INTO THE HORSE’S MOUTH: ARSENIC
Arsenic poisoning has long been suspected–and has, in fact, now been confirmed–in regard to the heretofore perplexing and unexplained death of one of horse racing’s most famous legends, “Phar Lap,” who died suddenly some three quarters of a century ago.
In a recent report from Associated Press headlined, “Phar Lap Died of Arsenic Poisoning,” comes the following:
” Melbourne , Australia . . . Forensic scientists say champion Australian gelding Phar Lap died of arsenic poisoning, solving a mystery that has intrigued the horse racing world for more than 75 years.
“Phar Lap won 37 of his 51 starts before his death in mysterious circumstances at Menlo Park in California in April 1932. Days before his death, he won Mexico ‘s Agua Caliente Handicap, which was then the richest horse race in North America.
“Arsenic poisoning has long been suspected as the cause of Phar Lap’s death, but confirmation had been lacking until . . . [recently] released the findings of their forensic investigation.
“[Researchers] took six hairs from Phar Lap’s mane and analyzed them at the Advanced Photon Source Synchrotron in Chicago , finding that in the 40 hours before Phar Lap’s death the horse had ingested a massive dose of arsenic.
“Phar Lap’s mounted hide is on display at the Melbourne Museum . . .
“‘We can’t speculate where the arsenic came from, but it was easily accessible at the time,’ [one of the researchers] said.
“Notebooks kept by Phar Lap’s handler . . . show the horse was administered tonics and ointments containing both arsenic and strychnine. An accidental overdose has long been considered the likely cause of death.”
FROM THE MEDICAL HORSE’S MOUTH: DID ARSENIC KILL BRIGHAM YOUNG, AS WELL?
Like that dead Mr. Ed, it has long been suspected that Mormon prophet Brigham Young most likely also died from arsenic poisoning.
Indeed, it has been duly noted that a close relative of Young–Dr. Seymour Young–”was the attending physician who attended Brigham at the latter’s home when he, Brigham lay a-dying from arsenic poisoning! And, it was he, Doctor Seymour, who–fifteen years later ‘doctored up’–or, ‘fudged’–the official death certificate by erasing out the actual cause of death and inserting the word ‘appendicitis.’”
JUST CALL IT A FEELING IN THE GUT
Good reason to suspect that Brigham Young may have succumbed to arsenic poison (in this case, deliberately–not accidentally–administered) comes from an analysis by Samuel W. Taylor, grandson of LDS prophet John Taylor.
In an article entitled, “Who Done It? The Nagging Mystery of Brigham Young’s Last Moments,” Taylor lays out the likely cause of Young’s suspiciously-disguised demise.
Taylor notes that Young–amid swirling rumors that he had been purposely poisoned–suddenly had become ill in August 1877 and died a week later.
FROM MORMONISM’S MUZZLED MOUTH: APPENDICITIS, NOT ARSENIC
The Mormon-owned “Deseret News” insisted that Young died from a ruptured appendix, not from a nefarious helping of poison.
Shortly after Young’s abrupt departure, the newspaper assured its loyal but curious LDS readers that an official explanation of Young’s death, prepared by “attending physicians” and “others” present when Young kicked the bucket determined that nothing amiss had occured.
Brigham’s bowel busted.
Or so the story went.
The paper assured its readers that Young had actually fallen victim to “cholera morbus,” a condition blamed on him having eaten a combination of green corn and peaches.
Hear ye, hear ye, the actual Mormon Church-sanctioned version of Young’s demise, as it issued forth at the time from its designated house organ:
“‘Last Moments of President Brigham Young’
“In order to satisfy the feelings of many of our readers and answer numerous inquiries concerning the particulars of the last sickness of our late beloved President, Brigham Young, we publish the following, arranged from reports made by Drs. Seymour B. Young and F.D. Benedict, and others who were present during the last hours of the President’s earthly existence.
“President Young’s sickness commenced on Thursday, August 23, continuing the whole of the afternoon. He had an inclination to vomit, but he continued to attend to his business as usual. In the evening he was present at a Bishop’s meeting in the Council House, and instructed the brethren in their duties, speaking with marked point and power.
“At 11 o’clock at night, on retiring, he was seized with an attack of cholera morbus, the usual symptoms of vomiting and purging being almost continuous until 5 o’clock on Friday morning, when, at his own request, a mild opiate was administered hypodermically into each foot, to relieve the intense pain, caused by the constant cramping of the muscles.
