Book Review: An Uncommon Common Pioneer: The Journals of James Henry Martineau, 1828-1918

By October 15, 2008

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.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks for the write-up, I have heard whispers that the RSC volume did not publish several sensative/sacred excerpts from the journal, but that Carmack’s version was going to be complete. I have talked to the folks at both RSC and USU press and haven’t been able to confirm or deny that idea. Is there any evidence that the transcription of the RSC volume is not complete?

    The prospective citation for the other volume I have seen is: James Henry Martineau, With a Transit, a Mule, and a Prayer: The Diary of James Henry Martineau, Mormon Patriarch and Surveyor, edited by Noel A. Carmack and Charles M. Hatch (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2009).

    Is this casewrap bound like the Card Utah diaries also published by RSC?

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 15, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

  2. Thanks for the review.

    Comment by Edje — October 15, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  3. Thanks J. To answer your second question first. Yes. It is exactly like the Card book. I did not mention this because I am a bit embarrassed RSS did such an important volume in such a poor quality cover. The cover itself (photo) is quite nice and the binding seems to be sewed. As a friend said, “the covers will fall off, but we will have the pages intact”.

    I have had two others who reviewed my comments say the same thing about stuff being edited out. The editor’s make no comment to this effect, in fact the editors write that this is the complete journal and there is “no smoking guns”. I really have no idea what they are talking about with “smoking guns”. Maybe it has to do with all the rumors that circulated about the journals since no one outside the family had seen the journals until a few years ago.

    The journals contain patriarchal blessings, healing blessings and many other blessings which are all sacred to Mormons. Maybe there was some temple stuff that could have been too sacred, but that is really a guess on my part. Until Noel or someone in the know can show me removal I will have to believe these editors. The major problem with the journals that historians will have to grapple with this is the timing of entries. Were they contemporary or later additions? The editors should have helped the reader with this issue better.

    If anyone is interested in the White Mountain Expedition this journal is quite exciting. I really know very little about this and Bill MacKinnon’s next volume will probably deal with White Mountain. But there is some good stuff here. Dame comes to Martineau and says I have a secret mission for you, get ready and packed, but I can’t tell you what it is! Great stuff.

    Thank you Edje.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 15, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

  4. Thanks for contributing this review, Joe. It looks like someone from the RSC has posted some helpful information over on the Customer Review section of Barnes and Noble’s website (in response to a critical review posted earlier).

    See here for the critical review, and here for the response.

    Comment by Christopher — October 15, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  5. Thanks for the download. Is this volume for sale anywhere yet?

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 15, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  6. Just had a nice chat with the RSC folks. They were able to confirm that this volume is a complete transcript of the available manuscript, including the various miscellanea (like the Card diaries). It is available currently at the BYU bookstore, should be available online there soon, and hopefully in the coming week(s) available from other outlets.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 15, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  7. I would like to pipe into this discussion, if I may. I have just received a copy of the RSC edition of the Martineau diaries and, except for some incredibly light annotation, the diaries do seem to be intact. I should also say that, much like the critical reviewer on the Barnes and Noble site, I had heard rumors that the editors had removed material that the family had deemed too “sacred” for the general reading public. To set the record straight, this version appears to have all entries intact (based on my initial comparison against our transcript.)

    I do, however, hope you read the front matter and annotations (what little annotations there are) with a careful eye. Aside from some errors in the annotations and remarkable inattention to important figures and incidents in the text, you can pretty much be assured that it’s all there; but I have already found a number of errors which should be considered and compared against what Charles “Chick” Hatch and I hope to produce through USU Press. Martineau’s diaries are, indeed, an incredible historical record and deserve the best historical and contextual information we can offer. And we intend to do just that. Chick and I have found some wonderful collateral material that we hope to include in our annotations and in the back matter. Although the RSC has done a very great service by producing this man’s magnificent life record, be aware that Chick and I have made a considerable effort to find additional material to better inform the journals….including Martineau’s observations on John C. Fremont incident in Parowan.

