Park City History Bits - November 14, 2013

Nov 14, 2013

Did you know a murder in 1883 shocked Park City’s citizens, who dealt with lawlessness almost daily?

This is Chris Waddell with your weekly Park City History Bit.

Two of Park City’s prominent prospectors, Matt Brennan and E. M. Wheeler, were riding their horses near the mouth of Iron Canyon, inspecting mining claims. 

Suddenly, a shot rang out and Brennan dropped from his horse. Brennan’s dying words were, “Black Jack Murphy done me in.” Murphy surrendered to the local sheriff after escaping Wheeler and friends. 

Enraged Parkites talked of lynching Murphy, “to see justice done at no cost to tax payers.” Fearing the worst, the Sheriff moved Murphy to the county jail in Coalville to await trial. The Coalville jailer, however, grew nervous about a possible lynching, and moved Murphy to a nearby wheat field, tied his hands, and bound one leg to a stake. Murphy stayed there for several days, before returning safely to his cell. 

The following Saturday night, a large group of men gathered at the Utah Eastern Rail Road and forced railroad employees load them for an unscheduled run to Coalville, while Murphy loaded onto a Park City-bound train. The mob held a speedy trial and convicted Black Jack Murphy of murder. The next morning townspeople were startled to see Black Jack Murphy swinging gently by the neck from a telephone pole.

This Park City History Bit is brought to you by the Park City Museum, and their newest exhibit, “Miners to Moguls: 50 Years of Park City Skiing”, and is sponsored by Julie Hopkins of Keller Williams Real Estate.