"Correspondence of Elder Philip Margetts," The Mormon, 18 July 1857, 3.
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- Church History Library, M205.1 M865 v. 1-3 1855-1857
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- Company Unknown (1856)
NEW YORK, July 8, 1857
ELDER T. B. H. STENHOUSE—
While travelling through the States on my way to Europe, I have found it generally believed by the people that The Mormons, or that portion of them called, by these corrupt Judges, surveyors and officials, who have lately infested Utah, of the Danite Band, committed the depredations and murders on the plains last year. As my brother Thomas was among the number who were killed, I have taken considerable pains to be correctly informed of the circumstances which led to the Indian hostility, as well as its results, and as such facts as I have gathered may be both interesting and useful to you in your present position, and not without value to the friends of the murdered, I have thought prudent to pen what I have learned, and leave it in your hands for publication if you think proper.
Some time in the latter part of August, 1856, as the United States mail, running from Oregon, Mo., to Fort Kearney, N. T., was passing a camp of Cheyenne Indians, the chief sent his boy to get a piece of tobacco from the mail carrier. When within a few rods of the wagon, the mail carrier perceived the Indian boy, and supposing the Indians hostile, fired his revolver at him several times, but fortunately missed him. The rest of the camp, hearing the report, started off at full speed to rescue the boy. The mail carrier seeing them coming, was still more excited, whereupon he threw some sacks of corn out of his wagon to lighten his load, and while in this act the Indians over took the mail, but not before several arrows were shot, some of which came near sending the mail carrier to that home where several through his agency were afterwards doomed.
After both parties met, they had a proper understanding, and found that it was a mistake on both sides, so they settled the affair, as the Indians thought, all right, and the mail carrier gave the Indians the corn, not wishing to return back, and parted apparently good friends; but the sequel will prove how much the mail carrier valued his word.
He immediately proceeded to Fort Kearney, and told the officers there a false story, and gave them to understand that he had been robbed and nearly lost his life; never said any thing about the misunderstanding of both parties, or that he had settled the matter with the Indians; but, on the contrary, he made it appear the Indians were the aggressors, and that their intention was to rob and kill, and that he had made his escape.
The officers hearing his story, and thinking it true, prepared to exterminate the whole. The next morning, while the Indians were enjoying a feast made with the corn which had been given them the previous night, the soldiers rushed upon them, killing and wounding thirteen men and women, ten of whom died, and the rest of the band made their escape. Burning for revenge, and being determined to have man for man and blood for blood, they proceeded up the Platte river on the south side, watching for the lonely traveler or those who were not strong enough to protect themselves. The first they met was a Mr. Dixson, who was travelling to the States from California with his wife and child, accompanied by two men. The Indians fell upon them, shot Mrs. Dixson, and dashed the child's brains out against the wagon wheel: Mr. Dixson and the two men narrowly escaping with their lives. They next crossed the river to the north side of the Platt, and came upon a train of four or five wagons belonging to Col. Babbitt, loaded with freight, while they were encamped for the night. The Indians fired upon them, killing one man and wounding a woman that was going to Salt Lake with her young child. The men belonging to the train, fearing they might share the same fate as their comrades, fled for safety; the Indians then commenced their plunder, went to the wagon where the mother and child were, and finding the woman not dead, they took her prisoner, but she soon died; the poor child shared the same fate as that of Mr. Dixson's. After taking what they wanted from the wagons, they left, but still determined to have the same number of whites that they had lost Indians.
Their next course was back to the north side of Platte river; here they met my brother Thomas and wife, and a man by the name of James Cowdy, wife and child, all travelling together with one wagon; besides the above named, there was a discharged soldier from Fort Kearney travelling with them to the States, who was the only one that made his escape. From him I learn that my brother Thomas accompanied him on a buffalo hunt, and left the wagon in charge of Cowdy and the two women. It appears that they soon shot a buffalo, and returned to camp to get some utensils to carry the meat and tallow in; after which they proceeded to where the buffalo was, and, according to the man's account, my brother returned to camp about fifteen minutes before him, and when he arrived he saw my brother, Cowdy, and wife, all dead on the ground, and likewise saw the Indians who had committed the deed riding across the prairie as fast as they could. The soldier examined my brother's body, and supposed him to have been killed by a tomahawk; and fearing that he would be killed, jumped on his horse and made the best of his way to Fort Kearney. Before he left the fatal spot he observed that Mrs. Cowdy's child was not dead, but trying to get to its mother's breast. It appears from this man's statement to me that Mrs. Cowdy had been shamefully outraged. He could not see my brother's wife.
The Indians, not fully satisfied, fell in with Col. A. W. Babbitt, who was camped on the north side of Platte river, accompanied by Mr. Thomas Sutherland and a young man whose name I have not heard. Mr. Babbitt was taking an express from Kearney to Laramie, and was therefore in haste. This is the reason why he was not with a company; still, he was going to Salt Lake; but had agreed to take this express, because no one else would, in consequence of the hostilities of the Indians.
After making a clean sweep of Mr. Babbitt and party, the Indians crossed to the north side of the Platte, where they killed their number of whites from emigration trains passing to the states.
Not wishing to prolong my letter, I will simply say that this is a correct statement, given by one of the officers at Fort Kearney, and it likewise agrees with the statement I received from the man that travelled with my brother till a few minutes before his death.
The Indians, after killing all they wanted, or the same number as they had lost, went to Fort Laramie, and delegated an Indian to see the officers at Laramie and acknowledge what they had done, telling them likewise that they had killed all they intended to kill, and wanted to be friends; but it appears that the officers would not accept their acknowledgment, so they continue enemies to the whites, and I have not the least doubt but some will suffer from their hatred this summer.
I will here say that my brother's wife was taken prisoner by the same Indians that killed the rest of the party; she is also with them yet, unless she has been rescued lately. I will here say likewise, that all these outrages were committed at least seven hundred miles from Salt Lake City.
I shall not extend my letter with more than an expression of my sympathy for the people who are deluded by the false reports of the calumniators of Utah; and to the firebrands who do their utmost to bring difficulties upon that Territory, I would say to them, take your time and reflect, for you will yet be sorrowful for your lies. I am, dear Brother, yours respectfully,