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Mountain Meadows Massacre

During these years whose happenings we have been recording, there has been a community existing in the centre of our region that we have barely noticed. Their history, at any period, is a subject which a conscientious writer approaches unwillingly, for it involves a certain consideration of the merits of Mormonism and the Mormons, and that means wholesale denunciation, almost always of the Mormons, and very frequently of their enemies. Sweeping accusations must be made, and these, he knows, weaken alike the testimony of a witness, the plea of an orator, and the statement of an author. It is repugnant to man to believe that the majority of mankind are evil, and it is contrary to ordinary experience that any large class or sect of men should be radically bad. Besides this, all candid men will admit that the Mormons have at times been treated badly; that the killing of Joseph Smith, their prophet, was one of the most disgraceful murders ever known in this country; and that they were driven from their homes in Missouri and Illinois under circumstances of cruel severity. But candid men must also admit that past suffering is no excuse for continuing crime, and, leaving out of consideration all of their offenses that preceded or followed it, it has not fallen, nor shall fall, to the lot of any man to record a more atrocious crime than that of the Mountain Meadows. For this crime all Mormondom has voluntarily shown itself responsible, offering no excuse but fanaticism and revenge; and, worse than nothing as these excuses are, the moral obliquity of the deed is,...

Los Nabajos

Of all the interesting Indians of the Far West none are more interesting than the Navahos. The name is a Spanish one, in their orthography Nabajos or Navajos, and signifies ponds or small lakes. Their country, which abounds in these, most of them full in the rainy season and dry the remainder of the year, was originally called Navajoa, and the Indians, in the old New Mexican records, were called “Apaches de Navajoa,” which has gradually given place to the present form. The Apaches proper call them Yu-tah-kah, and they call themselves Tenuai or “men,” a title which nearly all the American tribes take to themselves in their respective languages. Their home, from our earliest knowledge of them, has been in the northwestern corner of New ‘Mexico and the northeastern corner of Arizona. It may, in a general way, be described as lying between parallels 35 and 37 of north latitude and 107 and 111 of west longitude; or east of the Moqui villages, north of Zuñi, west of the divide between the Rio Grande and the Pacific slope, and south of the Rio San Juan. Across it, from southeast to northwest, is a ridge of high land which takes a mountainous shape at the northern end. It is there known as the Sierra Tunicha; farther south as the Chusca; still to the south and cast as the Mesa de Lopos; and terminates at the southeast as the Sierra San Mateo. In the southern part is a low range called the Zuñi Mountains, and in the northwest a more rugged chain known as the Calabasa (Calavaser) Mountains. The country...

Tribes East of the Cascade Mountains Dissatisfied

Several of the tribes east of the Cascade Mountains were dissatisfied with the treaties which had been made with them, for their lands, by Governor Stevens, in the spring of 1855. They did not understand the bargain as the whites did. Chief among these were the Yakimas (Black Bears), a strong tribe of Washington Territory, whose country lay just north of the Klickitats. They were closely united by intermarriage and interest with both the Klickitats and the “King Georges,” or British, and carried on an extensive commerce through all the northern country from the coast to the Rocky Mountains. Their chiefs, Kamiaken, Owahi, Skloo, and others, had signed the treaty of Walla Walla under strong pressure from Governor Stevens, and almost immediately repudiated it. The Indians claimed that the chiefs who signed it had been bought up, a practice occasionally resorted to by the representatives of the government; they were indignant and alarmed. To the representations of the Hudson’s Bay people, that the Americans would take their lands, the Yakimas lent a credent ear. In fact, they had only to look across the mountains to see the lands of other tribes taken without recompense, while disease was sweeping the expelled owners from the face of the earth. Disaffection was rife everywhere, and there was scarcely a tribe from the British possessions to California but had its grievance. Mormon emissaries aided in diffusing enmity, nor was their part merely that of advisers, for in the succeeding war guns and ammunition bearing Mormon brands were captured from the Indians. The more intelligent and resolute chiefs urged a union of all the...

