Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gunnison Massacre Site

I've passed this sign several times and never drove the two miles to see what was at the Gunnison Massacre Site or what it was about. But the other day we had a little spare time, so we drove out the gravel road. And here is what we found...

A metal stake and a rock. I was severely underwhelmed. I got out of the truck to take a closer look.

The metal post said: "Gunnison Massacre Site Oct. 26 1853, More info Great Basin Museum Delta UT." 

Well, we went to the Great Basin Museum, but it was closed. So I looked on the internet, and I found some interesting information that made me glad I had taken the time to drive four extra bumpy, dusty miles. The Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) had placed a marker at the site in 1927, but due to vandalism (primarily target practice), the marker had been removed and placed at the museum. 

Here is what it says:

In 1853, Captain John W. Gunnison was selected to lead an expedition to find a trans-continental railroad route. He followed the Old Spanish Trail through Salina Canyon, over the mountains to Pahvant Valley, and upon reaching Fillmore, visited his friend, Bishop Anson V. Call. Gunnison made friends in Utah while serving with Howard Stansbury's mapping expedition in 1851. Bishop Call warned him of Indians near the Sevier River because an old Indian brave in the Kanosh Tribe had been killed by members of a California-bound wagon train. Moshoquop, son of the dead brave, had vowed to avenge his father. Gunnison knew Kanosh and Moshoquop as friends, but they did not know of his return to Utah. On the evening of October 28, 1853, Gunnison and his party made camp on the bank of the river. They took a few shots at migrating wildfowl. Two Indians heard the shots and crept near enough to see the military uniforms and army equipment, but not close enough to recognize the men. The Indians reported the news, and during the night, plans were made and the camp was surrounded. At daylight the cook made a fire, Gunnison went to the river to wash up, and men began working with the horses. As the sun appeared over the mountain the first shot was fired. Three men escaped on horses, although one fell and had to hide in the brush. One man swam the river and hid in the willows. Eight men were killed by guns and arrows. The survivors made their way to Fillmore and reported the tragedy. Gunnison's body was taken to Fillmore for burial. William Potter, a Mormon guide, was buried at his home in Manti. Six men rest in a common grave at this site. They are John Bellows, W.J. Creuzfeld, botanist; R.H. Kern, artist; and Privates Lipcott, Calfield, and Merteens of the United States Army.

This is an early map of the area, published in 1889 in Bancroft's History of Utah 1540-1886. You can see the Sevier River in the bottom middle of the illustration. Then it flows north, around the Wasatch Mountains, and curves around to Sevier Lake. The town of Delta is not shown on the map--it didn't exist until 1906.

This is a view of the river today: a dry creek bed. That's mainly because many dams have been installed upriver, so only on exceptionally high water years does water flow all the way down the Sevier River into Sevier Lake. As a result, the lake is usually a dry lake bed. Well, whenever I see that sign now, I will have a few thoughts to occupy my mind. I find that occasionally stopping and exploring on my most common drives makes them go by a lot faster because I have memories to fill my mind when I pass the landmarks.


The Incredible Woody said...

Sometimes those 'underwhelming' side trips are the best ones!!

Anonymous said...

Gunnison is a well-known name in the West. Nice to have some background info.

eped said...

thanks for the history. nice map. great blog.

davotis said...

Over twenty-five years ago I stopped at a delapidated old site called mountain meadows. Things have changed there since then ,as well as my appreciation for the awesome history that surrounds us out here.
I have always stopped at those little signs (much to the chagrin of the family) it is always an adventure!!!
Thanks for the blog.

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