Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky

Diary of Wilford Woodruff

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The diaries and other writings of Wilford Woodruff are now online. That might be exciting news for me but as a non-Mormon I’m not sure I’ll be allowed to access them.

I’m descended from the Luce family, who were converted by Woodruff on his mission to the Fox Islands. They named a baby for him. My 2nd great grandfather. And he continued to take an interest in their welfare for the rest of his life.

The announcment is online here:

Danielle Christensen, More Than 7,000 of Wilford Woodruff’s Records Now Available Online, at LDS.org (Aug. 22, 2018).


Extracts from the Diary of Wilford Woodruff

May 1859. May 27th   I went to the office early this morning whare I was informed that James Johnson son of Luke Johnson was shot last night by one Gibson. There were 4 of them together, Jason Luce, James Johnson, Gibson & another one. Some words passed between Gibson & Johnson when Gibson drew a pistol cocked it & drew it upon Johnson when Luce took the pistol from Gibson & uncooked it & gave it back to Gibson. He then again Cocked it & few words passed & he drew his pistol & shot James Johnson. The ball entered below the Choller bone on the left side. Just escaped the Left Lung broke the upper rib went downward through the body. Dr’s France & Anderson was sent For. They [p.339] Cut out the ball on the right side of the spine of the back. (Vol. 5, p. 338-39)

January 1860. 20 Vary Cold and Frosty. I went to the office in the morning. I there learned that Joseph Rhodes was killed byJason Luce last evening in Butchers House whare William Hickman lay. Rhodes Came to the House and said he wanted to see Hickman. Luce said [p.417] he could not. Rhodes swore he would or die on the spot and drew two pistols one Cocked in Each hand and presented them at Luce. Luce drew his knife and sprung at Rhodes and struck him in the Right Breast & the knife went through his body. Ormas Bates sprung at the same time and Caught hold of Each pistol and turned the muzzles up. Luce Continued to thrust the knife into Rhodes and he soon fell and as he began to Fall He snaped the both pistols but the hammer struck Bates Hand and did not go off. Luce Continued to stab him untill he had Eleven gashes through his body.

I went down to see the Corps. It had been washed and laid on a Board Naked. I never saw a Body so Cut up. The poliece took the body From Hickman to the City Hall whare I saw the Body. Luce gave himself up to the Poliece.

I spent the day in the office. Luce had his trial in the evening and was acquited upon the plea of self Defense. (Vol. 5, p. 416-17)

August 1860. Aug 5 Sunday I met with my Quorum in the morning. A. O. Smoot Prayed & L W Hardy was mouth. The subjet was spoken off about Jason Luce & Lot Huntington & their party overpowering the Poliece & Jeter Clintons Court one day during the past week. The Mayor will take the matter up to morrow. (Vol. 5, p. 480)

December 1863. Dec 7th 1863 I spent the fore part of the day in the office writing. Jason Luce killed a man in the street by the name of Samuel Burton from Origon. He cut his throat with a Bowe knife. He was immediately arested & imprisioned.

During the Evening G A Smith arived home bringing the Bodies of two dead men viz Ira Jones Willis & his son Cornelius John Willis. Both were turned over together on a load of wood in the Creek near Lehi. The waggon turned bottom side upwards & the men were rolled up in their blankets face downwards in the Creek with the wood on top of them. This was on Saturday night. Quite dark. The oxen Came unhitched & went h[ome. Were?] found at the door in the morning. The bodies were found sunday Morning.

Brother Willis was in the first Company of Saints that gathered at Jackson County. Helped build the [p.140] first building in Jackson County that the Saints put up. He was in the Mormon Battalion & helped find the first gold in Calafornia. He was whiped by Moses Wilson with Hickory gads & Carried the scars to the grave. He has been true & faithful unto death & will have a Crown of life.

8 The bodies of Brother Ira Willis & son were brought into the Historian office & Exibited to the Jackson County Saints & all others who Called in & were buried about 12 oclok Noon.

Jason Luce was Examined before Orrelius Miner Esqr & was Committed to be tried before the probate Court next Monday.

19 I preached the funeral sermon of Father Atwood at 10 oclok in the assembly rooms, then went to the Endowment House & sealed 21 Couple. We gave Endowments to 31 persons. I Attended the trial of Jason Luce.

22d I spent the fore part of the day in writing my report to the Legislature.

In the afternoon I attended the Court & heard the Judge Elias Smith Sentence Jason Luce, who had been tried for murder & rendered Guilty of Murder, in the first degree by a Jury of 12 men. The Judge Sentenced him to be shot on Tuesday the 12 of January. He made a few remarks & tryed to Justify himself

[p.142]

by saying that what he done He done in self defence &c. When he was taken down into his sell he wept like a child. He told his brother that if He was Executed he must remember that Wm Hickman was the Cause & that he was now deserting him. Hickman & party are holding out the hope to him that He will be reprieved. (Vol. 6, p.139-42)

January 1864. Jan 8 A Cold morning. I visited President Young and asked him if He had any Council to give R. Burton Concerning the Execution of Jason Luce Tuesday. He said no not one word. He knows what to do. It will want to be done in Private.

