Battle Creek, Utah

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The first battle between Mormon settlers in Utah and the Native American Ute Indians who lived there occurred at Battle Creek, Utah. The sleeping Indians were outnumbered and outgunned so that they did not stand a chance against the Deseret Militia who crept in and surrounded their camp in the pre-dawn hours of March 5, 1849. Mormon settlement of Utah Valley came upon the heels of the attack at Battle Creek, Utah.

What Happened at Battle Creek?[edit]

Pleasant Grove City Park Monument "in commemoration of Utah's first Indian battle..."

At Battle Creek, now called Pleasant Grove, Utah, not long before the first Mormon settlers arrived in Utah Valley, a group of Timpanogots Indians was attacked in a pre-dawn maneuver by Mormon Militiamen. The Company of LDS men were called from Salt Lake City on March 1, 1849, to “go to the Utah Valley against some Indians who had been stealing a lot of horses from Brigham's herd.” They were under orders “to take such measures as would put a final end to their (Indian) depredations in future.” They camped in the snow the first night near Little Cottonwood Canyon where a rider brought “word that the horses were not stolen.” Before morning they received orders from Salt Lake City “stating that as the horses were not stolen...we need not spend any more time in search of them but to proceed with the Indians for killing cattle as had been directed so that the nature of our expedition was not in the least changed.”[1]

In the morning the men continued southward (to Willow Creek, present Draper, Utah) and unanimously agreed to sustain one of their own in killing a beef from a cattle herd they came upon. The Company of men enjoyed a hearty breakfast then continued on to the Jordan River (near the border of present Salt Lake and Utah Counties) where they again camped. That day they had “learned that the stolen horses had returned to Brigham's Herd by one of his boys who came to inform us of the same.” Three times the company had now received word that the Indian's had not stolen Brigham Young's horses. Even though rectifying alleged horse theft was the original stated purpose of their mission, not one of the thirty-five men turned back when that basis was shown to be a lie.[2]

"The first battle between Indians and the Utah Pioneers occurred...between the Deseret Militia and the Indians..."

On the third day the Company crossed into the valley of the Utah Indians (Utah Valley, present Utah County) and was “divided into two Companies....the better to divide and scour the country as we did not know where the Indians were located.” They searched unsuccessfully all day and finally camped near Utah Lake on the American Creek (present American Fork, Utah.) “We were now all very tired and cold. No sign could yet be found of the Indians.”[2]

On Sunday March 4, 1849, the Company got “an early start and traveled south to the Provo, a fine large stream and well timbered on the valley. This is a beautiful farming country. Here we found the Utahs, who...received us friendly but were much excited being evidently afraid of us. After spending an hour or so with them and learning what we could respecting those we were in pursuit of and also explaining the object of our visit we traveled on. Little Chief accompanied us about three miles up the Provo (toward Provo Canyon) where we encamped for the night.”[2]

Two young Indian braves came to the Mormon camp and were utilized as guides who would take the Company to those whom they sought. On this clear, brightly moonlit night, the Mormons followed the Provo River to the foot of the mountains then proceeded northward along the high mountain bench (above present north Orem and Lindon, Utah.) They deposited their horses in a cedar grove on the mountainside and while most of the company waited near there, a reconnaissance party continued northward on foot until they spotted Indian campfires “in the first creek north of the Provo. It was deemed best by the party now to fall back some distance and send for the rest of the Company to join us. Accordingly two men were sent back for them while we kindled small fires to keep from freezing. About two hours before day the rear came up...All things being ready now we only waited the dawn of day to attack them.”[2]

According to Hosea Stout, “...Our company was divided into four parties the better to surround the camp of Indians. I first started with a party to close in on the farthest side of them to prevent them from escaping to the mountains while another party...marched into the mouth of the canyon to keep them from escaping in that direction...a few horsemen formed below on the creek to be ready to pursue them in case they attempted to escape into the valley while the fourth party....marched directly into their camp. They discovered us about the time we had...surrounded them while it was yet twilight and attempted to escape in several different directions but found themselves surrounded...”[2]

