I flew into Denver yesterday, and was supposed to have a connecting flight to Casper. But it was a hot day, and with Denver’s high altitude and the plane being a prop, they put a weight restriction on the plane and kicked 10 of us off of it. So I had to rent a car and drive (a little over four hours at 80 mph). (My friend Sue Schwendiman had a similar thing happen to her on Wednesday, and so she ended up renting a car and driving the last leg up to Casper, too.)
Anyway, I thought I’d post a brief report of today’s action. We started at 8:00 a.m. with a plenary session, a panel discussion examining the causes of the Willie and Martin handcart company tragedy. The history is actually very complicated, and Bill Hartley, who was chairing, passed out a sheet filled both front and back, single spaced, with possible factors. But the overriding factor was Franklin D. Richards’ decision to send them too late from Liverpool, and a lot of things dominoed from there.
At 10:00 a.m. was the first concurrent session. This is where you have a half-dozen options, and have to pick your poison. I went to one with three really interesting papers. The first, by Ardis Parshall, was entitled “The Qmlbwpnygax Eujungec Have Not the Power to Kigjie the Wzznlhmpygrg: Codes and Cipers in Mormon History.” She started with the famous code names in the D&C, then talked about codes and ciphers used mainly in correspondence with the east (which was sort of like the internet; it was a fair bet that others were reading the correspondence along the way, unless it was hand delivered by an LDS messenger.) Some were simple letter substitution ciphers (replace A with Q, etc.), but some were more elaborate codes that would be very difficult to break. Of course, they were often difficult to read, even with the key. Some were not hard core codes, but the use of other languages and scripts. One guy would write in Hawaian, knowing Joseph F. Smith would be able to translate it. And Parley Pratt left some letters using the Deseret Alphabet (not normally meant as a code), which eventually were deciphered and instrumental in his murder.
Patrick Bishop then talked about his efforts to authenticate a daugerrotype (sp?) of Oliver Cowdery. It’s a good looking picture, and I think he may have something there.
Then Blair Van Dyke talked about the 10 apostolic dedications of the Holy Land after Orson Hyde’s. I thought that was very interesting, so I ordered the book he coauthored with LaMar Barret (sp?), Holy Lands: A History of the LDS in the Near East.
Then we had a luncheon, where Richard Francaviglia talked about 19th century Mormon cartography, with lots of interesting pictures of Mormon maps.
For the next session, I attended the annual Rick, Ron and Glen show on MMM. This is always packed to the rafters, so you’ve got to come early to get a seat. I think these guys are really, really good, and I’m looking forward to their book, which they now swear is nearing completion and will come out in 2007. Ron Walker gave a preview of some of their conclusions, which I tried to jot down quickly:
1. The Baker and Fancher parties were allied, but not a single group.
2. The conflicts were not unique, but common on both the southern and northern trails. What is unique here is the massacre.
3. The southern Utah LDS conflated a half-dozen different events in their accounts of what happened.
4. The Utah War was very important in the calculus. Both sides came to see the other as an enemy.
5. The group psychology that led to the massacre similar to other religious group atrocities committed in times of war.
6. In the 1850s and 1860s, Utah had the same kinds of extralegal violence as existed elsewhere in the west.
7. Although Brigham helped to create a climate of violence, there is no direct link between him and the massacre.
8. The immediate spark was when the Arkansas men came into town a week before.
9. Isaac Haight bears the lion’s share of the blame, then John D. Lee, then another guy whose name I can’t read in my notes. (There were a few other conclusions, but I have to rush through this; I’m typing in the hotel computer room, and other people want to get on).
I just now came from a session of three papers on the 1847 trek.
There are close to 600 people here (still no Ronan sightings though!). This evening is the awards banquet. If I get a chance, I’ll write more later, but not promises.
Hugs and kisses from Casper,