Pieces of History: Part 1
Emery County Historical Society meeting recently covered the topic, "Going To My Grave, The Life And Disappearance Of The Mormon Scout, Levi Gregory Metcalf by Mark Blanchard."
Dottie Grimes gave a special award to someone who has helped preserve our history and heritage. She stated, "We like to honor someone every quarter. Carolyn Jorgensen is the recipient of the award this quarter. This Certificate of Appreciation is for her calendar of photos of Emery County historic buildings. Carolyn with this calendar has recognized and preserved a bit of our history," said Grimes.
Weston Allinson played for the group a musical number on his glittering blue saxophone. This turned out to be a brief enjoyable entertainment for the society members.
Blanchard was introduced as the fifth generation of Levi Gregory Metcalf. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Springville. Blanchard and his mother Carole Oldroyd started research and writing in 2007 about his grandfather Levi Gregory Metcalf and the Elk Mountain Mission.
Oldroyd said she was happy to be here and to see so many people. Her husband Tim Oldroyd is related to Julie and Mack Huntington and they were in the audience. Oldroyd said, "Mark is going to tell about what happened in your area many years ago." She then displayed a picture which she said has hung in her home, in her mothers home and her grandmothers home, in the homes of aunts and uncles for 150 years. No one knew anything about this man Levi Gregory Metcalf. Oldroyd said, "This man is quite unique. I was told he was my great-grandfather and he was an interpreter, a scout and that he died when he was 27 years old. We don't know very much about him. In 2007 my brother and sister-in-law came to me and said we think it is time someone wrote the story of Levi Gregory Metcalf but we know nothing about him. Do you think your son Mark may be able to help with that? Mark was residing in California at the time. Mark pointed out all the obstacles of research.
"Undaunted we started work, we found stacks and stacks of information. We went through old diaries, old newspapers and old records in Springville. Then we began to learn what happened to this man. He only lived 27 years, he was born in Bingham, N.Y. in 1831. His family was Mormon and moved to Quincy, Ill. His father and mother got very ill with malaria and his mother died. A few months later his father died also. They left an 11 year old girl and Levi who was 7. Two other of their children had gone to live with a family in town.
"When his father died Little Levi, in the middle of the stormy night, had to go to a nearby home three miles away to get help. He left his sister with his father's cooling body. He trudged three miles through the snow, in a blizzard, in the dark. He finally got to the neighbors house and got the neighbor to help him and his sister. Levi then went to live with his grandparents.
"At the age of 19 Levi Gregory Metcalf decided he would go to the California gold fields. He joined a wagon train and hired on to drive a wagon for Thomas Guymon. The wagon train was led by Aaron Johnson. In this wagon train was a very beautiful woman. Her name was Melissa Jane Guymon, the daughter of Thomas Guymon, she was 17 years old. He fell in love with her, decided not to go to the gold fields, instead he would marry Melissa and go to live in Utah. In the book written by Mark, there is a lot of history about the Guymon family, because they are an important part of Levi Gregory Metcalf's history. Levi and his wife Melissa had four children and lived in Hobble Creek later named Springville. He was a Mormon Scout and an Indian interpreter. During his life Levi went many places no one else had ever gone. Levi's scouting ended when he was possibly murdered somewhere near Fort Garland, Colo. at the age of 27," said Oldroyd.
The historian Wade Allinson took Mark Blanchard and his mother Carole Oldroyd over the trail of the Elk Mountain Mission in Utah. Carole said, "Tonight I am presenting Wade with our first hard copy of our book."
Blanchard, the Author of the book "Going To My Grave, The Life And Mysterious Disappearance of the Mormon Scout, Levi Gregory Metcalf," came forward to tell more about this remarkable man.
Blanchard started out by giving a definition of history as, "History is the lies winners like to tell themselves."
There are many characters other than Levi Gregory Metcalf involved in this story such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Native Americans, church leaders, friends and brothers. "Today we will talk about a specific group of people in history and one specific time. We will go back in time a little bit.
"Think back and imagine a time when your people have just been decimated by disease, a plague if you will. A huge percentage of them have been wiped out. Imagine in this time there are no mechanical conveniences at all. There is nothing machine wise. Perhaps you have a weapon that was made by someone else. Everything on your body, in your home, on your farm you made or your neighbor has made with their own hands. There is very little metal. There is no money at all. There is no gold or silver. When you want to purchase something, you do not purchase it you trade for it. You trade for things like melons, wheat, corn, tools, or if you happen to have a skill such as making barrels out of wood you trade. There are no doctors. No one understands disease at all. If something goes wrong with you, you have some goofy name for it like the consumption, pleurisy, the quinzy and we do not even know what those names are anymore. They translate to real diseases but we do not know what they are. In that time it was a mystery. If there was a doctor he was probably self appointed or had a diploma by mail. He may have studied herbs a little bit and that was a good thing. All babies are born by midwives. There is no communication with the outside world.
