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Subdeacon Joe

Eastern Utah

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The ranch houses at Preston Nutter's Ranch in Nine Mile Canyon after it was purchased from Mrs. Pete Francis.

 

 

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The often times overly packed Vernal Stage that ran from Price to Myton and on to Vernal. Dave Russell was a stage driver.
 
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Preston Nutter on his trademark mule (right). He never rode a horse.
 
Quote

Eastern Utah Tourism and History Association

It is sometimes easy to forget that Eastern Utah was very much a part of the “Wild West”. Saloons dotted the landscape, there were card games aplenty, and shootings were common. 114 years ago this week the freight route of Nine Mile Canyon made the news when a murder occurred along the route. Today's History Bite, another snippet of life in Carbon County's forgotten eastern half: The Murder of Pete Francis.

In the late 1880s and the early 1900s, the Nine Mile Canyon road was the only route between Price and the Uintah Basin. The road was used by wandering Utes, travelers, ranchers, freighters and the odd outlaw or three. Price operated a stage line for people traveling to and from the town of Myton. The approximately 100 mile route took an average of 6 days to to complete. Fortunately, for the dusty and weary traveler there were freight stops about every 20 miles. One of the largest stops was a station known as Brock's, located at the mouth of Gate Canyon.

In the early 1900s Brock's was owned and operated by Peter Francis, a rancher and stockman. Francis maintained a saloon, a hotel, a store and several bunkhouses for ranchers, freighters and travelers. Francis, a divorced man with a hot temper, ran a decidedly “no frills” operation. He hired a cook by the name of Charles Banning who went by the nickname of “Rowdy Dowdy” (we can't make this stuff up!). Banning, or should we call him Mr. Dowdy, hired on to work the harvest on the ranch but soon found himself doing a little bit of everything around the station. Once his work was done for the day in the fields, he went to work as a clerk at the store, cooking in the saloon or pouring a never ending stream of whiskey for the patrons and himself.

On Monday night October 7, 1901, Francis' saloon was hopping. According to reports, three men were playing a lively game of cards while a stranger in area, a man going only by the name of “Tex” had enjoyed a bit too much of the liquid spirits and was passed out drunk behind the stove. Rowdy Dowdy was serving as bar tender. Okay, so maybe four customers isn't considered “hopping” now, but back then, it was... and they'd soon need bouncers.

As the card game progressed, one of the men, a stage driver by the name of Englefield, pulled a pistol on the other two and fired several wild shots. Not appreciating gun play in his establishment, Francis disarmed the man, punched him a few times and then settled down with the three of them, along with a bottle of whiskey to smooth things over.

Between 7:00 and 8:00 pm, the stage from Price arrived with its passengers and drivers. Driving the stage was a young man by the name of David Russell. Born in Salina, Utah in 1874, this was the last stop of the 27 year old's drive for the night. He would wait at the station for the return trip of the Price stage and take the next leg of the journey back to Price. The stage would be taken from Brock's by the now quite drunk and sore Englefield. Once Englefield had left with the stage on his way to Smith's Wells, Russell went into the saloon.

Russell ordered 4 drinks from Rowdy, as he turned to leave with them, Francis blocked his way insisting that Russell hadn't paid. Rowdy explained that Russell had indeed paid for the drinks but Francis would have none of it. He punched Russell several times and knocked him to the floor of the saloon spilling the drinks. Rowdy tried to stop the assault, but Francis kept up his attack until a now bloody and bruised Russell staggered his way out of the saloon.

Francis barked out that he was going to bed and everyone needed to keep the noise down. Francis pulled up a cot near the bar and stove, right next to the snoring stranger named “Tex” (who was still on the floor) and went to sleep. Shortly afterward, Russell and another man came into the saloon. Francis sat up on his cot, ready to shout more threats and curses and two shots rang out, both hitting Francis in the face. Rowdy Dowdy took cover under the bar and the card players and Russell's companion followed suit.

Russell and his friend rode out of Brock's station at once and arrived in Price, where Russell immediately went to the sheriff and confessed to shooting Francis. Rowdy Dowdy also left the station, leaving his possessions behind at the station and headed to Price, but claimed that he didn't remember anything from the time of the shooting until he arrived at the head of Soldier Creek Canyon and the stage station there. A healthy dose of alcohol and a few hard shots to the head by the men seeking shelter under the bar were to blame for Rowdy's memory lapse. The other men present claimed that they were too drunk to remember anything, although they did say that Francis tended to “pick on young Russell all the time.” Yep, Francis was an “old west bully” if you will.

Russell served time in the Utah State Penitentiary for the murder of Peter Francis. Shortly after his release, he returned to Nine Mile Canyon where he began the business of sheep herding. Russell died on August 21, 1920 at the age of 55. He died in Nine Mile Canyon, and his death was ruled as “unknown, but natural causes.” He was buried in the Price City Cemetery with a simple wooden marker.

As for Peter Francis, his body was brought to Price where he was prepared for burial. Francis' ex-wife and his two sons ages 10 and 11 came into Price from their home in Salt Lake by train and took possession of the body. Francis was buried that afternoon in the Price City Cemetery. Francis' wife immediately put the station up for sale. Utah cattle magnate Preston Nutter reportedly bought the station from the former Mrs. Francis for $9,400, that's just less than $270,000 in today's money. This pricey act further secured Nutter's iron handed control over eastern Utah.

Today, the site of Preston Nutter's ranch, formerly Brock's station is still visible. Travel from Price via U.S. Highway 6 to Wellington. At Wellington, follow the signs directing you to Soldier Canyon road and Nine Mile Canyon. The Nutter Ranch is located 38.9 miles from the turn off to the Soldier Canyon road at the mouth of Gate Canyon. The Nutter Ranch is private property. Please enjoy the ranch from the road. Do not enter the property or any of the buildings that line the road... as you might meet up with more than Francis' very irritable ghost.

Both Francis and Russell's remains currently lie in the Price City Cemetery in unmarked graves, their wooden markers long gone... just a stone's throw away from each other. We talk about them on our Haunted History Tours... because this is just another story in Price Cemetery's Peyton Place where mortal enemies can spend their after lives... buried next to each other. Some day, some ghost hunters are gonna catch some fabulous E.V.P.s between these two. Our last Price City Cemetery Tour of the season is on October 23rd, 2015, and tickets are still available at the Eastern Utah Tourism and History Association Visitor's Center and Bookstore, located at 592 East Main Street, Price, Utah.

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

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I took a way too fast trip through Utah last year, for my job.  Wish I could go back and spend some time there, and in Arizona. Pictures from Bryce Canyon

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Nine mile canyon is just South of Price,UT.  Most famous for the numerous Native American petroglyphs. 

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