The Butchers of Bingham
Bill Hickman’s daughter, Sarah Catherine (1835-1914, her mother was Bill’s first wife, Bernetta) married Samuel Monroe Butcher (1828-1908) in about 1852. The newlyweds accompanied her father to Sacramento, California where their first three children were born; they returned to Utah about 1857. By the summer of 1873 they were operating a successful ranch on Bingham Creek near the mouth of the canyon, and the couple had 11 children whose ages ranged from 20 to 2 (they eventually had 13). In 1862 Samuel had taken a second wife, Mary Chadwick (1843-1896) and by the summer of 1873 they had 6 children, aged 9 to 2 (they eventually had 12). Little else would be known about these Butcher families were it not for a disagreement they had with some neighbors:
THREE MEN KILLED.—The following came by Deseret Telegraph last night:
BINGHAM, 24 July.—Three men were killed here this afternoon about four o’clock. The fight occurred near the mouth of Bingham Cañon. The parties killed are old man Cotton and two of his eldest sons. They were murdered near the man Cotton’s house. One of the men’s name who is supposed to have killed them is Butcher, the others are not known.
The following was received this morning:
BINGHAM, 25.—In the fight yesterday, old man Cotton was killed instantly. The youngest son Gabriel was shot five times with a revolver to the body and once with buckshot, to the side of the head, but he is still breathing. The eldest son was shot five times, and cut in several places with a knife. He died instantly. Butcher, one of the implicated parties, was arrested last night. The constable found him in his house. He made no resistance. The examination comes off to-morrow. A young boy named Thompson, passing at the time on horseback, was thrown and had his arm badly broken. There is considerable excitement here over the shooting. The full account of it will come out to-morrow in the examination. The fight was the result of an old grudge.
BINGHAM, 25, 11:00 a.m.
EXTRA—Gabriel Cotton died about two hours ago.
From a gentleman acquainted with the Cotton family, who reached this city this morning, the following particulars concerning the tragedy were obtained:
The senior Cotton was about proceeding in the direction of Butcher’s place on some business, and two of his sons said they had better go with him. They all three started and when they got near Butcher’s house, Butcher called one of the sons in, there being two other men in the house with him. Young Cotton entered and, without any fight, Butcher shot him, Cotton fell to his knees, when Butcher shot him again, and then hammered him on the head with the butt of his pistol, and finally chopped him with a knife. The three desperadoes then shot the old man and the other son. A boy on horseback, believed to be some connection of the Cottons, was also shot at, but the ball missed him and hit the horse, and the boy was thrown and his arm broken.
Coroner Geo. J. Taylor was sent for to hold an inquest on the bodies, and he left this city for that purpose this morning.
–Deseret News, Semi-Weekly, Tues Jul 29 1873
"SOD" BUTCHER SLAUGHTERS THREE MEN.
Bingham Becomes Notorious for Plural Exterminators.
Thursday evening a private telegram informed us that a man named Cotton and his two sons had been killed near the mouth of Bingham cañon, by one "Sod" Butcher, who lives close by the Cottons, at that place. There were also many rumors circulated through the city on that evening and yesterday, about the affair, most of which were exaggerated, or biased for one or the other parties. The report which is probably the nearest correct is that an old grudge existed between Butcher and the Cottons. On Thursday old man Cotton had occasion to visit Butcher’s place on business, and his two sons, fearing harm might befall their father, accompanied him. Arriving at the house, Butcher invited one of the young men to enter, which he did, at the same time making an insulting remark to one of Butcher’s children. At that Butcher seized a gun, and before young Cotton could escape shot him dead. The father and the other son were at the time a short distance from the house, saw what had transpired, when they commenced firing into the house, but without doing any execution, except to smash some window glass. Butcher watched his chance, and as an opportunity offered he fired again, killing the father, and shortly after wounding the other son, who died yesterday. It is said that Butcher fired at other parties, but the rumors lack confirmation. There was another man in Butcher’s house at the time of the killing, but he is not charged with taking any part in the tragedy. Deputy-Sheriff Sanders, of Bingham, arrested Butcher Thursday evening, and conveyed him to Bingham city, where a guard was placed over him. Early yesterday morning, Coroner Taylor left this city for the purpose of holding an inquest. The inquest was opened in the afternoon, but at a late hour last evening very little evidence had been given. Until evidence is taken we prefer not to publish anything that would prejudice anyone. All of the parties connected with the transaction bear bad reputations in the community. The man Cotton, father to the boys, has been looked upon as a terror to quiet settlers in that region for a long time; and Butcher’s relation to Bill Hickman as his son-in-law, does not add to public opinion in his favor.
