Monday, April 26, 2010

Potter Family

Descendants of Lemuel Potter and Lois Roberts

This article is an abstract from several articles and I would like to express my appreciation for all of their hard work which has helped me grow closer to my ancestors. I have not published the total findings that I have because it would be a small book. If you would like to read the entire story you can find it at Isaac Potter Research by Aletta Moore 2008, Ransom Robert Potter History by Lee H. Potter..

Ransom Robert Potter, born on 4 March, 1807 in Waterbury, New Haven, Connecticut and died November 15, 1884. Ransom Robert Potter’s parents were Lemuel Potter and Lois Roberts. Ransom Robert Potter died on November 15, 1884 in Albion, Cassia County, Idaho.

The children of Lemuel and Lois:

1. Unknown, born 1803

2. Erastus Potter, born 1805

3. Ransom Potter, born 4 March 1807

4. Anne Potter, born 1810

Ransom Robert Potter married for the first time to Rhoda Emmaline Farrell, who was born on 10 January 1807 in Waterbury, New Haven, Connecticut to Benjamin Farrell/Ferrell and Patience Terrill. She died in Albion. They were married on September 25, 1825 in Cheshire, New Haven, Connecticut.

Their children were:

1. Unknown, died as a newborn 17 June 1826

2. Rhoda Emeline Potter, born 18 May 1827 in Plymouth, Litchfield, CT

3. Ransom Robert Potter

4. Isaac Smith Potter born on April 19, 1833

5. Benjamin F Potter born 18 July 1836, and died on 5 July, 1922

6. Thomas Potter born around 1843, and listed as “came with Ransom.”[1]


A new religion was formed “the Mormon Church” in 1830 and some of its members moved to Northern Ohio. It was here that the Potter family and Mormonism crossed paths. Ransom embraced the faith and was baptized in November of 1837. By 1840 the main body of the Mormon Church had moved further westward, but the 1840 census shows that Ransom was still living in Ohio.

We know that the family was in Burton, Geauga, Ohio in 1833 and 1836, when Isaac and Benjamin were born. In the 1840 census they are in Quincy, Adams, Illinois


Sept 29, 1841, Ransom sold his farm to Johnson F. Welton and returned to Connecticut. He remained here until September of 1845 when he moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. We know he was in Illinois in early 1846 as Ransom, Rhoda and Emeline received their temple ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple. By summer they were in Mercer County, Missouri where they had built a cabin and planted 5 acres of corn. As with many families, they stayed and worked in the area until they could purchase the necessary equipment and supplies to move on. They are recorded living here in the 1850 census.

Ransom R. Potter came to Utah with the James McGaw Company in 1852.[2]

Emelina Potter Miller[3], wife of William Miller came to this city with the first settlers and for ten years was a resident here; moving to Provo in 1860 where she has since resided. She was the principal weaver in the Miller household. During parts of the first year she and Mrs. Marilla Miller taught school in the village. William Mendenhall born in Millhundred, New Castle County, Delaware came to Utah in 1862 and laid adobes for the houses of Joseph Kelly and Ransom Potter. James Potter[4] and Jacob Hentz built the first flour mill in Springville. O.M. Allen was the miller. By the time the storm clouds began to gather and the wintry blasts to howl through the valley, ushering in the winter of 1853, our village had taken on quite an air of respectability. During the autumn of 1852 a number of immigrants had rolled through Main Street in their prairie schooners followed by their flocks to settle further south in the valley so that the main street village had the appearance of much travel. Many families had stopped here to cast their lot with the first comers among whom can be remembered Lorenzo Johnson, Huntington Johnson, the three Yogar brothers, Murdock McKenzie, Walter Bird, Henry Brooks, Gardiner Curtis and family, John, Samuel and Lucy Pint, Jerome and Olive Benson, laham Morris, George Marion, Joseph Kelly, Ransom Potter and family, Daniel Sumsion and family, Andrew Hamilton and family, John Maycock, Andrew Leslie, Newman Huckly and family, Elem Cheeney, Stephen Thornton, Horace Thornton, Joseph Bartholomew and family, William Robinson and family, Aseph Blanchard and family, Sanford Fuller, Aaron Whitmore and Mrs. Lucretia Warthen and family. During the winter they had dances in Bishop Johnson’s house. He had a great big long room with two fireplaces in it. The men had to furnish the wood to burn in it. They used fires for heat as well as light, because candles were very scarce. They used tallow with string for candles. Towards Christmas much snow had fallen and the lake was frozen over, the men made bob sleds and crossed over the lake for wood for fuel and light. Indian trouble came to Springville in 1853 when an Indian squaw was caught stealing things in a pioneer house. The men fought with her and she was cut badly by a knife. When Bishop Johnson heard about it he sent Mr. Wild, Ransom Potter and William Smith to overtake them and offer them anything within reason. They found them encamped at the mouth of Payson Canyon and in a frenzy of excitement just before reaching the hostile camp, Wild and Potter were left with the horses and Smith, the interpreter, went to the red men shouting peace and making signs with his hands. They settled on payment of one beef, one gun and a pair of blankets. One Indian went back with them to get the things. They were able to get everything but the pair of blankets. No one had much bedding. The Indian got discouraged and went back to camp. The squaw died and this caused a war…



Ransom Robert Potter married a second, plural wife: Agnes Myrtle Milross.[5] Agnes, age 16, was living with the Gardner family in the 1850 census, her parents had died in 1848. She was divorced from her first husband, John Halmagh Van Wagoner. He evidently treated her poorly and she left him soon after their marriage in 1854. In asking Agnes to become his plural wife, he promised her that he would always care and provide for her.