    As you well know, these things take time, so we don’t expect to have anything in print until late next year (at the earliest.) In the meantime, I guess we can enjoy what Godfrey and McCarty have offered through the RSC press.

    Comment by N. Carmack — October 15, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

  8. Joe,
    Thanks for the review. Nicely done.

    Having never had the opportunity to work with these journals, I am curious about any Reformation content they may contain.

    N. Carmack,

    Thanks for stopping by to update us. Keep the JI in mind when your edition comes out–we would be more than happy to review it.

    Comment by SC Taysom — October 15, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

  9. Noel,

    Thank you very much for you thoughts. Though we have never met we have many common friends. They have all stated to me that you are a professional in every sense of the word and a thorough researcher. I look forward to your book and I am glad to see the project continue.

    J. I know that Benchmark Books and Bearhollowbooks”dot”com each have the book available. Bear Hollow has been selling the book with a 20% discount. I believe Donnie Morris in Springville has the book available for those who are in Utah County.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 15, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

  10. I don’t thing I have to emphasize this too much, but USU has had a very good reputation for producing very pleasing, quality book designs and I don’t expect that our edition will be any different. No glossy textbook covers for our edition!!

    Comment by N. Carmack — October 15, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  11. Thanks for the kind words, Joe. I do hope to live up that flattering assessment of my past work. I’ve had many good people in the archives profession who have been a great help to what I’ve done.

    I’ll be sure to give you all a heads up when the book is about to come off the press!

    Comment by N. Carmack — October 15, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  12. SC,

    From what I can tell, this journal could be a bonanza for you when it comes to the reformation. Just a couple of examples I picked up. Speaking in tongues by Zilpha Smith, George A. Smiths wife. Lorenzo Snow speaking to the High Priests and telling them that the reformation comes from the head not the people. A Brigham Young address that seems to be published here for the first time and it’s all about the reformation. I also feel that it shows something that I have always believed. The reformation emanated from SLC, not the other way around.

    The more I have gone over the journals the more amazing they are. As Noel pointed out they really are a treasure for the historian.

    I would like to second Noel’s comments about USU Press. John Alley and his crew are top notch. They are putting out some of the best in Mormon books. I think they are now the premiere University Press for Mormon studies.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 16, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  13. I’m not aware that anyone has ever argued that the Reformation was *not* directed by “the head,” given that every study of the Reformation I’ve seen names Jedediah Grant as its chief promoter, dating its opening to his fiery sermons in the settlements just north of Salt Lake, quoting letters by Brigham Young to leaders in other settlements, etc. What am I missing? Has someone suggested that the Reformation welled up in some other manner?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 16, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  14. I am sorry Adris. I should have been more clear.

    This journal is a great account for people interested in a subject like the reformation because it would support the conclusions you described. I think this journal does much more. The number of Patriarchal blessings alone is amazing and a wonderful resource for those interested in that subject. The Mormon interaction with railroads would be wonderful area to research with the journals. The organization of settlements outside the Mormon capital is another area described by the journals.They really are a treasure.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 16, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  15. Ardis,

    I am very sorry about the typo with your name. My bad.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 16, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  16. I mistype it that way myself sometimes. Also, “Ardios.” Really.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 16, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

  17. The reviewer wrote: “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.”

    The weight of historical evidence from persons who were actually at the Mountain Meadows places the emigrant company there at least two nights before the initial attack on September 7. That means they arrived there on Saturday, September 5, at the latest. Since they spent two nights camping between Cedar City and the Meadows (one night at Quichapa and another at Leach’s Spring), they must have passed through Cedar City on Thursday, September 3, at the latest. (MatMM 132) Haight’s letter to Dame would have arrived in Parowan that evening, which was the day before Martineau left on his reconnaissance trip. He would have been present in Parowan for the meeting after all. Martineau left on Friday, September 4, the same day that John Chatterley carried Dame’s message back to Haight. (MatMM 136)

    Comment by Richard E. Turley Jr. — October 16, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

  18. Richard, thank you for stopping in and adding this perspective. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say I’m looking forward to Vol. 2.