–Salt Lake Daily Herald, Sat Jul 26 1873
On the 25th day of July, 1873 Coroner Taylor was notified by J.F. Tasker that three men had been murdered at the mouth of Bingham Cañon and there being no justice of the peace willing to officiate he immediately went out to the scene of slaughter and proceeded to hold an inquest in the case.
The three bodies were found lying side by side in a little cabin near the mouth of the cañon and occasionally parties would drop in to see them, but no one being willing to act as a juror in the case it became necessary to summon jurymen from the town of Bingham some miles above, which was done.
--Utah State Archives, Salt Lake County Coroner Record Book, Series 4143 p.109
[The inquest was also reported with slight variations in several newspapers as follows:]
THE TRIPPLE MURDER.
REPORT OF THE CORONER’S INQUEST.
AND THE VERDICT OF THE JURY.
On Friday the inquest on the bodies of Gabriel L. Cotton, Gilbert Cotton and Gabriel Cotton, Jr., the three men shot by Samuel Butcher and others, was held at the mouth of Bingham Canyon, the scene of the tragedy, before Geo. J. Taylor, Coroner of Salt Lake County.
Being Sworn, testified as follows.
I was at Mr. Butcher’s about ten minutes before the quarrel. Mr. Cotton, Sen., came along, and he and Mr. Butcher had words; this occurred at two o’clock yesterday afternoon; I could not hear all that was said, but they were talking very hard. The old man Cotton had left and gone below to Mumford’s ranch, when young Cotton came along and asked Butcher where his father was; Butcher told him he had gone down to Mumford’s; young Cotton replied: "You are a damned liar;" at this remark, Butcher and young Cotton commenced shooting; they both had revolvers and shot guns. I saw the boy Cotton shot off his horse by Butcher. Both Cotton boys came there and quarreled. I saw H.W. Taylor shoot at J.F. Tasker.
Was then sworn and said Mr. Butcher shot twice or three times at me when I went down. I then went back and saddled a horse and went down again, and saw the old man Cotton go out of the hollow (ravine), and Butcher following him with a gun in his hand. Old man Cotton waved his hands for me to go away, and I went and harnessed up the horses to the wagon.
Mrs. Mary Jane Cotton.
I and the little boy went down to Butcher’s; Butcher shot the old gentleman twice (meaning her husband). I begged him not to shoot, but he shot him again. There was another man who shot him afterward; I did not know who he was; Mr. Cotton was 52 years of age, Gabriel 19 and Bert 21.
Said he went down to Mr. Butcher’s on business and had a chat with him; we had words; he said I took his poles; I denied it harshly; he struck me and I struck him back; he drove me back up the Canyon, and told me that I had better go and get Cotton’s band, and he would clean them out; I walked backward with a stone in each hand for defense. The old man, Cotton, was down at the cross fence; don’t know why he was there; when I got back we then went down to Butcher’s and had some words with him about the morning’s fight; I left Cotton at Butchers quarreling, and went down to Mumford’s, where Cotton followed me immediately afterward. The eldest boy came down and told us that his brother was shot; old man Cotton and the boy then went up around the north side of Butcher’s house.
