DAVID BARNABAS LANT -- The story of the family outlaw.

In our family we have in-laws and we also have outlaws. Some of the family liked to joke about it, many others were curious, but a few thought it was very scandalous and wanted it kept quiet.

The book The Outlaw Trail by Charles Kelly, which is mostly about Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, contains one entire chapter about the story involving Dave Lant, called "The Law Comes to Brown's Hole." This book says that Dave was known as a "gentleman outlaw" in his youth. Dave Lant was never directly associated with Butch Cassidy, and in fact it is not known if he ever met him. The author calls Dave "the wild son of respectable parents."
A 1988 book entitled David Lant, the Vanished Outlaw, by Ellison, sheds more light on his activities. Apparently when drinking, Dave had a bad temper and would become violent. He first broke the law as an impulsive youth, and then became mixed up with the wrong people, and caught up in the circumstances. Afterwards he felt that he had gone too far to go back or reform his life. Unfortunately, the outlaw lifestyle eventually became ingrained in him, and overshadowed the better side of his nature, and he wasn't such a "gentleman outlaw" in his later life. Probably his mother's death and his father's very hasty remarriage had been hard on him, for he was only 14 when his mother died, and he left home at quite an early age.

A 1997 book, One Hundred Years of Brown's Park and Diamond Mountain, by Dick and Daun DeJournette, sheds even more light on the life of the outlaw David Lant, and solves the mystery of what became of him after he "vanished," and the circumstances in his early life which contributed to his becoming an outlaw. After leaving home as a teenager, he worked at various jobs on ranches, mostly herding sheep. At one time while herding sheep in Colorado, he was involved in a confrontation with cattlemen, in the range wars which were common at that time. He was herding sheep near Vernal for John Reader and Walt McCoy around 1894.
After this Dave Lant returned to Payson for a while. He had a girlfriend there named Annie Boulton; the two had known each other well since childhood, and had become more than friends. Annie became pregnant with Dave's child out of wedlock, and rather than thinking of marriage as suitable, Annie's father John Boulton and some of his friends forced Dave to leave town. Years later Annie told her daughter Donna Barton, "That evening after darkness set in, Dave came back and tapped on my window. He told me how much he loved me, but he felt it best if he left town. We were so in love, and my father and some of his friends ran Dave out of town. I never saw him again for a long time."
Earl, son of Annie and Dave, was born October 8, 1896 in Payson. Dave had gone back to herding sheep near Vernal, and in February of 1897 he was involved in a brawl in a saloon in Vernal, and was shot through the shoulder but soon recovered. In August of that same year, it seems he and two other men broke into a store in Woodruff, Utah and stole some clothing. For this he was sentenced to eight years in the state penitentiary, and was sent there on Sept. 8, 1897, when he was 22 years old. Meanwhile, Annie Boulton had been forced into a marriage by her father, to an older Englishman named John Henry Murrish, who was willing to support her and her young son Earl. Annie did not love John Murrish, but she was pregnant again out of wedlock, and did not have much choice in the matter. Annie Boulton and John Henry Murrish were married Sept. 9, 1897; just the day after Dave Lant entered the Utah Penitentiary, she began her "life sentence" also. Her son Earl took the last name Murrish also, but as he grew older he was told that his real father was David Lant, and Annie never stopped loving Dave, according to Earl's children. She never loved John Murrish, and he was not very kind to her or the children.
At the Utah State Penitentiary in Sugarhouse, Dave was soon befriended by an outlaw by the name of Harry Tracy. Harry had a plan for escaping from the prison, and needed accomplices to help him. Together with two other men, Frank Edwards and W.H. Brown, they escaped on Oct. 8, 1897 while they were out with a work crew, digging a pipeline near the mouth of Parley's Canyon. THE OUTLAW TRAIL says they escaped by using a fake gun which had been carved out of wood and covered with tin foil, but Ellison's research suggests that an outside accomplice had hidden a real gun the night before, near the pipeline where the prisoners would be working.
After the daring escape, the four men split up; Harry and Dave heading eastward up Parley's Canyon to Park City, where they hid out until the posses were off their trail, and then went over to the Uintah Basin, near Vernal, to head for Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming or the Powder Springs hideout in Colorado. A few accounts appeared in the newspapers of sightings of the two, but the lawmen still couldn't catch up with them. Apparently they rode north to Hole-in-the-Wall, but since there had recently been a raid there by the cattlemen to recover their rustled cattle, they found that most of the outlaws had left, and it was no longer considered a safe hideout. Apparently Harry and Dave rode south again, intending to head to Robber's Roost. But unfortunately, on Feb. 17 1898, a teenage boy named Willie Strang was shot and killed by an outlaw at the Red Creek ranch near Vernal, which was owned by Valentine Hoy. Many outlaws at that time worked at these remote ranches. The boy had been tagging along with the outlaws, and after a card game which lasted all night, he was horsing around and thought he would pull a prank. He either pulled a chair out from under outlaw Pat Johnston as he was sitting down, or threw a pan of cold water in his face (accounts varied). Johnston started shooting at the boy's feet to scare him and make him "dance," but he accidentally shot and killed the boy (he may have actually shot him on purpose, since he had a bad temper and had killed men before).
Even though they weren't present when the boy was shot, Dave Lant and Harry Tracy met Johnston on the trail and knew that the lawmen would soon be coming, and they would all be arrested. So the three of them headed into the area known as "Brown's Hole," or Brown's Park, where the three states of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming come together. This was one of the outlaws' hideouts, because they were out of reach of the law there -- whenever a posse came, all they had to do was cross one of the state lines out of their jurisdiction. To catch outlaws there, it would require sheriffs and posses from all three states cooperating and coming together at the same time. Until then there hadn't been sufficient reason to do so; the sheriffs in all three states didn't have warrants or charges against anyone at the same time. But Johnston was already wanted for previous crimes in Colorado and Wyoming, and Tracy and Lant had also been sighted and were known to be in the area, so the sheriffs got a posse together. It included some local ranchers, who had become fed up with the outlaws.
After tracking Johnston, Tracy, and Lant for a couple of days, the posse finally had them pinned down behind some rocks, but Harry Tracy refused to surrender. Dave Lant wanted to give himself up, but Tracy told him he would put a bullet in his back if he did. Then Harry shot and killed one of the posse, a rancher named Valentine (Val) Hoy. The rest of the posse retreated back down the rocky mountainside, to get more help, and while they were gone, the outlaws escaped again.
On the way back to the ranch, the posse captured another outlaw named Bennett, who was trying to bring food, clothing, and fresh horses to Tracy, Lant, and Johnston. Angered over the murder of their fellow rancher, the posse lynched John Bennett and hanged him from the gate at the Bassett ranch.
