In the early days of most mining camps, relationships between mine owners and the men who worked in the diggings was easy to figure out — the owners had all the money and the miners had the “con.” The miner’s con was short for congestion – which the miners got from breathing the dust in dry, poorly ventilated mines. But the miners, working as teams in the stopes of the mines, soon developed strong bonds with each other, and began to show growing agitation over the poor working conditions and especially the low pay — $3.50/day. This lead to the formation of loosely organized unions. In the mining camps of southern Utah this occurred around 1880 to 1885.
To control the new union unrest and the persistent lawlessness of the camps, owners and businessmen banded together and hired “marshals” to insure peace. The county government officials generally took a “hands off” position regarding maintaining law enforcement in the mining towns — they were left to their own brand of justice. Only when the local “hired gun” posing as the town marshal couldn’t control the situation would county officials step in.
One confrontation that didn’t require intervention occurred in Silver Reef when Marshal Johnny Dimond (how could anyone invent such a name for this job?) was instructed to serve a closure notice on the Kinner Mine. Colonel Enos Wall, owner of the mine, had hired his own thug – a burley enforcer named Jack Truby – to guard the entrance to the mine from union strikers.
It was generally known around town that Dimond and Truby weren’t exactly friendly with each other anyway. Nothing physical had erupted between them, but they had been known to argue in saloons and even in the street. So, it was with a little trepidation that Marshal Dimond rode his horse to the mine to see if it was true that Truby had been threatening the miners.
Truby met Dimond at the mine entrance with pistol drawn and forced the Marshal to leave the property. Dimond told the guard that he would file charges against him and the mine owner.
The trial was held, as usual, in a local saloon. Truby showed up, bellowing threats against the court and the Marshal. Many present, knew that Truby had been drinking rather heavily before he arrived. Dimond insisted that Truby remove his hat in respect of the court. Truby refused, using language not fit to be recorded by the court clerk, and stomped out of the bar.
In the street a large crowd had gathered. Dimond followed Truby to the middle of the street, standing only a few feet behind the guard. He asked for Truby’s gun, Truby slowly drew it from his holster but rather than giving it to the Marshal he cocked the pistol, spun around, and fired at him. The shot struck Dimond in his middle, but he was able to draw his own firearm and returned fire. His bullet struck Truby in the chest. Both men fell backward to the ground — dead.
An inquest, also held in the saloon, found that the bodies each contained bullet wounds from the.41 caliber revolvers both had used, and powder burns caused by the proximity of the shootout. “Self-defense” the court ruled for both men.
But, Truby also had a .45 caliber bullet wound in his back. Somebody else had participated in the shootout. They never knew who it was – nor did the court worry about it.