Eleazer Edwards, his personal and family background, and his possible involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre
[There is uncertainty whether Eleazer Edwards participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre or was on the ground when the Arkansas company was attacked or besieged.]
Eleazer/Eliezar Edwards was a native of Wales who immigrated to the United States and pioneered in southern Utah.
Early Life in Wales & Immigration to America
We have uncovered very little information about Eleazer Edwards's background. Based on his widow's application in 1910 for Indian War benefits, he appears to have been born in or around 1824. We have not yet found anything about his life in Wales, his marriage, his immigration to America, or his subsequent journey to Utah.
To Cedar City and the Ironworks
What is known is that by the early 1850s, Edwards was living in Cedar City. He was married to Jane W. Edwards, although when they were married or whether they had children is not known.He is listed as a lot owner in the early Cedar City land records. Per the above application for Indian War benefits, in 1853, he served under Captain Robert Keyes for a three month period in the Walker War. In 1854, while the iron workers were constructing the Noble furnace, Edwards was the chief collier, producing coke in the coke ovens for the smelting operation.
In moving to Cedar City, Edwards was settling in an area dominated by the Deseret Iron Company, known more familiarly as the Ironworks. Edwards was among the Scots, Irish, Welsh and English iron and coal workers who labored to establish an iron smelting capability in southern Utah. See Summary of Deseret Iron Company for a brief summary of its early development.
In April 1857, the delivery of a new steam engine from Great Salt Lake City seemed to breathe new life into the ironworks. Working from April to June they installed the steam engine and completed the new engine house. In the first week of July, they were ready to begin smelting. They “put on the blast” and had a modicum of success. But they continued to be plagued with problems ranging from poor quality raw materials to smelting equipment that lacked technical sophistication. When in late July the steam engine seized with sand from the dirty creek water, they speedily dug a reservoir to store a supply of clean water for the boiler. They continued making smelting runs through August. All the while crews at the ironworks manned all the necessary functions there, while other crews, mainly miners and teamsters, gathered the raw materials – iron ore, coal, limestone, and wood – necessary to sustain smelting.
The smelting continued until September 13. In other words, around September 3, when a dispute arose between some settlers and several men in the passing Arkansas company, the blast furnace was running nonstop. And when Cedar City militiamen, many of them ironworkers, mustered to Mountain Meadows where they were involved in the massacre on September 11, other ironworkers in Cedar City continued the smelting runs night and day. For additional details, see Smelting at the Ironworks in 1857.
From late April to September, those working up the canyon in mining or hauling wood, coal, limestone, rock, sand or “adobies” to the ironworks were Isaac C. Haight, James Williamson, George Hunter, Joseph H. Smith, Ira Allen, Ellott Wilden, Swen Jacobs, Alex Loveridge, Joel White, Ezra Curtis, Samuel McMurdie, Samuel Pollock, John Jacobs, John M. Higbee, John M. Macfarlane, Samuel Jewkes, Nephi Johnson, Thomas Cartwright, William Bateman, Elias Morris, Benjamin Arthur, Joseph H. Smith, Robert Wiley, and Philip Klingensmith. Those working at the ironworks on the furnace, engine, coke ovens or blacksmith shop included Elias Morris, John Humphries, Ira Allen, John Urie, Benjamin Arthur, James Williamson, Joseph H. Smith, Samuel Jewkes, Joseph Clews, Richard Harrison, William C. Stewart, William Bateman, John M Macfarlane, John M. Higbee, John Jacobs, George Hunter, Samuel Pollock, William S. Riggs, Alex Loveridge, Ellott Wilden, Ezra Curtis, Eliezar Edwards, Swen Jacobs, Joel White, and Thomas Cartwright. (The two lists overlap because some worked both in the canyon and at the Ironworks.) Other prominent figures at the ironworks who were not later involved at Mountain Meadows were Samuel Leigh, George Horton, James H. Haslem, Laban Morrell, John Chatterley, Thomas Gower, Thomas Crowther and others.
