W.A. Eckengren    Return to top of page

Was the Swedish Minister to the United States. After researching the case, he concluded that Hill was not fairly tried and, thus, his execution should be postponed. Many Swedish-American immigrants who were in no other way related to Hill's case telegraphed Eckengren in regards to their countryman. Eckengren corresponded with Governor Spry (link here to Governor Spry), President Wilson (link here to President Wilson, and other figures involved in the case. He also appealed to Joe Hill directly to tell authorities the origin of his gunshot wound. He was encouraged to tralvel to Salt Lake personally to investigate, but never followed through.

Helen Keller    Return to top of page

Widely acclaimed for her accomplishments as a blind and deaf woman, appealed to President Wilson as Hill's execution date approached. She felt that a "new trial will give the man justice to which the laws of the land entitle him." The president responded sympathetically and graciously, informing her that he was "balked of all opportunity regarding her request."

Woodrow Wilson    Return to top of page

Twenty-eighth president of the United States, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts toward world peace, became involved in the Joe Hill controversy when hundreds of people contacted him and asked him to intervene. It was not his responsibility to do this, but the national outcry was so great, he asked Governor Spry (link to Governor Spry) to postpone Hill's execution until a more thorough investigation of the trial could be completed.

Governor Spry    Return to top of page

Sometimes portrayed as a one-sided villain in the case, was actually widely popular within the state of Utah. He felt he was acting on behalf of the citizens of Utah when he authorized Hill's execution. He was upset that President Wilson (link to President Wilson) intervened, feeling it was out of his jurisdiction. In a letter to Wilson after Hill's death, he states, "your interference in this case may have elevated it to undue importance."

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn    Return to top of page

Elizabeth was the foremost woman organizer in the I.W.W. and an influential leader and activist in that organization. She developed a warm friendship with Joe Hill through numerous letters while he was in jail and eventually visited his jail cell in Spring, 1915. In a letter she published in Solidarity, an IWW journal, Elizabeth described her experience with "the inimitable songster and poet" Joe Hill, in an effort to generate funds for his defense. She was convinced after reviewing the evidence against Joe Hill that he was an innocent victim of conspiracy. She said if Joe Hill had not been known as a prominent figure in the I.W.W. he would not have been convicted. She also charged that the Mormon church controlled the judge, jury and police in Salt Lake City. Elizabeth even traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with President Woodrow Wilson to ask him to intervene and obtain a reprieve for Hill. Miss Flynn received three letters from Hill the day before his execution. In them he told her goodbye and thanked her for being his inspiration for his song "The Rebel Girl." He told her "he would like to kiss her Good-bye, not because she was a girl but because she was the original Rebel Girl." He closed the letter "Yours as Ever Joe Hill." Elizabeth Gurley later joined the American Communist Party and served as an officer until her death.

Virginia Snow Stephen    Return to top of page

Virginia was an instructor of art at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the daughter of former Mormon church President Lorenzo Snow. She became involved with Joe Hill through her friendship with Ed Rowan, her opposition to capital punishment, her sympathy for the working class and her exposure to Hill's songs. Mrs. Stephen, a socialist, visited Hill's cell during Spring, 1914, and came away convinced that a man who could write songs like "Oh Please Let Me Dance With You" was incapable of committing murder. She stopped in Denver on her way to Colombia University, where she was attending summer school, to ask O.N. Hilton to join Hill's defense. Mrs. Stephen's participation in the affair heightened local interest, and the press reflected its surprise at the involvement of a member of such a prominent Utah family. Virginia also sent a plea to the Swedish minister to the United States, W.A. Eckengren, asking him to aid Joe Hill, because she was convinced Joe Hill was not being given a fair trial. She was later dismissed from her University teaching position for her involvement in Joe Hill's case.

Dr. Frank M. McHugh    Return to top of page

Dr. McHugh received a visit from a wounded Joe Hill after 11:30 p.m. Saturday night January 10, 1914, at his home office Fourteenth South and State Street in Salt Lake City. Joe Hill told Dr. McHugh he and another fellow had a quarrel over a woman and he struck the man who then retaliated by shooting him. Dr. McHugh dressed Hill's wound and then noticed Joe had a gun and that his jacket did not have a bullet hole in it. Joe Hill later allegedly confessed to Dr. McHugh that he killed the Morrisons. Dr. McHugh made the details of the confession public in 1946, more than 30 years after the murder, in an interview with Vernon Jensen, a student of the Hill case. McHugh told Jensen he was out of town on Sunday the day after he treated Hill. He first heard of the Morrison murders from the Monday morning newspaper. Dr. McHugh surmised Hill might have been involved and went to the Eselius' home where Hill said, "I shot in self defense. The older man reached for the gun and I shot him and the younger boy grabbed the gun and shot me and I shot him to save my own life. I wanted some money to get out of town." There is no other evidence to support this. Dr. McHugh went immediately to the police and told of treating Hill. He did not tell of the confession. He also told the police chief that he was going to give Hill a shot of morphine as part of treatment and suggested they apprehend Hill then. As a witness for the prosecution at Hill's trial Dr. McHugh testified only about his treatment of Joe and Joe's story with the woman. Dr. McHugh said he could not say whether or not the guns shown to him by the prosecution resembled the one Hill had the night of the murder. Vernon Jensen says of McHugh, "As a socialist and disbeliever in capital punishment he did not want to see Hill executed. Since he was never asked if he had received any other explanation of Hill's wound, McHugh chose not to tell all he knew."

