Chapter XXVII.


I Decide to Visit the Hostile Indians--Tabby's Message--My

Ruse to Avoid Being Killed or Driven Away--Tabby's Relenting--The Design to Raid Coalville Frustrated

DURING the Black Hawk war a great many from Utah and Salt Lake counties were sent out to repel the Indians and assist in protecting the settlements of Sanpete and Sevier counties. I never was called to go. My feelings were different from the most. Although the Indians were cruel and unjust, I could not help but remember their personal kindness and friendship for me and dreaded the idea of being called upon to fight them.

The regiment (Colonel Sharp's) to which I belonged, had already been called upon for detail, Captain Crow and company having spent sometime in Sanpete. About the next call would have been for my company, as we belonged to the same regiment. My mind and feelings were much exercised over these matters for I could not refuse to go in my turn, as no possible explanation could be given to relieve me from the suspicion of cowardice.

Many times, in reflecting upon the subject, my feelings were to go and see the Indians personally. Although they were at war, and had been for some six or eight years and killed numbers of our people, breaking up whole districts, still I felt as though I would rather approach them as a peacemaker than as a fighter. Luckily, one day in the summer of 1871, I met an Indian that I recognized at once as an old acquaintance, Ancatowats.

To the reader, who is not acquainted with those days, it will be necessary to say that there were friendly Indians in and around the settlements who took no part in this war, but would not inform on the hostiles when they came in, in a peaceable manner, to visit them. I had often heard of this Indian--Ancatowats--being one of Black Hawk's most active raiders. When I called him by name he said he did not know me. I told him how I felt towards the Indians. Soon I got his confidence and we had a long talk. He told me all about the hostile and others of the Uintahs who were not actively at war. He said the Indians wished they could get some of my saddles. (I had sold them a great many in former years.) Said their saddles were all gone or broken up, so that their horses all had bruised backs. He bought three saddles of me at the time. He also told me that there was a new agent in town from Washington whom he thought was a good man; that he talked good and that he also wanted a saddle.

This Indian said to me that he thought maybe I could go out with the agent and make saddles for the Indians if I wanted to, and that, as I was an old friend and had never been out to fight them, he did not think they would want to kill me. I went and talked with George A. Smith, giving him a full understanding of my feelings, also telling of the proposition of the Indian. Brother Smith agreed with me that if someone could get among the Indians and talk to them in a proper spirit it would do more good than fighting them, and said, "If you have faith to try it you shall have my faith and blessing in the effort."

I laid before him some of my plans, which he approved of, advising me to say nothing to anyone else about the business, but to use prudence and the best judgment possible. He warned me that I would have a hard job and hoped that I would not get discouraged.

I managed to see the agent and mentioned to him my desire to visit the agency, telling him that I was an interpreter. He said if I could bring a testimonial from some responsible party he would employ me, as he wished someone, who really understood the Indians and was friendly with them, to act as interpreter. I furnished the necessary paper and asked the privilege of taking my tools and some material under an agreeable arrangement. This was allowed. I closed up my business and went, in company with the agent, to Uintah.

On arriving at that place I was notified by the Indians to leave within three days or they would kill me. This I was prepared to expect, for my Indian friend in Salt Lake did not speak very positively in regard to my safety in going, but thought maybe it would be all right. This word came from Tabby, my old friend. He would not come to see me, but sent word, saying, "You are an old friend, but the Mormons have killed many of my people; you are a Mormon, and if you stay here you will be killed. Some are mad because I do not want you killed at once. Now hurry and get ready for I do not want to see you die."

I went to work, feeling first rate, and made me a saddle within the time. Some of the Indians would come where I was at work and watch me, but would not speak. I treated them with perfect indifference.

When the saddle was done an Indian wanted to buy it. I told him I could not sell it; that I had to leave or the Indians would kill me. He said he would go and see if they would not wait three days more, so that I could let him have the one on hand. I agreed. He returned in a few hours and said it was all right. Some might ask, "Could you believe him?" I answer, most certainly.

I sold the saddle starting on another, which had the same history, thus continuing for some time until I began to feel quite at home, making saddles and selling them for a good price, with the prospect of being killed every three days. There is an old saying that one can get used to almost anything except getting killed more than once.

Tabby often passed by where I could see him, but would never look towards me. I believed that in his heart he was my friend, for I was his. This looked a little strange, but, understanding Indian character so well, I knew it would not do for me to speak first.

One day Tabby stepped into my shop accompanied by his young squaw. I had my work-bench across the room so that I faced the door, all my stuff behind and protected by the bench. I kept very busy, scarcely speaking to anyone coming in. Simply selling saddles under the rule mentioned. He came up to the bench in haughty Indian style, never offering to speak. I felt almost like laughing for I knew he was playing a part, and I determined to beat him if possible, so I never even looked up from my work. Soon he laid a new butcher knife down on the bench without speaking a word. I took the knife and made a nice scabbard for it, and laid it on the bench before him. He then took a pair of stirrups from his squaw and laid them on the bench. I had a pair of stirrups-leathers made and hanging up. I took them and put them on the stirrups and laid them down as I had the knife, then went on with my work without taking any further notice.

Tabby stood straight and silent, hardly moving during this. He then took from his squaw some buckskin, and without a word laid them on my bench. I commenced cleaning up, giving my bench a general straightening. When I came to the buckskins I handled them as though they were trash in my way, and asked the squaw if she would not take care of them. At this Tabby laughed, holding out his hand in a friendly way, saying, "All right, we are friends, and it is foolish for us to not talk and be as we used to be."

