The Lead Lee Scrolls

In January 2002 a lead scroll was found at Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River in Arizona. It purports to be written by John D. Lee.


Editor's Note: This is the transcript of a letter written by Steve Mayfield to Scott Gordon, President of FAIR. The letter is reproduced here with the permission of both Steve and Scott.

Dear Scott,

Per our conversation a few months ago, I am writing down a few items of information in reference to the John D. Lee lead scroll, also known as the "Dead Lee Scroll" (a title given to the scroll by author Will Bagley).

First, I want to correct some misinformation that was made about the "scroll" a few months ago on the FAIR message boards.

1. There is a rumor that the police found, while searching Mark Hofmann's house, some lead plates. Not so. What was found were copper plates. (This I was directly told by some of the investigators involved in the search.)

2. We do know the name of the National Park Service worker who found the lead scroll in Lee's Ferry Fort. His name is Allen Malmquist. He has lived in the Page, Arizona, area for over forty years. He is a retired school teacher and was a seasonal National Park worker while he taught. After retirement, he became a full-time worker for the National Park Service, as the "Lee's Ferry Interpreter." His contract has him working 24 out of 36 months. It was during one of his off periods (January 2002) when he found the scroll in the fort. He was volunteering to clean out the fort (although not paid, but covered by workmen's comp.). Allen was our guide when George Throckmorton and I toured the area (Lee's Ferry, Lonely Dell, and Signature Rock) in May 2003.

I believe Allen is one of the most knowledgeable people about this area, since he is the person with the keys to get into the buildings in the area. (Incidentally, Lee's Ferry Fort is locked up, and unless one breaks in the door or pries the bars on the west side entry, you cannot get in!)

3. It was stated on the FAIR message board that testing was done on the scroll to determine what caused the oxidation or why the scroll has a red or brown color to it. NO TESTING HAS BEEN DONE ON THIS!! A young man from Arizona State University (Tom Brunty, who is or was a graduate student in religious studies), with assistance from people at Arizona State University and Washington State University, determined that the lead was manufactured in the 1850s from a plant in Arkansas or Southwest Missouri. Thus, it is possible that the lead scroll is from the proper period of John D. Lee. However, Brunty also suggested in his report that the lead for the scroll could have been manufactured after 1850 when the plant was reopened after years of closure.

George and I would like to have the scroll tested as to the oxidation, and we have made contacts with scientists at the University of Utah to do so. However, we never received an answer form the National Park Service people in Page, Arizona, as to whether or not we could obtain the scroll or samples from it for testing. So, at present, that project is on hold. George Throckmorton is planning on writing a report on his research on the "Dead Lee Scroll" for a professional forensic journal in the next year.

To give you a quick overview of why we believe the scroll to be fake, consider the following points:

1. Spelling. John D. Lee's spelling was poor, but not as poor as that on the scroll. In fact, some of the words misspelled on the scroll were not words that John misspelled in his writings.

2. Printing. John D. Lee's journals (that he started back in the 1840s) has printing in the early years, but most of his writing was cursive, especially in the 1870s when the scroll was allegedly written. When the printing on the scroll is compared with the examples of his printing in his journals, there are no similarities. This is very apparent in the printing of his name.

3. Proper Names. On the scroll, the name HIGBEE is spelled HIGBY, the name DAME is spelled DANE, and the scroll refers to the Mountain Meadows Massacre as the FANCHER. In reviewing John D. Lee's journals (the Brooks and Cleand edition) and also reviewing photocopies of his journal from the Huntington Library, we found that before and after the date of the scroll Lee spelled the names HIGBEE and DAME correctly and never refers to the massacre as the FANCHER; he calls it what it was--the "Mountain Meadows Massacre," MMM, or "the Massacre."

Also, the scroll refers to Brigham Young as "Pres Young" and George A. Smith as "Geo Smith." In his journal we find that he almost always referred to Brigham Young or in writing the name with the letter B or Brig, or Brigham or Brother Brigham, and almost always referred to George A. Smith with the letter A (such as George A. Smith or Elder Geo. A. Smith or even GAS). Lee probably used the initials to separate Brigham Young and George A. Smith from other Youngs or Smiths of the time.

4. Tools. William Flynn of Phoenix, Arizona, who worked with George on the Hofmann case, examined the scroll under a microscope and found that the engraving on the scroll was done with a four- or five-sided nail that was not available in the 1870s.

In July 2004 at a book signing in Salt Lake City, I asked Will Bagley two questions, since he knows and has reviewed all the writings of John D. Lee. First, I asked him if there were in the John D. Lee collection any writings on metal plates, and second if he was aware of anyone else in the American Southwest during the last half of the 1800s who might have written on metal. Will thought for a second and said "no," even though when the scroll was found in 2002 he had told the media it was common practice in the Old West to write on metal.

Now, as to whether Mark Hofmann had anything to do with the scroll, I have a hundred-dollar answer and a ten-cent answer. My ten-cent answer is that I don't really know. The hundred-dollar answer is that there is no conclusive evidence that would suggest or show that Hofmann had anything to do with manufacturing, creating or distributing the scroll. However, there is some circumstantial evidence that at present, I am not ready to eliminate Hofmann as the author or maker of the scroll. The circumstantial evidence is as follows:

1. The scroll is Mormon-related and controversial.

2. Hofmann dealt in metals in his forgeries (coins and items like the printing plate for the Oath of a Freeman)

3. When Mark Hofmann was in prison (1988) he attempted suicide. While at the hospital, a cell search was made at the prison, and officials found a one-page paper with a list of "famous Americana" signatures Hofmann had forged, and on the other side, a list of Mormon figures he had forged. On that list is the name "John D. Lee." Those involved in the investigation of the Hofmann case and those knowledgeable of Hofmann forgeries know of no John D. Lee documents.

4. When the scroll was discovered in January 2001 and announced in March 2001, KSL/Deseret News asked Mark Hofmann (through Utah Corrections spokesman Jack Ford) if he had anything to do with the scroll; a simple yes-or-no question. Hofmann's answer (in typical Hofmann fashion) was "I have nothing to say about this at this time."

A couple of additional tidbits of information:

In 2000 the US Department of Interior/National Park Service released a 400+ page study on the Lee's Ferry and Lonely Dell Ranch area. This included a history of the areas and sites as well as past and present photographs. One interesting piece of information is that in 1976/1977, the logs on the roof of the fort were taken down and refurbished (treated with epoxy) and the interior walls strengthened. This eliminates the idea that the scroll was hidden in the roof/logs and fell down due to an earthquake. Considering that the fort has had a steady flow of inhabitants and usage, it makes it almost impossible that the scroll was hidden or stored in the fort until discovered in 2002. Also, a photo taken in July 1999 by the author of the above study (Robert Graham) has a shot of the interior of the fort, looking east towards the fireplace. In this photo one can see the lead scroll, as identified by Allen Malmquist. Thus the scroll was in the fort at least by July 1999 before being found in January 2002.

So there you have it. Hope this long essay or explanation is understandable. Anyone with additional questions about the scroll or the topic of Hofmann can contact me directly; I'm in the phone book.

-Steve Mayfield