Monday, October 3, 2011


Hudspeth Cutoff   by Oregon - California Trails Association
ALMO’S INDIAN LEGEND by Idaho Historical Society
Misty Past ( Ur historiens töcken)from Klippiga Bergen (Swedish) by NormanWesterberg

Eugene Halverson
Hudspeth Cutoff  to the California Trail was a new Guide book beginning at Pacific springs, Wyoming to the City of Rocks covered route from the Oregon Trail down into Utah, Nevada, to California.  This brought thousands upon thousands of people with all their animals.  After extended grazing by California Trail oxen, cattle, horses, and mules had left a wide zone of barren range land across their domain, Pocatello’s Shoshoni band who occupied City of Rocks and other nearby valleys became alarmed.  After 1860 they began to resist any more emigrant traffic through that area.  Particularly after Idaho gold rush expansion brought even more significant problems, along with devastating military campaigns, Shoshoni resentment to pressure from miners--and from extensive armed attacks--became much more intense.  That unpleasant feature of Shoshoni life after 1860 led to a new dimension of tribal legends that responded to pressures from having to accommodate to farm as well as mining settlements in much of their country.  A Shoshoni legend of this kind eventually gained a lot of attention from other people as well.  Although its geographical setting is close to Almo and City of Rocks, it entered Idaho historical literature from North Ogden, Utah.
1861 Massacre 300 immigrants
William Edward Johnston came to Utah in 1852 with his family when he was only five years old.  When he grew up in North Ogden, he became a close friend of some local Shoshoni and Ute Indians.  Eventually he learned both languages.  He also heard fascinating accounts of clashes between Pocatello’s band and emigrant parties near Almo.  In 1872, he toured Almo Valley, where he noticed traces of campground circles along with remnants of wagons and emigrant equipment.  Eventually he homesteaded there in 1887, and Winecus, one of his North Ogden informants, provided him a Shoshoni legendary account of a battle to explain those Almo relics.  Later still, Edward’s son, Charles Aaron Johnston, told his grandson, Charles J. Johnston (who now has a farm near Richfield) how Winecus noted that some 3,000 Shoshoni and Ute warriors assembled quietly near Almo, where they wiped out a party of some 300 emigrants from Missouri, tribes began following these Missourians who poisoned a couple of wells before they departed.  Some later reports of that affair raised emigrant losses to more than 340.  Winecus’ tale has great importance, however, because it counteracts a widely accepted emigrant tendency to pass off Idaho and Nevada Shoshoni peoples as poor, incapable diggers who could not compare with emigrant capabilities for surviving battles and thriving while passing through a desert country.  Other accounts have embellished Winecus’ lore, but his version brought a distinctive Indian aspect to a kind of folklore that has characterized emigrant traditions (that go back to frontier times) of Indian hazards. 