The children of Ransom Robert Potter and Agnes Millross Potter were:

1. Heber Carlos Potter, born 20 May, 1856 in Springville, Utah, Utah. Died on 3 April 1936 in Ashton, Fremont, Idaho. Married Julia Deseret Hophines,[6] who was born on 17 July 1854 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Utah. They married on 28 October, 1878 in Salt Lake City.

2. Anne Emmaline Potter, born on 5 August, 1865 in Springville, Utah, Utah. She died on 11 August, 1945 She married Franklin Samuel Robbins on 4 December 1881 in Cassia, Idaho.

3. James Monroe Potter, born on 19 October 1867 in Coalville, Summit, Utah. Died on 11 May, 1943 in Nampa, Canyon, Idaho. Married Henrietta S. Bird on 9 January 1893 in Teton, Fremont, Idaho.

Near the mid-1860’s Ransom and Agnes moved to Coalville. It is not known if Rhoda moved with them or stayed in Springville where members of the family still resided. Ransom lived in a dugout on the banks of the Weber River about three miles north of Coalville. Ike Potter also moved his residence to Coalville.

History of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.):

Isaac Smith Potter who was born 19 April 1833 in Burton, Geauga, Ohio. He died on 1 August, 1867 in Coalville, Summit, Utah. He married four times.

First Wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.):

His first wife was Mary Ford. They married in 1853 in Salt Lake City. Mary was born on December 15, 1837 in Caldwell County, Missouri and died on December 9, 1855 in Springville, Utah County, Utah, probably in childbirth. Her parents are Jonathan Ford, born 24 February 1802 in Ohio, and Rachel Robertson, born around 1805 in Ohio. Jonathan and Rachel married on 16 April, 1826 in Bartholomew, Indiana. Jonathan Ford would die on May 3, 1851 in Springville, Utah, Utah.

The children of Jonathan Ford and Rachel Robertson Ford were:

1. Ester Ford, born around 1827 in Indiana.

2. Sarah Ford, born on April 17, 1830 in Columbus, Batholomew, Indiana. She died on May 8, 1851.

3. Margaret Jane Ford, born 17 April 1830 in Bartholomew, Indiana. She married Aaron Johnson on May 8, 1854 in Springville, Utah County, Utah.[7]

4. Rachel Robinson Ford, born 10 October 1835 in Bartholomew, Indiana. She also married Aaron Johnson on 25 April, 1852 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah. She died on 17 February, 1878.

5. Mary Ford, born on 15 December 1839 in Missouri.

6. Moroni Ford, born 15 December 1837 in Caldwell, Missouri.[8]

The children of Isaac Smith Potter and Mary Ford were:

1. Isaac Smith Potter, born on December 9, 1955.

Second Wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.):

The second wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.) was Asenath Annette Lawrence. They married in 1855. She was born on February 22, 1940 in Parry Pike County, Illinois.[9] She came to Utah, by herself, in the Robert Wimmer Company in 1852, where she is listed as Acenith Lawrence.[10] She died on May 26, 1878 in Springville, Utah, Utah.

The children of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.) and Asenath include:

1. Emily Miranda Potter, born 19 November 1855 in Springville, Utah, Utah.[11] She married John Abelbert Warner (1852-1934) on February 16, 1874 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah. They had children.

2. James Franklin Potter, born on April 19, 1857 in Springville, Utah, Utah. He married Elizabeth Jane Winters (1861-1951) and they had a child. He died on 10 May 1935 in Milford, Utah.

3. Rhoda Maria Potter, born 13 December 1859 in Springville, Utah, Utah. She married James T. Clyde (1856-1919) on 16 December 1877. They had children. She died on 13 February, 1944 in Salt Lake City.

4. Rosalia Nancy Potter, born 7 November 1861 in Springville, Utah, Utah. She married John Henry Ferre (1858-1943) on 23 June 1880 in Salt Lake City. They had children. She died on 21 January 1948 in Provo, Utah, Utah.

5. Bertha Melissa Potter, born on 13 January 1863 in Springville, Utah, Utah. She married David William Holdaway (1851-1939) on 13 January 1883. They had a child. She died in August of 1901 in Price, Carbon, Utah.

