Student Paper

Forty Years Among the Indians:

A True Yet Thrilling Narrative of the Author's Experiences Among the Natives

By Ryan Reeder


Originally written for History 366: Utah History class at BYU, professor Brian Q. Cannon

December 11, 2000, addendum January 5, 2001

View on

View addendum on



FORTY YEARS Among the Indians is "a true yet thrilling narrative of the author's experiences among the natives." It was printed by the Juvenile Instructor Press in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1890. The book's four hundred pages describe Daniel Webster Jones' (the author and my great-great-great grandfather) life from the time he went west with the army in the war with Mexico in 1847 until the time the book was printed. Some interesting accounts include his remaining at Devil's Gate during the winter of 1856-7 to guard the property of the companies that came through late that season. Another interesting story describes the first mission into Mexico in 1875. He also goes into great detail describing his associations and love for the Indians who inhabited the area, and many of the services he rendered for them.


Daniel Webster Jones was orphaned at an early age and then "left all [his] friends and relatives and went out into the world alone, probably as willful a boy as ever lived" (Jones, 19). He went out west with the army as a teenager in 1847 in the war against Mexico, and then remained there for three years, taking part in much of the "wild, reckless life that was common in that land," (Jones 18) to the point where he felt condemned in his own conscience. In July, 1850 he left with a company herding sheep through Utah Territory and on into California. While on the trip, however, he accidentally shot himself, "one of the most dangerous possible, not to prove fatal," (Jones, 29). Rather than being a hindrance to the company he stayed with, he was left in the care of a Mormon family in Provo. He was baptized by Father Isaac Morley on January 27, 1851(Jones, 41) and married Harriet Emily Colton a little over a year later (Jones, 53).

In the fall conference of 1856, President Brigham Young made a call for volunteers to go bring those then suffering in the Martin and Willie Handcart and Hunt and Horgett wagon companies in from the plains. After being asked by several leading authorities to go, he agreed (Jones,62). Upon arriving, the rescuers decided to leave the property of the emigrants at Devil's Gate with a few men to watch it during the winter, while the rest of the rescuers got the parties into the valley as quickly as possible. Dan Jones was selected to preside over the group with Thomas Alexander and Ben Hampton from the valley assisting him, along with seventeen men from the wagon companies (Jones 72). It wasn't long before they ran out of food and were low on game, and ended up eating rawhides, "the wrappings from the wagon tongues, old moccasin-soles were eaten also, and a piece of buffalo hide that had been used for a foot mat for two months" (Jones, 82). After arriving home, he met with charges and rumors that he had pilfered the goods while at Devil's Gate, but with President Brigham Young's intervention, he was cleared.

Back home, he engaged in saddlery as a profession, but was frequently solicited because of his knowledge of Spanish and the area to engage in other tasks. In 1860, he acted as a guide for troops searching out a trail to Santa Fe. On one occasion on the way home he, his brother-in-law S.B. Moore, and two military horsemen who had accompanied them were attacked by robbers; they abandoned their goods and galloped away. On another occasion, he interceded with the Indians to help end the Black Hawk War.

In June 1874, he was called to meet with Brigham Young along with Henry Brizzee. President Young informed them that "the time had come to prepare for the introduction of the gospel into Mexico," and accordingly asked the two to begin translating the Book of Mormon into Spanish (Jones, 220). Soon, a Spaniard from the Philippines, Mileton Trejo, who had joined the Church joined them in the translation process. After gathering subscriptions from many members of the Church for the publication of the Book of Mormon, Dan Jones, his son Wiley, and five others left for Mexico in September 1875 with about two thousand copies of one-hundred page selections from the Book of Mormon translated into Spanish (Jones, 233). They were asked to travel by pack animal, exploring the Salt River Valley country of Arizona on the way. Their mission in Mexico, as President Young understood it, was to be "as prospectors going through to prepare the way. . . .[They] were not sent to baptize and organize branches, neither were [they] forbidden to do so," (Jones, 274). By these standards, the mission was quite successful. They found priests that warned their congregations against them, and some people who had been waiting years for the missionaries. They arrived home about the first of July, 1876. Soon after, President Young asked him to lead a colonizing mission to Mexico. He settled in the Salt River Valley for some time. During a brief stay in the Tonto Basin, his wife, mother of their fourteen children, was killed with their two-year-old son when a shed fell over on them during a storm (Jones, 345). Dan Jones later attempted to purchase some good quality land in Chihuahua. He concludes his narrative by describing much of what he had learned about the various tribes of Indians, their ways, and the importance of taking the gospel to them, as the Church is directed to in the Book of Mormon.

