Murder over water rights highlights news in mid-'30's
(Editors Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011).
On the front page of the Sun Advocate on Jan. 2, 1936, a top-of-the-page piece exclaimed "Another Milestone" as the paper reached it's 45th anniversary (by heredity). It had also been a publication in its own right as the Sun Advocate for three years (having been created from the News-Advocate and The Sun).
The paper's owners exclaimed that the paper had "endeavored to keep stride with (the) advancing march of progress" in connection with "the days of the stage coach (1891) to the current period of motor and airway travel." The editor also stated that it was "a foundation upon which may be built a publication which will in every way be reflective of the progressiveness of the community which it serves."
With that said, a new year began, and while a somewhat mild year of news compared to many others, it still had its big headlines.
The paper itself had changed in the last three years. It had started using photos on the front page for stories, a first for the Sun Advocate. However it was numbers of issues in between when it was done. None throughout 1936 were of any kind of action or view shots, but instead head shots of various officials. Inside the paper had started to use photos more and more in advertising and some national or regional photos taken by those not from the area. While the Sun Advocate was not the first in the area to use extensive photos inside its pages (the News-Advocate and Helper Journal had done it extensively since the late 1920s) they were the first to put them on the front page.
Other changes had come too. The first comic strips started to appear in 1935. Although political cartoons had been used in the areas papers since 1900, comic strips were something else. For the Sun Advocate it began in May of 1935 and they appeared periodically throughout the next few years, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. The first set that appeared in the May 30, 1935 issue had strips that filled two pages. Some strips were named, others were not. Funny ones included Frog Pond Ferry, Buttons and Fatty and Frankie Higgins and his Dog. Frog Pond Ferry was one of the most interesting in that the main character was a snake, something many people dislike. There was also a serious strip called The Pioneers.
As for the format of the paper, it didn't change much except the reporting became more succinct and the opinions offered became more diverse. The paper was a community support, but it also criticized when it had to.
Big stories of 1936 were few, but timely. Unusually, the largest story of the year that was not political (it was a general election year in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his second term as president) was a murder that took place in Emery County. That's because the trial took place at the Carbon County Courthouse.
The murder was a double one; the Emery County Sheriff, W.L. Black, and his brother, Roy Black were killed when Hugh Wayman, shot them both over a water rights dispute that had been going on for some time on Aug. 23. Wayman surrendered that day to Ferron Town Marshall George Duncan, admitting at the time that he had done the killings.
To make the murder trial and testimony more convoluted, then main witness was Roy Black's wife, who was also Wayman's sister. The only other witness was 16- year-old Don Olsen, who happened to be walking by when the shootings took place and ran when he heard the shots. Interestingly enough, once it was established the sheriff was dead, Olsen's father, J. Leonard Olsen, was immediatelly appointed the acting sheriff for the county.
During the trial Wayman still admitted he had killed the two, but disputed the background of the incident given by other witnesses. He had pleaded not guilty because he said the shootings were in self defense based on prior threats and actions by Roy Black. It was also reported at one point he was asking for voluntary manslaughter as well.
In the end the jury found him guilty, but not of first degree murder which would have carried the death penalty but of second degree murder for which he as sentenced to life in the Utah State Prison.
The murder and eventual trial shocked the entire Castle Valley area. Stories were told about the relationship of Wayman and his sister, as well as his relationship with her husband Roy. How Will Black tied in other than to be helping out his brother was never really discerned in the news reporting done.
Other important stories of 1936 that the Sun Advocate covered included growing support by various organizations of putting a junior college (as part of the University of Utah) in Price, the establishment of the first local radio station in Carbon County (KEUB).
In February the paper published a special section on the Civilian Conservation Corp camp in Price. It was a three page section and was put together and edited by men from the camp. Camp Price was officially known as Company 593.
The elections also brought more than Roosevelt to office. In the local area the Democrats won heavily and while J. Bracken Lee (a future governor of Utah and mayor of Salt Lake) had been elected as mayor of Price the year before, another local, Reese M. Reese, who had been the Carbon County Treasurer, was elected state treasurer.
The Sun Advocate was becoming more and more sophisticated in both reporting and in typography. It was becoming a modern newspaper in every way. That would become even more evident in the years before the start of World War II.