THE SAN JUAN MISSION
TO THE INDIANS
At the request of Sarah J. Crosby, niece of Kumen Jones, Ila Jones Harvey made a typewritten copy of some of the writings of her grandfather Kumen Jones.
This copy deals with the Indian Mission called by Lorenzo Snow and which resulted in the settling of San Juan County.
THE SAN JUAN MISSION TO THE INDIANS
The names of war heroes are held in great honor among all peoples and nations. Even the savage has some way of showing his respect or reverence for those who have displayed courage in battle. We have organizations of veterans and common soldiers from the "G.A.R." down to small societies to honor those who have taken any part in a campaign, even though it was for a few months or a few days. We have great honors to bestow upon our inventors, composers, explorers, editors, statesmen of all grades and stations, philanthropists, reformers, financiers, business men, humorists. But we seldom hear of the old Indian missionaries being given any notable recognition, except perhaps among a very limited number of immediate relatives and friends. Ofttimes they are slighted and neglected by their own neighbors.
It will be different when the All-Wise-Father of us all goes to mete out rewards and punishments to His children as their lives have merited. In His wisdom and justice, He will say to the faithful Indian missionary:
"Come, inasmuch as you were willing to give up wealth, comfort, worldly pleasures, your social standing, and all that man naturally seeks after, to become peace-makers in its broadest and truest sense; come, I have real honor and joy for you, that shall never end, but shall grow sweeter and brighter as time goes on, and your families who have shared the sacrifice with you, shall also participate in the honors and blessings that shall never end."
In order to understand the purpose of the San Juan Mission we must go back about ten years and find what had been happening to the Navajo Nation.
At the time the Navajo Nation was conquered along in the 60's [1860s] by Kit Carson, who was then working for the U.S. Government, they numbered about 14,000 souls. They were held in subjection for some time, their property was destroyed or taken from them, their orchards were cut down, and when they were finally turned loose they were in a destitute condition. When the Navajos were sent back to their reservation where water for irrigation is scarce, rainfall light, and soil for the most part not rich in plant life; they were in a sad plight. They are a naturally thrifty, hardy, and industrious people and they were not content to remain in this poverty stricken condition. From their point of view they had been in this robbed condition, and if robbing was the white man's game, why shouldn't the Navajos try their hand at it?
The Utes on the north of them and the small Indian tribes to the south of them were for the most part shiftless and had nothing worth stealing, so all that was left for the Navajos to do was to cross the big Colorado River and replenish their cattle, sheep, and horses from the settler's herds of southern Utah to the west and northwest of their country. This they proceeded to do and for some years they were very successful in their pilfering, making some large hauls of horses, sheep, and cattle. Their success removed all fear and they became so bold that they would enter good sized settlements by night and help themselves to teams and saddle animals from barns, corrals, and fields. However, the Navajos made no attempts to kill the settlers unless they were followed too closely and compelled to fight or be killed themselves. The Indians lost a few of their numbers, but seemed to feel that that was in the game.
The settlers presently became so alarmed that they put the matter before the Governor of the Territory and the church authorities. The latter decided to get at the source of the trouble by sending Jacob Hamblin with other Indian missionaries out to the Navajo chief with an invitation to the leading men of the Navajo Nation to come to Salt Lake and talk the matter over. The purpose of the proposed visit was to create a better understanding between them.
I have not found, in a more or less extensive research, just what the reason or excuse was for the government to round up the Navajos, hold them for two or three years, and then turn them loose in a condition of extreme poverty, stripped of the little property or means of living they had had. I have a wholehearted belief and faith in the U.S. Government and in most of the good strong men who have stood at the head of it from the beginning until the present time, but I am sure that some of them have been unfortunate in their choice of advisors and counselors who have led them into making a few serious errors. Some situations of this kind must have been responsible for the Navajo War in 1868.
The mission was entirely successful. The Navajo chiefs came to Salt Lake where the trouble was cleared up. The Indians returned to their homes loaded with presents and feeling that they had found new friends.
Not long after this treaty of peace, or "gentlemen's agreement," as it might be called now, an event occurred which upset, for a time at least, all the work of the peacemakers. A party of Navajos, four brothers, came to the Mormon settlement on a trading expedition. They traded their blankets and other trinkets for ponies and food and began the journey home. They camped near the head of Grass Valley at what was known as McCarty's Ranch, where they were overtaken by a heavy snowstorm. Being forced to lay over for a time, they ran out of provisions and killed a calf. The McCarty's coming onto them camped at their ranch, and seeing signs of their having killed a calf, opened fired on the Navajos and killed all but one. He fled, very badly wounded, and from the way the Indians describe his condition on reaching the reservation, it is a miracle that he ever made the long journey. He was without food, had very scant clothing, and had to swim the Colorado in the winter season and in a wounded condition.
The Indians of this ill-fated party were connected with one of the most influential families of the western part of the reservation, and the return of the one wounded survivor created great excitement. Feeling went through the nation with electrical effect, instantly calling forth a declaration of war. The Indians, quite naturally, laid the killing of the three men to the Mormons, as the whole trouble occurred in Mormon country. Word was sent by friendly Indians to Tuba City of the war spirit that was developing, and that all was off in regard to the peace understanding of recent date. The Church Authorities, learning of the new trouble, hastened to send a few select Indian missionaries over to inform the Navajos that the killing of their friends was the work of "pilicans", or non-Mormons.
Jacob Hamblin and the Smith brothers were chosen to visit one part of the Navajo people and Ira Hatch and John Smythe were sent to another group. Under the conditions that prevailed, the mission that these men undertook meant taking their lives in their hands. It took the stuff of which real men are made to face the situation and convince the overwrought Indians of the fact that the Mormon captains or their people had not broken faith with them.
The story of Hamblin and the non-Mormon Smith brothers, who went with him for protection, is quite well known. Early pioneers who knew Hamblin love to tell the story of this difficult mission; of the night and day of praying and pleading in an attempt to convince the enraged savages of the truth; of the Indian's final decision that Hamblin must die and the Smith brothers return home, as they had had nothing to do with the killing; of the Smith's prompt refusal to leave Hamblin; of the working unseen power which is not of this earth which finally softened their savage spirits; and of their agreement to send representatives with Hamblin to Salt Lake City to test out the truth of his representations.
The story of Hatch and Smythe has not been so well published. They, having gone out in another direction, ran onto the homes of the families and close relative of the murdered Indians, where the wounded man who escaped at the time of the killing lived. His wounds were not yet healed.
A noted chief, Peagone, a physical giant and a man of wealth was the father or uncle of the unfortunate victims of this story. He called a hurried council to which the wounded man was brought. Excitement ran high. Ira Hatch having previously married an Indian girl which, according to Indian custom amounts to joining the tribe, was beyond danger of being seriously molested, so that left Smythe as the only one to deal with.
From the beginning of the council, it was understood that he was to pay the extreme penalty. The mode only was up for discussion. Hatch did most of the talking and, knowing the justness of their cause and the far reaching results of it, the weight of his responsibility rested heavily upon him. His pleadings appeared to accomplish nothing except to add fury to their savage natures. While he was talking, some of the Indians began gathering wood for the roasting, others were sharpening long knives occasionally drawing them across and dangerously close to Smythe's throat.
After hours of pleading and protests, when it seemed utterly hopeless to soften or appease their determination to take revenge on the man who was entirely at their mercy, Brother Smythe, who had sat through the trying ordeal without showing the least symptom of fear or weakness, told Elder Hatch to ask permission to pray before they proceeded to put their decision into effect. This request when interpreted to them immediately caused a profound silence which continued throughout Bro. Smythe's calm and fervent prayer. At the conclusion, the chief requested the words of the prayer to be interpreted to the Indians. Brother Hatch told them that Elder Smythe had asked the great Spirit to bless the Navajos, cause that their eyes might be opened and their hearts softened, so that they might see that the Mormon people were their true friends, and that in case they put him to death, to forgive them as they believed him and his people guilty of the killing of their friends.
The effect of the humble prayer and the calm bravery of Bro. Smythe was magical. The big chief called all the Indians inside the large council hogan, sent his men to get the white mens horses, stood in the door to hold the red men inside and told the two men to go home before the Indians had time to change their minds again.
The chief suggestion made to the Navajos by these men was that the Indians, in company with Hamblin and Hatch or others, go to the place of the killing of their friends the previous winter and investigate facts for themselves. This suggestion was accepted and some of the leading Indians, in company with the Indian missionaries, went over the ground and found that the brethren had told them a truthful story. The Indians were treated so well by their friends that peace between the Navajos and the Mormon people was left on a sounder basis than ever. That this good understanding might be made permanent, the idea of establishing a permanent outpost or settlement among or near the Indians was born. With this object in view a call was made for about one hundred young people from the southern part of the territory to go out and establish homes for the purpose of fostering and encouraging and maintaining friendly relations with the Indians, Navajos and Utes.
Aunt Mary and I were among these one-hundred young people who were called to establish a settlement on the San Juan River.
At the suggestion of Apostle Erastus Snow, pioneer, statesman, colonizer, and patriot, whose prophetic vision pierced the future, the decision was reached to plant a colony somewhere in the neighborhood of the "four corners." This decision was reached at a Stake conference held at Parowan, Iron County, about December 27, 1878. A number of young men were called to explore that particular part of the country where the colony was to be started, I was one of those men.
We left Iron County April 14, 1879, a group of twenty-eight or thirty young men under the leadership of Silas S. Smith, of Paragoona, Iron County, Utah, who proved to be a prudent, wise, resourceful man, particularly well equipped by nature and experience to be a leader in that undertaking.
The company was made up of the following men: Silas S. Smith, Silas S. Jr., John A., Jesse J., Steven A., and Albert Smith, all sons of the leader from Paragoona; Robert Bullock, John C. Duncan, John Gower, Thomas Bladen, George Perry, George Urie, Kumen Jones, H.J. Nielson, James L. Davis and family from Cedar City; Harrison Adelbert McGreggor, Hanson Bayles, P.R. Butt, Zachariah Decker, Nelson Dalle, John C. Dalton from Parowan. John Butler from Panguitch and Hamilton Thornton from Puito Creek joined the party later on the San Juan River.
