Bear River Expedition - Affidavits September 23, and October 25, 1859
Camp Floyd, Utah Territory,
September 23, 1859.
SIR : I inclosed to your address two affidavits in relation to one of the recent massacres on the Fort Hall road from the States to California, for your information. My mind rests satisfied that these attacks quite frequent of late on parties of emigrants, are planned and led on by white men. In the first train attacked this season, on this road, there was a white woman ravished by five men, and then shot by them; but she lived until she was enabled to inform one of her party that they were all white men. They had not taken the precaution to paint the whole body. You will see by the testimony of Nelson Miltimore, that the men that attacked Miltimore's train, on the 31st of August last, spoke good English to this witness, and to his comrade in iniquity. If we grant that Indians may learn to speak it so as to deceive a person under such circumstances, it would be very unnatural, indeed, for him to speak in our language to his fellow-highwayman, if he was an Indian, and that fellow reply in the same language; but add to this the facts that some of the party wore long beards, and one of them had light brown hair, and the proof is conclusive that they were whites in Indian disguise, to any acquainted with the Indians in these mountains. In relation to the affidavit of Suberr, permit me to say that he was an unwilling witness, and refused to make an affidavit until he was compelled to do so. He stated to me the reason for refusing was a belief which he entertains, that if he did so the Mormons would assassinate him. I apprehend he knew the man at Salt Lake City that made the proposition to him to join this gang of outlaws. You will, however, see by his affidavit, that there were some dozen or more persons at the mail station on Sweetwater, near the South Pass of the mountains, and that from what he heard and saw there, he was led to believe that mischief was intended to this train of Miltimore's. No such number of persons belonged to this mail station, and I have requested the agent of the mail company here to make inquiry about who they were, and when and by what road they left. On the 29th day of August another train was attacked, on the east side of Fort Hall, leaving the party that made it about time to come up with Miltimore's party, west of the fort, and I suspect they were the same party, joined by a few Indians. These outrages seem to be systematically made in the State of Oregon, by persons in Utah. You will also find inclosed the affidavit of C. F. Betz, of Iowa. It discloses facts of which we were previously advised by letters, and I send it for information also. They are beautiful emblems of peace! I trust sir, that a few suggestions in relation to these Indian massacres, as they are called, will not be regarded as offensive. The Snake and Bannack Indians of this region have no agent where one is much needed. A general Indian war is, if possible, to be avoided, much as certain persons here may desire it. If our troops attack all the Indians they find on this road, a general war would ensue. General Johnston has but five companies of mounted men, and on this road alone there is near a thousand miles to protect. To protect emigrants on this road is therefore impracticable while the Indians are allowed to remain on it. Their agent should therefore be instructed to keep them off of the road, so as to justify the army in chastising such as are found on the road. The road by this camp recently made by the army is more than three hundred miles the nearest, and much the best road from the States to California, and the public would soon follow it, but for interestedly false representations made to emigrants, and the fact that almost every train that has passed has been robbed of their stock by Mormons, and some of them almost in sight of our camp. Indeed, sir, travel is safe on no road through these mountains. By reference to a letter addressed to me about a year since by Mr. Vernon, then a high priest of the Mormon church, and now on file in the State Department you will see that we were forewarned of these troubles. Should I receive further information that may be useful to your department I will forward it to you. In the superintendent here I have no confidence, and for that reason I send direct.
Your obedient servant,
D. R. ECKELS.
Hon. J. THOMPSON, Secretary of the Interior.
- "NOTE.-- I also send you a copy (printed) of the report of Lieutenant Gay of battle with the Indians who were of the party that ravished the white woman alluded to above, that you may note the conduct of his Mormon guide, and the place selected for defense by the Indians; most likely whites made the selection".
