Filtering by Category: Archives
This week I participated in an event at the Salt Lake City and County Building put on by Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies. They had asked if the State Archives would be willing to bring the State Constitution and put it on display as part of a program celebrating the success of the Center’s successful collaboration with Oxford’s Pembroke College on the Quill Project.
Honestly, before attending I was only vaguely aware of the Center for Constitutional Studies and was completely ignorant of the Quill Project. After seeing what the students involved have pulled off consider me a huge fan! The project seeks to apply data analysis and data modeling methodologies to help better explain the complex negotiating process that takes place in the construction of a founding document. They completed work on the federal U.S. Constitution before starting in on each U.S. State Constitution (beginning with Utah).
From my perspective, it was extremely gratifying to interact with a group of passionate students who were geeking out HARD on the historic records my institution has been tasked with preserving and providing access to. It was a meaningful reminder that archives are the source material of our shared collective understanding and that archival work is often cutting edge, helping facilitate projects and initiatives that have very real, very important outcomes in the world. Also, from a history nerd perspective it was pretty cool bringing the State Constitution back to the building where it was hashed out and drafted back in 1895!
PROTECTING UTAH’S LAW ENFORCEMENT HISTORY
There are few collections in the Utah State Archives as rich and colorful as those associated with law enforcement. Through these records the escapades of both cop and criminal play out, providing dramatic snapshots of historical moments that are often tinged with high drama, emotion, and periodic violence.
In 2011, Salt Lake Tribune columnist, Robert Kirby approached the Utah State Archives with the idea for a project that would promote the importance of historic law enforcement records to the various communities responsible for creating them. As an ex-police officer, Kirby has made countless contacts with various law enforcement professionals throughout Utah during his career, many of whom have long acted as the lone custodians over their individual agency histories. After a successful presentation on the value of law enforcement records in October 2011, phone calls began to roll in from far-flung offices asking how the Utah State Archives might help in ensuring the long-term preservation of Utah’s law enforcement history.
One such call came from the Utah Board of Pardons, asking if the Utah State Archives would be interested in taking over the permanent care of an extremely unusual artifact: an 1887 painting of the Utah Territorial Prison that once stood in modern-day Sugar House Park. This painting had hung on the office walls of the Board of Pardons for decades, before getting reconciled to an office closet. The historic importance of this object was clear at once, and it was immediately transferred into State Archives custody for safekeeping. Using the small clues available on the painting itself, Archives staff conducted research for a finding aid, which soon revealed a back story of the artist every bit as interesting as the painting itself.
A LIFE OF CRIME
Frank M. Treseder was born in 1853 in Jersey Island, England, and by the 1880s he had become well known to law enforcement officials in the Utah Territory. The first documented case of Frank Treseder running afoul of the law came in 1877 when he was brought up for trial in Salt Lake (along with Charles Howard) on the charge of robbery. According to Third District Court records, the pair had assaulted John Hepworth, robbing him of a gold watch valued at $180. Treseder was found guilty, and sentenced to three years in the Utah Territorial Penitentiary.
It wasn’t long after his release from prison before Treseder once again found himself in court, this time in Ogden’s First District Court. According to court records, Treseder had been arrested (along with Meyer Seekel) for the November 24, 1881 theft of $1000 in gold coin and $500 in sundry checks from the home of Ambrose Greenwell. The pair was convicted on the charge of burglary on May 09, 1882, and Treseder would spend another three years in the Sugar House prison before his release on May 01, 1885.
Not even a year passed before Treseder’s next brush with the law. On January 22, 1886 Treseder and County Collector N.V. Jones were arrested by Federal officials in the Utah Territory and charged with bribery. According to officials, Treseder had made an attempt to bribe U.S. Marshals into giving up information on raids that the government was planning on making on polygamists and unlawful cohabitants in the Utah Territory. With the impending 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act banning the practice of polygamy in the territory, Treseder was effectively charged with acting as an agent in gathering information that might be used to help protect LDS members who would soon fall under the legal reach of the federal government for their ongoing practice of plural marriage.