After leaving Paragoona, we traveled up Little Creek Canyon, down Bear Creek, up the Sevier through Panguitch, past Upper Kanab, through Johnson's past the north end of Buckskin Mts, to Lee's Ferry on the Colorado River. We crossed the river May 1st, continuing on the main Arizona road to Moancopy, afterwards named Tuba City. Here the company paused while an exploring party was sent out to find a way to cross the Navajo Reservation to the San Juan River, that being the objective point. This exploring party was made up of Robert Bullock and Kumen Jones. Nathan Tanner accompanied us to act as interpreter. The party followed the Monecoy Wash, out to "Red Lakes" over Marches Pass, by the head of Lagoona Creek, by Kayenta, crossing the Chinalee Creek about thirty-five miles from the San Juan River. From here we went on to the River following in the main a northeasterly direction. We arrived at the river at Brewer Bottom, a point about four miles below the mouth of McElmo Creek and about the same distance above the Montezuma Wash.
Soon after passing Chinalee Creek, I was sent back to bring up the main company which had remained at Moencopy. The company had been royally treated by John W. Young and others of that village.
As we journeyed on, it soon became apparent that water was going to be the source of our greatest anxiety. Wherever a damp place was found, shovels, picks, and spades were soon brought out and digging for water commenced. As a rule, plenty of water was soon secured. This fact did much to win the friendship of the Navajos whose country we were traveling. The quick-witted Indians were told that the watering holes would be theirs as soon as the company passed on. This news spread rapidly and the Indians ahead anxiously awaited our arrival. They accorded us a hearty welcome, occasionally bringing out a mutton to show their appreciation. It may be added here that some of the watering places developed by the company have been used up to the present day as permanent waterholes.
An incident occurred before we reached the Chinalee which showed the tact of Captain Smith. As we were passing a large camp or village of Pahutes, one of the old Indians, afterward known as Peeagament, came blustering out and demanded five hundred dollars before he would allow the train to proceed through his country. Captain Smith, who was driving the first team, ordered a short stop to be made and proceeded to try to pacify the old fellow. A few mild explanations were attempted but their only effect was to cause the Indian to press his demands in a higher key. Noting this, Smith ordered him out of the way and went on a short distance where he struck camp for dinner. Here he quietly passed the word around camp that it would be the right thing to give the Indians a little something to eat, or other small gifts such as tobacco, but no one was to give the noisy old fellow anything or notice him in any way. The result soon made the wisdom of this course apparent. The Indians, old and young, were jolly and friendly and the old man was a psychological study, thoroughly whipped. The lesson seemed to last him all his life.
Barring the above incident, travel through the Reservation was agreeable and pleasant. We reached the San Juan River the last day of May and crossed the next day. The afternoon we arrived at the river, fishing was the main order of business. Many fish were caught and we found suckers, humpbacks, and white salmon, some of which weighted from 3 to 16 lbs. Later some were caught weighing as high as 27 lbs. One party was going as far east as San Luna valley.
During the following two months, exploring parties were sent out to all points of the compass. Many locations were made on the river bottom and around the Blue Mts. by laying four logs in a square and posting notices on them which were good for six months. Those who were left at camp were kept busy making roads and taking up claims. Some worked on a dam that was being put in the river by a family named Mitchell. This family was found living on the river upon the arrival of the company, having come down from Colorado the year previous. For the benefit of those who were in camp on the river a Sunday School was organized, Sacrament Meetings were held, and each evening the scouts were called together for singing and evening prayer.
On August 13, orders came from the Captain to make ready for a start home. Part of the company was to go by way of the Salina, Colorado, road or trail and the remaining men, including Captain Smith, were to remain on the river awaiting mail of importance to the expedition which was expected from Apostle Erastus Snow.
A start was made and road making was again the order of the day. The company followed the Recapture Wash about twenty-five miles. Lleaving that, we followed up Mustang Mesa to the foot of the Blue Mountains, thence around the east base of the Blue, to make camp at what afterward became known as the Carlisle Ranch. At that date this was the most beautiful and promising location that had been found since leaving Iron County. Many tons of excellent hay could have been cut. Deer, sage hens, jack rabbits, and cotton tails, were plentiful.
After the arrival of the captain and the men who had remained with him, another start was made. At this time an opportunity was afforded the men of finding out how much difference there may sometimes be in men's opinions. Three scouts had been sent to explore Peter's Hill and then to report as follows:
The first scout reported that it would be practically impossible to make any kind of a wagon road down Peter's Hill.
The second scout predicted that in one month there could be a way worked so that the company could get down the hill.
The third scout said that in five or six days a road could be worked so that the group could pass down the hill.
After some counseling we decided to "tackle" the Peter's Hill proposition and next morning all hands went to work. By night rocks were moved, trees were cut, and dugways made, so that the next day the company, not only passed down the hill, but also made twenty miles on the homeward journey.
The company passed down through Dry Valley and struck the old Santa Fe trail at Coyote Wash. The route from this point passed through little Grand Valley, where Moab now stands, crossed the Grand and Green Rivers, passed through Castle Valley, over the mountain range and down Salina Canyon into Sevier Valley. From here the company went over the range into Beaver Valley and into Parowan Valley, reaching our homes Sept. 16 and 17th.
In direct travel the party had made nine hundred miles, not counting side trips, and explorations, had made two hundred and seventy-five miles of new road, had thoroughly explored the country outlined for us by the authorities and maintained friendly and pleasant relations with all Indians and white men who were met on the way. Order and discipline, both military and church, were maintained. Kind and friendly feelings were almost always the prevailing sentiment permeating the whole camp all the way through. Religious devotions were attended night and morning by the whole camp, or in groups when the camp was separated for any purpose. Observance of the Sabbath was maintained by resting and "cleaning up," and for the benefit of those who maintained camp on the river, a Sunday School was organized. The fourth and twenty-fourth of July were fittingly observed, with programs, and sports which were participated in and royally enjoyed by all members of the camp as well as visitors from Mitchel's Ranch and straggling Indians who enjoyed the artillery part of the program.
The explorations made were very important and of great value later, as were also the contacts made and the friendly relations established with both camp and travel, and our animals were properly guarded and cared for. Feed and water were located. Water holes were located and enlarged which have been used by the Indians ever since.
As a participant in early incidents in the early history I wish to render honor and praise to the memory of Silas S. Smith who so wisely and faithfully managed, and who in such a quiet, careful, wise way acquitted himself in the responsible position that had been placed upon him by the authorities of the Mormon Church. He proved very conclusively that no mistake had been made in his being called to that important position.
GENERAL MOVE TO THE SAN JUAN MISSION
When the first exploring party which was sent out had found what was considered a feasible location for a settlement on the apparently rich bottoms of the San Juan River, their leader, Silas S. Smith, took steps to have a shorter way explored for moving the pioneers into this new location. He wrote the Church Authorities to have some scouts from Escalante sent out to look over a way from that point to the San Juan River. He gave them general directions as to distance and location on the map.
Charles Hall and B. P. Schow were sent out from Escalante and they came down as far as the west rim of the Colorado River Canyon. After looking down through the "Hole-in-the Rock" through which they could see water and a canyon leading out from the river up to a fault looking country, this party returned and reported clear sailing for a wagon road to San Juan. This latter report was founded more on a desire to encourage travel through the village of Escalante than to find a feasible place for a permanent road. All who have seen the first old trail from Escalante to the settlement at Bluff on the San Juan River, and all who will ever see it, will say that the above scouts must have failed in their task. Their exploring could not have been thorough as later developments proved.
Immediately after the explorations of Charles Hall and Bishop Schow, preparations were begun for the second pilgrimage to the San Juan Mission, as it was then called. The saints were advised to provide themselves with provision, clothing, seeds, tool, and implements to last at least one year.
By the latter part of October 1879, the greater part of the Pilgrims that were to make up the company booked for the San Juan Mission were on wheels headed for the Colorado River at a point east of the Escalante Desert. There were only a few in this company who had made the first trip.
By early November the greater part of the company had gathered at "Forty Mile Spring," which was down on the Escalante Desert forty miles from the town of Escalante. The company was made up of saints from practically all the counties from Weber south to Washington. After the arrival of President Smith at the rendezvous, matters took on a serious aspect. Scouting parties had been out as far as the Colorado River and met the vanguard of the moving company, informing us that an impassable barrier had been discovered at the river. A council was called and other scouts were sent ahead and about two weeks were spent investigating up and down the river with the result that nothing more favorable was found than the Hole-in-the-Rock. This was an opening in the solid wall through which we could see the river about 2000 feet below.
By this time it was getting well along in November and an extra heavy fall of snow on the Escalante Mountains back of the company had blocked the road and effectually prevented us from returning home. Even at this early date failure seemed to stare us in the face. After another council, several young men of which I was one, were sent out on an exploring trip for the purpose of bring back an official report as to the possibilities of getting the company through the Hole-in-the Rock.
We had not gone far when we met a party of prospectors returning with burro packs. The prospectors told us it would be useless to attempt to make a road where the proposed route had been pointed out, saying, "If every rag or other property owned by the people of the Territory were sold for cash, it would not pay for the making of a burro trail across the river." However, we went on and crossed the river. The boat improvised for that purpose was a box about 10 feet long and the same width as a wagon box. One shovel and one spade were used for oars, and two of us hauled water out while two plied the oars. The water being low in the river, we crossed without any serious difficulty. Several of the boys were detailed to look over the country at and near the river and four men, George Hobbs, William Hutchings, George Lewis, and myself were fitted out with a blanket each and lunch for a few days scouting farther out in the country.
After about a week's tramping, we all returned and gave in our reports. There were about as many different kinds of reports as there were men. For example we four who were out farthest toward San Juan reported as follows: first, it would be out of the question for the company to attempt to get through on this route; second, with some assistance from the Legislature which was about to convene and the united effort of all the camp, the company could get the wagons and stock through but no permanent road could be made; third, a good road might be made over the proposed route in a few weeks without much trouble; one scout did not report.
Several meetings were called by the men at the head and it was finally the almost unanimous decision to go to work and make a way to get through. One thing that influenced for this decision was the fact that on account of deep snows on the mountains over which the company had just passed, it would have been impossible to return home for several months. Another contributing element was the fact that many in that company had been called by their church leaders as on a mission and that served as an urge to go through. It was this same principle that urged on Father Escalante 103 years earlier when he and his party went through all kinds of hardships in this same neighborhood in the winter of 1776. He was bent on finding a better and shorter trail connecting the missions of Santa Fe and California.
When the company decided to go to work for the church and make a way to get through, we made a decision that has effected the San Juan Mission for all time. The country would have been settled, but it would have been under a different lineup, for that same bunch could not have been got together again. The miracle of this decision came just as soon as the leaders of the company gave orders to sail on, sail on. It went through the camp like an electric shock and all was good cheer and hustle. Captain Smith started back with a large team and light buggy. With him went some of his sons with horses to assist in breaking a trail through the snow. Next, the company heard from him he had been successful in obtaining, through Church Authorities, necessary tools, powder provisions, experienced miners, and a five thousand dollar appropriation from the Territorial Legislature then in session; he had obtained all of which made it possible for the company to blast and work our way through.