Cedar County, Utah Territory,
Lorenzo Suberr, being duly sworn, states on oath that he traveled from the States to the last crossing of the Sweetwater river, near the South Pass of the Rocky mountains, with a company of emigrants from Iowa, to California, consisting of Edward A. Miltimore and family, with others, nineteen in all; that, soon after, Miltimore's party left him, taking the " Lander's road," and, going by way of Fort Hall, he heard a man, whose name is unknown to affiant, talking to about a dozen other strangers, who were at the mail station, and said, "Ain't I glad that the party" (meaning Miltimore's party) "have taken that road." After this I could not understand what was said by them, but the circumstances impressed me, at the time, with the belief that harm was intended to them. Affiant came on to Salt Lake City, where he remained for a few days, and, being acquainted somewhat with Mormonism, he induced the Mormons to believe that he had come to the Territory to find a permanent home. While there, a Mormon, who has a heavy scar on the forehead, over the left eye, but whose name he does not know, informed him that there were about one hundred and twenty-five or thirty-five Mormons and about three hundred and fifty Indians out in Goose Creek valley, and that if he (affiant) would go out there to them, he could make "a pile," meaning a quantity of money, and intimated to him that the money was to be made by robbing emigrant trains, in company with the parties above mentioned. He has since seen a portion of Mr. Miltimore's party here at Camp Floyd, who informed him that their party had been attacked and eight of them killed, about seventy-five miles before reaching Goose Creek valley; and further saith not. LORENZA SUBERR.
Subscribed and sworn to before me,
September 19, 1859.
D. R. ECKELS, Chief Justice of Supreme Court.
Nelson Miltimore, being duly sworn, states on oath that he belonged to a party of emigrants going from the State of Iowa to the State of California ; that said party consisted of nineteen persons, viz : Edward A. Miltimore, his wife Catharine, and nine children, of whom depo nent was one, William Harrington and child, and whose wife is affiant's sister, Alford Hill and wife, Myran Cline, Nathan Titus, Hiram Marsh, and Franklin Hubbard; that they started on the journey in May, 1859 ; that they parted company with Lorenzo Suberr at the last crossing of Sweetwater, and went on the new road known as " Captain Lander's wagon road." About twenty-five miles west of Fort Hall this affiant was driving along the team in the rear wagon in the train, when he saw three men they were Indians, or white men disguised as Indians on horseback, coming up towards the train of wagons, through the loose stock of the company; that his brother James was driving on after them, when the cattle took fright and ran off on the hills at the side of the road. When this took place, his brother William, who was driving the wagons and team next before witness, stopped his wagon to see what was the matter, when affiant drove on and passed him. His father was with the wagon of William walking along by its side ; his mother and the small children were in wagons. These three men were armed with guns, and coming on up to the wagons. Two of them rode up to and were looking about the wagons; the other, who was the largest man of the three, kept off more from the wagons. One of the two who were about the wagons said to this affiant, " Where are you going?" He replied, "To California." "No you are not," said he. "Well," said affiant, "we started for there, anyhow." We soon came to where were two tracks of the road, separating for a little way, when the man that had spoken to me rode out on one of them a short distance, and said to his companion, "There are no tracks going this way." His companion replied, "Take the other road," which he did. These men spoke good English. There was no brogue on their tongues; and from hearing them talk, he would judge them to be white men, while their dress and color denoted Indians, except that the one that spoke to affiant had light brown hair, and several of the party had beard ; one of them had long heavy beard that he particularly noticed. After passing along for a short distance, one of these three men gave a whoop, when others soon commenced coming in sight from each side of the road ; affiant counted fifteen, and did not count all of them ; he supposes there were about twenty in all. As they approached, one of the three got off of his horse and appeared to witness to be fixing the girth of his saddle, and remounted again, but very soon dismounted again on the side of his horse, opposite to where his father was walking by the side of the wagon, and, taking aim on the shoulders of his horse, fired off his gun at father, but witness don't think the ball struck him, when another of them fired, and his father fell. Our party soon scattered, and eleven of us made our escape. This affair took place on the 31st day of August last, near sundown. Three days after this, we came up with a party of United States troops, under command of Lieutenant Livingston, and he sent a party of nine persons to aid others to escape, if they yet lived; when they returned they reported that they had found five dead bodies, and three are missing, including his mother. His sister, about five years old, was found with her legs and ears cut off, her eyes gouged out, and scalped. And further saith not.
NELSON (X his mark) MILTIMORE.
Subscribed and sworn to before me,
September 20, 1859.
D. R. ECKELS, Chief Justice of Supreme Court.
Cedar County, Utah Territory,
Christopher F. Betz, being duly sworn upon his oath, states that he resides near Fort Des Moines, in the State of Iowa, and came to this Territory on business this season; that during last spring there was a man, about whose name he is not positive, but believes it was John Greene, a 'nephew of Brigham Young, who hired the stock-field of this affiant for a few days for the use of a large lot of work-cattle that he was purchasing to come across the plains; that while there y said Greene showed him bills of purchases, made by him for the Mormon Church, to the amount of about a million of dollars; among the items were ten pieces of artillery ; that he refused to permit him to look over all the items. He stated the government was, trying to break up their church, (meaning the Mormon,) and they wanted these guns to protect it and keep up their government; and there was also 150 or 200 Sharp's rifles in these bills; and further saith not.