Rogue River, Yakama and Klickitat War

Oregon was organized as a territory in 1848 by Congress, and its territorial government went into operation in the following spring, on the arrival of the governor, General Joe Lane, an Indianian who had won distinction in the Mexican War. Under the organic act, it embraced the country west of the Rocky Mountains north of parallel 42. The part of this north of parallel 46 to its intersection with the Columbia, and north of the Columbia thence westward to the ocean, was organized as Washington Territory in 1853. At the time of the organization of Oregon, the part afterwards erected into Washington Territory was still virtually in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company, except that a few families had settled in 1844 at Tumwater, now a suburb of Olympia, and one or two more at the latter place. Its first governor, Isaac I. Stevens (the Brigadier general Stevens of the Union army who fell at Bull Run), arrived, overland, in the fall of 1853, with a surveying party, examining the country which they traversed with regard to its availability as a railroad route. To these territories we must now return, for, while a restless peace has been maintained in Washington and Northern Oregon for several years, trouble has arisen in the South. Along the southern boundary, extending into both California and Oregon were several warlike tribes, who, though not very friendly among themselves, were in general sympathy in their hostility towards the whites. On the Rogue River were several bands of the Shasta family, sometimes known by the names of their chiefs, but almost always called “the Rogue...

The Outman Family goes on Alone

If an American who was not acquainted with the country might be seized by some supernal power and suddenly placed in Southwestern Arizona, he would never suspect that he was within the boundaries of the United States. Its soil, its vegetation, its sierra outlines, its dry, phantasmagoric atmosphere, its animal life, and its inhabitants, are all strange. Towards the Gulf of California the country for many miles is dry, barren, and desert, with no plant life but the cactuses, and even these seem depressed and hopeless, except when an angel’s visit of rain brightens them. A little farther back come ranges of Granite Mountains, still more desert than the plains, for on their sides no vegetation appears, nor any soil to support vegetation. White and glistening, they rear their crests like the skeletons of mountains whose flesh had dropped away. Still farther back more vegetation shows, but it is strange to the average American. There is a broken carpet of grass in many places, brown and dead in appearance. Here and there is a mesquite, a palo verde, or a patch of sage. The Spanish bayonet thrusts out its sharp leaves. The century plant rears its lance like stem and floats its graceful flowers. The prickly pear spreads its flat, jointed limbs in the heated air. Most striking of all, the saguarra, or pitahaya (petahyah), the giant cereus of the naturalists, sometimes solitary and sometimes in small forests, raises its fluted column from thirty to sixty feet, and lifts its stovepipe arms above the other plants. Its color is green; the surface is smooth, and armed with clusters of...

Olive and Mary Outman Driven North

While Lorenzo was making his weary way along the road, his sisters, Olive and Mary, were being driven across the desert north of the Gila by the Indians. As soon as the work of plunder was completed the savages moved away a short distance, made a fire, and prepared a supper of bean soup and ash baked bread. The girls could not eat. After the meal the Indians diverted themselves by terrifying little Mary. They would threaten and scowl at her until, in an agony of nervous fear, she would run to her sister’s arms, sobbing wildly. Then they would brandish their clubs and frighten her into silence. For an hour they remained at this place, from which the children could see the bows of the wagon, in the moonlight, marking the spot of the massacre. They were oppressed with grief and suspense. The events of the past hour were so horrible that older persons might well have been overwhelmed by them. All their kindred – father, mother, sisters, and brothers – they had seen fall beneath the clubs of their captors. For themselves was absolute uncertainty as to their future fate, with all the apprehensions of torture that their childish knowledge of Indian customs could bring them. Another element of torture was soon to be added – it was bodily suffering. The Indians took from them their hats and shoes, and started on their march. An Indian led; the two captives followed; the other Indians formed the rearguard. Across the desert they hurried, the tender feet of the captives being bruised at every step. Sharp stones gashed them,...

Management of the California Indian Reservations

The management of these reservations was under one of the ablest Indian rings ever known in America.’ Not a reliable report went in to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for five years, but their work was so well done that they received compliments for their able accounts of their labors. The total number of Indians was scandalously exaggerated, as we have seen, and the number at the reservations in like manner. So far as can be learned, not more than 2000 Indians were subsisted at the reservations at any time, and they drew principally on the oak trees, the manzanita bushes, and the clover fields for their rations. The great majority of the Indians were quietly earning their living as vaqueros and farmhands, or picking it up in the mountains, as they had before the government began civilizing them. Fabulous numbers of acres were reported to be under cultivation, and magnificent crops were always just about to be harvested when blight or mildew or smut or drought intervened and ruined them. A small army of employees was on hand to instruct the Indians and defend the agency in case of outbreak, and the agent or employee who failed to get a claim of his own, and have it fenced and improved by Indian labor, was a man of no enterprise. In 1858, in consequence of repeated charges and protestations by army officers and citizens, special agent Bailey was sent out to investigate affairs in California. He did not seem to grasp the whole truth, but he was not in the ring, and he told the truth as he saw...

