Pioneer Doctor

Joseph William(s) (J.W.) Morgan was born in Carmarthenshire, South Wales, in 1838. He studied medicine in Cardiff, Wales, where he became an assistant to Dr. Jones, who was physician to the nearby Colliery, and where he and Dr. Jones alternately prescribed for the miners.

J. W. Morgan was a doctor in Malad City in the early pioneer days. He also served as a representative on the Idaho Territorial Legislature.

On June 4, 1863, he sailed on the ship “Amazon” to the United States, having given up his practice of medicine and joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much to the dismay of his family. He arrived in Salt Lake City on October 4, 1863, and resumed the practice of medicine after being granted a certificate by a board of examiners. One of his good friends was President Brigham Young. He came to Idaho in 1866 or 1867, and settled in Malad where he practiced medicine.

Dr. Morgan had many interesting experiences as a practicing doctor in the pioneer days. 

His daughter, Hattie E. Morgan, relates a story in his biography about the old county jail. Other accounts indicate that the old county jail may have stood east of where the Farm Bureau office is now located. Hattie Morgan relates that her father built a long log building on the site where the South home stands today (1954) and opened the Deep Creek Store, Malad’s first store and that the jail was behind that store. Her story is related as follows:

“On the next lot south of the old store was the B.F. White law office and Caribou Salt Works, freighters’ headquarters, and directly back of it the county jail, a log building surrounded by a high board fence. 

“Here, one winter night, its inmate, Elso Kelso, set the jail on fire. Caleb Jones had charge of the prisoners and carried the keys, but in his excitement that night, he could not find them and he and father were frantic, thinking Kelso was locked in and burning to death. Presently, however, they found where he had escaped by wrenching a board loose. A posse was formed and he was found hiding in a haystack a few miles north of town. When returned, he said he had caught White’s dog and thrown the animal in the fire, thinking the bones would be discovered and thought to be his.

“Kelso went to the penitentiary at Boise and a new jail was built east of the James T. Jones’ home. Here, behind its high walls in the early eighties, Michael Mooney, a young man, met his death; the first white man ever executed under the law in the territory of Idaho.

The story is that on October 27, 1881, Joel Hinckley, who had just gotten married and who was the station agent in Franklin, Idaho, was shot and killed at the station. The two alleged killers were Michael Mooney and Frank Barnes. Sheriff W.H. Homer formed a posse of about 75 men, and word was sent to farmers and ranchers in the area. Two men stopped at a ranch near Soda Springs in early November, and the rancher, being suspicious, took them and turned them over to the posse. Even though no one was sure if these were the right men, both were arrested on suspicion of murder.

The men were taken before Justice William L. Webster in Franklin. Barnes confessed but said that it was Mooney that instigated the crime and had accidently killed Hinckley. The men were brought to trial in Malad, because it was the county seat of Oneida County. Mooney was tried first and found guilty of murder in the first degree. Barnes was tried next. He pled guilty to murder in the second degree. 

Barnes was sentenced to 15 years in the Idaho penitentiary, and Mooney was sentenced to be hung, and that sentence was carried out on December 29, 1882. Many people believed that Mooney, being a young man, was framed, but it could not be proven. It is said that he was hung on the hill south of the courthouse and that the Presbyterian Church bell tolled at his death. Hattie Morgan said that Mooney’s death took place inside the fence of the grounds where the jail stood. 

According to legend gold from a bank robbery was hidden under an iron door in the Samaria Mountains

Hattie Morgan continues her story, “Father, who frequently visited and talked with Mooney at the jail, became convinced, as many others were, that he was innocent of firing the shot that killed Jack Hinckley, for which he was condemned on the evidence of Frank Barnes. This belief was proved correct when, just before Barnes death in the Boise penitentiary where he was serving a 21-year sentence, Barnes confessed that it was he and not Mooney who fired the fatal shot. Father had endeavored to get Mooney’s sentence commuted but was unsuccessful, although he did get a short extension of the date of execution.

“Mooney asked father to walk with him to the gallows. This father did, but it was a painful ordeal. After Mooney’s death, father was one of the three final medical examiners along with Dr. Ada Sherman and Dr. Isaac Drake, all local doctors.”

It was said that Mooney was buried outside the walls of the Malad City Cemetery. It is not known when the Malad City Cemetery was moved to its present location, so at this time, the burial place of Michael Mooney is unknown.
Dr. Morgan served for several years in the Idaho Territorial Legislature, and in 1871, introduced a suffrage bill that passed 11-10 on its second reading. However, on the third reading, a member who had been absent earlier voted against it. The resulting 11-11 tie defeated the measure. Later, in 1896, Idaho was the fourth state in the union to give women the right to vote.