Pistol Packin’ Parsons

Ah, the stories that have been told and believed about the Mormons of 19th century Utah! Many will swear today that the most outrageous fantasies were historical fact, so it’s refreshing to hear from someone who fell for the bloody tales and later had the grace to admit he was wrong.

When Utah’s Methodists met in conference in Provo in July, 1879, they welcomed a new worker to their ranks. Marshall Bennett Hyde, 31, was an experienced preacher, a native of Indiana who came to Utah from a pastoral assignment in Missouri. He was assigned to officiate in the newly established church in Ogden.

Hyde hadn’t been there very long before he was visited by two Mormons who lived in a settlement a short distance from Ogden. A man had come from Missouri to visit his Mormon sister and had died while at her home. Because he was a Methodist, the sister wished to give him a Methodist funeral, and Hyde’s two callers had been dispatched to request his assistance. (I have not been able to identify the deceased man or the town where he died; sometimes history stubbornly refuses to disclose all the details we would like.)

Hyde hesitated. He had not been long in Utah, but he had come West with a full stock of lurid tales about Mormon “avenging angels” and the rumored casual bloodshed of Utah. “I confess I didn’t like the outlook,” he later said. “Methodist preachers did not stand in very good favor with the Mormons, and I did not know but this might be a scheme to get me into a place where I could safely be made away with.”

Finally Hyde decided that his duty lay in going to preach the funeral sermon, even if it put his life at risk. Perhaps the danger would be less, he reasoned, if he did not go alone. So Hyde called on George Washington Gallagher, the 30-year-old pastor of Ogden’s Presbyterian church, who had been in Utah only a few months longer than Hyde himself. Gallagher, a native of New York, had graduated from Princeton Seminary; his post at Ogden was the first of his career. He agreed to go with Hyde to assist in providing the funeral service.

“When we got to the place where the funeral was to be held,” Hyde recalled, “we found a great throng of people. Mormons had gathered from far and near to see and hear the Methodist and Presbyterian preachers from Ogden, for we were as great a novelty there as a Mormon preacher would be in a country community in Indiana.

“I flatter myself that I preached a pretty strong sermon. We were both treated with the greatest consideration and kindliness, and started home, feeling on pretty good terms with ourselves.”

One thing bothered Hyde, though. “Reaching back to my hip pocket, I drew therefrom a revolver, and with humble hesitation, told my Presbyterian brother of the fears that had caused me to make this provision.”

And Gallagher’s reaction? “Then my Presbyterian brother, reaching back under his coat tails, also brought out a revolver and admitted that he had brought the weapon, not knowing what might happen. We were both ashamed.”

Gallagher served in Ogden until 1880 when he was transferred to Eureka, Nevada; Hyde left Ogden in April 1881.

That private moment when both men realized that they had believed the foolish tales of idle tongues might have been lost to history. But in 1905, Hyde attended a Methodist ministers’ meeting in Indianapolis. He chatted with friends before the meeting was called to order, about “the increasing frequency of murder, made easy by the ubiquitous revolver.” The discussion called to memory “the first and only time in my life that I ever carried a revolver,” a story that was overheard by a reporter for the Indianapolis News and preserved in his account of the meeting.

This is a column published in the Salt Lake Tribune12 July 2012 that hadn’t ever made its way to Keepa.

Cite Keepa

Regrettably, meanies have stolen content from Keepa in the past! I'm confident you will choose honesty and cite this page like this:

MLA: Parshall, Ardis E. "Pistol Packin' Parsons." Keepapitchin.org, 02 May 2023, https://keepapitchinin.org/pistol-packin-parsons/.

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4 thoughts on “Pistol Packin’ Parsons”

  1. Thanks, Gary!

    (Now that Keepa is functioning again, technologically, thanks to Jenny Smith’s reworking of the website, I’m going to transfer quite a bit of material here for archiving.)

  2. Thanks, Onidsen! I’m still training the new setup to recognize real comments from spam; I just found your comment, and apology for the delay in appreciation.

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