Almost anyone who has heard anything about Mormon history has heard of Porter Rockwell. The legend of this man stands at the pinnacle of Mormon folklore. Harold Schindler has undertaken the difficult perhaps–even impossible task–of attempting to uncover the facts of a life so shrouded by myth and mystery and to interpret them in a way which will give meaning to the man and his work.
Rockwell was a man who was loved and hated with equally extreme passion. He was a man to whom dedication to his church meant more than all else. His epitaph said that “He was brave and loyal to his faith, true to the prophet Jos. Smith.” Rockwell was one of the early converts to the Church and an early friend of the Prophet. After his birth in Massachusetts and his move to New York, he endured, with the Saints, the persecutions of Independence and Far West as well as those of Nauvoo. Rockwell was a Danite in Missouri, though not a leader. Indeed, he was such a minor figure that his Missouri career is often difficult to follow, and Schindler’s account is often conjectural. In Nauvoo, he was a close friend to Joseph, one of his bodyguards, and the man who rowed him to Iowa to begin the abortive journey to the Rocky Mountains. After Joseph’s murder, Rockwell was involved in the war which raged between the Mormons and Gentiles of Hancock County.