April 1863

5 April 1863 • Sunday

On the 5th April I attended a Conference at Bedford, at which were present a number of the Elders: Bro’s Brigham Young Junr[,] Joseph Bull, R. Bentley, W. Bramall, Thos, O. King, M. F. Farnsworth, David Gibson, M. B. Shipp & Thos Crawley. While there I received letters from Bro West respecting the case of Brother Mills, which informed me that upon investigation, he had good reasons for believing Wm G. Mills to be guilty of the grossest acts of wickedness with women. He wrote me the particulars that he had ascertained by conversing with the parties with whom Mills had had connection and two or three with whom he had taken liberties and tried to have connection, Two girls ([first and last names of two women redacted]) confessed that Mills had seduced them, [12 words redacted]. Two others ([first and last names of two women redacted]) confessed that he had [27 words redacted]. All these statements they maintained face to face with him and his cross-examination could not shake them from their testimony, they stating in the most solemn manner that what they affirmed was true & he knew it.

An account of more bestial conduct than they testified he had been guilty of I never heard. When I read the first letter of Bro West’s on the subject I was so shocked at the thought of a man holding such a position as he did practicing such villainies and making such hypocritical pretensions as he did that I could not refrain from shedding tears and felt quite unmanned. Though W. G. Mills had never been a man that I could have implicit confidence in, from the first of my acquaintance with him, having always had to use a species of moral force upon my feelings to quell the suspicions that would rise within me respecting him, still, as he had his wife with him, I could not think that he would be so utterly abandoned and corrupt as to seduce young females and practice the wickedness which had now been exposed.

8 April 1863 • Wednesday

April 8th I went to the house of Brother and Sister Graham and spent the evening. I blessed their child and called it Eliza Catherine Morris.

10 April 1863 • Friday

I wrote the following letter to brother Brigham Young:—

April 10th 1863.

Dear Brother Brigham

At a Council meeting of the Priesthood (Elders West, Kay, Bentley, Pixton, Cliff and Chas Taylor & myself from the Valley being present) of the Birmingham Conference held in the Saints chapel at Birmingham last evening (Thursday, April 9.th) Elder W. G. Mills was cut off from the Church for Adultery.

About eight or nine days since I received a letter from a family who belong to the Church in Birmingham in which they stated that Elder Mills had attempted to seduce a girl who lived at or near West Bromwich, and that, if I would come down, they would give me all the particulars. As I could not spare the time then to go there, I wrote to Bro West, who was at Nottingham, enclosing the letter I had received and requesting him to take the necessary to investigate the matter; but cautioning him to act wisely and carefully. He obtained the necessary information from the writers of the letter, and had an interview with the young woman they alluded to. She did not acknowledge that criminal connection had taken place between herself and W. G. Mills; [23 words redacted]. Upon Brother West’s return to Birmingham he learned that Mills had taken liberties with the person of a young woman there, and being interrogated by him she confessed that she had been seduced by Mills, [33 words redacted]. At the house where Brother West stopped at Birmingham they had noticed several suspicious circumstances connected with Mills and a girl who sometimes lived with them, but which they had merely attributed to a design on his part to secure her affections &c so that he could make her his wife when he reached home again. When she was interrogated, however, under a strict and solemn charge to tell the truth she confessed that she had been seduced by Mills, and that he had promised to marry her when she reached the Valley—that when she had expressed her fears about what they were doing, [28 words redacted] &c &c. She had felt very miserable for some time back, and had neglected her meetings very much of late. The seduction of this girl had been accomplished in her own father’s house, where Mills had apartments during the absence of the family. [29 words redacted]. The details were all written down by Brother West & signed by the girl; but they are too thoroughly disgusting to be repeated. In addition to the testimony of these girls, [40 words redacted]; and another one testifies [32 words redacted]. The family to which she belongs bears an excellent reputation as well as her. [28 words redacted].

I was at a Conference at Bedford on last Sunday when I received Brother West’s letters informing me of the result of his investigations. I was very much shocked at the news; for, however much I may have suspected and scrutinized W. G. Mills, upon other points, I certainly did not look for him to be guilty of such wickedness (having his wife with him) as the testimonies of these girls set forth. I went to Birmingham by the first train on Monday morning, and, soon after reaching there, sent to inform Mills that I was there & wished to see him. He strenuously denied being guilty, asserting in the most positive manner his entire innocence, though he admitted that the case against him looked very black. I told him that it was my intention to send for these persons & hear from themselves the statements they had to make, and I would like him to be present. He said that he would rather be excused, as he did not wish to pass through such an ordeal again that night as he had the night before. The night before, Bro West heard from the girls the statement they had to make in the presence of Mills and two or three other brethren, and they had a very warm time, in consequence of the girls’ persisting in their statements in spite of Mills’ denials and cross-questioning. The father of one of the girls who was present, resented the language Mills employed to his daughter and Brother West had to interfere to prevent their coming to blows. After hearing the girls’ statements I had not the shadow of a doubt respecting his guilt; indeed, I feared it was too true from the time that I received the first intimation of his wrong-doing. As I found that the news of his transgressions had been noised about considerably I determined to call a Council meeting of the Conference to convene at the earliest practicable moment so that proper counsel could be given to the Officers and a stop be put to the circulation of idle rumors. Thursday evening was appointed for this purpose. In the mean time, I had Brother Richard Bentley examine carefully the Conference books, which Brother West had obtained from Mills, to ascertain if all was right there.