A boy between nine and ten years of age, said one man beside Butcher came up and shot his father. He did not see his father shoot;
Sarah C. Butcher
Said that Mr. Kirk came down and talked tough, as though he wanted to fight; so the children said. She also said that Kirk hit Butcher in the mouth. Butcher then picked up Mr. Kirk and threw him down, and I and Mr. Gee took him off and would not let him strike Kirk. Butcher followed Kirk quite a distance. The fuss was about poles. Kirk said I’ll go and fetch some one that will soon settle you. Butcher replied: "You had better get Cotton and his band." Kirk came again on horseback, and Butcher said, Billy, you had better get down and settle that affair. I never allow anyone to strike me in the mouth—get down and I’ll whip you. Cotton spoke up and said "You told him to bring down Cotton and his band—I am come, and I am always ready for anything you want." Butcher said I ain’t talking to you; I don’t want anything to do with you, so you had better pass along the road. They then quarreled, and Cotton called Butcher a liar. They quarreled quite a while. Cotton then went down to Mumford’s where Kirk had gone just before. I saw young Gabe Cotton coming with a shot-gun. Asked if his father was there, Butcher told him he was at Mumford’s, then Gabe said, "You are a lying son of a b—h; he is there;" he then drew his shot-gun to shoot, but it snapped; Butcher then shot him with a single barrel shot-gun, and he fell off the horse. Bert, another son of Cotton’s, then came and asked where his father was, but no answer was given, except I told him I believed his brother was shot; he was then in the road and fired two shots into the house. Old man Cotton arrived just at that time, and wanted to know who had been shot. Butcher said to Wm. Taylor, "Take care of that man Bert Cotton, Taylor." Told Bert to go into the house; he went down two steps and stood there. Old man Cotton then begun to talk and called Butcher a liar, and a son of a b—h, and said, "If you want anything of me you can have it." He then fired two shots at Butcher, when Butcher took the same shot gun used before and shot him and he fell, I was scuffling with Bert, who was trying to take the gun away from me to defend his father; it was a double-barreled shot gun that was lying beside the steps. Then Butcher turned and shot Bert with a Derringer, because, as he said, Bert had tried to kill him. Butcher never left the house except to go to the stable. Butcher, Wm. Taylor and Gee were all present. It is a quarter of a mile from Butcher’s to Mumford’s place. All was over in about fifteen minutes. Butcher stood outside when he shot Cotton; that is, Cotton was between the house and Butcher when he was shot. Butcher shot Bert once on the stool, once on the bed, and once under the bed. I and my daughter had got the gun from Bert, and he was sitting on a stool when he was first shot.
Said I didn’t see any one but Bert killed. I ran into the cellar and hid when the row commenced. Bert was putting water on his head, and took some in his mouth from me as I was passing with water. He said "Oh, my brother." Butcher, Taylor and Gee were there. Thompson came just as old man Cotton came up.
Daughter of Mr. Butcher’s, substantiated her mother’s testimony, and said she knew nothing about the scuffle for the gun; she led Bert by the arm and sat him down on the stool and then went out. It was about three minutes between the time the gun was taken and the time when he was shot. The investigation at this point adjourned until yesterday, in order to secure the attendance of other witnesses. At two o’clock yesterday afternoon the investigation was resumed at the Recorder’s office at Bingham City, when the following testimony was taken:
A teamster, said, as I was coming home from the Wasatch smelter with the team, I saw a party coming from Butcher’s meeting us going down the canyon (in the direction of Lehi). Cotton was among them, and was ahead on the near side of the road, there were two other gentlemen following him armed, the fourth man apparently about nineteen or twenty years of age, was also following him, but was not armed. One of those on the near side I supposed was Butcher, Cotton and him appeared to be quarrelling. Butcher had his hand on the seat of his pants. Cotton was also armed, but made no demonstration. After he passed me he partly turned around and said to Butcher, I don’t want to talk to you and will not. One of the men that was opposite Butcher laid on his haunches, and apparently took aim at Cotton. The fourth man patted him on the head, and I shouted tut, tut, and he did not fire. They then all walked back to Butcher’s house, except Cotton, who kept on the road. Two men referred to who were armed came up to town with Butcher when he was arrested yesterday, but they are not under arrest. This was about three p.m. on the day of the murder.
