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Isaac Laney

Question: Isaac Laney was shot several times at Hawn’s Mill. Was he able to survive?

Answer: Isaac Laney was born December 19, 1815, in Logan, Kentucky, a twin to his brother William. They were the children of Culbert Laney and Margaret Cook. Isaac and his brother William were at one of the open air meetings near their home in Kentucky when they first heard a elder from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was brought to them by Elder James Cuttet and Peter Dustin. William joined the Church right away, and Isaac soon followed and was baptized on June 13, 1838. He and his brother William then headed to Missouri. Isaac was ordained an Elder at Far West on September 6, 1838 under the hands of Elder Thomas B. Marsh and Brigham Young of the Quorum of the Twelve.

On the 29th of October 1838 he was organized in Capt. David Evans’ company of militia and they were sent to defend the mill and the Saints who had traveled to Hawn’s Mill. It was on this day that the mob came upon them demanding that they sign a treaty of peace and deliver their weapons of war. They were allowed no word in the matter and had to comply. Isaac had no faith in the mob’s promise of peace, so kept his guns. October 29th passed peacefully at the mill.

On October 30th, 1838, the mob heavily armed, dashed down on the people at the mill, and began firing. Isaac had three guns. He gave two of them to the other men, and placing himself between the mob and the cabin housing the women and children, began firing. Lead was flying around like hailstorm. While he was firing, eleven bullets hit the stock of his gun, cutting it off in his hands.

Isaac could see he was doing little good, and they were cutting him to pieces, so he hurried to the cabin, and told the women and children to run for the woods. As he turned, a bullet struck him in the right armpit and came out the left. This was not the first wound he had received, for two bullets had gone through his breast and came out his back, and two had passed through his hips. Isaac fled for his life, taking a trail leading up a small hill. As he was running up the hill with much effort, his body bent, a large ball struck him in the back near the kidneys, passing lengthwise through his body. According to Isaac’s own words. “This one came nearer to knocking me off my feet than any, the rest just plunked through me as if I were a squash.’ A total of seventeen men and boys were killed that day, and many more badly wounded.

Isaac made it to the home of some people nearby who took him in, but so great was their fear that the mob would follow and kill him, they took up a board and laid him under the floor. After the fear of the mob had passed, they took him out washed and dressed his wounds and put him to bed. His clothes were literally cut to pieces, and his body almost as bad, for it had been struck by seven bullets, leaving 13 scars, six passing through and the seventh struck him in the back leaving but one scar. For some time he lay near death being fed with a spoon, and so weak he could not so much as open or close his eyes. With so many wounds, much of his blood was lost. The elders were called in, and he was anointed and promised in the name of Jesus Christ that he would recover. From that time on he recovered rapidly. Isaac was only twenty-two years of age.

On March 25, 1841 Isaac married Sarah Ann Howard, the daughter of Howard and Elizabeth Discher. When Sarah was about seven years of age, her father sold all of their belongings in Kentucky and moved into Macoupin County, Illinois, and this is where Isaac met her. In the fall of 1845, Isaac and Sarah loaded their belongings into two farm wagons and started for Nauvoo. Sarah dared not bid farewell to her family lest they suspect her of going with her husband to join the Mormons. She never saw any of her family after. They arrived in due time at Nauvoo, where they spent the winter of 1845-1846, and where Isaac Laney’s twin brother William had lived for some time. Here they lived with the Saints until they were forced out once again and traveled to Winter Quarters. In June 1847, Isaac with his wife and two children, Margaret and George C., also his twin brother William with his wife and one child, left Winter Quarters in the Edward Hunter – Jacob Foutz Company for the Salt Lake Valley.

Going down hills that were steep, it was the custom to lock the wheels with a chain to keep the wagon from crowding the team. This naturally was hard on the wooden wheels, so Isaac invented what was known and used for many years as the Mormon brake. This braking action held the wagon back, yet permitted the wheels to revolve some and wear the wooden wheels more evenly.

On October 1, 1847, they arrived at the old fort in Salt Lake Valley. Isaac being industrious, always found work to do. When his work was done, he would work for someone else. Very soon after Isaac arrived in Salt Lake Valley he made a spinning wheel and loom, the first one made in Utah, on which his wife spun and wove woolen cloth. After coming to Utah four more children were born to Isaac and Sarah: Sarah Ann, Isaac Jefferson, Joseph Samuel and Hyrum Smith Laney.

Isaac suffered off and on through the next several years from the wounds he received at Hawn’s Mill, but he continued to work and serve his family and community. In the fall of 1873 Isaac had been confined to his bed for sometime, but on October 30th was feeling better, and calling his oldest son to his bed side spoke to him something like this: “My son do you know it was just 35 years ago today since I was shot at Hawn’s Mill? My son, I am going to die today.’ “No, father,’ answered George, “you are better today.’ “Yes, I know,’ he answered, “but I am going to die tonight. My mission on earth is filled. Now I will tell you how I want to be buried. I want a plain board casket, you may stain it if you wish, but make it plain. I want no hearse, my own team and wagon will suit me better.’

His life had been such that he could anticipate with joy the meeting of his Creator. That night he died, a noble and faithful man. Isaac died on October 31, 1873, at the age of fifty-seven in Salt Lake, and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. His wife, Sarah, lived several more years and died in January 1902 in Salt Lake.

Source: Brief History of Isaac Laney, Written by George Culbert Laney, grandson,;

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