Orrin Porter Rockwell


Orrin Porter Rockwell’s name has been associated with the Danites and he has been dubbed “Mormonism’s Avenging Angel.”

Orrin Porter Rockwell’s name has been associated with the Danites and he has been dubbed Mormonism’s Avenging Angel. Whether the man is known as a rogue, hero or a murderous villain will likely depend on point of view of the person making the judgement, but Rockwell remains one of the colorful characters of the American frontier.

Orrin Porter Rockwell may be less well known than other famous frontiersman like Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone. His initial infamy stemmed from a sheriff who believed Orrin Porter Rockwell to be the man who assassinated the Missouri Governor, Lilburn Boggs.

Lilburn Boggs and the Extermination Order

The Extermination Order of 1838 and 1839 issued by Lilburn Boggs drove some 8000 Mormons from Missouri to where they would make their next home in Illinois. The reasons for Boggs’s extermination order were mistrust of the Mormons, the Mormons habit of voting in blocks, and several Missouri pastors who spoke out and feared the religious impact of the new group.

Orrin Porter Rockwell became associated with a group of Mormon settlers known as Danites. Conspiracy theorists still point to a secret Mormon organization of Danitessomewhat less sinister than the the secret Danite organization.

Orrin Porter Rockwell’s Role in the Mormon Church

Orrin Porter Rockwell became affiliated with the new religious movement shortly after the Mormons were forced to flee from Zion and Independence County in Missouri. When an attempt was made on the life of Lilburn Boggs, local law enforcement expected Rockwell’s involvement. Boggs survived the assassination attempt and Rockwell spent months in jail in Missouri. When the Missouri government failed to bring and indictment agains him, Rockwell was released from prison and rejoined the Mormons in Navoo. The founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, attributed Samson like powers to Orrin Porter Rockwell and informed him that as long as he did not cut his hair, no bullet or blade would harm him.

In the chaos that would follow Joseph Smith’s death at the Carthage, Rockwell would kill the man who had been the lieutenant in charge of the militia protecting Joseph Smith, Frank A. Worrell. Worrell, who had been causing problems for the Hancock county sheriff. Although Orrin Porter Rockwell had been deputized shortly before Worell’s death, word soon leaked out about Rocwell’s role in killing the sherriff.

Orrin Rockwell’s Final Moments in Utah

Orrin Porter Rockwell, Mormonism’s Avenging Angel would be ordered to take part in the Utah War and delay US troops by the then leader of the new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Brigham Young, and his roll in his attack on the Aiken party would cause him to wind up in jail twenty years later.

Even if the founder of the Mormon church had no prophetic powers, he died in prison of natural causes. The Salt Lake Tribune commented in his obituary that the man had participated in at least a hundred murders.


  1. “Missouri’s Mormon Past: The Mormon War of the 1830s Changed the Destiny of Mormons in the US.” Anna Scianna.