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Front Page » March 2, 2010 » Emery County News » Historical society learns about Huntington expedition
Published 2,555 days ago

Historical society learns about Huntington expedition

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Guest Writer

Members of the Emery County Historical Society who met Feb 18 at the San Rafael Museum were treated to a history of expeditions that traveled through Emery County. Wade Allinson an accomplished historian and researcher of the San Rafael area presented a power point slide show with the assistance of his daughter Madi Allinson.

Joyce Staley invited 14 board members to come forward to receive a gift and recognition for work accomplished. After the recognition of the board an election of officers was held.

The following were elected: Dorothy Grimes, president, president elect, (sometimes called vice president) Evelyn Huntsman, secretary Lori Ann Larsen, and treasurer Dixie Swasey who was absent. They were then sworn in to office by Staley.

For entertainment, Huntsman, with music from her sister's CD sang "My Alice Blue Gown" and "I'll Be Loving You Always".

Allinson then came forward to educate the group on the W. D. Huntington Expedition of 1854. A request had been made to talk about the Elk Mountain Mission but Allinson will hold that discussion for a later date. To understand the Elk Mountain Mission you need first to understand the Huntington 1854 expedition and how it ties into Emery County.

Wade started out by saying, "Here is a list of explorers that are very significant to our area. The first is Gunnison. One of the most documented. The next was Beale in 1853. Fremont made it through here in 1854, he crossed the Green River in January of 1854. Gunnison did not cross through the top part of the county. He circled down through Cathedral Valley. The next one is W. D. Huntington in 1854 and the Elk Mountain Mission 1855.

"I do not think William Dressler Huntington's expedition gets enough credit. Gunnison went through Emery County approximately Oct. 13, 1853. When he came through he bypassed part of the Spanish Trail near Castle Dale to Lost Creek Wash. He had 18 wagons with him.

"E. F. Beale, passed up Gunnison's expedition. Beale did not have any wagons with him. He came through using mules and horses. He was the Superintendent of Indians for California. He left a great journal about the trip through Utah. Then came Col. Fremont, he had no wagons, he used a pack train. The exact date that he came through is not really recorded. But the most likely date is January of 1854 when he came through Emery County. Fremont left no history of passing through Emery County. He got caught up in the presidential election and other things and did not really leave a whole lot about traveling through this area.

"The Huntington Expedition came through here, I estimate, between October 17-30. They had five wagons and they were all pulled by oxen. They followed Gunnison's trail. When they came to Castle Dale instead of following the Old Spanish Trail and cutting across below Cedar Mountain, they continued following Gunnison's trail, to the Price River and then along the river to Green River. This photo of L. G. Metcalf was given to me by the Metcalf family. Levi Metcalf was from Springville he was a scout. He was not a guide at this point. The guide was an Indian by the name of High Forehead.

"The Elk Mountain Missionaries, here is a picture of John Crawford. Some of you may be related to him. He made it though here May 28-June 4, 1854. They had 12 wagons. They followed the Huntington and Gunnison trail to Castle Valley. After passing through here they left the Huntington and Gunnison trail and took the Old Spanish Trail. These were the first wagons to cross that section from Castle Dale to Ghost Rock.

"Col. Loring came through here July 30-Aug. 5 1855. Of course he was returning from Camp Floyd and had about 50 wagons with him and more than 300 troops. It is hard to believe that many camped there, but he camped at Cotton Bluff.

"The purpose of the W. D. Huntington expedition. The expedition was formed by Brigham Young. Brigham Young called all these men. It was not a mission, it was to explore and trade with the Navajos. They were also to look at the Spanish Trail route," said Allinson.

Allinson felt that Brigham Young needed to exercise some control over the Spanish Trail, because of the slave trade and the Indian trade. At this time period there was a lot of conflict between the different Indian Tribes, that were being preyed upon by Chief Walker and his Utes for Indian slaves. The Indians took advantage of the weaker tribes. They would kill the males in the conflict. They would then take the females and the children. The Spanish or New Mexicans would then come here and buy the children and the females. This was causing a lot of contention between the different tribes. "I believe that Brigham Young wanted to control this section of the Spanish Trail. If you control this section you control one of four routes coming into Utah," Allinson said.

"There is a book about Col. Fremont's last expedition. Col. Fremont was very adamant about not wanting any of his men keeping journals or notes about the expedition. But Carvollo did, he also took pictures along the trail. Not many of them survived because of a fire. There were 300-500 photos stored in a warehouse back East and they caught on fire. Most of the photos were burned up about six or seven photos survived. If you get his book 'The Last Expedition' he actually made many different notes secretly. Notes that Fremont did not know about.

"Carvollo included a photo of a building that was in the Hovenweep National Monument, on page 179 of his book. When Carvollo and Fremont got to the Paragonah, Parowan area, Carvollo was not well enough to travel further. So he stayed behind and Fremont continued on to California. The settlers sent Carvollo up North where he met Brigham Young. Later on his way to California he was in an entourage with Young and some of the Apostles as they were visiting the different colonies. Young stopped and visited with Chief Walker. The Indian Chief related to Young and company, that on two low mountains between the Red and Grand rivers is a colony of white people that live in rough stone houses, two stories high with no windows in the lower stories. They were accessible only by ladders. These people had an abundance of sheep, cows and they raise grain, at the base of the mountain.