While visiting the Legislature, Captain Smith had San Juan County organized and officers appointed. They were as follows: James Lewis of Kanab, Judge; Charles E. Walton Sr., Clerk; Platte D. Lyman, Jens Nielson, James B. Decker, Selectmen; Benjamin Perkins, Assessor and Collector; and Kumen Jones, Superintendent of Schools.
Several extra men were soon sent out by Capt. Smith to assist in the roadwork. These were mostly men who had had experience in mining where powder is used. Good progress was made and a hearty good feeling prevailed throughout the whole camp.
In a camp consisting of ninety or more men, about thirty women and sixty children, moving in eighty three or more wagons through an extremely rough country, one would naturally look for some trouble and a few accidents, but this was not the case. Always hustle and harmony.
About December 17 it was decided to send men out to look over the proposed route to ascertain whether it was possible to get through to the San Juan at the point where the former explorers had made "locations" during the summer before, and for this purpose George W. Sevy, L. H. Redd Sr., George Hobbs, and George Merrill were chosen, or volunteered.
Before this party of scouts started out, a general council meeting was held at Forty Mile Spring where the situation was discussed. The saints were encouraged by the principle layed down in ancient as well as modern scripture that "a religion that does not require the sacrifice, if or when necessary, of all things does not have the power within it to save in the Celestial Kingdom."
The four scouts took with them only four animals, a small quantity of provision, and bedding, expecting to replenish their lunch bags when they arrived at the camp of those who had remained on the San Juan the fall before. In this they were somewhat disappointed, as provisions had run very low with this camp. In fact the outlook was so slim in the provision line that the explorers did not feel justified in remaining long enough to recuperate after their long hazardous journey and they at once prepared for the return trip, only remaining at the river camp one day. The drop out had taken twelve days and the return trip took eleven days.
The exploring trip of those four men will always be remembered by all those who were acquainted with it, and more especially by those who took part in it, as one of the hardest and most trying in the way of perseverance and persistent endurance of any undertaking connected with the San Juan Mission. It was one, also, in which the participants must have had the assistance of our Heavenly Father. It has been a source of wonder to all those who since those early days, have become acquainted with the country through which those explorers traveled. How they ever found their way through deep snow and blinding snow storms in such a broken timbered country, all cut to pieces with deep gorges for such a long distance, without compass, trail, and most of the time no sun, moon, or stars to help them in keeping their course is a mystery. The only answer is that a kind Providence came to their assistance in answer to their humble fervent prayers. They endured difficulties and grilling experiences almost unbelievable with snowstorms, boxed canyons, thick cedar and pine forests, and food shortage. Their experience almost made the journey of the good Catholic, Escalante, look like a picnic party.
Just before reaching the camp of the few men left of the party who went out in the spring, the four scouts met two miners who were making a start to hunt for the last Pashlekine Mine, reported by Navajos and others as being very rich in silver. The mine had been worked by Navajos but had been lost, as the few Indians who had worked it were killed off by the soldiers when they were being rounded up several years before to be taken to Santa Fe. These prospectors tried to persuade the Mormon scouts to go out with them, promising that they would lay over for them and would let them in on the big mine, which they said was a "sure" thing. Had the Latter-Day Saint scouts fallen for this wild proposition, it might easily have resulted in failure of the San Juan Mission, at least at that early date. The two miners, Merick and Mitchel, were killed by the renegade Pahutes and Navajos as they were returning with their pack animals loaded with ore supposed to be from the lost mine. The Mormon men would most likely have met the same fate and the company would not have gotten the news of what became of them for a month or two. A great portion of the camp were discouraged because of the rough country and other difficulties and such an event would have been enough to put a finish to the whole undertaking.
When the four explorers returned, they reported that it would be possible to make a road through the San Juan, as by far the roughest and most difficult country was at or near the Hole-in-the-Rock, or within a few miles of the Colorado River where work was being pushed as fast as possible with the tools that were in the camp.
A long and interesting story could be written about the travels and workings of this large, well organized, good natured, jolly camp, but for the purpose of this story, just a few points will be noted. The great majority went to work in earnest and a good healthy Christian atmosphere pervaded the camp. The Sabbath was observed at all times and under all conditions. Every evening hymns were sung and prayers said. Occasionally dances were held, especially while we were at the Hole-in-the-Rock where nature had made the smooth flat rock floor on purpose.
January 26, 1880, after about six weeks work and waiting for powder, a start was made to move the wagons down the "Hole."
Long ropes were provided and about twenty men and boys would hold onto each wagon as it went down to make sure that there would be no accidents through brakes giving way or horses cutting up after their long lay off. I had a well broken team. This I hitched on to Benjamin Perkins' wagon which I drove down through the "Hole."
All went smooth and safe. By the 28th most of the wagons were across the river and work had commenced again on the Cottonwood Canyon, another very rough proposition. There was a very important work to be attended to in addition to the road making. This was the matter of finding forage for the work horses. A great many animals were needed to move the eighty odd wagons of the camp, and the open country was limited and many hands were occupied with finding feed.
After working and traveling nearly two and one half months, the future site of Bluff was reached on the sixth day of April, 1880. Surely the Hand of Providence had been over the traveling pilgrims. No serious accidents had befallen any of them. There had been only two "tip-overs." Three babies had been born on the way, with the assistance of an old time nurse or two and the blessings of the Good Father Above. Most every one had been kind and helpful and good natured. In very rough places men had rallied around steadying the wagons down with long ropes or pushing and rolling wagons up the bad hills. Provisions were anything but plentiful, but good health prevailed and the roughest wagon road in North America had been gone over without any serious smash-ups or breakdowns. About 325 miles had been traveled, 210 of which had been through an unsettled country over which a wagon had never gone before. The main portion of the camp had been five and a half months on the journey and all of us as well as the faithful work teams, were ready for a rest. However, many were more or less disappointed in the country and if their teams had been able, many more would have accompanied the few who moved on.
Besides H. H. Harriman and family, George Hobbs, and James L. Davis and family who had remained on the river since the Silas S. Smith exploring party came in the summer of 1879, the company found their old friend and neighbor, Thales H. Haskell, who had been sent in by the Church Authorities to act as Indian interpreter. This was a pleasant surprise to all.
When I look back upon the large company traveling and blasting and working their way through a country of that nature, six months in the midst of one of the severest winters, it looks to me that there was something more than human power or wisdom associated with it. When this bedraggled company of tired pilgrims straggled into the present site of Bluff, many of the teams which consisted of horses of all sizes and descriptions, oxen, mules, and burros, were unable to proceed further for at least some time. Some remained at Bluff on that account, but most of those who settled at that point did so from religious and conscientious motives, and under the protection and blessings of a kind Providence were prospered and preserved to accomplish, at least in a large measure, the mission assigned to them, that of cultivating and maintaining friendly relations with all Indians whose homes were near the section where the state of Colorado and the Territories of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona corner together.
THE SETTLEMENT OF BLUFF
Upon arrival at Bluff, the camp was a beehive of activity. The men looked over the land and selected a site for a town. In the evening we held a meeting where a committee of three was chosen to manage the work on a canal to get water from the river out onto the land. Another committee of five was appointed to lay off a field and town.
As we laid off the land and lots, we found the land much less than what we had expected, so a meeting was held and a suggestion made that the men draw lots. Those who drew blanks were to go further up the river and those who drew numbers were to remain at Bluff. This suggestion was followed but much disappointment and hard feelings resulted.
Because of a proposal made by some of the brethren, Platte D. Lyman called the camp together April 13th to see if some arrangements could not be made so that all might remain in Bluff. It seemed out of the question for any to move on farther just then. There seemed to be a good spirit at this meeting and difficulties were adjusted. It was unanimously decided to throw out the former drawing and all share alike, with the understanding that those who held large claims taken up the summer before would throw them into the hands of the field committee for disposal in the interest of the camp. Following this meeting, work was resumed on the ditch.
The town lots were twelve rods square, being made this small because of the limited space available for building on. The field lots varied from eight to twenty acres to the man according to location and quality. The course of the river at this point was almost west and land lay on both sides, but we decided to use only the land on the north side of the river. The valley, at the point where we located, was from one half to one mile wide between the sandstone bluffs which rose perpendicularly 300 feet. Forty miles to the north of us rose the Blue Mountains which was the nearest point where we could get saw timber.
The people immediately began moving into their lots where they set up temporary shelters of one sort and another to be used until something more permanent could be built. On April 25 we held a meeting and by unanimous consent named our town Bluff City.
During the forepart of May, several teams were sent back for provisions that were hauled to the Colorado River by teams from the older settlements. I was one who drove an outfit back to bring these provisions on to Bluff from the river. The weather was hot and the teams poor so we were forced to go slowly. Soon after starting out we met Captain Silas S. Smith and he said that some flour and boots and shoes were on the road from the camp.
Ordinarily the above mentioned trip would not be of sufficient importance to record, but some future historian, especially one who has gone over the route traveled by pioneers of San Juan, between Escalante via the Hole-in-the-Rock to Bluff, Utah, will not call that trip unimportant. Later on, or to be exact, in the fall of 1881, I made another trip as far as Escalante for freight left there by William Hyde, who in that year opened an Indian Trading Post on the river. It was late in the fall. Bishop Jens Nielson rode with me as far as Escalante. We both rode in another outfit to Cedar City where Bishop Nielson remained until the Spring of 1882. I returned with my load from Escalante overtaking an outfit at the river. We were about the last teams who passed this way. Bishop Nielson and others came another route leaving the Hole-in-the-Rock road a few miles southeast of Escalante traveling down the Escalante Wash, turning northward through "Muly Twist" and down Grand Wash to Hall's Ferry on the Colorado River, and joining on to the former road one mile north of Hermit Lake.
This route was again changed by travel coming through Rabbit Valley over into the head of Grand Wash, intersecting the old road as it came through Mully Twist [sp], which was travelled for a few years. It was again changed by turning eastward around the north end of the Henry Mountains, following the east base of these mountains, turning southward down Trackite Wash to Dandy Crossing and following easterly up White Canyon, intersecting the old pioneer road at Harmony Flat (so called for a party of original pioneers who came from New Harmony and laid over a few days hunting for horses that had strayed off).
