Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford: News articles on her murder!

Roger Porter  Update May 2005


All these articles are from the Carson Daily Appeal, from July to December 1869. Many thanks to Karl Sala for his research. See his credit at the end of this file. And many thanks to Robert Leon Read for forwarding this information to us to include here! (Note: I will add to this as I have time and remove this note when all the information is inserted here.   Roger)

7 July:   "Shocking Murder or Suicide: About two o'clock yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Pricilla (sic) Wilford, residing at Clear Creek, about four miles from Carson, was found dead in her house, with her throat cut.   Her body was lying on the floor of her bedroom, in nightdress, & was covered with blood.   Under it was found a razor with a blade about two-thirds closed.   There was no one in that part of the house.   It seems her two little children were with her, & that the discovery of the body was made by the oldest going to a neighbors for something to eat.   Marks on the floor showed evidence of her having stood in the blood.   A Coroner's inquest was held, but we learn the verdict will not be given until tomorrow. The body will be buried today.   Coroner Bence has charge of the premises.   It will be recollected that the husband of the deceased died about six months since.   In convenience of an insurance policy upon his life, his widow, the deceased, was paid a few months since, five thousand dollars.   It is said a considerable portion of the money has since been loaned after taking a paid up policy of insurance on her own life for five thousand dollars.   The above are all the facts in relation to the case & to the deceased that have come to our knowledge."

VERDICT: 10 Jul 1869:   "The VERDICT of the Coroner's jury in the case of Mrs. Wilford who was found dead with her throat cut on Tuesday last at Clear Creek was given last night.   It reads, "Death by hands of person or persons unknown to the jury."   The evidence before the jury during the last 3 days has been taken in writing and is very full, complete & voluminous.   We propose to print the most important testimony in the APPEAL tomorrow, provided we can get it.   That the case was murder most foul the evidence seems to substantiate:  but whether for the possession of money, the gratification of revenge, or for what cause and by whom, yet remains a mystery.   To repeat the various opinions in relation to the affair not based upon the testimony taken would doubtless be unjust to the individuals, and at least in one instance reflect upon a class of persons.   Further development may be confidently expected.   The deceased, we believe, leaves 5 children, the eldest 14 years of age.   Two of the children are at school in California.   The insurance of $5000 on the life of Mrs. Wilford was in favor of her children."

VERDICT: 11 July 1869: "VERDICT OF THE JURY--State of Nevada, county of Ormsby, before H.H. Bence, Coroner: In the matter of the inquisition upon the body of Mrs. Priscilla Willford, of Clear Creek, county of Ormsby, State of Nevada, deceased: We the undersigned jurors summoned to appear before H.H. Bence, Coroner of (same place), at Clear Creek in said county, on the 6th day of July, A.D. 1869, to inquire into the cause of the death of Mrs. Priscilla Willford, found dead in her house at Clear Creek, in said county....having been duly sworn according to law, and having made such inquisition after inspecting the body and hearing the testimony adduced, upon our oaths each & all do say, we find that the deceased(sic) was named Priscilla Willford, a widow, a resident of Clear Creek, (said county & state), aged about thirty-four years: that she came to her death on (said date & place), by her throat being cut with a knife or some other sharp instrument, and we further find that we believe that her throat was cut & her death occasioned by some person or persons unknown to the jury.   All of which we duly certify by this inquisition in writing by us signed this the 9th day of July, A.D. 1869.   JAMES S. BRYANT, JAMES CUTHBERT, HENRY ROSS, GEORGE WATKINS, JOHN SIMONS."
NEWS ARTICLE: 13 July 1869: "OF THE DEATH OF MRS. WILFORD, the S.F. (San Francisco) Chronicle has the following speculations:   It is well known that among the machinery & appliances used by the Mormon leaders to carry out their scheme, to crush those who oppose them, & to wreak veng(e)ance upon those who have incurred their hatred or whose hostility they dread, is an organized band of murderers known as BRIGHAM'S 'Destroying Angels.'   These probably organized the Mountain Meadow massacre.   They assassinated Dr. Robinson, & there is every reason to beli(e)ve that hundreds of obnoxious Gentiles have fallen beneath their avenging daggers.   Last night a dispatch from Carson brought us the intelligence of a probable murder, which it appears that some of the people of Nevada are disposed to attribute to Mormon emmisaries.   A Mrs. Wilford was found on Tuesday near Clear creek with her throat cut.   Yesterday the Coroner's jury brought in a verdict to the effect that (the) deceased came to her death by the hands of some person or persons unknown.   It appears that the lady was a bitter enemy of Mormonism & had been in her denunciations of it.   The dispatch further states that there is a strong conviction in the community that the murder was the work of the 'Destroying Angels.'   We are not yet apprised what foundation there is for such a belief: but if it shall prove that this deed of blood is really the work of saintly assassins, illustration of the certainty of venge(a)nce, which may well strike terror into the souls of all who incur the enmity of Brigham."
(Lots of "probables" and "ifs," aren't there! R)

NEWS ARTICLE: 17 Jul 1869:   "IN THE DISTRICT COURT, Judge Wright presiding, (text deleted of other unrelated cases).   In the matter of the estate & guardianship of Louisa Pickett, George Pickett, Sarah Willford, Wm. Willford & Lilla Willford, minors.   Wm. Patterson appointed guardian, upon taking the oath & filing a bond in the sum of ten thousand dollars in U.S. gold coin."