Daniel Webster Jones tells us a good deal more about his life during the period he writes about than he tells us about life during that period. In that respect, he sticks pretty well to his topic-a "narrative of the author's experiences among the natives." Many of his details describe his associations with Indians and Mexicans. His intent is not to write a general history of Utah-that he has left to others, as he states several times in his book (e.g. 61-"I aim to deal more with that which is not written"). However, where he was a witness or a participant in certain events that made the history books, he describes them well, often giving details which would otherwise not be known.. These include the slave trade, Judge Brocchus' speech, the Walker, Utah or Echo Canyon, and Black Hawk Wars, the Reformation, and the election controversy of 1874. There are several interesting aspects about his narrative. One is that he often acts as a spokesman for the Indians to us. He really seemed to understand their point of view, at least according to his perception of their reaction to him, and effectively communicates this to the reader. His depiction of several prominent leaders of the Church is quite informative-especially the fact that they seem to be so accessible to the common man. Finally, it appears that he has some criticism towards many of the regular members of the Church because of prejudice towards the red man, and for often jumping to abrupt conclusions or being purposely deceitful. When he had time during his life for a normal, day-to-day life, he describes it somewhat, though briefly.

It's interesting to compare Dan Jones' perspective on historical events with other sources. Quite often, they are biased, either to make the Church look good or to make it look bad. Dan Jones tells it like he saw it, and there is a real sense of honesty to it. To begin with, there was the instance when Governor Young put a stop to the Mexican slave trade. He describes the reaction of the Mexicans and the Utes to it. At one point he acted as interpreter in a trial of one Pedro Leon, who had violated the agreement. Jones notes that there was "a great deal of prejudice and bitter feeling" shown toward Leon, and that Governor Young did all he could to see that he got a fair trial (Jones 52). On another occasion, he tells us that "several of us were present" when Arapine (Arapeen) of the Ute tribe offered to sell Indian children to the Mormons, who refused, whereupon, Arapine took one of the boys, and "dashed its brains out on the hard ground, after which he threw the body towards us, telling us we had no hearts, or we would have bought it and saved its life" (Jones 53). He records that this was the last public attempt of the child slave trade.

When Utah was organized as a territory, several officials were appointed from other areas of the country. One of these was Judge Perry E. Brocchus of Alabama. On one occasion in September 1851, shortly after he arrived, he was given leave to speak to the people in a conference (Alexander, 119). Daniel Jones was there on this occasion and comments on his and Brigham Young's reactions to the speech. He says that he looked at "Brother Brigham who sat perfectly still with his mouth twisted a little to one side." He commented to a man next to him during the speech that he "would not allow such talk. . .that [he] would kick Brochus [sic] out of the stand" (Jones, 46). Then he mentions that when Brigham Young gave Brocchus his answer, he "understood why nothing had been said to interfere with his speech. . . .he got his dose, which so frightened him that he. . .left for the States in a few days" (Jones, 46).

The Walker (Walkara) War began when a Mormon, James Ivie interfered to stop a Ute, Shower-o-Cats, from whipping his squaw (Alexander 113-114). When the Ute threatened to shoot Ivie, he wrenched the gun from his hand and broke it over the Indian's head, who later died as a result (Jones 56). Walker then sought revenge. Jones and a companion were at this time en route from Payson to Provo. On the road they met twenty-five Indians dressed for war. They had no opportunity to turn and run, so continued on straight ahead as if nothing were there. The Indians parted and let them through, then went on to Payson "and in less than an hour commenced killing our people" (Jones, 56).

