Home | Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search

The New York Times, October 1, 1911

Frank Fuller

Frank Fuller, War Governor of Utah
Once quoted by Twain, "I am not an American. I am the American."

Frank Fuller, Still Active and Vigorous, Tells of His Talks with Lincoln---How Brigham Young Yielded a Point of Etiquette---Why Gov. Nye Broke a Promise with Mark Twain

Frank Fuller, war Governor of Utah, physician, lawyer, dentist, author, lecturer, railroad man, reporter, military organizer, and all-around business man, spent his eighty-fourth birthday last Monday in his office in Twenty-third Street as busy and active as most men of 50.

A stream of callers visited his office all day, some to discuss business matters, and others to offer congratulations upon his attainment of another milestone along the journey of life.

Between whiles he exercised with a punching bag an chatted reminiscently with a TIMES reporter about the troubles of '61, of the events that led to his appointment as Governor following the disappearance of Gov. Alfred Cumming, of his intimate talks with Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young, of the opening of the telegraph line to Salt Lake City, and of his close association with Mark Twain.

One glance at Dr. Fuller, and the visitor immediately realizes why Lincoln, a judge of men, selected him for a post where a firm hand with a delicate touch was needed to guide affairs of state. A picturesque figure he must have been in the affairs of Utah. And apicturesque figure he is today in his office, surrounded by objects that any antiquary would envy.

"Pray be seated in my grandfather's chair," said Dr. Fuller to his caller, indicating a splendid bit of Colonial furniture. The visitor found himself face to face with a man apparently 65 or 70 years old, a man with a massive head crowned with an amazing growth of gray hair, thick and strong.

Keen of eye, square of chin, and but slightly wrinkled, this Governor of half a century ago shows no sign in his countenance of lessening vigor. His brow is smooth, except in moments of perplexity consequent upon the effort to recall the half-forgotten details of the episodes of fifty years ago.

The Governor's office is, in truth, an appropriate setting for such a personality. His desk, tables, various cabinets, and chairs are all cherished relics of the Colonial period. He has, it is true, a modern filing cabinet, but it is easy to see that he has little patience with it. Then the walls are covered with gilt-framed pictures, originals, some of them while others, such as Meissonier's "1806," are copies. There is also a fine steel engraving of Daniel Webster, which has a history.

There is one really modern thing in this big, old-fashioned room; the leather punching bag, fixed to a flexible shank in an iron post screed to the floor in the middle of the room.

"When I get chilly from the open window," said Dr. Fuller, "I step up to this fellow and say: 'Confound you, you've been standing there doing nothing!' and then I go for him like this.

Whereupon the visitor was treated to a skillful and vigorous exhibition of bag punching.

"I was born in Boston eighty-four years ago today," began Dr. Fuller when asked to give THE TIMES a sketch of his life and activities. "My father's house still stands at the corner of Newton and Washington Streets. I had this photograph of it taken last year, but it does not show the window of the room in which I was born. My father, John Smith Fuller, taught young men who were preparing for college. He was a Deacon in Dr. Lyman Beecher's church and a great Bible scholar.

"I decided to be a physician, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes selected Dr. Benjamin Hubbard of Plymouth, Mass., as my preceptor because he had a drugstore. Later I studied dentistry with John Gunn, who was the most popular dentist of his time. My father was the executor of his will and I was in constant touch with the Gunn family and one of his sons was brought up on our family.

"My brother Edward, was a printer with John T. Gibbs, who published The Dover Gazette, and Ed wired me to come to Portsmouth, N. H., and help him out. I did local writing and learned to set the type very rapidly - as fast as any printer they had, but good Lord! the proofs - you should have seen those proofs. I stuck in anything. But that made me a newspaper man, anyway.

"Well, it happened then that in 1860 I was practicing dentistry in Portsmouth. At that time Robert T. Lincoln was at school at Phillips Exeter Academy. I had been making political speeches for the Republican Party, and a committee called on me and invited me to deliver the Fourth of July oration. I said to them:

" 'I'll do it if you'll give me the privilege of selecting some one to read the Declaration of Independence.'

"This privilege was granted, and I asked Robert Lincoln to read the Declaration.

" 'I'll do it if father is willing,' he said.

"So I telegraphed to Mr. Lincoln, and this reply came by wire:

" 'Tell Robert to take every occasion to read that immortal document, and the bigger the crowd the louder he must holler.'

