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May 2017 Vol. 54 No. 9

Utah State University Press

The following review appeared in the May 2017 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email


Wells, Quentin. Defender: the life of Daniel H. Wells. Utah State, 2016. 508p bibl index ISBN 9781607325468, $39.95; ISBN 9781607325475 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Long overdue, this scholarly biography of Daniel Wells (1814–91) places this important leader in the context of 19th-century Mormon and Western history. Wells was a justice of the peace in Commerce (afterward, Nauvoo), Illinois, when the Mormons arrived in 1838–39. A major property owner and city council member, Wells did not convert until 1846. He led the effort to protect Mormons from mobs expelling them from Illinois. He served as Utah’s superintendent of public works, Salt Lake City’s mayor, and commanding general of the territorial militia. He played a central role in the Walker War, the Black Hawk War, and the Utah War. He served as Brigham Young’s counselor in the First Presidency. A polygamist, and concerned about families and temple worship, Wells served as president of the Endowment House and Manti Temple. In telling this story, the author, a descendant of Daniel Wells, does not avoid controversy. He provides details on the disputes between the Wells family and the prestigious Cannon family over the adulterous relationship between Wells’s daughter, Louie Wells, and George Cannon’s son, John, and on Wells’s demotion after Brigham Young’s death. A valuable resource for those interested in Mormon, Utah, or Western history.

--T. G. Alexander, Brigham Young University

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.