Two days later, on Mar. 4 1898, after tracking them many miles over rough country on foot (the trail marked by their bloody tracks because their boot soles had worn through), Johnston, Lant, and Tracy were captured. Lant and Tracy were taken to a jail over in Colorado to await trial. On Mar. 22 1898, they escaped from the jail at Hahn's Peak, Colorado but were recaptured the next day. They were taken to the jail at Aspen, because it was thought to be more secure, but on June 22 1898, they made their third jailbreak together, from Aspen, Colorado. This time they were not recaptured. They split up, and Dave Lant was "never heard of again." Harry Tracy later went up to Washington State and committed more crimes, and the lawmen finally surrounded him in a cornfield. But he had sworn he would not be taken alive again, and he shot and killed several lawmen before finally shooting himself. There is a movie on video about him called "Harry Tracy" (more romanticized than historical, however, and it covers only the later part of his life).
As for Dave Lant, his family in Payson feared that maybe Harry had killed him, because Harry had killed another fellow outlaw when he felt he had been double-crossed (this is depicted in the movie also). The Lant family had been quite scandalized by having an outlaw in the family. They were a very "proper" family, and the older generation, even if they knew anything, refused to talk about it at all (I, Karen, once asked my Great-Grandpa John Lant about his brother, but he just said he didn't know anything about what became of him, and changed the subject). One of John T. Lant's older children said they remembered at one time a man knocked on their door at night, and their father went out to help him, giving him some clothes, a horse, etc. but it was never talked about afterwards. They believe this might have been his outlaw brother Dave, but since their father was the mayor of the town, of course he wanted to keep it as quiet as possible, and he would always change the subject when asked about his brother. He may have known about his brother's son Earl, but he sure didn't tell anybody if he did know. In those days such things just weren't talked about.
The book The Outlaw Trail says that Dave Lant joined the army during the Spanish-American War, served in the Philippines and was decorated for bravery, and afterwards returned to Utah and lived a good life, under an assumed name. It hasn't been possible to verify this information, because the authors didn't give their sources, simply that it came from the knowledge of some anonymous "old-timers" in the 1940's or 50's. I looked into some information on the Spanish-American War, and it is said that this war, which took place between April and August of 1898, marked the emergence of the United States as a world power. When the war broke out, many outlaws on the trail at that time wanted to go down to California and offer their services as a group, hoping to gain a pardon for their crimes by doing so. They were rough and ready men, actually quite patriotic, and many had grown weary of life on the outlaw trail and wanted to reform their lives, but since they prized their freedom above all and didn't want to serve time in prison, they had few alternatives. Many felt that enlisting in the war offered them a perfect opportunity for adventure and glory which would be legally sanctioned and honorable, unlike their outlaw adventures. They called all the outlaws together and held a meeting to discuss the idea, but it was voted down because Butch or someone else felt that they would almost certainly be arrested when they went to sign up. But some of them still decided to go ahead on their own and join under assumed names. Although they didn't gain a pardon, they at least found respectable employment and a chance to start over in life. They were part of a group of soldiers called the "packers," who were from the west and had experience in the outdoors and with horses and mules. In the battles for the Philippine Islands (in the "long and bloody insurrection" which came after the official war ended), their skills came in very handy, because they had to bring supplies by mule train over the mountain trails to keep the army supplied. It was a very dangerous job because they were frequently ambushed by snipers, and if it weren't for these "packers," it is said that the soldiers wouldn't have been successful in holding the Philippines. Perhaps Dave Lant was one of these men, but we do not know for certain.
Nothing was known by any of the Lant family in Payson regarding what became of Dave Lant after he escaped from jail; it seems that the earth had just swallowed him up. If his only surviving brother John Tanner Lant (our great-grandfather, who died in 1966) knew anything of his brother Dave's whereabouts and activities after 1898, he kept the secrets well. It wasn't until nearly a hundred years had passed that the mystery was finally solved, and also we found out about Dave's son Earl, in the following manner:
There was an "Outlaw Trail Association" started in Vernal, Utah in 1988, and they put out a newsletter. The very first issue said that they had found the answer to what had become of Dave Lant. A man named Dick DeJournette, who was still living in the Vernal area, came forward and said that when he was a boy of 16, in 1937, he had gone with his father to a sheep corral near Vernal, where several sheepherders were bringing their sheep to be counted. His father, Ford DeJournette, met up with an old sheepherder there whom he recognized, and the two of them went up on a mountainside and talked for nearly the whole night. The boy brought some dinner up to them, but his father told him to leave them alone and let them talk. Over the next few days, the boy asked his father who that man was he had been talking to all night, and the father said never mind, and wouldn't tell him anything. Dick had suspicions that the man might have been Butch Cassidy, because his father had also known Butch fairly well in his younger days. When the curious boy kept hounding his father about it, he finally relented, and made his son promise not to tell anyone, and said that the man was Dave Lant. His father told him that Lant went by the name of "Dave Stillwell." Dave pretty much kept to himself, but worked for various sheep ranchers at times, mostly in Colorado, and also trapped coyotes. Dave traveled around in an old sheep wagon, his "home on wheels," pulled by four horses, with his fast saddle horse tied to the side of the wagon in case he had to make a fast getaway, and spare horses tied in back. He said that Dave really loved horses and trained them well.
Dick DeJournette kept the secret all of those years, but in 1988 he felt it was safe to tell about it, since so much time had gone by, and everyone involved was dead and gone. After his account was first published in the Outlaw Trail Journal, he decided to do more research, and write a book about the sheepmen, outlaws, and other history about the area of Brown's Park, north of Vernal.
During his research, Dick DeJournette uncovered the information about Dave Lant's girlfriend Annie and son Earl, and about what later happened to Dave Lant, and where and when he died, and this is in his book. Annie Boulton's first child by John Murrish, Jennie, was born Feb. 11, 1898 in Eureka, Utah, just before Dave was chased down by the posse and taken to jail in Colorado. Annie eventually had 12 children, and the Murrish family moved around a lot as John found various jobs, mostly in the mining industry. They lived in Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Utah, and California. It is not known to what extent, if any, communication passed between Annie and Dave Lant over the years, but at least one letter was saved, which Annie wrote on Apr. 1, 1898 to Dave in the Hahn's Peak, Colorado jail. Unfortunately, Dave never got this letter, since he was transferred to Aspen and then broke out of jail. The letter was somehow saved, and ended up in a museum in Colorado, where it was found just a few years ago. Dave's life might have been different if he had received the letter, and known how much Annie really loved him, and known about his son Earl:


