Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Train Ride Home

Just before midnight, Monday August 18th 1884, Elder Willis Eugene Robison boarded a train carrying the bodies of John Henry Gibbs and William Shanks Berry back to their homes in Utah. The two were among the five killed at the Cane Creek Massacre.

The first leg of the journey was uneventful, but at Cairo, Illinois, a drunk man claiming to be the nephew of David Hinson, boarded the train. He was prevented from anything more than cursing and swearing by the officers on the train. At the same stop, the caskets were supposed to be moved to another train, but the conductor refused to let them be loaded. Some of the passengers watching the argument unfold yelled “throw them in the river.” It took some persistence, but the conductor finally relented, and the caskets were loaded.

The scene was repeated in Kansas City where they had to change trains again. This time however, the conductor threatened to resign before he allowed the caskets to be loaded. A compromise was reached allowing them to be loaded to a flat car, exposed to the elements, and lashed down with ropes to prevent them from falling off. They stayed outside until a rainstorm soaked the ropes. After which the baggage master consented to moving the caskets inside, out of fear that the wet ropes would not properly keep the caskets secure.

In Pueblo, Colorado Robison had to change trains again. But this time he met a yard-master who was friendlier than those he had met before. Allowing Elder Robison to rest, he took care of moving the caskets and wired President Morgan for him to let him know where he was.

One man arranged to have the train make a special stop at Price. He draped the station in honor of the slain missionary.

At Thistle Valley, the train was met by Abraham O. Smoot and others who had come out in order to ride with the train into Provo. On the August 21st, 1884, the train arrived in Provo, where two brass bands and a large crowd of people waited.

At Provo, Elder Berry’s remains were transferred to a train going south to Milford, Utah. Accompanying the body on the train south was Elder M. F. Cowley, who spoke at the funeral, and James W. Eardley. Also on the train were J. W. Berry, who was Elder Berry’s brother, Elder Willis E. Robison, and Bishop John Sharp. At stations along the way large crowds gathered, some of whom sung hymns while the train waited at each platform. After reaching Milford the casket was taken by wagon the seventy miles to Kanarra, Utah.

The train carrying the body Elder Gibbs arrived in Salt Lake City of August 22nd, 1884 at approximately 5:30 pm, about 20 minutes later than expected. Among the others that were on the train were John Morgan, H .S. Beatie Jr., James M. Barlow, Charles S. Brain, Jesse M. Smith, and George F. Gibbs who had presumably boarded the train in Provo.

An estimated three thousand people showed up including four different bands to play music fitting for the occasion; the Sixth Ward, the Sixteenth Ward, the Twenty-first Ward, and the Fireman’s Band. The Fireman’s Band, situated on its wagon close to the platform, played a funeral march “Tis Done” as the train pulled into the station.

Elder Gibbs’ casket was moved from the train and placed near the center of the station platform where everyone who wished was permitted to file past to view the coffin. After about a stay of only fifteen minutes, the casket was reloaded on the box car and the train continued on to Paradise, Cache County Utah. Elders Joseph H. Parry and Jesse M. Smith were designated to accompany the body. Also on the train as it left were Elder George F. Gibbs, who was Elder Gibbs’ brother, and three men sent from Ogden: Elder William H. Wright, William Critchlow, and Peter Anderson.

After the train left, the crowd formed an improvised procession with bands playing funeral marches and led by carriages carrying Joseph F. Smith, Wilford Woodruff, F. D. Richards and others found its way east through Salt Lake to the Gardo House. There A. M. Cannon spoke briefly and the crown dispersed. The flag at City Hall was lowered to half mast.

In Logan, Utah, at about 10:30 pm, a crowd began to assemble at the Tabernacle. It consisted of most of the Church leaders in Cache County including the Stake President C. O. Card. By 11:00 pm they began a torchlight procession. Led by the Fire Brigade, and kept in time to a funeral march played by the Logan and Plain City brass bands, the mourners marched to the railroad depot. At about fifteen minutes before midnight, the train carrying the body of Elder Gibbs pulled into the station.

After the remains were removed from the train and brief remarks by President Card, the procession reformed and followed the wagon carrying Elder Gibbs back up Second Street to Main Street and then south to the bridge. There the procession stopped, but the bands continued to play as Elder Gibbs’ father and friends from south of Logan continued with the remains on to the town of Paradise.


Ardis Parshall said...

Thanks, Bruce. I remain amazed at how many significant facets of this story you manage to find and tell.

BruceCrow said...

Thank you Ardis. I try to branch out into other areas, but this story keeps pulling back in. I have to remind myself that I started this as an exercise to help me learn historical research. But it isn't the only thing out there.

Tod Robbins said...

A great case of solidarity among the Utah saints for those that fall in the service of the Church. Thanks Bruce. Any details on what funeral marches were played?

BruceCrow said...

Yes, the article describing the train stop in SLC named two other funeral marches besides "Tis Done": "Rest in Peace" and "Dead March in Saul." I don't know any of them. The other articles did not name what was played only that they were "appropriate dirges."

Paul Slaughter said...

Here's the Funeral March from the oratorio "Saul" by Handel. (It's also sometimes known as "Dead March from Saul")

The others I can't help with.

BruceCrow said...

That is awesome Paul. Thanks for the link. Listening to it and reading the account it all fits; like I'm almost there.

This one was played twice in SLC. Once while the mourners were viewing the casket and again after the train left and the crowd marched back to city hall.