Mormon History


(from the Franklin, Idaho website)

Following are some typical, first-hand accounts of the serious conflicts between the Indians and the relentless intrusion of white settlers. The original accounts have been slightly edited by this writer for clarity and spelling. Conscious efforts have been made to retain the intended message of the prior recorders. Any errors or omissions, resulting from this editing, are the sole responsibility of this summarizer.


In the fall of 1856 the settlers started to come from the Salt Lake Valley into Cache Valley. Wellsville was the first town to be settled in Cache Valley. Chief Bear Hunter (Shoshone) was the most prominent of the Indians who held a grudge against the whites, until he was killed in the vicinity of Franklin seven years later at the battle of Bear River. His hatred of the white people probably began with the founding of Wellsville and continued until his final stand against the United States military under the command of Colonel Conner in January 1863. Peter Maughan, leader of the Wellsville settlers, met with Chief Bear Hunter in 1855, just prior to the influx of the Wellsville settlers one year later.


Peter Maughan was called to go to Cache Valley to establish a settlement. The valley had been explored the year before by Captain Brayant Stringham, seeking good forage for the growing herds of cattle belonging to the church. These men were impressed with the lush grass and clear streams of the valley and so reported to Brigham Young. They also left their cattle herds in the valley with headquarters at the church ranch.


The story is told how bands of Indians, led by Chief Bear Hunter, understandably, objected to the coming of the white men. To express their displeasure, they defiantly camped their band in the midst of the hay fields of the new comers. Bishop Maughan, with a party of stalwarts, went to the chief, and through an interpreter informed the red warrior: "We have come into this valley to make our homes. We have come to live among you, and we want to be your friends. We must have hay for our stock in the

winter. We do not want you to camp in our hay fields. All around you there are fields with forage for your horses. You must go".


Chief Bear Hunter didn't like this-----The chief said, "We will not go. This valley belongs to the Indians. We own the grass, water, fish and game. The white man must go." Bishop Maughan stood up and said quietly, "We have spoken--You must go. We will give you two hours to get off our land.


Most of the chief's young warriors were daunted and left their leader to move their camps into the river bottoms. The humiliated chief vowed to get rid of the white men, and a few days later he decided to begin his personal plan of extermination. In this regard, one morning after breakfast, Bishop Maughan had a sudden impression that he should examine his gun. He took it from the pegs on the wall and began to examine it. As he stood holding the gun in such a position that the muzzle pointed at the door, the door burst open, and Chief Bear Hunter strode in with a gun in his own hands. His surprise and chagrin at finding the white man waiting with a gun pointed directly at the chief's heart, were enough to change his mind. In humiliation he left and later attempted to commit suicide, but was prevented.


It became immediately apparent that the settlers must have a powerful organization to combat the potentially marauding Indians. Consequently, a selected group called the "Militia" was formally organized and met monthly for military drill. The "Minute Men" consisted of all able-bodied men in each community. Some men, of course, belonged to both organizations. Each man provided himself with necessary arms, ammunition, blankets, provisions, cooking utensils, horse, saddle and bridle.


Somewhat later in Franklin, each "Minute Man" in the Franklin community took his turn standing guard on Mount Smart, located immediately west of Franklin. These minute men, in addition to local service, were called to Bear Lake a few times to stand guard at night when that settlement had trouble with the Indians.


During the summer of 1860, all the able-bodied men and boys of Franklin had been called to work on an irrigation ditch about four miles distant. In their absence, they had left William Gardner and a crippled boy to stay at home and take care of affairs. During the day, to the terror of the settlers, seventeen, red-skinned warriors, decorated with war paint and feathers, rode into the settlement. Mr. Gardner treated them kindly and ordered buttermilk and bread to be brought to them. He stood at the entrance to the settlement and entertained the warriors while the crippled boy rode the four miles to inform the men and boys working on the ditch. Meantime the Indians seemed satisfied with the kindness of the people and soon rode away. The Indians had just ridden away as the men arrived. The settlers rejoiced and named the event their "Buttermilk War".


About the middle of June of 1861, a large band of Indians from Oregon, more than a thousand in number, entered the valley and were determined to clear the country of whites. The value of the military organizations became evident, and the "Militia" and "Minute Men" of each settlement were assembled and were prepared for instant service at any threatened point. Strong guards watched the herds by day and the settlements by night. The minute men were ready for service on a moments notice. A body of fifty selected men, under the command of Major Ricks with George L. Farrell and J. H. Martineau as aids, were stationed about a mile from the Indian encampment to act as an observation corp. The Indians also sent out spies to detect weak places for attack, but they found none so they gave up and returned to Oregon. In spite of the vigilance of the settlers, the Indians stole away many horses on that occasion.


