Mormon Literature Sampler:

The Day of the U.S. Marshal

Joseph Smith Black*

I returned to Deseret and found all well. During my absence I found there had not much been done towards the meeting house. We soon called a force and commenced laying brick.

The foundation had been put in about three years before at the cost of about $1,000. The walls underground were four feet thick. The bricklaying was commenced by Cynthia Black and Fanny Scott carrying and scattering the mortar, and I taking two bricks and uniting them together in the mortar and prayed to God that the house might be built acceptable to him and the Saints be enabled to meet therein in the spirit of truth and righteousness. On this occasion quite a number of the brethern and sisters were present and thus the building of the walls of our meeting house was commenced on the southwest corner and the work was prosecuted vigorously with short interruption until we reached to the square. I had occasion to visit the R. R. company and the lime run short and the work stopped, but on my return I immediately telegraphed north for 100 sacks of lime which was sent down on the night train and the next morning the work was resumed. Brother S. W. Western, my counselor, did all he could to keep the work going. About this time we established a church school and we had attendence of from 40 to 50 students, but as an impression had gained ground that we were running against the stake academy, it was deemed best to discontinue for the present. By this time our ward had increased in membership to something over 800.

Soon after the passing of the Edmunds Law, in the spring of 1882, the marshalls commenced their raids in different parts of the Territory, which caused excitement and annoyance almost continuously. The raids on the different settlements were conducted thus: They would designate a certain number of the brethern that they desired to capture and three or four of them would come into town during the night and lie in wait at the house of some traitor. The people reposing in peaceful slumber, not conscious of any danger being near, and perchance the husband and father being weary of camping out would have repaired home for a good nights rest and to enjoy the society of their loved ones, when all was quiet during the small hours in the morning a loud rap would be heard at the door. The family would spring from their beds and in sudden tones would whisper the word, "Marshalls." Perchance a louder and harsher knock would follow and some one of the family would ask, "Who is there?" and they would say, "Marshalls. Open the door, or we will bunt it down," and if the Father happened to be in the house he would meet them with a light at the door and admit them, and with cocked revolvers they would demand his surrender. Thus by demons in human shape he would be dragged away to some pretended court. In case the husband was not at home, the wife, with almost frantic fear, would admit them to the house and sometimes by threats and abusive language, she would be compelled to show them through the house, while the children would nestle close together in their beds, being almost overcome with fright and anxiety for the safety of their Father and protector. In many instances the women displayed a degree of heroism that would be commendable in any age of the world. Generally on such occasions the word of alarm would soon spread and lights would glitter in all parts of the town and perchance if the raid had been successful the news would soon be conveyed from house to house of the capture of some of the most respectful citizens. On such excitement would generally run high, and many would be the expressions of indignation and were it not for wise council of more matured minds many of these raids would have ended in a scene of blood, as it was hard to see fathers, relatives and friends taken away in such a manner.

Another mode they had in capturing those they were hunting was for a stranger to ride into town, looking like a miner or stock man, and they would call at the house and make inquiry about something, and would then serve their papers on those that happened to be there that they wanted for witnesses. In all the numerous cases of that kind I have never known of any resistance of any lawful person. For four years they had been seeking to arrest me, and offered rewards to different persons if they would assist to trap me, but I am pleased to say traitors were not very plentiful. Conscious of having committed no crime; except as made so by law, it was very humiliating to be continuously hiding from the officers and spotters. Besides it caused me to neglect my business and thereby suffer loss.

On one occasion the Marshalls Clauson, Norrell and Mount surrounded my largest house in the night and after a thorough search, being unsuccessful, they subpoenaed some of my family and also some of the family of some of the other citizens. I was a short distance from the house and could plainly see them carrying the lights from one room to the other. In the morning a messenger brought word to me that the Marshalls were going to capture a brother that lived down the river. His son was plowing nearby and I went and informed him of the fact. He decided to go home at once and I said I would ride with him as far as six miles below to my ranch and that I wait at the corner of the street at my daughter's home until he came along and while I was waiting there my daughter went in the house out of breath and said, "Oh! Pa? the Marshalls are coming up the lane." This was at my daughter, Nancy's, and she urged me to get out of the way. I went into a secret place and the Marshalls came on and surrounded the house. They searched everywhere. Two had given up the search, but Nortell continued, although urged by the others to quit and come on. Several occasions they came within 3 or 4 feet of me, while Nortell, on his way to their carts, having given up the search, came right onto me. He said, "G. D. you come out of there," and used other abusive and profane language. I said, "Mister, you have captured me fairly and now I want you to treat me like a gentleman and use no such language in my presence." The others shouted, "That is the bishop." "Oh," he said, "I beg your pardon. I thought it was Allred. We were not looking for you." We went to the carts and I rode to my house with Clawson, with whom I had formerly been acquainted. The scene was enacted in the presence of quite a number of people, among them were some of the members of my family, who were almost overcome with grief. The marshall told me that they had been told by an individual that a man had been seen in that place, hence their raid, and by the excited manner of my daughter, they were satisfied that some one was there. At the house we talked matters over and I agreed to be before the commissioner at Provo the next week. This occurred on Monday.