"Dear Dave, With great pleasure I sit down to write you.
Darling, the past two years has been an age for me. Darling, I thought I would have to give you up but never not as long as I have breath in my body. I am thinking of you constantly; in my dreams I see you as I use to see you. There will never be another happy day on earth for me until I see your dear face. Dave, our little boy is just as sweet as he can be, and as smart as steel ... he often talks about his papa. He says he is way off; he can ---- all over and say everything. Dave, I would give all this world to see you; write and tell me if anyone could see you if they came there. If everything goes my way I will come some day. God only knows Dave, my heart is broke; this world has no charm for me. If it was not for my little boy I would never live a minute, but for his sake I will live for he would have no one to love and care for him if I leave him, for you and me both know how it is to go through this world without a mother. He is so sweet; he is all the comfort I have got in this world. Dave dear, circumstances has placed me where I am; all the wrongs I ever done in my life was caused through father, and you know yourself Dave, that no woman never loved a man more than I love you, and I always will. May the streams of life glide smoothly; May you ever happy be; When you think of one who loves you darling; Will you always think of me. Goodby Darling for this time; hoping an answer soon. I remain yours forever, Annie.
Address: Miss Annie Boulton, Eureka, Juab Co., Utah, P.O. Box 68.
XOXOXOXOXOXO This paper will not hold enough."