During the fall and early winter of 1862, large bands of Indians under Chief Bear Hunter, Chief Sagwich and Chief Pocatello began to assemble at their wintering grounds on Battle Creek approximately twelve miles northwesterly of Franklin. The Indians, at this time were especially burdensome to the white settlers of Franklin because of their constant demands for food, and because of their stealing and thievery.


For the most part, however, the Indians began getting more and more troublesome, stealing everything they could get their hands on, frightening the women and children, keeping everyone in a state of fear and suspense. They would wait until the men were at the fields, then they would come to the cabins, and if the women would not give them everything they would ask for, they would dance around them, yell and swing their tomahawks, all the time getting closer and closer until the women would fear they were going to be scalped".


Chief Bear Hunter seemed to delight in getting involved with affairs adverse to the white men. On September 28, 1862, some Indians from the north ran off with thirty horses stolen in Logan. Volunteers went after the horses and the Indians. Chief Bear Hunter sent one of his braves to inform the Indian horse thieves, so that they could get away. The volunteers overtook the Indians on the Cub River near Franklin. It was a dark, cold, rainy night making it impossible to pursue them that night. The next morning they resumed the pursuit, but the Indians had left during the night. The pursuit lasted from Sunday until Tuesday. The volunteers finally gave up the chase, and the Indians got away with eighteen head of horses.


On October 1, 1862, a band of Bannock Indians near the present site of Soda Springs, were assembled planning a raid on Cache Valley. The Cache Valley settlers became aware of their plans, consequently, twenty-five "Minute Men" were assembled and sent to Franklin. The Indians found this out and abandoned the attack. The Indians would never attack unless the odds were greatly in their favor.


In the latter part of December 1862, a group of non-Mormon emigrants and miners, including David Savage and William Bevins, had come down from the Salmon River mining country of Leesburg for supplies and cattle. There was a blinding snow storm and they missed the Bear River crossing leading to Franklin. They continued to follow Bear River about six miles further south to a spot approximately westerly of Richmond, Utah. The snow storm cleared and they proceeded to cross the Bear River to the east side. Indians from the Battle Creek camp had followed them down the river and fired upon them as they crossed the river. They killed one man, John H. Smith, of Walla Walla and wounded many others.

The miners hid until dark and then went to Richmond and told their story to the Mormon Bishop, Marriner W. Merrill who sent a party to salvage the remaining supplies and retrieve Smith's body. The rescuing party was also attacked by the Indians.


When Williams Bevins arrived in Salt Lake City, he went before Chief Justice Kinner, who made out warrants for the arrest of Chiefs Bear Hunter, San Fitch and Sagwich. These warrants were given to Marshal Isaac L. Gibbs, who called upon Colonel Patrick Connor to provide military escort while he served the writs. Colonel Connor was already preparing for an expedition into Cache Valley to deal with Chief Bear Hunter and others, and invited Marshall Gibbs to go along. Colonel Connor, however, had no intentions of taking any prisoners. Colonel Connor's report to the War Department clarifies his intentions.


"I have the honor to report to you that from information received from various sources of the encampment of a large body of Indians on the Bear River, 140 miles north of this point, who had murdered several miners, during the winter, passing to and from the settlements in this valley to the Bear River mines east of the Rocky Mountains. And being satisfied that they were part of the same band who had been murdering emigrants on the Overland Mail Route for the last 15 years, and the principal actors and leaders in the horrid massacre of the past summer. I determined, although the season was unfavorable to military expedition in consequence of cold weather and deep snow, to chastise them if possible".


Coincident with the hostile skirmishes and the related reports, and during the winter of 1862-63, a band of Shoshone Indians, including men, women and children, had established themselves for the winter in a sheltered spot adjacent to Bear River, approximately twelve miles northwesterly of Franklin. Apparently the military attachment at Fort Douglas had been apprised of the presence and location of the band of winterized Indians. Also, apparently, the military concluded that the band represented the culprit Indians who had committed the reported plunderings and massacres.


In response to the request for help, Colonel Patrick E. Connor lead a detachment of 300 California Volunteers, consisting of infantry and cavalry troops, which arrived at the Indian encampment the sub-zero morning of January 29, 1863.