Said I arrived at Mr. Cotton’s on the day of the murder—the 24th of July, at which time Cotton was talking to a man whom they call the little Scotchman, living at the first house this side of Cotton’s, was talking with him. I walked up at the time and asked Cotton where my boy was. He did not answer me, but continued to talk to the Scotchman, who told Cotton that he had just had a fight with Butcher, and that he had just come from it. He also told Cotton that Butcher said you had better go and fetch old Cotton and his band to come and whip mine. Cotton replied that if Butcher wanted anything of Old Cotton he could have all he wanted; the little man then started home to his own place; I then asked again where my boy was; if he was out with the herd, but got no answer; I then started to see Cotton’s little boy, thinking he would know where he was; he told me he was out on the range, on a cream-colored horse; I then turned to the well to get a drink; I drew a bucket of water and took one drink; when I looked up and saw the Scotchman coming running his pony from Butcher’s way; I then walked toward Cotton and his two sons; the latter were on the stable, and Big Ben, (Tasker), was pitching hay to them. I heard Cotton say, this man, (meaning the Scotchman), must not go down there again alone. Ben took his belt off and handed it to Cotton; it had one navy six-shooter on it. The two boys and Ben then joked together about having a good time. The old man went down through his own field and met the Scotchman at the bottom end. That was the last I saw of Cotton and the Scotchman. I then went talking to the little boy again, when a teamster came up and said there was trouble down the road, and that some man was taking aim at Cotton. At that time the two sons came off the top of the stable, stripped the harness off the near horse, the second son jumped on it with a double barreled shot gun. The oldest son followed him at about 200 yards distance on a bay horse. Tasker also followed about 100 yards in the rear of the eldest son, with a breach-loading rifle in his hand. That was the last I saw of them. I then ran up the hill in hopes of seeing my boy; as I got on top of the hill I heard several guns go off, I wheeled to the right and made up to Butcher’s house, where I saw a man apparently dead; blood was on his face, and I did not recognize him. I then went on and asked a gentleman who was nearer the house, unarmed and apparently looking every way who it was. He said I don’t know. I then asked him what the trouble was. He again replied I don’t know. I heard screeching in the house. I then went and halted in front of the door, when another man either came out of the house or around the corner with a rifle in his hand and halloed, "You damned old coward stand your ground." I then looked up and saw old Cotton about two hundred yards from the house toward the mountains. I then saw a man drawing a bead on him from behind a stump. He held his aim but did not fire. The man that halloed was an elderly man, with gray hair at the back of his head. I did not see his face, and then advanced to within eight or ten feet of Cotton. At this time one of Cotton’s sons was coming toward the old man. I then turned and went into the house and found it was my boy that was screaming. He was crazy. He asked me what I wanted to kill him for. I tried to pacify him. Cotton made motions with his hands, but I could not tell what he said. He had nothing in his hands at the time. I remained with my boy until the Cottons and the other men came to the house. I saw the faces of horses looking in the door. Mrs. Butcher came in and said, you was always a good boy, and we want to save you. He then came into the house and remained with me, the women and children. The old man was outside talking; presently several, probably six, guns went off outside. I could not tell how many. The women screamed out, the old man is gone. Two men then came into the house, and loaded each a gun, and remarked to young Bert Cotton, who was in the house, "You damned son of a b—h we have got you in a tight place." The two men then went out, and in a moment or two muzzles of guns was stuck into the door-way, and were fired, and young Bert fell on the floor. After he fell three or four pistol bullets were fired at his head, each taking effect. Soon after the same two men came in again when several of the women begged for me and my boy, who was at the time perfectly crazy. This man who I think they call Butcher, ordered the women and children all outside; the smallest woman offered me a baby two months old, saying, take it and hold it close to your breast. The man referred to, was behind them all, furious to get them out. I held my boy by the arm, and tried to pull him out when the women were going out, my hold broke and he remained outside; I then went in again to the side of the bed and took hold of his arm and sat looking at him. The two men then went in loading their guns; the tall man whom I supposed was Butcher, said to me after his gun was loaded, "You d—d old thieving s—n of a b—h, this charge is for you!" He said I had hired my boy out to steal and he had been at it all summer. I begged him to spare my life, and told him to go and enquire about our characters of Judge Harrison—or Mr. Wright—at Sandy, where we had been a good deal. He then cursed me again and raised his gun to his face. I looked at the gun, and then turned to the boy, saying, "Putman, be a good boy, and we’ll die together."
