The following is wholly from Gibbs M. Smith's Joe Hill-The Facts Re: Joe Hill's whereabouts during the murder of J.G. Morrison and its immediate investigation (all times are close approximations). Please note: this is a severely abbreviated account.

  • Saturday January 10, 1914

    1. 6-9:00 p.m. Joseph Hillstrom (a.k.a. Joe Hill) left the Eselius home, where he had been staying with friends (he met Edward and John Eselius earlier that year in San Pedro).

    2. 9:30-10:00 p.m. In the Nellie Mahan home, located across the street to the south of the Morrison store, Nellie heard a series of shots and hurried to her front room. Looking out the window to see if there was a light in the store, she saw a man wearing a dark coat and a soft hat run from the store to the corner of the curb on 8th South. The man uttered some words which she did not understand, then reportedly said "I'm shot." He stopped briefly on the corner, and then ran toward the alley in the back of her house.

    3. 10:00 p.m. John G. Morrison and two of his sons, Merlin and Arling, were in the process of closing the Morrison grocery store. Arling, a youth in his late teens, was sweeping; Mr. Morrison was pulling a sack of potatoes across the floor, and thirteen-year-old Merlin was moving toward the entrance of the store. Two men wearing red bandana handkerchiefs over their faces and soft felt hats entered. One was tall, the other short, and each carried a pistol. As they entered they shouted "We have got you now!" Merlin, the only living witness of the ensuing gunfight, recalled the following: The men advanced towards Morrison and a shot was fired; Morrison stood up from behind the counter with his back to Merlin. One of the men leaned over the counter and fired a shot. Morrison fell behind the counter out of Merlin's view. Immediately after the second shot several more shots were fired; the men then fled from the store. Merlin went to his father who was still alive but unable to speak. Merlin then saw his brother lying dead on his side with his right hand outstretched. Near Arling's hand was a pistol which Merlin had seen his father load and place in the ice-box that evening. The boy ran to the telephone and called the police.

    4. 10:15 p.m. The first policemen arrived on the scene of the Morrison murder. They took Morrison to the police station hospital where he died without making a statement about the killers. The police and neighbors made a thorough search of the area around the store-a search which yielded four suspects, who were duly arrested, and some rather curious evidence. It is not clear when these suspects were released, however, it is evident that Hill monopolized police interest after his arrest, and it is probable that other suspects were released shortly thereafter.

      1. Two policemen had to "empty their guns" to apprehend two suspects who were trying to board a freight train that was slowly leaving a railroad station not far from the store. The men, (1) C.E. Christensen and (2) Joe Woods, were jailed. The police discovered that they were wanted in Prescott, Arizona, for a $300 robbery.

      2. The man later identified as (3) W. J. Williams who was found walking near the Morrison grocery store and was arrested. A bloody handkerchief was found in his pocket, and the newspapers reported that the police suspected he was one of the killers and was looking for his companion when arrested. Williams told police that he was living at the Salvation Army House, but inquiries proved he was not known there. The only statement Williams made was that he was innocent.

      3. Nineteen-year-old (4) Oran Anderson became a suspect when he walked into the police station with a 38-caliber bullet wound in his arm. He claimed he had been held up by two gunmen in the vicinity of Eighth South and Sixth West streets. He was questioned extensively because of the possibility that he might have been wounded in the Morrison store.

    5. 11:30 p.m. Hillstrom visited the home of Dr. Frank M. McHugh on the corner of Fourteenth South and State street in Salt Lake City. Upon being received at the home, Hill said, "Doctor, I've been shot. I got in a stew with a friend of mine who thought I insulted his wife. When he told me I insulted his wife I knocked him down, but he got up and pulled a gun and shot me. I have walked a way up here so I guess it ain't serious because this fellow that shot me didn't really know what he was doing, I want to have nothing said about it. If there's a chance to get over it, it will be O.K. with my friend." It is later, after the arrival of Dr. Bird (a friend of McHugh), as he is examining Hill's bullet wound, that the Doctor notices Hill has a gun in a shoulder holster. Joe claimed to have been unarmed at the time he was shot, and offered no explanation as to why he had the gun upon his arrival.