"You live in a kingdom. That is the point I want to stress the most. You do not live in the United States. You do not live in a Democracy, you live in a kingdom, you have a king. He is your sovereign. He makes your decisions for you, tells you where to live, tells you how to get along. He settles all your disputes like a good king. Fortunately he is a good king. He administrates his kingdom by giving power to over-lords. We would call them Dukes in the king analogy. Those Dukes administer their areas with a task force of Knights, largely chivalrous men, largely religious men who lead in honor and duty, to family and country. They are also knights and they have weapons and they enforce the law. They are tough guys. We will be talking mostly about those tough guys. Does anyone have any idea who the king is that I am talking about? No not in the middle ages. Who is the king I am talking about. Well of course it is Brigham Young. Brigham Young in every sense of the word was a king. Before his martyrdom Joseph Smith instituted the Kingdom of God on the Earth of which he was the first king.
"When you come to the wilderness you pretty much have to rule by kingship, because there is just no time to do anything else. Do you know the name of the huge kingdom that Brigham Young established in the West, that stretched almost to Mexico and to Canada? It was called Deseret. It was an enormous territory larger than any state save Alaska. It existed from the Sierra Nevada's to the crest of the Rockies in Colorado. The problem was that it was too big to control. It did not have enough people to control it. Slowly that neighboring kingdom called the United States chipped away at its edges, a piece of Colorado, a piece of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico territories. So the territory of Deseret kept getting smaller and smaller. From 1847 to the 1850s it was getting chipped away.
"Our king was not too happy with this. He wanted to control as much of that territory as he could. He started to send out colonists in all directions, Idaho, Carson City, San Bernardino a Mormon colony formed in the early 1850s to get a foot hold in California, in addition to a lot of little spots around Utah. These powerful devoted followers were given their local territories. Do any of you recognize these men Isaac Morley, Albert Smith, Anson Call, and Aaron Johnson? Isaac Morley was the original founder of the Sanpete area. Aaron Johnson got permission from Brigham Young to settle on Hobble Creek which later became Springville. Isaac Morley was the patriarch who visited Springville quite frequently. Anson Call an early apostle had a lot of control over the Fillmore and Nephi, Utah settlements. George Albert Smith an apostle was more like a prince, because he had responsibility for all of Southern Utah through out most of the 1850s. This was a system of government that functioned really very well. By using this analogy of a kingdom I do not want to denigrate it at all. It was probably the best form of government they could have implemented to enable the settlers to grow and to survive in those early days.
"Then we get down to a class of folks who are knights who are involved in keeping order, colonizing areas, going out scouting, and interfacing with the barbarians (Native Americans) who are always threatening the castles. These were men like Porter Rockwell, Bill Dickman, Jacob Hamblin, the Kit Carson of St. George, George Washington Bean, a scout and interpreter from the Provo area, and Dimick Huntington. That Huntington name I am told resonates with a lot of folks from this area. Dimick Huntington was Brigham Young's number two man in charge of Indian affairs for most of his life. Ephraim Hanks was a famous frontiersman and James Brannon was a scout missionary in the Northern part of the state. Then there was Greg Metcalf. These men didn't really overlap their territories very much. Where one was presiding the others didn't intrude.
"Jacob Hamblin is the honcho down in St. George. He knows all the Indians and he is the man to see down there. Dimick Huntington is over it all.
"Porter Rockwell is over Lehi, Skull Valley and points West to Nevada where he spends most of his time. Rockwell is the chief of them all. Bill Hickman is up in Wyoming most of his time. George Washington Bean is handicapped as he had only one arm, so he follows the leaders around providing interpretation. Ephraim Hanks runs a station on the overland trail most of his life. Levi Gregory Metcalf is the guy over Southeastern Utah or the Colorado Plateau. If you need to go there he is the guy that knows the most and is the expert for this area which includes Carbon and Emery Counties.
"We will go back to how settlements started here in your area and the first explorers that came to Emery County and the San Rafael. First we need to talk about the Indians. We have some of the few images that have been preserved of the native Americans in Utah. Most were never photographed or died before they had a chance to be photographed. Most of the Indians died of disease. Unfortunately they didn't die in combat or a conflict. They died of small pox, measles or common Western diseases. Chief Walker, the most famous of them all, is not known from any photograph, but from two drawings. Walker was by far the greatest of the chiefs.
"How do you get to be chief in the Indian world? Well it was by accomplishments. You had to be good at what you do. What did the Utes do? They robbed and stole really, really well. Walker was by far the best mountain pirate of any Indian in the first half of the 1800s. That was Walker's job that was how he made his living. He didn't see anything wrong with it. So we shouldn't see anything wrong with it. He went as far as San Louis Obispo, Calif. where he stole horses, cattle and Indian children from weaker tribes. He took them all the way to New Mexico where he sold them in Santa Fe, Albuquerque or Taos. Walker went back and forth as many times as he possibly could making money on both ends of the transaction. He took blankets, arms and goods from New Mexico and sold them all the way back. He grew very rich and very powerful and all the other Native American sub chiefs looked up to him and followed him. As Chief Walker and his caravan went back and forth they crossed over a series of trails in central Utah, or the Ute Kingdom or tribal lands. This was sandwiched in between all the other Indian tribes. The Shoshone were their close kin, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, the Navajo extremely powerful and wealthy, the Paiute were very poor," said Blanchard.