CANNON, Angus Munn

CANNON, Angus Munn
This article originally appeared in History of Utah Vol.4 by Orson F. Whitney

Prominent in various ways and in business a successful farmer and stock-raiser, Angus M. Cannon, President of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion, is given the right of precedence in this group of biographies. He has been a resident of Utah since the fall of 1849, when as an orphan boy of fifteen he entered Salt Lake Valley, having trudged afoot almost the entire distance from the Missouri river.

Though of Manx parentage, he is of English, birth; his native place being the city of Liverpool, where he was born May 17, 1834. His parents were George and Ann Quayle Cannon. At the age of three and a half years he went to live with his maternal grandmother on the Isle of Man, where he remained until he was five. Angus was the second son and fourth child in the family; the other children, named in their order, being George Q., Mary Alice, Ann, John Q., David H. and Leonora. The parents were baptized Latter- day Saints February 11, 1840, by Apostle John Taylor, who had married in Canada, Leonora Cannon, the father’s sister. Angus was blessed by the Elders of the Church the same year.

In September, 1842, the family started for America, taking passage in the ship “Sidney,’’ with a company of Saints presided over by Elder Levi Richards. The second day out from Liverpool the mother, Ann Quayle Cannon, was taken sick, and after an illness of six weeks she died and was buried in the ocean. She had anticipated such a fate, but could not be dissuaded from undertaking the voyage, so desirous was she of gathering with her children to the bosom of the Church. Such was the exalted religious nature of this heroic woman, whose sons were destined to become leaders in the Church, and whose daughters have been noted for their genuine womanly qualities and unswerving devotion to the principles for which their martyr mother gave her life.

After a voyage of eight weeks the family reached New Orleans, whence they proceeded to St. Louis, and. there passed the winter. In the spring they went up to Nauvoo on the “Maid of Iowa,” a steamboat owned by the Church and commanded by Captain Dan Jones. Owing to the change of climate, several members of the household were prostrated with fever and ague. During the succeeding “year the father, George Cannon, married Mary Edwards White, a widow from North Wales, who bore to him his daughter Elizabeth. He subsequently went to St.’Louis to obtain work, and while there suddenly fell sick and died. The remainder of the year (1844) Angus was cared for by his father’s widow, and in the autumn was baptized into the Church by Eldor Lyman 0. Littlefield. The next year he with his brother David and his sister Leonora went to live with their sister Mary Alice and her husband Charles Lambert.

The fall of 1846 found the orphan boy and his relatives on the west bank of the Mississippi, with their faces toward the Rocky mountains. With the remnant of the Saints they had been driven by the mob from Nam oo, enduring the trials and witnessing the scenes incident to that tragic episode. Proceeding to the Missouri river, where the main body of the exiled Church had halted, they built for themselves a humble home for winter shelter. In 1847, after the departure of the pioneers for the West, the eldest son, George Q., and his sister Ann journeyed also from Winter Quarters, with their uncle, John Taylor% and the emigration of that season. The rest of the family, who later went into Missouri, remained behind to prepare for their further pilgrimage.

It was in the spring of 1849 that Angus M. Cannon started for Salt Lake Valley. He reached his destination in the autumn, just one day after his brother, George Q.,had departed on a mission to the Sandwich Islands, leaving for the use of his younger brothers and sisters the matured crops which he had planted in the spring. The year 1850 was mainly spent in farming and in hauling wood from the canyons, after which Angus went with George A. Smith’s colony to Iron county, reaching the site of the present town of Parowan in January, 1851. He made the first adobes in that settlement. In May he returned to Salt Lake and spent the remainder of the year working on the farm and in the canyon. In the spring of 1852 he was ordained to the office of a Seventy, and the same year he became a printer’s apprentice in the “Deseret News’’ establishment.