The distance from Escalante to Bluff on the Hole-in-the-Rock road or the Hall's Crossing way through Muly Twist is approximately 200 miles and the road through Rabbit Valley from Loa to Bluff is about the same. It has been many years since a vehicle of any kind has been taken over any of these roads, that is, all the way through. They have been abandoned and have to be repaired in places to get even a pack outfit over them. It may be that the experiences I had in traveling those roads under the conditions that prevailed in those early days, has given me a greater sense of pleasure in riding over these modern highly improved highways in a good auto or a modern railroad train. At any rate, the desire to go over that covered wagon day has entirely left me, and I enjoy riding the new style just like a kid.
On June 6th Captain Smith came down from his camp about fifteen miles above Bluff and organized a Sunday School with James Decker as Superintendent. He also installed Bro. Jens Nielson as presiding priest in the branch.
On June 7th county court was held and the county was divided into three precincts. Judges of election and other officers were appointed to act until the election in August.
We were two years, six months, and twenty days without mail service. It was October 26, 1882 that the first regular mail arrived at Bluff and there was great rejoicing about it.
In 1881, there was seven hundred sixty dollars tithing paid in at Bluff. Over four hundred dollars of it being in the San Juan cooperative company. This company was organized April 29, 1882 for the purpose of engaging in general merchandise. The officers were Platte D. Lyman, President; Jens Nielson, Vice President; E. C. Walton, Kumen Jones, and Hyrum Perkins, Directors; L. H. Redd, Jr., Secretary; and Benjamin Perkins, Treasurer. This company continued in business until January 21, 1920.
The first district school at Bluff was started in late December 1880 with Ida M. Lyman as teacher.
PROVIDENCE INTERVENES IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN
There have been many times in San Juan Mission history when failure seemed inevitable. At one time an extra freshet or flood in the river washed out about two miles of the head of the canal. This, along with other discouraging problems, made both the pioneers and some of the leading authorities of the Church feel that we were overmatched. Members of our colony kept dropping out of the game, leaving such a small force to overcome such a flock of problems that it seemed hopeless to try. Chief among these problems was the sluggish changeable river which carried so much silt and was subject to raising and falling suddenly. President Jose. F. Smith, with others, came out for the purpose of releasing and locating the colony in a more favorable locality, still near enough to the Indians to accomplish the object which we had in view in the original call, and in such a location that we would not have to throw away the sacrifices already made.
After carefully and prayerfully going over the situation with the members of the courageous, depleted little colony, Pres. Smith and Apostle Erastus Snow and others decided that this mission should be maintained. This location, situated so that a direct contact could be had with the Navajo Nation on the south, southern Utes on the east, and the mixed scattering bands on the north, must be held. Our mission and business was to cultivate and maintain friendly relations with the remnants of scattered Israel, preparing them for the gathering after the fullness of the Gentiles shall come to pass and the more wicked part of them have been destroyed.
After making a canvas to find out just how many would be willing to stay and hold the fort until reinforcements could be called in to help carry on, Pres. Smith and Apostle Snow blessed the church members who were at the meeting being held at Bluff, Utah. They blessed those who had made all preparation to move away in a spirit of kindness and sympathy, hoped they would prosper and succeed in finding favorable locations, and remain loyal to the Church. Then one of them gave us this prophecy: "I promise those who are willing to remain and face this difficult situation that they will be doubly blessed of the Lord." Turning to Bishop Jens Nielson, the man added, "For your obedient and steadfast response at this time, you shall be blessed and prospered of the Lord both in spiritual and temporal ways."
The above prophecy and promise came to pass every whit. Again religious impulse and the spiritual urge prevailed over all discouraging elements and another threatened failure had been averted.
Under Bishop Jens Nielson, who thought and planned in terms of a ward unit, and members who trusted in his spiritual and financial ability as well as his native justice, the saints at Bluff united in making a record in Church activities as well as temporal affairs that brought commendation of Church Authorities and surprise from friends of our little colony. This record consisted of missionaries sent out, tithing and fast offers paid, attendance at all Church meetings and activities, Church papers, magazines and periodicals subscribed for. The credit of the community was gilt edged with banks, merchants, farmers and stockmen of Southern Colorado. Our relations dealings with our Indian neighbors for many years, with a very few minor exceptions, were very peaceable and considering the conditions involved as to the ranges, etc., where our interests could easily have caused differences we got along remarkably well together. In later years through outside influences a few unfortunate incidents occurred to mar our otherwise neighborly history.
Colorado as a state, at an early date in our San Juan history, attempted to have their Indians, the Utes, removed from the south western corner of that state into San Juan County, Utah, just across the line from the west end of their reservation. The persistency of our neighbors on the east had been worthy of a better cause. They went so far at one time as to pack their Indians up and order them to move over into Utah, or at least all that would fall for their bluff. But our Utah State officials failed to see it in that light, and lost no time in coming in and calling the bluff. After engaging in a more or less prolonged pow wow, during which some strong language was used, the Indians promised to return peaceably. Col. D. F. Day was removed from his acting agency with some mild censure by his superiors, thus ending peaceably what might have been serious trouble. At another occasion tentative arrangements were entered into whereby the pioneers of our country were given the privilege of choosing a place or lands in Colorado in exchange for our place in Utah for the Indians, but that arrangement did not get far.
The "Indian Rights Association," the great majority of whose members are good, well meaning people, but who are unfortunate sometimes in choosing men to direct the policy of their organization, have made it difficult and dangerous for all settlers, prospectors, and stockmen living near reservations, and many of the agents in charge of the different reservations and our government. Officials of the I. R. Association assume that their place is to defend their clients, as a lawyer is supposed to do, right or wrong, and we can easily see how the advantage would be lopsided in the Indians' favor. However, it did not work out as the eastern sentimentalists figured. The progress of the Indians was retarded. They drew false conceptions as to what was right or wrong in living their lives and in dealing with their neighbors about them. Those of us who knew these things do not feel to censure the Indians (many of them were peaceably inclined) for the serious trouble that was the direct result of the unwise leadership of their supposed "Washington friends."
The unfortunate trouble with the Indians and the outcome of it, the particulars of which are related elsewhere, reveal one of the outstanding evidences of the hand of God in the affairs of spiritual offspring, in the preservation of the lives of our boys from the bullets of their misguided neighbors. To me, if the hand of our Allwise Father was not in that unhappy affair, how could it be explained away? None of our boys received a scratch, and the young Pahutes who resisted the officer of the law and the leader of the outlaws, Posey, were all that were killed or wounded. The war was carried on in the roughest part of a broken rocky timbered which afforded the Indians all the advantage, they being familiar with the caves, cliffs, and every turn of the extremely rough trails. They also had better guns than any of our boys had. We have the Indian problem very much unsettled on our hands yet, but with faith and unafraid.
It is the purpose of this little humble story to show that the San Juan Mission has been to some extent at least a success; and also to secure to the Church leaders and especially those true brave peacemakers, the Indian Missionaries, their mead of honor and credit. As far as this effort of one having been associated in a more or less humble way with the "Mission" from the first, I put in no claim only as having taken an humble part in fostering peace between friends, or those who should live in friendly relations together.
The effects of the patient kindly labors of the Mormon missionaries was apparent. The Indians, especially the Navajos, had the name Mormon associated in their minds as friends, and from Pres. Silas S. Smith, who had more or less experience in dealing with Indians, and our old friend Thales H. Haskell, I got ideas and pointers that were a help to me in the part that fell to my lot later. For that were an example, "Always be plain, frank, and straight in talking with them." "Treat with them as you would with children." "Don't accuse or charge them with wrong doing without being sure of your grounds." "Never attempt to run a bluff." "As a rule you will be safer without a gun or weapon of any kind if your aim is to be a peacemaker."
One phase of our experience with all Indians has been to meet and overcome their tendency to leave their reservations and encroach upon the cattle and sheep ranges that we have used for many years. After we had been located in San Juan for a number of years and the Indian Agents discovered that it was the Mormon policy to treat Indians right, most of them gave us the privilege of keeping the Indians off the ranges we had been accustomed to use, but while we all understand that Indians as well as whites have to a certain extent the same right to the use of the public domain, still there is an unwritten law that governs in this matter among people who have right ideas as to actual prior use and have done something toward range improvements. However, among all people there are a few who are inclined to encroach upon their fellows. To the credit of the Indians, along this line, be it said that while we have met some determined resistance and have had to use time and patience, we have never failed to make our point, and better still after we have come to a peaceable understanding, the Indians have never broken their agreements.
At one time, many years since, the renegade band of Utes and Pahutes gathered and located in about the center of our winter range northwest of Bluff on what is named Black Mesa. They were ugly and saucy, and while we were unable to catch them at it, we knew they had been stealing from us by the cows that had been seen by our cowboys bellowing around without their calves. One of the boys speaking of the Indians at that time said, "They were all fat and saucy, even to their dogs, and they had dozens of them." The situation becoming almost unbearable, Bishop Nielson of Bluff called a council of all those interested and decided to send a committee of our men out to take up a labor with them to see if we could not prevail on the friendly ones to help us put an end to a condition that could not be permitted to go on. I had been sick but the Bishop and other authorities insisted that if reasonably possible, I should go. This I finally consented to do, and this controversy turned out as the dozen or more other like undertakings. After calling out some of the older and some of the more peaceably disposed Indians, they finally agreed to remove as we asked and even these poor ignorant renegades kept their word.
The directing leaders who followed S. S. Smith in the San Juan Mission were all well fitted for the changing conditions that developed as times and situations changed. All were sympathetic friends of the Indians, more or less used to pioneering, stock raising, farming, and ranching. They were all especially experienced in the Gospel and church organization. They were all in favor of education, advocates of law and order, promoters of thrift and economy, looking to the material progress of the people. They were prospered spiritually and temporally, giving another example of the truth that God blesses His children when they work in harmony with His plans.
SOME BLUFF HISTORY NOTES
When we came to Bluff we found the country in general very rough, broken, and sandy, and the job of making canals for irrigation in the region of the San Juan River looked, as it proved to be later, a never ending job. At an early date in the settling of Bluff, a number of the church authorities visited the settlement. Elder John Morgan, one time president of the Southern States Mission, visited the ditch camp located about three miles up the river from Bluff. He could see what the colonists were up against. Upon returning to town he visited Joseph A. Lyman who was suffering from a badly shattered knee received in a battle with desperadoes the fall before. By way of handing out a ray of comfort to the injured man, Brother Morgan said in an undertone, "Brother Lyman, I believe I would prefer having both legs shot than to have the job the boys have on the canal."
