Richard Fryer



by Lucy Fryer Vance   (daughter of George Moroni Fryer)

Richard Fryer was intimately acquainted with Brigham Young. He honored him as a Prophet of God and as a great leader of the Saints. So, when he was called to help colonize and build up the Dixie Country of southern Utah, he accepted the call and moved to Toquerville, Utah.

The move to Toquerville, was probably made in 1867, as Theresa Ann’s first child Eliza Ann was born in Johnson’s Settlement and their second child Annie, was born in Toquerville.

The years to follow were more years of hardship. Children were born and death brought sorrow. The little wilderness to which they were assigned gave little hope for adequate sustenance or the blossoming of the rose. To feed and clothe his family was a constant battle with he elements and hard work. Their daughter, Annie, used to relate how she and mother hauled water in buckets from the ditch a block east while her father mixed mortar and laid rocks into place to build their 2 story home (which is still standing today).

According to old timers from Toquerville, who knew Richard his special mission must have been to promote and build up the cultural beauty of God’s vineyard in that area. He was an artist, sculptor, and musician. He played for the dances, led the choir, painted the curtains and scenes for the local plays and gave music lessons. He was a violinist in his own right, a fan of culture and refinement.

Sister Cedelia Bagley Willis who knew Richard well, related to me (about the year 1937) things about my grandfather that made me proud. One statement, well remembered, was “your grandfather was such a kind and good man—he gave me organ lessons when I was thirteen years of age”.

The rigors of pioneer life and the tribulations through which he passed began to take it’s toll and in 1875, he suffered a complete mental breakdown. His wife, Theressa Ann had noticed this gradual breaking and appealed for help. Help was not forthcoming in time to avert an undreamed of tragedy.

On the night of March 15, 1875 Theresa Ann, fearful for the safety of her children, put them into the home of friends, while she and the small baby slept at the home of their nearest neighbor Thomas Batty.

The next morning Richard found himself alone, and no doubt forsaken. He started to walk over to his neighbors’ house. Batty saw him coming with a gun in his hand. He ran forward to stop him and Richard fired. Richard then entered the house and finding his wife and baby there shot both of them and then turned home.

According to the Beaver Enterprise Newspaper Vol II. No.58, under Territorial Dispatches it reads: Shocking affair Tokerville, March 15, 1875: Richard Fryer shot his wife and baby and Thomas Batty about 7 o’clock this morning. His wife is dead, and others are dangerously wounded. The sheriff killed Fryer in taking him. He was all armed and would not surrender; he was in a rock house and threatened death if he was molested. We understand that Fryer has been subject to spells of mental derangement for several months past and it was during on of those spells that he perpetrated the awful deed. Batty died today at half past one o’clock P.M. Baby cannot live.

Thus ended the life of a noble pioneer, together with the faithful ones whose lives he had taken. How the heavens must have wept over Toquerville that day. Consolation came only in the knowledge that they had fought a good fight, finished the work, and kept the faith.