Black Hawk War Chronicles

 

Fort Utah 1849

 

 

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Fort Utah

Battle Creek at Pleasant Grove Utah

Squaw Peak at Provo Utah

1849

 

Fort Utah Monument Plague

 The plaque reads: The original settlement at Provo (Fort Utah) was established March 12, 1849 by President John S. Higbee, with Issac Higbee, and Dimmick Huntington, counselors and about 30 families or 150 persons, sent from Salt Lake City by President Brigham Young. Several log houses were erected, surrounded by a 14 foot palisade 20 by 40 rods in size, with gates in the east and west ends, and a middle deck for a cannon, the fort was first located west of town, but was moved to Sowette Park in April, 1850.

Fort Utah InsideFort Utah Cannon Platform

Replica of Fort Utah on the original site west of Provo City, Utah. Located at 200 North 2050 West in Provo

Cabins from Fort Utahcabins from Fort Utah

Original buildings that were in Fort Utah. Now Located at Pioneer Park in Provo, Utah

 

 

 

Noonch Antoñgua Black Hawk Witnessed The Brutal Murder Of His Family At Battle Creek, and The Beheading Of His Blood Relatives While Held Captive By Mormons At Fort Utah.

 

 

 

Battle Creek Massacre 1849

Black Hawk's Family Murdered

In the twilight moments before the sun began to rise, smoke from the lingering fires inside the tee pees curled softly into the frosty air. All was silent as the people lay asleep, warm in the comfort of their shelters. Only the occasional breeze sent ice crystals from the cottonwoods into the air, drifting lightly upon the snow covered ground below. The near by brook gurgling softly winding its way along. Emerging from one of the teepees a woman carrying in her arms some sticks to start the morning fire, pauses a moment, looking about she senses an eerie feeling that something’s not right. Silence became quieter, as the sound of the brook grew louder.

Suddenly, a man’s voice shatters the silence with the word “FIRE!” A barrage of guns firing shattered the silence with loud booms, causes the people from the tee pees scrambling franticly to their feet as bullets rip open the sides of the teepees - women screaming, children screaming, men crying out - blood spatters across the snow. People running about in shock as bullets are zinging at them from every where, bodies are falling about, the snow turning crimson red, while only four warriors Kone, Blue Shirt, Roman Nose, and one un-named, spotting their enemy surrounding them they draw their bows and begin firing arrows back in an effort to stand their ground. They are out numbered, guns continue to blaze from every which way, and they fall in the snow screaming from the pain. Unable to defend themselves and everything stops. The shattered air is filled with smoke from the guns, four warriors  lay dead – children crying out, women screaming hysterical rush to their loved ones sobbing, as the soldiers ransack the camp.

Nine women and a few children and one young boy numbering 12 in all were then marched down the canyon leaving behind their loved ones, lying dead, in the snow.

The date was February 28, 1849 when a company of Mormon militia under the leadership of Captain John Scott left Salt Lake City in pursuit of a so called “renegade band of Indians” who had been taking cattle and horses from settlers in nearby Draper. It is recorded that Scott and his men met up with a Ute Indian by the name of Little Chief on the Provo River who then led Scott to the Indians who allegedly were the ones who had been doing the stealing. The trail took the company of soldiers up a canyon above Pleasant Grove where they came upon an encampment of Indians in the early morning hours. Scott and his men split into four groups and surround the camp, and opened fire on the unsuspecting people sleeping there.

The terrorized captives who survived the attack were taken 40 miles north to Salt Lake City. The young boy was Noonch [Black Hawk]. It is said he put up a good fight, but shook with fear when taken captive.

This event became regarded as the 'first battle with the Indians' that took place beside a creek that runs through the canyon, and that creek became known as “Battle Creek.”

But there is a lot of mystery that surrounds this event. Upon the word of Little Chief the victims were judged guilty without any investigation. It is said there was found three cow hides nearby the camp, which the attackers deemed proof these were the Indians who had taken their cattle, the account says. But where were the carcasses?Justification enough, apparently, for Captain Scott who gave the order to fire, and thus they served up their own brand of cowardly justice, or should we say injustice.

