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Joe Hill, a 35-year-old immigrant, migrant laborer, and union organizer, faced a firing squad on November 19, 1915, at Sugar House Prison, very near the posted coordinates. Sixteen months earlier, he had been convicted of the murder of Salt Lake grocer John Morrison.
Below left is an aerial photo taken when the prison occupied the northern part of what we now know as Sugarhouse Park. 21st South angles up from west to east through the center of the photo. The prison yard is on the south side of 21st South, stretching between 14th and 15th East.
Sugar House Prison, circa 1950 Sugarhouse Park, 2017
Above right is a contemporary view of the same area. The park road between the entrances passes through ground previously occupied by the prison, which was relocated to Draper in 1951. The red star marks the posted coordinates, which are roughly at the southwest corner of the old prison.
Joel Hägglund, 1898
Joel Hägglund was born in 1879 in Gävle, Sweden, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1902. In Chicago he was blacklisted from employment for trying to form a union. To escape the blacklist he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom and eventually to Joe Hill.
Joe moved west, where he worked at jobs from Canada down to Mexico. In 1910 he joined the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies), a radical socialist union made up primarily of immigrants. He began writing songs for the movement.
As an immigrant, Joe worked at difficult jobs. He cleaned spittoons, unloaded ships, repaired machinery, and mined silver.
As a Wobbly, Joe was involved in strikes, slowdowns, and sabotage. The Wobblies directly confronted the failures of capitalism, especially its treatment of the working class.
Joe Hill, 1914
As a musician, Joe wrote and performed songs in support of the union. For example, "The Preacher and the Slave" parodied a popular hymn and coined a now-familiar metaphor:
Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet
You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and Pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die
In 1913 Joe moved to Utah. He didn't make it out alive.
The Morrison family poses in front of their Salt Lake City home. From the left are Robert, Arling, John, James, Blanche, Marie, Merlin, and Perry.
On the evening of January 10, 1914, John Morrison, his 17-year-old son Arling, and his 13-year-old son Merlin were preparing to close the family grocery store for the night. John and Arling were at work in the front of the store and Merlin was in the back.
At about 9:45 two masked men entered. One of them shouted "We've got you now!" and shot John dead. Arling pulled his father's pistol from its hiding place before being shot three times. The killers left immediately without taking anything. Merlin, who had witnessed the crime, called the police.
The police concluded that Arling had gotten off a shot before being killed, wounding one of the assailants.
The Morrison family's grocery store at 778 S. West Temple, the current location of Mark Miller Toyota
(This was later contested at trial. No blood and no bullets supporting the theory were found in the store.)
About two hours after the murder, Joe Hill arrived at the home office of Dr. Frank McHugh in Murray seeking treatment for a gunshot wound to his chest. Joe told Dr. McHugh that he had been shot during an argument about a woman. (Famously, the defense did not offer this or any other explanation for Joe's wound at the trial.) Dr. McHugh later turned in Joe because of his wound.
Joe Hill's trial was held at the Salt Lake City and County Building
Joe Hill's trial for the murder of Robert Morrison began on June 10, 1914.
The prosecution had no motive and no murder weapon.
Neither Merlin Morrison nor the neighbors who had seen the murderers arriving at and fleeing from the scene could definitively identify Joe as an assailant.
In the end, Joe Hill was an immigrant, an outsider, and a union agitator with a convenient gunshot wound. District Attorney Elmer Leatherwood asked the jury to keep people safe from "parasites on society who murder and rob rather than make an honest living."
On June 27, after two hours of deliberation, the 12-man jury complied.
Joe Hill's Chicago funeral
Utah Governor William Spry received thousands of letters protesting Joe Hill's upcoming execution. President Woodrow Wilson twice asked that the execution be delayed.
Over 30,000 people came to Joe's Chicago funeral.
"Don't mourn---Organize!" has been a labor rallying cry ever since Joe's death.
"I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night," a song from 1930, has been performed by Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.
Joe Hill lives!
Click to see a graphic novel of Joe Hill's story by Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune
To claim a find for this cache, visit the posted coordinates, log the cache online, and send me a message describing what you found at ground zero.
To learn more, visit the Salt Lake Tribune's excellent Legacy of Joe Hill.
This is Joe Hill's will, written in prison shortly before his execution:
My will is easy to decide
For there is nothing to divide
My kin don't need to fuss and moan
"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone"
My body? Ah, If I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again
This is my last and final will
Good luck to all of you, Joe Hill
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between August 24, 2017 and August 24, 2018. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards on the Geocaching Blog.