Saturday, June 29, 2013

Utah Territorial Pen - Where Families Meet

Utah Penitentiary at Sugar House (date & source unknown)
Approximately same location, Sugar House Park & Highland High School
(note the peak above me in the center is in the other picture on the left)
There is a particular branch in my family tree haunting me. And I mean that in a good way. I can't go into the personal and family reasons in a public forum, but the series of incidents lead me to a spiritual conclusion that this is no accident.

Having been recently startled photographically and geographically by connections to the Rice Family, I shouldn't have been too surprised when my collaborator cousin of my Dad's family sent me some information on the Bybees. Among the materials was this about my 2nd-Great Grandfather, David Bowman Bybee (1832-1893):
Arrested. Yesterday [September 13, 1887] D.B. Bybee, of Hooper, was arrested at Taylor's mill by Deputy Whetstone, on a charge of unlawful cohabitation. Mr. Bybee was on his way from Hooper to Ogden Canyon to do some work [he had a lumber mill]. He was taken before Commissioner Rogers, plead guilty and was bound over in the sum of $1,000 to appear before the First District Court in Salt Lake City. Two witnesses were also required to furnish bonds of $200 each. David Kay and Brigham Stowell furnished the necessary securities. [Ogden Standard Examiner, Sept. 14, 1887]
Once again realizing a connection here, I went to my long-ongoing project of the George C. Wood prison diary. He was a 2nd-Great Grandfather on my Mom's side. Spending over three years in the territorial penitentiary for "unlawful cohabitation" after marrying a second wife because of his religious beliefs, he became an unofficial amanuensis of the "cohabs" in the territorial penitentiary. (I've been waiting a long time to use that cool word "amanuensis"). Historians have looked to his diary as a source for information about the prison and those in for polygamy. While he waxes poetic at times, most of the diary is a perfunctory record of those coming in and leaving, including these:
"[October] 26. [1887] Five more cohabs came in, Bibey [Bybee] one of them."
"[April] 25 [1888] Bro's Bibey A.E. Berlin, Peterson, O. Hansen left. Snowing and raining, the ground very dry" 
The dates match an exact, six-month sentence. 

Yes, there are many more historical projects to be done. I need to get after the court records. I understand from some of the story that George C. may have received a longer sentence because he was good at evading the U.S. Marshall (sometimes) and was difficult as a witness in other polygamy prosecutions.

It does cause one to wonder what ancestors from different sides of the family may have said to each other about their families and prospective descendants. They very likely talk about me now as I talk about them. Plural marriage aside hopefully for good, it does give me a legacy to live.

My two 2nd-Great Grandfathers who were in prison together:

David Bowman Bybee
George C. Wood


  1. Thanks for your research! David Bowman Bybee is my 2nd great grandfather. My bybee line starts with my grandma Erma F Bybee daughter of David Byram and Emily France to David Bowman Bybee and Adelia Higley.

    1. Thank you for this information on George C. Wood. My 2nd great grandfather, John Peter Rasmus Johnson was in the Utah Penitentiary at the same time as Brother Wood. Brother Wood signed his autograph book that he was keeping at the time. (Brother Wood's was one of 23 entries). I am collecting biographies and photos of each of the signees. Do you have or know of a biography of Brother Woods? (He is not in Andrew Jensen's Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia) I would also be interested in reading his diary if that is possible. I would appreciate any assistance you might be able to render. Thank you for your time. Kyle Johnson

    2. Thank you for your comment, Kyle. Yes, someone needs to write a biography of George C. Wood. I may start one any day now (and anyone else is welcome). His prison diary is available at the LDS Church History Library. Several scholars have referenced it. The Call No. is MS_1774_1.

    3. Thank you Grant for the Call #. I will look it up the next time I am in Salt Lake. Kyle


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