Mills assisted him by my request, in comparing the books. Up to the time I left Birmingham the books, the examination of which was still being prosecuted as fast as the Branch and I. E. pass books could be brought in, were found to be all right. His wife sought an interview with me as soon as she received an intimation of what he was charged with (he had studiously concealed from her the true charges though he had urged her to pack up and get ready to leave) and her grief was apparently very great. She said that if I could hear him, as she had a few minutes before, cry and assert his innocence that I would be forced to believe him. She said, if he was guilty, she would not bear his name or live with him any longer; but she either changed her mind, I think, on this point before I left Birmingham, or he had persuaded her to believe him guiltless of the charges made against him. On Thursday he was busy with Bro Bentley at the books, and I asked him to attend the meeting in the evening; he requested me to grant him an interview of a few minutes before we should go to the Council. During that interview he repeated his denial in the most solemn manner, said that he was the victim of a base conspiracy, that he had been warned of this beforehand, that he could prophecy what the fate of those would be who had arrayed themselves against him, that he then felt the Spirit of the Lord resting upon him & he knew the Lord would enable him to vindicate his character, from all the charges made against him, that he was exceedingly sorry that the news of the investigation had spread as it would injure the work; he did not care so much about what had been said about himself as he did what would be said about the Work &c. &c.; he portrayed his labors and his zeal and the unhappy condition in which his family would be plunged and endeavored to move my sympathies to take as lenient an action in the case as I could. I told him that he was the most unfortunate “innocent man” that I had ever met with or heard of in this Church; “you believe us, you say, to be the servants of God; if so, go and ask the Lord to show unto us your innocence this night, and we will stand by you through every difficulty and defend rather than crush or injure you.” Before going to the Council we (the Elders) knelt down and besought the Lord to make his tongue say that which would convince all present as to his innocence or guilt. I called upon Bro West and the other Brethren to give a general statement of the evidence upon which the charges were based, omitting the details. He repeated it & the other Brethren bore testimony to the correctness of its recital. I then stated to the Meeting that as Elder Mills had denied these statements I wished to give him an ample opportunity to defend himself, that it could not be said he had been condemned unheard. He spoke at some length, ridiculing what he termed the improbability of the statements on some points; but mainly basing his defence on the denunciation of the characters of three of the witnesses, and ascribing as a motive to the family who had brought the matter to my notice a hatred to him for the active manner in which he urged the doctrine of gathering upon their attention and their fear that they would lose the girl who lived with them which he had seduced. The Elders from the Valley who were present, so far as they expressed themselves to the Meeting, heard nothing from him which caused them to think him innocent; on the contrary all he said had the tendency to convince them he was guilty. Out of nearly a hundred persons (officers only) who were present there was not a dissenting vote when I made the motion that he should be Cut off from the Church; the vote was unanimous. He says he intends to return to the Valley, & he told me, when I first saw him after reaching Birmingham, that he intended to appeal from my decision to you, if I should decide he was guilty. I view him as a most wicked, dangerous and unscrupulous man—a man that nothing but the fear of personal consequences would deter from committing the most atrocious and abominable acts. A man that was not a most hardened and abandoned character, utterly destitute of conscience and all fear of future punishment, could not do what I firmly believe he has done and deny it as he does.

I do thank the Lord that this villainy has been detected so opportunely for the Work, and so unexpectedly, as I am convinced it has been, for him. My constant prayer is, that the transgressor may be exposed & his iniquity be laid bare that his influence for evil with the honest may be overthrown. This exposure of Mills’ conduct has taken many people by surprise. Some few have seen things which they did not like; but he has shrewdly and cunningly contrived to maintain great influence with the people. When Brother West was down before to his field to learn how things were moving, (I having some suspicion that all was not right in monetary matters in consequence of his certificates of audit not coming up to suit me,) the people were loud in their expressions of esteem for Mills, and he spread himself to the best advantage before Bro West, he having got an idea, as I have since learned, that he was suspected. But he is another illustration, so often repeated in these last days, of the folly of man in attempting to measure arms with the Almighty—their downfall comes at a time when they least expect it.

This occurrence, I feel confident, will in the end be attended with good effects to the true Saints. They will feel, more than ever, the necessity of putting their trust in God and seeking unto him for themselves, instead of leaning upon man and suffering themselves to be beguiled by his specious words and appearances. Bro Kay has been appointed to take Mills’ place, and I trust that he will conduct matters wisely. He has managed very well in the Manchester District and will leave there beloved & regretted by the Saints. As I have said before in relation to E. Henriod’s case, I trust that these things will prove a warning to the Priesthood and Saints throughout these lands.

These occurrences are causing me to open my eyes & are leading me to conclude that it is by no means safe to trust to appearances alone. I feel that my experience here unpleasant as it has been in such instances as these, will be beneficial to me if I do right myself. My determination is, by the help of the Lord, to go forth and magnify my calling and be a faithful shepherd and watchman in the midst of the Saints and on the walls of Zion, regardless of consequences to myself.

I trust that yourself and Brother Heber and Daniel are in the enjoyment of good health and every other blessing needed by you for the discharge of your responsible duties. Accept my love to yourself and them, in which Brigham (who is well & is awaiting a letter from you which he expects before he writes) joins. As I expect to write in a few days again, I will draw this to a close, praying the Lord to bless and preserve you from every evil and to richly endow you with every qualification for the discharge of your high duties,

I remain

Your Brother, as ever

(Signed) Geo. Q. Cannon

12 April 1863 • Sunday

On the 12th April, I attended Conference in Sheffield in company with Bro Brigham Junr

18 April 1863 • Saturday

On the 18th April, I attended Conference in Bradford. On the 30th the “John J. Boyd,” sailed for New York with 775 Saints, en route for Zion. Elders W. W. Cluff, W. S. Baxter and H. H. Brown were appointed to take charge of the company on board.

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April 1863, The Journal of George Q. Cannon, accessed May 27, 2024 https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon/1860s/1863/04-1863