“During the whole of that day his sufferings were great, continuing through most of the night, but becoming less severe toward Saturday morning, when he slept for a few hours. This was the first rest he enjoyed from the commencement of the attack. During the whole of this period he endured his pain cheerfully, and occasionally made humorous remarks as was his wont when he saw those around him inclined to be troubled.
“Inflammation of the bowels set in on Saturday at 3 p.m. and the abdomen commenced to swell. One small dose, half a grain of opium, was administered and at midnight the same quantity. These doses, though small, and given at long intervals, had a tendency to somewhat relieve the pain and retching, so susceptible was his system to any kind of narcotic or stimulant.
“Throughout Sunday he continued, both while awake and asleep, to moan. When asked if he suffered pain his invariable reply was, ‘NO, I don’t know that I do.’ During the same night his sufferings were less severe, but continuous, although at 8 o’clock he had a grain of opium and at midnight half a grain.
“On Monday morning, at 8 o’clock, he showed increasing symptoms of nervous prostration, by constant moving of the hands and twitching of the muscles of the arms. One grain of opium was administered, and from then till 12 noon, he had a very severe spell. Another grain of opium was given him and at 8:20 in the evening half a grain more. About 9 o’clock he sank into a quiet sleep, resting without moaning.
“During Sunday and Monday he had received, at intervals of half an hour, a tablespoon of milk and brandy, an ounce of the latter to eight of the former. He was also administered to by the various brethren very frequently from the time he was attacked until his demise. About 10 on Monday evening he sank into a semi comatose condition, from which it was difficult to arouse him, although, by persuasion, he swallowed the milk mixture every half hour and a teaspoonful of ice water between times.
“At 1 o’clock on Tuesday morning, warm stimulating injections were given, after which he thoroughly aroused, and, by the aid of his attendants got out of bed twice. At 4 o’clock the same morning he sank down in bed, apparently lifeless. Artificial respiration was resorted to, by which the lungs were kept inflated, and hot poultices were placed over the heart, to stimulate its action.
“President John W. Young and others administered to him the ordinances for the sick, calling on the Almighty to restore him, and he subsequently revived, and responded ‘Amen’ to the administration. For nine consecutive hours artificial respiration was continued. At that time he seemed greatly revived and spoke to those around him, saying he felt better and wished to rest.
“This condition remained until about 8 in the evening, when partial prostration again ensued and his case considered exceedingly critical by the attending physicians, Drs. S.B. Young, W.F. Anderson, J.M. Benedict and F.D. Benedict. After consultation an entire filling up of the lower part of the bowels by injection was determined upon, for the purpose of creating an action through the alimentary canal, but was not persevered in, on account of fainting symptoms, and the patient objecting to the treatment, which caused him to cry out with pain. He passed the night in a semi-comatose state.
“On Wednesday morning symptoms of approaching dissolution were plainly evident. The early coma was entirely attributable, so the doctors say, to a poisoning of the blood, from the pressure of the swelled bowels, causing a prevention of return currents of the circulation to the hearts and lungs. At the time of his demise he was entirely free from the influence of any opiates or narcotics, not having taken any for 44 hours previous.
“From the time Pres. Young was taken ill until the hour of his death, Dr. Seymour B. Young attended upon him with greatest assiduity, attention and care, scarcely ever having left his bedside during the whole of the time, night or day. In fact the same can be said of all his attendants, who remained by him constantly, and watched every pulsation and very change with the most intense anxiety and solicitude.
“Dr. F.D. Benedict remained with the patient the whole of Tuesday night and Wednesday until his demise. Drs. W. F. Anderson and J.M. Benedict also attended at intervals during that time. The temperature and pulsations were taken frequently, the temperature remaining at 99 until 4 a.m. on Wednesday when it rose to 101, and to 105 just previous to his decease. His pulses ranged from 120 to 128, the latter being reached after the administration of stimulating medicines.
“Not only the physicians named above, but the members of the profession of Salt Lake generally, expressed an anxiety to give all the aid in their power with a view to the relief and restoration of the President.
“On Tuesday night about 10 o’clock, while lying in a kind of stupor, his son John W. asked him, “Do you know me, father?” He responded, ‘I should think I ought to.’ About two hours previous to his decease, when several brethren administered to him, he responded in a clear and distinct voice, ‘Amen.’
“Since news of the great man’s departure have gone abroad, messages of condolence have been received from all parts of the Territory, as well as from the different points of the union, and from Europe . No earthly potentate ever reigned more fully in the hearts of his people than did President Brigham Young. And throughout the territory, while flags hang at half mast, and civic and religious organizations vie with each other in rendering tributes of respect to the departed, grief swells the souls of the Saints . . .”