“They only saw us, and started to run up the creek for the mountains, where they found a wall of whites, they started for the south where they found another blockade, they tried to the west and found the same and there we were by this time on the north in a line of circling upon them, retreat they could not. As yet not a gun had been fired.” Before gunfire began, there was a verbal exchange with the Indians telling the Mormons to go away and the Mormons telling the Indians to surrender. “Our interpreters talked to them and told them our errand, and asked them to give themselves up. They refused. Our guide talked to them and reasoned with them, but all to no purpose, fight they would unless we went away, then they said they would come out. The guide told them they must come out then or die...The first one shot was their leader. Then such a howling and crying, I think white men never heard before.”[3]

Pleasant Grove Kiwanis Park Monument erected at the battle site.

“The battle now commenced in good earnest and in a few moments one of the Indians was killed and several wounded...(at) times during the engagement we ceased firing and both our interpreters and the Utah (Young Indian guide) tried to persuade them to come out also to send out their women and children that they might be spared if they would not yield but all to no effect.”[2]

“Some of the Squaws were at length found couch in the water under the thick brush and were induced to come out”[2] when “every (LDS) man was ordered to load himself with rocks and gather in closer to the center and at the word, to shower the rocks upon them. This had the effect of bringing the women and children out, bruised and bleeding. Two men were detailed to build a fire immediately in a place secure from wind to warm and dry the poor creatures who had been in the water among the ice to be secure from bullets.”[4] “They (the women and children) were in a most deplorable situation. Having been in the water about an hour and a half, they were nearly froze. We (the Militia) kindled up a fire for them which rendered them more comfortable. By sending these (women) back we soon prevailed on the rest to come out also...”[2]

"...in memory of the first armed engagement between the Mormon Pioneers and the Native Americans that inhabited Utah Valley..."

“Two of the women were wounded on the head with stones which we had thrown into the brush to ascertain where they were hid. Soon after they gave up we succeeded in killing two more men leaving only one more who immediately broke through the brush and tried to escape to the Utah (Indian not of the band under attack) who was on the hill looking on. He was killed however before he ran far. Thus ended the battle without one of our men even being hurt...”[2]

When “they began to run (one Indian man) nearly succeeded in getting away, but finally fell from a shot which unjointed his neck. He fell with 18 ball holes, mostly through his body, and when he fell was running...I believe none got away. This was on the morning of the 5th of March 1849.”[4]

“When the firing had ceased it was perhaps 8 o'clock, the sun was high up and Little Chief had come from his home (on the Provo) on horseback, since he first heard our guns. The morning was clear and calm as God ever made, and the vollies of our guns rolled down the mountain (to) Little Chief's ears...(so) he mounted his best horse and dashed up the mountainsides for ten miles...His horse, a noble animal with large extended nostrils, was as wet as the poor squaws who had laid in the creek. Little Chief was wet with tears and his horse wet with sweat.”[4]

The old man howled, cried, moaned, hollowed, screamed and smote his breast in the greatest agony of mind when he came to us. He blamed himself and cursed the whites, and said it would not be good medicine for two or three to come up there alone as they had done before. But it was not long before a settlement and fort was made close to his village in the Ewtah Valley, and I went up there and passed that battle ground alone. The women and children (who survived the attack) went to Salt Lake City, or near it, to live...”[4]

After an overnight journey, the Company arrived back in Salt Lake City on Tuesday March 6th, 1849, at “about 2 o'clock p.m. and were all discharged by the Colonel (John Scott) after he had given an account of our expedition to a large company who had gathered together when we came in. Amen."[2] Four days later “at a council meeting on March 10th, Brigham Young called thirty men to settle Utah Valley at once 'for the purpose of farming, fishing and of instructing the Indians in cultivating the earth and teaching them civilization.' By March 17th thirty-three colonists were preparing to depart. The 'mission' was organized the next day.”[5]

The settlement near the site of the March 1849 attack was for years called Battle Creek, until some time later when the Mormons (LDS) living there agreed to change the name of their town to Pleasant Grove.

Here Ute Indian women and children tried to hide from the Mormon Militia by taking cover in the icy cold mountain stream water. Battle Creek has since been diverted upstream from the attack site. Its water is now used for culinary purposes by the residents of Pleasant Grove.