"That settled it; so I had Frank Miller print a lot of double-sheet posters with Robert's name preceding mine, and mine, being a short name, leaded out so as to reach across. It all went off very well.

"About the same time I had promised Robert Morris of Kentucky that I would attend a convention in Cleveland that he was to hold. I took along with me copies of the Fourth of July posters, having determined that I would take a run to the capital of Illinois. I was received there by Mr. Lincoln in his office in the Capitol Building. There was an artist present, who was painting his portrait to be hung in some public place.

"Mr. Lincoln indulged in some pleasant stories, and in the course of our conversation I asked him how much he was worth - how much of an estate he possessed.

" 'If I were not pressed,' he replied, 'if it was sold without forcing, I consider myself worth about $16,000.'

"While he was talking I took notes, writing down everything he said in the back pages of a memorandum book, because the front pages had been written on already, but that notebook disappeared almost immediately, and I never could lay hands on it again.

"He went on, telling me of collecting farm produce and carrying it down the Mississippi in boats to New Orleans to be sold, and of bringing back such commodities as were needed in his part of the country. I asked him about his feelings toward the South and its inhabitants. He told me he had no resentment against the slaveholders.

" 'The first act of generosity toward me that I remember,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'was from a Southern slaveholder. I was drifting down the Mississippi with farm produce, and had a little skiff towing behind. There was a steamboat coming down the river behind us. All a once a carriage came dashing down a bluff on the shore and a gentleman leaped out and signaled to me. I got into the skiff and pulled to shore. "I must get on board that steamer," said the gentleman. "There's to be a big sale of niggers in New Orleans tomorrow, and I must get there." I put him aboard the steamer, and he threw me a silver dollar. That act has always stood out in my mind.'

"I went home to dinner with Mr. Lincoln, and spread out the Fourth of July posters, and Tad and Willie and Mrs. Lincoln delighted in them.

" 'How'd Bob do that?' inquired Mr. Lincoln in his high, piping tones.

" 'Fine! Fine!' I told him.

"His voice was high and piping in conversation, but in his platform speeches you could hear his bass notes a mile.

"I practically organized the Second New Hampshire Regiment for the war. I was paymaster and quartermaster and inspector of cooks, and protector against coffee strong enough to kill anybody, and meted out punishment for any act of intoxication. And with the regiment I went to Washington.

"Gov. Cumming was missing from Utah. No one knew when or how. It was rather a delicate thing to appoint a Governor, but Mr. Lincoln must go ahead, because it had also been reported to him that Francis Wooton, Secretary of the Territory, was constantly intoxicated. I was taken from the regiment by Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire, a friend of my family. He came with a carriage and we went to the White House and spent two hours with Mr. Lincoln. In the course of our call Senator Hale said to the President:

" 'Why don't you appoint my friend here Governor of Utah?'

" 'The situation is rather delicate,' the President responded. 'Gov. Cumming is missing, but he may return. I will appoint Dr. Fuller Secretary of Utah, and remind me of it later, if Gov. Cumming does not return I will appoint him Governor.'

And so to Utah I went, Governor in fact if not in name, with the salary and perquisites of Governor."

"Did President Lincoln give you any special instructions?" Dr. Fuller was asked.

"No," he replied, "but I said to him:

" ' Shall I take any message from you to Brigham Young?'

" 'No,' he rejoined quickly; 'you can't take any message from me; but I will say to you that if Brigham will let me alone I'll let him alone.'

"And so he left it to my judgment, what to say or do in relation to the attitude of the Mormons toward the war.

"On the day after my arrival in Salt Lake City, the second official of Mormon Church came to my office and said abruptly:

" 'You have not called on President Young.'

" 'No,' I replied in tones of surprise, 'he has not called on me.'

" 'Those who come here are supposed to call on the President,' he answered decisively, 'and he never makes calls.'

" 'Ah, in that case,' I replied, 'we will have to worry along somehow or other.'

"One dark night abut two months later," Dr. Fuller continued, "Brigham came to my office with his second in command.

" 'You have not called on me,' he began.

" 'No,' I replied, 'I have always understood that if a newcomer to a place was welcome there, the inhabitants called on him and made him welcome.'

" 'Well, we'll let that pass,' said Brigham, and then we went on to talk of other things.

"I might say here that I did not see Mr. Wooten until two weeks after I arrived in Salt Lake.

