|Members of the Council of Fifty|
|March 19, 1844– June 9, 1878|
|Called by||Joseph Smith|
|Born||Orrin Porter Rockwell|
c. June 28, 1813
Belchertown, Hampshire County,
Massachusetts, United States
|Died||June 9, 1878 (aged 64)|
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory,
|Resting place||Salt Lake City Cemetery|
|Known For||Personal bodyguard to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, Deputy US Marshal|
Known as "The Destroying Angel of Mormondom"
|Occupation||businessman, bodyguard, lawman, frontiersman, scout|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Ann Neff (1854)|
Luana Hart Beebe
|Children||At least 7|
|Parents||Orin and Sarah Rockwell|
Orrin Porter Rockwell (June 28, 1813 or June 25, 1815 – June 9, 1878) was a figure of the Wild West period of American history. A lawman in the Utah Territory, he was nicknamed Old Port and The Destroying Angel of Mormondom.
Rockwell served as a bodyguard, and was a personal friend, of Latter Day Saint movement founder Joseph Smith. After Smith's death in 1844, Rockwell became a bodyguard of his successor, Brigham Young, and traveled with him and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to the Salt Lake Valley in the present-day U.S. state of Utah.
Rockwell was born in Belchertown, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, to Orin and Sarah Rockwell, who were neighbors of the Smith family. He was a descendant of Edmund Rice, an early immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony.
In 1830, at 16-years old, Rockwell was baptized into Smith's Church of Christ in Fayette, New York.  Historically, the date of Rockwell's baptism is April 6, the day the church was organized, but original documents suggest a probable date of June 9. Rockwell was the youngest member of the first group to be baptized into the church.
Rockwell killed many men as a gunfighter, a religious enforcer, and Deputy United States Marshal. According to legend, Rockwell told a crowd listening to United States vice president Schuyler Colfax in 1869, "I never killed anyone who didn't need killing", a quote used by actor John Wayne in a movie decades later.
But he [Porter Rockwell] was that most terrible instrument that can be handled by fanaticism; a powerful physical nature welded to a mind of very narrow perceptions, intense convictions, and changeless tenacity. In his build, he was a gladiator; in his humor, a Yankee lumberman; in his memory, a Bourbon; in his vengeance, an Indian. A strange mixture, only to be found on the American Continent.
Boggs attempted assassination accusation
On the evening of May 6, 1842, Lilburn Boggs was shot by an unknown party who fired at him through a window as he read a newspaper in his study. He was badly wounded but survived. Boggs was the governor of Missouri who had signed the Executive Order 44 on October 27, 1838 known as the "Extermination Order" evicting Mormons from Missouri by violent and deadly means.
The Sangamo Journal published a letter by John C. Bennett, a recently excommunicated Mormon who, prior to the assassination, had served as mayor of Nauvoo, Major General of the Nauvoo Legion, and Chancellor of the University of Nauvoo.
Bennett implicated Rockwell in the assassination attempt, writing:
- "In 1841, Joe Smith predicted or prophesied in a public congregation in Nauvoo, that Lilburn W Boggs, ex-Governor of Missouri, should die by violent hands within one year. From one or two months prior to the attempted assassination of Gov. Boggs, Mr. O. P. Rockwell left Nauvoo for parts unknown to the citizens at large. I was then on terms of close intimacy with Joe Smith, and asked him where Rockwell had gone? "Gone," said he, "GONE TO FULFILL PROPHECY!" Rockwell returned to Nauvoo the day before the report of the assassination reached there."
Smith and his supporters vehemently denied Bennett's account.
In September 30, 1843, it was reported:
- "Orin Porter Rockwell, the Mormon confined in our county jail some time since for the attempted assassination of ex-governor Boggs, was indicted by our last grand jury for escaping from the county jail some weeks since, and sent to Clay county for trial. Owing, however, to some informality in the proceedings, he was remanded to this county again for trial. There was not sufficient proof adduced against him to justify an indictment for shooting ex-Governor Boggs; and the grand jury, therefore, did not indict him for that offence."
