24 June 2022

Soil Collection Ceremony From the 2 Lynching Sites in Salt Lake City

Jars full of soil from the lynch sites of Thomas Coleman and William Harvey.


On Saturday, June 11, 2022, I participated in the Soil Collection Ceremony for the 2 lynchings that occurred in Salt Lake City's past. 

Soil from the lynching sites were collected, placed in labeled jars, and then sent to the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) Legacy Museum in Alabama to join the other jars of soil from lynching sites around the country.

The two Black men lynched in SLC are Thomas Coleman and William Harvey.

Mr. Thomas Coleman
Thomas Coleman arrived in SLC in the early 1850’s as a slave with a party of Southern LDS slave-owners who were traveling to and settling in Utah. He subsequently worked for Brigham Young at the Salt Lake House hotel in downtown SLC and is believed to have joined the LDS faith.

The exact circumstances surrounding Coleman’s murder remain a mystery. What is known is that on Dec 11, 1866 several boys playing on Arsenal Hill (now Capitol Hill) overlooking SLC found his body. With his own knife, Coleman was stabbed in the chest twice and his throat was cut so deep that he was nearly decapitated. A sign was also left on his body that read, “Notice to all N*****s. Take warning. Leave white women alone.” He was 35 when he died.

The soil collection ceremony started at the steps of the Utah State Capitol, within view of the site of Thomas Colemans's murder (now the southwest lawn of the Capitol building).  

Ceremony at the Utah State Capitol. The lynching site of Thomas Coleman is on the southwest side of Capitol Hill.

Soil collection spoons for Thomas Coleman.

My spoon with soil at the flag marking the lynching site of Thomas Coleman on Capitol Hill.


Literature from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). This report of Lynching in America is on the EJI website


We then marched from the Utah State Capitol Building to the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building at 125 S State Street, the location of the Old City Hall building (which was moved to Capitol Hill and now serves as the Utah Office of Tourism).  

Mr. William "Sam Joe" Harvey
William Harvey (sometimes “Sam” or “Sam Joe” because he served "Uncle Sam" in the US Army) arrived in SLC in early August 1883. Little is known about his life prior to that point. He came from Pueblo, Colorado. He was an Army veteran about 35 years old and tall with an athletic build. Harvey set up a bootblack stand on Main Street. He was described as irritable and some worried about his mental health.

On August 25, 1883, just weeks after his arrival, Harvey got into an argument with F. H. Grice, a local Black restaurant owner; Harvey allegedly pulled a gun on Grice but then fled the scene without harming anyone. Harvey was soon confronted by the SLC Police, whereupon Harvey is alleged to have shot 2 police officers, of which one died. Harvey was tackled, taken into custody, and led two blocks away to City Hall (now the location of the Wallace F Bennet federal building).

A crowd quickly devolved into a mob demanding blood for the slain officer. Other police officers, after beating Harvey, turned him over to the mob that grew to an estimated 2,000 who then secured a rope around Harvey’s neck and hung him from a rafter of the jailhouse stable, adjacent to City Hall, where he died slowly and fighting for his life. After Harvey died, the crowd then drug his body down State Street for several blocks.


 Lynch site of William Harvey, previously the site of the Old City Hall and Jail and now the site of the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building. The lynching site is near the SW portion of the building.

The story of William Harvey’s lynching told by @blackmenaces

Me, adding soil to William Harvey’s jar.

I also took the suggestion to use my hands to feel the soil when filling the jar. 

My hands with soil from the site of William Harvey’s lynching. 



The courtyard at the Wallace F Bennett federal building is near the lynching site of William Harvey. 


A small rose garden grows along the edges of the courtyard. This is a relatively quiet reflection spot. I think I will write to someone (GSA?) to recommend more roses be planted. 



Save Utah's Black History. And Tell the Story. Sema Hadithi Foundation.

I am part of the Sema Hadithi Foundation, and I hope you will read about them, sign up for the newsletter, and share some of the many storieshttps://www.semahadithi.org/

15 June 2022

An 1899 map of Salt Lake City's neighborhood plats

Salt Lake City map, Published by W.H. Whitney, August 1st 1889


Maps are fun! This map from 1899 is new to me. It is a real estate map of SLC showing the various platted neighborhoods.

Some examples:

Image 2: Glendale Park Addition


Image 3: Fort Douglas and Red Butte Creek. Poperton Place is the prominent Pink cutout north of Fort Douglas.


Image 4: Utah Driving Park Race Track (500 E 2100 South)


Image 5: Hot Springs Lake (neighborhood to the west in red is near Northwest Middle School)


The official description is "Compiled from the Records and Actual Surveys By Simon F. Mackie, Civil Engineer. Published by W.H. Whitney, August 1st 1889"

There are plenty of sites on the internet that would love to sell you this lovely map, but don't fall for that.

You can download your own copy from Stanford University's Barry Lawrence Ruderman Map Collection.

URL: purl.stanford.edu/sy439kf2563

07 June 2022

04 June 2022

KUTV #BelongingInUtah showcases H.H. Voss (and me!)


Look how giddy I am as I talk with KUTV reporter Jamie McGriff about H.H. Voss, a political leader of the SLC Black community at the turn of the last century.

H.H. Voss was (likely) the first Black person to serve as an officer of the Utah Legislature.

He served as a Doorman in the 1903 legislature which, as a Black person, was probably the highest rank he was allowed to achieve.

Voss was the unofficial "mayor" of Franklin Ave, now known as Edison Street, a mid-block alley just east of the Gallivan Center which was the center of SLC's Black community before it was overtaken by gentrification in the early 1900s.

He was a leader of the SLC Black Republicans (remember, Republicans were the progressive party at this time) and he helped "deliver the Black votes" for Republican candidates and issues.

He was rewarded with an official position in the 1903 Utah Legislature, probably the first Black person to be an officer of the legislature. I will need to tell more of his story later.

This is a part of KUTV's #BelongingInUtah series:

Watch here: Local historian tracks down unique piece of Black history at Utah State Capitol

Representative Sandra Hollins and KUTV reporter Jamie McGriff at the Utah State Capitol Building, May 2022.  

The photographs of the 1903 Utah State Legislature. H.H. Voss's photo is in the lower left corner with the other Officers of the House. 

The 5th Utah State Legislature was in session in 1903.

H.H. Voss, an Officer of the Utah House of Representatives in the 1903 State Legislature. He was Doorman.