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Part 6 - Porter Rockwell: Legends of the Old West



Episode 6 of 6 in a series on Orrin Porter Rockwell that I wrote for Legends of the Old West. Porter Rockwell's legacy is a study in contrasts, reflecting the turbulent and often violent times of early Mormon history and the American frontier. Known as "Old Port" to his friends and the "Destroying Angel" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to his enemies, Rockwell was both feared and revered. His unwavering devotion to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young saw him become a loyal defender of his faith, willing to suffer and even die for the cause. This same devotion, however, also led him down a darker path, where he was willing to commit acts of extreme violence, including murder, if he believed it served his holy mission.


Rockwell's life was marked by numerous conflicts, including his significant role in the Utah War, where he disrupted U.S. Army supply lines and engaged in raids, embodying the fierce resistance of the Mormon militia. His reputation as a cold-blooded killer stems from numerous accusations of murder, with some estimates suggesting he participated in dozens, if not hundreds, of killings. These acts were often justified by Rockwell as necessary for protecting his church and its leaders, a testament to his belief that such violence was sanctioned by God.


Despite his notorious reputation, Rockwell was also a pillar of his community. He established businesses like the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel, which provided much-needed respite for travelers and soldiers alike. His entrepreneurial ventures and role as a deputy marshal demonstrated his ability to navigate both sides of the law. In his personal life, Rockwell was known for his generosity and loyalty to his friends and family, further complicating his legacy. This duality—being a man of deep faith who would willingly lay down his life for his beliefs, while also being capable of taking lives in the name of those same beliefs—epitomizes the paradox of his character.


Rockwell's actions, whether as a ruthless enforcer, loyal servant, or shrewd businessman, left an indelible mark on the history of the Old West and the Mormon Church. His legacy is a complex blend of faith and violence, loyalty and controversy, making him a figure of enduring intrigue and debate. As such, the episode "Sinner & Saint" delves deep into the duality of a man whose life was a series of paradoxes, offering a nuanced look at a figure who straddled the line between sainthood and sin.


🎧 Listen now to "Sinner & Saint" on your favorite podcast platform.


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All of Legends of the Old West's podcasts are available at:


Texas Jack: America's First Cowboy Star by Matthew Kerns is available at:





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