Dr. A.A. Bird    Return to top of page

On the night of the Morrison murders, Dr. Bird noticed Dr. McHugh's light on in his office window and stopped for a visit. Dr. McHugh asked Dr. Bird to drive Hill to the Eselius Home as it was on his way. As he approached the Eselius house Hill threw his gun out the window on the side of the street, asked Dr. Bird to turn off his headlamps, and gave two short whistles. These actions were of considerable controversy at the trial and aided in Hill's conviction. The Salt Lake City Press named Dr. Bird, not Dr. McHugh, as the man who told the police of Joe Hill. Dr. Bird appeared for the state at Hill's trial and testified that the gun he noticed Joe Hill had looked like the 38-Caliber Colt shown to him by the prosecution; Morrison was killed with a 38-Caliber automatic.

The Eselius'    Return to top of page

Edward and John Eselius were friends of Joe Hill, whom they had met while working on the San Pedro waterfront in 1913. When Joe arrived in Utah, the Eselius brothers welcomed him into their home and allowed him to stay with them as needed. On January 10, 1914, (the night of the Morrison murders) (LINK TO MURDER STORY?) Joe left the Eselius house around 6 p.m. and returned with a gunshot wound to his chest.

The Morrison's    Return to top of page

John G. Morrison was the owner of Morrison Grocery located on West Temple and Eighth South streets in Salt Lake City. John's oldest son Arling was in his late teens when he and his Father were shot by burglars robbing the family store. Thirteen-year-old Merlin Morrison witnessed the murders that interrupted their nightly closing routine and changed his life forever. During the trial of Joe Hill, Merlin was unable to testify against the accused because he could not identify Hill as the trigger man who killed his father and brother.

O.N. Hilton    Return to top of page

Judge Orrin N. Hilton became Joe Hill's attorney after being retained by the IWW's Salt Lake branch. Hilton advised Hill not to worry about being found guilty and that his case would be won on appeal before the Utah Supreme Court. After losing each trial, Hilton vocally defamed the court system and the people of Utah. At Joe Hill's funeral in Chicago, Hilton made slanderous remarks about the trial, the judges, and the Utah government. (LINK TO MORMOM CONSPIRACY) He was disbarred in Utah for the words he uttered in Chicago. However, Hilton apologized to the victims of his criticisms and regained his judicial license.

E.O. Leatherwood    Return to top of page

District Attorney E.O. Leatherwood was the prosecutor for the State of Utah in the murder trial of Joe Hill. He explicitly told the jury that he would be presenting circumstantial evidence, which would construct a string of instances that would infer the guilt of Joe Hill. He successfully convinced the jury, and Joe Hill was executed. (LINK TO HILL EXECUTION)

Otto Applequist    Return to top of page

Upon arriving in Utah, Joe Hill began work in Park City as a miner with his friend Otto Applequist. Hill and Applequist had most likely been friends prior to their employment at the mine, and when Hill became ill and lost his job, it was Applequist who, also out of work, took Hill to Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake. Here, Applequist introduced Hill to a number of Swedish families who delighted in Hill's singing and piano-playing abilities.

In early January 1914, Hill and Applequist stayed at the home of Edward and John Eselius (Link to Eselius Bros.), brothers who lived in Murray, Utah. The pair had known the Eselius brothers from previous work in California. Both men were living at the Eselius residence on the night of the Morrison murders on January 10.

Applequist's whereabouts the night of the murder are unknown. One of the Eselius brothers claimed that Applequist was in bed but not asleep when Hill was brought home with a gunshot wound by Dr. Bird. Applequist spoke briefly with Hill after the doctor left, and departed from the house a short while later, never to be seen again. His explanation for leaving was to get an early start looking for a job. Whether or not Applequist was at the Eselius house all evening is uncertain. What is certain is that subsequent police searches for him were fruitless: Otto Applequist vanished that night, never to be seen again. Rumors of Applequist's presence in several western Utah towns were investigated but proved fruitless.

