Jacob Hamblin has long been one of the most enigmatic figures in Mormon history. In this defining biography, Todd Compton reconstructs the fascinating life of the frontiersman, coloniser, missionary to the Indians, and explorer of the American West. With impeccable attention to detail, Compton examines and disentangles many of the myths and controversies surrounding this well-known figure. Hamblin's Grand Canyon adventures and explorations as a guide alongside John Wesley Powell are well documented, as are his roles as a missionary, cultural liaison, and negotiator to the Indian tribes of southern Utah and Arizona.
Hamblin struggled in this latter role, sometimes unable to bridge the gulf between Mormonism and Indian culture. He disavowed violent conflict and ceaselessly sought peaceful resolutions where others resorted to punitive action. He strove above all for mutual understanding in the absence of conversion. A Frontier Life provides a rich narrative that fleshes out a picture of a sometimes vilified figure, particularly in regard to his connection to the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre where Compton provides nuanced discussion clarifying Hamblin's postmassacre role-he was not present at the massacre, but reported on it to both Brigham Young and military investigators. Compton's engagement with Mormon historiography and previous Hamblin portrayals will make this work of particular interest to both scholars and students. The casual reader will take pleasure in learning of a true pioneer who lived life at the geographical, cultural, and spiritual boundaries of his era. This dramatic, entertaining biography is a truly significant contribution to Mormon history.
Todd M. Compton specializes in Mormon history and the classics and has published numerous articles and five books in these areas, including In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith and Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri (coauthored with Leland H. Gentry.)