Three Book Reviews (1960 edition)

Book Review of Forty Years Among the Indians

By Sol Lewis


ca. 1960, publication information unavailable


Forty Years Among the Indians by Daniel W. Jones. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press. 1960. $8.50

THE LITERATURE on the West during its pioneer period contains a plethora of so-called personal reminiscences written by "old timers" and "old settlers." Much of these purportedly "true stories" have, over the years, been either thoroughly discredited as so much pure fiction -- as for instance, Beckwourth, Drannan, etc. -- or because some of these "narratives," written many years after the author's actual experiences, are filled with faulty history. We can tolerantly, and with a degree of logical justification, attribute these lapses to the failing memory generally attendant upon the old age of the narrators.

Some few books in this genre have come down to us as totally accurate historical accounts. Even fewer still at the same time make absorbing reading. Into this latter category we place Daniel W. Jones' [i] Forty Years among the Indians[/i], which first appeared in 1890, and which has now been reprinted by the Westernlore Press. It is a rambling book, covering the author's long and adventurous life, from his early years as a soldier in the Mexican War in 1847 to his travels through the Southwest and into Mexico. He tells of his meeting with Brigham Young, of his serious interest in, and eventual conversion to, Mormonism. His exciting experiences as missionary and peacemaker among the warring and hostile Indians are dramatically related. His hazardous activities as a frontier scout are lucidly portrayed. Judicious and generally accurate are his descriptions of the life and customs of the natives in the territories through which he traveled from Utah, south to Mexico, into which country he led a Mormon colonizing mission at the request and persuasion of Brigham Young, who apparently had a high regard for Jones' qualities of leadership, sincerity, and piety. When the author died at Mesa, Arizona, in his 85th year, he left this well written record of his extremely interesting and eventful life.

--Sol Lewis


Book Review of Forty Years Among the Indians

By D. E. Livingston-Little


From The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, Vol. XLII No. 3, September 1960.


FORTY YEARS AMONG THE INDIANS, by Daniel Webster Jones. (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1960). Pp XVI, 378. $8.50.

THIS REPRINT of Dan Jones fascinating story is number XIX of the Great West and Indian Series by Westernlore Press. Like many others in the series it was written during the latter part of the last century -- in 1887 to be specific. Few books written so long ago are as valuable today. Perhaps one secret of its vitality lies in the fact that although the author was reminiscing back over a period of forty years, he was only fifty-five at the time of writing, and he was to live another thirty years.

Daniel W. Jones, a seventeen-year-old orphan, enlisted in the Missouri Volunteers for service in the Mexican War. After the war he chose to remain for a while in northern Mexico, and did not return to Santa Fe until 1850. Having developed some curiosity concerning the Mormons he accepted an offer to assist in a sheep drive overland to California by way of Salt Lake Valley. This decision eventually let him into the Mormon Church, and into his life-time struggle on behalf of the Indians. Through he repeatedly traveled about the West from Wyoming to Chihuahua, he was never to reach California.

Dan Jones first contact with Indians was the sight of eight of his fellow soldiers ambushed and scalped within full view of their army camp on the Arkansas River. With such an introduction, it is altogether remarkable that he should earn recognition, and disfavor, as a champion of the Indians.

Having joined the Mormons, Dan Jones native vigor and intelligence, plus his skills as frontiersman, interpreter and artisan marked him out as a man to watch. Unfortunately, the combination of a tactless, if not overbearing, personality coupled with his strange affinity for Indians, led him often to be suspected, charged, and even tried. Apparently the leaders of the church knew his utter honesty and devotion to the cause, and never completely let him down.

Jones's particular interest in the Indians represents no strange quirk, but simply reflects the particular portion of the teachings in the Book of Mormon that especially captivated his interest, and won his ever growing support. Convinced that they were literally the "remnants" referred to in the Book of Mormon, and encouraged by initial success, the author continued to devote himself first to establishing peaceful relations between whites and Indians, and finally in assisting the Indians to live a better life both in the ethical-moral-religious sense, and in the socio-economic sense.

During forty years of such activities as these endeavors led him into, Daniel Jones acquired a catalogue of adventurous experiences that make an absorbing series of stories of the sort that are so much appreciated today. Though he "testifies" frequently concerning his faith, and seeks to justify his conduct, this does not detract unduly from the charm of his tales. Indeed, much that he did would have no sense or meeting without it.

The book is very at practically done with but a single error to be noted in a normal reading. The lack of an index probably justifies no criticism with a book of this nature, and especially in view of the author's brief narrative headings before each chapter. At least one good map might have been profitably included, even if old Dan Jones didn't think it necessary seventy-five years ago.

-- D. E. Livingston-Little


Book Review of Forty Years Among the Indians

By Don Russell


From Western Americana, ca. 1960, 69-70. Further publication information unavailable.


Forty Years Among the Indians: A True yet Thrilling Narrative Of the Author's Experiences among the Natives by Daniel W. Jones (Westernlore Press: Los Angeles, 1960 pp 378, $8.50)

DANIEL JONES was born in Missouri in 1830; at the time of the Mexican War he joined a company of St. Louis volunteers and marched into Mexico, fighting Indians along the way. After the war he remained in Mexico about three years then went to Salt Lake City where he soon became a Mormon. He was given many missions by Brigham Young, one of the first of importance being the rescue of the Handcart Pioneers. He had a part in the Mormon War and afterward was more or less drafted as guide by an army expedition to New Mexico. Jones got along well with Indians, and several times served as peacemaker between them and the Mormons. However, his principle venture as missionary was into Mexico, where he planned a Mormon colony, but nothing came of it.

All of this supports the "true but thrilling" boast in the subtitle, and it may be said that Jones has an interesting story and tells it in an interesting way. The curious part of it is that almost nothing is known about Jones except what is told in this book, and yet the book is continuously a defense against various charges brought against him within the church and without. While he proves to his own satisfaction that he was in the right in all these numerous occasions, the reader has a feeling that Jones was an unusually cantankerous individual, and there must be another side to the story.

Even more curious is that while the book is called "Forty Years Among the Indians" he has so little to say about Indians. There seems little doubt that he was among Indians for most of the 40 years, and he does tell about it, but about all one gets out of it is that the Indians were fine people when well treated. Toward the close there are some sketchy chapters about various tribes, telling some of their histories not too accurately, but somehow he never seems to get into his promised subject.

All of this is not to say that the book is not worth reprinting. In fact it might be worth while to make some investigation to find out just what Jones is talking about. A one-page forward by A. B. Mortensen, director of the Utah State Historical Society, suggests as much. This is volume XIX of the Great West and Indian Series of this publisher.

-- Don Russell

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