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Front Page » May 5, 2009 » Carbon County News » Relative stability preceeded by crime and pressure
Published 1,962 days ago

Relative stability preceeded by crime and pressure


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Just before Robert and and John Crockett came to Price, and purchased the Eastern Utah Advocate in August of 1898, Clarence Marsh, the publisher of the paper got himself in a lot of trouble with some of the powers that be in the county.

He did that because he was printing news they didn't like. His propensity to publish news about people regardless of their standing in the community, put him under a lot of pressure and even physical threats at times.

Probably the most notable story he published in his short time as editor was his concerns about the beating of a man by two well-known citizens, J.W. Warf a local lawyer (and county attorney at the time) and Alpha Ballinger, a fairly well-known business man in Price. The fight took place over water rights and the two apparently assaulted a man named John Watson on the evening of June 9. One held a rifle on him while the other savagely beat him with a pistol and a "cottonwood club." The states case in the matter presented five witnesses who saw the crime but after the two sides of the case were presented, the judge, J. Patrick Fitch of Helper where the trial was held, released the two, saying they were guiltless in the crime.

Marsh called it a farce in the article that told about court action and the release. In those days often editorials about an action were often offered right within the news copy. Because of his stance Marsh later wrote that he had been threatened "by some underbred monkeys" concerning the stories in the paper. As far as accounts in the paper go the threats of physical harm never came to fruition, but less than a couple of months later, just after Watson had recovered from the first beating, Warf killed him on a Price street early one Sunday morning.

Watson had sworn to get "personal satisfaction" after the first trial for what Warf and Ballinger had done. The two had six shooters and fought it out near the then location of Price Trading Company on July 21. The account of the shooting in the Advocate was quite graphic saying that Watson was shot in the groin and then in the chest, which proved to be the fatal wound, despite the fact the local doctor was able to remove the bullets and had hoped for the best. However it was unclear exactly how things transpired, because witnesses in the incident were "scarce" according to the account in the paper on August 8, 1898.

Warf was arrested within a couple of days on the charges of homocide, and once again the venue of the trial was moved to Helper where Fitch presided once again. He dismissed the case because he said that Warf was justified in doing what he did. All this took place within a week and a half of the killing. Justice in 1898 apparently moved much quicker than it does today.

Interestingly enough, the Advocate said little about the situation in terms of judgement about either Warf or the judges decision. Either Marsh had succumbed to the threats, both physical and monetary, or knew he was on his way out and had lost the stomach for fighting any further.

However after the Crockett's took the paper over there was a report the next March that Marsh was arrested on the charge of criminal libel put against him by Justice of the Peace of Spring Glen based on some other kinds of things Marsh had printed and said about him. Surprisingly no trial was held because the case was dismissed by no other than Judge J. Patrick Fitch, the man who Marsh had ridiculed for his stance in the Warf -Watson beating the year before.

After that no mention of Marsh was ever made in the Advocate again, and the era of the Crockett's, who would have their own dramas and traumas through their years of ownership of the Eastern Utah Advocate and later The Sun, would begin.

Editors note: This is one in a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate that will run until 2011 when the paper will celebrate its 120th anniversary.

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