Priscilla Clark

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Priscilla Clark

Birthdate: (42)
Birthplace: Buckland, Somersetshire, England
Death: July 6, 1869 (42)
Carson City, Ormsby, Nevada (Murder)
Place of Burial: Carson City, Ormsby, Nevada
Immediate Family:

Daughter of James Clark
Wife of George Pickett and William Wilford
Ex-wife of William Armstrong Pickett
Mother of Maria Louisa Pickett; George W Pickett; Sarah Wilford; William Wilford and Lillian Isabel Wilford

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Priscilla Clark

Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford and her daughter, Maria Louisa Pickett, (A composite history compiling existing family resources), Roger S. Porter.

Priscilla was born to James Clark 22 September 1826 in Buckland, England. She was friends with Louisa Avelina Sleater, left home at 14, and perhaps worked at the Marchant taylor shop where she may have learned to sew. She sewed her own wedding dress when she married her last husband, William Wilford in 1862, and the dress is still in the possession of a descendant, Patricia Miller/

Her friend, Louisa Avelina Sleater, married a Mormon missionary, William Gill Mills, and Priscilla married George Pickett, 4 September 1853, in Newbury, Berkshire, England. George's first wife, Maria Jarvis, had passed away after six years of marriage, leaving him with three children: James, b: 1844; Mary, b: 1846; and Jane, b: 1848.

Three years after their marriage, converts to the LDS faith, George and Priscilla, along with other Pickett brothers, migrated to the United States, sailing 30 November from Liverpool in the ship Emerald Isle, arriving in New York 29 December. They made their way to St. Louis but George became ill with Typhoid Fever or Small Pox in St. Louis while on the way west. Priscilla was pregnant with their second child, the first, Louisa, having died in infancy, probably on the ocean while the family migrated (her name is on the ship manifest along with her parents, George and Priscilla, and half-siblings, Jane, James and Mary: "Pickett, Louisa, 1855, NA, Emerald Isle, Ship roster on microfilm(s) 175515 25691").

Priscilla remained in St. Louis to care for her husband while at least some of the other Pickett brothers/family continued their migration to Utah. Mathew remained in St. Louis until 1862. Maria Louisa (probably named after George's first wife and Louisa Avelina Sleater) was born 26 November 1856. After George passed away on 2 April 1857, the brothers returned to assist Priscilla and her newborn Maria Louisa and other children to their new home in Utah.

W.G. Mills, in his testimony at Priscilla's coroner's inquest in 1869, says she lived with him in 1859-60 for twelve months. Acting on what he supposed was his biblical duty to marry the widow of his brother, William Armstrong Pickett married Priscilla on 3 March, 1860, and the same day sealed her to her first husband, George. I n September of the same year, W.G. Mills was called to England for his last mission.

Meanwhile, William Gill Mills and Louisa Avelina had had no children from their own marriage, but William G. had a daughter, Avelina Mills, born 18 Oct 1859, in a plural marriage with Emily Hill, whom he rescued from the Willie Handcart disaster in 1856, just a few months after he and Louisa Avelina were endowed and sealed in the Endowment House 25 April 1856.

From the Barker History: "The second mission William G. Mills was called to serve was to England and was set apart by Pres. John Taylor the 22nd September 1860. He was president of the Birmingham District, Comprising Birmingham conference, Co. Warwic, Stafford and Shropshire, during 1861, 1862, and part of 1863. The address was 86 Garbett St. Birmingham. His release came 16 May 1863 as follows:

'Notice: At a general conference of the priesthood of the Birmingham Conference at which were present several Elders from Zion, Elder William Gill Mills was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for adultery.' Millenial Star 16 May 1863.

William Gill Mills and his wife Louisa Avelina left Liverpool on the ship Great Eastern the 15 May 1863. They spent some time in Carthage, Illinois with her parents Robert and Mary Marchant Sleater and family. According to dates on published poems they lived in Austin and Havilah, Nevada 1865, 1866, and 1867; Gilroy California 1868 to 1871; Then they returned to Utah and were at Alta until the big fire and the rest of the time in Salt Lake City."

One family version says Priscilla became disenchanted with polygamy, and pregnant with William Pickett's child, fled to refuge in California or Nevada with old friends, perhaps Elizabeth, the wife of John Mills, half-brother of William Gill, where George was born in 1861. J ohn had died in Sacramento in 1857. William Gill and Louisa Avelina were serving at this time on a mission in England.