C. F. BETZ. Subscribed and sworn to before me,
September 26, 1859.
D. R. ECKELS,
Chief Justice of Supreme Court.
Box Elder, Utah Territory,
August 13, 1859.
NOTE. I also send you a copy (printed) of the report of Lieutenant Gay of battle with the Indians who were of the party that ravished the white woman alluded to above, that you may note the conduct of his Mormon guide, and the place selected for defense by the Indians; most likely whites made the selection. SIR: I have the honor to report that, having arrived yesterday within six miles of this place, I went into camp, and two hours afterwards had reliable information that a large body of Indians were probably encamped somewhere in the canon leading from this valley to Cache valley. I was informed, at the same time, that within five or six days past they had stolen a number of animals from this and the adjoining settlements; and that they were the same party who had murdered and robbed an emigrant train on Sublett's cut-off. I immediately resolved to attack them. At ten o'clock, p. m., I broke up camp, and moved quietly to this village. Here I left my wagons with a guard, and proceeded with a command of forty-two men, taking with me four pack mules, with four day's rations, in order to be prepared, if necessary, to pursue them in the mountains. By two, a. m., I had everything prepared for the march, and having procured a guide, who professed to know the Indian encampment, entered the canon. After a rapid march of two hours, the encampment was indicated by a number of ponies grazing, and in a moment afterwards by the Indians jumping up from their beds under the bushes, and running up the mountain sides, which were here covered with under growth. I immediately formed my men, and charged upon the main body of them; in the charge several of the enemy were filled and wounded. They then scattered, and took positions behind rocks, &c. Here they were charged and driven up precipices, beyond the reach of men or horses. I then dismounted my men, and kept up a fire for at least an hour and a half, which for an hour was briskly returned by the enemy; but he gradually ceased to fire. The precipitous nature of the f round rendering it utterly impossible to pursue him, I drove off his horses and returned to this place. The attack commenced just before the dawn, and continued until after sunrise. I am satisfied that the encampment was selected with a view to defense, and for this purpose they probably could not have found a more admirable place in the whole Wasatch range of mountains. (It is known as Devil's Gate canon.) As soon as the Indians were discovered, my Mormon guide " slid" quietly from his horse, and was seen no more, until on my return near this town I overhauled him. He was unable to give any satisfactory reason for his desertion. I have since learned that he came into town during the action, and reported " that we never would get out of that place." The horse he rode was one I had furnished him, and, strange to say, was found with an Indian on his back; the latter was shot, and horse taken. If my guide had desired to lead me into a fatal ambuscade, he could not have taken me to a spot better adapted for the purpose. The guide and many others estimated the Indian force at from 150 to 200 warriors. The number killed was about twenty, as near as we can calculate. I had no men killed, but four severely, though probably not mortally, and two slightly, wounded. Nine of my horses were wounded. The number of horses taken was twenty, nearly half being American horses. It is a source of great satisfaction to me to know that one of the horses captured proved to be one, which the Indians had taken from the train on Sublett's cut-off, at the time of the massacre of July. Probably more belonging to the same train would have been captured had not the Indian animals stampeded during the action, which could not be prevented, owing to the small guard which could be spared from the company for the purpose of securing property. I am much indebted to Lieutenant Kyan for his services on this occasion, which were performed with a masterly intrepidity and coolness during the whole action. Assistant Surgeon J. Moore receives the heartfelt thanks of myself, as well as the soldiers under my command, for his immediate and kind attentions to the wounded on the field, during the action, and his continual personal attendance since. The company behaved nobly on this occasion. I have the honor to refer the general commanding to the list of wounded accompanying the report. It is rumored to day that 200 Bannack Indians arrived in Cache valley yesterday. These, with the number of Indians already there, will make probably about 500. A large emigration is near a point on Bear River, twenty miles from this (Cache) valley. I shall wait here long enough to care for my wounded and recruit my horses, when I shall proceed to Bear river, in order to prevent the Indians from interfering with emigration.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, E. GAY, Second Lieut., Company G, Second Dragoons,
Comd'g. Major F. J. PORTER, Asst Adj't Gen'l, Department of Utah.
Box Elder, Utah Territory,
August 13, 1859.