The year 1854 brought with it a call to a mission in the Eastern States, to preach the Gospel and assist in the publication of “The Mormon,” a paper edited and published by Apostle John Taylor in New York City. After laboring for sometime in that city and in Brooklyn, Elder Cannon was sent to Hartford and other parts of Connecticut, and subsequently labored in New Jersey and in the Philadelphia conference. In Franklin county, Pennsylvania, and other places, he baptized many, and in this work was joined by his cousin, Elder George J. Taylor. In the spring of 1856 he succeeded Jeter Clinton as president of the Philadelphia conference, comprising Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Eastern Maryland. The following spring he became first counselor to Elder William L. Appleby, who had been appointed to preside over the Eastern States Mission. In addition to his other duties Elder Cannon superintended the Church emigration. Honorably released, he left Philadelphia for home in March, 1858. He had suffered from sickness before starting, and on the way west was detained at Crescent City, near Council Bluffs, for about a month by an attack of fever. 

He arrived at Salt Lake City on the 21st of June. Finding the place deserted by most of its inhabitants, who had moved south at the approach of Johnston’s army, he proceeded to Fillmore and there met his brother, George -Q., after a separation of eleven years. He returned to Salt Lake the same summer. ‘The next year he became one of the presidency of the Thirtieth Quorum of Seventy. In 1860, under the firm name of Cannon, Eardley & Brothers, he founded a pottery business, but the new enterprise was barely on its feet when the head of the firm was called, with others, in the latter part of 1861, to settle in Southern Utah. With his usual promptitude he responded to the call, and traveled to the banks of the Rio Virgin.

He was associated with Erastus Snow and Jacob Gates on a committee to locate the city of St. George. He was the first mayor of that town, holding the office for two terms. For four years he was prosecuting attorney for Washington county, and for two years district attorney for the Second Judicial District. In the fall of 1864 he went with Anson Call and others to locate a warehouse at the head of navigation on the Colorado river. They founded Callville, and brought a steamboat fifteen miles above Roaring Rapids, beyond which point Colonel Ives, of the United States army had declared no such boat could ascend.

In a regiment of militia known as the “Iron Brigade,’’Angus M. Cannon was elected major, and later lieutenant-colonel. He was one of ninety men, all members of that regiment, who searched for and recovered the bodies of Dr. J. M. Whitmore and Robert McIntyre, killed by Indians at Pipe Springs. This was in midwinter, 1866; the snow covering the ground. Dr, Whitmore, formerly of Texas and afterwards of Salt Lake City, was on a mission in “Dixie” and owned a ranch at the Springs. Mr. McIntyre was in the doctors employ, and they were out on the range hunting cattle, when they were surprised and murdered a few miles south of the ranch. The militia was notified and the ninety men under Colonel D. D. McArthur, Lieutenant-Colonel Cannon and Major Pierce, all mounted, sot out to search for”the bodies, and if possible to apprehend and punish the murderers. They captured a Paiute Indian who confessed to having witnessed the killing of Dr. Whitmore and his companion, but blamed it upon the Navajos. Subsequently ho conducted them to the scene of the murder, where the bodies, pierced with bullets and arrows, were found under the snow. While a portion of the party stood gazing on the ghastly sight, another squad under command of Captain James Andrus rode up, having other Indians in custody. These were also Piutes, and it appeared that they had done the deed of blood. They were therefore executed on the spot where the crime had been committed; all save the informer, whose life was spared, according to promise.

Ill health, caused by the malaria of the southern country, compelled Mr. Cannon to come north in 1867, when he made a trip into Montana, having charge of a train of freight wagons. Later in the year he was released from the Dixie Mission to take charge of the business department of the “Deseret News.” It was under his management that the “News’’ was first issued as a daily paper. He held that position until 1874, but meantime, in 1869, fulfilled another mission to the East, upon which he was gone six months.

From 1871 to 1876 he was engaged in the coal business, also in the wagon and implement business. In August of the latter year he was elected Recorder of Salt Lake County, and re-elected in 1880, holding the office eight years. Prior to this he had engaged in farming and stock raising, and had taken up a farm near the Jordan Narrows, at the southern end of Salt Lake Valley. His city residence was in the Fourteenth Ward. About the year 1873 he became second counselor to Bishop Thomas Taylor of that Ward. He was afterward ordained a High Priest and set apart as a member of the High Council of the Salt Lake Stake. In April, 1876, he was appointed by President Brigham Young to preside over the stake. This position he still holds. At the time of his appointment the stake comprised not only the whole of Salt Lake County, but also the counties of Tooele, Davis, Morgan, Summit and Wasatch. It is now the largest and most important of the three stakes into which Salt Lake County has recently been divided.