Another version says Priscilla married Wm. Wilford and moved to Carson City. Our records say on the 30th of June 1862 in Carson City, Ormsby Co., Nevada, Priscilla married William Wilford, bringing her two young children, Maria Louisa and George, to live in a new marriage. In Carson City they increased the family by three with Sarah Wilford born on the 26 Sept. 1864, William Wilford born on 6 Sept. 1866, and Lily Isabel Wilford born 4 October 1868.

They moved four miles south of Carson City to Clear Creek to mine gold. In the late 1860's William Wilford (Sr.) became ill and died. William had the foresight to provide for his family a $5000 insurance policy, which Priscilla collected, then went to seek the counsel of William Gill and Avelina now living in Gilroy, California, south of San Francisco, where W.G. was first mayor of the new town.

At the persuasion of William Gill, she left two children, Sarah Wilford and Maria Louisa, with the Mills' to attend school, (according to inquest testimony of W.G. Mills, July 9, 1869), "giving up control and education of the two girls," and returned to Carson City with the others.

During the night of 6th of July 1869, an intruder broke into her home, slit her throat and stole her inheritance. The children discovered her body the next morning, and now orphans, became wards of the State of Nevada. Maria Louisa and Sarah remained in California with W.G. and Avelina Mills against the will of the State of Nevada. A sensational trial ensued during which William Gill Mills testified of the history of Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford, and the accused Mormons were acquitted to the dismay of their persecutors and prosecutors.

The San Francisco newspaper theorized the Mormon Danites had killed her for leaving the Church, but the accused Mormon, Peter Moss, demonstrated the accusations were false as he was not in the area and could not have murdered her. It became assumed Indians perpetrated the murder. There are articles in the Carson City Appeal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Virginia City paper describing the trial and much of our ancestor's history.

William Mills lost his store in Gilroy and returned to Alta, Utah, then Salt Lake City, and shortly thereafter, 20-year-old Maria Louisa became pregnant by W.G. Mills, and gave birth to Mannie in Salt Lake City, 4 January 1876.

After the birth of her child, Maria Louisa and Mannie lived apart from the Mills family and she met and married and was sealed to Cyrus Ammon Tolman on the 12th of December 1878 in Salt Lake City, and two-year old Mannie had a two-parent family. On the 7th of January, Mary Elizabeth Tolman was born in Toole, Utah, and George Orin joined the family in Toole 11 June 1882.

Descendants differ as to the causes of the divorce, whether because of her husband's behavior, or because of the manifesto against Polygamy, but Maria Louisa left Cyrus Ammon Tolman, and later married George Franklin Read on 1st of June 1893, when Mannie was 17. Mannie told us as children about leaving home around this time to go on long cattle drives. Franklin and Maria Louisa produced three more children: Robert Lock Read, born 20th of August, 1895; Waldemer Pickett Read, born 19 July 1897; and Ulea Jane Read, born 26 February, 1899.

Maria Louisa was a schoolteacher in Marion, Idaho, and the Reads also owned a rooming house in Twin Falls, and lived in Oreana. She died 27 March 1930 in Twin Falls. Her grave is in the old pioneer cemetery at Marion, between Oakley, Idaho, and Burley.


This story is "in process," meaning we are adding to it and making corrections all the time as information comes to light from various branches of the family. Don't be discouraged with conflicting versions! We'll sort it all out later! Please feel free to bring additional information or corrections to our attention as you see them and document them!

Please Note: The family expert on Priscilla Clark is Richard L. (Dick) Tolman who is writing her story from prolific resources he has gathered for years. We eagerly await his treatise! Until then, this skeletal composite history may have to suffice, with additions as they come to light. Roger Porter (updated May 2005).


Priscilla Clark Pickett Wilford: News articles on her murder! Roger Porter – Update May 2005

All these articles are from the Carson Daily Appeal, from July to December 1869. Many thanks to Karl Sala for his research. See his credit at the end of this file. And many thanks to Robert Leon Read for forwarding this information to us to include here! (Note: I will add to this as I have time and remove this note when all the information is inserted here. Roger)

7 July: "Shocking Murder or Suicide: About two o'clock yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Pricilla (sic) Wilford, residing at Clear Creek, about four miles from Carson, was found dead in her house, with her throat cut. Her body was lying on the floor of her bedroom, in nightdress, & was covered with blood. Under it was found a razor with a blade about two-thirds closed. There was no one in that part of the house. It seems her two little children were with her, & that the discovery of the body was made by the oldest going to a neighbors for something to eat. Marks on the floor showed evidence of her having stood in the blood. A Coroner's inquest was held, but we learn the verdict will not be given until tomorrow. The body will be buried today. Coroner Bence has charge of the premises. It will be recollected that the husband of the deceased died about six months since. In convenience of an insurance policy upon his life, his widow, the deceased, was paid a few months since, five thousand dollars. It is said a considerable portion of the money has since been loaned after taking a paid up policy of insurance on her own life for five thousand dollars. The above are all the facts in relation to the case & to the deceased that have come to our knowledge."

