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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,John Garst Origin Of John Henry--part TWO (240* d) RE: Origin Of John Henry--part TWO 05 Mar 11

Charles C. Spencer died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 21, 1944, according to his Certificate of Death. That document gives his birth date as December 5, 1875. However, his gravestone, which can be seen at Find-A-Grave, gives his birth year as 1870. According to other records (censuses, wife's death certificate, own testimony, etc), he was born between 1867 and 1884. Throwing out the latter datum leaves a range 1867-1875. Unlike Neal Miller, Spencer was old enough, 12-20, to have been carrying water and steel on the job where he said he saw John Henry's contest. That would have been on September 20, 1887, if we accept the month and day that Spencer gave.

His death certificate carries a surprising bit of information. He was not born a Spencer but rather a Matthews. He was born in Spencer, Henry County, Virginia, of a father named "Huston Matthews" and a mother whose maiden name was "Louise Clayton." Houston Matthews appears in Henry County in the 1870 census with wife Jane. Perhaps "Louise" was another of her given names. They have no children in 1870, but in 1880 Jane is a widow with a 10-year-old son, John Matthews. No other male child has an age appropriate for him to have been the man who later called himself Charles C. Spencer. Therefore I suspect that "Charles C. Spencer" was born John Matthews on December 5, 1870. If so, he would have been 16 years old on September 20, 1887, when he said that he was "about fourteen."

Another surprising thing about C. C. Spencer is that he was a second-degree Dunkard minister. This comes from a news account and his prison record, Utah State Prison (Sugar House, where Joe Hill's last word, to the firing squad he faced, is said to have been "Fire!")

In 1927, Spencer wrote to Guy Johnson on plain paper with the return address "1400 East 21st South," the address of the Utah State Prison. Johnson apparently never realized this. Spencer was serving time for having shot and killed Pleasant Jackson, a fellow coal miner, in Mohrland, Utah, in a dispute over a card game on Christmas Eve, 1922. Spencer was in the Utah State Prison from February, 1923, to February, 1928, when he was released after having had his life sentence commuted to five years and then shortened a few months by a parole.

I have copies of Spencer's mug shots.

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