Archive for January, 2017

January Announcement for the Utah Westerners

The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God

and the Territory That Did Not Fight

 Dr. Gary Maxwell

For our January meeting Gary will discuss his latest book The Civil War Years in Utah:  The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight.  In 1832 Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormons’ first prophet, foretold of a great war beginning in South Carolina. In the combatants’ mutual destruction, God’s purposes would be served, and Mormon men would rise to form a geographical, political, and theocratic “Kingdom of God” to encompass the earth. Three decades later, when Smith’s prophecy failed with the end of the American Civil War, the United States left torn but intact, the Mormons’ perspective on the conflict—and their inactivity in it—required palliative revision. In The Civil War Years in Utah, the first full account of the events that occurred in Utah Territory during that war, John Gary Maxwell contradicts the patriotic mythology of Mormon leaders’ version of this dark chapter in Utah history.

While the Civil War spread death, tragedy, and sorrow across the continent, Utah Territory remained virtually untouched. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and its faithful—proudly praise the service of an 1862 Mormon cavalry company during the Civil War, Maxwell’s research exposes the relatively inconsequential contribution of these Nauvoo Legion soldiers. Active for a mere ninety days, they patrolled overland trails and telegraph lines. Furthermore, Maxwell finds indisputable evidence of Southern allegiance among Mormon leaders, despite their claim of staunch, long-standing loyalty to the Union. Men at the highest levels of Mormon hierarchy were in close personal contact with Confederate operatives. In seeking sovereignty, Maxwell contends, the Saints engaged in blatant and treasonous conflict with Union authorities, the California and Nevada Volunteers, and federal policies, repeatedly skirting open warfare with the U.S. government.

Collective memory of this consequential period in American history, Maxwell argues, has been ill-served by a one-sided perspective. This engaging and long-overdue reappraisal finally fills in the gaps, telling the full story of the Civil War years in Utah Territory.

Gary was born and raised in Salt Lake City where he attended East High School, graduating in the same class as Bob Bennett, Jake Garn, Henry Eyring, Richard Middleton and Don Gale.  He attended medical School at the University of Utah and interned at the Salt Lake County General Hospital.  He served in the US Army reserves which included two years of active duty at Coco Solo Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone.  Gary’s completed a five-year residency in General Surgery and one year transplantation research at the University of Utah Medical Center.  He served on the faculty at the University of Utah from 1961 to 1986 where he was influential in teaching surgery to large number of students and residents.  He performed several hundred kidney transplants at the University of Utah Medical Center, including the first done in children.

 Always in the academic world Gary moved to North Carolina in 1985 to become a faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Program Director of General Surgery at Wilmington’s New Hanover Regional Medical Center.  He continued teaching medical students and residents in general surgery with special emphasis in Trauma.   He has traveled to Equador several times with surgical teams to perform surgery in underserved populations. 

January 9, 2017 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

December Announcement for the Utah Westerners

Craig Wirth

Craig will be discussing his broadcasting career in Utah and present video clips of some of his favorite Utah stories.

Craig Wirth is Communications Director of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. Originally from Great Falls, Montana.  He started working behind the scenes at Channel 4 in 1970, while a student at the University of Utah. He eventually moved to Wisconsin where he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in urban affairs and covered the state legislature for WTMJ in Milwaukee.  He returned to Utah where he again worked for Channel 4.  He has also worked in the New York and Los Angeles television markets for which he has won four Emmy Awards for his outstanding work.  He was inducted into the Utah Broadcasting Association Hall of Fame in 2012.  Besides his ongoing work in television he is also the Communications Director for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Communications Department at the University of Utah. Craig considers himself to be a “story teller” who loves history.  His specialty is telling the stories of daily life in Utah.  His popular feature “Wirth Watching” (Sundays nights on Channel 4) has run for many years.


January 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

November Announcement for the Utah Westerners



Bill MacKinnon will speak about the Utah War and his recently published work: ‘At Sword’s Point, Part 2,’ the concluding book of his two-volume documentary history of the Utah War of 1857-1859.

Bill’s Part 2 picks up the war’s action in January 1858 and takes the reader through Thomas L. Kane’s gratuitous trip west to try to end further bloodshed, U. S. Army Capt. Randolph B. Marcy’s epic trek from Fort Bridger to New Mexico to remount the Utah Expedition, Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives’ ascent of the Colorado River in search of an invasion route into southern Utah, President Buchanan’s plans to open a second front from the Pacific Coast while planning a related incursion into northern Mexico and the acquisition of Spanish Cuba, Gen. Winfield Scott’s bizarre attempt to supersede Albert Sidney Johnston, Brigham Young’s  quixotic efforts to raise a whole new force (the Standing Army of Israel) for a spring assault on Forts Bridger and Laramie, the massive Move South toward Sonora of 30,000 Mormon refugees, and Buchanan’s surprise dispatch of peace commissioners armed with stiff terms and a blanket presidential pardon to end the military phase of the war.

MacKinnon will focus on the war’s regional and even international sprawl as well as the truth and errors of its enduring mythology while sharing his conclusions about who started the war, its winners and losers, leader accountabilities, the impact of the war on individual participants, and the societal forces unleashed by the conflict that changed Utah, the West, and America forever. Attendees are urged to come prepared with the questions they have always wanted to ask about our country’s greatest and most expensive military adventure between the Mexican-American and Civil wars.

Bill MacKinnon is an independent historian living in Montecito, Santa Barbara County, California, who has researched, and written about Utah’s turbulent territorial period since 1958. He has been a member of the Utah State Historical Society since 1963 and is now both a fellow and honorary life member of that organization as well as a member of OCTA’s Crossroads (Utah) Chapter. He is a past president of the Mormon History Association and former sheriff of the Santa Barbara Corral of the Westerners. In his other careers as a business manager and community volunteer, he has been a vice president of General Motors Corporation, president of his own consulting firm, chairman of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and a trustee of public and private educational, philanthropic, and health care organizations. He is an alumnus or veteran of Yale, Harvard, and the U. S. Air Force.

January 9, 2017 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

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