Albert Barrus

an autobiography

This is the 13th day of March 1959 and we are spending a few months at Emil and Fay Neilsen's in Salt Lake City with nothing to do, so I will write something about my experiences while serving as an officer of the law a good many years ago.

A Candidate for sheriff came to the Stake Mutual Presidency and told them if they would help him to be elected they could name his deputy to act in Star Valley and so they elected him. They came to me and asked me to take the job. I worked with him two terms. Finally he began taking bribes from the bootleggers to let them make and sell moon-shine whiskey. I didn't yield to that as I was under bond to enforce the law, also it was against my religion to be a hypocrite. Finally he told me to leave the bootleggers alone or he would fire me. I still enforced the law. He fired me.

When the Governor of the State of Wyoming, Nellie Tyler Roos Crens, heard about it, she hired me as a State Police and gave me more money than I had been receiving from the county so I started on the bootleggers.

I received a call one day saying school children were getting moonshine from a certain man. I started to go see him and got several miles on my way, but was told several times not to go that day. It wasn't a man or woman that told me. I turned around and went back home. In a few days, to be exact on the 16 day of December, that same voice told me that it was the right time to go. I drove to the man's place. He met me at his gate, thinking I was a man from Soda Springs whom he had sold 20 gallons of moon shine to. When he became aware that it was an officer he flew into a rage (mad) and ordered me off his place. I was prepared to search his place. I walked to his wood shed where he had just dug up 21 gallons of moon shine.

I took him and the moon shine to a Justice of the Peace. The Justice was afraid to give him a hearing so I called the county attorney. He told me to lock him up and bring him to Kemmerer next day. The snow was deep. I took him to the bank building in Freedom and locked him in the vault of the old Freedom Bank as the building was empty. He plead so hard for me to let him go home for the night and made me many promises that he would be a good prisoner. I believed him and borrowed a horse for him to ride home.

Next morning I drove to his gate and tooted the horn on my car, according to our agreement he was to come out without trouble. He didn't come. I then went within a few feet of his door. He opened the door, pulled a shot gun on me and with language I will not use, told me to put the moon shine back or he would kill me. I had a gun and could have killed him before he got his gun raised, but I was told again by the same voice as before not to shoot. I talked to him. He kept threatening me. Finally he came and gave me his gun and broke down and cried. I assured him I could have killed him but was told not too. I hand-cuffed him, then went in his house where I found his wife and children in tears. I assured them they would be taken care of. It was pitiful sight.

I took him to Kemmerer and put him in jail. In a short time I received a notice that the sheriff and bootleggers had hired a lawyer and had entered a twenty five thousand dollar suit against me for false imprisonment. It went on some time waiting for the court to sit. One day, I received notice the case had been thrown out of Court. I didn't know why. Someone who was a good friend of mine, one of the best lawyers in the State and from whom I had received advice in all my work, had read about the case. He lived in Rock Springs. He went to Kemmerer and told the sheriff to go ahead with the case if he wanted, but if he did he would put him and his friends in the penitentiary.

The man I had arrested served two years in jail. When he got out he thanked me many times. He said, "It made a man of out of him." I just mention a few cases I had to handle.

At that time there wasn't a highway patrol. I had to take care of traffic. I picked up many persons killed on the highways and many who got killed or died in the hills. I mention one sheep herder who had been dead some time. A ten quart pail would not hold the maggots and blow flies on his body. I packed him on a horse 15 miles. I was called up to Gray's River to get another dead sheep herder between Swan Valley and Jackson. He was a big man who had been killed by lightning. I would take one of my boys to help load them on the pack horse.

I was also called to get murderers. I mention one at the Wail Coal Mine. I always depended on the Lord to tell me and help me. They were drunk and this man had killed one of his three friends. There were just the three of them at the mine at that time I received a night call from the ranger who had been notified of the killing. I left home at midnight and arrived at the Sam Young ranch at 2 AM. Sam told me the third man had got away from the murder scene and was hiding in a cabin. I went and talked to him. He assured me that the man was dead and that I would be killed before I would see the killer. It was dark so I asked Mr. Young for a bed until day light. Sam said there was a bunk in a cabin across the creek. When I went over to the cabin I was warned many times I wouldn't come back alive. During the few hours on the bunk I would doze and the story of Nephi in the Book Of Mormon going back for the records would come in my mind. I was assured by the same voice that had given me advice many times in my life, that I would find the murderer as Nephi found Laban, in a drunken condition.

As I went to the mine in early morning I found the dead man lying in a doorway. I stepped over his body and picked up two guns, threw the shells out of them, and then started to the cabins for the murderer. After I had gone through several I finally came to one where I could see a coal oil lamp burning through the dirty windows. I pushed the door open and saw the murderer laying on a bunk fully dressed. As I opened the door he came at me, so I pulled my gun and made him lay down. I hand cuffed him and made him go help me load the dead man in a pick up truck that I had brought. He was put in the penitentiary for life. I just mention a few of the calls I would answer.

I received a call to go to Etna, Clinger Youst put on celebration the last of every fall. I had been there a short time when I noticed people going to a pick up truck to get something. I investigated and found a load of moonshine. I took the whole load driver and all.

I soon received written notice if I didn't release the whole outfit I wouldn't go home alive. It was getting dark when I got down to Dave Roberts where my wife was. Lyle Mills came down excited, and told me that there were 4 men laying for me, two at each end the bridge that crossed the canal. They were going to knock me out and throw me in the canal. I asked Cot Barrus to go with me and gave him a gun. We walked over the bridge and back. They were there but didn't raise up. That night they tried to get me to drink Pop with them. I had been told they had put poison it. I didn't drink.

That night I lay on a quilt on Dave Roberts lawn, with a gun in my hand, the four men came and walked round and round but didn't molest me. I took the one man and his moonshine to Kemmerer. I was handed a note by a big man saying, "You withdraw that charge or you will never leave Kemmerer alive." I handed the note to the County Attorney and he placed a guard with me. The trial went to the Jury, but they returned a not guilty verdict. Judge Arnold called me to come to his office and he told me that he knew the man was guilty but at this time you can't get a jury to convict a bootlegger. The judge said, "This is strong advice, go home and organize a bunch of good men, and give those kind of people (moonshiners) a chance to leave. If they don't, help them." One valley man that was not LDS, Richard Johns, said, "He is guilty." I relate this to show the condition the country. Some of the men that posed as LDS were this way during prohibition (involved with the moonshiners). I see some of those men now and wonder about them.

I served with three sheriffs and a term for the State Police. I could write pages of experiences I had. In closing I will say I arrested men in both valleys for bootlegging. On one occasion, coming from the lower valley I was followed by two men that kept shooting over my car. They had warned me I never would get home alive. I could mention many names but I won't, most of them are dead now.

There was so much night driving that I was persuaded to quit. Now I am in my 84th year and not good for any work. I am sure it won't be long until I will stand before a Judge and my life history will be shown me.