"I will give you one instance of the general attitude of the Mormons toward the United States Government," continued Dr. Fuller. "President Buchanan had sent a committee of two Southern Senators to carry 'forgiveness' to the Mormons. Brigham Young called them all together to listen to the long speeches made by the Senators, and when they had finished he got up and said:

" 'Is brother So-and-So present?' - naming a little bit of a fellow whose name I do not recall at this moment but who afterward became half owner of a daily newspaper - 'Is he present? Will he rise?' The little fellow bobbed up. 'Will you give a few verses of your song about the "Poor Old Horse?" ' asked Brigham. Then this fellow began to sing in jerky tones:

The poor old horse is across the road.
Across the road, across the road.
The poor old horse is across the road.
Across the road, across the road.
The poor old horse is across the road.
Across the road, across the road.
And the reason he's across the road,
Is because he' across the road.

"He said this over about forty times, with a rising inflection at the end of each verse. When he had finished Brigham arose and gave those Senators a great dressing down.

"Gen. Johnston had taken his little army out there before my term began, and had encamped at the fort about forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City. His goods had all been sold at auction, and Brigham built a theatre with the proceeds. This happened before I got there, but I was able to buy the chloroform that the army had had. I saw that we should need it, and I had used it before. Unfortunately, it was put up in ground glass bottles with ground glass stoppers, and you can't make a ground glass stopper fit a ground glass bottle. So a lot of it had evaporated, and there was not more than an ounce left in some of the bottles.

"I had not been in Utah long before I discovered that it was a mining country. A woman killed a duck and found a nugget in its gizzard. I bought the gold and sent it to President Lincoln. It was evident that there was gold and silver in abundance in the territory. I spoke to various Mormons about it, and they admitted they could find gold, but when they got to the foot of the mountain it was gone. They had been taught that it would evaporate if they tried to carry it home.

"I told Brigham Young I knew I was in a mining land. He begged me not to make it known, saying that the spreading of such news would be the means of introducing liquor and vice into the country.

"There was a great fever in California at this time to go to the war, and I think 250 fine horsemen had been sent to the front by way of the Isthmus. But those who came across country had to march. I sent word to California to pick out as many mining men as possible to form the troops that were to cross the plains, for I knew they would have to camp at Salt Lake. The very first night they did encamp there these experienced men found gold in the stream from which they got water.

"I might say right here that I can scarcely believe that a Gentile recently got into the Mormon Temple and took photographs of it. If so, things have changed since my time in Utah.

"The Pacific Telegraph Company completed the line to Salt Lake City in October, 1861, and Edward Creighton, who built the eastern end of it, invited me to send the first message, which I did, addressing it to President Lincoln. I received the following reply:

Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 1861
Frank Fuller, Gov., Utah
Sir: The completion of the telegraph to Great Salt Lake City is auspicious of the stability and union of the Republic. The Government reciprocates your congratulations.

"The next time I met Mr. Lincoln, three years later, he thanked me for that dispatch, and especially for its prophecy that the two oceans would be united by the telegraph line.

" 'I read your message to the Cabinet,' he said, 'and it pleased them greatly. We were glad to get an encouraging word from any source. Things looked dreadfully dark just then, and every little helped.'

"When I reached Salt Lake City there was only one physician in the place, Dr. Washington F. Anderson, a skillful surgeon and a splendid man, who had been a kind of Magistrate in Southern California. I said to him:

" 'Doctor, do you believe all this stuff about Joe Smith and his religion?'

" 'I don't know but what it's as good as any religion,' he replied.

"We did every kind of an operation between us. Our surgical cases mostly came from gun troubles and horse troubles. I gave the chloroform and he did the cutting. One day he said to me:

" 'I'm going to get married. I'm going to marry two sisters.'

"He already had a wife in California. I afterward heard he had a son, whom he named Frank Fuller Anderson.

"One of my first official acts as Governor had to do with a murder case. In the southwest portion of the valley two neighbors quarreled over the water which ran down the gutters. There were certain times for each to have the water for purposes of irrigation. One stole water from his neighbor, and when he remonstrated shot him.

"The slayer was tried and convicted and his execution was imminent, and I was implored by his wife and children to pardon him. Unfortunately, it developed that the slayer had rested his weapon on a fence and taken deliberate aim. I could not pardon him. He elected to be shot and was shot by ten men. I did not witness the execution, but sent my secretary.