  • Sunday January 11, 1914

    1. 12:30-1:00 a.m. Dr. Bird, at the request of McHugh, drives Jill home. On the way to the Eselius house Hill discards his fire-arm, and signals as they approach the house with two shrill whistles. Joe arrives at the Eselius house.

The Arraignment and Trial of Joe Hill, In Brief.

From Gibbs M. Smith's Joe Hill

  • Monday January 13, 1914

    1. Joe Hill was recovering from his gunshot wound at the Eselius home.

  • Tuesday January 14, 1914

    1. Hill was in jail. The police working from a tip-off from Dr. McHugh apprehended Hill (who's only action, for which he was shot in the hand, was to reach for a handkerchief).

  • Wednesday January 15, 1914

    1. According to Hill, when Merlin is brought to confirm or disconfirm Hill's identity as one of the men in the store he says, "No, that's not the man at all. The ones I saw were shorter and heavier set."

  • Monday January 20, 1914

    1. He was formally charged with Murder in the first-degree.

  • Monday January 27, 1914

    1. Hill enters a plea of Not Guilty at his arraignment appearance before Precinct Justice Harry S. Harper. He rejects counsel, on the grounds that he can't afford it (and likely doesn't trust a public defender, who is working for the same entity that is trying to convict him), and desires a Pro Se defense.

  • Tuesday January 28, 1914

    1. According to a statement of Hill's that was submitted to the Utah Board of pardons regarding the preliminary hearing, Hill, acting Pro Se, decided to "let them have it all their own way" and not ask any questions. Hill did, however, question Merlin about his earlier January 15th statement, the boy denied making the statement, in court. Mrs. Phoebe Seeley, a witness of sorts, was subjected to leading questioning by the county prosecutor. Hill states his belief that her testimony was particularly damning to his defense, although he didn't cross-examine her. Another important witness was Mrs. Vera Hansen, who saw 2 or 3 men fleeing the scene of the crime. She allegedly heard one of them say "Bob" or "Oh Bob". Hill inquired of her "Do you mean to tell me that you, though that single word Bob, your were able to recognize my voice?" The hearing resulted in Justice Harper's ruling that there was sufficient evidence against Hill to warrant a trial. Joe Hill would be tried in the courtroom of Judge Morris L. Ritchie. The trial was set for June 17, 1914. Hill was to be charged for only one of the murders, that of J.G. Morrison. Hill obtained legal representation for the trial in a rather unusual way. Shortly after the preliminary hearing, E.D. McDougall visited Hill and explained that he was an attorney, a stranger in town, and interested in the case. He offered to handle Hills case free of charge. Hill accepted. Shortly thereafter, McDougall became partners in defense with F.B. Scott.

  • Wednesday June 17, 1914

    1. District Attorney (D.A.) Leatherwood indicated that the state's evidence was only circumstantial and that he would not prove directly that Hill had killed Morrison, but would submit a chain of circumstances from which guilt would be inferred. The first state's witnesses were policeman who introduced routine material evidence relevant to the crime.

  • Thursday June 18, 1914

    1. Merlin Morrison testifies. Though his testimony did not hurt the state's case, he did not live up to the hype surrounding his status as a key witness. He failed to positively identify the accused as one of the men he saw, the night of the murder. This was due, mostly, to the fact that the murderers had been wearing hats, and bandanas over their faces.

  • Friday June 19, 1914

    1. Herman Harms, the state chemist, testifying that the blood found in the ally on the night of the murder was definitely of "mammalian origin" but that he could not determine whether it was human or not. At this point Hill stood and addressed the court. He proceeded to tell the Judge that he was firing his attorneys. There was some debate in the judge's mind as to whether or not to take Hill seriously. Eventually the judge rules that Hill could represent himself, but that Scott and McDougall were to remain on staff as amicus curiae (friends of the court) to assist Hill in his defense. This was a key event in the trial. Though the D.A. went through the rounds with many witnesses, and though the bulk of them saw Hill as resembling, in one way or another, the murderer, the testimony was not hard evidence. F.B. Scott, still bitter about the incident more than a year later, wrote the Salt Lake Telegram in August 1915:

        The foreman of the jury and several other jurymen tell me that we were conducting the defense so well that they were inclined to believe him innocent until the uncalled for outbreak…The jurymen say that had all the earmarks of guilt to their minds…