The Curse of Gold

Two months had passed after the tragedy at Wailatpu, and the volunteers were still at The Dalles, when an event occurred that revolutionized the Pacific coast, changed the course of affairs throughout the United States, and visibly affected the entire world. It was the discovery of gold in California, or rather the discovery that it existed in quantity. The Spaniards had long known that there was gold in the country, and Mr. Dana, with Wilkes’s exploring expedition, had picked up auriferous rock in Oregon and on the Sacramento, but no one thought it to be in paying quantity, and no attention was paid to it. The Mormons claim to have worked the placers before Marshall made his discovery, but their story is either untrue, or so adulterated with untruth as to deserve no credence, besides being contrary to other evidence. The account of their discovery, as published in September, 1854, by George M. Evans, the professed discoverer, is, in substance, as follows: During the month of October or November, 1845, in a house or groggery on Pacific Street, San Francisco (as it is now called), a Mexican, who was called ‘Salvador,’ was shot because he had a bag of gold dust, described as about one thousand to two thousand dollars, and would not tell where he got it. At last, when dying, he pointed in the direction of San Jose Mountains, and said “Lejoa, lejos” (‘beyond, beyond’). (Evans then relates how, in consequence of this event, he looked casually for gold at a sand point of a small island opposite the entrance to Stockton, then called Lindsley’s Lake, and...

No Catholics were Injured during Massacre

During the massacre at Wailatpu and the succeeding troubles, no employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, no relative of such employees, no Catholic, and no one who professed friendship for Catholicism, was in any way injured. A heated dispute arose afterwards as to the relation of the company and the Jesuits to the murderer. Preliminary to a view of this question, it may be remarked that very little instigation would have been necessary to induce the Indians to act as they did. Sickness, from ills which were new to the Indians, was very prevalent and unusually fatal. Mr. Spalding says: “It was most distressing to go into a lodge of some ten fires and count twenty or twenty-five, some in the midst of measles, others in the last stage of dysentery, in the midst of every kind of filth, of itself sufficient to cause sickness, with no suitable means to alleviate their inconceivable sufferings, with, perhaps, one well person to look after the wants of two sick ones. They were dying every day, one, two, and sometimes five in a day, with dysentery, which very generally followed the measles. Everywhere the sick and dying were pointed to Jesus, and the well were urged to prepare for death.” Although sickness was equally prevalent among the Americans – “Suapies” or ” Bostons,” as the Indians called them – the Indians professed to believe that they were being poisoned, and, in view of their peculiar superstitions, it is probably true that they did. Dr. Whitman was treating many of them, and his treatment was generally made useless by their failure to follow...

Murder of the Missionaries

We will now leave New Mexico for a time and see what is being done in Oregon. As we make this change of position let as examine the country and its inhabitants, in a general way. Suppose we can rise in the air to a convenient height and take a bird’s-eye view of the entire region. We are now over the southeastern corner of the mountain country. Directly north from as runs the great continental divide, until it reaches about the 48th parallel of latitude, just west of the site of the future city of Cheyenne; there it turns to the left and trends northwest to our boundary. The foothills, which occupy only a narrow strip of country between the main range and the plains as far north as parallel 41, bear gradually to the east above that point, thus leaving a great triangular body of comparatively low mountain land, east of the continental divide, for the northeastern corner of our region. It will eventually form Western Dakota and nearly all of Wyoming and Montana. West of the divide the country is separated into four great natural divisions. The farthest from us is the immediate slope of the Pacific, cut off from the great central basins by the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, which follow the general contour of the coastline. This division will hereafter make California and the western parts of Oregon and Washington Territory. At about parallel 42 of north latitude we see an immense, transverse watershed crossing the central mountain region from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada. To the north of it the country...
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