On Thursday, 22 January, 1863, Captain Samuel N. Hoyt, under direction of Colonel Connor, started north from Fort Douglas with forty men of Company "K", the third California Infantry, two howitzers and a train of fifteen wagons loaded with enough supplies for twelve days. The Indians learned of this slow-moving group in advance and were expecting them.


On Sunday of 25 January, Colonel Connor with Companies "A", "H", "K" and "M", Second California Cavalry, along with Marshall Gibbs, left Salt Lake City.


Captain Charles H. Hampstead described the march as follows: "Those who were there at that time or participated in the events encountered, can well remember that fearful night march--(How can they forget?) Clear and brilliant shone the stars upon the dreary, snow covered earth, but bitter and intense was the cold. The shrill north wind swept over the lakes and down the mountain sides freezing with its cold breath every river and stream. The moistened breath, freezing as it left the lips, hung in miniature icicles from the beards of brave men. The foam from their steeds stood stark and stiff upon each hair. Only continued motion made it possible for them to endure the biting, freezing blast.


All that long night the men rode on, facing the wintry wind, and uncomplainingly endured an intensity of cold rarely, if ever, before experienced, even in these mountain regions. Hour after hour passed on dragging its slow length along, with not a word save that of command at intervals to break the monotonous clamp, clamp of the steeds and the clatter of sabers as they rattled in their gleaming sheaths. As morning dawned, the troops, stiff with cold, entered the little town of Box Elder (Brigham City, Utah) The sufferings of that night march of 68 miles can never be told in words. Many were frozen and necessarily left behind. The troops, after a halt that day, again faced the severity of winter in the mountains and pressed on--the infantry by day and the cavalry by night, in order to deceive the wily, Indian foe".


On Tuesday, January 27, early in the morning, the cavalry caught up with the infantry at Mendon. On that same day, in Franklin, Chief Bear Hunter and some of his warriors came and demanded wheat. The settlers maintained a "food bin" for the Indians to draw on, to which all of the settlers contributed. On this occasion, the Indians outnumbered the settlers and so they would demand, haughtily, for their food. The settlers stacked out 24 bushels of wheat for them, but it didn't satisfy them, so they did a war dance around Bishop Preston Thomas' house.


The next day, January 28, Chief Bear Hunter and three of his braves went into Franklin again to demand more wheat. The three braves went to Robert Hull's home with three pack horses and an order from the Bishop for nine additional bushels of wheat. William and Thomas Hull were sent to the granary to sack the wheat. The Hull boys told the Indians that this grain had been saved for spring planting. The Indians laughed. As they loaded the pack horses, they saw Colonel Connor's infantry soldiers approaching from the south. The Indians didn't seem to be frightened because they already knew that the infantry was enroute. What they did not know was that there was a large cavalry section following the infantry. One of the settlers said to Chief Bear Hunter: "Here come the "Toquashos" (soldiers) maybe Indians will all be killed". The reply was: "May-be-so, Toquashos get killed too". Ice and snow were everywhere, in fact conditions for military marching were so bad that when the Indians were told that they were going to be attacked, they laughed and said: "No, too cold for soldiers".


The Indians left the settlement toward the north just as the infranty entered from the south. The Indians were very sure of themselves at this time, and felt that it wouldn't be too long until they would have a few more scalps to carry around. On January 28 the cavalry caught up with the infantry at Franklin without the Indians knowing of the, now combined forces of infantry, plus cavalry.


After a short rest at Franklin, the infantry on January 29, was again on the march to the battle grounds. The infantry left Franklin at three o'clock a.m. The cavalry followed at four o'clock a.m. and passed the infantry, near where Preston, Idaho is now located. They reached the east banks of the Bear River, near the Indian encampment, as the dawn was breaking .


A line of soldiers was stationed at intervals from the area of the ensuing battle to Franklin. The soldiers, thus stationed, would be able to relay urgent news to the Franklin settlers should the Indians prevail in the battle. The anxious women and children of Franklin could then be rushed to the more southerly communities of Cache Valley for safety.


The Indians had selected their encampment very well. The natural topographic features, including a natural hot spring, provided some protection from the winter cold storms and from possible military intrusion. In addition to the natural, protective topography, the Indians had woven twigs and willows together for camouflage and protection. They left openings in the camouflage curtains for sighting and shooting. Forked sticks served as gun rests.