The man then said I have a good mind to spare you. I said thank you, sir, raised and gave him my hand; we shook hands and gripped tight like two friends. The dark complected man said "This damned old rascal will tell tales," the one that said he would spare me told me to go with the boy and not stop at Cotton’s. As I walked out with my boy old Mrs. Cotton drove up by the first boy that was killed screeching, and asked me to help her. I took hold of the boy’s shoulders and helped lift him in the wagon. I then raised up on the hub and lifted his head up under the seat. I cast my eyes around and saw my boy quartering for the brush. I overhauled him and took him by the arm and told him I would stick by him, and let them put their own dead in the wagon. I then got to Cotton’s place. Ben Tasker came out with a rifle in his hand and said, "I am your friend, but you can’t pass here with that boy." I then said, "Putman, we must go back." I went back opposite Ben’s little house and went wetting the boy’s head with water, then Tasker told me to take him inside and put him on his wife’s bed. Just as I was going to do it the stage came down the hill. I said to the boy, we are safe, the stage is coming. Tasker stood back on the other side of the road and the stage drove up between us and him. I asked the driver to let me put the boy inside. I also got in and we came to Bingham.
In answer to questions by the jurors Thomson said two men loaded their guns, and I believe two men fired, but I saw no man shoot.
This testimony concluded the evidence in the case. The jurors retired to a private room, and after a brief interval returned the following:
TERRITORY OF UTAH,
Salt Lake County.
An inquisition holden at the mouth of Bingham Canyon, on the 25th day of July, A.D. 1873, on the bodies of Gabriel L. Cotton, Gilbert Cotton and Gabriel Cotton, Jr., there lying dead before Geo. J. Taylor, Coroner of said County, by the jurors whose names are hereto subscribed. The said jurors upon their oath do say that they died from the effects of gun and pistol shot wounds from weapons in the hands of Samuel M. Butcher and one or more parties to the jurors unknown. In testimony whereof the jurors have set their hands hereunto, the day and year aforesaid.
J.B. Giles, Foreman
John B. Mathew,
I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true copy of the verdict rendered by the jury.
Geo. J. Taylor, Coroner.
--Salt Lake Tribune, Sun July 27, 1873
FALSE RUMOR.---A rumor which has been current in town to-day, to the effect that Butcher had been lynched by the residents of Bingham, is incorrect. We took pains to inquire by telegraph to-day, concerning the matter, and received answer that Butcher was safely in jail.
EXCITEMENT AT BINGHAM.---There was considerable excitement in Bingham on Saturday, after the termination of the inquest on the bodies of the Cottons, and threats were made about lynching S.M. Butcher. On Saturday evening Coroner Taylor issued a coroner’s warrant for the appearance of Butcher, before the nearest Justice, also for two other parties unknown to the jury. On receiving the warrant Justice Kinney sent a posse of men from his office to the prison in the upper part of town, to disarm Butcher. As the posse were proceeding to the place where he was, for this purpose, a crowd gathered and threats of lynching him were freely indulged in, but several parties used their influence against such a proceeding and the crowd were eventually quieted, and Butcher, who, previous to this time, had, although under arrest, been carrying a loaded shot-gun, was disarmed.
The examination before Justice Kinney was to take place to-day, when a number of witnesses, additional to those who testified at the inquest, would give testimony. Mr. Hoffman was engaged to conduct the prosecution, and Mr. Loeber, editor of the Bingham Pioneer, had been retained for the defense.
Bingham has been the scene of more than one bloody tragedy. There is quite a large number of graves at the mouth of the canyon, some of which contain the remains of a few parties who were killed by accident, while the balance contain the remains of individuals who have met with violent deaths at the hands of their fellow creatures. These killing affairs commenced in picking off one at a time, then two, and now comes the latest Bingham tragedy, in which three men "bit the dust."
--Deseret Evening News, Mon July 28 1873
BURIED—The bodies of Gilbert L., Gabriel and Gilbert Cotton, the three men killed by "Sod" Butcher, at the mouth of Bingham Kanyon on Thursday were brought to town at one o’clock this morning and taken to Mr. J.E. Taylor’s, City sexton. The remains were accompanied to town by some of the relatives of deceased, and were buried this morning.
–Deseret News, Semi-Weekly, Tues Jul 29 1873
THE BINGHAM HOMICIDE.
THREATENED LYNCHING OF OLD MAN BUTCHER.
Timely Interposition of the Citizens to Save Him.
OUR REPORTER INTERVIEWS THE MURDERER.