Almo Massacre
Box Elder news journal 2 October, 1942 
By Chas. Shirley WalGamott who saw Battlefield
In The Twin Falls Daily News;  Undoubtedly the greatest Indian disaster that ever occurred in the territory of Idaho, and probably in the entire northwest when we consider the number slain, was the massacre of Almo Creek in 1861. 
Out of some 300 persons, men, women and children, only five—three men and two women—were known to have escaped the cruel death administered to them by the over-whelming band of Indians that had congregated for days in such great numbers that they were able to hold in siege a train of emigrants who were well-organized, well-armed and provisioned, and well-equipped with fine stock, drawing more than 60 wagons.  Despite the magnitude of this onslaught, very little, if anything, has been written in regard to it.  The only records rest in the minds of old people who lived at that time, or in the account as handed down from parent to child. 
 Story From the Misty Past ( Ur historiens töcken)
from Klippiga Bergen by NormanWesterberg
In the spring of 1861 a long caravan of wagons rolls along what is called the Oregon Trail. The caravan of about 60 wagons and 300 people is headed towards the “golden land” of California.
Massacre shown in Kippiga Bergen
Members of the group entertain themselves by using native Indians that showed up along the way for target practice. They actually killed many of them. Perhaps it was the size of the wagon train and the large number of armed men that made the Whites do these insane tricks. The Indians choose not to immediately fight with the numerous pale-faces, but sent warnings to other tribes along the route. When the caravan has passed north of Salt Lake and arrived in southern Idaho, Indians from many tribes have already gathered to take vengeance on the murdering whites.
Early one morning the Indians attack at a place called Almo Creek near the “City of Rocks” mountains. The caravan leaders quickly order the formation of a defense circle. The Indians encircle the caravan, beginning a lengthy siege with sporadic attacks. The Indians do not have as modern weapons as the Whites, but there are many more of them, and they can exchange their fighters at the place of the siege.
The situation inside the White camp starts to get desperate. Water is soon gone, and an attempt to dig a well fails. During the nights several Whites tryed to get out to find water, but they are caught, killed and scalped by Indians. On the third day, due to the lack of water, the Whites start releasing their animals, which fall right in the hands of the Indians.
During the fourth night, five adults and a baby succeed in escaping from the camp. It is two groups that manage to get by the Indian guards undetected, one consisting of a young women and a young man, the other of a man, two women and the baby. One of the women carries the baby in a bundle by her mouth during part of the flight. The young couple manages to reach the Mormon settlement in Brigham, Utah, after considerable hardship. A rescue expedition sent from Brigham found the other three escapees barely alive, but the baby had died. When the expedition reached Almo Creek, it found all three hundred Whites – men, women and children, massacred by the Indians. The corpses were then buried in a mass grave in the pit that had been dug in vein trying to find a well.
Photo Caption: The stories about Indian attacks on White pioneers were often exaggerated. This in an attempt to describe the original population of North America as wild and murderous.
A few days later a strange scene occurred as the Indians paraded through the white settlement with scalps hanging from their horses. The Indian women wore clothing taken from the attacked caravan.
There is an interesting epilogue to the story of the Almo Creek massacre. Eight years after the massacre, storekeeper Ames in Almo Creek is visited by a group of people that wished to see the place where their relatives had been killed. The startling thing about this event is that the visitors who camed to come from Finland!  The visitors did not stay long in Almo Creek, but hurried on towards California to look for those of their countrymen that had survived the massacre.  If this information is correct, then the biggest massacre on Whites in the history of North America would have involved a large group of Finns on their way to California in 1861!
Among historians, however, there are differing opinions as to the truthfulness of the entire story of the Almo Creek massacre. This is because the event is not documented in any other way then by oral tradition. Details about the siege had reportedly been given by an Indian, who had been one of the attackers, and later had become a friend of a white family. People that live near the alleged battle field claim to have found old weapons in the ground there, and that for long they had seen traces after a ditch the Whites had dug during the siege.
The “real” emigration from Finland to North America started at the end of the 1860’ies. Before that it involved primarily some Finnish sailors that “jumped ship” in American ports. 
There is also a somewhat different and possibly more credible version of the story of the happenings at Almo Creek. This one talks about a considerably smaller wagon train with about 40-50 persons involved. The rescue expedition, in this version, found most of the besieged whites alive, but on the brink of starvation. The Indians supposedly had killed four and wounded nine whites during the fighting. The Indians then had plundered the wagons and left the pale-faces to starve to death in the desert.

The Almo Massacre.
The Indians were hid up in the City of Rocks and they could watch the emigrant road and they saw an emigrant train riding along on the emigrant road and they sent their braves down on the Almo Creek so they couldn't camp close to that.  And they had to camp out on  the flat and the Indians were almost surrounding them and they went to building embankments around to protect themselves.  They could have whipped the Indians but they couldn't get to the creek to get water and they had plenty of food and the rest of the Indians came down and they surrounded them all around and they tried to dig wells but they was watched to closely and the Indians every time they would start to dig wells they would shoot at them with arrows. So they got so thirsty they had to come out and try to fight their way through and so the Indians massacred the whole train of immigrants but some of the men volunteered to go for help.  Some went toward Yost and others toward the City of Rocks.  And they were all caught and killed.  There was one man and his son and his wife and he was a young man not long married and he put his little son on his back and told him to cling tight and to keep still.  He and his wife crawled toward where most of the Indians were and they got away and spread the alarm and when the soldiers came, when they got here they didn't find a thing except charred wagons and the tongues of the wagons and the Indians had gone and all the emigrant train was either massacred or some taken prisoners.  They didn't know what happened to all of them of course.  They didn't find many bodies and they would be mostly men.  They captured all the rest and took them with them.  Years after when we came here why the embankments were still there where they had built to protect themselves.  I as a girl used to go down there on horseback and run around and around there on that bank and then get down in the pit and pretend the Indians