"In a short time I had another homicide case on my hands. Ben Holliday owned the mail route from Omaha to Salt Lake. It was called the Omaha Stage Company, which became the Overland Mail Company, from Salt Lake to Sacramento. Joe Holliday was his brother Ben's representative at Salt Lake. He was extremely unpopular on account of his ignorance and unfairness.

"Joe had some trouble with a driver who boarded in a little house opposite the executive offices. This driver waylaid him at the door of his hotel and hammered him over the head with a pistol. It was said that he ran him twice around a cart, all the time beating him over the head.

"Joe finally got away and went across Main Street to his office. A few hours later he was summoned to the police court to testify against his assailant. He had a pistol in his sleeve, and as he entered the door he saw the driver sitting. He drew his pistol, fired, and shot him dead. Joe was arrested and confined, and subsequently came up for trial.

"His brother Ben telegraphed to me to save him at any cost. I had previously sought admission to the Bar and had been found competent by the District Attorney, who was a Mormon and the Chief Justice.

"Now came the advantage of having as one of two surgeons accompanying the small army from California a gentleman who had been for years the surgeon of the general hospital in San Francisco. He had seen more murder cases than any man in California. He was invited to examine Joe and give testimony as to whether his skull was impaired by the impact of the driver's pistol. Is so there was no 'cooling' time before the murder.

"He found 'lamination' of the plates of the skull, and it might be, I argued, that he was not responsible. Joe declared that the last he remembered he was being hammered, until he entered the courtroom and saw the driver sitting there with a knife in his hand, and shot him in self-defense. The man really had a knife in his hands; he was cutting his nails.

"Joe was released under $10,000 bail and got out of the country. His existence thereafter was ignored by his family.

"Mark Twain hated dogs and loved cats," continued Dr. Fuller, "but I always maintain that there is no story equal to a good dog story.

"There were a couple of splendid people in the little army that spent the Winter in Salt Lake, on the way East from California, a young Captain and his wife. He wanted to hurry East and take part in the war, and got an order of transfer from Gen. Wright. Col. Connor was in command of the regiment. He got the commission on account of a foray against the Indians.

"The Captain, whose name I do not recall, had a fine dog that had marched into Salt Lake with the army. He was a big, dark collie called 'Jack,' a wonderful dog. They wanted to take him East, but the stage company demanded $100 for his passage, the amount that each person had to pay. The Captain's wife wept.

" 'Jack, poor Jack!' she cried. 'We can't afford to take you. It'll take all our money.'

"And so they started without Jack, but he disappeared the next day, and a day or two later I got a telegram from the Captain at Fort Bridger, 120 miles away, saying:

" 'Jack here all right. Goes with us.'

"The dog had found his way across 120 miles of plain, although he had never been East before. Here is a picture of him that I have kept these fifty years.

"Before going further I might say that the missing Gov. Cumming, who was a Southerner, never returned, nor did I ever hear of him again. It was supposed, that he took no part in the adventures of the war.

"There came a time during my term of office when it became necessary for me to meet the Governor of Nevada to take some joint action against the Indians who were very troublesome. I went by the overland stage with James Gamble, the man who built the first telegraph line in California. He taught me the Morse alphabet, and we tapped messages on each other's hands with our fingernails as we rode along.

"I saw my first of Mark Twain in Nevada, in the little capital town under the mountain where Gov. James W. Nye lived. He was employed at something or other around the Governor's premises. On that trip I was admitted to the bar of Nevada, the motion to admit me being made by William M. Stewart, afterward United States Senator.

"Mark Twain at that time was writing more or less for the Territorial Enterprise of Virginia City, owned and edited by James T. Goodman. A year later I visited California and found Mark Twain there, and we became quite intimate. That was in 1863. He was writing chiefly for the Morning Call.

"Coming back from California we stopped for dinner at Job Taylor's in America Valley. Job kept liquor for sale, and the driver got drunk and drove the stage over a stump. I was thrown out and seriously injured, and I resigned.

"A few years passed, and I was ensconced in a fine suite of offices at 57 Broadway, in this city, as Vice President of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. My interest in the company was created by good old Josiah Perham. He loved a patient listener, and that he found in me. When in the West I had Perham's glowing plans in view constantly. The 'Colonel Rowland' which the historians connect me with was a useless hanger-on, so far as I could judge, and so he proved.