How Many were Killed by the Mormon Militia?[edit]

Most accounts say four Indian men were killed, but Oliver B. Huntington stated there were more: “All the bodies we could find were carried together to one place for burial: seven great, fat stout men...When we got back (after the interchange with Little Chief and his men who approached the attack site after hearing all the gunfire) to where we left the dead, there was neither dead nor living anywhere to be found. We did not think them worth hunting for anymore, and started home.”[4]

What Became of the Indian Women and Children?[edit]

Huntington said, “We told him (Little Chief) that the women and children were going home with us and that we would give them good clothing, plenty to eat, and houses to live in...All received homes, were made to clean themselves, and were clothed and fed like whites. All that submission and apparent content lasted but a few days, and they disappeared like young quails.”[4] “Captain Scott...promised that if the bereft families would come to Salt Lake, they would be kindly treated and cared for by the settlers there...True to the promise, the mothers and children were taken care of for a time. In one or two instances, it is said, orphaned papooses were kept and reared by the (Mormon) pioneers. Other children with their mothers later returned to the red people.”[6]

Is it True the Captured Indian Boy was Blackhawk?[edit]

“Joshua Terry, a pioneer of 1847, and a mountain man who married into an Indian tribe, once told the writer (Howard R. Driggs) that this Indian boy became the Ute war chief, Antonga Black Hawk. When peace came, after the Black Hawk War of the later eighteen sixties, this Chief, Terry declared, told him that he was this same boy taken after the fight on Battle Creek. He could never understand why the whitemen had shot down his people. It put bitterness in his heart; and though he lived for some time with the white people, his mind was ever set on avenging the wrong. That is why he later made war against them.”[6]

Who were the Mormon Militiamen that Participated?[edit]

A partial list provided by Hosea Stout, Oliver B. Huntington, John Brown[7] and others includes:

  1. Colonel John Scott, Commander
  2. Alexander Williams, Aide
  3. Sorenus Taylor
  4. Frank Woodard
  5. George Boyd
  6. Hosea Stout
  7. David Fulmer
  8. John Brown
  9. Oliver B. Huntington
  10. William G. Pettey
  11. John S. Fullmer
  12. John Lowry
  13. Dock Stoddard
  14. Judson Stoddard
  15. Shell Stoddard
  16. Irwin Stoddard
  17. Dimick B. Huntington, Interpreter
  18. Barney Ward, Interpreter

What Led to the Battle Creek Attack?[edit]

On June 28, 1847, before even the first Mormon pioneers arrived in present Utah, Brigham Young met with Jim Bridger and discussed the desirability of Utah Valley. William Clayton recorded this conversation in his journal:

There is no timber on the Utah Lake only on the streams which empty into it. In the outlet of the Utah Lake which runs into the Salt Lake there is an abundance of blue grass and red and white clover...the Utah tribe of Indians inhabit the region around the Utah Lake and are a bad people. If they catch a man alone they are sure to rob and abuse him if the don't kill him, but parties of men are in no danger. They are mostly armed with guns...All the valleys abound with persimmons and grapes which will make the best kind of wines. He never saw any grapes on the Utah Lake but there are plenty of cherries and berries of several kinds. He thinks the Utah Lake is the best country in the vicinity of the Salt Lake and the country is still better the farther south we go...

There is plenty of timber on all the streams and mountains and abundance of fish in the streams. There is timber all around the Utah Lake and plenty of good grass; not much of the wild sage only in patches. Wild flax grows in most of the valleys, and they are the richest lands...The Indians south of the Utah Lake and this side the desert raise corn, wheat, and other kinds of grain and produce in abundance. The Utah's abound more on the west side of the mountains near the Salt Lake than on the east side, ten to one, but we have no need to fear them for we can drive the whole of them in twenty-four hours but he would not kill them, he would make slaves of them.[8]

