This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward
Noel Carmack, assistant professor of art at USU Eastern, began working on a biography of the forgotten pioneer-era special needs boy named Isaac Whitehouse in 2014. As he finalized his work, Carmack became aware of another historian working on a Whitehouse biography and saw an opportunity to give him a lasting memorial.
Carmack said “Connell O’Donnovan wrote a similar article for the Journal of Mormon History. When I discovered that his was going to be published as well, we arranged for them to be released at the same time.” His work was later awarded the Charles Redd Center Award for the Best General Interest article in the Utah Historical Quarterly published in 2014.
The GoFundMe page set up to fund a memorial gives this Whitehouse biography, “Isaac Whitehouse was born in 1845 in Watford, Northampton, England to Jacob Whitehouse and Rebecca Ward. He was born deaf and could never communicate with his family. After their conversion to Mormonism, the Whitehouse family migrated to America in 1854. Unhappily, the parents died en route to Utah, leaving the young-orphaned Whitehouse to be cared for by his mother’s sister Elizabeth Ward, who was newly married to Samuel George Baker.
Upon arrival in Utah, the Bakers (with Whitehouse) were sent to the small Mormon colony in Parowan, Utah, 230 miles south of Salt Lake City. When Elizabeth Ward Baker had her own first child, she began to neglect and abuse her nephew, and worse, provoked her husband to abuse him even more.
“Church leaders stepped in and the abuse stopped…for a while. Then the Bakers renewed their assault on the 10 year old, who was unable to report the abuse or otherwise seek help due to his inability to communicate with others. The violence reached a peak on Oct. 27, 1855, when Samuel G. Baker killed his nephew Whitehouse, and then left the broken, crumpled body in an irrigation ditch just outside the town walls, where he was found the next day.”
James Henry Martineau of Parowan recorded in his journal on Oct. 29, 1855: “When the body was examined, it was a horrible sight to see. He had been buried in his dirty clothes and excrement, and showed evident signs of violence. His hands and feet had been tied with a cord (the marks of which were still shown in the flesh) and then he had been placed in a water ditch, and partly chilled and partly drowned.
“The sand had washed into and settled in the folds of his clothing. His body had large purple spots where he had been kicked or struck, the skin being badly abrazed and broken. Baker denied all, but his wife confessed, and got the cord with which he had been tied. The testimony of the people revealed a long course of the most inhuman cruelty, perpetrated on the poor boy, whose father and mother, dying while on their way here, left him to the care of Mrs. Baker, the sister of his mother. After she got him, she herself became a mother, and hated the boy most intensely, and incited Baker to his cruel deeds.”