May 15, 1830|
Williamstown, New York,
|Died||June 21, 1892
Born in 1830 in Williamstown, Oswego County, New York, he became a close friend of Orrin Porter Rockwell and was known as "The Horseman" for his exceptional skills on horseback as well as for his help in rounding up wild mustangs on Utah's Antelope Island.
At sixteen, Smith joined the Mormon Battalion and served on the journey through the southwest to San Diego, where the group was mustered out of service. He then came back across the mountains to the Great Salt Lake, where he became a military leader in the Nauvoo Legion in Utah.
Smith practiced the Latter-day Saint doctrine of plural marriage, and had eight wives and 52 children.
Service in the Utah War
The President and US Senate had chosen to remove then-governor Brigham Young from office based on reports from federal officials assigned to Utah who had abandoned their assignments and returned to the east. Young's replacement as governor of Utah territory Alfred Cumming was escorted by a contingent of 2,500 Federal troops led by Gen. Albert Johnston as part of what was called the Utah Expedition. The army's orders were to support the installment of the new governor, using force as necessary as resistance was expected based on the official's reports.
Smith was sent on a special mission by Young, who hoped to delay the arrival of the troops in the hope that a diplomatic breakthrough could be reached before the troops reached Salt Lake City. Smith led a group of Nauvoo Legion rangers east across Wyoming along the stretch where the California, Oregon and Mormon Trails merge. Eventually he found the Union wagon train and destroyed several wagons. Lot Smith and his rangers held off the Federal soldiers in the cold weather. He did so without his troops harming any soldiers on the Federal side. For many Mormons, Lot Smith and his men are considered heroes.
Smith's efforts delayed the US forces from reaching Utah in 1857, forcing them to winter at Fort Bridger, Wyoming.
Settlement in Northern Arizona
Smith was asked to help the development of the Mormon settlement of Tuba City, Arizona. Local Navajo and Hopi Indians used the area for grazing and farming, and the Mormons initially understood that the Navajo had first choice to the water and land resources. Although relations with the Navajo were initially cooperative, the growing numbers of Mormons in the Tuba City area began to cause conflict.
After 1886 Smith's associations with the Mormon community cooled as he increasingly devoted his energy to ranching at Tuba City and elsewhere in northern Arizona. Yet, by inclination and the fact that polygamists had little other recourse, he remained a committed Mormon. During his last years, relations with his Indian neighbors became increasingly tense as the Mormons began taking control over prized lands around Tuba City. In 1892, Smith shot several Navajo sheep that had been turned into a meadow he had fenced. Becoming infuriated with the Navajo sheep's inability to leave, he traveled home and obtained his pistol. While gone a Navajo mother and several daughters tried to herd the sheep out of the fenced area and during this time Smith returned and again became angry with the sheep and the herders. He turned his pistol at the sheep and began shooting at them and then turned his pistol at the mother and daughters and began shooting at them. Hearing all the commotion, the Navajo husband and his brother confronted Smith. As a result, the Navajo men in turn shot several of Smith's cattle. Finally, Smith fired at the Navajo men and the two exchanged shots with result that the old Mormon was mortally wounded. He was buried near the contested pasture. A decade later, his remains were returned to Farmington, where his grave became something of a symbol of the Mormon pioneer as frontiersman, soldier, and Indian fighter.
- Peterson, Charles S., Take Up Your Mission: Mormon Colonizing Along the Little Colorado, 1870-1900 (1973)
- Peterson, Charles S., "A Mighty Man Was Brother Lot: A Portrait of Lot Smith, Mormon Frontiersman," Western Historical Quarterly (Vol. 1, No. 4) October 1970 Published by: Western Historical Quarterly, Utah State University on behalf of The Western History Association.
- Schindler, Harold, Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder (1983)
- Smith, Grant Gill, The Living Words of Alice Ann Richards Smith (1968)
- Pavlik, Steve, "Of Saints and Lamanites: An Analysis of Navajo Mormonism," Wicazo Sa Review (Vol. 8, No. 1) Spring 1992, pp. 21-30.
- McPherson, Robert S. The Northern Navajo Frontier, 1860-1900: Expansion Through Adversity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988.