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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 30.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Portrait of Wakara—Indian chiefs, to accompany the Expedition to Harmony City—Seveir River—Swollen Waters—Wagons ferried over—Col. Fremont—Fillmore City—Massacre of Capt. Gunnison—Parowan Indians—Kanosh—Capt. Morris—His conduct justified—Author trades for a Horse—Extraordinary Phenomenon of Insects.

WE remained in camp, near Wakara's village until next day; I induced Wakara, to sit for his portrait; also Squash-head, Baptiste, Grosepine, Petetnit, and Kanoshe, the chief of the Parvain Indians.

12th. We all started this morning, for the Seveir river; we arrived at the crossing at 4 o'clock P. M. and found the stream very high, and unfavorable. There had been a bridge built, a year before, but the swollen and rapid stream, carried it away; on the bank of the river, were piled up several of the planks saved from the wreck. All hands went to work to construct a raft, which they completed in an hour, and by 8 o'clock P. M., 41 wagons (the rest remained behind,) were ferried over in safety; we camped on the other side of the river.

By invitation, supped with Brigham Young: I conversed through an interpreter with Wakara, the Utah chief. He states that he supplied Jose, the Mexican, whom Col. Fremont found in the mountains, and who left at Parowan, with a mule, to go with several Indians, back on Col. Fremont's trail, to find the "cache," (the goods buried in the snow,) about 100 miles from Parowan; he had been absent 30 days, yet nothing had been heard from them. He also told me of his interview with Col. Fremont, some years before, and showed me the place where Col. Fremont crossed the Seveir River, which was a short distance from where we crossed it. He remembered Col. Fremont, as the "great Americats Chief." While the men were constructing their raft, I occupied myself in making drawings of the surrounding country.

13th. We left the Seveir for Fillmore City, (called after the President of the U. S.,) which is 35 miles south of us. After travelling ten miles, we camped "to noon," giving an opportunity for the animals, to enjoy the luxuriant grass, which grows abundantly in this valley. ("Round Valley.") We arrived at Fillmore City, in Parvain Valley, Millard county, at 5 o'clock. This valley is sixty miles long and fifty miles wide; the Seveir Lake is forty miles from Fillmore. Within ten miles of the city, to the west, four fresh water lakes are to be found. Fillmore City, contains one hundred and fifty families, one thousand head of cattle, three hundred sheep, sawmills, and flour-mills, etc., etc. A wall of adobes is built all round the city, protecting the inhabitants from the Indian aggressions.

Capt. Gunnison's party were encamped at Cedar Spring, in this valley, at the time of their massacre.

This afternoon, accompanied by two interpreters and several other gentlemen, we proceeded to the Parvain Indian's camp, to see their celebrated chieftain, Kanoshe, whose portrait I was anxious to obtain. I found him well armed with a rifle and pistols, and mounted on a noble horse. He has a Roman nose, with a fine intelligent cast of countenance, and his thick black hair is brushed off his forehead, contrary to the usual custom of his tribe. He immediately consented to my request that he would sit for his portrait; and on the spot, after an hour's labor, I produced a strong likeness of him, which he was very curious to see. I opened my portfolio and displayed the portraits of a number of chiefs, among which he selected Wa-ka-ra, the celebrated terror of travellers, anglicised Walker, (since dead). He took hold of it and wanted to retain it. It was, he said, "wieno,"—a contraction of the Spanish "bueno"—very good. I also learned from him, through the interpreters, the following facts; relating to Gunnison's massacre.

"There were about thirty Parvain Indians, encamped six miles, N. W. of Gunnison's camp, on Cedar Spring. Potter, a Mormon guide, and one of the exploring party went out to shoot ducks; one of the Parvains was also shooting rabbits, and hearing the explosion of firearms, he marked the direction, and followed the men to their camp. This Indian was the son of a Parvain Chief, who was killed by a party of emigrants, under command of Capt. Hildreth, about two weeks before. Marking the spot, he repaired to his own camp, and commenced to make inflammatory speeches to his tribe; he made a fictitious scalp out of horse hair, attached it to a pole, and elevating it, commenced the war dance; the rest of the Parvains continued dancing until midnight.

They were incited to revenge, for the unprovoked murder of their old chief; who, together with some women and young men, went into Hildreth's camp merely to beg food. They were ordered out, and force was used to take away their bows and arrows; in the scuffle, one of the Americans got his hand cut with an arrow-head when they were fired upon with rifles, and several persons killed; among them this old chief.