6. William Wallace Potter, born on 25 September 1865 in Coalville, Summit, Utah. He married Sarah J. Burrows (1869-1962). He died on 7 February 1926 in Heber City, Summit, Utah.

Third Wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.):

The third wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.) was Amelia Ann Brown (1837-1899). They married on 12 February 1856 in Salt Lake City. Amelia Ann Brown was born on June 19, 1839 in Wilmington, Newcastle, Delaware. Her father was probably Isaac Seal Brown, born around 1801. Her mother was probably Lydia Miller, born around 1815. Amelia Brown and her family were living in Kanesville (Council Bluffs), Pottawattamie, Iowa, in 1850 and 1853.[12] Isaac Seal Brown was born on December 1, 1806 in Wilmington, Newcastle, Delaware. He married Lydia Miller on June 2, 1830. He died on August 17, 1852. Lydia Miller was born on March 4, 1814 in New Holland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She died on April 11, 1886.[13]

The children of Isaac Seal Brown and Lydia (Miller) Brown, besides Amelia, included:

1. William Brown, born around 1839

2. Edward Brown, born around 1843

3. Rebecca Brown, born around 1840

4. Mary Brown, born around 1837 in Delaware.

Fourth Wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.):

The fourth wife of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.) was Harriet Jane Gully born on April 30, 1840 in Laurence, Mississippi and died around 1888 in San Bernardino, California. They married on August 2, 1859 in Salt Lake City. Harriet came to Utah, at the age of 9, with her father, Samuel Gully. The company was the Samuel Gully/Orson Spencer Company (1849). Samuel Gully was born on May 27, 1809, and died of cholera on July 4, 1849 while en route to Utah. He was captain of a hundred. Samuel was 40 years old at the time.

They reportedly[14] traveled in a group of 7 people:

1. Samuel Gully, 40 years old, born 27 May, 1809.

2. Jane Jones Frylick Gully, born on May 22, 1794.[15] She died before April 13, 1881. She was probably Samuel’s first wife.

3. Martha Gully, 13 years old, born April 1836, died 15 December 1851. Martha is Harriet's sister.

4. Ovanda Fuller Gully, born 27 July, 1822, died 24 December 1856. This is a plural wife of Samuel Gully.

5. Samuel Gully, infant, born 1849. This is the son of Samuel Gully and Ovanda Fuller Gully.

6. Harriet Gully, 9 years old.[16]

7. Unknown

Note that there is a reference in the Brigham Young Company in 1848 to a Sarah Ann Fuller Gully[17], which says: “Her husband Samuel Gully remained in Winter Quarters and died en route to Utah in 1849.

The children of Isaac Smith Potter (Sr.) and Harriet Jane Gully Potter were:

1. Martha Viola Potter, born on June 19, 1859 in Utah. She married George W. Wilson on December 25, 1873 in San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California. She died on November 7, 1888 in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.

2. Harriet Emiline Potter, born September 24, 1863 in San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California. She died in 1898. The birth place of this child indicates that Harriet may not have been living with her husband in the years before his death, which occurred in 1867.

Who was Isaac Smith Potter?

There are well known stories regarding Isaac (or Ike as he was apparently known) and, depending on the viewpoint of the author, the stories differ: some view him as a cattle thief and criminal, some as a possible apostate, some as a possible government (US) agent, and some as an individual who may have been, at least partially, wronged by others. But, the general outline of what happened remains the same.

Ogden Standard Examiner, Union Vedette, Deseret News, United States Congressional Serial Set, Salt Lake Daily Tribune

Isaac Smith Potter, Terror or Terrorized? The Rest of the Story. By Helen Wilson Swim, great-granddaughter of Isaac.

Helen, comfortable in her Mormon religion, would show that, contrary to established belief, Ike Potter was not an apostatized Mormon and an outlaw, but was in good standing with the Church. According to Helen Swim, most if not all of Ike Potter's problems were due to a lustful and revengeful Bishop Aaron Johnson who used religion as a pretext for his misdeeds.

The story of how Ike Potter came to lie dead on the main street of Coalville, Utah, his throat slashed from ear to ear in "blood atonement" is more than one tale. It was the struggle between two strong men. One of the men was Ike Potter, to his family a hard-working and beloved husband of four wives and a faithful member of the Mormon Church. To others he was an apostatized Mormon, the outlaw leader of the Ike Potter Gang and a Ute Indian sub-chief during the Blackhawk War.

The other man was Aaron Johnson, friend and counselor to Brigham Young, Mormon bishop of Springville, Utah, and General in the Nauvoo Legion.

The murder of Ike Potter, it could not be other than murder, rent a once ­united Mormon family down the middle. Those strong in their religion yet loyal to the memory of their ancestor shake their heads in disbelief that fanatics used their beloved Mormonism as an excuse to commit a heinous crime. Others, disil­lusioned with Mormonism, would blame the Church not only for the murder of their father but for most crimes both great and small committed in frontier Utah and Idaho. Where lies the truth? Let the reader judge.

