Saturday, August 9, 2014

When Snow fell in August and a Salt Lake Temple invasion

By Lynn Arave

SNOW in August is probably the least likely time for a taste of winter in the Top of Utah. However, “Snowstorm in middle of August” was an Aug. 19, 1912 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Travelers going from Woodruff, Rich County, over the mountains into Huntsville on Aug. 18 that year, encountered a “heavy snowstorm.”
Temperatures were reported near freezing at Huntsville and even “Observatory Peak” (Mount Ogden) received snow from the same storm that day.

More history:
-Reports of a “mysterious invasion” of the Salt Lake Temple comprises another strange news item, also from just over a century ago.
“Invades the Mormon Temple” was the headline. According to the Standard of Sept. 16, 1911, a blackmailer was trying to extort $100,000 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The criminal supposedly had “flashlight photographs” of the interior of the Mormon Temple and would publish them, if not paid off.
Max Florence, the former “movie king” of Salt Lake City was believed to be the alleged blackmailer and now residing in New York City.

LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith was quoted as saying, “That the Church authorities did not desire to enter into any negotiations with thieves and blackmailers.”
He also said he didn’t care if the photographs were published or not, since some 800 non-members of the Church had toured the inside of the temple before its 1893 dedication.
President Smith said furthermore that the pictures were not taken by flashlight, but likely a few months earlier when the temple was closed for cleaning. That’s because some furniture in the photos were covered by canvas.
It was later determined that an accomplice, an active Elder in the Church, who also had special access to the Temple, had taken the photographs for Florence. He was later excommunicated from the LDS Church for his actions.
Florence meanwhile, was known to be in personal financial trouble. However, he first scoffed at the alleged $100,000 ransom for the pictures, claiming if had actually done that, he would have asked for a lot more money. By January of 1912, Florence had returned to Salt Lake and said he had received some offers to buy the temple pictures, but had taken none, because the buyers wanted him to defame the LDS Church and he would not do that.
That controversy then faded away. (However, Florence was arrested twice in succeeding years for separate issues. In 1917, he was arrested on a felony for false imprisonment of a theater owner. In 1918, he pleaded guilty to breaking Utah’s “dry law,” by bringing in barrels of whiskey from Wyoming.)
 -More history: “Muzzle the bulldogs” was a May 19, 1911 editorial in the Standard. Pitbulls may be the most controversial canine breed today, but bulldogs in that era were the hot issue.
The editorial cited the death of a dog and a cat as recently happening in Ogden from bulldog attacks, plus a Salt Lake girl, 10, was attacked and injured by a loose bulldog in that city.
(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on August 8, 2014.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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