During the westward journey “Brigham Young must have weighed what he had heard of Utah Valley – a paradisaical region, but with Indian complications. By his instructions a letter was written at 5 a.m. On July 21, the day Orson Pratt found his way into Salt Lake Valley, directing Pratt, on emerging from the mountains, to bear a little to the north in search of a site of settlement, for the Utes, he thought, were likely to be 'a little tenacious about their choice of lands' in Utah Valley, and it would be well to keep in Salt Lake Valley, a no-man's-land separating Ute and Shoshone territory, until they could inform themselves as to the disposition of the Indians. Initial Mormon settlement thus was on the site of Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, Young planned to explore all valleys, and, when opportunity permitted, establish settlements in those sufficiently well-watered.”[9]

Months later, “Weak and exhausted from the overland journey, it was fitting that the (hundreds of Mormon) immigrants of 1848 should winter in the parent city or under its shadow, but with the first breath of spring, while most of the land seekers were locating in the (Salt Lake) Valley, a carefully organized and amply equipped company of thirty families pushed southward into the chosen land of the Utes, the neighboring valley to the southward. Fremont and the mountaineers had pointed to it as a particularly choice spot, so much so that for a time Heber C. Kimball weighed the advisability of making it the initial starting place. Parley P. Pratt and other visitors confirmed the early impressions of the desirability of the region. Consequently, it was natural that the Church authorities should favor this location as the second to be officially opened for settlement.”[10]

In 1847 and 1848, nearby vicinities had been explored and favorable eye-witness accounts of Utah Valley were given to Church Authorities in Salt Lake City. Then on January 6, 1849, Brigham Young (who had been absent over 1848 while helping the Saints cross the plains to Utah) sent a party of ten men to “go to Utah Valley to learn of its capabilities for a stock range, and when the cattle go, forty or fifty men go with them.”[11] The party recommended waiting for winter conditions to subside. Then on the last day of February 1849, the Mormon Militia (Nauvoo Legion) was called to leave their homes in Salt Lake City and go southward on a mission which culminated at Battle Creek, Utah, and which some might consider to have been essentially a preemptive strike against the Timpanogots (Ute) Indians who resided in Utah Valley.[12]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 2 1844-1861, Edited by Juanita Brooks, University of Utah Press, 1964
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stout Diary
  3. ^ Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol. 2 (BYU Special Collections)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Huntington Diary
  5. ^ Provo, Pioneer Mormon City, 1942, and its reference to LDS Journal History March 1849
  6. ^ a b Timpanogos Town, Story of Old Battle Creek and Pleasant Grove, Utah, Howard R. Driggs, 1948
  7. ^ Autobiography of Pioneer John Brown, 1820-1896, Published 1941
  8. ^ Provo, Pioneer Mormon City, 1942, and its reference to William Clayton's Journal
  9. ^ Provo, Pioneer Mormon City, 1942, and its reference to LDS Journal History July 21, 1847
  10. ^ History of Utah: 1847-1849, Andrew Love Neff, Late Professor of History and Political Science, Deseret News Press, 1940
  11. ^ LDS Journal History Jan. 6, 1849
  12. ^ Goes back to events recorded in Stout Diary at beginning of article

References[edit]

  1. On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844–1861, Vol. 2, Edited by Juanita Brooks, University of Utah Press, 1964, pages 344-347
  2. Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, 1847–1900, Vol. 2, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, pages 47–55 & 331-341
  3. Dimick Baker Huntington, Statement on Battle Creek Fight, January 1, 1862, MS 4085, LDS Archives
  4. LDS Journal History (May be read at LDS Church History Library)
  5. History of Utah in Four Volumes, Orson F. Whitney, March 1892, page 423 (Held at Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah)
  6. Autobiography of Pioneer John Brown, 1820–1896, Arranged & Published by his son, John Zimmerman Brown, 1941, pages 103-105
  7. Provo, Pioneer Mormon City, compiled by...Writers Program...for the state of Utah, copyright 1942 Provo City Commission, pages 36–44
  8. Timpanogos Town, Story of Old Battle Creek and Pleasant Grove, Utah, Howard R. Driggs, 1948, pages 14–23
  9. The Forgotten Kingdom, The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896, David L. Bigler, 1998, pages 66–68
  10. Founding Fort Utah, Provo's Native Inhabitants, Early Explorers, and first Year of Settlement, D. Robert Carter, 2003, Provo City Corporation, pages 60–67

External links[edit]