During spring and early summer 1857, Eliezar Edwards did not work in the Ironworks. However, in early August, when it was necessary to build a reservoir, Edwards work a brief stint (less than two days) on the reservoir project.
In the Iron Military District: Captain Eleazer Edwards, Company G, John M. Higbee's 3rd Battalion
In 1857, the Iron Military District consisted of four battalions led by regimental commander Col. William H. Dame. The platoons and companies in the first battalion drew on men in and around Parowan. (It had no involvement at Mountain Meadows.) Major Isaac Haight commanded the 2nd Battalion whose personnel in its many platoons and two companies came from Cedar City and outer-lying communities to the north such as Fort Johnson. Major John Higbee headed the 3rd Battalion whose many platoons and two companies were drawn from Cedar City and outer-lying communities to the southwest such as Fort Hamilton. Major John D. Lee of Fort Harmony headed the 4th Battalion whose platoons and companies drew on its militia personnel from Fort Harmony, the Southerners at the newly-founded settlement in Washington, the Indian interpreters at Fort Clara, and the new settlers at Pinto.
In the 1857 Iron County militia muster rolls, Edwards was listed as a captain of Company G in John M. Higbee's 3rd Battalion. He was approximately 33 years old. He was among those from Cedar City who mustered under orders to Mountain Meadows. See A Basic Account for a full description of the massacre.
According to John D. Lee, either Edwards or George W. Adair carried an express from the Meadows to Cedar City in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 9, about halfway through the four and one-half day siege of the Arkansas emigrant train. Little else is known of his role in the siege or whether he was present at the massacre two days later.
Edwards was not named in the 1859 arrest warrant or referred to during the Lee trials of 1875-76. But in "Mormonism Unveiled," John D. Lee identified "Edwards" as a messenger from Mountain Meadows to Cedar City. Lee's attorney, William Bishop, followed Lee's lead and listed "____ Edwards" in his list of "assassins."
In Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Walker, Turley and Leonard do not list Eleazer Edwards as a participant in Appendix C, their list of the involved militiamen. Instead they tentatively identify Lee's messenger as William Edwards. However, the more likely identification is Eleazer/Eliezar Edwards, who had been in Cedar City since the early 1850s, was a collier in the early ironworks, worked on the reservoir for the steam engine in August 1857, and was captain of Company G in John Higbee's 3rd Battalion. Conversely, William Edwards was only fourteen in 1857, was not listed in the militia muster rolls, and the 1924 affidavit allegedly linking him to the massacre now appears to be a forgery.
Edwards was involved in manufacturing gunpowder and by 1859 had produced one hundred pounds of quality powder. However, sources on this militiaman are scarce.
Per the Indian War benefits application, Edwards died November 11, 1893 at the age of 69. Seventeen years later, Jane W. Edwards, his widow, filed an affidavit in her application for veterans benefits that gives the limited biographical details about her husband we have outlined here. Additional information about Eleazer Edward would be particularly appreciated.
Bigler and Bagley, Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives, 70 fn. 14, 343; Gibbons, "Frontier Arms of the Mormons," Utah Historical Quarterly, 42/1 (Winter 1974), 24; Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, 229, 379; Lee Trial transcripts; New.FamilySearch.org; Shirts and Shirts, A Trial Furnace, 331, 349, 354, 492; Utah State Archive and Records and Service, Commissioner of Indian War Records, Indian War Service Affidavits, affidavit of Jane W. Edwards re service of Eleazer Edwards, accessed at http://archives.utah.gov/research/inventories/2217.html; Walker, et al, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Appendix C, 393 fn. 2 (Edwards is not mentioned).
For full bibliographic information see Bibliography.
For further information on Eleazer Edwards, see:
- Deseret Iron Company Account Book, 1854-1867: http://www.footnote.com/document/241905844/
Further information and confirmation needed. Please comment or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.