An interesting twist to the case came in March when Treseder (who was free on bail) was arrested again and brought before the Third District Court on charges of attempted murder. The March 02, 1886 Salt Lake Democrat reports that Treseder had approached Thomas Murray and discussed with him the potential murders of U.S. Marshal’s W.H. Dickson, E.A. Ireland, and E.A. Franks. Treseder’s attorney made a demur on this indictment, claiming that it didn’t conform to sections of the Territorial criminal code, and ultimately the charge of attempted murder against Treseder was dropped. However, on September 28, 1886 he and Jones were convicted on the original charge of bribery, and Treseder once again found himself facing a three year sentence in the state penitentiary.
THE UNEXPECTED ARTIST
It was this final stay in the Utah Territorial Prison where Treseder would turn to painting and create a series of works that have marked him as an important 19th century artist in Utah’s history. An inkling of this creative turn is described in the September 28, 1886 Salt Lake Democrat. Reporting on the bribery trial that would ultimately lead him to another stint at the Sugar House prison, the newspaper states:
This artistic talent seemingly blossomed during his three years in the state penitentiary. Another newspaper report from the April 13, 1888 Salt Lake Herald, describes the construction of a new penitentiary building on the prison grounds and states: “Frank Treseder, who has become quite an artist, has his studio [in the basement of the new penitentiary building].”
The view of the prison that is now held by the Utah State Archives is one of several that have survived to the modern day. The Springville Museum of Art is known to have two Treseder Sugar House prison paintings as well, one looking to the east, and the other looking to the west.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE SUGAR HOUSE PRISON
Frank Treseder was released from the Utah Territorial Prison in the late 1880s, and promptly married a woman named Mary Bennett, whom he had met while she was visiting the prison. Domestic bliss wouldn’t last however, as Bennett would appear before the Third District Court in 1892 asking for a decree of divorce from Treseder. According to her statement he had left her, and was last known to have been seen somewhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The court granted her divorce from Treseder and also sole custody over their child.
Information on Treseder after he left Utah is scant, but his story has an unhappy ending. According to a 1923 Texas death certificate, Treseder died alone on February 21, 1923 from paresis, with drug addiction listed as a contributing cause.
Whether Treseder remained an active painter after leaving Utah isn’t known either, as no other paintings attributed to him have been identified (leaving the Sugar House prison paintings the extent of his known work at this time). However, as this story demonstrates, you never know when another unexpected discovery might be made!
Ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
Salt Lake Democrat, “Before the Grand Jury.” Jan. 26, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/48655/show/48637/rec/4 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).
Salt Lake Democrat, “Conspiracy to Murder.” Mar. 02, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/58696/show/58687/rec/11 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).
Salt Lake Democrat, “Local Jots.” May 02, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/16196/show/16182/rec/2 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).
Salt Lake Democrat, “Local Jots.” Sep. 28, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/46791/show/46770/rec/30(accessed Dec. 01, 2014).
Salt Lake Herald, “Out on the Hill.” Apr. 13, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slherald18/id/78855/show/78830/rec/73 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).
Salt Lake Herald, “Her Romance Ended.” Apr. 30, 1892. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slherald19/id/120218/show/120181/rec/75 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).
Swanson, Vern G. Utah Art, Utah Artist – 150 Years Survey. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2001. Print.
Utah State Archives and Records Service. Board of Pardons. Utah Territorial Prison Painting. Series 27827.
Utah State Archives and Records Service, District Court (First District), Northern division civil and criminal case files, Series 1529.
Utah State Archives and Records Service, District Court (Third District), Territorial criminal case files, Series 6836.
Utah State Archives and Records Service, District Court (Third District), Case files, Series 9802.
UTAH’S FIRST LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
The first legislative assembly in Utah’s history was convened in Salt Lake City on September 22, 1851. Over the course of six months, 13 members of the Territorial Council and 26 members of the Territorial House of Representatives passed a series of acts and bills that formally codified the first laws of the Utah Territory.
The Utah Territory had been established by an act of the U.S. Congress on September 09, 1850, after a failed March 08, 1849 petition by Utah leaders to create a new state named Deseret. When the petition for the state of Deseret was submitted, the first Mormon settlers had been in region for nearly two years (having arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847). At the time of Mormon settlement in Salt Lake, the U.S. government was in the midst of the Mexican American War. U.S. Victory in this conflict would eventually lead to Mexico ceding large chunks of western North America over to federal control.
