THE NAY FAMILY IN UTAH AND THE WEST

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The births of their children tell us a story of constant movement for the little family. Three and a half years later John Herbert Nay was born on April 10, 1878 in Harrisburg, Washington County, Utah (ten miles north of St. George.) (24) Sylvester Bates Nay was born 7 May 1882 in Silver Reef, Washington County, Utah (a few miles west of Harrisburg). (25) His granddaughter, Doris E. Nay Whitney records this information in a history she wrote: “The family then moved to Silver Reef, a silver mining town, just north and west of Leeds, Utah.  My grandfather [Ormus Bates] worked in the mines, and my father [Ormus Calvin] and his brother Marley were miners working at the mine when teen-age boys. [My] brother Jim said Ormus worked at the Apex mine out of Santa Clara after he left Silver Reef mine.” (26)

At this time, a very dark and trying event occurred that deeply affected this family. Ormus was involved in a train robbery and sent to prison. In the Nevada State Prison records dated the 9th of February 1883, we read that Ormus was charged with “the crime of assault with intent to commit Robbery,” occurring on January 22, 1883, near Montello, Nevada, to which he admits guilt. (Montello is 105 miles east of Elko, Nevada.) (Addendum 1) In the court proceedings following, on February 28 when he was indicted, he replied to the inquiry of the court that “his true name was Ormus Nay,” thus clearing up the numerous variations of his name as recorded through history. (Addendum 2) To the knowledge of this writer, there have been four published accounts written about this robbery and the surrounding circumstances. (27) After studying each account and personally reading some of the documents that were kept in the Nevada State Prison archives, one of the accounts seems most accurate, written by Walter Averett, and portions of his writings are included here. (28)

“The eastbound Central Pacific passenger train that left Elko [Nevada] at 8:00 pm on Sunday, Jan. 21, 1883 was attacked by several masked men at about midnight at Montello. . . The robbers hid in the tank house, and when the train stopped for a red light near the tank, two men jumped on the locomotive, one on each side, two more captured [the] conductor. . . and the brakeman, and the other took over the train.” (29)

The robbers unsuccessfully tried to open the Wells Fargo & Co. express car.  A man by the name of Aaron G. Ross was inside the car and refused the robbers entry.  He was fired upon through the walls of the car and injured.  The men tried to open the car by force and succeeded this time but Mr. Ross quickly refastened the doors.  Ten dollars was taken from the conductor, and the men left.

“News of the robbery was quickly telegraphed to Elko. . .and the posse left to track the robbers.  Snow was several inches deep, so the trail was easily followed.” (30)

“The Elko Free Press reported on Feb 2 that on Saturday, January 27, Detective Thacker, Sheriff John W. Turner of Utah County, and others tracked two of the robbers ‘to a corral in the mountains near Deseret, Utah’ (a community near Delta) [also known as Robber's Roost (31)]. The posse demanded surrender, but the men began firing at them and the posse returned fire.  A total of 75 or 80 rounds were fired, ‘resulting the mortal wounding of Orin (sic) Nay and serious wounding of Frank Hawley. . .’  None of the posse were hit.” (32)

Ormus was reported as having taken a bullet in the left shoulder, which had passed through one of his lungs and lodged in his back.  He was spitting up blood and the lawmen were afraid that he would die before they could get him back to town. Ormus was transported to a hospital in Ogden where he spent about four weeks in recovery, delaying the trial, but he finally attended, being carried into the room on a stretcher.

Louisa tried to visit him at the hospital while he was laid up, where his shattered left shoulder blade was treated. She was denied entry, however, for the reason that the lawmen feared she would somehow help him escape. Louisa was unaware that her husband had been involved in any type of criminal activity, and thought that Ormus had been working for a rancher in Nevada, attending to his horses. (33)

Ormus pled guilty and was sentenced to prison. The best accounts of the proceedings of the court are found verbatim in Addendums 1 and 2 at the end of this chapter.

During the time that Ormus was in prison, Louisa did not remain idle.  She worked in Carson City, Nevada, close to her husband, as a housekeeper, cleaning several homes on a regular basis.  She did her best to convince anyone that she felt would have any influence on the Nevada State Board of Pardons to write letters that would vouch for the good character of her husband and beg for a pardon or at least an early release from prison. Copies of two letters from Louisa, explaining her position and asking for Ormus’ release can be located in Addendums 4 and 5.

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