Monday, February 20, 2012

You Meet the Most Interesting People in Prison

Back to my project of transcribing my 2nd-Great-Grandfather's prison journal, I found his account of an execution with a rather spooky postscript. Grandpa Wood was in for unlawful cohabitation which he believed not a crime as he maintained his religious beliefs and practices took precedence over federal territorial law. It is interesting that throughout the journal he drew a clear distinction between his people or the "Cohabs" and the criminal element he called the "Tuffs" [or "Cons."]

The subject of the execution was a "Tuff" who had perhaps broken both the laws of man and of God. According to the Deseret News, Fred “Welcome” Hopt was executed for the July 3, 1880 murder of John F. Turner of Provo, Utah. Turner was a teamster and the son of Provo’s sheriff. Hopt had a history of several run-ins with the law and supposedly had sworn vengeance against the sheriff and his family. He was convicted of hacking John Turner to death with an axe while the young man was sleeping at camp near Park City. The body was found a week later in Echo Canyon where it had apparently been dumped by Hopt.

The diary transcription follows. Spelling and punctuation are as in the original:
August 11, 1887
At 11 o’clock Welcome took his last walk down below the dead line where prisoners are not alowed before his execution. he paced up and down with R.B. Young on his right and the catholick priest & gard on the left.
           In a few moments Hopt and the guard went in and R.B. and the priest continued walking while the guards were preparing the place of execution.
                  They have a tent about twenty feet squair with five holes in where five men shoot throug who are in the tent out of sight.
                   I went to his cell with many of the prisoners and bid him good by. He smiled at me and said “good by Mister Wood.”
                  When br. N.V. Jones bide him good by said he I know and you know that it is your people that has taken my life. brother Jones said this ^was^ no time to discus this matter and said I have nothing against you. Hopt said he had nothing against him. We were all locked in the cells have past twelve and blankets nailed over all doors and windows facing the place of execution.
                  Five minutes to one we heard the reports of the guns which sounded like a clap of thunder.
            Some of the prisoners came neer jumping off their seats. It scarcely moved me.
            Fred was then taken out, and in a few moments we were turned out.
            The men who shot him wore black masks so they were not known. All being prepared and every man in his position before Welcome came out. Mar. Dyer took his arm. they were accompanied by the doctor R.B. Young and others. he sat down on the chair about 25 feet from the tent. The doctor pind a paper on his heart. Said he “If I had had justice I would never been here.” he bid the doctor good by and ^said^ “I am ready,” and died instantly.
            Some of the boys picked up some of the balls which passed through his heart.
            While in conversation with warden Brown Hopt told him if there was a hereafter he would come and tell him. Brown said how will you come. Hopt sat staring for a moment and if there is a hereafter I will send you a hale storm within forty eight hours after my death.
            In that time there came a very heavy hale storm hale measuring 2½ inches in circumference.
            Brown is quite worked up in relation to the matter. He has been in the yard speaking about it. He had been here ^in Utah^ about seven years.

The article in the Deseret News of August 17, 1887, confirms the account of the execution with the extra bonus of a schematic of the Utah Territorial Penitentiary!

Deseret News August 17, 1887 from
This prison layout will come in handy as I try to follow Grandpa Wood's activities.

Now the only question is, how exactly does that weather thing work? Is it like, "Hey, I'm enjoying my time here in spirit prison hell, but I did promise the warden some hail of the icy variety. Do you think we could get some sent to him?"

 I am going to wonder next time it starts hailing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!