The designation of the Utah Territory by Congress was part of a much larger set of bills passed that would come to be known as the Compromise of 1850. This “compromise” attempted to maintain a balance of power between free states and territories and slave states and territories in the Union. As part of complex package of legislation, California was admitted into the Union as a free state, while the territories of Utah and New Mexico were admitted under the provision that slavery in each territory would be decided by the popular sovereignty of its citizens.
With the designation of the Utah Territory, the size of Deseret was dramatically scaled back. Mormon leaders had originally called for a state that would have encompassed all of the Great Basin, the entire Colorado River Drainage Basin, and an outlet to the Pacific Ocean running through San Diego. Instead, the new territory was scaled back to include much of modern-day Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. In addition, legislation creating the territory called for the designation of territorial officials, the formation of a territorial legislative assembly responsible for enacting laws and a civil code for the territory, and the creation of a territorial judiciary.
On February 03, 1851, Mormon church president, Brigham Young was designated as the first Territorial Governor of the Utah Territory, and by September of that year, the 13 members of the Territorial Council (with Willard Richards as president) and 26 members of the Territorial House of Representatives (with William W. Phelps as speaker) had been chosen and met to conduct the business of Utah’s first legislative session.
Between September 1851 and March 1852, the first legislative assembly in Utah’s history met in Salt Lake City and enacted Utah’s first set of formally recognized laws. Much of the work done by this legislative body came out of efforts that had already been made in drafting a proposed legal code for the failed State of Deseret. The Utah State Archives holds the records from this first legislative session. Examples from this series reveal the scope and variety of laws debated and passed by Utah’s first Territorial Legislative Assembly.
Among the most important pieces of legislation passed was an act approving charters for the cities of Salt Lake, Ogden, Provo, Manti, and Parowan. A portion of this record reads:
Much of the Territorial Legislative Assembly’s initial business sought to spell out property rights and resource regulation, as evidenced by the passage of another act granting access to water rights from Mill Creek Canyon to Brigham Young. In this record the assembly states:
A third act demonstrates the lengths the Territorial Legislative Assembly went to provide social order in the new territory. This, “act in relation to the inspection of Spirituous Liquors,” serves as the first piece of liquor control legislation in Utah’s history. It established an office of Territorial Liquor Inspector, mandated the methods for determining alcohol levels, and establishes fines for anyone caught selling contraband liquor in the territory.
These examples, all signed by powerful Mormon leaders acting in a secular government capacity, show just how intertwined church and state were in the early history of the Utah Territory. In the coming years this dynamic would shift as outside, non-Mormon populations began to settle in the territory and call it home. With increased federal influence, national westward expansion, mining booms, and eventually the birth of an intercontinental railroad system, the hold over government held by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders would incrementally lessen over the years, though the influence the Mormon Church would wield over local affairs remained very much in tact. The legislative records of Utah tell the story of this growth and the profound changes that would come to the Utah Territory as it evolved towards eventual statehood in 1896.
LEGISLATIVE RESOURCES TODAY
Today the Utah State Archives preserves and provides access to a vast collection of historic records documenting Utah’s legislative history. In addition, the Utah State Legislature has made many of the records related to contemporary legislation freely accessible to the public through the Legislative website.
The Utah Legislature and Utah State Archives have also made a variety of useful guides available online that help explain the complexity of the legislative process, as well as how researchers can draw on historic legislative records to conduct important research, such as the discovery of legislative intent.
An effective democracy relies on the checks and balances placed upon its representatives by informed citizens. The Utah State Archives and the Office of Legislative Research and General Council serve as important government agencies in terms of promoting this ideal and ensuring that transparency remains an unassailable part of Utah’s annual legislative process.
This past Friday, January 04, Utah celebrated its 123rd birthday as the 45th state in the Union. Statehood Day usually goes by with little celebration unless it happens to fall on an anniversary or the same day as an inauguration. At the Utah State Archives we decided to do our part by putting together a small program and original record show-and-tell in the State Capitol. Prepping for it gave me the chance to brush up on some of my early Utah history, and I wanted to dedicate this blog post to the history and records that led to Utah’s statehood.