(“Last Moments of President Brigham Young,” “Desert News,” 31 August 1877).
As Taylor skeptically notes, “This report evidently was published to quiet rumors of poisoning. However, it is more revealing than the doctors at that time realized.”
REST IN POISON, NOT PEACHES
Taylor has ample reason to doubt the Mormon version of Brigham Young’s mysterious death. Reading the “Desert News” account led him to conclude that it probably was something less benign than fruit that caused Young to so quickly go kapoot.
TAKE SOME OPIUM AND DON’T BOTHER CALLING ME IN THE MORNING
Indeed, Taylor asserts that the bedside doctors knew Young had been poisoned and not knowing what else to do, simply gave him opitates to ease the pain as he sank toward his inevitable death.
VERDICT FROM DEVOUT MORMON DOCTORS: FAITHFUL SILENCE
Taylor complains that even though the “Desert News’” questionable explanation of Young’s death was later submitted to several devout Mormon physicians for their informed reaction, none bothered to respond.
Taylor reports, however, that he finally contacted Dr. Max Dimick, a lapsed Mormon and well-known Sacramento physician who served as assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California Medical School at Davis , requesting Dimick’s opinion on the “Desert News” account of Young’s passing.
Specifically, Taylor wanted to know “who done it” and how.
WHAT DIDN’T KILL BRIGHAM YOUNG: A WHOLE HOST OF MIS-DIAGNOSED AND MISSTATED THING-A-MUH-JIGS
Outlining Dimick’s response, Taylor writes:
“After consulting . . . [with] pathologists, [Dimick] reported that ‘What you would like to know is who had access to his lunch that day. It must have been arsenic and it had to be acute rather than chronic poisoning.’
“[Dimick] discussed the possibility of typhoid, paratyphoid or bacillary dysentery, dismissing them because in such cases ‘he [Young] should have been ill over a prolonged period of time.’ As for cholera–’forget it.’”
ADDING UP THE ACTUAL EVIDENCE FOR POISONING
Taylor reports that “[Dimick] enclosed tear sheets regarding arsenic from a medical text [by authors Louis S. Goodman and Alfred Gilman, entitled ] . . . “The Pharmocological Basis of Therapeutics” [New York , New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955].
Taylor concludes that, based on Goodman and Gilman’s work, Young’s death “certainly did fit” the description of arsenic poisoning.
Taylor says he asked Dimick if it could determinded, post-mortem, whether Young was actually arsenically poisoned.
Taylor notes that such a question was based in the fact that arsenic was not only utilized in Young’s day as “a popular poisoning agent” but was “also a major ingredient of embalming fluid.” Taylor thus wanted to know “whether by exhuming Brigham’s remains it would be possible to ascertain if he was poisoned.” Specifically, Taylor inquired if “the embalming fluid [would] penetrate the bones and hair after death, as the poison would have during life? . . .”
Taylor said Dimick responded by noting that it would take arsenic approximately one week “after ingestion . . . to get into the bones and hair,” as the body deposited it in attempting to eliminate the poison” and that, according to other pathologists with whom Dimick consulted, “the embalming fluid would not contaminate the bones or hair.”
In actuality, Dimick concluded that Young had ultimately been killed by arsenic poisoning, based on Dimick’s investigation, as well as his consultation with other medical practitioners:
“Joseph H. Master, M.D., Forensic Pathologist at the Diagnostic Pathology Medical Group of Sacramento, states ‘I find nothing in the “Deseret News” article description of President Young’s terminal illness that would be inconsistent with death by arsenic poisoning.’ . . .
“Dr. Frederick A. Schroeder, specialist in intemal medicine at Sacramento , said that after reviewing the ‘Last Moments’ he would ‘certainly concur with the diagnosis of arsenic poisoning,’ the symptoms being ‘most unlike appendicitis in any form.’ The ‘neurologic phenomena are typical’ of arsenic poisoning, while ‘terminally his dehydration and electrolyte symptoms are rather classic.’ He concluded that ‘arsenic poisoning makes this a favored diagnostic probability.’”
Taylor also references Dimick’s citation of the medical text, “Clinical Toxicology” (Lea and Febiger, 5th ed., Philadelphia, 1972), under the chapter, “Poisons with Symptoms Referable to the Digestive Tract,” in which the authors note that “[v]omiting, severe abdominal pain and diarrhea soon follow” arsenic consumption. “Pain in the limbs, headache, convulsions, muscular weakness and unconsciousness indicate an effect of arsenic upon the central nervous system . . . Nervous symptoms are numbness, buming, tingling or itching; these are followed by fasculation (muscular twitching) or gross tremors with the muscular atrophy and paralysis.”