VERDICT: 10 Jul 1869: "The VERDICT of the Coroner's jury in the case of Mrs. Wilford who was found dead with her throat cut on Tuesday last at Clear Creek was given last night. It reads, "Death by hands of person or persons unknown to the jury." The evidence before the jury during the last 3 days has been taken in writing and is very full, complete & voluminous. We propose to print the most important testimony in the APPEAL tomorrow, provided we can get it. That the case was murder most foul the evidence seems to substantiate: but whether for the possession of money, the gratification of revenge, or for what cause and by whom, yet remains a mystery. To repeat the various opinions in relation to the affair not based upon the testimony taken would doubtless be unjust to the individuals, and at least in one instance reflect upon a class of persons. Further development may be confidently expected. The deceased, we believe, leaves 5 children, the eldest 14 years of age. Two of the children are at school in California. The insurance of $5000 on the life of Mrs. Wilford was in favor of her children."

VERDICT: 11 July 1869: "VERDICT OF THE JURY--State of Nevada, county of Ormsby, before H.H. Bence, Coroner: In the matter of the inquisition upon the body of Mrs. Priscilla Willford, of Clear Creek, county of Ormsby, State of Nevada, deceased: We the undersigned jurors summoned to appear before H.H. Bence, Coroner of (same place), at Clear Creek in said county, on the 6th day of July, A.D. 1869, to inquire into the cause of the death of Mrs. Priscilla Willford, found dead in her house at Clear Creek, in said county....having been duly sworn according to law, and having made such inquisition after inspecting the body and hearing the testimony adduced, upon our oaths each & all do say, we find that the deceased(sic) was named Priscilla Willford, a widow, a resident of Clear Creek, (said county & state), aged about thirty-four years: that she came to her death on (said date & place), by her throat being cut with a knife or some other sharp instrument, and we further find that we believe that her throat was cut & her death occasioned by some person or persons unknown to the jury. All of which we duly certify by this inquisition in writing by us signed this the 9th day of July, A.D. 1869. JAMES S. BRYANT, JAMES CUTHBERT, HENRY ROSS, GEORGE WATKINS, JOHN SIMONS." NEWS ARTICLE: 13 July 1869: "OF THE DEATH OF MRS. WILFORD, the S.F. (San Francisco) Chronicle has the following speculations: It is well known that among the machinery & appliances used by the Mormon leaders to carry out their scheme, to crush those who oppose them, & to wreak veng(e)ance upon those who have incurred their hatred or whose hostility they dread, is an organized band of murderers known as BRIGHAM'S 'Destroying Angels.' These probably organized the Mountain Meadow massacre. They assassinated Dr. Robinson, & there is every reason to beli(e)ve that hundreds of obnoxious Gentiles have fallen beneath their avenging daggers. Last night a dispatch from Carson brought us the intelligence of a probable murder, which it appears that some of the people of Nevada are disposed to attribute to Mormon emmisaries. A Mrs. Wilford was found on Tuesday near Clear creek with her throat cut. Yesterday the Coroner's jury brought in a verdict to the effect that (the) deceased came to her death by the hands of some person or persons unknown. It appears that the lady was a bitter enemy of Mormonism & had been in her denunciations of it. The dispatch further states that there is a strong conviction in the community that the murder was the work of the 'Destroying Angels.' We are not yet apprised what foundation there is for such a belief: but if it shall prove that this deed of blood is really the work of saintly assassins, illustration of the certainty of venge(a)nce, which may well strike terror into the souls of all who incur the enmity of Brigham." (Lots of "probables" and "ifs," aren't there! R)

NEWS ARTICLE: 17 Jul 1869: "IN THE DISTRICT COURT, Judge Wright presiding, (text deleted of other unrelated cases). In the matter of the estate & guardianship of Louisa Pickett, George Pickett, Sarah Willford, Wm. Willford & Lilla Willford, minors. Wm. Patterson appointed guardian, upon taking the oath & filing a bond in the sum of ten thousand dollars in U.S. gold coin."