In all the excitement of the raids many amusing scenes occurred and we ran many narrow risks of being captured. On one occasion a marshall was making search for myself and others and boasting of what he could do. I passed him right on the sidewalk and when he learned of the fact, he was very much chagrined. On another occasion I met two in the road and was so close to them that retreat was immpossible. I passed on and as I did so I passed my hand into my vest bosom and said, "Good evening, gentlemen." They returned the salute pleasantly. After passing a short distance, they said, "By God! That is the bishop." They afterwards said they would have captured me, but I had the drop on them. I had my hand on my revolver. In the commencement of the raiding I felt very indignant and was fully determined to shoot any man that would break into my house in the night, but after Marshall Dyer came into office, a more human course was pursued and I had laid my pistols by and at this time I was warned. Another amusing instance transpired when I was at Manti attending the dedication of the temple. A marshall learned of my whereabouts and had planned my capture. I was then stopping at Barton's; a friend informed me of their intention and advised me to go somewhere else and sleep. He took me to Mr. Bench who was an old acquaintance of mine. I informed him that I wanted a bed. He said he was sorry that he could not accomadate me as every bed was occupied, as also all the sleeping places on the floors, says he, "Across the road lives a Presbyterian school teacher. She has a spare bed. She is alone," and if I was willing he was satisfied that he could get permission for me to stay there. I said that is good enough and accompanied him into the house. He introduced me as Mr. Brown. She said that I could stay, and invited me to take a chair in a nicely furnished parlor. The house consisted of two bed rooms, a sitting room and a kitchen. The lady was about 25 years old, of light complexion, beautiful figure and an agreeable manner. We soon entered into conversation. She gave me an outline of her faith, their church organization and government, and part of her history. I in turn told her of my religious faith and mildly corrected her in some of her erronous ideas. Our conversation became quite interesting and after an hour or two I excused myself, thinking it might become tiresome and would retire to bed. She assured me that she was not weary in the least, so the conversation resumed and when I looked at my watch again it was nearly one o'clock. I bid her good night and retired. I arose early in the morning as I had promised to go out to take breakfast with a friend. She was in the kitchen. I thanked her for the bed and asked her how much I was indebted to her. She answered, "Nothing. You are not going away. I am preparing breakfast for you." I thanked her very kindly as I had promised. She invited me while I was in Manti to make her house my home. As the marshalls had searched the train for me at Nephi at my coming over, I decided to return by horse and buggy, accompanied by my brother. I arrived all safe after having enjoyed my visit and the dedicatory services very much.

It was asserted by many that they had seen and heard heavenly manifestations in the temple, which I am prepared to believe as I heard some very beautiful singing myself at a distance apparently....The Sabbath before leaving [for prison], I addressed the Saints for a short time and bid them adieu, for how long I did not know. After the services many were the kind embraces which I received from the sisters, many a warm clasp of the hand from many of the brethren, exhorting me to be of good cheer, the sentence would only be short. The day before the young ladies made a beautiful dinner in the Scotts Grove. Some of the brethern were there and also some of the brethern from the city, Brigham Hampton and C. W. Wilkins. After dinner the sisters sang my favorite hymn.

Oh awake ye defenders of Zion,
De foes are at the doors of your home
Let each heart be the heart of a lion
Unyielding and proud as he roams
Remember the wrongs of Missouri
Forget not the fate of Nauvoo
When the God-hating foe are before you
Stand firm and be faithful and true.

The president of the Y. L. M. I. A. in behalf of the sisters presented me with an autograph album with many loving expressions. I offered a few remarks and blessed them in the name of the Lord and I felt much affected by their manifest kindness, causing tears to flow. On the evening previous to my departure many of my family and a number of the brethern and the sisters assembled at my home and partook of the sumptuous supper. About 70 sat down to supper. After supper the table was cleared and the time was occupied by songs, recitations, and music. In the course of the evening I made remarks to my family and those present exhorting them to be faithful and steadfast in keeping the commandments of God. Read a biographical sketch of Father's and prayed to God that they might be right and defend the rights of the Saints. I went to prison, conscious of being guilty of no crime and rather than break the covenants which I had made before God with them and forsake my family and those I loved so dearly, I would rather bid them the last farewell and spend the rest of my life in prison. The company was much affected, and I spoke words of comfort and cheer to them. Brother Jesse W. Fox of Salt Lake and Brother William and Brother Hales spoke words of comfort and encouragement. I had seated with me at supper my four wives, my mother, Mother Stokes, one of my mothers-in-law, all the rest are dead. My daughter, Courteniah, read the following address:

Deseret, Oct. 9th, 1889.

Most Beloved Father:

The time is at hand when we shall part for a short time. We shall miss the familiar sound of your footsteps on the threshold and the welcome smile that greets us as we meet you.

We shall think of you in the hours of your loneliness and every evening as we retire we shall pray to God to protect our darling Father until your return to the homes of your beloved ones.