Historical records give little information why 12 year old Nooch and seven or eight women and their children were taken captive at Battle Creek and transported to Salt Lake; where they were held for nearly a year. Nothing is said about how they were treated, while in captivity. No names of the women, or how many children or their ages. Nothing about what became of the corpses of the four dead men left behind. It is easy to conclude the survivors were not allowed to morn the death of their family, or attend to their burial. Or if they were buried, or simply left behind for the animals to feed upon as was so often the case. Perhaps because Noonch was a blood relative of Chief Wah-kara who was in leadership of the Ute at the time, gave political motivation for the Mormons to hold them, the royal bloodline of the Ute, against their will. In fact all of the above named victims were of the same family bloodline as was Wah-Kara.

 

The Building of Fort Utah

Within a few days following the Battle Creek Massacre, the Higbee brothers and Dimick Huntington were made presidency of the soon to be Provo Branch of the LDS Church and led a party of 30 saints to Provo River to erect a fort. When they were within a few miles north of the Provo River they were stopped by An-kar-tewets, a warrior of the Northern Ute, who stood before the men telling them to go back where they came from, that they were not going to make any settlement on their land. *Allegedly they argued for sometime, until Dimmick pleaded with An-kar-tewets that they wanted to live in peace with the Ute and made promises of gifts. According to the victors accounts following a long discussion, allegedly An-kar-tewets made Dimmick raise his hand to swear to the sun that no harm would come to the Ute, that they would never take away their lands or rights, and Dimmick and the others swore.

Dimmick and the rest of the party than immediately began the building of the fort, for they knew they were in danger. Little did Dimmick and the others know that the land they built the fort on was a traditional and sacred meeting place for Utes, Shoshone, and many other tribes for hundreds of miles around during the spring and summer months, who would gather in sacred ceremonies to honor Creator. Or if they did know, they didn't care, it is obvious since they didn't honor their sworn oath made earlier. At first the occupants at the fort attempted to turn the place into a trading post between the Natives and the whites. Trading buffalo hides to the Indians could been seen a sacrilege to the Indian, after all why should they have to now pay for something they had hunted in freedom for centuries? And what kind of person would barter something as sacred as the buffalo is to the Natives, anyway? In less than a year the bloodiest battle in Utah history would unfold at Fort Utah.

The fort as a trading post continued for a short time, as the Indians would trade furs and pelts for guns and ammunition. Buffalo hides were brought in from as far away as Idaho and Montana to be traded at the fort. Ute leader Chief Wah-kara was most effective trading with the whites, and had run a successful trading operation as far south as Mexico. So all was going well according to Mormon accounts, as the saints and the Indians enjoyed an awkward but some what friendly relationship for several months.

Then on a warm summer day three men were riding along the Provo River on their horses when they came upon a friendly Indian who the whites called Old Bishop. The whites called him by this name because his mannerisms reminded them of a white man by the name of Bishop Whitney. The three men, Rufus Stoddard, Richard Ivie, and Gerome Zabrisky began to heckle the man known as Old Bishop, and accused him of stealing the shirt he was wearing. Old Bishop denied having stolen the shirt from anyone, saying he had made a fair trade for it. Ivie pulled his gun on Old Bishop and told him to take it off. The old Indian man stood his ground and refused. Ivie took aim directly at his head and pulled the trigger killing the Indian in cold blood.

Concerned that what they had done would spark retribution from the Indians, the men then gutted the old man. They then filled his cavity with rocks and threw him in the Provo River. Quoting from History of Utah Stake, James Goff, one of the colonists, stated later; "The men who killed the Indian ripped his bowls open and filled them with stones preparatory to sinking the body." Then making mockery of murder he writes, "The Indians assert that, annually, on the anniversary of his death the "Old Bishop" appears on the bank of the river and slowly takes the rocks one by one out of his bowls and throws them into the river, then disappears. Some (white) fishermen have watched in hopes of having an interview with the "Bishop's ghost."

