LEHI, Utah — The Hutchings Museum in Lehi, Utah displays all that is left of an executed man: a large swath of skin.
It was taken from the body of convicted killer Chauncey Millard who was shot to death in Provo, Utah in 1869.
The beginning of Millard’s life is much more a mystery than the end.
He claimed not to know his birthday, and the name he provided may have been an alias.
But in December of 1868, Millard took a job delivering wagonloads of food and other supplies from Salt Lake City to remote mining camps in the region. It wasn’t long before he murdered a co-worker by the name of Harlan Swett, near the west shore of Utah Lake.
Famous (or infamous) lawman Orrin porter Rockwell tracked and captured Millard.
With an eyewitness to the crime, as well as a confession from Millard himself, his trial resulted in the death penalty.
The execution was scheduled to take place just a few weeks later in January of 1869, and with no friends or family likely to claim Millard’s remains, he reportedly accepted an offer to sell his body to a Provo doctor for a pound of candy.
The deal was reported in newspapers of the day, and at least one noted Millard was eating candy as he sat in the executioner’s chair.
Today, roughly a square foot of his skin is mounted and displayed in a framed shadow box.
At first glance, it looks like a piece of leather, tanned long ago.
“It was a normal, common practice back then,” said Leah Stutz, Manager of the Hutchings Museum.
Aside from being macabre reminders of frontier justice, doctors of the era are said to have sometimes sought the remains of criminals for medical studies.
The remnant of Millard’s skin is said to have been used by the Provo doctor to wrap medical instruments carried within his bag. It came into the museum’s collection the way most of the other items did.
“The founder of the Museum was John Hutchings. He was a collector all his life, from age three to when he died,” said Stutz.
The museum boasts an impressive collection of rocks and minerals, as well as an extensive collection of regional Native American pieces.
Millard’s skin display can be found in a hallway that connects other themed rooms.
We`ve tried our best to at least create a little memorial for him,” said Daniella Larsen, Executive Director for the Hutchings Museum.
Millard has no grave site. The rest of his remains are said to have been destroyed long ago, perhaps in a failed attempt to soak the body in chemicals to remove flesh and muscle leaving only a skeleton.
“There was no consideration for any of the experiences he had. Nobody considered mental health. Executions were pretty quick, and then there was very little respect at the time for his remains. We can’t go back and redo those things. All we can do is portray his story and keep him alive,” said Larsen.
The Hutchings Museum in Lehi is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 8:30pm.
More details are available here.