    Can you comment on how the Martineau journals contributed to your book or to the future volume?

    Comment by Jared T — October 17, 2008 @ 12:39 am

  19. Adris/Ardios: sometimes, by a misfortunate slip of the finger, I mistype my name as satan.

    Comment by stan — October 17, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  20. Ardios — awesome!

    Comment by Randy B. — October 17, 2008 @ 11:33 am

  21. Rick, I think you’re fudging the timing of when the Fancher party got to the meadows: the evidence you speak of about the party being there for at least two nights comes from statements made years after the events. More importantly, it ignores the September 3 date in Jesse N. Smith’s diary that puts them at Red Creek, Paragonah, on Thursday, which suggests whatever happened in Cedar City took place on Friday. (But I too have revised my opinion of when Lee left Harmony: the evidence now released from LDS archives demonstrates pretty well that Lee and about 14 Paiutes, plus enough of the local boys to constitute an “expedition,” left on Sunday. So, assuming the Arkansans camped at Quichapa on Friday evening–I think we probably agree on that–they were still at least 25 tough miles from the meadows–hard pulling for an ox train with a lot of cattle. Some elements of the party might have made it to the meadows by Saturday, but most if not all of the wagons probably didn’t show up till Sunday evening. How else can you explain their failure to corral their wagons and the generally chaotic condition of the campsite on Monday morning, when Lee and his colleagues (and I don’t mean Paiutes) see an opportunity and take it?

    That said, I don’t think the details of the chronology can be nailed down precisely, at least as precisely as reflected in your book. But Martineau’s letter–written fifty years AFTER the massacre–is more than a weak reed–it’s so weak that calling it “evidence” is a stretch. To quote: “Arriving at Cedar City the company remained a week or more, their conduct becoming very offensive;?saying they would remain [illegible] until the U.S. troops arrived and then help kill every man and take the wives and daughters to do with as they pleased.”

    Is Martineau simply forgetful or lying for a purpose? I think the Brigham Young quote he puts in Dame’s mouth in the next paragraph answers that question. But “Innocent Blood” will be out next week, and readers can examine all the relevant comments in the Martineau letter and make up their own minds.

    Will Bagley

    Comment by Will Bagley — October 17, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  22. I would like to second Jared?s comments and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule and comment on my review. I also look forward to the document volumes and was sad to hear they are delayed, possibly for months or longer. I feel bad for BYU Studies wanting to create excitement about the volumes and then having the rug pulled out from under them.

    With all of the problems with Martineau?s late documents such as his writing the emigrants were in Cedar ?a week or more? and the emigrants killing Indians at Corn Creek how can this information about the meeting be reliable? Martineau?s journals say nothing about this meeting or this order he is supposed to have written. Even Martineau?s later insertion into the journal does not mention this meeting or letter, though the poisoning story is there. Martineau records in his journal the secret assignment for the White Mountain Expedition and yet I am to believe he would not record this important meeting and letter? The other problem I find with your dating and I could not find in your book is Jesse N. Smith?s journal entry placing the emigrants in Paragonah on Sept.3. Wagons with oxen, large families and a large number of cattle usually travel at top speed twelve miles a day. How can they be in Paragonah on the 3rd and then get to Cedar City the same day which is a distance of more than twenty miles? I also see other problems with your dating the emigrants getting to the meadows on Saturday instead of Sunday. Why would the emigrants be disorganized two days later when they had all this trouble in Cedar that you describe? If they had all these difficulties and wanted to protect their families why would they leave wagons in disarray? I cannot believe the emigrants would be that reckless. Either a person has to go with Gibbs who says there was no problems and the emigrants traveled in complete peace or go with Bagley who has the emigrants getting into the meadows late Sunday night.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 17, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

  23. I also look forward to the document volumes and was sad to hear they are delayed, possibly for months or longer. I feel bad for BYU Studies wanting to create excitement about the volumes and then having the rug pulled out from under them.

