I now have a photograph of Charles C. Spencer, a mug shot - very poor quality, but perhaps an original still exists in the Utah archives, from which a better copy could be made.
Prison record for C. C. Spencer. nativity: Va married: yes age: 52 height: 5' 11" read: checked write: checked religion: something I can't read other descriptive marks and scars: can't read, perhaps "tall" commuted to 5 years on 11-20-26 terminated 2/18/28
Spencer was the first man tried for first-degree murder in the history of Emery County, Utah, according to a news account.
The Emery County Progress (newspaper, Saturday, December 30, 1922) reports that the shooting was Christmas night.
Emery County Progress (February 10, 1922): "The defendant bore himself well and betrayed no trace of the sullenness usual in so many defendants under similar circumstances. Asked what he would do were he 'sent up,' he expressed the intention of doing everything he could to help his fellows in a moral and spiritual way. It seems the defendant had done more or less missionary work among his race in the past, at one time holding the office of second degree minister in his faith. He is understood to have been an abstainer from both tobacco and drink until about a year before the shooting, but then commenced to indulge in both and to take up gambling."
The "terminated" date in the prison record suggests that Spencer was somewhat successful in his quest for an earlier release after his sentence had been commuted. He had been scheduled for release on November 20, 1928.
This shows, however, that when he wrote Guy Johnson from Salt Lake City in 1927, he was writing from prison. Johnson may have been unaware of this; he writes, "From Salt Lake City, Utah, Mr. C. C. Spencer sends a vivid account...." Spencer was incarcerated in Salt Lake City.
If the age 52 was in 1923, when he went to prison, then Spencer was b 1870-71, making him 15-17 in 1887. He wrote Johnson that he was "about 14 years old at that time." Pretty close, I'd say. I like this birth date better than the 1878 one that appears in another document.
I suspect that Spencer's sentence was reduced on account of his good behavior. Perhaps he did indeed "help his fellows in a moral and spiritual way." That might carry unusual weight in Utah.
I suppose that I'll find out more when I receive the 65-page case file. What I got yesterday was a few loose items that are separate from the case file.
This is beginning to be a rich portrait of Spencer.
I have the suspicion that the white man, the young Master of my people," in whose care Spencer was in Alabama in 1887, might have been some Virginia friend or relative of Captain Fred Dabney, John Henry's boss. Captain Dabney employed other friends and relatives on this job.