Company G, Second Dragoons. List of men wounded in an action with Indians in Devil's canon, near Box Elder, Utah Territory, on the 13th of August, 1859: First Sergeant Thomas J. Durnion, slightly. Corporal R. F. Cordua, severely. Bugler Henry Winterbower, severely. Private Jacob Eggersteal, slightly. Private Samuel Smith, severely. Private Michael Tierney, severely.
Second Lieut., Company G, Second Dragoons, Comd'g.
Camp Floyd, Utah Territory,
October 25, 1859.
SIR : Includes, please find the affidavits of Thomas Wright and William Jones, as to the character of the persons who perpetrate the massacres on the Fort Hall road from the States to California. The party of pretended Indians seen by these affiants about the first of September were, I presume, the same that made the attack on Miltimore's train, on the 31st August, on their return to the South Pass. With the Indian savage, one of the principal inducements to murder is to plunder. Horses and cattle are most prized; the first to ride and the last for food. The cattle of Miltimore's train was not disturbed. In it there was a sorrel horse answering to the description of the one traded by these painted white men, to the party with which Wright and Jones were traveling. The general travel for this year is over, and nearly all the troops have returned to their quarters, here. Next season we may expect a renewal of these outrages. No country in the world is better suited to the purposes of bandits than this; and it will give us trouble to rid the roads through these mountains of them. A party of Delaware Indian spies could be made very useful to the army in breaking them up, and giving aid to the emigrants. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. K. ECKELS.
Hon. J. THOMPSON, Secretary of Interior, Washington, D. C.
Cedar County, Utah Territory,
Thomas Wright and William Jones make the following statement under oath, viz: "We were traveling this season from the States to California, in company with William Bradbury and Louis Montando and others, twenty-one in all, on the road known as Captain Lander's wagon road, from the upper and last crossing of the Sweetwater river, near the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, until where it again intersects the old Fort Hall road, in Oregon. About twenty-five miles west of Fort Hall and east of the Goose Creek Mountains, we found four wagons which we have since been informed, and believe, belonged to Miltimore's train that was attacked on the 31st of August last. We found there eight dead bodies; among the number were found an old man and a woman and a child by her side. We also found a place where we supposed two others had lain, but had been dragged away by wild beasts. The dead we found were torn and disfigured by wolves or other wild animals. Some of the contents of these wagons were taken by men in our party. Two and a half or three miles from the wagons we found twenty-nine head of horn cattle, which we gathered together and drove on here to Camp Floyd, where we found the remnant of the Miltimore party who claimed and have now these cattle. At several different places on the road before we came to the last crossing of Sweetwater, persons came to us and insisted that the Lander's road was the nearest and best road to California, and that we should travel it. We are now satisfied that these representations were false, and intended to deceive emigrants and get them on it to be plundered and robbed. On this road, between the Sweetwater and where we found the Miltimore wagons, about the first of September last, we saw a party of from twenty to thirty persons either Indians or in the disguise of Indians. We then (and yet) believed them to be whites in disguise. They came to our camp in a evening from out of a mountain, and traded with our party a fine American horse for a rifle gun, powder, lead; and caps. This horse followed after our wagons, and we believe,. was the horse of some party that had been accustomed to that mode of travel. He was a sorrel gelding with one white hind foot. Five or six of these real or pretended Indians had long heavy beards, and three of them had yellow hair. We noticed none of them that had the long coarse black heir of the Indian. This fact was spoken of by one of our party in their hearing, and it produced quite a sensation among them. These pretended Indians spoke our language well, as well as any American speaks it; there was no brogue on their tongues, and they talked it to one another as well as to us. They had some mutton with them that they tried to sell us for mountain sheep. They knew the value of powder, lead, caps, and guns as well as we did, as well as the cost of such things in the States. They also purchased some things of our party and paid for them in American gold coin. After they had sold the horse and received the pay in exchange, one of their party jumped on the horse and attempted to make off with him, but was caught by a man of our party and the horse taken, but no violence was offered. They visited our camp both in the evening and the morning; but some of those who came in the evening did not return in the morning, but others who had not been there before came in place of them. There were three women in the party that were not dark enough for Indians ; at best they could not be more than half- breeds. Before reaching Miltimore's wagons, we saw where at least three trains had been burnt, and the wagon-irons left lying on the ground.
THOMAS WRIGHT, WILLIAM JONES.
Subscribed and sworn before me, October 21, 1859.
D. R. ECKELS, Chief Justice Supreme Court, U. T.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.