 was after us and we would get so frightened we would get on our horses and scoot for home.  The banks were still there then and was taken up after that by two or three men and they plowed it over and they found wagon tongues, and one or two tomahawks that was there, they are still finding little pieces of iron when they plow there.   We came here in 1880 my father came here in 1879 and bought a place - John Stines, he was ?  he was working for a gentleman and he bought his place and there was about 10 families when we first moved here.  Others soon came. 

Almo Massacre                        By John D. Peters

Published by the “City of Rocks Historical Association

As the emigrants were camped at Durfee’s Creek, the renegade, Chief Pocatello and his band were camped only a mile away.  At nine-o-clock in the morning, the emigrants broke camp and strung their cattle ahead of them as was their usual practice.  The wagons had barely pulled out of the ill-fated camp when the Indians rushed from a small ravine, cutting the emigrants from their cattle and the herders forcing them back into a corral formation for self-defense. 
Behind their fortifications in the corral, the emigrants defended themselves through three nights of almost constant fighting.  They had no water which must have intensified the suffering immensely.  A trench was dug in which the women and children sought safety and this was probably a mistake as evidenced y tales of torture told by three members of the party who made good their escape.
The Indians were numerous and had determined leadership.  They stayed with the fight, employing those tactics which would tell most heavily on their opponents with a minimum loss to themselves. 
The three fortunate enough to escape massacre, a man and two women, made their way to Raft River.  Following the stream through the Narrows, they travelled in a southeasterly direction from the head of Raft River Valley over the south pass of the Black Pine Valley into Curlew Valley and across the Promontory into Bear River Valley and eventually found their way to a herd house owned jointly by George Reeder and George Parsons.  There they were discovered and brought across the river to the home of Bishop Alvin Nichols where they stayed for some time.  
John D. Peters paid Mr. Durfee a visit.  The latter took him to the scene of the conflict and told him of the scene he and his two companions, Mr. Sheldon Cutler, Box Elder County Sheriff  and Mr. Ezra Barnard encountered when they went to bury the dead.  Why would anyone doubt the people who were eye-witnesses.  I have always had problems with experts who have never even been near the site.  

Well, there seems to be many who doubt the City of Rock Massacre starting with Colonel Connor and his Volunteers and many years later by Brigham D. Madsen.  Well the Californians got here one year after the Massacre.  After Connors got here he made documents. Something must have caused him to be sent straight to the City of Rocks.  And why was it called a battle when he attacked a sleeping village with howitzers and rifles killing 450 to 500 or more men, women and children.  History now calls it the Bear River Massacre.  He also gave orders to hang if possible or execute any Indian on the Hudspeth or Oregon trails.  He was  responsible for both the Bear River  and the Bannock Massacres,both called battles, but were nothing but acts of genocide.
I, Eugene Halverson, after having  the “Misty Past” translated and read was drawn to the City of Rocks by my ancestry to look and see if any of it was true.   Well I do believe it happened just like the people who lived there believed.

Being a lover of the West Desert, I also read “Some Dreams Die”, I had to if I could find my pot of Gold.  The Kelton Stage coaches were robbed more than any stage-coaches in the West.  Wells Fargo lost hundreds of thousands of gold between Kelton and Idaho.  Outlaws would rob the stage, bury it, when the posy got them act as if nothing ever happened.  Those they caught to many times were sent to prison for life.  The loot is still there, all gold, thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth.  The City of  Rocks is an impenetrable maze of box-canyons and countless tails and caves .  I can see why it was made a Idaho State Park, it was unique as well as beautiful and lonely. 
I talked the Park Ranger, who was transferred just before I got there and a relative of the Johnson family who once lived in Almo, so neither one was there to show me what still remains and now I lost his phone number in Burly, Idaho.

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