Murder in the Metropolis: Part the Second

October 26, 2006 | 15 comments
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William Hooper Young, known as Hooper, was born in 1871 in Philadelphia, where his mother, Libbie Canfield, was visiting, while his father, John W. Young, was in Utah. Hooper’s parents divorced when he was about ten years old, and his mother remarried and moved to Seattle to raise a second (non-Mormon) family. His father, an apostle (although never a member of the Quorum of the Twelve), focused his considerable talents on industry, much of his business being conducted in the East. Hooper’s living arrangements during his teen years are not definitely known, but he remained in Utah, and may have briefly studied chemistry at Brigham Young Academy in Provo. Recalled an old friend, “even in those bygone days Hooper had funny streaks, and would often surprise the boys with his statements or actions.â€? His stepfather claimed that Hooper had been sent to a military school from which he had run away, and hinted that Hooper’s “difficultâ€? ways had been the subject of acrimony between the parents: “She was always a good mother, and any statement made by … her former husband, to the effect that she exercised a bad influence upon young [Hooper] is absolutely and unequivocally false.â€?

Although later some would distance themselves from Hooper by claiming that he had not been associated with the Church since childhood, Hooper was called as a missionary to the British Isles in 1890 to serve under the presidency of his uncle, Brigham Young, Jr. Mission records note his arrival at Liverpool and his participation in routine activities during his first summer in England. He appears not to have completed his mission, however; while no indication of any specific trouble has yet been found, Hooper’s name ceases to appear in mission records within a year of his arrival. Hooper joined family in London, traveled with them on an extended trip to Paris, and returned with them to England, never resuming his missionary activities. He returned to the U.S. in 1893.

In the words of one cousin, Hooper “was a bright young man, but very erratic;� in the words of another, “[h]e was a strange fellow, having left home frequently to wander about the country like a tramp. He had an idea that he could become immensely wealthy by chance, and took numerous trips in the hope of a strike of fortune.� Hooper experimented with the cowboy life in Arizona; worked as a reporter on the staff of the Salt Lake Herald; became a heavy drinker and a chain smoker; tried his hand at newspaper work in San Francisco; started a paper in Seattle which was suppressed under obscenity laws; became wanted for forgery; labored as a miner in Butte; fathered a daughter out of wedlock; peddled insurance; went on the road as a salesman for a drug company, and, by 1900, had become addicted to cocaine. His father made numerous attempts to help Hooper, but at last tiring of Hooper’s dissolute ways, he cut off all contact. Hooper met with two half-brothers when he drifted to New York City in 1901, borrowing money from them as he had from other relatives whose paths he crossed, but his father adamantly refused to allow Hooper to call at his apartment.

That apartment, at the head of Central Park, was a very large one. This space was hardly necessary for John W., his daughter Mary, and the one or two sons who sometimes stayed there, but “he did not like close neighbors,� and so leased three apartments and had them opened into one. His relationship with the Church in Manhattan was a peculiar one: he attended services and was generous when his fluctuating finances were high; when they were low, he stayed away from services and occasionally sent a son to borrow $50 or $100 from Mission President John G. McQuarrie.

In the spring of 1902, John W.’s business called him to Europe, with the expectation that he would be away for as long as a year. Rather than give up his apartment, he invited four missionaries working in Manhattan to use one of his three suites. The four elders accepted, and were settled in before John W. left for Europe in June.

“One morning,” President McQuarrie would later recall, “a stranger showed up at my office. He introduced himself as Hooper Young … He claimed that he was ill and too weak to work, and needed to go to a sanitarium. He said he had no friends, and not even enough money to eat on. … It was not too difficult to diagnose his condition … [:] dissipation – including promiscuous association with women …”

McQuarrie could not, he told Hooper, disburse Church funds to assist “a derelict who chooses to follow an illicit, illegal, and indulgent life such as you are leading.� But, he said,

“[Y]our father … left me in charge of three apartments. The four Elders working in this conference occupy one. You may have [a room] in either of the others … The boys cook for themselves … You may share their meals … I will pay your share. After a few days rest you will … look for a job. I will give you enough to pay carfare – but nothing for dope or beer.