Satisfied, the men returned to the fort and acted as though nothing had happened. Thinking they had committed the perfect murder they relaxed and fell back into their routines.

 

Winter 1850 The Murder of Old Bishop

Although demands were made by the Lagunas (the Ute band camped near the fort) that the whites at the fort turn over the one guilty for killing Old Bishop, their demands fell on deaf ears. The Lagunas demanded compensation for the death of Old Bishop in cattle and horses, and again their demands where ignored.

Meanwhile, measles had spread epidemically among the Natives, and the saints had succeeded in driving most of the Ute from the valley into the nearby mountains. On a cold winters day Chief Pareyarts, better known as Old Elk, also known as Big Elk, came to the fort asking for medicine for he and his people who were sick from the decease, and a soldier took the chief by the knap of his neck and threw him out of the fort. Pareyarts was also of the same bloodline as Wah-Kara.

Now that the Fort Utah had been established on land that was most essential to the Ute as it provided ample food for themselves and their horses, about 120 settlers were now living in and around the fort. And of coarse they brought with them horses and cattle and in a short time the Ute were competing with the Mormon saints for food for themselves and their horses. Brigham Young addressing the issue said, “Let them eat crickets.”

It wasn’t long before the people at the fort found their cattle and horses shot full of arrows. The Ute’s only logical answer to their plight was to reduce the numbers of cattle and horses over grazing their land and drive out the settlers from the fort. Large numbers of cattle began to disappear. As tensions grew between the people at Fort Utah and the Lagunas for several months to follow, a dispatch was sent to Salt Lake to Brigham Young requesting military support. Brigham made conciliatory efforts to calm the people at the fort, he said, “It’s our duty to feed these poor ignorant Indians.” And as Brigham gave to the Natives the choice, to either surrender to the Mormons and eat, or continue to resist and be killed or starve.
 

The saints recklessly fished the Provo River that ran near the Fort with gill nets, which was a major food source for the Natives. It is said they took over 6000 fish in just one day, none of which was shared with the starving Indians.

Noonch "Black Hawk" was later brought to the fort oddly dressed in a military shirt and asked the militia if there was anything he could do to help them in exchange for shelter for himself and several of his kin who accompanied him. He and the others were given scanty shelter underneath the forts cannon platform in the bitter cold.

 

1850 Battle at Fort Utah

Just before spring in 1850 confrontations had continued between the settlers at Fort Utah and the Native Indians. A government officer by the name of Captain Howard Stansbury then convinced Brigham that all conciliatory efforts had failed and the only resolve was to take action against the Natives. In contradiction to his "feed them not fight them" policy, Brigham heartedly agreed with Stansbury and supplied his vigilante army with arms, ammunition, tents and camp equipage for the soldiers. Under the leadership of Colonel George D. Grant, 50 troops were then sent to Fort Utah in the late winter of 1850. Captain Grants Calvary left Salt Lake traveled all night through deep snow and the bitter cold so that they could take the Indian people indiscriminately by surprise who were camped along the river near the fort. There were about 70 or more Ute warriors along with women and children in the camp. While under the cover of darkness, and in the twilight of that bitter cold morning Grant and his men surrounded the camp and opened fire on the sleeping Indians. Field cannons boomed as they fired chain shot at the unsuspecting camp ripping open the tipis sending Women and little children running in all directions screaming in terror as the surrounding troops shot them down one by one. It is said that the chain shot ripped off the limbs of it's victims leaving them to die an agonizing death. The air filled with smoke from the guns as Ute warriors, led by Chief Old Elk, and Ope-Carry, put up a good fight as the battle lasted for two days.

During this time, General Wells was directed by Brigham Young to give Noonch the name "Black Hawk." The general told Noonch that he must lead his people and do all that he was told to do, then they would be set free and their horses would be returned to them.

