeks and the emigrants killed Indians at Corn Creek. The authors of the new book even create a problem for themselves in using Martineau’s letters as alibi for Dame. They use late Martineau accounts about a letter Dame sent to Haight [see MatMM page 136], the problem is Martineau records in his journal that he was gone when this meeting would have taken place. Martineau writes nothing about the meeting and seems to know nothing about the real events of September 4-11 1857.
Martineau converted to the church in 1850 as he was heading to California on an around the world trip. He never left the Mormon community though he did live in multiple places. He lived in Southern Utah, Northern Utah, Arizona, Mexico, and back to Salt Lake where he died. He was a topographer, poet and official record keeper. His church service was vast, from councilor in a Bishopric and Stake Presidency to Stake Patriarch. He also worked in Temples and help in the Logan Temple design. The journals do a great job in covering the years and his church service. Martineau’s journals center on this church service and his family. He was a faithful member until he died and his journals reflect this commitment. The book is huge. It is oversized and 789 pages long, including an index. It has six appendices that a full of fun documents about the Martineau family. They include letters from Lorenzo Snow, John Taylor and Brigham Young, newspaper articles, blessings, and many other interesting items that were all a part of Martineau’s journal. The price is also a steal at $39.95.
Noel Carmack is also working on an edition of the journals to be published by USU Press. I have no idea what Noel or John Alley’s, editor for USU Press, plans are because of this edition. Maybe Alley could tell us if they still plan on their own edition even though BYU has come out with theirs. The BYU edition does not have anything critical to say about Martineau’s record and I hope no matter what is decided by USU Press, Carmack will publish his findings and criticism about the journals. One issue Carmack brought up in an MHA talk is Martineau has major gaps when recording “gentile” interaction with the Mormon’s. An example of this is when John C. Fremont and company stagger into Parowan in February 1854 half starved. Martineau would have had a front row seat to this event and records nothing. It would be nice to have editors who have the knowledge or skills to help the reader understand the benefits and shortcomings of this record. The other problem I see with the editors is in their introduction. Mormon historians really need to grow up and start calling the army that marched to Utah in 1857 the U.S. Army instead of Johnston’s Army. Bill MacKinnon has taught us all that we are wrong when we say or write Johnston’s Army and there is no excuse for this oversight by these editors. This is not a perfect documentary record because the editor’s seem to either lack some skills or allowed their beliefs to get in the way, but the effort on the part of the publisher, editors and family to give us Martineau’s complete journals is a great service to the student of Mormonism and Utah History. I highly recommend the book and think it is a must have.