Utah’s long and weird path to statehood began when the first Mormon migrants entered the valley and laid down settlements in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Within two years this small group submitted the first of what would eventually become seven (!) applications for statehood. The Federal Congress took one look at Utah’s 1849 petition to create the State of Deseret and determined that there were too few people residing in too large of a proposed area for statehood status. The congress did take the step, however, of granting territorial status on Utah which allowed for the creation of territorial government, and a territorial delegate to represent the new Utah Territory in Washington D.C.
As time past, more and more of the territorial appointments in the new Utah Territory were given to outsider, non-Mormons. This led to resentments among the Mormon population of Utah, which, coupled with a growing non-Mormon population brought to the territory by mining, immigration, and the railroad led to renewed attempts to petition the feds for statehood status. Petitions were made in 1856, 1862, 1872, 1882, and 1887. All met the same fate in being denied, primarily because of the ongoing practice of polygamy among Mormons in the territory.
The list of Federal legislation targeting polygamy is nearly as long as the number of failed applications for statehood. It includes the Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, the Poland Act of 1874, the Edmunds Act of 1882, and the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. This last piece of legislation was the most far-reaching in its attempt to end polygamy and break up the power of the LDS Church in the Utah Territory. It upped fines and jail sentences for those found guilty of polygamy. It dissolved the corporation of the LDS Church and confiscated all church property valued over $50,000. It created new layers of territorial government targeted directly at breaking apart the nebulous ties between church and state in the territory. And, interestingly, it ended women’s suffrage in the Utah Territory, which had passed by popular vote in 1870.
Anti-polygamy sentiment manifested itself in other areas as well. In 1879, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds vs U.S. that the practice of polygamy as fulfillment of a sacred duty was not protected by the 1st amendment. With Edmunds-Tucker, the U.S. Marshall and his deputies in the territory began enforcing the new law and its strict penalties leading to mass arrest and incarcerations of known polygamists. Idaho was granted statehood in 1890 with a state constitution that featured a provision specifically targeted at keeping practicing polygamists from voting or holding office. With the church in dire straights, and on the verge of financial collapse, LDS church president, Wilford Woodruff, responded with an 1890 manifesto against the continued practice or preaching of polygamy.
By the time of the Woodruff Manifesto, the demographics in Utah had changed radically from the misfit band of Mormon settlers who had first entered the valley in 1847. With the assumed collapse of polygamy (spoiler: it took years for it to really leave the church), and the real collapse of a political framework in the territory that had effectively created secular and sectarian political parties, the time was right for another attempt at statehood.
In December 1893 the territorial delegate for Utah, Joseph L. Rawlins, recommended a bill for Utah statehood in the Federal Congress. It passed both chambers, which led to President Grover Cleveland signing the enabling act for Utah statehood on July 16, 1894. The enabling act authorized the people of the territory to: elect delegates to a state constitutional convention; draft a state constitution; and elect officials to fill roles within a new state government framework.
In November 1894 the process was started with the election of delegates to a state constitutional convention. The constitutional convention met in the Salt Lake City and County Building between March 4th and May 8th of 1895, and produced Utah’s State Constitution. Interesting facets of this founding document include a provision that forever prohibits the practice of polygamy in the state, a guarantee of perfect toleration of all religious sentiment, a call for schools to remain free of sectarian control, and a provision restoring women’s suffrage within the new state.
In the November election of 1895 the people of Utah voted to ratify the new state constitution and elected officials to serve in newly proposed state offices. The Utah Commission certified the election results and made a formal recommendation for statehood to Federal officials in Washington. Utah entered the Union as the 45th state when President Grover Cleveland signed the Utah Statehood Proclamation on January 4, 1896. When news of the signing was received businesses shut down and there were celebrations in the street. Two days later, on January 6th, formal celebrations took place with the swearing in, and inaugural address, of Utah’s first statehood governor, Heber M. Wells.
Ellsworth, G. (n.d.). Utah’s Road to Statehood. Retrieved January 3, 2019, https://archives.utah.gov/community/exhibits/Statehood/intronew.htm
Haddock, Marc. January 4, 2010. Utah Remembers Its Roots With Statehood Day. Retrieved January 3, 2019, https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705355950/Utah-remembers-its-roots-with-Statehood-Day.html
Munson, H. January 4, 2013. Utah’s Very Interesting Path to Statehood. Retrieved January 3, 2019, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/utahs-very-interesting-path-to-statehood