** Note that Annie signed her maiden name, and did not mention her second baby Jennie, who was almost two months old at this time.


Around 1912 or 1913, Earl Murrish said that a stranger knocked on their door in Metropolis, Nevada. John Murrish was away working in the mines in Montana. Earl said that the stranger who came to their door was his real father, Dave Lant. It is not known how Dave had learned about his son Earl, and found out where Annie and her family were living, but it was probably on a secret visit back to Payson. He took the train to Nevada and then walked 30 miles to reach their remote homestead.
Annie had not seen Dave for about 16 years, and this was the first time Dave saw his son Earl, who was about 16. Annie fed Dave from what little she had in the house, and then, seeing the family's circumstances (they were living in a tar-paper shack, with little food), Dave hitched up the family's wagon and took Earl into town with him, and brought back a load a groceries for Annie and her family. Dave and Earl had quite a bit of time to visit during the ride. This was the only time Earl ever met his real father, Dave Lant. Seeing Annie with the large family, he never returned. He stayed in hiding for nearly 50 years, moving from place to place.
Dave Stillwell told several people he knew in Colorado that he had been involved in a train robbery and got away with a lot of gold. He said that he trained his horses to jump the fences, so the hounds and posses couldn't catch him. He kept his gold cache in West Tabyago Canyon, south of Ouray, Utah, at a remote hideout where he had a cabin. Everyone who knew Dave said that he always seemed to have money on him, and was never broke. They also said that he had served some time in the prison up in Deer Lodge, Montana; also that he had been in Chicago for a while in the 1920's, during the gangster era. Also he lived in Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming at times. He mentioned to several people that he had killed a man at one time. The "old-timers" who knew him said that he would go into town periodically and drink and gamble, and usually end up getting in fights. Dave Stillwell, who was almost certainly Dave Lant, died May 4, 1947 near Rangely, Colorado and is buried somewhere near there (the DeJournettes wanted to keep the exact location of his grave a secret, to prevent anyone from possibly disturbing it in order to do DNA testing on his body). Dave Stillwell's death was listed as a suicide, but Dick DeJournette has suspicions that foul play may have been involved, since right before his death Dave had a dispute with a man named Ira Bales, an old friend of his who had been a gangster in Chicago at one time, and immediately after Dave's death, Ira Bales left the area for good.
As a footnote to the story, "since John H. Murrish was never divorced from his first wife (whom he had deserted in England), his marriage to Annie Boulton was not legal. Therefore, in 1997, one hundred years after her marriage to Murrish, she was sealed in marriage to David Barnabas Lant in the Manti Temple by family members who are direct descendants.
Dave's son, Earl Murrish had four children: Robert Earl Murrish, John (Jack) Murrish, Helen Edith Murrish Larsen, and Everett Murrish. At last count Dave Lant has these four grandchildren; also 17 great grand children, and 53 great great grandchildren, so he has a great posterity. Dave's granddaughter Helen Larsen wrote that, "I know my grandmother, Annie, loved her Dave Lant -- her letter to him proved that. Whatever happened in his life, I accept him as she did, with open arms. He must have had his own reasons for what happened, and we all have things happen in our lives that don't always bring a perfect ending."
Interestingly, Helen's brother Robert Earl Murrish (Dave Lant's grandson) married Elsie Crump, granddaughter of Elizabeth Ann Lant, Dave's oldest sister. Although they didn't realize it when they married, they are actually second cousins to each other. Only after being married for many years, they found out that they are closely related by blood.


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra Shuler Bray