10 Sunday We Met at 10 oclok. Joseph W Young Joseph A Young, & Brother Ship spoke in the forenoon. In the Afternoon Wm. C Stanes /D. H. Wells/ H. C. Kimball spoke to the people & Presidet Brigham Young made the last speech & gave vary good Advise. He told us how to have peace in our families. We should never let our families see us mad. We should always be kind & mild with them & do what was right & not neglect our Prayers or to ask a Blessing at the Table, but set a good Example before our families. He said that the Sin of Omission would lead to the sin of commission. He Blessed the Assembly & we returned to G.S.L.C. 36 m.

Jan 11 1864  I Called upon Brother Burton & then I Called at the Court House and had another interview with Jason Luce who is sentenced to die tomorrow. He still feels sure that He will not die. He thinks that he has the testimony of the spirit of the Lord that He will live & not die. He said that he was innocent of many things that the people thought he was guilty off. He said that he had never killed any person or had any hand in the death of any person except Rhodes & Bunting & said that he Could not fell that he was guilty of murder in the death of Either of them. He had killed them in self defence. He said Wm. Hickman had advised him to do many things that made his flesh Crawl but he had not followed Hickmans advise in these things. He told the Jailors (which I did not Hear) that Hickman once asked him to go & knock an old man in the Head for no other purpose ownly to obtain an old mare that was not worth more than $30. And He feels that Wm. Hickman has betrayed him and done him much injury & he looks upon Hickman as a vary bad man. He said he would like to see me tomorrow. He thought to day [p.151] was the time appointed for his Execution untill I told him it was tomorrow.

I went to the Council & spent the afternoon & attended to the business of the day And in the Evening I again Called upon Jason Luce in Company with John Sharp, T. B. Stenhouse R. Burton & many others. G D. Watt being present acted as reporter in taking an account of what Jason Luce would reveal unto us in his last moments.

I Called upon Governor Reed & asked him if he would Commute Jason Luce sentence to the Penetentiary for life as Hickman had held out this promise to Luce. Soon Hickman & Wilford Luce Came in for their answer & Mr Reed told them He Could do nothing in the premises that He Considered that He would be Commiting Crime to Change the sentence of Luce unless he had better ground than any thing He had seen.

So when I arived at the prision in the Evening I told Jason Luce there was no chance for him to live & I wished him to prepare to die. He then spent more than an hour giving us an account of what He had done & what he knew. He said in the Case of Drown & Arnold that Hickman was responsible for their death. He killed them with the help of one or two others. He said Wm. A Hickman robed Carpenter’s store took the goods in his waggon & carried them to Huntingtons & from Huntingtons to his house over Jordon & then told Furguson if he would kill Carpenter He would Clear him that He Should not lie in Jail one day. Furguson killed Carpenter & was Hung for it & Hickman made him believe that he would be liberated up to the last minute. Luce said that Hickman Murdered [      ] for no other purpose ownly to obtain his gold watch & money & thinks he has the watch yet.

He said that Hickman was at the head of a Band of thieves. They have stolen as high as 100 Head of Cattle at a time from Camp Floyd & gone out onto the prairie & divided them & taken them to different parts of the Territory. Lute also said that Hickman had many men around him that Had to be fed & that men under him would go onto the range & drive up a Beef & kill & Eat it & sell the Hides or make them [p.152] into Larretts or throw them away as the Case might be without any regard to whom might be the owners. Luce said that Hickman had been his ruin and the ruin of others and in all these things He had Carried his point by declairing that President Brigham Young had given him Council to do all these things (which is a Cursed lie). Luce made many other remarks which was reported by G. D. Watt.

12  At Eleven oclok I Called at the prision & was with the prisioner untill a few moments before his Execution. His Mother Brothe[rs?] wife & 5 children visited him last night also this morning. He had gotton a woman with Child who was not his wife. He requested his Brothers to take care of this woman & if they were permitted to take more than one wife to take her to wife. He had a vary hard time to part with his wife Children & Friends. He felt to Confess all of his [crimes] and ask the forgiveness of God & all men for all his Crimes. He had worn his garments up to within an hour before his death. I advised him to take it off which He did. He Converse with me untill abut 12 oclok. He asked me to pray with him that he might have strength to go to his Execution & pay the penalty of his Crimes. I prayed with him according to his request & then bid him good by as did others who were with him.

He then walked to his place of Execution. There was a large number out side the wall & some one hundred in the Court House pl[aced?] at the windows to witness the Execution. Jason Luce sat in a Chair with his feet maniceled. He addressed the people a few moments Renounced Wm. A. Hickman as his betrayer bid the People good by. Sherif Burton drew the Black Cap over his face & at a given signal 5 Balls was shot through or near his heart & his spirit left his body without a groan or hardly a movemet of his body. His Corps was taken to the gate & Exhibited to the Croud. It was then taken to his Brothers House & laid out.

13 The body of Luce was buried to day in the [p.153] burying ground. A subscription was taken up to day for his Family & some $300 was obtained $175 in money. I spent the afternoon in the Council Chamber. (Vol. 6, p.150-53)

Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

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