Not long after the pioneers landed on the San Juan and began the long difficult task of colonization, they began to meet with earnest opposition from the Indian Rights Association. This association had its headquarters at Washington D. C. where they could be in easy contact with the Indian Department. There is no doubt but what there was a just need for such an organization to head off the many dishonest and unscrupulous characters who were always ready to take advantage of the redmen in their ignorance of the white man and his ways, and probably the great majority of the members and supporters of the I.R.A. were high class citizens, contributing money and time to what they were convinced was a worthy cause. However, they were sometimes unfortunate in their choice of leaders and representatives, and the association balled up matters for agents, settlers, and the Indians themselves, without making any progress toward civilization. Their policy seems to have been to defend all Indians, right or wrong, in any trouble between the two races, and they caused the Bluff settlers a great deal of trouble.
Farmington, New Mexico was the nearest settlement to Bluff and it was over one hundred miles distant direct, and by wagon road it was about 150 miles. All roads in the country were next to impossible, especially those anywhere near the river. They were rough and rocky and the sand was bad.
To offset all these unfavorable condition there were at least three things in our favor:
First, the cowmen, who came into the country about the same time that we did, were practically all a bunch of nice fellows with whom we got along very nicely.
Second, the group of men and women who had been called on a mission to make this their home, for the purpose of cultivating and maintaining friendly relations with the Indians and establishing an outpost as a nucleus for future colonization in the interest of the church, were a choice bunch of people with whom it was a happy privilege to live and labor.
Third, we made a friend of one who watches over and protects and blesses all those whose attitude towards Him and each other is one of loyalty and trustfulness, and unity.
Notwithstanding the discouraging uninviting appearance of the county, by thrift, economy, and united working a wonderful prosperity attended our efforts, and although we were isolated from civilization, we developed a cultural happy community which in time attracted other good people, so that the better element prevailed over all obstacles. Through it all, the church as well as the authorities of the state were entitled to much credit for their kind sympathy and council as well as material help along the way. The struggles of the people here appealed to them and they went almost beyond the limitations of the law to render help.
Our pioneer party sought the better members of the different tribes of Indians to form alliances. Friendships were formed that have endured and grown stronger with the passing of the years. Indians don't break treaties, especially the better classes. As soon as they discovered that the attitude of our people was different, and that our kindly feelings and our interest in their welfare was sincere, all the leading classes fell in with our friendly efforts and joined in making it mutual. The more I learn of the white man and his ways, the better I like the Indian, and when the day of accounting arrives all the conditions and opportunities and environments are taken into account, our dusky "Sons of the Desert" may loom up far better than we may have figured.
As mentioned previously, the cowboys who came to Bluff were one of the checks which kept the bad forces from gaining the balance of power in early San Juan history. One group of these young fellows who came in from some of the eastern states were fairly well educated, had been brought up in good Christian homes, and stood for law and order. They were without knowledge of just who the Indians, or Lamanites were, but they had the business sense to see that their safety lay in keeping friendly with them. That fact naturally added strength to the forces of peace.
Quite early in the game of pioneering, there was a change made in the Northeastern Division of the Navajo Reservation. A former agent, who was prejudiced against the Mormon Colony located at Bluff and also the one located at Fruitland, was replaced by W. T. Shelton. Providence must have suggested this change, because it meant so much to the interests of the San Juan Mission as well as to the saints of New Mexico and the Indians themselves. No other change could have been made, involving one or two men, which would have meant so much to the pioneering of the whole region and the real good and advancement of the Navajos.
When W. T. Shelton was sent in to superintend that part of the Navajo Reserve, extending along the north side of this reservation west to the 110th meridian and next to the San Juan River on the south, good fortune had smiled on the Mormons for he proved to be a real friend, absolutely devoid of prejudice. He understood the Indians and their needs. He had his queenly wife and no children of their own and their natural affection for children found vent in their love for the bright young brownies of the canyons, cliffs, and sandhills of Navajo land.
Superintendent Shelton could give two or three good reasons for every move he made toward the development of the Shiprock School Plant. For example, he provided a building to serve as a small hospital. When they had patients brought in for treatment, he would invite some of the brightest of the natives that were convenient to follow the doctor and nurse in their treatment of the ailing ones. These Navajos would see that the treatment was different from that of their own medicine men and it tended to raise them above their ancient superstitions. However, I am a firm believer that the Indian people as well as most of the Heathen peoples have their prayers answered and their sick healed by faith.
As soon as Agent Shelton discovered that his Mormon neighbors were friendly and interested in the welfare of the Indians, he was very pleased, as one of his major problems was keeping peace between the Indians and settlers bordering on the Reservation. The friendship between Shelton and the Mormons soon became warm and mutual. Each was in a position to render assistance to the other. For instance, Shelton could see the demoralizing influence of gambling among the Indians and he undertook to discourage it in every way possible. The settlers living near the reservation cooperated with him in this to the best of their ability.
He used the Indians in all unskilled labor around the school and the farm that was operated in connection with the school. He didn't pay high wages because the easier the Indians get their money, the greater the temptation to engage in gambling, an almost universal weakness among the Indians.
Supt. Shelton and the Sectarian Schools people could not find any common ground upon which to meet and there was more or less friction between them from the start. Through the Indian Rights Association which was largely dominated by sectarian influence, this friction finally resulted in Shelton's removal from office.
Supt. Shelton was frank and straight forward and asked no special favors of friend or opponent. He understood the Indians and their limitations and opportunities. He had the respect of all the better ones of their nation and he had a way of putting his regulations over with refractory ones that won them to his side.
His removal was a great disappointment to the Mormons and an irreparable set back for the Navajo Nation. Of all the Indian agents of Superintendents I have contacted since landing in San Juan, I consider Supt. Shelton the best in regard to uplifting and bettering the Indians. However, since Shelton's day, the great majority of the agents have aimed to be fair with us and have given about the best that was in them for the benefit of the Indians.
BILL BALL AND THE DESPERADOES
In the late fall or early winter of 1886 or therabouts, three strange men turned up in the neighborhood of the south side of the Blue Mountains. No one seemed to know how or where they came from, but as was the custom in cow camps at that period, they were given the freedom of the camp belonging to the L. C. outfit in the mouth of Montezuma Canyon. As storms came on making travel difficult, they remained for the winter, not only getting their own food and keep but oats for their ponies as well.
On awakening one fine April morning, William Ball, foreman at the L. C. Ranch, made the discovery that their guests had quietly disappeared, taking with them two or three of the favorite cow ponies belong to the camp, among them Ball's favorite horse. Four of the cowboys were soon scouting the country for the rail by which the horse thieves had left with their ill-gotten booty. They found the tracks which had been made eight or ten hours earlier, going south in the direction of Bluff.
The pursuers followed a lone fresh track in to Bluff, but it proved to be one of our Bluff boys who had just returned from the Elk Mountains. He had seen the desperadoes and in attempting to go to them had been ordered back at the point of their guns. This information from the Bluff boy gave Ball and his party a direct lineup on the men they were following.
After lunch, the party was joined by six or eight Bluffites including myself and the pursuit of the outlaws was continued. We overtook them about eight miles west of town at Navajo Springs, leisurely having lunch. We held a hasty consultation and the decision was almost unanimous to order them to throw up their hands, and in case they refused, to open fire on them from a safe position behind rocks. Mr. Ball, however, was in favor of giving them a better opportunity to surrender and this decision proved his undoing and caused a revolt in the ranks of the pursuers.
With Ball in the lead, the pursuit was continued up the Comb Wash, our party keeping back out of sight until darkness came on when both parties left the main traveled road and passed the night with saddles on the horses and bridle reins in hand. When daylight dawned, we could see the thieves about a half mile across a canyon. We started after them and had gone about a mile when Ball stopped and asked me if I would take another man and follow the road that leaves the Comb Wash, in an attempt to head off the men we were after. At that time there was no trail or way out onto the Cedar Ridge other than the wagon road of the pioneers of San Juan.
Before leaving Ball and the posse, I very earnestly warned him of the danger of following that trio of outlaws too closely in the rough country through which we were traveling, telling him that men who would steal horses from a man who had treated them so well would not hesitate to shoot their pursuers from ambush. We were then passing through an outlaw's paradise, but Ball felt sure the men would not fight.
In accordance with Ball's suggestion four of us were detailed to make for a point in the road called the Twist, where it was thought the thieves would have to pass. It was the only outlet we knew of which went west, and that was the direction they were evidently heading for. After making as good time as possible, we reached the place, found a favorable position, and awaited developments.
The outlaws had evidently expected an emergency such as they were in now for they had looked out a trail the fall before as they were coming into the country. They seemed to know the country better than we who had lived there. They went out the south side of Red Canyon, and after being closely pursued for several miles, selected an ambush and opened fire. Ball, who was closest to them, was mortally wounded and some of our boys narrowly escaped the same fate. James B. Decker sprang from his horse just in time to save himself as a bullet struck the back of his saddle.
Not knowing just where the outlaws were located and being entirely at their mercy, our boys took cover behind rocks and trees that were available and tried to locate the bandits, who had all the advantages. The latter took what time they needed to withdraw and escape.
Ball was mortally wounded and suffering for water, so some of the boys placed him on a horse and started for Bluff while others scouted for water. The wounded man could not stand to ride far and begged the boys to let him off so he could die in peace. They took him off the horse and it was only a few minutes till he passed away. After digging a hole in the sand and covering his remains as best they could, the boys returned home.
About three weeks after Bill Ball's death a posse of twenty cowboys came through Bluff to follow the trail of his murderers. They asked Bluff to furnish two boys to act as guides and Amasa M. Barton and I were the ones selected for the job. This was about the middle of May.
The outfit headed for the Colorado River and the second day out we struck the trail of the bandits. We followed them to and down Red Canyon to the camp of Cass Hites. The main camp, however, was made a few miles from the river. Another party had gone around by the railroad, having heard that the murderers of Ball had a camp in or near the Henry Mountains. That party was to rout the desperadoes from the west and our party was to intercept them at the river, so our boys took turns guarding the crossing.
After allowing plenty of time for this program to work out, two of our party came out in sight and hailed Cass Hites over the river with his boat. As he stepped off the boat, the two boys drew their guns on him and placed him under arrest. During this brave performance the boys gave unmistakable evidence of being greatly agitated. Mr. Hite spoke quietly to them saying he did not think they intended to shoot him, but in their nervous excitement they might accidentally pull a trigger. He added that he couldn't see what they had to be frightened about when they were surrounded by their own men.