Though never indicted for the attempted assassination, Rockwell was tried and convicted of jailbreak. Rockwell was released on December 13, 1843—ten months after his arrest.
Following Smith's death, Rockwell followed Brigham Young and the LDS Church to the Salt Lake Valley. In 1849, Rockwell was appointed as deputy marshal of Great Salt Lake City, and remained a peace officer until his death. He was well-known for his endurance, loyalty, and relentlessness.
Rockwell's fame as a "mountain man" attracted the explorer, Richard Francis Burton. In 1860, on his trip across America to the west coast, Burton stopped to explore the Salt Lake City area. He stayed with Lysander Dayton in a village near the city, and Dayton invited Rockwell to dinner. Rockwell sent for a bottle of Valley Tan Whiskey, and he and Burton drank shot-for-shot into the night, with Rockwell outlining steps Burton should take for safety during his passage to Sacramento. Rockwell advised Burton to carry a loaded double-barreled shotgun, sleep in a "dark camp" (unlit, miles from where supper was cooked), to never trust appearances, and to avoid the main trail, where "White Indians" (so-called because they were white robbers disguised as Indians to avert blame) preyed on travelers.
Rockwell died in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, of natural causes on June 9, 1878. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. At the time of his death, Rockwell had been a baptized Latter-day Saint longer than anyone living. His epitaph reads:
He was brave and loyal to his faith. True to the Prophet Joseph Smith. A promise made him by the prophet. Through obedience, it was fulfilled.
They say he was a murderer; if he was, he was the friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and he was faithful to them, and to his covenants, and he has gone to Heaven and apostates can go to Hell ... Porter Rockwell was yesterday afternoon ushered into Heaven clothed with immortality and eternal life, and crowned with all glory which belongs to a departed saint. He has his little faults, but Porter's life on earth, taken altogether, was one worthy of example, and reflected honor upon the church. Through all his trials, he never once forgot his obligations to his brethren and his God.
Rockwell served as a loyal, personal bodyguard to both Smith and later to Young. Separating fact from legends, folklore, and myths concerning Rockwell is difficult for historians, in large part because Rockwell was only semi-literate and kept no personal diary.
Rockwell had the distinction of being the subject of a direct prophecy by Smith. After spending eight months in jail on charges of attempting to assassinate Boggs, Rockwell traveled to Nauvoo, appearing unannounced at a Christmas party at Smith's home. After his identity was confirmed, Smith was moved to say:
I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, you—Orrin Porter Rockwell—so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair, and no bullet or blade can harm thee.
Rockwell, at one time, cut his hair. After hearing of a balding widow with typhoid fever, he offered his famous long hair to make a wig. The recipient of the hair was Agnes Coolbrith Smith Pickett, widow of Smith's brother, Don Carlos, and mother of Ina Coolbrith.
Rockwell has also been portrayed on screen by John Carradine in the 1940 film Brigham Young, by James Coburn in the 1995 television film The Avenging Angel, and by Gyll Huff in the 1995 Trent Harris film Plan 10 from Outer Space. He was also the main character in the 1969 Death Valley Days episode called the "Son of Thunder" (1969). Rockwell is portrayed by Corbin Allred in a supporting role in the 2019 film Out of Liberty.
Rockwell was the primary subject of the independent 1994 Rockwell
In 2010, a documentary called Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwell was created by Issimo Productions, which includes historical re-creations of events from the life of Rockwell, as well as interviews with scholars and historians, including John W. Rockwell, great-great-grandson of Rockwell.
Two statues of Rockwell exist: one near the old site of his Hot Springs Hotel and Brewery near the Utah State Penitentiary, the other in Lehi, Utah, off of Main Street behind the "Porter's Place" restaurant which exists to celebrate his memory. The restaurant has since moved to Eureka, Utah.