Two days after the battle General H. Wells who had arrived from Salt Lake, ordered young Black Hawk to lead a serial killer by the name of "Wild Bill" Hickman and his men to up Rock Canyon to pursue the survivors. In freezing temperatures, and deep snow, Black Hawk having no choice in the matter did as he was ordered and led the men up Rock Canyon. Lookouts scaled the steep walls of the canyon as Wells and his men slowly made their way up the rugged canyon, Black Hawk following behind. When they reached the camp of the survivors women and children in terror were scattering about. Black Hawk was ordered to look in to the tipis. There Black Hawk saw his beloved relative Old Elk frozen to death, and many others who had died of their wounds lay frozen stiff in the cold. The Mormon vigilantes greedily helped themselves taking from the dead their belongings, while Bill Hickman with knife in hand hacked Old Elk's head off from his frozen body, he said Jim Bridger had offered him a hundred dollars for his head. Then Old Elk's wife refusing to be taken captive broke free and ran for her life. She scaled the steep cliffs, but while doing so either jumped, or slipped and fell to her death. Hence the Mormon's disrespectfully dubbed the canyon "Squaw Peak" which is located above the Provo LDS Temple. A name that endures to this day.

 

Hickman and his men returned to Fort Utah, Hickman showing off his trophy, the head of Old Elk.

Of the seventy or so warriors only about thirteen had escaped. Only one life lost among the Mormons. One of the warriors that manage to survive was taken captive, he being An-kar-tewets, the same one that Church leaders Dimmick and the Higbee brothers earlier had sworn an oath to that no harm would come to the Natives, and that their land and rights would not be taken away, and that they would be given many gifts.

One more raunchy and loathsome act remained to unfold which would haunt the Mormons for many decades to follow, even to the present day. Dr. James Blake a surgeon among the Stansbury company was greatly influenced by Hickman's trophy of Old Elk's head, Dr. Blake then ordered troops Abner Blackburn and James Or to go out and behead each of the frozen corpses laying about in the snow, following the two day battle that resulted in the deaths of 70 Indian people. Dr. Blake told the men he "wanted to have the heads shipped to Washington to a medical institution." The men then hacked from the frozen corpses as many as 50 heads. They piled them in open boxes, along with a dozen or so Mallard duck's Blake had shot while his men performed their chore. The heads were taken to the fort and placed in view of Noonch "Black Hawk" who was barely in his 20's, and his traumatized kin. Innocent of any wrong doing, the captives were thus tortured as they were forced to view the grizzly remains placed before them for a period of two long and excruciating weeks. Abner, keeping the agreement, delivered the rotting heads and ducks to Blake in Salt Lake. Dr. Blake settled up, and invited Abner to dinner. Blackburn declined saying he had lost his appetite.

 

Commentary by Phillip B Gottfredson

It is difficult to fully comprehend the impact this intentional sadistic and merciless act had upon Black Hawk who was just in his teens or early twenties. It's just as challenging to comprehend the mindset of Church leaders, their militia, and 120 members at the fort who participated in and allowed this cold-blooded event to take place and go unpunished. This was in response to starving Natives taking cattle from the Mormons to feed hungry families, as their natural food supply had been depleted by Mormon depredations into Indian territory in the first place. The saints intentionally fished frequently and recklessly the streams and rivers, day and night, hoping that by destroying the Native food supply would drive them away.. Using gill nets, when it is recorded that 6975 fish had been caught in just one day alone on the Provo River and were donated to the Church in Salt Lake as tithing. "It is better to feed them..." yet there is no account of that catch being shared with the starving Natives.

Later on the streams would become polluted by mills. The woolen mill dumped the waist dyes into the river. One day the river ran red with dye, the next day yellow, and then green. Saw mills dumped tons of saw dust into the river making it easier to dispose of the waist. The Provo River empties into Utah Lake. There once were 17 native species of fish in Utah lake, now there are just two, both are on the endangered list.

The military tactics of the Mormon militia were simply to torture, demoralize and dehumanize the Native Ute Indian and rob them of their land. As none of the perpetrators were punished, rather were given honors and held in esteem as hero's. The "saints" didn't stop there, as they continued to follow their plan to convert the Natives to their way of life and religion, telling the Natives that if they would give up their way of life, that they would become a "white and delightsome people," and that they would be fed. If not then as Brigham said, "Let them eat crickets." 

