William Adams Hickman
aka Brigham Young’s Destroying Angel
April 16, 1815 – August 21, 1883
If you like to read about the old west with stories of murder, mayhem and intrigue the stories about William Adams Hickman, aka “Wild Bill Hickman” is right up your alley. This man’s life was filled with all of the descriptions above and when you throw a little religion and polygamy into the pot it makes for a great t.v. mini-series.
William Hickman was the trigger man for the Church and fulfilled the orders of his superiors to the letter whenever he was called upon to perform his ordained duties. After several decades of living on the lamb, being rejected even by those who had procured his services and nine of his ten wives leaving him, Bill had had enough. By that time it was too late.
If you’re LDS the irony of this man’s experiences shouldn’t be overlooked. He did every single thing the prophets of God told him to do and in the end they threw him to the wolves. An even stranger oddity is how they reinstated all of his endowments after he died.
We’re not sure how that works for the Mormon god and the families are forever ideals considering nine of his ten wives left him, but as we found out we’re not alone. The prophet Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t know either.
One of his wives had been sealed to all three of her husbands – the first one died and then she divorced the other two, including Hickman. When one of her daughters wrote the prophet asking about this he stated he didn’t know, but felt certain they’d find out in the “millennium”. Okay…
Another wife and her sister who were married to Hickman decided they didn’t like the polygamous lifestyle and snuck away in the middle of the night with the kids. One of those sisters married another polygamist within three years.
William’s collection of wives included one set of sisters and the ever present LDS tradition of teen brides; six of the ten brides were young teen girls.
In the end “Wild Bill” turned state’s evidence against Brigham Young implicating him in many of the murders he took part in and in exchange Hickman avoided any jail time. While awaiting trial for the murder of a fur trader by the name of Yates Mr. Hickman agreed to giving details of his life for a tell-all book written by JH Beadle aptly named “Brigham’s Destroying Angel”.
We included him in our series of Polygamy & Mormon Church Leaders because of the huge influence he had in the early days of Mormonism. It gives us an inside look into the minds of Brigham Young and Orson Hyde who were the culprits ordering the executions of dozens of innocent people.
You can read our submission about his life and wives here.