- Schindler 1993, pp. 197, 205
- "Orrin Porter Rockwell b. 28 Jun 1813 Belchertown, Hampshire, Massachusetts, USA d. 9 Jun 1878 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA: Early Latter-day Saints Database". www.earlylds.com. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
- Cummins, Lawrence (May 2004), "Orrin Porter Rockwell", The Friend
- "Orrin Porter Rockwell". churchofjesuschrist.org. 27 January 2014.
- "Orrin Porter Rockwell – Biography".
- "History, circa June–October 1839 [Draft 1], Page 15".
- "Rockwell, Orrin Porter", The Joseph Smith Papers, archived from the original on 2013-04-06, retrieved 2013-05-06
- Wadley, Carma (2002-05-24), "Books to help answer the question, 'are we there yet?'", Deseret News
- "Timeline of Porter Rockwell's Life" (PDF). Lehi City. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
- Hollister, Ovando James (1886), Life of Schuyler Colfax, New York: Funk & Wagnalls, p. 342, OCLC 1370045
- Ludlow, Fitz Hugh (1870), The Heart of the Continent: a record of travel across the plains and in Oregon, with an examination of the Mormon principle, New York: Hurd & Houghton, p. 355, OCLC 761423
- "Uncle Dale's Old Mormon Articles: Sangamo Journal 1842". Sidneyrigdon.com. 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
- "Uncle Dale's Old Mormon Articles: Mo. Republican (1843-44)". Sidneyrigdon.com. 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
- "Uncle Dale's Old Mormon Articles: Niles Register 1841-1850". Sidneyrigdon.com. 2006-01-12. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
- "Timeline of Porter Rockwell's Life" (PDF). Lehi-ut.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
- Burton F. Richard, The City of Saints. Knopf, New York 1963. pgs.502-504
- Burton, Richard Francis (1862), The City of the Saints (2nd ed.), New York: Harper and Brothers, pp. view=1up, seq=474 448-450
- Salt Lake Tribune, June 12, 1878[full citation needed]
- Arave, Lynn (19 May 1999), "S.L. Cemetery Is Alive with History The Famous and the Humble Rest in Peace Together", Deseret News
- Porter's Place - Porter Rockwell Restaurant
- Schindler 1993, pp. 108–109
- Sonne, Kristen (June 21, 1998), "Rockwell's colorful history recounted", Deseret News
- "Rockwell (1994) - IMDb".
- "Restaurant | Porter's Place". 18 April 2010.
- Dewey, Richard Lloyd (1999) , Porter Rockwell: A Biography, New York: Paramount Books, ISBN 0-9616024-0-6, OCLC 17300368
- Dewey, Richard Lloyd (August 2006) [2000-2002], The Porter Rockwell Chronicles. 4 Vols, Arlington, VA: Stafford Books, Inc., ISBN 0-929753-16-X, OCLC 17300368
- Johnson, Clark V. (2000), "Rockwell, Orrin Porter", in Arnold K. Garr; Donald Q. Cannon; Richard O. Cowan (eds.), Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, ISBN 1573458228, OCLC 44634356
- McLaws, Monte B. (October 1965), "The Attempted Assassination of Missouri's Ex-Governor, Lilburn W. Boggs", Missouri Historical Review, 60 (1): 50–62, archived from the original on July 5, 2013
- Rockwell, John W.; Borrowman, Jerry; Hopkinson, Harold I; Price, Clark Kelly; Swanson, Sarah (2010), Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwell, American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, ISBN 978-1-60861-005-1, OCLC 611016993
- Schindler, Harold (1993) , Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0585223009, OCLC 44965777
- Schindler, Harold (1994), "Rockwell, Orrin Porter", in Powell, Allen Kent (ed.), Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917
- Van Wagoner, Richard S.; Steven C., Walker (1982), "Porter Rockwell (1813-1878)", A Book of Mormons, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, pp. 250–53, ISBN 0941214060, OCLC 8513697
- Media related to Porter Rockwell at Wikimedia Commons
- "Did Orrin Porter Rockwell Shoot Lilburn Boggs, Governor of Missouri?", Mormonism Researched by Kerry A. Shirts