For a time there was strong talk and threats of lynching Mr. Hite then and there. It was brought out in the angry discussions that two of our posse had followed horse thieves to this ferry the year previous and it was charged that Mr. Hite must have a "stand in" with the outlaw element. The boys were smarting under their failure to locate the men we were after, and with the exception of Amasa Barton and myself, the sentiment was unanimous to lynch Hite.
Brother Barton and I talked the matter over quietly and decided that we must oppose the killing of Hite even though there were danger in so doing. The captain, Mr. McGood, saw that we were counseling together and he stepped up and asked us our attitude in regard to the proposed lynching. As the question was directed to me, I answered that it was a very serious step to take and told him to do as we had done, place himself in Mr. Hite's position and ask himself if he would not like to have a little better evidence than we had against Mr. Hite before taking so serious a measure as had been suggested.
After McGood had called some of the cooler heads into our council, our stand was finally accepted as the better way, but not without heated objection and profanity from the rougher element in the posse. McGood, addressing himself to Mr. Hite, said, "In case any of the boys of this party are under the necessity of following horse thieves or other outlaws to this ferry in the future, and find that you have put them over the river and taken no steps to notify the proper authorities, you need look for no mercy."
We had failed utterly in our attempt to find out anything about the murderers and our provisions were running low; so, the party started for home. Before we left, some of our posse told Mr. Hite that the two Mormons were after his scalp and that the Colorado boys had had trouble in talking us out of having him killed. People passing his camp later were told that at the first meeting of Jones or Barton and himself, something very serious would happen, but it didn't. I proved this a few years later when I camped with Hite and was taken in and treated fine. After supper I took occasion to tell him the truth in regard to our former experience with the posse from Colorado.
The first night on our return trip, some of the posse from Colorado showed a desire to learn something about the Mormons and their religion. Brother Barton suggested that I handle our side of the discussion and I took great pleasure in answering all their questions. The greater part of the night was passed in the interview. Considering the rough element of which the greater portion of the posse was composed, the attention and respect they gave us was remarkable. A young graduate from one of the leading Universities of the east took the leading part on the side of the Colorado boys, and the tact he showed and his attitude in general insured an orderly discussion. They were all surprised to learn that there was so much to Mormonism, and they were especially interested in the story of the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Many of them spoke up and admitted that all they had heard of the Mormons and their religion had been bad, but that in the future their opinions would be different.
When we broke camp the next morning, the friendship of most of the boys was warm and sincere, and although I have met but few of them since, I feel sure that most of them always remembered some of the things they heard that quiet night at the Dripping Spring in the wilderness west of Bluff.
THE COWBOYS AND THE CONFERENCE DANCE
After one of our Stake Quarterly Conferences which was held in Bluff about 1890, arrangements were made for a rousing dance and social to "wind up" the conference. Committees were appointed to look after the different features of the occasion. The committee on invitations, in order to magnify their calling, sent invitations to the cowcamps for all to come in and join in the merry making.
It so happened that at that particular time there were quite an extra number of visitors at the cowcamps, and, surprisingly enough, the boys all decided to come in and have themselves a time. They kept coming in in such unlooked for numbers, that the authorities became alarmed and decided the invitations committee had exceeded their authority. It was finally decided that the cowmen should be notified of the error and not be allowed to take part in all the functions of the party.
The boys did not take kindly to this arrangement and the more reckless of them went for their guns determined to have their say as to how the party was to be managed. It looked for a time as if nothing could avert serious trouble. Quite a number of us secured our weapons and prepared for the worst. There were two factors which contributed the control of the angry cowboys--the absence of liquor and the sense of chivalry possessed by a good percent of the otherwise rough cowboy element.
We modified our program and the older cowboys did some persuading, finally bringing about a compromise. Quite a number of the visiting cowmen came in and took part in the dancing and games, but more of them remained outside berating those of their party who had showed the white feather and gone in after being snubbed. The hostile ones, however, carried the trouble no further than shooting off their mouths, until the party was out, when they mounted their ponies and rode out of town at full speed, yelling and shooting their guns.
A short time after this event occurred, two of us from Bluff were riding with the Texas Outfit in the Comb Wash when the full force was taking part in the spring round up. One day the conference party and other troubles between the older men of Bluff and the cowmen came up for general discussion. As it went on, the conversation became more heated. They didn't seem to have anything against the two of us in particular, yet the greater part of the demonstration was apparently for our benefit. It seemed that Bishop Jens Nielson, Thales H. Haskel, and "Father" John Allan were the arch offenders but the Mormons in general were a pretty bad lot.
After giving them time to work off much of the hate in their systems, I spoke up and asked them when they were going to allow us a turn to say a few words. This took them by surprise and they became as quiet as mice as they turned toward me. I felt that the psychological moment had arrived to read the "riot act" so I took advantage of the situation and did just that. I immediately had the great majority of them at a disadvantage because they knew they had gone too far in their tirade against the Mormons in general and the three named in particular. The cowboys had always been treated more than fair, with the exception of the conference party and we had given them the benefit of the doubt there and apologized for the apparent misunderstanding.
Among other things, I spoke of their shooting their guns and yelling like Comanches when the only possible affect it could have was to frighten the women and children. I told them that no one with any manhood about them would do that cowardly and contemptible thing. While I was easing my mind of these sentiments, there was not a sound from the round-up bunch.
That afternoon I was placed to ride with two of the toughest characters of the round up. One of them spoke up and said, "I didn't think any man could talk as you have to that outfit and not get killed, but you had truth and right on your side. I don't expect to be very good for it isn't in me, but from now on I'm not packing a gun while I am in a town where there are women and children,"
RELATIONS WITH THE INDIANS
The friendship between Kumen Jones and his Navajo friend, Jim Joe, is a most inspiring one. From their first meeting, there seemed to be a kindred spirit or feeling which drew the two together. They helped each other at every opportunity. After a separation of any length they were always overjoyed to see one another. Such beautiful friendships are rare under any circumstances, and it is especially unusual to see such a friendship between an ignorant Navajo and an educated, refined white man.
I first met Husteen Joe the Navajo at Bluff, Utah, the summer of 1880. Jim was then about eighteen or twenty years of age and I was twenty-four. It was soon apparent to an observer of human nature that Jim was above the average of his people. I think he was reared by one of his uncles who was a prominent leader among the Navajos of the north-western part of the Navajo Reservation. He was industrious, thrifty, careful with his means, a hard worker, a large manly fellow. By the time he took unto himself a wife, he was full handed. (A young man among the Navajos wins a flock of sheep and goats with his bride. As a rule the sheep are owned or claimed by the woman while she lives.)
Jim always looked upon lying and stealing as being beneath the standard he had set for himself to follow. He was always frank, open, and straight-forward in his life, and dealings with friend or foe of any color or class. Many times he has helped us regain property that was stolen from us by whites as well as Indians. Sometimes he joined officers of the law in chasing desperate characters such as bank and train robbers, cattle and horse thieves, and many times he has followed his own people and made them return small items they had pilfered. Just one instance: A party of tough characters selected a camp about 35 or 40 miles below the town of Bluff in an out-of-the-way locality which was rough and broken and seldom visited by the white folks. They were working up a trade with the Navajos and Pahutes, trading our cattle for ponies, Navajo blankets, silverware, etc. As soon as our goodly standby Jim got wise to their stuff he very promptly notified us and accompanied the officers, leading them to their camp. He also notified the Indians that they would have to return the cattle and come in and reclaim their ponies, etc. It was some time before all of the cattle were reclaimed but Jim accompanied us out on the Reservation to get cattle that had been driven some distance away. The Indians were loath to give them up as in many instances whiskey was an item mixed up in many of the deals. The effects of the whiskey had all disappeared and they were out some in the transaction, but Jim stood by us like a brick, until we recovered about all our stock. The thieves were convicted and Jim and other Indians went to Salt Lake City as witnesses against them.
William T. Shelton, for many years superintendent of the Shiprock Indian School in the northeastern districts of the Navajo Reservation, attempted many times to induce Jim to work on his police force, but the uniform and star had no charms for Jim. He preferred to be free, and he especially disliked the limelight. Supt. Shelton insisted, however, that he would hold Jim responsible for the behavior of the Indians in his neighborhood as he was about the only one the Indians would listen to. Thus the matter rested, Jim consenting in a way to talk to the Indians and try to keep them going straight.
An incident occurred soon after this last understanding to show that Jim's heart was right.
A very prominent old Navajo who was wealthy and influential among the tribe got in some difficulty with the superintendent and an attempt was made to discipline him. I think he wanted to put his old wife away and marry a young one and the authorities were trying to stop that custom which had prevailed among the Indians. The older woman, thus deserted, would take her sheep and pick up a young timid inexperienced sad Navajo to get even with the old boy.
To return to the trouble, the Indians rallied around the old man and became so serious that the noted old standby, General Scott, was called upon to settle the trouble, but before Gen. Scott could locate the offender, the Navajo Nation was worked up to a frenzy of excitement and were gathering and driving their stock over on "Black Mountain" where the women and children would herd them while their warriors went out to put Uncle Sam through a good trimming. The excitement and war spirit got beyond Jim Joe's sphere of influence and he was unable to reason them out of the mood by telling them they had all gone crazy. Jim had been to Washington and around where he had learned something of the government's power and he knew that the Navajos wouldn't last any time against the U. S. Army. Jim, however, was unable to pacify them, so he selected 25 or 30 of them to come in and talk the matter over. Shelton had told Jim that in case he ran up against something he was not able to handle he had better go and talk with Tugelchee (Kumen Jones) and he could tell them what would be best. Then, we finally succeeded in convincing the Navajos that Jim was right and that any warring attempts against the U. S. Government was only suicide. The Indians withdrew their senseless undertaking and left Scott and the old Navajo to talk matters over. The incident left Jim still climbing the respect of whites and reds.
There are a lot of Indians both Navajos and Utes that are worthy of our kindest respect considering their condition and opportunities, but, with me all around, Jim comes first and last. He is in a class almost alone. My last experience with him was just a few years ago. His eyes had gone back on him and I had been trying for nearly a year to have him put in a hospital where his eyes could be treated. A good doctor had decided there was a good chance for overcoming his blindness if he were taken where he could have proper care and treatments.
After the Indian authorities had wasted a lot of time on his case without taking him anyplace, I decided to take matters in my own hands and take him to Kayenta where the Government has a good hospital. The alibi of the Indian authorities was Jim's statement that he wouldn't go to a hospital, that he had no faith in hospitals or doctors, and that he wouldn't leave his home. But his case was so bad that I decided I should do something.
