Life of David W. Patten
the First Apostolic Martyr
LYCURGUS A. WILSON
Salt Lake City, UtahLycurgus A. Wilson, Life of David W. Patten, Ch.8, p.82
Crooked river - David mortally wounded - The closing scene - Wilford Woodruff's testimony - Testimony of the Prophet Joseph - His place behind the veil revealed.
On the 24th of October, a messenger came into Far West bringing news of a band of invaders under command of Rev. Samuel Bogart, who had boasted that, if he had good luck in meeting Neil Gillum, another mobocrat leader, he would give Far West thunder and lightning before noon next day. Joseph Holbrook and David Judah were at once dispatched to watch the movements of the despoilers. Near midnight these brethren returned, and reported that the mob, after plundering the house of Father Pinkham, west of the city, had made prisoners of Nathan Pinkham, William Seely and Addison Green, whom they had declared their intentions to kill that night.
"On heating the report," the Prophet Joseph Smith records, "Judge Higbee, the first Judge of the county, ordered Lieutenant Colonel Hinckle, the highest officer in command in Far West, to send out a company to disperse the mob and retake their prisoners whom it was reported, they intended to murder that night.
"The trumpet sounded, and the brethren were assembled on the Public Square about midnight, when the facts were stated, and about seventy-five volunteered to obey the Judge's order, under command of David W. Patten, who immediately commenced their march on horseback, hoping to surprise and scatter the camp, retake the prisoners, and prevent the attack threatened upon Far West, without the loss of blood."
Apostle Parley P. Pratt, who was among the volunteers, thus graphically describes that midnight march:
"The company was soon under way, having to ride through extensive prairies, a distance of some twelve miles. The night was dark, the distant plains far and wide were illuminated by blazing fires, immense columns of smoke were seen rising in awful majesty, as if the world was on fire. This scene of grandeur can only be comprehended by those acquainted with the scenes of prairie burning; as the fire sweeps over millions of acres of dry grass in the fall season, and leaves a smooth surface divested of all vegetation.
"A thousand meteors blazing in the distance like the camp fires of some war host, threw a fitful gleam of light upon the distant sky, which many might have mistaken for the Aurora Borealis. This scene, added to the silence of the midnight, the rumbling sound of the tramping steeds, over the hard and dried surface of the plain, the clanking of the swords in their scabbards, the occasional gleam of bright armour in the flickering firelight, the gloom of surrounding darkness, and the unknown destiny of the expedition, or even of the people who sent it forth all combined to impress the mind with deep and solemn thought, and to throw a romantic vision over the imagination, which is not often experienced, except in the poet's dream, or in the wild imagery of sleeping fancy.
"In this solemn procession we moved on for some two hours, when it was supposed we were in the neighborhood of danger."
Dismounting here the company tied their horses to the field fence of Randolph McDonald, and, leaving a few men to guard the horses, proceeded on foot across the country by three different routes to the "Field house," where it was thought the mob were encamped. David, with a third of the party, took the way around the field to the right, sending Apostle Charles C. Rich, in charge of another company, to the left; while a third, under James Durfee, went directly across. All were to meet at the house of Mr. Field and take the enemy by surprise. When the forces reached the point of meeting, however, no foe was in sight.
It was now concluded that the mob must have camped at the ford below on Crooked river, and after a short exhortation from Captain Patten to trust in the Lord for victory, a march was ordered along the road to that point. As the party neared the river in the early morning just at day-break, a voice was heard calling, "Who comes there?" and at the same instant a shot was fired, when a young man, P. O'Bannion, reeled and fell from the ranks mortally wounded. Captain Patten at once ordered a charge and the company rushed forward only to see two men, who had been on guard, running into the camp of the enemy on the river bank below. Immediately all was confusion in the camp, but it was still so dark that nothing could be seen with distinctness by the brethren looking to the west, while their forms could be clearly outlined in the eastern light by the mob, who were soon in position behind the river bank below. David had just ranged his company in line, not more than fifty yards from the camp, when a deadly fire was opened upon them from behind the embankment. An answering fire was immediately ordered and with the watch-word "God and liberty," on his lips, David, ordering a charge, ran forward.
The mob fled in confusion before the rush that followed and the field was quickly won; but as David led the pursuit down the river bank, a mobber who had taken refuge behind a tree for a momentary pause before taking to the river, turned and shot him in the abdomen.
The mob routed, his brethren gathered about their wounded leader in deepest sorrow, and everything possible was done to minister to his comfort. Word was dispatched to Far West for medical assistance to meet the party, the wagons of the mob were pressed into service, and the victorious, but sorrow-stricken company took up their dreary march toward Far West. Seven of the brethren were wounded, and one, Gideon Carter, had been killed outright.
