John Christopher Cutler

Miriam B. Murphy
Utah History Encyclopedia, 1994

John Christopher Cutler was a businessman and the second governor of the State of Utah. The son of merchant John Cutler and Elizabeth Robinson, he was born in 1846 in Sheffield, England, and completed his formal education at age twelve when he became a clerk for a wholesale house in Manchester. Converts to Mormonism, Cutler and his family emigrated in 1864. He married Sarah Elizabeth Taylor in 1871, and they became the parents of seven children. From 1884 to 1890, when he was sent on an LDS Church mission to Great Britain, Cutler served as Salt Lake County Clerk. Highly successful as the agent for the Provo Woolen Mills, he eventually became an officer of several banks and companies.

In the early twentieth century, an inner circle of Republicans led by Reed Smoot, Edward H. Callister, and others controlled the state GOP. Later called the “Federal Bunch” because of patronage appointments many of them received, they began to plan for a successor to Heber M. Wells as early as 1902. Cutler won their backing and defeated Wells on the second convention ballot in 1904. Meanwhile, disgruntled Republicans like Thomas Kearns, claiming Mormon Church domination of the GOP, endorsed the American party in 1904. With Theodore Roosevelt at the top of the national ticket, Republicans posted a tremendous win in Utah, and Cutler easily defeated Democrat James H. Moyle, although the American party candidate, William M. Ferry, drew almost eight percent of the vote.

The most important measure approved by Cutler during the 1905 legislative sessions established juvenile courts in larger cities and addressed serious shortcomings in the treatment of minors who ran afoul of the law. He also signed a bill requiring births and deaths to be registered with the state Board of Health, and he vetoed a bill funding county road construction and maintenance. Cutler chaired a commission that investigated the duplication of course work at the University of Utah and at Utah State Agricultural College and recommended consolidation of the two schools, an idea that ran into solid opposition in Cache County and was shelved. Major bills approved by the governor in 1907 brought antiquities under state control and provided for teachers’ retirement. The legislature ignored his proposals for a state capitol building and an institution for the handicapped. Cutler’s independence in making appointments and combined with growing strength of the American party cost him the support of the Federal Bunch in 1908, and he reluctantly withdrew from the race in favor of William Spry.

Cutler returned to his many business interests. At age 82 and in failing health, he died in Salt Lake City of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1928.