In one of my visits after he lost his sight, he told me he would do whatever I thought best in regard to having his eyes treated. When I got ready to take him to Kayenta, I arranged with a young Navajo, Randolph, who could speak English fairly well to accompany us on the trip. As Jim lived off the highway some distance, I had Randolph go down from Bluff in the evening to have him ready to start for Kayenta when I came along the road the next morning.
Next morning about the time for Jim to leave home, it started to rain so I didn't know whether he would be there or not. But when Randolph told him Tugelchee would be on the road for him, Jim was there in spite of the rain. Riding in a closed car made Jim sick and here again the genuine sport in him came to the surface. He just laughed it off saying, "Pretty soon--all right."
They were treating only T.B. cases at the hospital, but at my insistence the doctor in charge finally consented to care for him until the head superintendent came and decided where to place him. Jim was given a good bath and lunch and placed in a clean cot with an educated young Navajo attendant with whom he could talk. With Jim in those pleasant circumstances, we bade him "Adios" late that evening. With a bright smile on his face, he told us of his appreciation. It looked as if he were going to feel at home there, so, with a prayer in my heart that his sight might be restored, I left him.
I have a great deal of respect for the Navajo Nation. I feel that these people will some day come to their own. They are children of the promise and have truly suffered much. I hope I shall live to see the day when the promises made to their forefather Lehi will be realized.
The following letter, written to Kumen Jones by President Wayne H. Redd, shows the fact that the red man, Jim Joe, and his needs were constantly in the thoughts of the white man.
June 24, 1935
Dear Uncle Kumen,
We have met Jim Joe's daughter and sent some stuff down to them. She says that Jim is no worse, but he has been looking for you to visit him. We went as far as Bluff and learned that it was too far for us to walk. We gave the provisions to his daughter.
Claude Powell who runs a trading post at Bluff said that these Indians traded with him regularly and that if they were in need of more help that he would let us know and we will see that their wants are supplied.
Brother A.R. Lyman says that he and Ed. Black are going down and make Jim Joe a visit and that if Jim cares to go to the hospital that Ed. will take him up there.
We as the Stake Presidency feel that you have done your bit for this good Indian and that now we will try and fulfill our part of the contract in doing our duty to this noble Lamanite.
We are well in this part of the Lord's vineyard. Crops are looking good. Our water has been plenty up to date but of course it is failing for the field now. Hay is much better than last season but somewhat light owing to the severe drought last year.
We hope that you and your good wife are enjoying peace and good health. Let your mind dwell on the peaceable things of the Kingdom and all will be well with you and yours.
We just had a Temple Excursion from this section of Manti. We were in the group and it made us feel as though we would like to spend the balance of our lives there, but we know that we should be content with our lot and do our best wherever the good Lord sees fit to call us.
We wish you and your sweet wife peace and happiness always.
Wayne H. Redd
This second letter also shows the interest which Kumen Jones had in Jim Joe.
Northern Navajo Agency
Shiprock, New Mexico
August 1, 1931
Mr. K. Jones
In answer to your letter of July 27, regarding "Hosteen Joe," we have taken the matter up with the Specialist, and he will be here in sixty days or more. When the Specialist comes we will arrange to have this man brought in.
I am sorry, Mr. Jones, that we have not been able to take care of this old man but the special eye physician has not been available.
Ernest R. McCray
THE POKE AND POSEY TROUBLES
The history of San Juan County has been made with Silas S. Smith, Platte D. Lyman, F.A. Hammond, Walter C. Lyman, L.H. Redd, and Wayne H. Redd in charge. Anyone who has had the good fortune to know these men will know that the Indians were insured a square deal as far as it was within the power of these men to give it to them.
The purpose of this little effort is to correct the false impressions that were made during and after the excitement of the last two Indian difficulties or escapades. Oftimes two or more parties involved in dispute may compose their troubles if they are not interfered with. However, outside parties may cause many complications by "butting in" and misrepresenting facts. Interference of this kind brought many difficulties to the San Juan settlers in their troubles with the Indians.
The first twenty-five years we were in San Juan County we were at the mercy of the Indians. They could easily have wiped us out and left no trace as to who had done it, but a kind providence watched over us. As our numbers increased and the Indian Agents became more friendly our safety was made more secure.
Up until the last outbreak of the Indians, known since as the Posey War, our local church authorities counseled peaceful settlement of all differences or difficulties and have advised our men folks to keep out of any aggressive measures where reasonably possible.
In order to get at the question of cause and effect or find the real reason for the Posey War it will be necessary to go back to the Poke boy trouble which occurred a few years earlier.
The Poke boy, Tcenegat, was just a spoiled kid whose father and mother had given him his own way and led him to believe that he should be allowed to follow his own inclinations. People brought up in this manner usually meet with trouble and disappointment and Poke boy found his early.
In 1914, a young, timid, inoffensive Mexican boy was returning to his home in New Mexico from Monticello, Utah. He had been employed in the latter town as a sheep herder, and when he left there to return home, he had three ponies, a pack outfit, and some money. His trail led through the southwest corner of the Ute Reservation in Colorado, so he made camp for the night at or near the hogan of some friendly Ute Indians with whom the Poke boy was also staying. The Indians, who were the only witnesses to what occurred that night, said that Poke's boy tried to get the Mexican boy to play cards for money but the young Mexican protested that he was not acquainted with card games.
Sometime during the night, the Mexican boy was murdered and robbed. The only word that went out and the only evidence that was found pointed to Poke's boy as the murderer. The evidence that came out at the preliminary hearing pointed so directly to Poke's boy that an indictment was made, although some time had elapsed before this was done.
Several attempts were made to arrest the guilty boy but none were successful. In an unofficial way many friends of peace brought every possible argument to hear with the Indians to induce them to have Poke's boy give himself up to the officers of the law. They assured him that he would have a fair trial and that if he were innocent as he claimed to be, he would not be harmed.
As time passed and Poke was not arrested, the citizens of San Juan County became alarmed at the unsettled condition of affairs and wrote the following letter to the authorities in Washington, D.C.
Sept. 28, 1914
The Hon. Cato Sells
Commissioner of Indian Affairs
We the undersigned in behalf of the citizens of San Juan County, Utah, respectfully present a few facts concerning a band of renegade Ute Indians who live and subsists on the people of this section. They number about 150 souls. While a portion of them are law abiding, some are defiant and a menace to the citizens here, and frequently friction of a serious nature arises between them and the stock men.
Quite recently a young Dare-Devil of an Indian shot down a peaceable young man in cold blood with no provocation, simply to rob him. He, the Indian, has been requested to come in and give himself up. This he refuses to do. A U.S. deputy Marshall came for him, saw and talked with him, but failed to take him for fear of an uprising and blood-shed. The Indians are not making any decided advancement and we feel that the strong arm of the Government should manifest itself and have the Indians placed where they can be advanced along civilized lines and relieve the good people of the County of the burden of being preyed upon by a reckless bunch of Indians.
Trusting that your honor will take immediate and determined steps to settle this question of long standing.
Yours very respectfully,
The Poke boy case was agitated so long that it became of national interest. The Indian Rights Association people as an organization took it up and sent the secretary of their organization, a Mr. Sniffin, out to investigate the matter for them. This secretary came as far as Bluff where he met in solemn conference with William Posey and a young couple by the name of Patterson, who desired to take up missionary work among the Indians. I am not informed as to whom Mr. Sniffin consulted before coming into our country or after he left it, but while he was here the only interview he had with anyone was the one with Ute Posey and the Pattersons.
The Pattersons, an inexperienced well-meaning pair who had been here but a short time, had secured the services of Posey as instructor in the Indian Language and customs. We have no way of knowing what the Pattersons told Mr. Sniffin and we make no charges against them, but any man of any color who had become reasonably well acquainted with Posey would not need to ask what he would report about the white people to whom he had dealt out misery all his life.
Although Mr. Sniffin was sent out to investigate fully and fairly, he did not take the time or trouble to get at both sides of the question. Upon his return to Washington he made out his report in which the following occurred. "This whole trouble was brought about by the wealthy stockmen of San Juan County who are determined to drive the Indians from their homes, well cultivated farms, and the graves of their fathers, so the stockmen can gain possession of their lands and homes."
If that report had had any foundation of truth, the wealthy stockmen would have been the ones to round up. But Sniffin had a simpler way of handling the affair. He intended to lay the blame for everything on to the Mormons or the cowboys then spend the money of well-intentioned people to defend the Indians right or wrong as had been their policy in the past.
The facts in regard to this matter were so easily accessible that there was no need for this base perjury had Mr. Sniffin been searching for the truth. As it was, jealousy and prejudice, mixed with falsehood went out and was enlarged upon until many good intentioned people believed there must be some truth in Sniffin's report.
The Indian Rights people are sometimes unfortunate in their selection of men whom they send out to represent them The case of Mr. Sniffin is not the only one we have had where their men have come out to the Indian states and returned with one-sided reports. However, we have had some fair representatives from them and we can appreciate the difference between the ones who are seeking after the truth and those who are seeking only evidence to sustain a prejudiced state of mind.
There was but one flaw in the Sniffin report and that was that there was not a trace of truth in the part we have quoted. In the first place, up to the time that statement was made by the Indian Right's secretary, those Indians never had a well cultivated farm or a permanent home. The truth of the matter is that not one of those Indians who took part in the controversy had belonged in San Juan County north of the San Juan River before we came to the country, with the possible exception of Mancos Jim and his outfit who had been our friends for years.
In the second place, the stockmen referred to in the report, had for many years tried earnestly to persuade the Indians to turn from their nomadic life and to make permanent homes and farms. Not only had they advised them to do this, but three of our men took teams, tools, and implements out and helped the Indians fence and plow, locating some of them in Allan Canyon. A man could have raised more on five acres of land at Bluff or Moab in one season than all that those Indians ever raised in one season up to the time of the Poke boy trouble. So their well cultivated farms could not have been large enough to make any difference to speak of to those "wealthy stockmen." When the truth comes into its own in regard to the colony of Mormon pilgrims who first settled San Juan County, there will be revealed a record of kindness, patient, and fairness toward the Indians that has few equals. The people of San Juan were as free from guilt in the matter of the Poke boy trouble as anyone could possibly be.
The chief fight of the Poke boy trouble occurred in March, 1915. Aqulo Nebeker had been sent out from the office of the United States Marshal at Salt Lake City to arrest Poke's boy. His posse was made up of men with good cool nerves but they lacked training in team work. The Indians were camped across the wash west of Bluff and it was Nebeker's intention to take them by surprise. In this, however, he failed. The Indians got wind of what was up and were prepared to meet the posse. In the fracas that ensued, each side lost two members. After the encounter the Indians removed to Douglas Mesa.
