JMS gives his account of the Parrish murders and puts some of the blame on BY.

Jul 4, 1859
J. M. Stewart

J. M. Stuart, Letter to the Editor, in Valley Tan, August 24, 1859, 2

The Valley Tan
Noah T. Guymon (Guyman), J. M. Stewart, Aaron Johnson, Beason Parrish, Alexander Findlay Macdonald, Brigham Young, George McKenzie, William Parrish, C. Lanford, Luke Johnson, Duff Potter
Reading Public

San Bernardino, Cal.,

July 4th, 1859

Editor of the “Valley Tan;”

Sir: – feeling that the nature of the case makes it justifiable, I ask you to excuse the freedom which I, a perfect stranger, take in addressing you, and asking the liberty of addressing the public through your columns. I have seen, lately, in your "little sheet," and another papers, several articles on the subject of that notable tragedy, generally known as the "Parrish murder,” in which my name is mentioned in such a way, and in such connections, as to make it likely to leave upon the public mind the impression that I had something to do with that "bloody affair.“

Of that affair I have some little knowledge, which, if you will give it a place in your columns, I will faithfully, and truly, according to the best of my recollection, give it to the public.

I will also, on the same conditions, give it to the public my knowledge of some other matters in Utah.

Well, now for my statements.

Any certain time, during the notable "Reformation," I think in the winter of 1857, I was, as one of the Bishop’s counselors, presiding and speaking in a ward meeting, at the house of G. G. (Duff) Potter, where a brother counselor, N. T. Guymon, came to the door, and said, "brother Stewart, please to cut your remarks short; the Bishop wishes to see you." I did so, and went with him to the bishops council room, and upper room in his dwelling house. As this was in the night, our movements were, perhaps, observed by but very few.

The Bishop (Johnson), Guymon, and myself, and some few others whom I cannot now identify composed this counsel.

After all had assembled, and were orderly seated, the Bishop stated the object of the meeting, which was, that we might hear a letter which he had just received from "President Young." He there at the letter, the purpose of which was about this.

He, Brigham, had information that some suspicious characters were collecting at the "Indian Farm," on Spanish Fork, and he wished him (Bishop Johnson) to keep a good look out in that direction; to send someone there to reconnoiter and ascertain what was going on, and if they (those suspicious characters) should make a break, and be pursued, which he required; he "would be sorry to hear a favorable report;" "but," said he, "the better way is to lock the stable door before the horse is stolen."

He then admonished the Bishop that he (the Bishop) understood those things and would act accordingly, and "keep this letter close," or safe.

This letter was over Brigham's signature in his own peculiarly rough hands, which we all had the privilege of seeing.

About this matter there was no counseling; the word of Brigham was the law; and the object was, that we might hear it.

Early one morning, during the week succeeding the council, Parish and Durfee call at my house (office), for I was the precinct magistrate, when Parrish, under oath, said his horses were stolen the night before from his stable, and required a warrant giving authority to search for them. I could find no law in Utah, making it the duty or the privilege of a justice or any other officer to grant a search warrant, yet I considered that there could be no harm in it, and therefore granted it, directing it to the sheriff, his deputy, or any constable of Utah County, requiring him to search diligently in Utah county for such property. Parish wished me to deputize Durfee to search, but I refused. It was at this time that dirty and, as I afterwards understood it, to give me a hint of his situation. In private he said, "you know how I stand." I replied, "Yes," supposing that he alluded to his apostasy, which he had made as public as he dare; when he replied, “All's right in Israel." I did not understand him.

The next Saturday night there was a council, which I attended by special invitation. In the council were, as well as I remember, Bishop A. Johnson, J. M. Stewart, A. F. McDonald, N. T. Guyman, L. Johnson, C. Lanford, and W. J. Earl. I am pretty certain there were others present, but I cannot now name them. Oh yes! Potter and Durfee were present. They came in with blankets wrapped around them.

In the council there was a good deal of secret talking done by two or three individuals getting close together, and talking in suppressed tones, which I, being doll of hearing, did not understand. I did not try to understand, but somethings I cannot help understanding. I understood when Potter requested of the bishop the privilege to kill Parrish wherever he could find "the damned curse," and the Bishop’s reply, "Shed no blood in Springville."

During this council, to the best of my recollection, I scarcely spoke a word. I understood the blood will probably be shared, not in Springville, but out of it.

I did in my heart disapprove of the course, but I was in the current, and could not get out, and policy said to me, "Hold your tongue for the present." This was Saturday night, and, as well as I remember, I heard no more of the affair till the next (Sunday) night, one week, that is eight days, which made it Sunday night.