“I think,” recalled McQuarrie, “at the time he was sincere in … his promises. He ate well and slept well, and after a week he went out each day looking for work. But with the surge of increasing physical strength, came also the lure of fixed habits, the carnal appetites … His will power was weak, his desires were strong.”

To be continued.

So… what do you think? Don’t spoil the suspense for others if you already know the answer, but if this is a new episode for you, do you think Hooper did it, based on his personal history? Any feelings about this model for child rearing or parent/adult child relations? What do you think about the mission president’s dilemma and his solution? Any comments about apostles who weren’t quorum members?

15 Responses to Murder in the Metropolis: Part the Second

  1. Mark B. on October 26, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Sorry, Ardis, I have a different question:

    What do you know about the term of Hooper’s call as a missionary in London? I suspect that the terms of a call were much more flexible then than now, so I wonder if there’s any way to know for certain that Hooper ceased his missionary work before the end of his time, if there was in fact an “end” to his expected service.

  2. Matt W. on October 26, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Just glossing through. Don’t want to comment too much, as I already googled this after part one… But, an apostle-not 12 woudl be like the asssitants to the 12, or members of the 1st presidency, not twelve called in the McKay era, so no qualms here, I guess…

  3. Ardis Parshall on October 26, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Mark B: Good question (any question that challenges me to doublecheck my evidence and reasoning is good). On the one hand, I know that no release is noticed in the Millennial Star during a period when missionary arrivals, assignments, transfers and releases are regularly announced. I know that no release is recorded in the British Mission files, again during a time when such details appear to be universal. I know that all indications of his personality are that he had little interest in religion and that he couldn’t stick to any occupation for very long. On the other hand, I have no positive evidence of trouble or early release — but then, in the case of any other missionary such evidence (short of public scandal) would likely be in a letter, and in Hooper’s case his father and uncle could have spoken in person rather than in writing.

    Matt W.: Right. Someone else might want to tell something about the cases of apostles like John W. who were ordained as children, and the role that had in decisions affecting the makeup of the Quorum as we know it today.

  4. Mark B. on October 26, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks for your response, Ardis. The evidence (or, mostly, non-evidence) does seem to point to an early “leavetaking”.

    On the issue of non-12 apostles, there was at least one in my lifetime: Alvin R. Dyer. He was called late in Pres. McKay’s life as an additional counselor in the First Presidency, and was ordained as an apostle, but he never joined the 12 after his release from the First Presidency (at Pres. McKay’s death). He rejoined the assistants to the 12, and then became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy when it was organized in 1976.

  5. J. Stapley on October 26, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    It was not uncommon for Apostles to ordain their children to the apostleship outside of being a member of the Quorum of the 12. In fact Brigham Young considered it to be a right of a father. This came to a head in the Snow presidency when it was debated who was next in line for presidency. The possibilities were George Q. Cannon, Brigham Young, Jr. and Joseph F. Smith. The First Presidency and Twelve debated it, the minutes of the meeting are available in the Scott Kenny Research Collection at the UU and BYU (MSS 2022 Box 10, Folder 1)

    Brigham had ordained Brigham Young, Jr. and Cannon before JFS, but JFS entered the quorum first. The council discussed a meeting where Brigham Young stated it was his right and that of the Apostles to bestow the office on their posterity. JFS and Pres. Cannon confirmed the account. Cowley said Woodruff said that Brigham Young removed Lyman and added JFS because to have added his son would have looked bad; otherwise, his son would have been next member of the 12. Ultimately, they noted that there were scores of folks that had been ordained apostles and not set apart into the twelve and that had no baring on succession. Despite BY Jr.’s feeling to the contrary, it was concluded that JFS would be the next in line.

    Keep in mind that Brigham ordained seventies to the office of apostle and that the President of the Church was not ordained as such at this time. Apostles that were not in any specific quorum functioned much as patriarchs that move out of their stake. They have certain non-hierarchical authority.

