“One who doesn’t care, is one who shouldn’t be.”
Alice in Chains
In October of 1861, Lot Huntington married Manomas Lovina Gibson. But not even the love of his new wife could prevent Lot from riding the outlaw trail. Things came to a crescendo in early January 1862.
It is interesting to note that Lot was a nephew of Brigham Young. That in and of itself is unremarkable because the man had 29 wives and likely dozens of nephews. What set Lot apart was that his father was very well respected by many of the most prominent characters in the settlement of Utah including Porter Rockwell, Bill Hickman, Howard Egan and even Brigham Young himself.
These men knew Lot since the time he was a young man doing the work of a full-grown man on the frontier and most of those men liked Lot. Hickman even stated in his memoirs that he didn’t want to kill Huntington when he came at him near the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City because he knew him from a boy and liked him but claimed that Lot had been persuaded by bad influences.
In retrospect, that is really saying something if Bill Hickman thought you were a bad man. Lot however is described in most accounts as being the brash “Devil may care” ring leader. In fact, a news article from the Ogden Examiner from 1884 remembered Lot as “The leader of his band of red-handed ruffians.”
The event that was the beginning of the end for Lot Huntington was the brutal beating of former Utah Territory Governor Dawson. Dawson was appointed governor of Utah Territory by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Dawson served only three weeks into his tenure however because he ran afoul of the citizenry by making what were described as grossly improper proposals to a Mormon widow who responded by thrashing him with a shovel.
In the old west, there was zero tolerance for misbehavior towards women and Dawson’ life was literally at risk in Salt Lake after that event so he fled on the stage, stopping at Eph Hanks Mountain Dell Station where the Danites assured him he would be safe until the next stage came. Unfortunately for Dawson, A ruffian from Lot Huntington’s band of outlaws was posing as stage driver and Lot and the rest of the gang showed up and beat the crap out of Dawson who described his assault in this way:
“The driver (Wood Reynolds) set upon me and the rest of the gang, well whiskied, began a continued and most serious violence to me, wounding my head badly in many places, kicking me in the loins, and right breast until I was exhausted and then they desisted and stayed on continuing their drinking through the night for many hours.”
Jason Luce, Moroni Clawson and Lot Huntington were listed by Dawson in his complaint.
The local sheriff set out after the assailants and rounded up most of them except for Lot, Reynolds and Moroni Clawson. The captured thugs claimed they were acting under direct orders of the Salt Lake police chief when they accosted Dawson. A manhunt began for Lot and the others who instead of going into hiding, went to the Townsend house in Salt Lake City and stole $800 from an Overland Mail strong box.
Now Lot had Mormons and Gentiles united in his pursuit. As he and the others fled, he threw kerosene on the fire by stealing a highly prized mare named “Brown Sal’’ as she stood hitched to a rail in West Jordan. Brown Sal belonged to John Bennion and attained wide acclaim while being ridden by Sam Bennion in Lot Smith’s company of scouts who were tasked with protecting the Overland Stage Route through the Rocky Mountains at the outset of the Civil War. Her speed and intelligence were remarkable and her fearlessness when plunging into water made her legendary among the members of the militia.
The Bennions were outraged at the loss of their prized Mare so they organized a posse even though it was late in the winter evening and they headed over to none other than Orrin Porter Rockwell Station at the Point of the Mountain. The legendary tracker happened to be home when they arrived. He was a friend of the Bennions, coupled with the fact that he loved to head out on the trail tracking outlaws caused him to — as Glynn Bennion put it in her article “The best laid schemes” which appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune in 1924 — put on his fighting clothes, hitched up his buckboard and head out onto the trail in the darkness with the posse after the horse.
The trail was obvious for a time but then it was completely lost due to the fact that a cattle herd was being driven in the same direction. After much searching, they picked up the trail and it led them to Camp Floyd where they lost the trail again in the cattle’s hoof prints. Eventually they found the trail again south of Camp Floyd and that is when Porter surmised they were fleeing to the West Desert. Rockwell and the posse tracked the outlaws across Rush Valley for the better part of the frozen January night, overtaking the cattle herd, passing it and then arriving at Faust Station at 5 a.m.
By this time the men were frozen, exhausted, had ridden over 55 miles and had not slept for over 24 hours. Rockwell was relentless however and was certain that the outlaws were at the station so he emplaced his men surrounding the station and instructed Sam Bennion to check the stable and see if Brown Sal was there. Bennion did so and reported to Rockwell that she was there. Rockwell now knew the outlaws were inside so he and the posse hunkered down under the icy diamond stars and waited for daylight. Have you ever spent the night under the clear, still, winter stars in the desert and just sat there as the weight of the cold pressed down on you, freezing your nose, fingers and toes? Well let me tell you, it’s rough and those men must have been miserable and mightily determined.
When the first light began to appear in the sky, Doc Faust emerged from the station no doubt working on morning chores. Rockwell got his attention and when asked, Faust confirmed that the outlaws were in the station house and were eating breakfast. Porter told Doc to go back in and tell the outlaws to come out and surrender. He did so and a long period passed and then Lot Huntington himself emerged from the station with his pistol in hand.
Rockwell told Huntington to surrender and Lot laughed at him stating that he would not be taken alive and that he would shoot any man who tried to stop him and proceeded to the stable emerging with Brown Sal, keeping the horse between his body and Rockwell or other shooters. Lot was either overconfident or just sloppy. While lowering the last corral pole to get the horse out and make his escape, he dropped it and the pole hit the mare in the hind quarter causing the horse to rear up, exposing himself. Rockwell seized the opportunity and blasted him with buckshot which ripped Lot wide open. Lot fell mortally wounded across the corral bars and bled out in 4 min.
Seeing that their leader had been cut down, the other two outlaws surrendered in short order. Even though the group had been going nonstop, Rockwell had Lot Huntington’s lifeless body loaded in his buckboard along with the other outlaws and immediately returned to Salt Lake. Along that trek he ran into the cattle herd that was being driven to California that had menaced them all night by obliterating the outlaw’s trail. A 16-year-old Erastus Egan, or “Ras” as he was known, was in charge of the whole outfit and was driving the herd which was owned by his father Howard Egan, to Ruby Valley hundreds of miles to the west. They had an interesting exchange that will be covered when we talk about Ras Egan. Bottom line, Lot and his gang were planning on ambushing Ras and his Indian helpers at Point Lookout, likely murdering Ras and his crew and then driving the cattle through to California where they could be sold at $100 per head. Luckily for Ras, Rockwell spoiled their plans.
And thus, the epic saga of this adventure seeking outlaw and pony express rider came to an end. Newlywed Lot Huntington didn’t know that his new bride was pregnant as all of this was going down. After Lot was killed, Manomas was then married to James Andrus, who was married at the time to Manomas’ sister Laura. His daughter, Lottie was born 8 months after his death. Poor little Lottie died a year later. Manomas Andrus lived to be 98 years old and no doubt, often thought of Lot and his tragic end through the years. She died in 1940 and was one of the last pioneers of 1847 to pass away.
Jaromy Jessop has been a frequent contributing writer to the Transcript Bulletin. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for the West Desert with our readers. Jessop grew up exploring the mountains and deserts of Utah and has traveled to all 50 states, U.S. Territories and a dozen foreign countries. He can be followed on Facebook at “JD Jessop” and on his Facebook group “American Tales & Trails.” Jessop retains the rights to his writing and photographs. His permission is required for any republication.