Juvenile Instructor

Barney v. Bagley: Historians Debate John V. Long Papers by David Grua
November 13, 2007, 11:07 am
Filed under: David Grua, Rare Documents

Courtesy KUEROk, it probably won’t be a debate. But today at 11 am (MST) Ron Barney, of the Church Archives, and Will Bagley of Blood of the Prophets fame will be discussing the John V. Long Papers on KUER’s Radio West, with Doug Fabrizio. Rare documents dealer Ken Sanders will also weigh in on the discussion. Here’s the description:

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (2007-11-12) Tuesday on RadioWest – a real life murder mystery from the old West. John V Long was a confidant and scribe of Mormon leader Brigham Young, but he fell from grace, was excommunicated from the LDS Church, and finally found dead in a drainage ditch in 1869. Doug is joined by historian Will Bagley, rare book dealer Ken Sanders and church historian Ron Barney to explore what Long’s newly discovered papers tell us about life in the early days of the Utah territory.

I know Ron Barney personally and he’s a fine historian. He’s working on the Joseph Smith Papers. I don’t know Will Bagley personally, although I did see him at a SL Chinese restaurant a few weeks ago. Anyway, we’ll try to get a writeup of the discussion posted on the site a little later on. And we promise, Will, that we’ll be nice. Bagley-bashing won’t be a sport here, even if we don’t agree with everything in your book.

Update:  Here’s a writeup. Others that listened, please correct me or add pertinent information.

Provenance: The Long family approached Ken Sanders about a year ago about selling the collection. Sanders mentioned that he is intent on keeping the collection intact, but he also mentioned that he could make a lot more money by selling pieces of the collection separately.

Contents: Pitman shorthand specialist LaJean Carruth and Church Archives documents expert Christy Best evaluated the collection’s contents yesterday and found that there are journals, letters, and sermon transcriptions. There are also hundreds of pages of Long family genealogical materials. The collection does not have Long’s 1857-1858 diary, which would have covered the Utah War and Mountain Meadows period. Long mentions that there were 115 pitman diaries from the period, but only 11 remain, suggesting that many were destroyed for unknown reasons. There are in the collection transcriptions of a few Brigham Young sermons, including one where Young spoke about his boyhood. There are records describing Long’s High Council court, where he is charged with associating with the Young Men’s Social Club and other conduct unbecoming of a Latter-day Saint. He is also charged with associating with Gentiles that would seek to shed Mormon blood. There is also a document describing Long’s activities with sprititualism. There are two Eliza R. Snow poems that Sanders describes as being previously unknown and unpublished.

Long bio: Long was one of Brigham Young’s scribes and was very prominent in Utah territory. His wife Sarah was an important figure in the Utah arts scene, and painted “Brigham Young and His Friends,” which portrays her husband as being close to Young. After Long’s 1866 excommunication, she and her husband fell out of favor in social circles.

Intrigue surrounding death: Long’s daughter later said that her father was seen with one of Brigham’s B’Hoys, Bill Hickman, the night before his [Long’s] death. The accusation is that Hickman drowned Long for knowing too much. There was quite a bit of discussion concerning the different theories surrounding the death-was it a murder or was it an accidental death? Bagley hopes to publish an article with the Utah Historical Quarterly soon describing the different theories. One theory is that Long became too involved with Gentile mining interests, which challenged Young’s authority. Another theory is Long told Young that Orson Pratt was a better speaker than Young. Another theory is that Long wrote Young’s alibi letter in the aftermath of Mountain Meadows.

Barney’s Response: Barney contested the idea that Long was a close confidant of Young’s. Long was one of fifteen scribes, and was not even the most trusted scribe, which was probably George D. Watt. Watt and other scribes also fell out of favor with Young, but they were not murdered. There is evidence to suggest that Long was actually coming back into favor in the months preceding his death: 1) he was reappointed as a regent in the University of Deseret 2) prominent Mormons such as Samuel W. Richards and Edwin Wooley spoke at Long’s death. Barney also mentioned that Hickman did not mention Long in his [Hickman’s] memoirs, which were written in 1871, just two years after Long’s death. Barney characterized Bagley’s claims as “creative advertisement,” “tabloid history,” and said that “Bagley lives a much more exciting life than I do.” Bagley responded that he never claimed that the Long collection contained accusations of murder, but that other sources do. Also that his [Bagley’s] article does not contain any speculation, to which Barney said that despite asking for a copy, Bagley has not yet sent one to him.

 Notes on Eliza R. Snow poems: I’ve been informed by a reliable source that the two new poems are not “unknown,” but are simply new manuscript iterations of poems that are known from other sources. They have not, however, been published previously.