Most of the pioneers who came to Utah in the mid-1800s wanted nothing but a little peace of mind - and perhaps a piece of land to settle down, park their handcarts and raise a family.
But revengeful Indians and a judge with a noticeable affinity for whiskey soon brought a peculiar kind of entertainment to the territory: executions.The first recorded executions in the Great Salt Lake Valley involved Longhair and Antelope, two Goshute Indians who admitted to killing two brothers - William and Warren Weeks - in Cedar City.
The Indians belonged to a small band that had separated from the tribe. They refused to make peace with the whites until they had avenged some of their friends and relatives.
"They lay in wait in the mouth of a canyon to which the inhabitants of Cedar Valley were accustomed to go for wood and poles," Hosea Stout, an early Mormon pioneer, wrote in his journal.
"Brother Allen Weeks' two sons happened to be the unfortunate ones who first came along and were slain and their bodies mutilated and scalped by the Indians."
On Friday, Sept. 15, 1854, Longhair and Antelope were hanged "two miles below the Jordan bridge on the other side of the river."
Then there was Thomas H. Ferguson, the first white man executed by hanging in the Utah territory. He was sentenced to hang for killing his boss in 1859.
However, Ferguson, a 27-year-old shoemaker from the state of New York, was sentenced to die as a result of a questionable trial.
Ferguson had been drunk at the time of the crime and, unfortunately, didn't remember anything.
Ironically, Judge Sinclair, who had just recently been assigned to the territory, "had too much whiskey in his head to know the day he sentenced me to be executed on," said Ferguson in his last speech, standing on the scaffold with the rope loosely around his neck.
Sinclair, who had a reputation for drinking heavily himself, is still remembered as the judge who appointed a Sunday for the first execution of a white man in the Utah territory. Ferguson's execution was eventually postponed until Friday, Oct. 28, 1859.
Sinclair's judicial career turned out to be a failure. He didn't even bother to send after the witnesses who were with Ferguson during his three-day drinking binge. "All Judge Sinclair wanted was to sentence someone to be hanged," Ferguson said.
The young cobbler was rather reluctant to die but climbed into the back of a wagon, sat on his coffin and rode to the east gate of Salt Lake City, near where the Governor's Mansion stands today.
As he mounted the scaffold, Ferguson was asked if he had any last words. He did - plenty of them. Some accounts have him talking for four hours. Most put the diatribe at somewhere around an hour before he was hanged.
The Deseret News printed his entire speech in its Nov. 2, 1859, edition.
Apparently, Ferguson's boss repeatedly refused to pay him for his work. At one point, the desperate youth took to the bottle and was delirious for a few days.
When he was sober again, Ferguson was told by a friend that he had killed his boss. "I don't know whether I have done any man any wrong or not," he said, adding that "I worked close on to a year, and then I could not get my money. It made me feel bad. It made me drink to drown sorrow."
Ferguson is among 47 men whom Weber State University author and sociologist L. Kay Gillespie calls "The Unforgiven." Reviled and condemned, they walked Utah's last mile, most to a pauper's grave, dead at society's hand.
The last person who was executed in Utah was child killer Arthur Gary Bishop, who went willingly to his death by lethal injection in 1988. Twelve inmates are now under sentence of death in Utah.
The oldest was John D. Lee, who at age 64 was sat on the edge of his coffin and shot in 1877 for his participation in the infamous Mountain Meadow massacre some 20 years earlier. Lee died at the site of the crime.
Some stood defiant before their executioners as the noose was tightened or the target pinned on their chest. Others were able only to ask for what they knew they could not have - absolution.
All, according to Gillespie's history of Utah's executed men, were "humans with tragedy in their lives."
"What I came away with was the sense that they were people," said Gillespie, whose book, "The Unforgiven: Utah's Executed Men," will be published next month by Signature Books.