Aaron Johnson, with four wives and a gaggle of children in 1853, settled Hobble Creek, later Springville, Utah. Bishop Johnson would later be blessed with 12 wives, three of them being teenage sisters he married at one time.

As his name implies, Squash-Head was an exceedingly ugly Indian, ugly in deed as well as appearance. It is generally believed that Squash, described as the terror of the neighborhood, had killed and cannibalized a Mormon child and the peculiar shape of his head (for which he was named) convinced many settlers that he and his relatives were subhuman.[18] In 1856 Squash-Head and other Indians went on a rampage of horse and cattle stealing and threatening settlers. Squash-Head was captured and held in Bishop Johnson's house. Shackled and held prisoner in Bishop Aaron Johnson's house in Springville, mysteriously had his throat slit `from ear to ear,' his guards claiming he committed suicide with a common table knife with which he had been breakfasting. Even among the Mormons `it was darkly hinted at the time that some white person had done the bloody deed.”[19]

In 1853 the Jonathan and Rachel Ford family rolled into Springville. Ford was prosperous. He cultivated a large spread and owned a fine herd of cattle. Ford had been in Springville only nine months when he, a daughter and a son died of black canker [diphtheria.] Aaron Johnson helped the widow Ford sow her crops. For his efforts, he harvested two of Ford's daughters. Rachel and Margaret Ford were added to the bishop's storehouse of wives.

However, despite Bishop Johnson's importuning and going to the effort of proving his devotion by having one of her suitors castrated, the fairest plum of them all, Mary Ford, spurned the bishop's advances. She liked Ike Potter.[20],[21]

In 1854 Ike Potter was 21. He farmed with his father, Ransom, in Springville, Utah and defied the cupidity of Bishop Aaron Johnson by marrying 16-year-old Mary Ford and also 16-year-old Asenith Lawrence. Mary Ford died in childbirth the 9th of December, 1855. Ike's father, Ransom, raised the child, Isaac Smith Potter Jr.

In 1856 Ike Potter added another wife, 18-year-old Amelia Ann Brown. Then in February, 1858, Ike made plans to have Amelia Ann, Asenith Lawrence, and the dead Mary Ford sealed to him by Brigham Young for time and eternity in the endowment house in Salt Lake City [the Mormon temple was not yet completed.] Later that year, Isaac married for the last time. His final wife was Harriet Jane Gully.

At the time Ike was going to be sealed, Bishop Johnson had eight wives. Johnson asked Ike Potter to let him, Aaron Johnson, be sealed to the dead Mary Ford for eternity. There was a confrontation.

Ike Potter was sealed to Mary Ford. That same year Bishop Johnson also was sealed to Mary Ford.

Shortly thereafter, Ike Potter's legal troubles started. Ike's defenders aver that Ike was a good man and that all his woes were due to the malice of Bishop Johnson. Ike's detractors maintain that Ike was a rustler, murderer and renegade. The reader may decide which story to believe. What is readily apparent is that Ike was sorely treated by Mormon courts and kindly treated by gentile judges.

In March 1862, Bishop Johnson's son-in-law, William Miller, accused Ike of stealing his horse. The case was tried before the father-in-law, Bishop Aaron Johnson. Ike was found guilty and fined $400. A year later, in March 1863, Ike and a couple of pals were charged with larceny (rustling?). The pals got off but before Ike could be tried on this count, he was charged with murder.

A man named T. T. Barney had a couple of his horses run off by a gang of Indians led by Ike Potter. Barney's bishop, Albert King Thurber, advised Barney to "go get what property he could and go to work." That was in September of 1862. Barney went to get his stock back and subsequently got himself killed. Ike Potter and two Indians, Dick and Schicho, were charged with murder.

The same bishop, Thurber, was to testify at the trial. Two days before he testified he noted in his journal that "John Barney and Benjamin came to see me, said that it was reported that five or six Indians were blacked up [in war paint.] They thought that they were seeking their or some other person's life in conse­quence of one Isaac Potter being arrested and to have a trial for the murder of one T. T. Barney. The Indians were supposed to be his accomplices." Whether this had anything to do with the verdict is open to conjecture.

The trial was before Judge Zerrubabbel Snow. Bishop Thurber's testimony was "of a confession of Barney, the first Tuesday in September, that he [Potter] was connected with a gang of thieves in Springville and that Potter was the Captain of the organization reaching through the territory and that two horses delivered to him [Barney] were run off...." Thurber's testimony then continued to where he had told Barney to go get his property.

The trial lasted three days. Ike Potter, Dick and Schicho were found: Not Guilty.

Not long after this trial, Chief Black Hawk and his men led several attacks against gentiles [non-Mormons]. The Indians plundered government property while large numbers of armed Mormons cheerfully watched while the Indians robbed their mutual enemy.

