John Taylor’s pocket watch saved his life in Carthage jail


john-taylors-pocket-watchThe story of how John Taylor’s life was saved when a bullet was stopped by his pocket watch has been told and retold by members almost since the day of the martyrdom at Carthage jail. In 1844, Taylor was with Joseph Smith Jr., Hyrum Smith and Willard Richards in the Carthage, Illinois jail when both Joseph and Hyrum were killed by a mob. Taylor was severely wounded in the conflict. The famously told story is that his life was saved when a ball directed towards his chest was stopped by his pocket watch. However, recent analysis shows that more likely the watch was damaged when Taylor fell against the windowsill. For more information, check out this LDS Living article.

“Taylor, close behind the Prophet, had been using Markham’s ‘rascal-beater’ to knock against the muskets and bayonets thrusting into the room. Richards waited behind Taylor, beyond striking distance. Without any way to shoot back, and certain death threatening from the landing, Taylor suddenly dashed toward the east window, intending to jump. A ball from the landing behind him struck Taylor in the left thigh, grazed the bone, and pushed within half an inch of the other side. He collapsed on the wide sill, denting the back of his vest pocket watch. The force shattered the glass cover of the timepiece against his ribs and pushed the internal gear pins against the enamel face, popping out a small segment later mistakenly identified as a bullet hole.” –  Leonard, Glen [2002]. A Place of Peace, a People of Promise. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.

So did the bullet hit the pocket watch or did the watch break on the windowsill? – it’s up to you to make the final call.

John Taylor’s watch hit by a bullet

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