During the 1890s, there were very few places where someone could get across the Colorado River without swimming. Lee's Ferry was located in a good place for rustlers to get across the river and is said to be in direct line with the Outlaw Trail.
In 1871, John Doyle Lee put the first ferry in operation at the direction of the Mormon Church. His assignment to the ferry was in controversy because of his participation in the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre. In 1874, he was arrested and in 1877 he was executed by firing squad