  6. Proud Daughter of Eve on October 26, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Going back to Ardis’s questions, I don’t know that a life of dissolution proves any disposition towards murder. Weighing the body and dumping it in the river seems too thoughtful for someone who apparently could only think about where he was going to get his next high (alcohol or otherwise). What’d he do, kill her then go rent a rig? Rent the rig then kill her? It doesn’t add up to me. I suspect the stableman, who is in fact the only link between Young and the rig. Did the police check the stable’s rental logs? Do a handwriting comparision? Or did they just follow the photograph of the man the stableman said he had seen?

  7. Nate Oman on October 26, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    On the Apostle question: It is also worth noting that J. Reuben Clark was called into the First Presidency as a high priest and served in the FP as a HP for a number of years before he was ordained as an apostle. I’ve heard the story that this was done by HJG to insure that he would return to the Q12 after HJG death. On the other hand, the question turned out to be academic, as JRC — to my knowledge — never served in any Quorum other than the FP.

  8. Ardis Parshall on October 26, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    J. (5): I knew I could count on a good summary! Thanks. The decisions that J. outlines meant that Joseph F. Smith, rather than Brigham Young, Jr., held seniority and became president of the church. BY Jr. may have been disappointed, and some writers have played that up, but I have to say this for the man: he continued his service as solidly and faithfully as any apostle ever did, and sustained JFS as his leader.

    John W.’s particular assignment, or title, or position, whatever we want to call it, during the administrations of John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, was “Counselor to the Twelve Apostles.” He was away from Utah attending to personal business and working for Utah statehood much of the time, but he did function as a Quorum counselor in a way that will appear later in this story. Some people assume that he was all business, loyal to the church in a family and political way, but that he never really had a spiritual commitment, that he left the church when he fled to Europe to escape arrest for business irregularities and later settled permanently in New York City. It’s hard to judge such things, especially at this distance, but I have evidence that he was a regular attender at LDS services when he was in NYC, that he assisted the missionaries whenever he was flush, and that he bore his testimony in church services on occasion.

    6: PDOE, stay tuned. Historical research is like detective work, where you try different theories to account for the evidence and do your best to judge factors like character and motive and state of mind, exactly as you’re doing. I’ve already had the fun of exploring those ideas to my satisfaction, and I’m trying to give you a taste of the same fun by not laying everything out at once. (Don’t worry about it dragging on forever — I’m putting this up in four parts.) Thanks for playing along with me.

  9. Proud Daughter of Eve on October 26, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    Ardis, this is a fun game. I look forward to the rest of this and hope you do another some time! :)

  10. Julie M. Smith on October 26, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    I find it interesting that, in the first post, you emphasized his relationship to BY and kinda sorta intimated that he *was* a missionary. In this post, he just sounds like a ne’er-do-well who happened to be living with the missionaries as a charity case.

    I suspect that you are toying with the framing of the story, as I suspect the media did when it happened.

  11. Ardis Parshall on October 27, 2006 at 3:42 am

    “I suspect that you are toying with the framing of the story, as I suspect the media did when it happened.”

    Wha–?! The press ever manipulate a juicy story to sell papers? A storyteller ever toy with a story to keep an audience hanging on? The nerve, I say, the nerve of such a charge!

  12. Austin F. on October 27, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Can you post “Part the Third” so I can stop checking here every 10 minutes??

    Great post!

  13. Ardis Parshall on October 27, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Okay, Austin F., just for you … Part the Third will be up within the hour.

    Don’t read it over lunch. You have been warned.

  14. Kevin Barney on October 27, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    As a nice adjunct to Ardis’ story I would recommend Todd Compton, “John Willard Young, Brigham Young, and the Development of Presidential Succession in the LDS Church,” Dialogue 35/4 (Winter 2002).

  15. Ardis Parshall on October 27, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Kevin (14): Yes! (I cite to this article in the sourced version of this paper)