NEWS ARTICLE: 20 Jul 1869: "A STARTLING SUGGESTION: ... The San Francisco Chronicle mentions a suspicion from which we had seen no expression of from Carson: asserting that 'it is a strong conviction in that community' that the murder of Mrs. Willford was committed by 'Destroying Angels' in employ of Mormons. The Appeal copies the remarks of the Chronicle, but makes no comments. The Chronicle says Mrs. W. was ' a bitter enemy of Mormonism.' That is scarcely sufficient grounds for such a charge. The Mormons do not destroy all their bitter enemies: and if other reasons, or if circumstances to justify the suspicion expressed can be shown, the local paper ought to give the fact to the public. White Pine News 16th (July)

That Mrs. Wilford was formerly a Mormon, but of late years bitterly opposed to them, and for this reason disliked by them, is well known. Two of her children at the time of her death were in charge of Mr. Mills (whose testimony is given in full elsewhere) who was formerly a Mormon, also now bitterly opposed to them & at present a member of the Methodist Church. The 3 men who occupied the house with her are Mormons. The suspicions spoken of in the extract above are doubtless entertained by many, but from our own knowledge we are not prepared to state that they are general. There is certainly a large class of persons who think deceased was murdered solely for the possession of her money. If Mr. Mills' statements are correct, she must have had in her possession @ the time of her death @ least from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars--probably a larger sum. There is no evidence of her having disposed of the money paid her but a short time previous to her death & no clue of it has been obtained by the authorities. The suspicion of the deed being the work of 'Destroying Angels' is probably based upon no more tangible evidence than is contained in the foregoing documents."

"OF THE DEATH OF MRS. WILFORD--It is now 2 weeks since the death of Mrs. Wilford & the taking of the testimony before the Coroner's jury; and yet there is no solution of the mystery by which, the case has from the first, been characterized. The substance of the testimony is briefly as follows:

STATEMENTS, JULY 7TH. Dr. Thompson, after a post mortem examination of the body, was of the opinion that deceased committed suicide; found nothing to indicate insanity; believed she had been dead at that time (5 p.m.) 14-15 hours.

 Charles Friend had practiced medicine & surgery; assisted at the post mortem examination; corroborated the evidence of Dr. Thompson.

STATEMENTS JULY 8TH. Charles Friend re-examined; upon further examination reflection, was satisfied the deed was not done with the razor found in the room; discovered no evidence why deceased should have committed suicide, with exception of adhesion of the right lung to the pleura; all the vital organs were in a perfectly healthy condition; was fully satisfied from all the surrounding circumstances the deed was committed by some one other than herself. Dr. Tjader had examined Mrs. Wilford last Spring for an insurance policy on her life; had seen her frequently since; considered her of sound mind & a woman of considerable business tact; after a very careful examination of the body and the room in which the deed was supposed to have been committed, was perfectly satisfied the deceased did not commit suicide, & that the wound was not made by the razor found in the room.

Mrs. Lucy Bryant had known the deceased for about 7 years; resided during that time within 100 yards of her house, on Monday, the 5th, deceased was at her house for about 2 hours in the afternoon; noticed nothing in the least unusual in her appearance or manner or conversation; never since their acquaintance had seen anything the least unusual or uncommon on her manner or conversation.

Hiram Moss had known the deceased for 6 years; lived in the back part of the house for the past 3 or 4 months; went to Carson on Sunday evening & returned on Monday night at 5 minutes past 12 o'clock; went to the front door & she told him to go to the back door; went into the house, lighted a candle, got his bed, came out, made it on the front porch & immediately went to bed; was very tired & must have gone to sleep immediately; heard no noise in the house during the night; his brother lived with him but was absent in town that night; got up when the sun was three-fourths of an hour high & went to work; came to the house between 7 & 9 o'clock to breakfast, sta(ye)d an hour or hour & a half and then went to work again, and came back to dinner & found his father and brother there; noticed there was no stir; heard the boy crying, but did not try to enter the part of the house occupied by deceased; was in the habit of sleeping on the porch.

Peter Moss resided at the house of deceased; had known her for 2 or 3 years; on the night of the 5th was at his father's house near Carson; returned to house of deceased on Tuesday about half past 12 or 1 p.m. "After dinner I went in my back room & saw the boy Willy, aged about 3 years; he was in the cupboard helping himself to bread; I called to him, he said, "I getting some bread; mamma's sick; I said, "Is mama sick?" he said, "Yes;" went into the room where the stove is, & called to her; "Mrs. Wilford;" from there I went to the other door and called: "Mrs. Wilford;" no answer; I then went into the sitting room & called Mrs. W. in a loud voice; still no answer; I advanced within 1 or two steps of her bed room; found her lying on the floor, feet to the door, covered with blood, in her night dress; when I saw her I made no remark but rushed to the front door; it was locked; I went back the way I had entered; came into the front room of my part of the house; rushed to the street, went to Bryant's & called him; told him to call Mrs. Bryant quick, that Mrs. W. was sick & I thought very sick; Mr. Bryant called his wife & she came over to the front door of Mrs. W's part of the house; she could not get in that door, & I asked her to come in through my part of the house; she passed through our part of the house; I left her in Mrs. W's room & told her to advance to Mrs. W's bedroom; she went in the bedroom of deceased; I remained in my kitchen; after being there 1 or 2 minutes she stepped out & held up her hand or hands; she said: "MY God! Pete, She's dead & cold;" she said, "Call Mr. Bryant;" I did so; I sent Hiram to call my father, he was in the field; I told Hiram to harness the horse quickly & go for the coroner & the doctor; I showed persons the spectacle, but forbid them to touch anything or go into the room until the authorities came; all the doors leading from my part of the house to hers were opened; if the back door of my part of the house was opened there was nothing to prevent any person from going in to where deceased was; my brothers Hiram & Edward & myself were together in Carson."


