Folk Tales
John D. Lee Survives his Execution


   It is common lore in the polygamous colonies of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah that John D. Lee survived his execution and fled to Mexico.

   There are those who say that the 1887 execution was a farce and that the firing squad may or may not have been in on the plot. Lee admonished the squad to shoot him squarely in the heart and not mutilate his body. Underneath his heavy clothing he wore some kind of armored protection. After the shots were fired he fell back into his coffin, his son Alma immediately placed the lid on the coffin and had it carried to a wagon awaiting to take the corpse away. Alma took his father to Panguitch, a mock funeral took place and the grave covered with a heavy slab to prohibit investigative disinterment.

   John D. Lee was spirited away and taken via the old Mormon Road into Arizona. Warren Johnson, operator of Lees Ferry, told his son LeRoy Johnson that he distinctly remembered transporting Lee across the Colorado River after the execution. LeRoy Johnson, later to become Prophet and President of the Fundamentalist L.D.S. Church, passed this testimony on to his followers.

   Lee continued on into Mexico, was joined by one or a number of his wives, and increased his family size in the Mexican colonies.

   There is the suggestion that President Brigham Young may have been in on the secret plan, as it took him “off the hook,” as it were, in being accused of not protecting his own.

   Residents of Colorado City, Arizona are amazed that this story is not common knowledge in the outside world.

   Source: A conversation between Heber Hammond of Colorado City, AZ and Ronald Williams of Kanarraville, UT, December 1992.