Gen. Connor sent troops up Spanish Fork Canyon after the marauders. "But Mormons, including one Isaac Potter, a cattle thief who would later figure promi­nently in encouraging and even planning some of Black Hawk's raids, alerted the Indians and thus thwarted Connor's plan for a surprise attack.[22]

Shortly thereafter, in Magistrate Court before Judge George Bean, a friend of Bishop Aaron Johnson, Ike and Newell Knight were found guilty of stealing "Snednik's cattle." Knight was fined $50, and Ike was sent to prison. However, Ike spent only a short time in prison. Gen. Connor had the gentile judge, Drake, release Ike so he could help in peace negotiations with the Indians.

In 1866 Judge Bean and his friend Bishop Johnson exacted revenge on Ike Potter. "We sold him out of house and home at Provo for selling liquor to Indians and hiring them to steal cattle.[23] Now homeless, Ike went to Coalville, where his father, Ransom, was living below the town in a dugout on an island in the Weber River.

Many in the Coalville area viewed with alarm the presence of Ike Potter in their town. In October 1866, several prominent men of Coalville met and formed a resolve to be rid of Ike Potter. Those at the meeting were: Jacob Hoffman, Jackson Redding, William Smith, Charles Livingston, Dick Eldredge [sic], and Joseph Brim. They bided their time until the opportune moment came to strike. All the while stories of Ike Potter and his gang flew through the Mormon populace.

Sometime after the beginning of the Blackhawk War, Indians told Mormons that Potter and his men instructed them `to go down to Sanpete, and gather up a large lot of the horses and cattle there and drive them down East. And, they would be there and trade the horses and cattle to emigrants, and get them money, tobacco, whiskey and horses that would be their own. So, they went and got the horses and cattle, and drove them where the men wanted and the men sold them the way they said.'

The following summer, Potter was described by whites at the Uintah Agency as having been drafted as `War Chief by angry Utes, and along with a handful of white ruffians, he was frequently seen with Black Hawk's brother, Mountain, and sometimes with Black Hawk himself. That same year, the extent of Potter's involvement with the raiders began to come clear, as Mormons learned that `four whites' were `coleaging' with the raiders. Ike Potter was suspected of being with the Indians in June 1866, at the battle of Thistle Valley in Spanish Fork Canyon. There, Black Hawk's men fought a pitched battle with a force of Mormon Militia.[24] By 1867 Mormons living nearest the Uintah Reservation were convinced `the notorious renegade' Isaac Potter was the leader of a band of Ute raiders who were assisted by 15 whites.[25]

In the spring of 1867 Ike Potter was again in trouble. Stephan Nixon gave Ike on March 4th an assignment of 45 sacks of grain to be delivered to the army at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Ike didn't deliver. Instead he stowed the assignment in Cache Cave, a large cave in Echo Valley. Nixon, worried about the fate of his grain, filed suit on May 3 for non-delivery and had another man go get the grain. Ike was ordered to pay $135.90 plus court costs. The consensus in the valley was that Ike had tried to steal the grain, as there is no other explanation as to why he didn't fulfill his contract.

Near the end of June 1867, Ike, accompanied by Chief Black Hawk's brother, Mountain, showed up at the home of Coalville's bishop (mayor) William W. Cluff. Potter and Mountain claimed that they represented Chiefs Tabby, Sowiette and other reservation Indians. They demanded 15 beefs and a lot of flour.

The mayor and other Coalville settlers gave the two very little. Cluff wrote to President Brigham Young, "Potter is part of an organized band of thieves that steal stock from the residents, travelers and ... coal haulers.... They had infested the area for a long time, call themselves Latter-day Saints and had frequently been arrested but because of their cunning they evaded the law.... The request by Potter was simply a scheme to give him greater influence with the Indians.”[26]

It was probably at this meeting that Mountain grabbed the mayor's hat and began taunting him. "An Indian pulled his hat off, raised it on a pole in the middle of the street and a war-dance was had around it.”[27] However, Cluff kept his cool and told them that he could spare only one beef and a little flour and that was it. Piqued, Potter and the Indians rode off.[28]

Seeking revenge, shortly after the incident with Cluff, the Indians made an attack on a sawmill on Chalk Creek, 15 miles from Coalville. Two Indians were killed and two Mormons slightly wounded. Dispatches as to the incident read, "Ike Potter, a notorious renegade white man, was the principal leader of these Indians.”[29]

During the next few weeks several incidents occurred that, though hard to place in precise chronological order, were significant to the saga of Ike Potter. The time was ripe for the Coalville Conspirators to strike. The opening gambit was a rustling charge.

Sent packing by Bishop Cluff and then repulsed at the sawmill raid on Chalk Creek, Ike Potter was in a foul mood when he learned that another charge had been laid upon him. Jacob Huffman (Huffman,) one of the conspirators, claimed that he had found where an animal had been killed on July 20 about 200 yards from Ransom Potter's dugout home on his Weber River Island. Mr. Wheaton, a neighbor, was missing a lame-footed red and white ox. August Nelson would testify that he was camped near Ransom Potter's house the night of July 19. The next morning, just before sunrise, Nelson saw a man drive a red and white ox of four or five years old from the hills and put it in Potter's corral. Then Ike Potter and another man, Charles Wilson, put a rope on the animal, and Wilson led while Ike followed as they took the ox to the river. A shot was then fired. A key witness to the happening, John Y Greene (Green), who could testify as to the identification of the animal, never showed for the upcoming trial.