Suspects other than Joe Hill    Return to top of page

Former police officer John G. Morrison (Link to Morrison) search for the killers, Salt Lake Police officers followed several leads and rounded up a number of suspects. Surprisingly, all of these suspects were released despite incriminating evidence after Joe Hill was apprehended. Those who claim Hill was an inviting scapegoat due to his I.W.W. affiliation point to the fact that Salt Lake police put all their effort into proving Hill's guilt after releasing many other shady suspects. A brief look at those who "got away" lends support to the notion of Hill's innocence.

C.E. Christensen and Joe Woods    Return to top of page

As police searched the vicinity of the grocery store for suspects the night of the murders, they ran across two men trying to board a departing train at a railroad station near the store. Officers Crosby and Hendrickson had to "empty their guns" to prevent the two men from escaping. The duo were taken into custody and identified as C.E. Christensen and Joe Woods, two men with arrest warrants in Prescott, Arizona for robbery. Oddly, the two were not held as suspects in the Morrison murders despite the fact that eyewitnesses reported that there had been two men running from the store after the killings.

W.J. Williams    Return to top of page

Multiple eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a pair of men exiting Morrison's grocery store the night of the murder. One of the men, witnesses said, seemed to be wounded in the chest. W.J. Williams was arrested shortly after the murders as he was walking near the grocery store. He had a bloody handkerchief in his pocket. Local newspapers surmised that Williams was one of the killers and was looking for his wounded friend when he was arrested. Williams claimed that he was living at the Salvation Army House in Salt Lake, but police investigation proved that he was not known there. Despite the uncertainty as to his residence and the bloody handkerchief in his pocket, Williams' proclamation of innocence was enough for the police, who eventually released him.

Oran Anderson    Return to top of page

After arriving at the police station with a .38-caliber bullet wound in the arm, nineteen-year-old Oran Anderson became a suspect in the Morrison killings. As mentioned previously, witnesses claimed that one of the men leaving the grocery store appeared wounded. Questioned by the police, Anderson said that he, too, had been held up by two gunmen that Saturday night. During this robbery he had been shot in the arm, he claimed. The police apparently believed Anderson, as he was released shortly thereafter.

Frank Z. Wilson    Return to top of page

Two days after the Morrison killings, a streetcar conductor named J.R. Usher (Link to JR Usher) told police he had a suspicious-looking man get on his car at 11:26 the night of the murders. Usher, who at the time did not yet know of the killings, later identified the mysterious man from police photos as ex-convict Frank Z. Wilson. Usher described Wilson as wearing a dark suit and black hat, similar to reports given to the police as to the appearance of the men leaving the shooting. The streetcar driver remembered Wilson because he seemed disoriented while getting on the car through the exit step, and because he asked other passengers which cars led downtown, and sat hunched over the duration of his ride. Usher recalled that the man rang the bell as the car approached the Second West and Second South intersection but did not get off until Main Street. Though he acted drunk when he boarded, Usher said he appeared normal when he got off. More incriminating evidence followed: During his five-year stint as a Salt Lake police officer, Morrison had arrested Wilson. Morrison had told family and friends that he feared reprisal from those he had dealt with as an officer of the law; former police officer John Hemple told authorities that "Morrison was in constant dread of men he had arrested when he was a policeman." Moreover, retribution seemed to be the motive of the killers. The men who entered the store made no effort to rob the business but rather burst in yelling, "We have got you now!" Such a report led police to believe the motive for Morrison's death was revenge. Police even told the press that Joe Hill was actually Frank Z. Wilson, as they continued to investigate under the premise of revenge as the motive for murder. But as officials learned more and more of Hill's identity, their focus on Wilson as the prime suspect dwindled. The Salt Lake Tribune (Link to News article) stated that "The police are elated over the capture of Hill," and went on to detail how the investigators were "certain" Hill was in the grocery store that night. Soon, all attention was focused on Hill, and the investigation into Wilson activity on that Saturday night ceased.

Man in the Ditch    Return to top of page

Mr. Peter Rhengren saw a man lying in a ditch at Eighth West and Eight South at about 11:30 the night of the murders. As Rhengren approached to offer help, the man got up and ran to an approaching streetcar. This may or may not have been Frank Z. Wilson.

The neighbor    Return to top of page

John G. Morrison had been the target of two robbery attempts prior to his murder in 1914. He told neighbors and colleagues that he was "reasonably sure" he knew the men who had tried to rob him the second time. One of them, he said, "is living right here in this neighborhood and posing as a normal citizen. He even comes in this store." Morrison refused to publicly name the man he suspected until he was more positive of his theory, but he did confide in his wife.* Should anything happen, Morrison wanted his wife to have police question a certain neighbor of his. Though never publicly named, the police did interrogate this neighbor at the behest of Mrs. Morrison, but he was dismissed as a suspect after Hill was captured.

The Home of the Eselius brothers

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