Black Hawk and his kin were obviously severely traumatized at Fort Utah and Battle Creek, and it is reasonable to conclude that he and the others suffered from "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." There are written accounts of similar symptoms that go back to ancient times, and there is clear documentation in the historical medical literature starting with the Civil War, when a PTSD-like disorder was known as "Da Costa's Syndrome."

This explains Black Hawk's vulnerability, their vulnerability, and why Black Hawk at first sided with Brigham Young as he was conscripted to do following the murder of his family, and led forays against his own people. Then later, after he came to his senses, he led a sophisticated counter attack in defense. These are some of the reasons why there was conflict between the Mormons and the Native people then and now.
 

Many times I have been told with intensity by people here in Utah, "That's all in the past, we should just forget about it and move on." And Nauvoo, Carthage, Illinois; Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Civil War and so forth are in the past too, shall we apply the same mindset and forget those events and move on? Then why is it ok to apply one standard for certain people and not equally? And what about the descendants of those who's ancestors were so brutally treated, is it fair to ask them to just forget about the past and move on? 

The Mormon's war evolved into the bloodiest battle in Utah history, and doubtless the western United States as thousands died. To tell of this story seems impossible to be politically correct. The American Ute Indian has suffered unimaginable physical and mental torment. Their land was taken away. They were forced onto desolate reservations. Thousands more died from pandemic disease. They were blamed for mass murders. They were beheaded, and tortured. Their remains were put on public display. These are glaring examples of the "saints" mindset of arrogance, white supremacy, and moral ambiguities. As shocking the Massacre at Mountain Meadows has been to thousands of people, there is no other event comparable to the trail of tears left behind in the aftermath of the Mormon domination over the Native American Ute Indian in Utah. And last, but not least, they have been portrayed as a "loathsome" people who's dark skin is God's punishment for the sins of their forefathers. One Saint offered this explanation, "In those early days it was at times imperative that harsh measures should be used. We had to do these things, or be run over by them. It was a question of supremacy between the white man and the Indian." This statement was made by John Lowry, the man accused of having triggered the war. It is the single most honest statement I have thus far read in my five years of research of the war. I think the time is way past due that we take a closer look at our Mormon heritage and begin asking the question, who ran over who? (See account of John Lowery) (Also Ute Account)

The American Ute Indian are a national treasure, as are all Native American Indians. Their complex cultures are their traditions; their languages are their traditions; their traditions are orally passed from parent to child many of which take a life time to learn. Once lost, they are gone forever. We should have an America where these unique cultures thrive. "Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality." - Abraham Lincoln

These events took place only three live-times ago. Over a 130 years have passed yet there has not been a memorial, or any recognition given to the Ute honoring them for their tremendous contribution to Utah and America.
 

The plaque on the Fort Utah monument today is as inglorious in it's depiction of the event that unfolded there, as was the event itself. The plaque is a mixture of platitudes, half truths and omissions. There is no mention of the 70 or so Natives who tragically lost their lives defending their rights as human beings, struggling to overcome hideous death from starvation and disease that occurred in direct relationship to white expansion. And there no mention of the beheading of 50 corpses placed before Black Hawk and his kin to "teach he and his people a lesson." The memories of Fort Utah remain in the minds of the Ute to this day, of the agony that their ancestors suffered at the hands of our Mormon ancestors. Where is the monument, the memorial to honor the innocent victims of this American Tragedy? Why is it that the lives of the innocent have no importance to the people of Utah? 

A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.
--Arthur C. Clarke

 

The fort was dismantled and relocated at Sowette Park in 1850.

See Synopsis of the Black Hawk War


*According to historic records it is said that An-kar-tewets "argued" and finally compromised, agreeing to allow Dimmick and the Higbee brothers to settle in Provo Valley. According to Ute historians it is highly unlikely that such a compromise would have been made between the warrior An-kar-tewets and the three men. The Ute explain that they would have been tolerant to a point, but once they agreed to tell the three men to turn back it would have been a final decision.

 

 

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