After returning from Devil's gate where he had spent the "winter of the Reformation," he comments briefly on it. He says:

"the reformation move was doubtless intended for and resulted in good; but like everything else where good is found the devil comes along to see what's up. So it was nothing strange if while browsing around he had a hand in some of the moves of men. This I soon became satisfied was the case now, and I did not take much 'stock' in what some people called reformation" (Jones, 113).

This shows something of his manner of presenting the information. In this statement, he does not gloss over and pretend that there were not some troublesome elements to the Reformation, yet he sustains the leaders and acknowledges that the basic purpose of the Reformation was good.

He briefly outlines the Utah War, describing his part as being under the charge of Colonel Pace, having charge of "a few picked riflemen" (126). They remained in Echo Canyon during the winter. He remained there fortifying the place until the end of May when they were told to come in as peace had been made.

Daniel Jones was heavily involved with the Black Hawk War, taking up about five chapters of his narrative in describing his role in making peace. He found the opportunity to go into the agency and work for the Indians making saddles. A friendly Indian, Ancatowats, advised him that the Indians would probably not kill him, as he was an old friend. Dan Jones then went and spoke with George A. Smith, who agreed that "if someone could get among the Indians and talk to them in a proper spirit it would do more good than fighting them," He added "If you have faith to try it you shall have my faith and blessing in the effort" (170). Using a sort of saddle negotiation with Tabby, an old friend, he was able to avert a raid on the Mormon settlement on Coalville.

He was later discharged from the agency, but had promised the Indians to return and do all he could for them (Jones, 178). Accordingly, he waited until the middle of winter and walked into the agency with Bradley Sessions, a good hunter whom he had persuaded to go with him. They passed through a lot of cold and suffering on the way, but made it through as promised. While there, he was able to negotiate a peace on behalf of the Mormons with the Indians.

At one point there was a mob gathering outside during the August election of city officers during 1874. Several Liberals believed they could put down Mormon rule in Salt Lake City. At this time, Dan and a companion were walking nearby and tried to do what they could to help. He was there when it became necessary to use force as the police made quick work with their clubs, beating down the leaders of the mob (Jones, 217). This was another interesting experience which Daniel Webster Jones had the opportunity to see firsthand.

At many times, Daniel Jones demonstrated his feelings toward the people of his world. He describes the Indians, the Church leaders, and the Mormon people. His descriptions offer insight into the relationships that these people had with each other during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The whole theme of his book deals with the Native Americans and their causes. He sympathizes greatly with the native Americans, seeing things from their perspective, often when, according to his description, no one else does. This originally stemmed back to the time when he accidentally shot himself. As they continued on their journey, Dan records that "the Indians came, both men and women, and I can never forget their expression of sympathy, or their looks of kindness" (Jones, 30). These feelings stayed with him throughout the remainder of his life. He always avoided getting involved in conflicts with Indians, and often tried to make peace with them. He counted it a particular piece of honor that he had never shed the blood of an Indian, and hoped never to do so. Occasionally he soliloquizes on the duties of the Mormon people toward the Indians, as he finds that the Book of Mormon promises that they would be brought the gospel by the gentiles in the latter days. These feelings carried over into his mission into Mexico, where he said that he had often when thinking of them "cried like a child, never having seen, from that day to the present, any disposition manifested to continue a mission in that part of the country" (Jones 287). At one point he makes the case that the Mexicans had done more for the Lamanite than the Americans had. Many Americans compare themselves with Mexicans and find themselves more advanced than the Mexicans. Dan Jones points out, however, that the comparison ought to be made between the American Indians and the Mexican people, and in this respect the Americans fall far short (Jones 378-379).