The Parvains, before day, started for Gunnison's camp, surrounded the party who were breakfasting under cover of the willows which grew on the banks of the creek. Capt. Gunnison was the first man who had finished his breakfast; he arose, and while speaking to his men, the Indians with a tremendous yell, fired upon them. Capt. Gunnison raised his hands and beckoned them to stop. The men immediately fled, only one man fell by the first fire on the spot. The men's first endeavors were to reach their horses; the Indians pursued them, and shot them from their horses. The American party never fired a gun, the last man fell three miles from camp.

Kanoshe, the chief, was sixteen miles away from the scene of the massacre, and knew nothing about it. One of the tribe brought a horse into camp, and told Kanoshe what had transpired. Kanoshe took the horse to the Mormon settlement, (Fillmore), and gave it up to the authorities. He then proceeded to the Indian camp for the purpose of procuring the property of the slain, to render it up to the Americans. The Parvains were exasperated at his interference, and several arrows were aimed at him to kill him.

His indomitable courage alone saved him. He finally persuaded them to give up the papers and effects of the slain, which be delivered to the proper authorities. The Mormon guide was also slain.

The remains of the bodies of those who were murdered, were afterwards interred by the Mormons.

When the alarm was given to the main body of Capt. Gunnison's party by one of the men who escaped from the Indians, Capt. Morris and a detachment of his dragoons, instantly galloped to the scene of action, thirty miles off; they were totally unprepared for anything but offensive warfare.

They arrived on the spot, and found the mutilated remains of their comrades, but no signs of Indians. The weather was very cold, and the ground frozen hard; they bad nothing with them but their swords, to dig into the frozen earth, and were thus compelled to leave them, until they could send from camp, men with pickaxes, etc.; besides, they were among treacherous and hidden enemies. The living men at the main camp, claimed the first duty of Capt. Morris, and as he could do no good to the dead by remaining, he retraced his steps to the main camp, to protect it from a like aggression, if attempted. He did not know but that the whole of the Indians were in warlike array around him, secretly hid away among the willows on the creek.

Some blame seems to have attached to Capt. Morris; I read an article at Salt Lake City, in a late American paper, in which his conduct was censured. I showed him this paper, and he personally explained the situation he was placed in, and told me that his duty as an officer, was to protect the lives of his surviving party, at the expense of the fraternal feelings and sympathies which he entertained for the lamented dead. I have no hesitation in saying that, from my knowledge of the circumstances of the case Capt. Morris was perfectly justified in acting as he did.

At Fillmore I renewed my acquaintance with Mrs. Webb, who kindly entertained me when I passed through this place three months ago.

14th. To-day I made a trade with Wakara, for a horse; I gave him my double-barrel gun and a blanket in exchange, I have now a relief for my mule-we have a long journey before us, and I must give him as much liberty as possible. My sole dependence is on him, for crossing those dreaded jornadas* of over two hundred miles in extent.

* A journey: the absence of water and grass, makes it necessary to continue across the desert without stopping.

I made several views and sketches to-day. Fillmore is 33 miles S. S. E. from the Seveir River, latitude 39' 59'.

The Parvain Indians are a dirty degraded set of beings, scarcely deserving the name of human. They are much inferior to the Utahs, both in mind and appearance.

The Utahs have a large number of horses, and when mounted for a journey they are caparisoned with bells and gaudy trappings. The men paint their faces with vermilion, except when they go to war-they then paint them black. They are curiously attired in buckskin shirts, leggings, and moccasins, beautifully marked with beads and porcupine quills. They generally travel bareheaded, with sometimes a single feather in their hair. They are very fond of red and blue blankets, and use them in the manner of a Roman Toga.

Phenomenon Of Insects Resembling Gunpowder.

Riding leisurely along, at the extreme end of the caravan, I noticed on the ground, what I supposed to be gunpowder. I knew that Gov. Young had a considerable quantity with him to give the Indians, and every man had more or less, a pound—I attributed it to the accidental breaking of a keg, as the wagon jolted along, it might have [been] lost through the crevices. I also noticed that the powder was only in the ruts made by the wheels of the wagons. The quantities seemed to increase, and determining to prevent, if possible, any further waste, I galloped to the other end of the train, and called Gov. Young's attention to it. The caravan was stopped, and I dismounted to obtain a specimen of it to show the Governor, when I discovered that they were minute living insects of the beetle tribe, but no larger than a grain of rifle gunpowder, and at the distance of a foot it was impossible to tell the difference. When the heaps were closely examined, they appeared a moving living mass; on the road, ahead of the wagon there were none to be seen; the weight of the wheels seemed to have pressed them through the snow, with which the whole valley was covered. The contrast of these minute, black insects on the dazzling snow was remarkable; for ten miles, it appeared as if two continuous trains of gunpowder, from three to five inches wide, were laid the whole length of the Parvain Valley. Neither the Governor nor the gentlemen who accompanied the expedition, had ever remarked a similar phenomenon before, although they had frequently travelled over the same road.

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