Matthews, Benjamin F., "B. F. Matthews' Disclaimer," Deseret News [Weekly], 22 July 1857, 160.
BR. GEO. Q. CANNON:
I take the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and well, trusting that you are also in the enjoyment of every blessing necessary to your well being and happiness.
I should have written to you before, and sent you an account of my recent mission in detail, had it not been that I have been waiting to see certain unpleasant circumstances and events straightened and settled. I presume the misfortune which befell me on my return to the Valley with a company last year, has become pretty generally known. I refer to the existence of the small pox in my company, and its consequent introduction among the Saints in the Territory.
I saw a notice in the MORMON, stating that a train of emigrants on their way to California, picked up a bead near an Indian camp, which was stuffed with cotton impregnated with small pox virus, and had been put there by the 'Mormons' to introduce that disease among the Indians, and thereby effect their destruction. This is a lie of the blackest dye, and is one of the contemptible and abominable methods by which our enemies are seeking to create excitement about, and embitter the feelings of the people towards us, and thereby arouse them to hostility against this people. I perceived that they have a great deal to say about the people of Utah, and a great many stories are circulated about the mistreatment of the California emigrants in Salt Lake Valley, which I know to be false.
With relation to the bead containing the poisoned cotton, and the subsequent breaking out of the small pox, the facts are these:
When about seven miles from Green river, near the forks of the road, one of my company picked up a large bead, stuffed with cotton, and gave it to a little boy of Mr. Wight, about six years of age, who had been run over by a wagon a few minutes before and quite seriously injured, to play with. His aunt picked out the cotton with a needle, from curiosity, and about five days afterwards he was taken sick, as I thought with the fever, nor did I know any better until he broke out with the small pox, which did not take place until after we arrived in Salt Lake City.
This, of course, created a great deal of excitement in the valley, and many long lectures were given about it, and as a natural result, much prejudice existed against myself in consequence of this sad occurrence, which thus introduced this terrible disease among the inhabitants of Utah. My supposition was, and is, that a company of California emigrants who were ahead of us, threw out the bait for us and we bit at it and were caught, and my humble opinion is, that this bead was placed there by them for us instead of the Indians, as it was known we were a 'Mormon' train bound for the Valley.
Although I am strongly censured, and charged with being aware of the existence of this disease in our company before we entered the city, and have been condemned unjustly and without a fair, impartial hearing, yet I am conscious that I am perfectly innocent of the charge. I have done all in my power to give satisfaction and reconcile my brethren to myself, but I have as yet been unable to accomplish that desirable end.
I wish it understood, however, that I have the best of feelings towards the cause of truth, and for ever shall have, and let that matter be as it may, whether they hold me guilty or not, I shall always take the liberty to contradict any thing which is not the truth, which may be said against this Church and people.
B. F. MATTHEWS.