His feelings for the Mormon people similarly stem from his early exposure to them. He says they had "about the same kindly look of the eye and expression of sympathy as was manifested by the Indians on the Green River. . .[he] now felt conquered as far as Mormon goodness was concerned" (Jones 33). From time to time hypocrisy and other vices were manifested among the Mormons, yet he regarded these individual failings as simply "human weakness[es] which Mormonism had nothing to do with" (Jones 44). In general, the people were a good people, he considered himself one of them, but there were times when he wished that they would do better.

With the leaders of the Church, however, it was a different experience. He especially looked up to and admired Brigham Young. He had the opportunity of meeting with and receiving letters from him many times during his life. On his first introduction, he was taken to meet the prophet after doing some work with Edmund Ellsworth, President Young's son-in-law. He was not given time to change and told that "Brother Brigham did not judge a man by his dress" (Jones 46). Upon meeting President Young, he was "completely won" by his manner. The prophet asked him many questions without doubting Brother Jones' sincerity. He then wrote a note directing that he be ordained a Seventy. On several occasions, he received pertinent counsel and direction from President Young. As Jones began leading a company down into a settlement in Arizona, Brigham Young drove out to see them just past Santa Clara, Utah. Daniel Jones describes, "He gave us his blessing and a few words of counsel. This was the last time I ever saw Brother Brigham-to me the best and greatest man I have ever known" (308).

His feelings were similar towards other ranking members of the priesthood. He describes George A. Smith, when after one occasion he and a companion had been out guarding cattle in the Provo River bottoms for three days straight without sleep during the Walker War. When George A. Smith arrived, he went to meet him. Finding that he was asleep, he called him a "big, lazy lout" (Jones 59). When he awakened, President Smith questioned him on the matter. Daniel confirmed what he had said and explained why. President Smith immediately sent him to bed, without showing any anger. President Smith later used the incident as "a good joke." Brother Jones says he relates "this to show the nobility of his character, being above small prejudice. I have met others who ought to be as good as Brother Smith, who would never have forgiven me if I had made such a remark about them" (Jones 60).

Daniel Jones married, had fourteen children, and enjoyed a good home life from time to time. The accident that claimed the life of his wife and two-year-old son in 1883 was very hard on him, he says that "for over a year I would have been glad to have died" (Jones, 345). He learned the trade of saddlery and became a very good saddler. At one point he says that he despises a braggart and does not wish to appear as one, so he modestly says that "as 'Dan Jones, the saddler,' is well known, I will let this answer on that subject" (Jones, 129).

Daniel Webster Jones was a great, modest, humorous, at times cantankerous, many times deeply religious, respectable man. I feel privileged to call him a great-great-great grandfather.


Forty Years Among the Indians Report-An Addendum

Daniel Webster Jones describes his life in the West during the years from the Mexican War in 1847 until he published his autobiography in 1890. Taking his work as a window of pioneer life in this era, we can find and infer much about the attitudes and lifestyles that the Mormon people had in their portion of the Old West.

The Mormons tended to exhibit implicit trust and faith in their leaders, distrust of the United States government and the soldiers that represented it, and ambivalent views toward the Indians. It seems that members of the Church seldom, if ever, refused a calling from their leaders, despite the severity and difficulty that might be involved. When the call was made to help the handcart companies, Brigham Young called on every one present to help. Dan Jones was also asked to participate directly by Daniel H. Wells, Edward Hunter, and Jedediah Grant. He accepted, and later remained behind to guard the immigrants' goods. The ideal of integrity of his people is reflected in his own integrity when he said, "There was not money enough on earth to have hired me to stay. I had left home for only a few days and was not prepared to remain so long away; but I remembered my assertion that any of us would stay if called upon" (72). Another instance shows how the people would follow their leaders' instructions, even when it was counter to their own wishes. When he was asked to lead a colonizing mission to Mexico, he became discouraged because of ill reports concerning his lack of patience in leadership and asked Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff to relieve him. They refused, and Brother Jones "went to work with a will to get ready for the trip" (306-7). He genuinely liked his leaders, often speaking very highly of Brigham Young and others(165-6, 308, 60). The attitude of accepting callings and loving and revering the general authorities was probably shared by many of his fellow Mormons.