May he who clothes the lilies
And watches the sparrows fall
Guide and protect you, dear Father
And bring you safe through all

Your loving daughters,
Courteniah Black
Louisa Black
Emma A. Black
Phoebe D. Black

The above named daughters are all mine by three different wives.

The following which had been composed by one of my wives was also read.

October 8th, 1889.

True, my darling, life is hard
And it's ways are dark and dim
But God knows the path you tread
I can leave you safe with him.
Tears are but the hearts pure dewdrops
Soft distilled through virtues springs
Sorrows are the clouds that nightdrops
Ere the day her joy shall bring
Crowns are won by faithful valor
On the trying fields of strife
Virtue come from patient labor
In the busy school of life
Hours are darkest near the morning
Shadows are deepest at dawning
Every mound is but a token
Of a brighter and better day
From one that loves you,

Cynthia Black.

It was now near twelve o'clock at night and the brethern and sisters prepared to accompany me to the depot a mile distant. We arrived about 12:30 at which time the train was due. In a few minutes the train arrived and after bidding them an affectionate farewell I took a sleeper, accompanied by my son, Warren, and arrived at Provo at 7:30 A.M. In proceeding to the depot I rode with my oldest son, Joseph. His team being on the lead of a long train of wagons and carriages reminding me of a funeral procession. I appeared before the court at 10 A.M. but owing to a press of business my sentence was put off until 2 P.M....

At 2 P.M. I appeared before the court for sentence. This was Oct. 10, 1889. The court asked me about my age. I answered 52 past. Court--"When did you marry your plural wife?" I answered, "1860." He said, "Mr. Black. Have you anything to say to the court?" I answered, "Nothing." Court--"You will be sentenced to 75 days in the penitentiary and costs." The costs amounted to $94.50.

I was then put in charge of a ballif who conducted me up to an upper room where a few of the brethern who had been sentenced had proceeded me. The number continued to increase until there were 12 in the room. A man by the name of J. F. Gibbs had accompanied me from Deseret and was to have been sentenced the same afternoon. I kept watch to see him coming but after a while was informed that he had unconditionally agreed to obey the law, and abandoned one of his families.

About 3:30 P.M. we were conducted down the streets of Provo to the depot by two lynx-eyed deputy marshalls, who kept a strict watch to prevent us from escaping as though we had no interest in this country. Mr. B. Backman, who appeared to be a man with some heart, also accompanied us.

Our party consisted of Bp. J. S. Black of Deseret, Elder Jesse B. Martin of Scipio, and Elder William McKeller of Leamington, all of Millard County. Hans Jesperson of Goshen, J. L. Jolley and L. Dunham of Moroni, C. Newman of Moroni, H. Mower of Fairview, N. Van Leeman of Aurora, George Curtis of Payson, John Beck and James Anderson of Spanish Fork made up the rest of the party.

On our way to the city H. H. Parson, the U.S. marshall, came into the car and sat down by me as we had previously been acquainted. He said he was sorry to see the trouble in the Territory as he had lived in the Territory for years and had many warm friends. He hoped that something would be devised to stop this trouble and he also said that he expected to perform the duties of his office in a humane and honorable manner, and desired his deputies to do likewise. I told him that he was now making history that will never die. He answered that he was conscious of the fact and expected to do as he wanted to be done by under similar circumstances. President Cannon of Salt Lake Stake and President Shurtlief of Weber Stake were also on the train and came into the car where we were and gave us words of encouragement.

Pres. Cannon had served a term of imprisonment of six months for a similar offense as ours. We arrived at the depot of Salt Lake at 6:30 P.M. It was beginning to get dark. I met Sister Yates on the platform who had been to the penitentiary to see her husband, Bp. Yates. She greeted us kindly and bid us be of good cheer. Two wagons awaited our arrival into which we seated ourselves with our bedding and satchels, being very crowded and uncomfortable. We proceeded upon South Temple St., thence down Main on East Temple St. and while riding along viewing the brilliant electric lights and the handsome display in the store windows and viewing the busy throng on the sidewalk where I had so often walked myself on business a free man, I could not help reflect on my present situation, condemned as a criminal and under guard on the way to the penitentiary, and that, too, by a government that I had always been taught to love and respect. While in the days of peril at the time of the Civil War, I had given three years of my salary as a county official for the cause of that government. I had previously been deprived of my franchise and now my liberty and franchise would be restored to me if I would just say one word--that I would forsake my family. The sacrifice was too great. I could not do it. We are sorry to be put in this position as we do not want to show defiance to the laws of our country. Congress made it a crime and made a law to punish it, hence we have been caught in the trap set for us.

We arrived at the pen about 8 o'clock.

*Joseph Smith Black (1836-1910) was born at Lisburn, Antrim County, Ireland. He came to America in 1840 and was baptized a member of the Church in 1844. An enterprising pioneer of Millard County, Utah, he founded the community of Deseret and, as Bishop, guided the spiritual as well as the temporal welfare of the community. He was a farmer, a merchant, a contractor, a miller, and an irrigation engineer for half a county. As this excerpt begins, Joseph Black has just returned home after a long absence as a construction contractor for the railroad in northern Utah.

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