On September 9, 1891, Cass Hite killed Adolf F. Kohler in the Green River Valley of the Utah Territory in self-defense. Despite this, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. What followed were petitions, letters, and people asking one question: why?
The answer was complicated. Prosecutors in court claimed Hite killed Kohler out of anger after being called a coward (The People of the Territory of Utah vs. Cass Hite, n.d.). For Hite’s defense, Kohler shot first after Hite went to him to settle their differences without violence (Salt Lake Tribune 1892, 3). The court split when the first trial proceeded in February 1892. With no solid proof of either sides’ story besides bullet holes and a dead man, a he-said she-said predicament ensued. Witnesses contradicted each other on key points depending on which side they supported. “Ultimately,” says Knipmeyer, author of Hite’s biography, “[it] came down to which witnesses each member of the…jury believed” (Knipmeyer 2016, 147-148).
The evening of January 4, 1884 terror struck the town of Provo, Utah. Billows of black smoke filled the auburn colored sky. The school house, Brigham Young Academy, burnt to the ground with no hope of salvation (Jensen 1924). The community was always willing to lend a hand when a tragedy such as a fire struck but there was no authority or supplies dedicated to the town’s fire safety. Five years (1890) after the Brigham Young Academy fire, Mayor John E. Booth decided that it was time to act so he organized the first volunteer fire department of Provo, Utah (Walden 1990). Marshal John A. Brown was appointed as chief captain and Hyrum Hatton as engineer (Herald Publishing Co. 1911).