Ike Potter felt it was a bad rap. When word reached him that he and two of his sidekicks, Charles Wilson and John Walker, were to be charged with rustling, the trio took off for Fort Bridger to get help from the soldiers at that post.

On the way to the fort, Potter and his pals met a group of miners headed for Coalville. Andrew Miller, one of the miners, related that at this meeting Potter said "that the people of Coalville accused them of stealing and they were going to Bridger to ask protection from the soldiers. If they could not get it there they would call in Black Hawk and clear out Coalville." The story as told and enlarged upon in Coalville caused considerable apprehension.

Potter got no help at Fort Bridger. He did get a letter from the post commander, Lt. Col. Amon Mills that was found in Ike's pocket after he was murdered. Col. Mills' letter read: "July 26th, 67. I have just received your note. If you are charged with any crime and are pursued the best thing you can do is to come in and surrender yourself to Judge Carter and let the law run its course. No one shall do you any unlawful harm if I can prevent it.”[30]

When Ike Potter left Fort Bridger he sent a letter to his father, Ransom, back at Coalville. The mail carrier was John Y. Greene, the same man that would fail to show up and testify at Ike's rustling trial. The story around Coalville was that Greene "intercepted" a letter between Ike Potter and his father. How a man sworn and paid to deliver the mail can intercept a letter is beyond me. But then again during the years of the Reformation, little escaped the All-Seeing Mormon Eye.

The letter, of which no copy has been found, was produced at the investi­gation after the death of Ike Potter. Bishop Cluff would testify that the letter stated "that he (Potter) had just received a letter from Colonel Mills who promised to protect him and that if the damned Mormons hurt him, he, Mills, would send them all to hell the damned sons-of-bitches.”[31]

About this time, Potter and his gang powwowed with a group of Indians on the Bear River. Supposedly, Black Hawk was with this group. The Indians later reported that Ike Potter with eight to 10 other white men rode into their camp on Bear River and wanted the Indians to go to Coalville with them. Potter said they were going to have some fun. The Indians thought there would be trouble and refused to go. Potter told them that if they would go with him they would have all the beef, mutton and whiskey they wanted. In this manner, Potter was able to recruit six or seven Indians.[32]

Ike Potter had put the fear of the Lord into the people of Coalville. J.C. Roundy, the Summit County sheriff, had a warrant for the arrest of Potter, Wilson and Walker for the rustling of Wheaton's ox. But when on the afternoon of July 28, 1867, word reached Roundy that Ike Potter with 15 white men and some Indians was camped on his father's island below town, the sheriff felt it prudent to form a posse to serve the arrest warrant.

Deputy Sheriff Hawkins called for help on Capt. Alma Eldredge of the Coalville Cavalry (Mormon Militia.) Eldredge and his company (about 13 men) accompanied Hawkins and sneaked up on and surrounded Ike Potter and his gang.[33] "Four men were tapped for the job of exterminating Potter and his gang, Chester Staley, John Staley, William H. Smith and Alma Eldredge, all known to be accurate riflemen.”[34]

Apparently, Ike Potter and his gang didn't know that they had been sneaked up on as nothing happened that night. The next morning John Staley walked into the outlaw camp, served the warrant and accepted the peaceful surrender of Potter, Wilson and Walker.

The indictment was read before Judge George G. Snyder. The trio pled innocent and was released on bond and the trial set for July 31.

As previously noted, at the trial on the 31st, the conspirators' main witness, the mailman John Y. Greene, didn't show. Because of this, the case was continued until August 10. The prisoners were again released on bail.

The conspirators were frantic. Their pigeon was about to fly the coop. A man was sent galloping to Salt Lake City to get the help of the Danite Arza Hinkley. The conspirators got Isaac Shaw on behalf of his business partner, Williams, to allege that he also had a missing cow stolen by Potter, Wilson and Walker.

On August 1, Potter, Wilson and Walker came to the courthouse to answer to the new charges. Because Judge Snyder had an ongoing case, they were remanded to jail until the next day. Joshua Wiseman and James Mahoney were to guard them in the rock school building. The pigeons were back in the coop. Now, if only Arza Hinkley would get there in time.

