One of the fun things about working in a museum is the stuff that just shows up.
For example, this thing recently walked through the door: A 5-inch steel ball weighing around 12 pounds.
Kein Swain, who lives in Roy, brought it in. He said he dug it up a few years ago while doing some excavating in South Weber, near where the toll road ends on the south side of the river. It was buried about three feet down.
Initially he gave it to his girlfriend, he said. Perhaps she felt a rusty steel ball wasn’t the most romantic of gifts, whatever, but he finally decided to see if anyone could tell him what it was.
It looks like a cannon ball, but he wondered if it might also be something used to crush wheat, or in mining and milling ore?
The guys in the John M. Browning Firearms Museum had another thought: The Morrisite War.
As related in the 1940 history of Ogden (one of those wonderful WPA projects) Joseph Morris was a Mormon who got into trouble with the church for teaching “advanced doctrines” that he had discovered because, he said, God was speaking to him.
He split from the main body of the church and, in 1860, set up a small church in Slaterville, west of Ogden, and then moved to South Weber.
In South Weber he had all sorts of revelations and recruited a bunch of converts. This worried the LDS Church, which investigated and disfellowshipped 16 of Morris’ followers. Morris responded by baptizing more into his own church and setting up shop in the small South Weber fort.
As the history relates, trouble soon followed. “The problem of living in a simple communism, complicated by the belief of the Morrisites that the second coming of Christ was imminent, obviating the necessity for sowing crops, led to dissension among the settlers. Even “Foreshadowing Day,” on May 30, 1862, when elaborate rites were held to prepare for the end, did not still the difficulties.”
Some who had turned over land became disillusioned and wanted to leave. They were taken prisoner and seized property. On June 13, 1862, local militia from the area surrounded the fort and a three day battle ensued.
Among the weapons the force had were cannon, although whether they had gun big enough to fire this particular round ball is in question. Eventually more than 5,000 rounds of small arms and 100 rounds of cannon ball and shell were fired into the fort, which surrendered after three days.
Cannon balls can bounce anywhere. Lee Witten, chief archivist at the Union Station, is looking to find experts in Salt Lake City who might have a better handle on whether this could be one. It’s also worth noting that this is a solid round shot, usually used to knock down walls, not really suited for shooting at people in a small pioneer fort.
Eleven were killed, including Morris, and many of the rest tried. The sect eventually scattered and died out. Is this steel ball a remainder of that whole mess.
Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out.