NEWS ARTICLE: 20 Jul 1869: "A STARTLING SUGGESTION: ... The San Francisco Chronicle mentions a suspicion from which we had seen no expression of from Carson: asserting that 'it is a strong conviction in that community' that the murder of Mrs. Willford was committed by 'Destroying Angels' in employ of Mormons.   The Appeal copies the remarks of the Chronicle, but makes no comments.   The Chronicle says Mrs. W. was ' a bitter enemy of Mormonism.' That is scarcely sufficient grounds for such a charge.   The Mormons do not destroy all their bitter enemies: and if other reasons, or if circumstances to justify the suspicion expressed can be shown, the local paper ought to give the fact to the public. White Pine News 16th (July)

That Mrs. Wilford was formerly a Mormon, but of late years bitterly opposed to them, and for this reason disliked by them, is well known.   Two of her children at the time of her death were in charge of Mr. Mills (whose testimony is given in full elsewhere) who was formerly a Mormon, also now bitterly opposed to them & at present a member of the Methodist Church.   The 3 men who occupied the house with her are Mormons.   The suspicions spoken of in the extract above are doubtless entertained by many, but from our own knowledge we are not prepared to state that they are general.   There is certainly a large class of persons who think deceased was murdered solely for the possession of her money.   If Mr. Mills' statements are correct, she must have had in her possession @ the time of her death @ least from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars--probably a larger sum.   There is no evidence of her having disposed of the money paid her but a short time previous to her death & no clue of it has been obtained by the authorities.   The suspicion of the deed being the work of 'Destroying Angels' is probably based upon no more tangible evidence than is contained in the foregoing documents."

"OF THE DEATH OF MRS. WILFORD--It is now 2 weeks since the death of Mrs. Wilford & the taking of the testimony before the Coroner's jury; and yet there is no solution of the mystery by which, the case has from the first, been characterized.   The substance of the testimony is briefly as follows:

STATEMENTS, JULY 7TH.   Dr. Thompson, after a post mortem examination of the body, was of the opinion that deceased committed suicide; found nothing to indicate insanity; believed she had been dead at that time (5 p.m.) 14-15 hours.
  Charles Friend had practiced medicine & surgery; assisted at the post mortem examination; corroborated the evidence of Dr. Thompson.

STATEMENTS JULY 8TH.   Charles Friend re-examined; upon further examination reflection, was satisfied the deed was not done with the razor found in the room; discovered no evidence why deceased should have committed suicide, with exception of adhesion of the right lung to the pleura; all the vital organs were in a perfectly healthy condition; was fully satisfied from all the surrounding circumstances the deed was committed by some one other than herself.
Dr. Tjader had examined Mrs. Wilford last Spring for an insurance policy on her life; had seen her frequently since; considered her of sound mind & a woman of considerable business tact; after a very careful examination of the body and the room in which the deed was supposed to have been committed, was perfectly satisfied the deceased did not commit suicide, & that the wound was not made by the razor found in the room.
  Mrs. Lucy Bryant had known the deceased for about 7 years; resided during that time within 100 yards of her house, on Monday, the 5th, deceased was at her house for about 2 hours in the afternoon; noticed nothing in the least unusual in her appearance or manner or conversation; never since their acquaintance had seen anything the least unusual or uncommon on her manner or conversation.

Hiram Moss had known the deceased for 6 years; lived in the back part of the house for the past 3 or 4 months; went to Carson on Sunday evening & returned on Monday night at 5 minutes past 12 o'clock; went to the front door & she told him to go to the back door; went into the house, lighted a candle, got his bed, came out, made it on the front porch & immediately went to bed; was very tired & must have gone to sleep immediately; heard no noise in the house during the night; his brother lived with him but was absent in town that night; got up when the sun was three-fourths of an hour high & went to work; came to the house between 7 & 9 o'clock to breakfast, sta(ye)d an hour or hour & a half and then went to work again, and came back to dinner & found his father and brother there; noticed there was no stir; heard the boy crying, but did not try to enter the part of the house occupied by deceased; was in the habit of sleeping on the porch.

