Unacknowledged injustices do not die but fester beneath the surface, according to C. Matthew Gilmour, a retired attorney who grew up in Carbon County, the scene of what is believed to be the last lynching in the American West.
Seeking reconciliation and forgiveness are steps toward ending racial injustices, he says.That quest is at the heart of an event slated for April 4. Organizers hope it will put to rest the lynching, which occurred more than 70 years ago.
Robert Marshall, a black coal miner from Arkansas, was hanged on June 18, 1925. Although no trial was ever held, Marshall was believed to have shot J. Milton Burns, a watchman for Utah Fuel Co., at Castle Gate three days earlier. Officials at the time believed the shooting resulted from a personal grudge.
The April 4 program will begin at 12:15 p.m. at Notre Dame School and will bring together educators and clergy from diverse backgrounds. Participating there and at a subsequent grave dedication in the Price City Cemetery will be Rev. France A. Davis, pastor, Calvary Missionary Baptist Church; Elder Ben Banks, area president of the Utah South Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Bishop George Niederauer, Roman Catholic Diocese; Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Church; and Bishop Carolyn Tanner-Irish, Episcopal Diocese of Utah.
Larry Gerlach, a University of Utah history professor who wrote a book on the Ku Klux Klan in Utah, will provide a historical perspective. Grace S. Jones, president of College of Eastern Utah, will welcome guests; Gilmour, one of the event's organizers, will speak and music will be provided by the Calvary Church choir and Ridgely H. Gilmour.
Bernie T. Morris Monument Co. of Price donated a monument for Marshall's unmarked grave.
Posses were organized to search for Marshall after the watchman was shot as he made his rounds. Two young boys reportedly saw the shooting. When Burns died the following day, the search in-ten-si-fied.
According to a book published in 1978 by Steve Lacy, Marshall sought refuge at the newspaper-covered shack of an elderly black named George. George, afraid he would be implicated, turned Marshall in to authorities. There were few blacks in Carbon County at the time.
The posse arrived, put Marshall in a car and headed toward Price. The procession of cars swelled to about 40 and the group showed signs of becoming a mob. In Lacy's account, the group overpowered the sheriff when he reached Price with the suspect.
Gilmour, who was 15 years old at the time and did not witness the lynching, believes the sheriff met the procession when it reached Price, put a deputy in the car with Marshall and then headed for Castle Dale in Emery County to get reinforcements.
Memories are vivid for Gilmour, who is active in reconciliation efforts through his church, St. Mark's Episcopal in Salt Lake City. He said that the day before the lynching he and his father, who owned Price Commission Co., went on an overnight business trip to Salt Lake City. On their way back to Price, they stopped at their Castle Gate store and saw a man coming out with a rope. He told them there was going to be a "necktie party."
His father was stunned, Gilmour recalled.
When Gilmour and his father returned home to Price, they found Gilmour's mother livid with rage. She had heard there was to be a lynching on Wellington Road. It occurred there approximately halfway between Price and Well-ing-ton.
Gilmour wanted to ride to the scene on his bicycle, but his mother said, "Craddock, (his first name, which be no longer uses) you are not leaving the yard."
According to several accounts, by the time the lynching took place the crowd had swelled to as many as 4,000, and according to some versions some of the people brought picnic lunches.
Marshall was hanged from a limb of a tall cottonwood tree.
In his book, Lacy said the sheriff arrived and said, "Oh my God, get him down!" As the sheriff began to remove the noose, a sound came from Marshall's throat, and the mobsters hanged him a second time to make sure he was dead.
As a result of the lynching, Price and Carbon County were plastered all over the headlines locally, nationally and even in some foreign countries, according to Gilmour.
Eleven men were arrested and at the insistence of then-Gov. George Dern, a grand jury was called.
In spite of the notoriety and the diligent efforts of Fred W. Keller, a young district attorney and later a district judge who Lacy describes as a man with the courage of his convictions, no one was prosecuted. A total of 124 witnesses were called before the grand jury, but no one could remember anything. It was reported that they could not remember anyone they had seen there. Gilmour describes it as "people clamming up," and Lacy said, "Keller hit a stone wall at every turn."
In frustration, Keller was reported to have told grand jury witnesses, "May God have pity on YOU."
Although the Ku Klux Klan was not officially involved in the lynching, it "was common knowledge" that the 11 men who were indicted were Klansmen, according to Gerlach's book, "Blazing Crosses in Zion."
Over the years, there has been little discussion of the lynchings in Price. Retired postmaster Pete Bruno grew up in the county and heard little mention of it.
The April 4 event marks the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Proclamations signed by the governor and Mayor Lou Colosimo of Price and Mike Dalpiaz of Helper note an important aspect of the day will be the rededication of Robert Marshall's grave.
The purpose is to celebrate with pride the racial and ethnic diversity of the area.