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 John Theodore Pope

John Theodore Pope

Birth
Farmington, Davis County, Utah, USA
Death 1 Jan 1943 (aged 82)
Vernal, Uintah County, Utah, USA
Burial Vernal, Uintah County, Utah, USA
Memorial ID 10857717 · View Source
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Western Frontiersman and Peace Officer. Vernal, Utah in Uintah County is in the heart of what was, in the 1800s' one of the nation's most notorious hideouts for outlaws and rustlers. Among the most infamous to make this area their headquarters for illegal activities were Butch Cassidy, "Dutch John" Honselana, , Matt Warner, Cherokee Bill Pigeon; Ann Bassett, know as "Queen of the Rustlers"; Elzy Lay; Isom Dart, and many others. John T Pope had no designs on being the County Sheriff. He just happened to be standing on the street in one day as one of the local merchants was shot and killed during a robbery. A posse took off after the killer. He also gave chase, but in a direction that he figured to be faster than the path chosen by the posse. He caught up to the killer in a canyon and held him penned down until the posse arrived. In the fall of 1890, his name was placed on the ballot for County Sheriff, without his permission. He was elected unanimously, but he was probably unopposed. Shortly after his election he became the first sheriff ever brave, or dumb, enough to venture into the badlands of Brown's Park to make an arrest. His first effort in the area was to arrest a notoriously bad guy by the name of Buckskin Ed Carouthers. After the arrest he and his prisoner had to cross the Green River by row boat. About halfway across, Carouthers pulled a knife from his pocket and stabbed him in the throat from behind. He was able to draw his revolver and fire over his shoulder. The shot struck his attacker in the face and knocked him overboard. Pope wrapped his neckerchief around his wound and continued on to Vernal. Sometime later Speck Williams, another local character who was a former slave found Carouthers' body in a pile of driftwood. Some of the local outlaws were really upset that Pope not only came into their hideout to make arrests, he also had the nerve to start a ranch in the area. Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay often visited with him and they developed a mutual respect and friendship. Other outlaws offered rewards up to several thousand dollars for the murder of the sheriff. One bushwhacker shot Pope's horse in the head, but he was able to pull his rifle as he fell from the horse and played dead. The attacker continued to fire at Pope. When the shooter stopped firing and stuck his head up to see the damage, Pope killed him. There were many other attempts to collect the reward, but Pope, always on guard, escaped each of them and the results to the outlaws were usually the same. One incident put an end to the friendship between him and Cassidy. A close friend of Cassidy's, Matt Warner and his friend, Bill Wall, were attacked by three bushwhackers. Matt and Bill were able to kill all three of the attackers, but the sheriff was issued a warrant for their arrest and he had to arrest the pair. When he had them in jail he met with Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay about the situation. They agreed that as long as the pair got fair treatment they would take no action. Trouble occurred when Pope had to leave town for a while. That night a lynch mob attempted to take the law into their own hands. Quick thinking Warner popped a paper bag making the mob think he was armed and they lost their courage. After that Butch and some of his gang stood guard until the sheriff returned later that evening. Cassidy told Pope that if the two prisoners were not taken to a safer place he would take the prisoner even if it meant going through Pope to do it. Early the next morning they were transferred under heavy guard to Ogden, Utah. Needing some money for the prisoners' defense fund, Cassidy and Lay robbed a bank in Idaho. Pope mounted a posse and came very close to catching them twice. The second came as the sheriff went in the front door of the Antler Saloon, Cassidy and Lay ducked out the back door. According to Kerry Ross Boren in the document entitled: Sheriff John T. Pope - Early Utah Peace Officer, "Three weeks later Sheriff Pope received a postcard mailed from St. John's, Arizona, which read, ‘Pope, gawd damn you, lay off me. I don't want to kill you!' It was signed, "Butch". Friends had helped them to escape on both occasions, but Ann Bassett, the "Queen of Rustlers" who had a great dislike for Pope tried spread the rumor that he ‘let them go'. Pope served a total of five years as sheriff and got his gold badge from the governor. But, he didn't really retire. He continued as town marshal for a number of years. In 1904 he was elected County Attorney. He had no formal schooling, and didn't pass the bar until 1906. I was told at the Uintah County Western Heritage Museum that Pope also dug the first oil well in Utah.

Bio by: Tom Todd


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  • Created by: Carl W. McBrayer
  • Added: 26 Apr 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10857717
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Theodore Pope (2 Mar 1860–1 Jan 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10857717, citing Vernal Memorial Park, Vernal, Uintah County, Utah, USA ; Maintained by Carl W. McBrayer (contributor 46558074) .