Midnight, from the north hooves pounded down the main street of Coalville. Ten grim men reined in before the rock school. The door was kicked in. Wiseman and Mahoney scurried to one side. "Come out!" barked Arza Hinkey. The story as told by Judge R. N. Baskin:

"Isaac Potter, Charles Wilson and John Walker, residing at Coalville, were apostate Mormons. Walker was a boy about nineteen years of age. These three persons had previously been arrested for alleged thefts, and in every instance had been discharged by Judge Snyder, who at the time was probate judge of Summit County. In August of this year, they were again arrested on the charge of having stolen a cow. While they were under guard in the schoolhouse at Coalville, ten persons, armed, appeared about twelve o'clock at night at the building and ordered the prisoners to leave. Upon reaching the street they were placed in single file, a short distance apart, and in each intervening space two of the armed persons placed themselves. The others took positions at the front and rear of the procession thus formed. In this order they marched along the principal street of Coalville, through the mainly inhabited part of the town. Arriving at the outskirts, and their captors continuing to move on, Potter turned around and said to Walker: `John, they are going to murder us! Wouldn't you like to see your mother before you die?' Thereupon one of the armed men marching behind Potter thrust the muzzle of a shotgun against Potter's mouth. Potter in terror, shouted `murder!' Whereupon the armed man discharged the gun against the body of Potter at a range so close as to cause his instant death. At the discharge of the gun, both Wilson and Walker broke away and ran for their lives. Wilson was overtaken and killed at the edge of the Weber River. As Walker made his escape, a charge from a shotgun grazed his breast and lacerated his hand and wrist. He was wearing neither coat nor vest, and the charge set his shirt on fire and as he ran he extinguished the fire by the blood from his wounds. He was an athletic youth and soon distanced his pursuers. Although a number of shots were fired at him in the pursuit, he reached the river without further injury, swam across, and thereby escaped assassination. After numerous hardships he succeeded in reaching Camp Douglas, where the commanding officer, upon hearing what had taken place gave him support and protection.”[35]

Ike Potter lay dead on the main street of Coalville, a gaping wound in his chest, in blood atonement, his throat slit from ear to car. His 10-year-old son, Charley, looked down and three times called his father's name. He then would have taken his father home but was prevented from moving the body by men who would later say that no one claimed Ike Potter's body. The outlaw was buried face down outside the cemetery north of town.

Later, a dam covered the burial site. Still later, during a low-water year, the bones washed up at "Potter's Point," and for years were displayed in the Summit County sheriff's office. They were finally buried in an unmarked grave in the Provo, Utah, Pioneer Cemetery.

Word of the murder was leaked to the gentile judge, John Titus. There were to be hearings. The two principal government witnesses were the escaped John Walker and a man known only as "Negro Tom."

John Walker hung around Fort Douglas, letting his wounds heal and awaiting time to testify. Someone slipped him a note, "Your mother is deathly ill. Come immediately." He never made it to Coalville. He was never heard from again.

Negro Tom, who had been brought to the Territory by the Mormons as a slave, and lived many years in the family of Brigham Young and other dignitaries called upon some Federal officials and stated that he could give important evidence in regard to some of these murders. A few days after, his body was found upon the `bench' two miles east of the city, horribly mangled, his throat cut from ear to ear, and on his breast a large plaque marked: "Let White Women Alone.”

In all such cases of assassination, Mormons can command abundant evidence that the victim has `insulted a Mormon woman.' Thus the best witness of these crimes was removed, and the proof put beyond the reach of earthly courts.[36]

Hearings were held before Judge Titus, but as the key witnesses were gone there was no testimony of substance. The guards Wiseman and Mahoney said that Potter and the others tried to escape and that they shot at the fleeing prisoners but didn't think they hit them. Bishop Cluff said that, accompanied by John Y. Greene, he left town about midnight to amputate the leg of a boy and didn't get back until after everything was over. All the other men of Coalville testified that when the shootings occurred they were home in bed. They mocked the judge and got away with it. The Danite Arza, Hinkley was installed as probate judge of Summit County. And that was the end of Ike Potter, the father of Lava's first permanent settler.

There is a story whispered among the Mormon Potters that provides some comfort. The story is that shortly after the death of Ike, daughter Anna Potter came running in from the privy shouting, "I saw daddy! I saw daddy!"

When questioned, the child said she saw her father standing out by the privy. "He had a bandage around his neck and was wearing a green apron." The neck bandage is obvious. The green apron, to an adult practicing Mormon, signi­fies the endowment ceremony. The child's vision meant that Ike Potter died in good standing with his church and was in heaven.

