Stephen Luce on a Jury

Stephen Luce (1801-1872) served on a grand jury in Salt Lake City in 1858. There’s an interesting story there.

This was at the end of the Utah War. Stephen had served in the re-activated Nauvoo Legion. He appears on a 20 July 1857 muster roll as Sgt. Stephen Luce, 3rd Platoon, Company B, of the Silver-greys, having on hand one-half pounds of powder and 2 pounds of lead for his rifle.

Now, a year later, the Feds had uncomfortably seized control of Utah. Let’s call it 26 June 1858, the day the Army of Utah marched through Great Salt Lake City on their way to barrack at Camp Floyd.

The army brought federal officials who were taking up their new appointments in the territorial government. One of them, Judge Charles Sinclair, was to have charge of the U. S. District Court in Salt Lake, then called the 1st District, now the 3rd District.

Bancroft’s History gives the short version. “Convening his court in November 1858, Sinclair, in his charge to the grand jury, urged the prosecution of Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, and other leading Mormons for treason, polygamy, and intimidation of the courts.

Some details are given by the anti-Mormon San Francisco Evening Bulletin, including the fact that the jurors included “Stephen Luce, Mormon“. The point of publishing the list of juror’s names was to demonstrate for a Gentile audience that “the Mormons have a majority of one on the Grand Jury.

Continuing with Bancroft’s History : “The district attorney refused to present bills of indictment for treason, on the ground that pardon had been proclaimed by the president and accepted by the people. To ask a Mormon grand jury to indict the leading dignitaries of their church for polygamy was, of course, little better than a farce; while as to the charge of intimidation, referring to the occasion when Judge Stiles held court at Salt Lake City in 1854, all the bills were thrown out, with one exception.

This adds another little piece to the life history of Stephen Luce, as we know it. He and his wife came from Maine to Nauvoo, probably in the Spring of 1839, then to Utah in 1848. He became a polygamist in 1853. He and his wives lived through the Mormon Reformation 1856-1857, leading directly into the Utah War of 1857-1858, where we see Stephen serving as a sergeant. Now, immediately after the War, here he is, serving as a grand juror. In 1859 he added a third wife. Two years later, in 1861, his three sons were involved in the assault on Territorial Governor John Dawson, then in 1864 his oldest son was executed for murder. His grief must have been enormous, but he himself survived until 1872.

I have a few other bits and pieces about his life, each little piece adding just a bit more to our picture of him.

San Francisco Evening Bulletin

San Francisco, December 21, 1858.

Letter from Great Salt Lake City.

Monday, November 29, 1858.   

Meeting of the U. S. District Court —
The Judge’s Charge to the Grand Jury.

The U. S. District Court met on Monday last, fully organized to prosecute such business as might arise before it. The clerk having read the journal of the Court, the Judge read an able and fitting charge to the Grand Jury, after they had been duly empanneled and sworn. An advance copy of this charge I forwarded to you in my last communication. (See Bulletin of the 9th December.) That copy was slightly incorrect in some few of the expressions made by the Judge. The imperfections, however, are fortunately not very material and do not affect the sense of the document.

Composition of a Grand Jury at Salt Lake City.

The following list of the names of the jurors will exhibit the composition of the Grand Jury. Most of the Mormons are polygamists, as I am informed.

Eleazer Miller, forman — polygamist. (He is the man who first baptized Brigham Young…)
A. B. Miller, Gentile merchant.
Stephen B. Rose, Mormon.
Ormus E. Bates, Mormon.
John B. Kimball, Mormon.
B. F. Pendleton, Mormon.
George Stringham, Mormon.
A. B. Miller, Gentile merchant.
Ezekiel Lee, Mormon.
Stephen Luce, Mormon. [emphasis added]
Harrison Severe, Mormon.
H. Cabot, Gentile merchant.
G. A. Neal, Mormon.
C. L. Craig, Gentile — Indian Agent.
A. H. Raleigh, Mormon.
J. C. Campbell, Gentile.
Elias Perry, Gentile merchant.
John Kerr, Gentile.
D. W. Bayliss, Gentile — watch-maker.
D. H. Beck, Gentile — saddler.

It will be perceived that the Mormons have a majority of one on the Grand Jury. This will be sufficient to defeat the ends of justice. In fact, Brigham Young has a majority in the United States Grand Jury, whose duty it will be to consider the questions of Mormon treason and Mormon polygamy.

Judge Sinclair’s charge has had no outward effect upon this people, but every day makes it more apparent that it has created a very strong under-current of bitter feeling against the Gentiles, which the leaders are using every effort to fan into a flame. You need not be surprised to hear of an outbreak before long.

Important Question Arising — Conflict of
Territorial and United States Authorities.

A most important question, and one which is of vital importance at the present moment, is now under consideration by the Court, and a decision upon it will probably be rendered to-day. It is the question whether the U. S. District Attorney or the Territorial District Attorney (appointed by the Legislature) shall prosecute crimes and offences against the laws and statutes of the Territory, brought for trial before this, the U. S. Court. And, also, whether the U. S. Marshal or the Territorial Marshal shall execute the process of the Court when it is engaged upon the trial of crimes and offences against the laws of the Territory.

If it is decided that the officers of the Court appointed by the United States shall be superseded by those appointed by the Mormon Legislature, then adieu to all justice! These Mormon officers will select a Grand Jury composed entirely of Mormons, and a Mormon Grand Jury would certainly not inquire into the facts of murder or other crimes committed by any of the leaders of the Mormon church; and thus those terrible crimes which have been committed in this Territory, the accounts of which have so shocked the world, would still remain unpunished — would still remain enveloped in mystery. There are crimes which the laws of this Territory punish; and among these, we must not — we cannot forget, at least — the circumstances connected with the massacre, in the fall of 1857, of 119 men, women and children, emigrants on their way to California, committed within the line of Mormon settlements. The facts have not escaped memory that sixteen infants, all too young to talk, were saved, and are now under the care of the Mormon Bishop at Cedar City; and that the Mormons obtained possession of all the property of those emigrants. Now, what can we expect, if a jury composed entirely of Mormons is entrusted with the solemn responsibility of inquiring into this deadful occurrence?

I cannot but believe that the Judge will decide that, as the Court derives its authority to act in any case from the United States, so, also, the officers of the Court appointed by the U. S. Government form a constituent part of it, and must act with it in every case legally before it.

Brigham still Stiff-necked and Rebellious.

Last Saturday, three unsuccessful attempts were made by Marshal Dotson and his deputies to serve a subpoena upon Brigham Young requiring his attendance before the Court as a witness. The first time the Marshal went to the house, he was told that Brigham was not at home; but the second and third times, the gates in the high stone wall which surrounds Brigham’s house were shut in his face, and he was positively denied admittance, although he stated his business and demanded admittance in the name of the United States. It will now be necessary for the Court to issue an attachment requiring the Marshal to take Brigham’s body, and compel his attendance before the Court; and if he still refuses to allow the Marshal to approach him, it will become necessary to call upon the Army for assistance….

More Information

%d bloggers like this: