THE NAY FAMILY IN UTAH AND THE WEST

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This impassioned plea evidently did not move the governor to clemency, since Amanda Nay, the boy’s mother, next wrote to Governor Thomas on August 8, 1892 from Durango, Colorado:

Mr. Hon. A. Thomas Sir, I received a letter from my son from Salt Lake, Joseph B. Nay that is in the Utah Prison. He has been there for over 3 years. He has served his time almost out but by accident or some cause, the warden, Mr. Vandercook, has taken his good time from him, which amounted to 5 months. Now Mr. Hon. A Thomas, you are the only one I can ask to help my boy as I am a lone mother and have 5 children to maintain and my only support died 3 weeks ago and now I am alone and destitute and I need the help of my son Joseph B. Nay and Mr. if you will be so kind to me to help me to get my boy’s time back I will [give] thanks in the eyes of God. Yours truly, Mrs. Amanda E. Nay[40]

This letter (written by Amanda’s own hand, but revealing a scant education) was preserved along with one from Joseph Nay himself in October of 1892 and one in March of 1893 from a recaptured prisoner denying that Joseph had helped the prisoner escape. (The escape was the reason given for the warden’s removal of Joseph’s “coppers”-good behavior credits.) These letters evidently softened the governor’s heart since Joseph’s prison record shows that he was restored his five months time off for good behavior. The prison record states that he was sentenced by District Court for 5 ½ years dating from 26 September 1889 to his release on 26 April 1893. His occupation is given as farmer; he was single, of florid complexion, 18 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, hazel or brown eyes, brown hair, weighing 159 pounds, could read and write and was of a temperate disposition.[41]

Amanda’s letter to the governor leaves many questions unanswered. Where was Joseph Brigham, Sr.? Who died three weeks before? Why was she in Colorado? It is not clear when the family moved to Colorado. Since the 1890 census was burned, we are denied that source of information. However the last baby, Ida Pearl, was born in Silverton, San Juan County, Colorado on the 10th of October in 1889.[42]Manda, age 47 [sic], is listed as head of the family on the 1900 Colorado census. She is a married mother of nine, seven living. Living with her at that time are two daughters, Rowena, 16, and Pearl, 11.[43]

Joseph Brigham Nay, Sr. was not found on census records for Utah, Colorado or Nevada in 1900. However, a notation in the death records of Goldfield, Esmeralda County, Nevada, documents his death in March of 1905.[44] Although the name is given as John B. Nay, the date is verified by family records and Amanda’s obituary.[45] The record says his occupation at that time was that of a stockman and the cause of death, gunshot wound.

Amanda’s obituary later reported that she came to Esmeralda County, Nevada in 1901, where her two sons, John and Joe, had gone in 1896 (first to Belmont, Nevada, then shifting residence with the fortunes of various mines).[46] The census for 1910 lists her as head of the household, widowed, mother of nine (six living), and working as a “servant.” Her daughter Ida P., 20, is living with her.[47]

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