“I tried being reasonable, I didn’t like it”
Not all of the brave men who rode for the Pony Express were good and decent men. Lot Huntington is an example of a very brave individual who rode for the Pony Express through our corner of the West Desert but was anything but a good and decent man.
Lot was born on the 29th of April 1834, in Watertown, New York. He was the son of a prominent Mormon man named Dimick Huntington and his mother was Fannie Allen Huntington. In 1846, Dimick Huntington joined the Mormon Battalion and participated in that epic adventure. Dimick was not alone however as his son Lot and his two young daughters accompanied him on that trek and are listed as members of the Mormon Battalion. Lot was 12 years old at the time.
The family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 29, 1847 and no doubt busied themselves with carving a homestead out of the wilderness. In the early days of the Mormon settlement of Utah, Dimick Huntington played an important role as an interpreter and peace maker with the Indians. Young Lot accompanied his father on many of his adventures in that capacity, gaining experience as a negotiator and learning the Indians’ language. An article in the Deseret News from November 12, 1927 relayed the story of the aftermath of several battles with the Indians near Provo where the Mormon militia was victorious and destroyed the Indians power in that area. The remnants of the band fled to the west side of Utah Lake and were planning to make a counter attack when Lot and several others were sent to the Indian camp to make peace.
The paper stated “Lot Huntington, the interpreter, was the only white man who was allowed to approach the Indians. As he drew near to their camp, one of the Chiefs struck him two severe blows with a whip. “Why did you kill my brothers?” he hissed.Lot Huntington had to be as steady as the mountain. He could have killed the Indian, no doubt, but he knew that such a course would bring on a battle — therefore he held his temper and talked calmly with the chief until the Indians invited the other whites to approach. As a result, the white men shared their dinners with the Indians and together they smoked the pipe of peace.”
This tale paints a picture of a reasonable and measured individual, something that no one would characterize Lot as being in the near future.
Dimick also took Lot on several exploring expeditions out west into the desert, most notably when he, Porter Rockwell, George Bean, George Boyd and Peter Conover were sent west by Colonel Steptoe in order to find a good central route to California in 1854. This expedition became mired in the Salt Flats west of Granite Mountain and reported back to Steptoe that there was no good central route. While this expedition was a failure, Lot gained valuable experience becoming familiar with the mountains, desert and ranges west of Salt Lake City, knowledge that would serve him well while riding for the Pony Express.
A short time later, in 1857, Lot was listed a member of the territorial militia, the cavalry specifically, where he participated in the Utah War as Johnston’s Army was approaching Salt Lake City. In this service, Lot likely further enhanced his expert horsemanship skills.
Exploring, interpreting and peace making with the Indians must not have been exciting enough for Lot because at some point, he took a dark turn and by 1859 had a growing reputation as an outlaw. In August of that year, Lot was accused of running with a gang of Government stock thieves — Joe Rhodes and Frank McNeil in particular.
Apparently, the thieves had their own code and McNeil somehow violated it and lost favor with the rest of the gang. McNeil had a run in with Joe Rhodes near Camp Floyd and Rhodes cracked him over the head with his pistol. The next day as the wounded McNeil was exiting the California House hotel, he was ambushed and shot by an unknown person who immediately fled. Lot happened to be nearby at the time of the shooting and was arrested the next day on suspicion and went under examination before Judges Eccles and Sinclair but no evidence of wrongdoing was found so he was released.
That same month, August 1859, Lot was seen on the street immediately following the shooting of 1st Sgt. Ralph Pike from Camp Williams in 1859 who had an altercation with a Mr. Spencer in Rush Valley. Although Mr. Spencer and a Mr. Stringham were eventually charged with the murder of Pike, Lot just happened to always be around when these types of events went down.
Lot continued his nefarious activities but took things to a whole new level in December of 1859, when he confronted notorious Danite Bill Hickman on the streets of Salt Lake City. Hickman, was falling out of favor with Brigham Young and had many enemies in Salt Lake both Mormon and Gentile alike. What is unclear is if someone put Lot up to the task of taking out the legendary Destroying Angel or whether Lot simply wanted to build his reputation by taking out the high-profile bad man. Whatever the case, a local paper described the event in this way: “Sunday afternoon, shortly after conclusion of services at the Tabernacle, there was one of the most disgusting and disgraceful affrays that ever transpired in this city. As many as 50 shots were fired by both parties. Lot Huntington and Williams Adams Hickman, both of whom were wounded…the latter, severely. A running street fire kept up for about ¼ mile. There were some 8 or 10 persons engaged in combat, some of whom were closely visited with leaden balls.”
Several sources state that even though Lot was embracing the outlaw way of life, he also managed to hold down serious jobs for months at a time including a stint working for George Chorpenning, supervising the mail on Egan’s trail from Pleasant Valley at the southern end of the Deep Creek Range, all the way to Carson City. All of this experience out in the West Desert, his fearless reputation and unquestioned bravery, made him a perfect candidate to be a Pony Express Rider so Major Howard Egan hired him on. According to an interview that Doc Faust gave in the Salt Lake Herald Republican newspaper in 1892, Lot’s route on the first ride was from Deep Creek to Simpson Springs. A short time later it seems he was transferred farther west running a route near Dry Creek Station. Doc Faust gave the following account of a harrowing event that, if accurate, cured Lot of any desire to further ride for the Pony Express.
“The Indian outbreak at Dry Creek was a surprise as they had generally gotten along well with the station men in the past. When they swooped down on the station, they killed Ralph Lozier before he knew what was happening. Then they started for the corral where Si McCandles, Lafayette Ball, John Applegate and Lot Huntington were. They had been warned of the attack by a friendly Indian and they had started to run. A bullet struck Applegate in the thigh, breaking it into pieces. As he fell, he yelled out that he was done for and for the rest to save themselves. As soon as they heard him, they came back to where he fell and said they would die with him. He begged them to go and save themselves. He then sat up and asked for his pistol, which had fallen out of his reach, and they gave it to him, thinking that he wanted to go fight the Indians. He cocked it, put it to his head, and pulled the trigger. His last words were ‘Boys, save yourselves.’ Seeing he was dead; the men made a running fight to Roberts Creek station. The station keepers at that place got scared, seeing the signal fires on the hills and went to Diamond Springs Station for safety. Huntington and his men finally made it to that station all right.“
Having had enough of the dangers of the Pony Express, Lot continued his outlaw behavior and on September 19 of 1860 he was indicted for rioting but was tried and found not guilty by the jury. This was a common theme with Lot, to be involved in a crime but then to be quickly acquitted of any wrongdoing. There is some speculation that Lot was a member of the Danites, he being mentioned by some sources along with Porter Rockwell, Eph Hanks and Bill Hickman. If true, it is possible that some of Lot’s criminal activity, especially that activity that was perpetrated against Gentiles or government entities may have been sanctioned or even assigned by Church Authorities.
As we will see in next week’s article, not even the higher profile lawmen, Danites or Church authorities could rein in Lot Huntington and he eventually met his end in spectacular fashion during a gunfight with none other than Orrin Porter Rockwell at Faust Station in Rush Valley.
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.