I knew nothing of a plan, nor of the deeds having been done, until near midnight, when I was awakened, and requested to go and hold an inquest over some dead bodies. W. J. Earl, one of the city alderman, and my predecessor in the magisterial office, made this requirement of me, and under took to dictate me in the selecting of a jury. I considered my position for a moment, and concluded to suffer myself to be dictated to, unless an attempt should be made to lead me to the commission of a crime. In that case I felt that I would try "mighty hard" to back out.

I obeyed my manager, W. J. Earl, in selecting a jury. Having someone to a part of the number requisite for a jury, and being told by Earl that the jury could be filled out after we got there, we proceeded along the main road, south, about one mile from the public square, to the corner of a field known as Childs’ corner. Here laid the bodies of Wm. R. Parish and G. G. Potter, (Duff Potter.) They had evidently been killed in the road and drag to the place they been occupied. Not to be tedious, I proceeded to fill up and qualify the jury. Examination took place under my own observation. It was a protracted one; a minute record being kept by A. F. McDonald, foreman. Before we got through with young Parish, Beason (so-called) was discovered dead, and a distance from the other bodies of about 15 rods, in a south-east direction. — The verdict was, "That they came to their deaths by the hands of an assassin, or assassins, to the jury unknown.”

The bodies were hauled to the school house, by George McKenzie, who, by somebody's direction, as I suppose, I was on the ground with his team and wagon. The bodies were guarded through the night by the police. The next morning the cab Bishop sent word to me to bury the bodies, which I did, and made out the bill according to the charges of the men employed. I was told to take charge of the goods, chattels, and clothes of the murdered men; which I did, and in due time delivered every article to their families, except a butcher knife claimed by Mrs. Parish, which I did not suppose belongs to her, and which I would not give it to her (professing ignorance of its whereabouts) till I could get directions from the bishop. [She never got the knife; it was subsequently lost in my family.]

The law of the Territory made it my duty to make returns of my proceedings, in this case, to the County Court, but the Bishop told me not to do it, and I obeyed him.

Some considerable time, I don't know how long after the murder, I spoke to Bishop Johnson concerning the above named knife. I suppose, from the fact that when the knife came into my possession it was all over bloody, but it had been used by the assassin; but the Bishop thought differently. During our chat about the knife, and the murder, the bishop asked:

"Do you know who done that job?"

I replied, "No." He then asked, "Have you any idea?"


"Can't you guess?"

I answered, "I guess I could."

He then said, "well, yes."

"I guess William Bird."

He replied, "you are getting pretty good at guessing."

I know nothing which would naturally have caused me to suspect Wm. Bird, even as much as some others, but there was an internal prompting right at the moment, and I spoke accordingly.

I suppose I had as well say something about the Notorious "Court" in which Durfee and O. Parrish were tried, for the murder of Potter and the Parrishes.

H. H. Kearns, Captain of the Police, came to me on Monday; the next day after the murder, and told me that I must be hold Court sometime that afternoon, and examine Durfee and the young Parrish in regard to the murder, as he had them prisoners on that account. I understood that it was only to be done as a show, or kind of a "put off."

I ordered the prisoners before me, and, as I was directed, swore them to tell "the truth," &c., in the case then under consideration.

Durfee made his statement first, which was about what has headed to been revealed. He of course told what he had been instructed to tell. Parrish, as might have been expected, chose not to know anything of consequence. It was certainly wise in him to be ignorant.

It would have been in order, while on the subject of the "knife," state that which I will now state:

Before the Bishop and I had got through with our chat, Bird came in sight, and the Bishop called to him; he came to us, and during our conversation, Cooley and deliberately made the following statement:

"When Potter fell, I clinched Parrish, and killed him with my knife."

I know that Parish was killed with a knife. Potter was killed with what appeared to be one shot of four balls from a shotgun, entering just under his left breast. Beason Parish was also killed by one or two shots in his body, the particular locality not now remembered.

That's a written all that I can think of of that tragical affair.

I am perfectly aware that the portion of community who have no knowledge of the under-currents and wire-workings of Mormonism will consider me a "poor concern," for suffering myself to be swayed in my official duties by ecclesiastical dignitaries, for suffering myself, in the case above mentioned, to be governed by the Bishop. But I perfectly understood that the act without counsel, or to disobey counsel, was to transgress; and if I had never understood it before I could not help but understand it then, by the example of the three dead bodies right before my eyes that "The way of the transgressor is (was) hard."

I might make some revealments, but they would not be very important, concerning the case of Mr. Forbes. I may make them at some future time.

I will now close.

I am, &c., your humble servant

J. M. Stewart

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