1905: Saloon owner done in by deputy
The story of John B. Millburn and his death in the middle of Price made the largest headlines of the year in the Eastern Utah Advocate in October of 1905.
Millburn, was a transplant to the area. He was born in Maine, had been a sailor for many years and later came west and spent time in Utah and Colorado as a farmer. Then he bought some property in about 1885 in Price, where he established a saloon that he ran for almost 20 years.
Owning a saloon was never an easy business. Fights, disagreements and of course just the running of a business in an atmosphere where there were many competitors over the years took its toll on many owners. But in Millburns case it also brought him at cross purposes with the town marshal John U. Bryner during Bryner's his time in the office.
When the shooting death occurred Bryner had left the office of town marshal and had taken a job with the Carbon County Sheriff's Department headed up at the time by William Hill.
The shooting took place on Oct. 9 at 7:15 p.m. in front of Millburn's business.
In the days of newspapers without any photos, reporters would often go to court and report on the entire testimony in such a case. This was one of those cases.
Justice was also much swifter in those days. Within hours the town convened a coroners jury to see if Bryner was guilty of any crime in the shooting.
The story behind this incident, as with many shootings, was much deeper than just a simple decision to go after someone. As the town marshal Bryner had been expected to enforce all laws, including those to do with businesses.
"There was not the best feeling exlating (existing?) between Millburn and Bryner owing to the some trouble between the two several months ago because of the enforcement of the Sunday closing of saloons and at which time Bryner was town marshal," stated the paper on Oct. 12, 1905. "The two had a personal encounter at the time and guns were drawn.'
As he left the position of town marshal Bryner had gone to work for the sheriffs office as a special deputy to arrest hobos and thieves who had become a nuisance along the Rio Grande Railroad line throughout the area. Often in the course of his duties in escorting those arrested to the jail or to the courthouse he had to pass Millburn's saloon. That evening he and Hill's son, along with a prisoner were passing Millburn's business with a prisoner.
"Millburn had been drinking during the day," reported The Eastern Utah Advocate. "Had he not been, unquestionably there would have been no trouble."
Millburn was found to have been shot five times from a .32 revolver by the examining physician. Some of the questions about his shooting resulted from the number of bullets found in the man.
On the stand William Hill's son (Bill) gave testimony of what happened and he presented the situation such as that Millburn challenged them, and particularly Bryner from crossing in front of his business. He had some type of long gun in his hands when it happened.
"I was walking in the lead and about the side of Millburn's saloon when Millburn said 'No s--- of a b---- can pass this sidewalk,'" stated the young Hill. He told that Millburn asked who he was and he told him he was the sheriff's son. Millburn said, according to young Hill, that he didn't care who he was that he could not pass by the saloon.
Young Hill testified that Bryner told Millburn to drop the gun, but he didn't no matter how they tried to get around or away from him.
"He was chasing us around and Bryner told him to keep the gun down," said young Hill.
The boy said that he heard first one shot then others. He did not know who fired first. He also testified that the whole thing did not happen all at once, but took between "five and 10 minutes."
The prisoner that was under Bryner's care (Frank Miller) had been arrested for breaking into a train car. He said that Millburn "started to fire at us three fellows" and that he (Miller) ran because "he (Millburn) fired five or six times and I ran because I was scared."
The paper noted that some of the testimony of some other witnesses were not printable in the paper because the epithets Millburn uttered during the incident were so vile.
There was obvious suspicion that Bryner had overdone the shooting by hitting Bryner five times. But other witnesses testified there were many shots and it was apparent that Millburn had chased young Hill and Bryner while firing at them. It was unclear just how many shots were exacted by each man, but obviously Bryners had found the mark a number of times, while Millburn had completely missed.
After hearing all the testimony, a jury consisting of Frank M. Ramsey, Erastus Anderson and Edward E. Ramsey, found that the shooting was justifiable homicide. Justice Curtis took no action against Bryner, nor was it referred to the county attorney for any kind of charges.
It was just one more instance in the wild and crazy days when Price was still a frontier town.