The name "Danite was applied to four or five of these early lawmen by the Eastern Press because of an earlier semi-religious organization begun in Missouri in 1838 by Dr. Sampson Avard. This early group disbanded almost before it started when the motives of Dr. Avard became suspect and he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. However, the ideas he promulgated persisted with some for several decades in the Utah Territory. Based on the biblical scripture, Genesis 49:17, non-Mormon "Gentiles" who persecuted the Mormons were to be punished by losing their possessions.
It is unknown how many of the Utah period so-called "Danites" had been members of the original Missouri organization. What is known is that there were never "70 Destroying Angels" appointed by Brigham Young. The number seventy came from the Church priesthood calling of the "Seventy".
After Sir Richard Burton's visit to the Salt Lake Valley in 1860, the Eastern press most prominently identified as "Danites" William Adams "Bill" Hickman, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Ephe Hanks, Robert Burton, and Lot Smith. All had taken a prominent part in the war against the U.S. Army troops in 1857-58, and had been appointed by Brigham Young. These men served with honor during the Mormon War and also the later tumultuous Camp Floyd period.
Orson Hyde, an apostle in the Church and one who had benefited from the protection given by lawman Bill Hickman in Winter Quarters in 1848-49, failed to later discourage Hickman's gang in 1860 for depredations committed against the U.S. Army at Camp Floyd. Hyde contended that Hickman probably "had a revelation to act as he did." This lawless period should have ended with the official announcement by Brigham Young on 9 September 1860, that said, "...if the Lord wants any stealing done he would reveal it to me as soon as to Bill Hickman or others."
There continued to be isolated incidences attributed to the "Danites" in Anti-Mormon books and press articles until the railroad came to the territory in 1869. By then the original territorial lawmen were mostly dead, retired, or had been replaced by a new group of sheriffs and policemen with civil rather than religious powers. However, the name "Danite" continues to excite readers and historians of the early Utah period, even though the evidence of excessive wrong doing outside the law, appears to be greatly exaggerated.