On Saturday night, Secretary Black received a telegram from Mr. Lober, editor of the Bingham Pioneer, and counsel for Butcher, stating that there was trouble at Bingham between Judge Kinney and Constable Sanders as to who should have the custody of the prisoner, Sanders refused to give up his charge, while Kinney swore in a special police force for the purpose of guarding Butcher. The object of the telegram was to obtain assistance from the Governor of the Territory, which, under the circumstances, could not be rendered, and of which Secretary Black promptly informed Mr. Lober, stating that until all civil authority was exhausted, he could not act in the matter.
Sheriff Golding and Deputy repaired to the scene of the disturbance, and found, on their arrival, that the citizens had unarmed the prisoner.
Yesterday at 9 a.m. the examination of the prisoner was held before Judge Kinney and was continued until to-day. Two other men have been arrested and are held for examination.
SCENE OF THE MURDER.
Bingham Canyon runs about east and west through the western range of mountains, forking, however, at several points at a distance of three to five miles up. The mountains on either side of the canyon road are very high and steep, covered at places with a beautiful green foliage, while other portions are barren and rocky. From the entrance to the canyon till Bingham city is reached, evidences of industry strike the eye at every step, every available spot being cultivated in the bed of the canyon, while the rugged sides of the mountains are everywhere pierced with the crowbar and miner’s pick, and in the majority of cases, with promising results. The roadside is also dotted at short distances with miners’ huts, interspersed here and there with quite respectable sized camps. Saloons are also well represented the entire distance.
Are a hardy, thrifty looking people, and full of enterprise and hospitality, as was evidenced wherever we went and were introduced. The proprietor of the Bingham House, especially, gave evidence of his appreciation of the press. This house appeared to be doing the largest business in town, and was highly spoken of by all. The Nixon House, however, has its friends; indeed, all the houses are doing well, and each vies with the other for leadership.
On leaving the canyon, continues in an easterly direction until it reaches Lehi, passing Cotton’s, Butcher’s, and Mumford’s ranches. Cotton’s is the most westerly of the three, being situated at the very entrance to the canyon, at the point where the Salt Lake mail road intercepts that of the canyon.
is situated about a fourth of a mile further east, on the Lehi road, which runs down the hollow, or ravine, made wider than the canyon by its stream spreading out for centuries past, leaving the mountain confines. This was the scene of the murders. Another fourth of a mile in the same direction brings you to Mumford’s ranch, where the old man Cotton and the Scotchman were when young Gabe Cotton, the first victim, was shot. These ranches consist of log cabins, stables, and corrals, surrounded by small corn, wheat, barley, oat, and potato fields, running in narrow strips of land along either side of the road and canyon stream.
INTERVIEW WITH BUTCHER.
After the inquest was over and the verdict rendered, we were, through the kindness of Sheriff Sanders, permitted to interview the prisoner Butcher. On entering the log building where he was confined Mr. Sanders told him to come forward, and gave us an introduction. On extending our hand, with the "How are you, old man," we instantly found our "paw" in the grip of a lion. His iron muscles clinched with the power of a vice. Butcher is a man full six feet in height, straight and bony, with high cheek bones, prominent thin nose and deep set cold gray eyes,--in a word, he is a "Mars" man, and a man probably hard to aggravate, but as furious as a lion when aroused. His composition is rather that of a general than a husbandman. He talked freely, exhibiting not the slightest signs of nervousness, in fact we should have been surprised if he had, for he is undoubtedly a man of iron nerves, which the evidence given at the inquest fully bears out.
GHOSTS and hobgoblins are said to have been seen, at Cotton’s ranch, since the murders were committed. How about Butcher’s, are they "scart" to go there? [This was contained in an article called CITY JOTTINGS, noticed on the same page as the above article.]
–Salt Lake Tribune, Tue Jul 29 1873
Catched on the Fly by Our Reporter.
We understand that the Rev. Mr. Peirce, last Sunday, in Bingham, preached two sermons right over Mr. Butcher, the murderer of the Cotton family. We understand the audience in the court room, where the preaching was, appeared much interested, but we have not learned of any beneficial effect of the sermon on the criminal confined in his cell under the pulpit.