The most persuasive conclusion, therefore, based on informed medical opinion? Taylor says arsenic, based on “a description of Brigham’s symptoms.”
Taylor also notes Dimick’s citation of the medical text, “Clinical Toxicology” (Lea and Febiger, 5th ed., Philadelphia, 1972: 5th ed., Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1972), under the chapter, “Poisons with Symptoms Referable to the Digestive Tract,” wherein the authors note that “[v]omiting, severe abdominal pain and diarrhea soon follow” arsenic consumption. “Pain in the limbs, headache, convulsions, muscular weakness and unconsciousness indicate an effect of arsenic upon the central nervous system . . . Nervous symptoms are numbness, buming, tingling or itching; these are followed by fasculation (muscular twitching) or gross tremors with the muscular atrophy and paralysis.”
The most persuasive conclusion, based on informed medical opinion? Taylor writes: “This could be a descriphon of Brigham’s symptoms.”
Taylor reports that a pathologist at California ‘s Whittier Hospital , J.W. Springer, M.D., responded: “From the available material it appears that Brigham Young died as the result of ingesting arsenic. This certainly does not resemble appendicitis” [a claim predictably put forth by faith-defending Mormon historians, including Leonard Arrington].
Taylor writes that, indeed, he received a consensus of confirmation that Young had, in fact, been a victim of foul poisonous play from the physician staff members at Whittier . “One [of these] doctor[s],” reports Taylor , “noted that in lasting a week Brigham ‘must have been a tough s.o.b.’”
QUESTIONING THE OVER-BLOATED APOLOGIST CLAIM OF APPENDICITIS
Taylor notes Dimick’s confirmiing diagnosis that Young’s death was not due to appendicitis:
“I have seen innumerable cases of appendicitis including the complications of rupture, peritonitis, and abcess formation. I have never seen it present itself with symptoms such as those described for Brigham Young. Diarrhea is rare and ‘continual vomiting and purging’ are not described as symptoms of appendicitis. In summary, one can say Brigham Young did not die of appendicitis. That he had a massive generalized gastroenteritis is evident and is compatible with acute arsenic poisoning . . .”
Taylor specifically dismisses the-appendix-did-it theory served up by Lester E. Bush, as it appeared in Bush’s “Brigham Young in Life and Death: A Medical Overview” (“Journal of Mormon History,” Vol. 5, 1978).
While commending Bush’s paper for its attention to detail in other respects, Taylor nonetheless criticizes it as “belong[ing] to the school known as the ‘new’ Mormon history, characterized by a veritable avalanche of footnotes, but, too often, defending the faith rather than following the facts.”
Taylor also quotes Dr. Dimick’s caustic reaction to Bush’s bush league premise: “If a medical student diagnosed appendicitis from Brigham’s symptoms, he’d flunk out of school.”
Taylor notes that Dimick “pointed out that [while] the swelling of Brigham’s abdomen in the latter stages of his sickness ‘is suggestive of peritonids and ileus,’ resembling the symptoms of appendicids,” it nonetheless “doesn’t necessarily mean the condition was caused by a ruptured appendix, because ‘the corrosive action of arsenic may erode the mucosa and perforation can and does occur. This in turn would insure peritonitis, and ileus.’ The violent vomiting and purging of the first few days would be typical of poison, but certainly not of appendicitis.”
To the contrary, as Taylor notes (further quoting Dimick), “‘The muscular twitchings described here are also consistent with arsenic poisoning.’ Evidently, the diagnosis of appendicitis, Dr. Dimick concluded, can be made only by ignoring completely the first days of Brigham’s sickness.”
Taylor also cites the opinions of other medical doctors with whom Dimick conferred on the likely cause of Young’s untimely death:
“Dr. George Babbin, Clinical Associate Professor Surgery, University of Califomia at Davis , said that in the past 40 years ‘I have never seen appendicitis present itself with “vomiting and purging being almost continuous.” In my opinion such an onset to an acute illness would make acute appendicitis so unlikely that I would certinally not even consider it in formulating my diagnosis.”