The effect Ike’s murder had on the Potter family was profound, with elements of tragedy as well as redemption. Charlie Potter, Ike’s 10 year old son, when he saw his father’s body with its throat slashed ear to ear, swore he would seek vengeance on those responsible for the act. However, Charlie eventually fell in love with Finis Wakely, a faithful Mormon girl, and married her. He eventually became the first LDS Bishop in the Downey, Idaho region. Charlie also learned a few lessons from his father, as he was always kind to the Indians and gave generously to them. Charlie’s mother, Amelia, lived in fear the rest of her life, troubled by nightmares. She is buried in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, on the “Catholic” side of the cemetery. Ransom’s eleven year old son, Heber Carlos, remained bitter towards the LDS faith until later in life when his deceased wife came to him in a dream, where she, who had been a faithful member, implored him to join the church so they could be together in the next life. Apparently the love of his wife at that stage of his life overcame his resentment and he was baptized. Lastly, Ike’s death seems to have shaken the faith of the family patriarch, Ransom Robert Potter. There’s a copy of the ordination of Ransom to the office of Elder. At first glance it appears that this is an ordination certificate issued by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Indeed the printing says a much. It says Ransom was ordained by A.H. Smith, E. C. Brand and W. W. Blair. At the bottom, the certificate is signed by W. W. Blair, President of the Pacific Mission and Alex W. Smith, Asst. Pres. of the Pacific Mission. It turns out, his Pacific Mission was part of an effort of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (RLDS) to convert the followers of Brigham Young. W.W. Blair, was an apostle in the RLDS church, Alex W. Smith, was a son of Joseph Smith and RLDS member, and E.C. Brand was an RLDS member who left Utah and the LDS church in 1854. Maybe Ransom still had faith in the teachings of Joseph Smith but did not want to be a part of the LDS church, who many in the family, possibly including Ransom, blamed for Ike’s murder.

Ransom Potter died November 15, 1884 in Albion, Idaho and is buried there in a field called Pioneer Cemetery. This plot of ground is high sagebrush on land presently owned by Larry Mahoney and located approximately two and one-half miles southeast of Albion, and around one mile west of the old Stage-Freight station is referred to as the Pioneer Cemetery. It is unfenced with two groups of unmarked graves, barely visible now due to the ravages of time and elements. In the first group lies buried six persons including Ransom R. Potter, born 1807 at Waterbury, Connecticut and died Nov. 15, 1883. His wife was Rhoda E. Farrell Potter. He was known as "Stiff-Neck Potter" and was a freighter between Kelton, Utah and Boise, Idaho on the old stage-freight route. A passerby would not realize that anyone lay buried here in this small almost forgotten cemetery. All that remains are a few rocks used as markers and a rotting piece or two of lumber, which may at one time have been part of a fence.



[1] Note that in the 1850 census of Mercer County, Missouri, Thomas Potter is not living with this family. He would have been about 7 years old. I am not sure if he is a brother or had some other relationship to the family.

[2] Early LDS database, and Overland Pioneer Trail

[3] This is child we have as Rhoda Emmaline Farrell Potter. Information from Verla Ostbert, 12 April 1974, Film #164620:

[4] I am not sure who James Potter was – not the son of Ransom Potter and his second wife, who was not born until 1867,

[5] Life Story of Agnes Millross by Verla Potter Ostbert

[6] Her name may be Hofheins. She was first married to Nelson Lewis Brown, and had a child, George Newton Brown on 14 October 1869. They apparently divorced since he did not die until some years after she married Heber Carlos Potter.

[7] Interestingly in the Pioneer Overland Trail database there is an “Infant Ford”, unaccompanied by any other people with the surname of Ford, who dies on the trail to Utah with the Aaron Johnson family.

[8] Moroni and Mary were twins.

[9] From her gravestone.

[10] Pioneer Overland database

[11] Note that this child is not living with Aseneth in the 1870 census, although she does not marry until 1874.

[12] From the Early LDS database.

[13] From the Early LDS database.

[14] Pioneer Overland database

[15] This may be wrong, as some family history files have her birth date as around 1801, based on the Hebron Ward Record of Members.

[16] See Family Tree under individual members of this family for more information.

[17] Possibly an older sister to Ovanda Fuller Gully, and another plural wife of Samuel Gully? She was born on October 24, 1815 and died on March 15, 1897.

[18] Peterson, Utah’s Black Hawk War. p. 72.

[19] Peterson, Utah’s Black Hawk War, p. 73.

[20] Potter, Charles. Potter Family History as told by Charley Potter to his eldest son Luther, undated, Provided by Nancy Lee Hendricks, Potter descendant, August, 2001.

[21] Helen Swim, p. 11

[22] Peterson, Utah’s Black Hawk War, p. 38.

[23] Ibid., pp. 34-36.

[24] Ibid., pp. 302-305,

[25] Ibid., pp. 206-207.

[26] Ibid., pp. 342-3.

[27] Tullidge, Edw. W., Tullidge’s Histories, Volume II, Salt Lake City, 1889, p. 142.

[28] Hampshire, Bradley and Roberts, A History of Summit County, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, pp. 22-23. I have not seen this. Inter-library loan.

[29] Tullidge, p. 133.

[30] Swim, p. 62.

[31] Ibid., p. 56.

[32] Ibid., p. 63.

[33] Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Lesson for October, 1964. I have not seen this.

[34] Bleyle, Krista H. Salt Lake Tribune, September 24, 1997. I have not seen this.

[35] Baskin, R.M. Life in Utah or, The Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism, National Publishing Company, Boston, MA, 1872, pp. 211-212.

[36] Ibid.

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