Hiram B. Clawson papers, 1844-1947

Overview of the Collection

Clawson, H. B.(Hiram B.)
Hiram B. Clawson papers
1844-1947 (inclusive)
5.5 linear feet
Collection Number
MS 0040
The Hiram B. Clawson papers consists of family correspondence from the Clawsons and Spencers, including letters from Hiram Clawson to his wife, Ellen Spencer Clawson, and letters from Orson Spencer to his children. Included are party invitations to Hiram Clawson and a few playbills from the Salt Lake Theatre. Some materials have been digitized and are available online.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Twenty-four hour advanced notice encouraged. Materials must be used on-site. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Few men are better known in the Mormon community, or have been more active in social, commercial, professional and military life of Utah than General Hiram Bradley Clawson (1826-1912). He was a native of Utica, Oneida county, New York, and was born November 7, 1826. He received his education at the Utica Academy. His father died when he was young and his widowed mother joined the Latter-day Saints in 1839. Mrs. Clawson and her family of two sons and two daughters moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841. Clawson arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the general immigration of 1848. In common with most of the pioneers he performed a variety of labors in the early years and gained the knowledge of several trades. He had charge of the masons who erected the old Council House and a little adobe structure to the south of it, the latter being the first of its kind in the valley. Also, he temporarily acted as architect for the Salt Lake Temple when Truman O. Angell was called away on a mission.

Early on, however, Clawson assumed the duties of office clerk for President Young and supervised the President's private business affairs, a post he occupied for many years. Clawson initially managed President Young's private store, but in the spring of 1865 he ended that affiliation and purchased the partnership interest of William H. Hooper of the firm Hooper and Eldridge. As junior partner, Clawson traveled frequently to the east coast as the purchasing agent for the firm. Clawson and Horace S. Eldridge dissolved their partnership in 1868, selling their merchandise to the newly incorporated Zion's Co-Operative Mercantile Institution. At the same time, Clawson was appointed general superintendent of Z.C.M.I and continued to travel as a purchasing agent for the new enterprise. He retired from his post in 1873, but resumed the position eighteen months later when his successor, William H. Hooper, resigned. Z.C.M.I occupied its present day location on Main Street during this second term. On October 4, 1875, Clawson again resigned from Z.C.M.I., but then purchased the agricultural, hide and wool departments from the store. He continued to own and operate this concern until his retirement in 1885. A cause for Clawson's retirement from business in 1885 was his indictment for unlawful cohabitation under the provisions of the Edmunds Law.

At the beginning of the anti-polygamy crusade he had three living wives and refused to denounce two of them in compliance with the law. He suffered through an exceptionally severe arraignment beware Chief Justice Sane and was sentenced to the maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and a fine of three hundred dollars and court costs. At the time of his imprisonment, his first wife, Ellen Curtis Spencer; second wife, Margaret Judd; and fourth wife, Emily Young (a daughter of Brigham Young) were living in Salt Lake City. His third wife, Alice Young (a daughter of Brigham Young) had died in childbirth. After his emergence from the penitentiary -- where, as usual with such cases, the term of his sentence was materially shortened by good behavior -- Clawson acted as an agent for the LDS leadership in resolving the conflict created by polygamy with the federal government.

Clawson served the community in many capacities. Most notably, in February 1850, Clawson was present at the Provo Indian battle and assumed the duties of aid-de-camp to General Daniel H. Wells, the commander of the Nauvoo Legion, when the previous aid-de-camp was killed in action. When the Legion was disbanded in 1870 he had risen to the rank of adjutant-general, having succeeded General James Ferguson in 1863. In 1864, he served as the treasurer of Salt Lake City, and as a member of the Territorial Legislature. He also served for many years as the Bishop of the Twelfth Ward. The theater was an important aspect of early Mormon cultural life, both in Nauvoo and later in Salt Lake, and like many of his contemporaries Clawson enjoyed acting, as well as, attending local production. As an early devotee he studied his craft under Thomas A. Lyne, a tragedian of the Edwin Forrest school. As an original member of the Deseret Dramatic Association, he appeared as early as 1850 at the Old Bowery Theater, then located on Temple Block. One of his future wives, Margaret Judd, played opposite him in some of these early productions. Subsequently, he played at the Social Hall which in 1853 replaced the Bowery Theater as the local favorite. His amateur career lasted from the middle 1840s in Nauvoo through the early 1860s when business matters prevented his active participation. Clawson continued his interest in the theater through fund raising and as a purchasing agent; while on business trips to New York he often engaged nationally famous actors and singers or acquired materials used in costuming and stage sets. When the Salt Lake Theater in 1862 was completed Clawson was engaged as manager and continued in this capacity, often in partnership with John T. Caine and others, for many years. Many of Clawson's children also appeared in productions at the Social Hall and later at the Salt Lake Theater.