Taylor notes that it is possible to confuse peritonitis with a ruptured appendix:
“It is certain that . . . [Brigham Young's] cause of death was peritonitis, and in this respect the final symptoms could resemble the results of a burst appendix. Taylor points out that according to contemporary medical literature, “‘[i]n a case of acute poisoning, the digestive tract is inflamed, and may show ulceration,’ [and] . . . the whole of the mucous membrane may be reddened’ with consequent erosion which may penetrate all the coats of the stomach and cause perforation.”
But, as Taylor points out, “Brigham had displayed the classic symptoms of arsenic poisoning for several days before evidence of peritonitis appeared.”
How, then, to explain the apparently sneaky act by Young’s nephew and attending physican, Dr. Seymour Young, to alter the medical record?
Taylor ‘s answer: Seymour “would have a most compelling reason to conceal evidence of foul play. He was not only protecting the establishment stance, but preventing a family scandal.”
Taylor makes note of how Dr. Seymour Young’s personal account of Brigham Young’s suspicious death was itself suspiciously doctored:
“It could be significant that Seymour Young not only had second thoughts about Brigham’s death, years later, after [Brigham Young's supposed] appendicitis had been ‘discovered,’ but that Dr. Young dug back in his journals to 24 August 1877, five days before Brigham’s death, and penciled in the addendum, ‘appendix broke.’ This suggests that the journal wasn’t a repository for private and personal matters, but was considered a historical record being written for posterity.”
FAMILY SECRETS ON BRIGHAM’S BOW-OUT
Taylor further reports that a physician requesting anonymity–amd whose grandfather had attended Young in his final hours–admitted to him that it “was known in his own family that Brigham died of poison.”
Taylor also reports that this physician “also told me that he had talked with the wife of Apostle John A. Widstoe, who was a Young, and she said that fact that Brigham died of poison was well known in her family.”
YOUNG’S EFFORT TO PERPETUATE FAMILY POWER: THE REASON BEHIND HIS UNCEREMONIOUS SEND-OFF
Taylor argues that Young could well have been poisoned by disgruntled Mormon conspirators unenthused with Young’s suspected plans to have his own sons succeed him as Mormonism’s prophet:
“[It is a] possibility that Brigham had planned to form a Young family dynasty to rule the church. T.B.H. Stenhouse had accused him of this in the book, ‘Rocky Mountain Saints,’ evidence being that Brigham had secretly ordained a son, John W. Young, as an apostle, when John W. was a boy of 10.
“Subsequently, in 1864, [Young] ordained two more sons, Brigham Young, Jr. . . . 28, and Joseph A. Young, 30″– facts, says Taylor, that were “confirmed in the internal press by Reed C. Durham and Steven H. Heath in ‘Succession of the Church Presidency,’ Salt Lake, Bookcraft, 1970. Also by [the LDS ] Church Almanac, 1975.”
Taylor further explains the basis for the suspected poison plot:
“The significance of this action is that [according to the Mormon system of the prophet replacement] the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would succeed to the office of Church President upon the death of the incumbent.
“However, if this was Brigham’s plan, it backfired. The Quorum of the Twelve was outraged on learning of the secret ordinations of the boys, and only one of the three [Brigham Young, Jr.] was accepted into the Twelve.
“However,” Taylor continues, “by 1877, the last year of Brigham’s life, he was accused by the ‘Salt Lake Tribune’ of planning to abdicate in favor of [Brigham Young, Jr.]. . . .
“The Gentile press had freely predicted that at the [upcoming] dedication conference [of the Mormon St. George Temple], Brigham would abdicate in favor of [Brigam Jr.]. The ‘Tribune’ was so sure a change of leadership would take place that it dubbed the event the “abdication conference.”
“The ambiguous ranking of Apostle John Taylor was another evidence that abdication might have been planned. Brigham had succeeded to the church presidency by reason of being president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Yet for the past three years, when Taylor was senior member of the Quorum, he was pointedly sustained at conference as a ‘member of the Twelve,’ rather than its president.
“Brigham hadn’t abdicated at the St. George conference, very probably because of the recent execution of John D. Lee, scapegoat of Mountain Meadows 20 years previously, and the sensation caused by his ‘Confessions,’ written after he felt betrayed by Brigham in receiving the death sentence. . . .
“The nation-wide uproar at this time could have caused Brigham to remain in control, had he planned abdication at St. George. The ‘Tribune,’ however, predicted that he would abdicate in favor of [Brigham Young, Jr.] at the next conference, in October. But Brigham Young died 29 August. . . .”