"I did not seek office. Perham begged me to speak to the Boston Board of Trade, and I consented. Subsequently they put me in as one of the Directors and made me Vice President, and I worked with them as long as I remained.

"I was sitting in my private office at 57 Broadway one day when Mark Twain arrived in New York after his successful lectures in San Francisco, Sacramento, Virginia City, and St. Louis. He walked into my office and drawled out:

" 'Frank, I want to preach right here in New York, and it must be in the biggest hall to be found. I find it is the Cooper Union, and that it costs $70 for one evening, and I have got just $7.'

"I told him he should have that big hall, and he 'preached' there to the biggest audience it had ever held. We started right away to interest the public in his lecture on the Sandwich Islands. We put advertisements in the papers calling on all citizens of the Pacific Coast to meet in the evening at the Metropolitan Hotel to take measures for stimulating interest in the lecture and to give him a big send off.

"George Butler, a nephew of Ben Butler of Massachusetts, who held a Consular position in one of the South American countries, presided at the meeting. He made a speech, introduced Mark Twain, who also made a speech, and there was much enthusiasm.

"Mark wanted somebody to go to Washington and get Gov. James W. Nye to promise to come on and sit on the stage, after introducing Mark to the audience. I was selected to go, made the trip to Washington, and was pleasantly received. Gov. Nye instantly consented to introduce Mark, and begged me to sit right down and write a nice promise and he would sign it. This was duly done.

"It was arranged that he should be at the Astor House at 7:30 on the appointed night. I looked in at the old Astor when the night arrived, and found Mark in a perfect fever lest that blank blanked Nye was going to disappoint him. I felt that he would, and instructed Mark to proceed to the hall in a carriage at 7:30. Gov. Nye did not materialize. Mark begged me to take his place, but I refused positively, and he had to introduce himself.

"Twenty-five years later I met Gov. Nye on a steamboat going to Glen Cove. 'Why did you disappoint us that night?' I asked him. 'I never intended to show up,' he replied. 'He's nothing but a damned Secessionist.'

"I sent invitations and two tickets to the lecture to every banker, teacher, professors in the colleges, and such like, and expected a fine audience.

"Mark was never a very fine dresser, and though his ordinary sack suit was good enough. I told him he must wear evening dress, and he said he never had had a claw-hammer coat in his life. I put Linthicum, a first-class tailor, nearly opposite Stewart's uptown store, on the job, and made him procure a suitable collar and necktie. They he fixed himself in my private office and rehearsed.

"He gave me his description of the volcanic eruption at Hawaii, when the melted lava made the ocean boil for forty miles.

"When Mark rehearsed he railed at the damned tailor who had sewed up the buttonholes so that he couldn't button his coat. I told him it was not customary to button a dress coat. He pointed to my engraving of Daniel Webster and sarcastically wondered who knew best. Webster or a scrub of a tailor. He then wished to know if I knew of any other man who wore evening dress when engaged in his ordinary vocation. I told him I had heard that there was one such in the City of Philadelphia, a popular and able lawyer.

"He then cut the stitches holding his buttonholes, buttoned his coat, and remarked: 'Now there are three of us,' and so garbed, he spoke his piece when the time came.

"Mark walked on the stage that night and peered down as if hunting for a missing penny, and then remarked:

" 'I was looking for Gen. Nye, who had promised to introduce me, but I see nothing of him, and as there are no other Generals in town just now we will have to worry along without him. This programme declares that a grand piano will be on hand, but as I don't see it and see no grand pianist anyway, I reckon it will have to dispensed with.

" 'The Sandwich Islands are situated 2,700 miles southwest of San Francisco, but why they were placed way out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean does not become us to inquire.

"And so he went on, and the shouts of laughter and the bursts of applause were far beyond anything I have ever witnessed.

"The expense of the lecture was a little over $600; the receipts were not quite $300.

"Some twenty-five years later I asked Mark if he remembered the time when he only had $7, and wanted to 'preach' in Cooper Union.

" 'Seven dollars!' he exclaimed. I had $700 in gold in old man Leland's safe at the hotel.'

" 'You did not tell me that, Mark,' I responded.

" 'Well,' he drawled, 'maybe I didn't bring out the second syllable quite plainly.' "

Related article: The New York Times, February 20, 1915 - Frank Fuller obituary
Special Feature: "Frank Fuller, The American, Revisited"

Return to The New York Times index

Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search