The above biography by Orson F. Whitney appeared in History of Utah, Volume 4.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Hiram B. Clawson papers (1846-1947) consist mainly of correspondence. Some materials have been digitized and are available online. The earliest letters are from 1847, and are of Orson Spencer to his children in Council Bluffs and Salt Lake City while on his mission to the British Isles and from relatives of Catherine Curtis Spencer showing concern fro the children after the mother, Catherine Curtis Spencer, died in 1846 during the exodus from Nauvoo. Hiram Clawson's letters to Ellen Spencer Clawson cover the period from 1857 to 1894 and record his time with the Nauvoo Legion in Echo Canyon and Fort Bridger in 1857 observing the approaching army; buying trips to eastern cities for Zion's Corporate Mercantile Institution (ZCMI); time spent in the Territorial Penitentiary from 1885 through 1886; a trip to Arizona to establish friendly relations between two territories; and activities in Washington, D.D., during 1892 and 1894. Most of his correspondence deals with family problems. Rarely are any business matters discussed. The remaining correspondence includes letters from children of Hiram and Ellen Clawson and from relatives in Eastern United States who did not join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), but who remained close to the family through correspondence. Three unpublished "Dear Ellen" letters were written by Ellen Pratt McGary dated 8 January 1857; 6 August 1857; and 23 April 1870, Beaver, Utah, appear in the collection. These were missing at the time of publication of the exchange of letters between Ellen S. Clawson and Ellen Pratt McGary by S. George Ellsworth in the Western Humanities Review 13 (1959). These letters give an interesting picture of polygamy. Other items included in the collection are: Salt Lake Theater programs, photographs of family and early Salt Lake City, patriarchal blessings of Ellen Spencer Clawson, poetry of Ellen and Hiram Clawson, and Eliza R. Snow.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.

Preferred Citation

Collection Name, Collection Number, Box Number, Folder Number. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Arranged to the folder level.

Separated Materials

Photographs were transferred to the Multimedia Division of Special Collections (P0040).

Acquisition Information

Donated by Mildred and Janice Organ Greene (boxes 1-4) in 1971.

Purchased from Beehive Antiques (folder 8 of box 4) in 1999.

Boxes 5-7 were donated in 2010.

Processing Note

Processed by Della Dye in 1971.

Addenda processed by Lindsey Moore in 2006 and Elizabeth Rogers in 2010.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Family Correspondence, 1848-1899Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1 1857-1894
1 2 1857-1894
1 3 1857-1894
1 4 1857-1894
1 5 1857-1894
1 6 1857-1894
1 7 1857-1894
1 8 1857-1894
1 9 1857-1894
1 10 1892
1 11 1873-1878
1 12 1873-1878
1 13 1873-1878
1 14 1879-1888
1 15 1876-1881
1 16 1871-1893
1 17 1882-1890
1 18 1888-1899
1 19 1881-1894
1 20 1892
1 21 1883-1892
1 22 1880-1894
1 23 1872-1899
1 24 1872-1899
5 1 1848-1894
5 2 1848-1894
5 3 1852-1890
5 4 1871-1878
5 5 1864; 1872
5 6
Orson Spencer Clawson to His Mother, Ellen Spencer Clawson
Orson Spencer Clawson went by his middle name, Spencer, which is how his correspondence is signed. Box 6 contains correspondence from Hiram B. Clawson to his son.
5 7 1860-1880
5 8 1860-1880
5 9 1871-1880
5 10 1871-1894
5 11 1881-1883
5 12 1881-1890
General Correspondence
Box Folder
2 1 1846-1847
2 2 1886
2 3 1847
2 4 1864
2 5 1881-1884
2 6 1882-1890
2 7 1896
2 8 1893
2 9 1856-1870
2 10 1881
2 11 1890-1893
2 12 1879-1882
2 13 1847
2 14 1881
2 15 1881
2 16 1865-1888
2 17 1870-1880
2 18 1847-1849
2 19 1886-1892
2 20 1881-1884
2 21 1867
2 22 1865-1867
2 23 1872-1895

General Materials, 1847-1947Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
3 1
Financial Records
3 2
Educational Material
3 3
George Clawson, Wedding Guest List
3 4
Ivie Clawson Greene, First Prize Ticket
3 5
Heber Q. Hale, "Heavenly Manifestations"
3 6-7
Social Invitations
3 8
Diary Excerpts
This folder contains an account of "Crossing the Plains," and a page of a diary describing a trip to New York with Hiram Clawson by Alice Young Clawson.
3 9
General Items
3 10-11
Newspaper Clippings and Obituaries
3 12
Patriarchal Blessings and Tithing Receipt
3 13-14
3 15
Theater Programs and Advertisments
3 16
University of Utah Athletic Association Booklet
4 1
Hiram B. Clawson, Geneology and Biography
4 2
Polygamist Penitentiary Record
4 3
Spencer Clawson's Buyers Notebook
4 4
S. George Ellsworth, "Dear Ellen"
4 5
Sydney and Amelia Burns Clawson, History
4 6
General Items
4 7
This folder contains clippings of hair which were collected by Ellen Spencer Clawson.
4 8

Correspondence and Other Materials, 1844-1911Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 1
Orson Spencer Family Correspondence
6 2
Orson Spencer Receipts
6 3-4
Autograph Books
6 5
Telephone Book
6 6
Note Pad
6 7
Poems, Fragments, Notes, Invitaions, and Printed Material
6 8
Legal Documents
6 9
Correspondence (Photocopies)
6 10
Hand-Stitching Examples
6 11
Exercise Book
6 12

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Personal Names

  • Clawson, Ellen Spencer, 1832-1896--Correspondence (contributor)
  • Spencer, Orson, 1802-1855--Correspondence (contributor)

Family Names

  • Clawson family
  • Spencer family

Geographical Names

  • Salt Lake City (Utah)--Social life and customs

Form or Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Playbills