-Morrisite War: Part One

-Morrisite War: Part Two

Utah's Ghoul: John Baptiste

Mormon Martial Arts: Ed Parker


Weird and Wonderful


The Morrisite War: Part One

It was a three-day battle royal. A government troop one thousand strong surrounded a rag tag Mormon splinter group. It ended after a gunfight that left six cultists (including the leader, a self-proclaimed prophet of God) and two posse members dead. Sound familiar? An unfortunate by product of modern day Utah?

Only this siege took place in June 1862. The troop, a posse headed by a territorial Marshal loyal to Brigham Young. The cult of true believers, the Morrisites, a group that had deserted Young's fold to create a "purer" version of Mormonism.

As the posse fired cannon volleys into the Morrisite encampment, the weary cult members hunkered down waiting for the second coming of Christ. Their leader, one Joseph Morris, prayed for guidance while bullets and cannonball rained down upon his flock.

Not so different from some modern day fracases involving the government and a band of wacky Mormon separatists. The John Singer camp comes to mind.

Joseph Morris shares a lot with modern Mormon Fundamentalists. He fled the orthodox Mormon Church because, in his mind, its teachings had become corrupt. He chose to set up his own version of Joseph Smith's religion. One closer, he felt, to what Smith and God wanted. And like Singer, it ended badly for Morris and his devotees.

But there are important differences between Morris and his present day counterparts. Both groups opposed the Church's stand on polygamy, however Morris left because he loathed the practice. A tad bit different from current LDS fundamentalist, who goes gaa gaa over collecting beau coup teenage wives.

A fervent follower of Joseph Smith, the multiple wife doctrine of 1800s Mormonism repulsed Morris. He just couldn't believe his hero, Smith, practiced such an abomination. A demon in human guise had foisted it on the one true Church; a devil named Brigham Young.

His differences with Young led to the aforementioned fray at an abandoned fort in Uintah, a small valley south of Ogden. Morris was shot dead for his troubles and his followers dispersed. This is the story of the Morrisite War, probably the first battle between the government and a Mormon splinter group in Utah.

There are good guys and bad guys in this tale. Just who comprises the heroes and who the villains has been hotly debated since Marshal Robert T. Burton gunned down Praying Joe Morris minutes after the Morrisites surrendered. More>>


The Morrisite War: Part Two

The Mad Prophet of South Weber

Joseph Morris knew trouble was on its way. He had known for a long time. Heavenly Father sent him revelations detailing the holy war that would vault his religion to dominance and set the ungodly world on a righteous path.

His break from the Mormon Church over the shameful practice of polygamy, among other things, didn't exactly endear him to the powers in Utah.

That old fraud Brigham Young, usurper of Joseph Smith's inspired vision, wouldn't sit peacefully on his throne at the head of the LDS church and let Morris preach the true gospel. Oh no, he wouldn't.

Praying Joe had enemies. He knew it all too well. Those in control of the LDS Church, those apostates that had deserted the true faith, and those living around him that just didn't cotton to revealed word of God as preached by Joseph Morris.

Realizing that a war was coming, Morris began packing the Morrisites into Kingston Fort in South Weber. He ordered his flock to seal holes in the crumbling walls of the abandoned fort. Morris and about five hundred of his followers hunkered down and waited.

He wasn't wrong. A posse under Marshal Robert T. Burton was winding its way towards South Weber. It had left Salt Lake City with five hundred armed men and on its march through Davis County kept gathering volunteers itching to get at the mad prophet in Uintah Valley. This rolling army even sported artillery: A legion of Satan ready to drop the hammer on the one true faith.

Burton and crew were on their way to free two apostates that Joseph Morris held captive. The Morrisites had refused to release the two men, who swiped a wagonload of grain, disobeying a federal judge's edict. More>>

Utah's Ghoul: John Baptiste

Some ghouls and grave robbers have carved names for themselves in history. England's Burke and Hare, and Wisconsin's Ed Gein come readily to mind. These historical figures have become icons, inspiring fear, pulp fiction and movies galore. Burke and Hare have been the subject of at least four movies and several books. Wisconsin Ed was the basis for several classic films, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and Deranged.

However, Utah has its own premiere grave robber. A man whose career was equally as bizarre as his three more famous counterparts. His name was John Baptiste. Has our Mr. Baptiste gone on to fame or to inspire pulp artists? No. In fact, John Baptiste is unknown outside of a few knowledgeable Utah folklore nuts. The only art his story has spawned is a song by Bob Moss on his first album, the cult masterpiece Tragic Tales of the West.

What does John Baptiste lacks that other historical ghouls possess? It is certainly not Ed Gein's keen fashion sense. The only difference between the two was that John only wore the corpse's clothes, while Ed donned their skins. Still, both men took to grave robbing as a way to augment their wardrobes. More>>