    Wow, I missed hearing this piece of news.

    Comment by Justin — October 17, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  24. I missed that too, Justin. What is the skinny?

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 17, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  25. Joe and Justin,
    I think the fact that there will be two separate editions has been a bit garbled in the last few posts. The Religious Studies Center (RSC) has produced their edited edition of the Martineau Journals and we (Chick Hatch and I) will be producing another edited edition of the Martineau Journals through USU Press. It was an unfortunate duplication of effort that BYU began theirs about the same time that we started ours. The just happened complete theirs sooner than we have. Unless I’ve been misinformed, BYU Studies has nothing whatsoever to do with the Martineau Journals.

    Although they are competing volumes, we hope to produce an edition that will include additional material which will better inform some of Martineau’s journal entries. Readers will have to decide for themselves which is the better edition of the two.

    You bring up some important questions about Martineau’s account of the massacre and the chronology leading up to it. Was he forgetful or lying? Having gained a greater appreciation for his strength of character and integrity, I doubt he was lying. We should note for those who read this blog that Martineau was on a scouting expedition on the lower forks of the Sevier River during the massacre. So he NOWHERE near the killing fields when it happened! I choose to believe that Martineau’s 50-year memory was tainted by misinformation. He may have provided misleading information or excluded other facts to protect Dame and others involved, but I doubt he was intentionally lying. It simply wasn’t his “MO” to do such a thing. My feeling is that the letter reflects what Martineau was told about the massacre…and/or told what to say of it.

    Comment by N. Carmack — October 20, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  26. Sorry, I had a few typos of my own. -N

    Comment by N. Carmack — October 20, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

  27. Actually, I think Joe was referring to the delayed publication of Mountain Meadows Massacre documents, not to the Martineau journals.

    Comment by Justin — October 20, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  28. Noel,

    Justin is correct and I apologize for not being more clear. BYU Studies had announced in July that they would be publishing two volumes of Mountain Meadows documents related to “Massacre at Mountain Meadows”. One volume was to have been the next volume of the journal and the second volume is to be a hardbound book like what was done with Roberts “The Truth, the Way, and the Life”. Again, I am sorry for not being more clear.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 21, 2008 @ 12:40 am

  29. Noel,

    Do you know who Viroqua Johnson was in relation to Martineau? She is a native Indian, but I cannot figure out if she was someone he wanted to marry or have as a daughter.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — October 21, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

  30. Joe,
    I don’t remember encountering a Viroqua in the journals. Is it a name referred to in another document or is there, perhaps, an alternate spelling to the name? I do know of Cora, a Colorado-Ute girl whom Martineau “bought” when she was 2 or 3 years old to raise as a daughter. He later sold her to an A. B. Cherry (see entries for Sept. 10, 1856 and January 8, 1897). Cherry evidently raised her to adulthood. Cora later had a child (Joseph Hyrum) with one Joseph Johnson, whom she never married. Martineau says, he “betrayed” her under promise of marriage.

    Many years later, after learning that Cora died, Martineau makes an interesting remark in his entry of January 8, 1897, where he desired to have her temple work performed and to be sealed to her and her son, writing “The spirit approves this, and saith unto me–take her to wife and it shall be approved of God.”

    It seems that he does this more out of duty and respect to her for never having had a ratified marriage in life. He always referred to Joseph as his grandson.

    Is this the same individual, or are you referring to someone I am unaware of?

    Comment by N. Carmack — October 24, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  31. […] -An Uncommon Pioneer: The Journals of James Henry Martineau, 1828-1918. Edited by Donald G. Godfrey and Rebecca S. Martineau-McCarty.  See a review here. […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Forthcoming and Recently Published Books on Mormon and Utah History — November 12, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

  32. […] take their Mormon history strait up, try either of these volumes. The Martineau diaries (reviewed here) are both massive and significant. The Smart bio (reviewed here) includes a CD with thousands of […]

    Pingback by By Common Consent » 2008 BCC Christmas gift book guide — December 4, 2008 @ 8:01 am


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