Mr. Mills, being first duly sworn testified: "I reside in Gilroy, California; am a merchant; am 46 years of age. I knew the deceased from 1851; she lived with me in 1859-60 for 12 months; whe was a widow at the time of her demise; she wrote to me the day after her husband's death; she told me her business, asked for my advice, which I gave her; she was at my place 4 weeks ago last Wednesday, when she left for home leaving her little girl with me to go to school, giving up the control and education of the 2 girls, Louisa Picket & Sarah Wilford; she laid out her plans for a number of years; she had 5 children; Louis Picket & George Picket by her former husband; Sarah, William & Lilly by Mr. Wilford; the eldest is about 12 years. George is near 8, Sarah is four years, & Lilly, an infant about 9 months of age; I have never noticed anything in her manner or deportment tending to the slightest indication of insanity, but on the contrary was not the least despondent or low spirited; several letters from her, the last on the day before I received a dispatch from Mr. Patterson of her death; it was dated on the 1st or 2nd of this month--July; nothing in it indicating despondency or the slightest premonition to insanity, or evidencing any contemplation to commit suickde; she has made no ill will to my knowledge; she was a very temperate woman; she sent money to me to the amount of $4965; I paid her some when she came back from my place; I gave $1000 in gold & $250 in currency; she told me she was going to purchase a house with the money, that there were 2 or 3 places presented to her for purchase; she was going to live in Carson; in her letter, I think the last, she said she had spoken to Mr. Fulstone about buying a place owned by Mr. Gadbury.

Mr. Patterson said: "I reside at Carson; & I have been the attorney of the deceased up to her death; I have seen her since her return from California, done business with her; saw her for the last time on Saturday last; saw nothing indicating insanity or evidencing the slightesrt contemplation to commit suicide; I have examined all her papers & find nothing in the least referring to any contemplated suicide; I find nothing among her papers evidencing any loan of money, or of her, in any manner, investing any money, except $300 loan to Mr. Winters, & that amount she collected in Carson since her return from California; from my knowledge of her business & money affairs, if she had the $1250 spoken of by Mr. Mills, she ought to have on hand $1500 or $1600 exclusive the amount loaned to Winters; all the money found is $1 45 (sic); she paid me $50 for which I gave her a receipt.


Day dawned: within a curtained room.

Filled to faintness with perfume.

A lady lay, at point of doom.

Day closed: a child has seen the light:

But for the lady, fair & bright,

She rested in undreaming night.

Spring rose: the lady's grave was green;

And near it afterward was seen

A gentle boy, with thoughtful mien.

Years fled; he wore a manly face,

And struggled in the world's rough race,

And won, at last, a lofty place.

And then--he died! Behold before ye,

Humanity's poor sum & story.

Life--death--& all that is of glory.

NEWS ARTICLE: 22 July 1869: "REWARD: Acting Governor Theodore D. Edwards offers a reward, to be paid by the State, of one thousand dollars in coin, for the arrest and conviction of the murderer, or any one of the murderers, of Mrs. Wilford, who was killed on the 6th instant. All good citizens will dou(b)tless rejoice at this evidence of activity, in the important matter, on the part of the Executive of the State.


We are grateful for the excellent research and contribution of Karl and Lynell Sala, professional genealogists. Lynell is a niece of Robert Read.

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Priscilla Clark's Timeline

September 22, 1826
Buckland, Somersetshire, England
November 23, 1856
Age 30
St Louis, Missouri, USA
Age 34
Gilroy, Santa Clara, California
September 26, 1864
Age 38
Carson City, Ormsby, Nevada
September 6, 1866
Age 39
Carson City, Ormsby, Nevada
October 4, 1868
Age 42
Carson City, Ormsby, Nevada
July 6, 1869
Age 42
Carson City, Ormsby, Nevada