William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen’s Among the Mormons: Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers (New York: Knopf, 1958) carries a report of the martyrdom at Carthage from an unusual eyewitness: that of Dr. Thomas L. Barnes, the doctor called in to tend to the wounded John Taylor. Dr. Barnes wrote a letter to his daughter Miranda in 1897 reporting in great detail what he recalled of the events of that day, including these paragraphs:
I suppose by this time you are anxious to know what became of Taylor and Richards? Was they also killed, no they were not. Taylor was severely wounded, Richards was not hurt.
Shall I try to describe the wounds that Taylor received and got over them? Well let me tell you where we found him; I cannot impress your mind of his appearance as he appeared to us when we were called to him by the jailer.
We [Dr. Barnes, a Dr. Morrison, and John Wilson, of Carthage] found him in a pile of straw. It appeared that a straw bed had been emitted [?] in the cell where he was when we found him. he was very much frightened as well as severely wounded. It took strong persuading of the jailer, as well as our positive assurance that we meant him no harm, but was desirous of doing him some good. He finally consented to come out of his cell. When we examined him we found that he had been hit by four balls. One ball had hit him in his forearm and passed down and lodged in the hand between the phalanges of his third and fourth fingers. Another hit him on the left side of the pelvis cutting through the skin and tissue leaving a superficial wound that you could lay your hand in. A third ball passed through his thigh lodging in his [illegible]. A fourth ball hit his watch, which he had in the fob in his pantaloons. Which I suppose the Mormons have today, to show the precise time that their great Leader was killed.
The wounds had bled quite freely, the blood had had time to coagulate, which it had done, and where the clothes & straw came in contact they all adhered together so that [when] Mr. Taylor came out his self-sought cell he was a pitiable looking sight. We took the best care of him we could till he left us. He got well but never paid us for skill or good wishes.
Raymond W. Taylor, a grandson of John Taylor who researched the John Taylor biography The Kingdom or Nothing (completed by his brother Samuel after Ray’s 1972 death), read Among the Mormons in 1963 and found Dr. Barnes’ account. Always a bit of a showman, Ray decided he really ought to settle the Taylor account with the long-dead Dr. Barnes. But how to do that?
Ray wrote first to Dr. Elmer Belt of Los Angeles, who had provided the Barnes letter to Mulder and Mortensen. Belt was neither a descendant nor heir of Dr. Barnes, though; he referred Sam to Bertha Haskett Martin of Santa Rosa, California.
Mrs. Martin confirmed that she was indeed a descendant of Dr. Barnes. She declined to accept payment for the 120-year-old medical bill and felt that none of her cousins would wish to accept money, either. Instead, she suggested that if Ray wanted to make a gesture, he ought to send some amount to Stanley B. Kimball, who was then an assistant professor of history at Southern Illinois University at
Afton Alton, Illinois. Kimball was already making his mark on Mormon history, and perhaps he would want to purchase materials about the Mormons for his university library.
So, Ray contacted Kimball, telling him that Dr. Barnes’ bill had been quit-claimed to him. Kimball responded:
I have no further information about this unpaid medical bill which you refer to. Someday perhaps I will find out something and if I do I shall certainly inform you of it. Since as you say, this bill has now been quit-claimed to me, please consider this letter as a statement to you for the sum of $1 which will fully satisfy this more than one hundred years old medical bill.
The $1 was promptly sent to Stan Kimball.
The long-overdue debt was, at last, settled.