The feeling toward the soldiers was quite the opposite, however. When he was induced to act as a guide for the soldiers in 1860, it is obvious that he wasn't ecstatic about the offer, refusing at first, and later accepting with conditions (which were later violated). He finds it ironic that the Mormons were regularly accused of being disloyal while the soldiers committed various acts of depravity. He describes "the people were insulted and abused in a violent manner. . .even commissioned officers taking the lead in lawless acts. . . .the commander. . .offered his support to our political enemies. . .is it right and legal to fit out with government supplies, tools, and animals and take enlisted men to work prospecting for mines, for private interests, under pretense of going to protect American citizens in their legitimate business against the Mormons?" and so forth. This sort of distrust was likely common among the Mormon settlers.

Dan Jones had a genuine liking for the Indians, which was not universally shared by his fellow Mormons. He uses the final pages of his book to exhort his people to remember the Lamanites and the promises made to them in the Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon. He wonders if the hardening of hearts of the gentiles refers to their not taking the gospel to the Lamanites because they might say, "'I am not interested in these dirty Indians'" (396-400). Many of his neighbors undoubtedly did feel this way, as was manifested, for example, with the killing of an Indian near Fairview, where Jones was living at the time. Although the murder was "cowardly in the extreme, and more treacherous than anything I ever remember done by the Indians" (212), he succeeded in talking the Indians into refraining from retaliation. After the Indians agreed, they never broke their promise. Dan Jones asks those "who are so down on the 'treacherous Indians' to think of this" (213-214). The attitudes of the Mormons toward the Indians are reflected here, though Jones doesn't share them.

The lifestyle of these people is also exhibited in Dan Jones' work. We can learn something of their diet, when Jones speaks of having found "some coffee, sugar and fruit, also a roll of leather" and "no salt or bread excepting a few crackers" among the goods cached at Devil's Gate (76, 74). When a party was sent to relieve them, an episode of pulling sticks is described as "rawhide against corn," showing that corn was likely a staple of the diet in the valley (103). They also appeared to eat plenty of meat, much of which they killed and dressed themselves, valuing the skills of "a first-class butcher from London, who dressed everything in the best style" (76). When Jones returned from the episode, he met with his family. He describes his wife here as "one of the best and most faithful wives that ever blessed a husband" (112). Their fourteen children are evidence of the large families that these people had, and the love he describes for his wife reflects on the love and unity of the familial relationships, whether in polygamous or monogamous relationships. Hospitality was considered to be essential, and when it wasn't shown, it was despised by many people. Dan Jones describes Baker's reaction to their description of another settler, Martin's inhospitality as "'Well now, I will go into town every Saturday, get drunk, and abuse Martin for this until I run him out of the country. I will never let up on him. Why, he ain't fit to live'" (158). He describes community work, as when a flood destroyed the road through Provo Canyon in 1862 and a company was organized to rebuild it, with the funds being contributed voluntarily. This is similar to the voluntary conscriptions used to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon into Spanish. There appears to be a strong sense of community loyalty and integrity.

These attitudes and lifestyles were in the context of the Old West. There were many who apparently knew no law but the knife and the pistol, and going out armed for defense was a way of life for the people. Transportation was commonly done on horseback, and Jones was able to start a profitable business as a saddler (129, 363). Murders and lynchings took place, including among some Mormons, such as Bill Hickman's killing of Yates, a friend of Jones', during the Utah War. Jones says "Hickman killed Yates for his money and horse the same as any other thief and murderer would have done, and then excused himself by telling that he was counseled to do these things" (130).

Despite an environment of the Wild West where Indians were killed like wild animal pests and soldiers engaged in profiteering without inquisition, the Mormons in Utah during this time still contributed to the future of society. Their attitudes toward their leaders are largely unchanged in the present. Close familial relationships, as well as large families, are common among Mormons today. Daniel Webster Jones' autobiography is very useful in informing us of Mormon attitudes and lifestyles during this time.

No comments:

Post a Comment