After riding a few miles in a wagon, David's suffering became so intense he was placed on a litter and carded by his brethren.
Without delay, on receiving the mournful intelligence, the Prophet Joseph Smith with his brother Hyrum, Apostle Heber C. Kimball and Elder Amasa M. Lyman, with others, as also David's grief-stricken wife, made all haste to meet the sorrowful cavalcade.
President Heber C. Kimball describes the closing scene:
"Immediately on receiving the intelligence that Brother Patten was wounded, I hastened to see him and found him in great pain, but still he was glad to see me; he was conveyed about four miles to the house of Brother Stephen Winchester; during his removal his sufferings were so excruciating that he frequently desired us to lay him down that he might die; but being desirous to get him out of the reach of the mob, we prevailed upon him to let us carry him among his friends. We carried him on a kind of bier, fixed up from poles.
"Although he had medical assistance, his wound was such that there was no hope entertained of his recovery, and this he was perfectly aware of. In this situation, while the shades of time were lowering, and eternity with all its realities opening to his view, he bore a strong testimony to the truth of the work of the Lord, and the religion he had espoused. He was perfectly sensible and collected until he breathed his last, which occurred at about ten o'clock in the evening. Stephen Winchester, Brother Patten's wife, Bathsheba W. Bigler, with several of her father's family were present at David's death.
"The principles of the Gospel which were so precious to him before, afforded him that support and consolation at the time of his departure, which deprived death of its sting and horror. Speaking of those who had fallen from their steadfastness, he exclaimed, 'O that they were in my situation! For I feel that I have kept the faith, I have finished my course, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me.' Speaking to his beloved wife, he said, 'Whatever you do else, O do not deny the faith.' He all the time expressed a great desire to depart. I said to him, 'Brother David, when you get home, I want you to remember me.' He replied, 'I will.' At this time his sight was gone. A few minutes before he died, he prayed as follows, 'Father, I ask Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, that thou wouldst release my spirit, and receive it unto Thyself.' And he then said to those who surrounded his dying bed, 'Brethren, you have held me by your faith, but do give me up, and let me go, I beseech you.' We accordingly committed him to God, and he soon breathed his last, and slept in Jesus without a groan.
"This was the death of one who was an honor to the Church, and, a blessing to the Saints; and whose faith, virtue and diligence in the cause of truth will be had in remembrance by the Church of Jesus Christ from generation to generation. It was a painful way to be deprived of the labors of this worthy servant of Christ, and it cast a gloom upon the Saints; yet the glorious and sealing testimony which he bore of his acceptance with heaven and the truth of the Gospel was a matter of joy and satisfaction, not only to his immediate friends, but to the Saints at large."
Of the death of his friend, President Wilford Woodruff writes:
"Thus fell the noble David W. Patten as a martyr for the cause of God and he will receive a martyr's crown. He was valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ while he lived upon the earth. He was a man of great faith and the power of God was with him. He was brave to a fault, even too brave to be preserved. He apparently had no fear of man about him.
"Many of the sick were healed and devils cast out under his administration."
In closing his account of the tragedy, the Prophet Joseph says:
"Brother David W. Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who knew him. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and died as he lived, a man of God, and strong in the faith of a glorious resurrection, in a world where mobs will have no power or place."
With David's wish, formerly expressed to him, to die as a martyr, no doubt in mind, the Prophet Joseph, at the funeral on October 27, 1838, pointing to his lifeless body, testified:
"There lies a man that has done just as he said he would - he has laid down his life for his friends." And one mightier has said:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend."
A fit ending of a glorious career!
The remains were laid to rest with military honors at Far West, and the grave is now unmarked and unknown, but of the noble spirit, the Lord, in a revelation a few years subsequent to his departure, vouchsafed this intelligence:
"David Patten I have taken unto myself; behold, his Priesthood no man taketh from him; but verily I say unto you, another may be appointed unto the same calling."
And again, in speaking of Lyman Wight, who succeeded David in the Apostleship, the Lord says:
"That when he shall finish his work, that I may receive him unto myself, even as I did my servant David Patten, who is with me at this time."
If, then, to repeat, we say that great men are the Lord' s object lessons to the world by whom He holds out to mankind the truths committed to their generation, what of the life before us?
From the time David heard the Gospel, his earnest nature entered with full purpose of heart upon the work he was sent from the courts on high to perform, his whole soul was given over to faithfully bearing the message of his life:
GOD GIVES US ALL THE POWER WE HAVE,
and though in the one desire to give his life as a martyr, it may be said he fell short of the ideal:
THY WILL NOT MINE BE DONE;
yet, without doubt, in making up the roll of his noble and great ones, Time will place next to those of the Prophet and Patriarch martyrs, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the name of the first Apostolic martyr, David W. Patten.