At the breaking out of the anti-polygamy crusade the prominence and activity of President Angus M. Cannon made him a marked man to the crusaders, and the fact that he had arranged his household to conform to the requirements of the Edmunds law—practically living apart from all his families—did not protect him. He was known to be the husband of several wives,and the courts ruled that it was not necessary for a polygamist to live with his wives in order to commit ‘‘unlawful cohabitation.”

The offense was complete if he acknowledged them. Under such a ruling no polygamist could escape without proving recreant to the most sacred obligations. He was arrested January 20, 1885, and placed under bonds. The details of his preliminary examination before U. S. Commissioner McKay. His trial began on the 27th and ended on the 23th of April, when a verdict of guilty was rendered. On the 9th of May he was sentenced to pay a fine of three hundred dollars and to be imprisoned for six months in the penitentiary. He was incarcerated the same day.

His ease was appealed to the Supreme Court of the Territory, and was taken on a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States, both tribunals sustaining the decision of the trial court. Pending the final adjudication he remained in prison over two months in excess of his time, in order to obtain from the court of last resort, for the public benefit, an authoritative definition of the legal scope of the term ‘‘unlawful cohabitation.” This definition the court gave; it was to the effect that the offense of unlawful cohabitation was complete without sexual association when a man “flaunted in the face of the world the ostentation and opportunities of a polygamous household. ”

On the day that this decision was rendered (December 14, 1885) President Cannon paid his fine and emerged from the penitentiary.

Immediately on regaining his liberty President Cannon went into voluntary retirement, threats having been made to rearrest and return him to prison, since he still acknowledged more than one woman as his wives. On the 24th of November, he was again taken into custody, charged with unlawful cohabitation, and placed under bonds of ten thousand dollars. Arraigned before Commissioner McKay in December, he was arrested on three more charges, two for unlawful cohabitation and one for polygamy. The examination failed to fasten any of these charges upon him, and he was accordingly set free.

Angus M. Cannon’s life in Utah has been such as to familiarize him with the condition of all classes of her people, and his labors have been of a character to acquaint him with the natural wealth and vast resources of the State. He has engaged quite extensively in farming, stock raising and coal mining, and during recent years in mining for the precious metals. He has developed large mines in the Dugway district, Tooele County —mines giving great promise, but at present unprofitable to work, owing to a lack of railroad facilities. He has also been an extensive operator in the Mercur district, where some of the mines opened by him have sold for large sums,not large enough, however, to entirely reimburse him for the expensive development of these and his Dugway properties. His labors in cattle and horse-raising, have been profitable to himself and beneficial to the community. Pew men equal him in judgment of cattle. He is a natural horseman and an expert shot.

In his ecclesiastical labors he has been unusually successful. Ever active and on the alert, he is a very efficient stake president. As presiding officer of the High Council, required to render decisions for its acceptance or rejection, he has been sustained by that body in every instance except one, and even in that case, the party against whom the decision was rendered accepted it as just and satisfactory. No decision emanating from the High Council during his presidency of nearly twenty-eight years has been reversed. At the time of his appointment as president of the stake, David O. Calder was chosen his first counselor and Joseph E. Taylor his second counselor. Upon the death of Elder Calder in 1884, Joseph E. Taylor became first, and Charles W. Penrose second counselor.

In addition to the characteristics noted Angus M. Cannon possesses other distinguishing traits. Exceptionally zealous and devoted to duty, he is also a man without fear. Deferential to his superiors, he demands that his own authority be respected. Though at times stern, he possesses great kindness of heart, and is generosity itself whenever his friends are in trouble. From the warmth and impulsiveness of his nature one could well suppose him to have sprung from the sunny South, rather than from the fogs and mists of a northern island. By his several wives he is the father of numerous children, some of whom have risen to prominence.

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