How did the senior Young possibly attempt to gurantee his his family’s continued control of the Mormon throne? Taylor explains:
“[Brigham Young] could have controlled succession to the presidency only by personally stepping down in favor of his selected replacement. Dead, the matter of succession was beyond his control.”
FINGERING THE CULPRIT
Taylor lays out the details of the last days of Young’s agonizing death, proposing in the process who may have been responsible for the dastardly deed:
“It is a fact that Brigham and several other Brethren in Salt Lake, upon arrival at St. George for the April conference, had been felled by sudden attacks of violent purging and vomiting. . . . Were the Brethren victims of bad water, tainted food, or, we must ask, had something been slipped into their food?”
Taylor , of course, opts for the last possibility. As to the guilty party, he writes:
“Who done it? Well, who had free access to [Young's] heavily-guarded compound? Who would have given Brigham his medication in the small hours, and sat with him throughout the night? Who would be admitted without question to the sickroom at all times?
“The answer is inevitable: members of his immediate family, and in particular the nurses, about whom the ['Desert News'] ‘Last Moments’ say nothing. Yet with ‘vomiting and purging being almost continuous’ the first few days, the patient needed a great deal of attention.
“The women of the household would have been busy with bedpans, with changing sheets, with keeping the patient clean and as comfortable as possible.
“In looking for someone who would have been in position–and with a motive–to have put arsenic in Brigham’s lunch on Thursday, and, very possibly, to have also given additional doses at the bedside during the week of his sickness, we must examine those who were very close. We must zero in on a suspect who was entirely above suspicion. . . .
“[T]he guilty person had to be someone living in the Lion-Beehive House complex. . . .
“We must remember that there would have been an impelling motive for such an act. . . .
“Who had the most to gain?[:] . . . [T]he menage of Brigham’s own family and close relatives. It might be appalling to suggest such a scandal in the family of a sainted figure. However, it is a fact that one murder in five is committed by a member of the immediate family, and almost half of all murders by relatives, family, or close friends. The Young family had its tensions, as the subsequent brouhana over the settlement of Brigham’s estate proved. The complications of plural marriage were astronomical.
“Who of this select group would have both opportunity and an immediate, impelling and overwhelming motive? . . .
“Call her ‘Ms. X.’ Inasmuch as charges were never filed, I cannot name her now. However, if you really do want to know, her identity can be found among the pieces of this ‘whodunit’ which lie waiting in available material for any interested scholar, historian, western buff, ‘whodunit’ fan, trivia freak or windmill filter who wishes to fit the puzzle together. My cards are on the table. I’ve had no access to confidential sources or sensitive materials. No safes were opened to me.
“What is important is not the actual name of ‘Ms. X,’ but her relationship to Brigham Young. In an association of a dozen years, her initial dislike had grown to intense loathing. But what drove her to the corner drugstore for a little calomel salve, please, Mr. Godbe, and oh, yes, a dime’s worth of arsenic to get rid of the gophers?
“The threat to her daughter, a beautiful girl of 17. At this period in Deseret , when an old man began losing his steam, he was dealt a young girl as a plural wife to revitalize him. Brigham did the dealing; his permission was essential. While a special exaltation in the hereafter was promised a nubile maiden who married an old man on earth, to her mother it was a monstrous situation which made her flesh crawl. When an appeal to Brigham failed, her only recourse was to eliminate the man in charge.
“The sugar bowl. Brigham liked to eat with members of his menage. How, then, to single him out for a lethal does without endangering others? Sugar was a prized commodity in frontier Utah . The members of the household sweetened their tea with honey. Only Brigham and special guests used sugar. He also liked a cup of tea in midaftemoon. Again, the sugar bowl, the contents mixed with a tasteless white powder.
“In the event more than one dose was required, because Brigham was ‘a tough s.o.b.,’ consider the tea served to settle his stomach during his week’s sickness, and also the medication, a mixture of brandy and milk. There was ample opportunity.
“Whether or not the identity of the culprit was suspected I have no way of knowing, though her unhappy fate subsequently would have indicated that she was tormented by conscience or harassed by family rumor.”
CONCLUSION: THE GRIM REAPER VS. HISTORY’S KEEPER
Summing up The Case of What Caused Brigham to Croak, Taylor observes:
“And so the case stands. Officially, Brigham Young died of appendicitis. Impartial medical evidence says arsenic poisoning. And, like the case of Jack the Ripper, the full facts may never be known.”
(S.W. Taylor, “Who Done It?: The Nagging Mystery of Brigham Young’s Last Moments,” at http://www.saintsalive.com/mormonism/whodoneit.html)