  Peter Moss resided at the house of deceased; had known her for 2 or 3 years; on the night of the 5th was at his father's house near Carson; returned to house of deceased on Tuesday about half past 12 or 1 p.m.   "After dinner I went in my back room & saw the boy Willy, aged about 3 years; he was in the cupboard helping himself to bread; I called to him, he said, "I getting some bread; mamma's sick; I said, "Is mama sick?" he said, "Yes;" went into the room where the stove is, & called to her; "Mrs. Wilford;" from there I went to the other door and called: "Mrs. Wilford;" no answer; I then went into the sitting room & called Mrs. W. in a loud voice; still no answer; I advanced within 1 or two steps of her bed room; found her lying on the floor, feet to the door, covered with blood, in her night dress; when I saw her I made no remark but rushed to the front door; it was locked; I went back the way I had entered; came into the front room of my part of the house; rushed to the street, went to Bryant's & called him; told him to call Mrs. Bryant quick, that Mrs. W. was sick & I thought very sick; Mr. Bryant called his wife & she came over to the front door of Mrs. W's part of the house; she could not get in that door, & I asked her to come in through my part of the house; she passed through our part of the house; I left her in Mrs. W's room & told her to advance to Mrs. W's bedroom; she went in the bedroom of deceased; I remained in my kitchen; after being there 1 or 2 minutes she stepped out & held up her hand or hands; she said: "MY God! Pete, She's dead & cold;" she said, "Call Mr. Bryant;" I did so; I sent Hiram to call my father, he was in the field; I told Hiram to harness the horse quickly & go for the coroner & the doctor; I showed persons the spectacle, but forbid them to touch anything or go into the room until the authorities came; all the doors leading from my part of the house to hers were opened; if the back door of my part of the house was opened there was nothing to prevent any person from going in to where deceased was; my brothers Hiram & Edward & myself were together in Carson."

Mr. Mills, being first duly sworn testified: "I reside in Gilroy, California; am a merchant; am 46 years of age. I knew the deceased from 1851; she lived with me in 1859-60 for 12 months; whe was a widow at the time of her demise; she wrote to me the day after her husband's death; she told me her business, asked for my advice, which I gave her; she was at my place 4 weeks ago last Wednesday, when she left for home leaving her little girl with me to go to school, giving up the control and education of the 2 girls, Louisa Picket & Sarah Wilford; she laid out her plans for a number of years; she had 5 children; Louis Picket & George Picket by her former husband; Sarah, William & Lilly by Mr. Wilford; the eldest is about 12 years.   George is near 8, Sarah is four years, & Lilly, an infant about 9 months of age; I have never noticed anything in her manner or deportment tending to the slightest indication of insanity, but on the contrary was not the least despondent or low spirited; several letters from her, the last on the day before I received a dispatch from Mr. Patterson of her death; it was dated on the 1st or 2nd of this month--July; nothing in it indicating despondency or the slightest premonition to insanity, or evidencing any contemplation to commit suickde; she has made no ill will to my knowledge; she was a very temperate woman; she sent money to me to the amount of $4965; I paid her some when she came back from my place; I gave $1000 in gold & $250 in currency; she told me she was going to purchase a house with the money, that there were 2 or 3 places presented to her for purchase; she was going to live in Carson; in her letter, I think the last, she said she had spoken to Mr. Fulstone about buying a place owned by Mr. Gadbury.

Mr. Patterson said: "I reside at Carson; & I have been the attorney of the deceased up to her death; I have seen her since her return from California, done business with her; saw her for the last time on Saturday last; saw nothing indicating insanity or evidencing the slightesrt contemplation to commit suicide; I have examined all her papers & find nothing in the least referring to any contemplated suicide; I find nothing among her papers evidencing any loan of money, or of her, in any manner, investing any money, except $300 loan to Mr. Winters, & that amount she collected in Carson since her return from California; from my knowledge of her business & money affairs, if she had the $1250 spoken of by Mr. Mills, she ought to have on hand $1500 or $1600 exclusive the amount loaned to Winters; all the money found is $1 45 (sic); she paid me $50 for which I gave her a receipt.

Day dawned: within a curtained room.
Filled to faintness with perfume.
A lady lay, at point of doom.
Day closed: a child has seen the light:
But for the lady, fair & bright,
She rested in undreaming night.
Spring rose: the lady's grave was green;
And near it afterward was seen
A gentle boy, with tboughtful mien.
Years fled; he wore a manly face,
And struggled in the world's rough race,
And won, at last, a lofty place.
And then--he died!   Behold before ye,
Humanity's poor sum & story.
Life--death--& all that is of glory.

NEWS ARTICLE: 22 July 1869: "REWARD: Acting Governor Theodore D. Edwards offers a reward, to be paid by the State, of one thousand dollars in coin, for the arrest and conviction of the murderer, or any one of the murderers, of Mrs. Wilford, who was killed on the 6th instant.   All good citizens will dou(b)tless rejoice at this evidence of activity, in the important matter, on the part of the Executive of the State.


We are grateful for the excellent research and contribution of Karl and Lynell Sala, professional genealogists. Lynell is a niece of Robert Read.