He then told me that most of the Indians liked me and thought I was a friend, but that "Yank" and his crowd thought I was a spy and wanted to kill me; but that if I could win him I would be all right. After this I hadn't much fear, for I did not believe Yank would kill me for he needed a saddle very badly.

I soon learned the general condition of affairs, getting information both from the Indians themselves and some of the whites at the agency. Tabby, and quite a number of the better disposed Utes, claimed that they never had been at war with the Mormons, but acknowledged that they had a very bad feeling about the killing of some of their friends under circumstances that did not justify, telling about Tabby's half-brother, who, Tabby claims, was a friend and not an enemy.

I myself knew of several instances where Indians were killed, that to me looked a little crooked, and when their friends talked about these cases, I could not help but admit sometimes that they had a right to get mad. One Indian, known as Big-Mouth-Jim, took quite a liking to me and became quite communicative. He was very faithful, never deceiving me. He would tell me how the Indians talked about me; what their plans were for raiding, and gave me advice how to control their actions, by a little stratagem.

The season was getting late. Coalville was selected as the place to raid. Yank had everything arranged but could not go without a saddle as his was about used up. Jim advised me to put him off, saying that if I could do so until snow fell that he would not go and perhaps by spring I could "make him good."

There were a great many wanting saddles. More than I could possibly supply, so that it was easy to put Yank off. I allowed the idea to still prevail that I had to leave and would not sell any Indian a saddle without the understanding that I could remain long enough to make another. I was not in the least afraid, but this suited me for I had not yet made terms with the raiders. Finally snow fell in the mountains. Jim said, "Now you can let Yank have a saddle; he will go with the rest on a hunt and not go to Coalville." About this time the greater number of the Utes were starting on their fall hunt. Yank came in offering me some buckskins for a saddle. I told him I was going home; that I was afraid when Tabby and the good Indians went away that he would kill me. He said I was a fool to think so; that I was a good man and all the Indians liked me and none of them would kill me. I then sold him a saddle I had ready.

The Indians explained many things to me about the management at the agency. Saying that the former agents stole most that the government sent them. They did not know how the new agent would be, but agreed if I would be their friend and tell "Washington" the truth, just how things were done it would be different. They believed "Washington" was honest, had a kind heart, and when hungry man came to him crying for something to eat, that he made Indian agents of them and sent them out here to the Indians. They did not think this was right for they needed all that the government gave them and there was nothing to spare for the agents to steal without leaving the Indians hungry.

Tabby said that some of "Brigham's Bishops" helped the agents to steal and this made the Indians mad, causing them to raid upon the Mormons and to excuse themselves by saying that if the Mormons did not help to steal their provisions they would have enough; but as it was, they had to steal Mormon cattle, and when the Mormons followed them, sometimes they had to fight; but would just as soon get their beef without killing anyone as to have to kill them.

The question may be asked was there any truth or reason in this? I thought at one time of writing up some facts that can be proved, giving circumstances and names which would clearly show that the Indians had reason to talk as they did. If blood was shed and the cause originated through the speculative act of some man who ought to have known better, the day of reckoning will come without my calling them to account in this little history.

After becoming acquainted with the condition of affairs at the Uintah and the White River agency, I made up my mind to act as a friend to the Indians in trying to get something done to better their condition. That there had been a great deal of neglect and crookedness going on for years, no one could doubt. Reports were circulated that some of the government officials, prior to this time, had encouraged the Indians in stealing cattle from the Mormons, thinking that if the Indians supplied themselves with beef they could better appropriate what government furnished, than when the Utes were peaceable and not stealing. The new agent was very emphatic in his denunciations of former agents. He seemed disposed to change the management, and worked for the good of the natives. He asked me to find how the Indians felt and to assist him in every way possible to get things in good order and work to make the Indians happy and contented. I felt much pleasure in the prospective work before me.

After I had been in the agency a few weeks, the agent started to Salt Lake City to buy winter supplies. He instructed me to come in and bring his team and light wagon. In a few days after his leaving, I got ready to start in. According to previous arrangements, I was to have the right to take in with the agent's team the buckskins and furs that I had received for saddles. As far as I knew good feeling existed between the agent and myself. But when I was ready to start in, the clerk then in charge told me that the agent had instructed him not to allow me to haul any of my stuff in his wagon; that I was to take the wagon in empty. George Basor, the post trader, and a Mr. Morgan, blacksmith, were going in with me. They told me that for some cause the agent had "gone back" on me. But I concluded not to "go back" on myself so I got my skins and furs ready. The clerk at first forbade me to load them in, but soon took another notion and assisted me to load the stuff into the wagon.

After the agent had left the clerk in charge, business was carried on in a very bad manner. Quite a crop of potatoes had been raised; the weather commenced to grow cold, potatoes freezing. Instead of digging and taking care each day of the potatoes dug, he would have all hands dig all they could and then try to get all hands--mechanics, cooks, and all, to gather them in after night. While working in this manner the Indians were not allowed to help, but at the same time the most of these potatoes were expected to be eaten by the Indians. Many other things as foolish were being done daily. I kept a memorandum, intending to report to the agent according to my agreement with him.

About the time Mr. Basor, Mr. Morgan and myself were ready to start in, the first severe snow storm of the season commenced. We had quite a hard trip getting into the valley.

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