Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley: A Mormon Ulysses of the American West
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“An essential read for those interested in studying the competing strands of the Mormon Restoration movement in mid-nineteenth-century frontier America.”—Richard E. Bennett“A marvelous record of an LDS everyman meandering through the Mormon West. . . . Fascinating and superbly researched.”—Todd M. Compton“Through the biography of one man, Johnson introduces us to five different incarnations of the Latter Day Saint tradition.”—Christopher James Blythe“A scope and sweep seldom matched in studies of the faith’s origins.” —Will Bagley
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Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley: A Mormon Ulysses of the American West narrates the wide-ranging life and times of John P. Hawley’s search for and service to an authentic Mormon faith. Melvin C. Johnson has been researching Hawley’s adventurous life along the American borderlands and frontier for three decades. Hawley was an active member of several Latter Day Restoration denominations in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas, the Indian Nations of Oklahoma, and Utah Territory from 1838 to 1909.
A Mormon Ulysses follows Hawley’s adventures in the West growing up as a logger, woodworker, settler, church official and missionary. He helped build the first Mormon temple west of the Mississippi, battled the Comanches, was entangled in the horrors of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and pioneered the Pine Valley community in southern Utah. Hawley’s western odyssey is timely, worthy, and deserves to belong in the canon of American history and biography.
Praise for Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley:
“In what reads like a sequel to his award-winning Polygamy on the Pedernales (2006), Melvin C. Johnson’s biography Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley: A Mormon Ulysses of the American West is a fascinating counterpoint to the standard Mormon pioneer study. Born in Illinois in 1826 and baptized in Missouri at age 11, Hawley moved with his family first to Nauvoo and later to Wisconsin. By the time he was 19, he was a member of the Lyman Wight colony in antebellum Texas where he lived from 1845 to 1855 before rejoining the Latter-day Saints in Utah Territory in 1856. Assigned with others to establish a settlement of the Saints in Pine Valley near St. George, Hawley shared in the many formidable challenges of living in a harsh desert climate in Utah’s Dixie country. Ever opposed to polygamy and increasingly uncomfortable with Brigham Young’s policies, doctrinal interpretations, and style of leadership, Hawley eventually converted to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ). In 1870 with his wife and family, he boarded a train to Iowa where he spent the remaining thirty years of his life in support of Joseph Smith III. Hawley’s story is exceptional and in the words of the author 'a vehicle for telling a larger story than his own: that of the Mormon diaspora.' Well written, solidly researched, and beautifully produced, this book is an essential read for those interested in studying the competing strands of the Mormon Restoration movement in mid-nineteenth-century frontier America.” — Richard E. Bennett, Professor, Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University
“Melvin Johnson’s biography of John Hawley is a marvelous record of an LDS everyman meandering through the Mormon West, from Nauvoo to Wisconsin to Texas to "Indian Territory" to southern Utah, back to Iowa. In addition, this is a major addition to local history, as Hawley lived in Pine Valley for many years. The narrative illuminates a number of subjects: polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the LDS/RLDS divide. It is a fascinating and superbly researched book.”—Todd M. Compton, author of A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary
“Johnson tells the fascinating story of John Hawley, a relatively unknown Latter Day Saint and a religious seeker, whose commitment to his faith led him to follow Lyman Wight after the martyrdom, to relocate to Utah and accept Brigham Young’s leadership after Wight’s death, and eventually to gather to Iowa, as a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Through the biography of one man, Johnson introduces us to five different incarnations of the Latter Day Saint tradition. Some Saints were never settled in one church but continued to join and leave denominations looking for what once attracted them to the tradition. This is the first book to highlight the experience shared by numerous men and women who could share Johnson’s nickname for Hawley, a ‘Mormon Ulysses.’”—Christopher James Blythe, Research Associate, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
“Mel Johnson is among the best historians practicing pan-Mormon history now on the planet. He has written the first comprehensive biography of the life of John Pierce Hawley, the Ulysses of The Restoration, which gives his book a scope and sweep seldom matched in studies of the faith’s origins. For those of us ‘who consciously and unconsciously’ define ourselves as Latter Day Saints, he writes with passion and compassion about how we ‘bob and weave along that stream sweeping into the river called humanity.’”—Will Bagley, Writer and Historian
“We benefit from books such as Life and Times of John Pierce Hawley. They underscore the uniqueness of the Mormon historical experience, for better or worse. Johnson's commendable effort provides us a looking glass into the daily life of an individual who helped shape that experience.” —Doug Gibson, Mormon History and Culture
“An important and compelling book. Mel Johnson has done an outstanding job in documenting and telling the story of John Hawley the Mormon Ulysses. . . . In relating the journeys and tales of this brave American Ulysses as he searched for the authentic Mormon faith, Johnson gives his readers a greater understanding of 19th century Mormon Restorationism.” —Andrew Hamilton, Worlds Without End
“In retracing Hawley’s spiritual quest, the author skillfully takes the reader beyond Mormonism’s typical narrative to a time and place where individual human experience becomes more nuanced, confused, conflicted, and perhaps more recognizable. . . . Melvin Johnson has written a refreshing book that nourished my imagination and wonder.” —John E. Baucom, Association for Mormon Letters
About the Author:
Melvin C. Johnson is an independent historian and retired college professor, writer, and speaker who pursues subjects dealing with the East Texas mill town culture, the Texas Hill country before and in the Civil War, and the intersection of Western America and Mormonism. His work won the Smith-Pettit Best Book Award (2007) for Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight's Mormon Village in Antebellum Texas and the Greg Kofford Best Theological Article (2017) for “John Hawley: Mormon Ulysses His LDS Mission to Iowa and Eventual RLDS Conversion,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. He and Halli, his wife, live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Tyler, Texas.
ISBN: 978-1-58958-764-9 (paperback); 978-1-58958-765-6 (hardcover)