As Colonel Connor directed his infantry and cavalry forces to essentially surround the Indian encampment, the Indians came forth waving their previously "lifted" scalps crying obscenities at the soldiers. Chief Bear Hunter was swinging his buffalo robe in the air shouting, "Come on you California sons-of-bitches, we're ready for you".


The cavalry crossed the river with much difficulty, due to floating ice. Icy water splashed over the saddle seats, and sometimes the horses lost their footings and carried the riders downstream with them. After they crossed, each company of men dismounted and every fourth man was detailed to hold horses, and a line of skirmish was formed and the attack commenced. The Indians responded with fire, wounding one volunteer before all had dismounted. The company commander, Major McCarry, attacked from the front. The fire from the Indians was very successful. Many soldiers fell dead or wounded. Lieutenant Chase, mounted on a horse, with many attractive trappings, drew much fire, probably because the Indians wanted the trappings, or perhaps they thought he was Colonel Connor, or both.


Lieutenant Chase was wounded in the wrist and a few minutes later was shot in the lung, but kept in his saddle, urging his men to fight on. He finally reported himself to Colonel Connor as mortally wounded and asked to retire. Captain McLean was wounded in the hand, but kept on until stopped by a debilitating thigh wound.


After about twenty minutes of fighting, the soldiers had been repulsed three times. The strategy was revised and the attack resumed. Colonel Connor then made his infamous remark, when asked what should be done with the squaws and children, "Kill everything, Nits make Lice".


It must be remembered that the Indian women fought as desperately as the men, and all fought like tigers. It is reported that a young drummer boy fell wounded, and as he lay in the snow, two Indian lads ran out with their knives and attempted to cut his throat and might have succeeded, had not Colonel Connor, himself, intervened.


The Indians were finally driven into the central and lower portion of the ravine. The soldiers had been divided such as to attack from three directions which subdued the Indians, and they had to make a break through one of the three forces. A wild yell from the downstream soldiers let the others know that the Indians were breaking in their direction. Colonel Connor sent a detachment of cavalry charging to cut off the escape route. The Indians were now completely surrounded and hand-to-hand fighting ensued.


The battle continued for about four hours, from six o'clock a.m. until ten o'clock a.m. After a few of the Indians had escaped, the remaining survivors sought hiding in the willows along the streams, but were soon dislodged. Many were shot while they attempted to swim the river. Chief Bear Hunter and Chief Lehi (Leight) were killed. At first it was thought that Chief Sagwich had also been killed, but later reports tell that he ran down the ravine, fell into the river and floated down under some brush, hiding until night. At night he came back to the battle ground with some other surviving warriors, and took two abandoned military horses and rode off toward the north. The son of Chief Sagwich, during the battle, ran to the river and fell in as though he were shot. He floated down stream with the ice, being shot at several times. He was wounded in the thumb. He swam to some bushes near one of the "hot springs" and there remained until he could escape. Later in his life he was interviewed at his home in Washakie, and was reported to have said that about twenty two of the young bucks had escaped in various ways. He also revealed that the Indians had planned on raiding the white settlement of Franklin in the spring of 1863. (Mormon appeasement would not have stopped these murderous Indians)


Colonel Connor's count of the Indian dead revealed 224 bodies on the battle field and 48 more at a curve on the river for a total of 272. Other estimates range from 368 to 400. Of the soldiers, fourteen were killed, four officers and forty nine men were wounded, of whom one officer and eight men died later. Seventy nine were disabled by freezing.


A herd of about 100 Indian horses entering the Franklin settlement was the first evidence of the returning men. Then arrived Colonel Connor in a buggy, accompanied by the renowned Porter Rockwell, who had been his guide. Soon after appeared Major McMurry at the head of the cavalry. The infantry followed, mounted on Indian ponies they had salvaged.


After the battle, the troops crossed to the south side of the river and made camp for the night. Porter Rockwell, famed Mormon scout and guide, was sent to Franklin to engage teams and wagons to haul the dead and wounded back to Camp Douglas. The citizens of Franklin made temporary preparations for the soldiers returning from the battle by arranging warmth and places for them to sleep. Straw was strewn on the meeting house floor, beds were made and fires were built.


After the fighting was over, men of Franklin used their teams and sleighs to help remove the wounded Indians and soldiers from the scene of carnage, including the few, surviving, Indian women and children. Initially, they were taken to Franklin where they were cared for until other arrangements could be made. The battle of Bear River turned out to be the last major clash with the Indians in the mountain west. Some of the orphaned children were taken into Franklin homes and raised to adulthood.