Nebeker's posse was going to follow them there but word came in from Washington that the old brave General Scott had been ordered in to handle the matter. As soon as he arrived, Gen. Scott went to Mexican Hat and from there sent Indian runners to gather the Indians from the Navajo Indian Reservation where they had fled from the posse.
The Indians, at Scott's request, came into Mexican Hat for consultation and gave themselves up. There was nothing else to do as their supplies were all gone and the Navajos refused to feed them.
The Indians were taken to Denver by Scott and held. Upon their arrival in Denver a farce began that ended in a gross miscarriage of justice which turned the outlaws back on the people in worse shape than before. There was not the first man, white, brown, or red who knew anything about the case but what thought Poke's boy, Tcenegat, was guilty, yet he was released free of charge. I have it from the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Tedrow, that the whole trial from start to finish was a farce. The murderer of the innocent Mexican boy was turned loose together with those who had joined him in resisting the officers of the law. Mushy sentimentalists made a great fuss in banqueting, feasting, and sending flowers to the newly released Indians, and when the murderer and his outlaws came back to San Juan they were simply impossible to live with. They claimed that while away they had been promised that Bluff would be taken from the Mormons and turned over to them.
I know the great majority of the Indian Rights people would not have stood for the ungodly miscarriage of justice which took place at the trial of Poke's boy had they understood the true circumstances. Mexican people love their children as few people do, yet the parental love feelings, and rights of the parents of the unfortunate Mexican boy were almost entirely over looked in the smokescreen and fuss thrown around the alleged murderer. The latter was feted, petted, and made a hero of by the multitude while the parents of the Mexican lad had to swallow their sorrow almost alone. I feel sure that some of those who have directed the policy of the Indian Rights Association will have the blood of innocent people on their hands.
[The following two letters are of interest in connection with this affair because they were written by Aquilo Nebeker, the man who was sent out from Salt Lake City to arrest Poke's boy. They were written shortly after his return to the capitol.]
Office of UNITED STATES MARSHALL
District of Utah
Salt Lake City
April 15, 1915
Mr. Kumen Jones
My Dear Mr. Jones:
Yours of 9th inst. at hand. I thank you for the feeling expressed therein for my small part enacted; and I desire to thank through you, all of my friends in San Juan who appreciated that I was acting in good faith, that the dignity of our national government and state government should be upheld, and that ultimate result we sought to attain would benefit all including Indians themselves, that privileges of good government might flow to them, their children and children's children.
It matters but little to me who may receive the credit, even if it should be my lot to receive nothing but censure from people who can't know the facts, if beneficial results are obtained through any effort of mić. However, it is certainly appreciated by me that those who are the most vitally interested, as you citizens at Bluff, and who were present at all stages of the program, feel as your letter expresses.
Certainly such times afford the opportunity for people who are in close contact as we all were during the whole campaign to learn the innermost motives of each other's souls.
I shall look back upon my sojourn in San Juan County with a great deal of satisfaction, as my acquaintance made with your people was one that I shall cherish all my life, and you people are now among my most valued friends, and I hope I may continue to enjoy your confidence and that you can excuse my positive forms of expression, even to the extent of my swearing a little at times, and which may have startled the citizens of Bluff, especially the good ladies and to those who may have heard me swear at times, I want you to offer to them my apologies.
Well, I shall let you know what the Department of Justice has done in the premises.
First you must understand that a great deal of maudlin sentiment was created in behalf of Indians on the part of people who have never suffered from contact with any Indians, and whose relations have never suffered, as people have suffered in the subduing of all sections of the United States from its earliest settlement to the winding up of affairs in San Juan County. I say 'winding up' we hope it is the 'winding up' although I remember the act of old Scar Breast and the prospector he killed near Lee's Ferry, twenty years after he was wounded, and got away from the Sevier Valley after one of the periodical raids of the Indians of your immediate vicinity.
The Indians all made a solemn declaration under oath, that they would submit absolutely to governmental control and regulation.
Among those regulations are:
That they will obey the Agent.
That they will use their influence to advise all Indians to obey their agent.
That they will go to their reservation and try and get all their Indians to go and not depart therefrom without a permit from their Agent.
That they will cease carrying arms.
That they will send their children to school.
That they will surrender peaceably if wanted by National or State Authority, that they will assist to apprehend any others.
The crimes that they have committed are not dismissed, but held over them pending their compliance with these regulations.
Posey and Polk have written to their people to go to the reservation and meet them there and Mr. Jenkins has written to Mr. Spencer at Mexican Hat to provide them necessary subsistence to get there.
If there are any violations of any of these regulations in the future, a proper course for any of the people of San Juan County is to communicate with the Agent at Navajo Springs Agency, and he will see to it that the Indians are kept at home. I also suggest that you people discourage any sentiment you many find to encourage the Indian that he can stay off the reservation, or ought to be allowed to stay off.
If Indians come to any of you with their little tales of woe give them to understand that all such questions must be settled for them by their Agent, and that the common citizens are not the proper authority for them to come to or advise with, but their Agent is their man, through and through.
Now, if this policy is adhered to, the work started will be strengthened and will result in your seeing no Indian at Bluff or off his reservation without a permit from his Agent, just as the little Navajo Maiden is now at your own residence assisting your folks in domestic work.
I believe most of you people can be relied upon for work along these lines, but as the San Juan situation was so serious, and was and is so fraught with the safety of life of your citizens, that I think a little special work could well be devoted to this subject.
I should be very much disappointed indeed that when I find an opportunity to visit San Juan Country again, and I want to visit you all again that I should find a lot of Ute Indians who insisted on knowing all about what I was there for, and peeking into citizen's windows to get information that they wanted, and calling citizens 'G D liars,' if the information given them did not satisfy them.
Salt Lake City, Utah
May 12, 1915
My Dear Mr. Jones:
How is the Indian situation? Your situation in Bluff has given us a great deal of concern here had it has been treated with a view of doing that which was for the best interests you as well as the Indians so far as it could be figured out. Of course a great many people will think, possibly, that the Indians have gotten off much better than they deserved, and probably I am one who may think that way as strongly as anybody. But after all we can only judge of this in the light of future events. If the proposition works out all right and the Indians
do as they agree and stay where they belong so that they and their
children may get the benefits that the government desires them to get;
and they cease to be a menace to the American citizens of your section,
then I can lay aside my personal feelings in the interest of the general
But if those fellows can't realize what is being done for them; and can't refrain from heaping indignities upon the American citizens and treating the Government with contempt; then I shall feel that it was indeed too bad that I should not be permitted to finish the job myself.
No matter what some may think it wasn't glory that I was after but I was interested to finish in a way that was becoming the dignity of the great government to which we belong; and show those Indians that mercy could come with proper conduct on their part, rather than as a precedent to their recognition.
I am fixing up the accounts as fast as the business of the office will permit, and your checks will all reach you if you can command the patience.
With the kindest regards to all my acquaintances there, I hope to remain.
Soon after the trial at Denver, Poke's boy died of tuberculosis, but his followers didn't stop their depredations. They continued to make trouble and expense for the local people, until it seemed as if our patience and forbearance were being taken to mean fear to do anything to defend our property or rights. Posey was one of the ring leaders in this bunch of renegades. The following letter shows just one little instance of the trouble that Posey was always causing:
Ute Mountain Agency (formerly Navajo Springs)
June 7, 1915
To Indian Agents, Sheriffs, and City Marshals:
Wm. Posey and his two sons, Anson and Jesse Posey, with their families, and perhaps several other Ute Indians belonging to this Agency have left the reservation without authority and are supposed to be in the vicinity of Mexican Hat or Allan Canyon.
All peace officers are requested to arrest any or all of the parties named and hold till I can send for them. All citizens are urged not to harbor these people or give them employment as they have broken their parole in leaving the reservation and must return here under the penalty of imprisonment for failure to do so.
Persons knowing the whereabouts of the Indians named will please write or wire the undersigned.
James E. Jenkins
Supt. Ute Mountain Agency
Navajo Springs, Colorado
The next open break with the Indians came in 1923 and was called Posey's War. Posey was a renegade who had murdered one wife and taken unto himself another, both sisters of Poke. Although the trouble this time was called Posey's War, open hostilities were not precipitated by Posey himself, but by two young Utes, one the son of Joe Bishop and the other Dutch's boy. These two boys held up a sheep camp belonging to Jens Nielson and robbed it. They were arrested and convicted mostly on evidence of Indians of their own tribe. At the noon recess of the court, Joe Bishop's boy, by prearrangement, refused to go to dinner with the sheriff, Bill Oliver. Instead, he grabbed the sheriff's gun, mounted one of the best of the Indian horses and with the assistance of a partner or two wounded the sheriff's horse and broke away. He nearly killed Sheriff Oliver several times before he got to the timber on the outskirts of town. The people were not prepared for this sudden turn of events but it soon became evident that Posey and his gang had expected it and were fixed with supplies which they would need for a protracted siege. From their viewpoint they were well prepared to show us their contempt for law and order.
It looked as if the time had come to decide whether a reign of terror, or law and order should prevail in this corner of the state. Some of our brave men and boys took their lives in their hands and went out to round up Posey and his renegades. There was no thirst for blood, no seeking for glory or applause. Instead there was just a humble determination to make traveling on the roads and trails, and working in the fields and woods safe from these Indian outlaws. Our boys wanted to free their loved ones at home from the fear and worry and suspense they were under every time their fathers and sons were out of their sight for any length of time.
During the fights which took place while the posse was trying to bring in the Utes, Joe Bishop's boy was killed and Posey received two wounds which proved fatal. The wounds were only flesh wounds and Posey's life could probably have been saved with a little first aid treatment, but perhaps it's just as well he didn't get help because that would have robbed him of the one and only praiseworthy thing he ever did for his country of people which was to lay down and die.
The posse succeeded in rounding up the Utes and putting them in a bull pen in Blanding where they were held prisoners for over a month until the government took charge of them.
Several government officials came in after the scrap was over and they treated us fairly nice until the final "council" to which they refused us even one delegate. We thought that from every sentiment of right and justice we were entitled to that much, but we also thought the Indians had had a lesson that would last them for at least one generation and we were so anxious for peace that we let this little technicality slide.
We have no fault to find with the way the Indians have been handled since. They have gone to work and are making headway toward better things. We acknowledge the hand of God through it all.