–Salt Lake Tribune, Wed Jul 30 1873
There was a pre-trial hearing between July 28 and August 5, 1873 before Justice Kinney. The witnesses included Putnam Thompson and his father, Thomas Rockwood, E.A. Munser, Dr. J.B. Hickman, who "testified as to the nature of the wounds the Cottons received," Martin Donovan, J.F. (Ben) Tasker, Mary Jane Cotton, Thomas Mumford, Rebecca Butcher. Solomon Gee was released under a writ of habeas corpus, and Samuel Butcher and William Taylor were brought to trial.
The trial took place between the 5th and the 20th of September before Judge Elias Smith of the Probate Court and a 12 member jury. The court transcripts from either of these trials have not yet been found, but the trial has been reconstructed from newspaper accounts and Judge Smith’s diary and can be found on the internet atwww.hickmansfamily.homestead.com/files/butchercotton.htm together with other documents not included here (Another link is at the bottom of this page). To make a long story short, the defendants were
AQUITTED.—It will be seen, by our Probate Court minutes, that the jury in the case of Butcher and Taylor, indicted for the murder of the three Cottons, returned a verdict of not guilty as charged in the indictment. The jury stood nine to three for acquittal, on the first ballot.
The general expectation was that such would be the verdict, or that the jury would disagree, which would have caused a new trial to be necessary.
The evidence showed that the accused never left Butcher’s house, and that all three men who were killed, met with their fate there. The indictment charged the accused of murdering, etc., with malice aforethought, and the jury could not see that they could find a verdict of guilty as charged according to the evidence adduced before them.
INFORMATION WANTED.—Mr. Thompson, the leading prosecuting witness in the Butcher tragedy case, called this morning and desired us to publish a description of his missing son, with a request for any person who may know anything of the whereabouts of the lad to impart the information for the benefit of the anxious father.
The boy’s name is Putnam Thompson, he will be fourteen years old next December, is short for his age, has large dark eyes, a pleasant, open countenance, brown hair, and rather dark complexion. When last seen by his father he had on a black coat, and brown overalls over gray pantaloons. When he left this city for Lehi, over four weeks since, he rode a bay three year old horse colt, branded C on left jaw, and had a wrench brand on the left hip. Address David Boucher, near Dayton, Butte County, California. Mr. Thompson himself will leave for California in a short time.
PROBATE COURT.—Saturday, Sep. 20th, 2 p.m.—Court met pursuant to adjournment. The prisoners, Butcher and Taylor, were present when the Court charged the jury, and the latter retired to their room, in charge of the bailiff. At 8 o’clock the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty.
--Deseret Evening News, Mon Sep 22 1873
The village of Bingham, five miles within the cañon is remarkable for nothing especially different from other mining camps already described, excepting that murders are rather more common. A few days before our arrival there was a lively family difficulty, in which a father and his three sons were killed. Their relations contemplate shooting the murderer when they catch him, and as in that case the murderer’s friends will "go for" them, and as that "going for" will be avenged, there is likely to be a diminution of the population of the camp.
--John Codman, The Mormon Country. A Summer with the Latter-Day Saints, 1874, p.134
In another attempt to convict him of the same offense, Samuel Butcher was jailed again briefly in 1877:
Saul M. Butcher, a son-in law of Bill Hickman, was arrested yesterday morning at his place on South Jordan. The arrest was made under an indictment found against him recently by the Grand Jury for the Cotton murder. But as he was tried and acquitted of the charge in the Probate Court, a few years ago, there seems to be a question about the soundness of this second criminal prosecution. The accused, however, was taken to the Penitentiary, where he will remain until the court convenes, when the nature of his case will be inquired into.
–Salt Lake Tribune, Thur Aug 2 1877
The grand jury having found an indictment against S.M. Butcher, for the murder of the Cotton family, in Bingham, a few years ago, he has been arrested and placed in the penitentiary. Butcher was tried and acquitted in the probate court shortly after the commission of the bloody deed. Subsequently the "Poland bill" was enacted, divesting the probate courts of jurisdiction of such cases; however, confirming the judgements and decrees theretofore made by these courts. This being the case the indictment and arrest of Butcher at the present time, probably have some importance or meaning, of which the public are not advised.
--Salt Lake Herald, Fri Aug 3 1877
The case was subsequently thrown out of court.
If you want additional details on the 1873 and 1877 trials, clickhere.