"This statement was corroborated by other Indian testimony. Young stated that he believed them to be Welsh families that immigrated many years ago before the settlement of this country. This story sparked Young's interest and he told Carvollo that he intended to send a company of Mormons in search of this colony. Ten months later, Young sent William Huntington and a group of men to look for the colony. They discovered what is now called Hovenweep National Monument. There is a photo of a two story building on page 179 of Carvollo's book, that you can get on the internet for about $20. I do not think the Huntington Expedition gets a lot of credit for discovering Hovenweep. In articles in the Deseret News written by W. D. Huntington he mentions finding buildings. They did not find any white men. There was a belief, if you go back into Book of Mormon culture and its teachings, there was enough evidence to spark Young's interest to send this group of men down to what is now called Hovenweep National Monument.

"A couple of things that, I think, influenced Brigham Young, we mentioned slave trading, Don Pedro Lujan along with eight Mexicans were arrested and accused of slave trading. Don Pedro Lujan was a New Mexico slave trader in 1851. Don Pedro had his first trial for slave trading in Manti in Justice Court and then his trial was transferred to Salt Lake where he was found guilty of slave trading.

"Dr. Bowman, this was a big one, he came in 1853. Dr. Bowman threatened to call on all the Utes in the area to attack the colonies in the Sanpete County if they did not trade Indian women and children. By the way he was killed by some Utes in Sanpete County. All of the slave trading, (in my studies) really put the colonies at risk. You do not get a lot of insight into this problem. Think about the financial impact and the contention that Indian slave trading was causing. Brigham Young outlawed the trading of slaves in 1853, which triggered the Walker War.

"I probably have the most complete list of expedition members. The problem with the 1854 expedition is that there is very little written about it. There is one article written about it in the Deseret News. When you start digging and with the help of Carol Oldroyd who lives in Springville you find out that most of the members of the expedition were from Springville or had ties to Springville. She went through many journals to find this information. Prior to this we could only identify about five members. The leader of the expedition was William Dressler Huntington. What is interesting about William Huntington is that he and his brother Dimick Huntington were part of the Huntington clan that were very dominate in the Nauvoo area. William and Dimick Huntington were in charge of taking Joseph Smith's body and burying it in a hidden place, where it wouldn't be found by the mob.

"Some members of the Huntington expedition were William Jefferson Stewart, Rock Huntington, William D. Smith, James Mendenhall, James Sylvester, John Wetback, Jefferson Lockhair, Levi Metcalf the scout and High Forehead was the guide. High Forehead was basically a chief in Utah County.

Lehi Metcalf and Rock Huntington both came back on the Elk Mountain Mission in 1855. On the Elk Mountain Mission, Rock Huntington became the guide and the scout. There are three members that I have not been able to identify.

"I found out in studying the men of these expeditions, that these were men that could handle living out here. These were not recent European converts, where they did not know a whole lot about living in the wilderness. These were men that came from Tennessee, Ohio, New York and these were men that were singled out that could do the job. Most came from Springville or had ties to Springville. They were tried and tested. L. G. Metcalf and W. D. Huntington had recently returned from a mission to Green River, Wyo., Fort Supply and many of them already had experiences with the Utes. Metcalf had a fairly good understanding of the Ute language.

"To give you an idea of how these explorers felt about the Navajo Nation, very few people went to explore in the Navajo area. Many people totally avoided the area. It was just not a safe place to go. William Huntington described it this way: 'I never felt more gloomy, doubtful or undertook what appeared to be a more hazardous work during his experience of 20 years in the church.' W. D. Huntington saw all the conflict in Nauvoo where he witnessed all the violence and all the concerns. I am sure it was a very scary time. But here he is hesitating to go to the Navajo Nation, Huntington felt that this was the most hazardous task that he had ever undertaken. It was a very difficult and dangerous mission. The Mormons did very little in the Navajo Nation area and most explorers traditionally avoided this area.

"When Carson and Fremont came through here they went below it. They went all the way around it. Not only did you have the Navajos to contend with you also had Chief Walker at the Green River and Chief Walker's cherished band of Utes. The Sheberetch Utes, these were the men that did business for Chief Walker, they were the toll extractors along the Spanish Trail. These were his most trusted Utes. These are the ones that basically made money for him. Chief Walker also had the Elk Mountain Utes. These were some fairly rough tribes.

"The Huntington Expedition left on October 13, with five wagons pulled by oxen and they had a few riding horses. Most likely many of the men walked. They arrived in Manti, which was the last settlement on October 16 and probably left on the 17th.

"They arrived at the mouth of Salina Canyon and there was a conflict. Some Utes came down and met the expedition at the bottom of the canyon, where the Spanish Trail starts up Soldier Canyon. When they arrived a band of Walker Utes were waiting for them. The relationship between the Mormons and the Utes at this time was strained, because Brigham Young had outlawed slavery, especially the trading of Indian slaves. This dried up some of Walkers income or living.

"When the group of explorers got to the canyon they had a stand off with the Utes. The stand off lasted three days. William Huntington estimated that there were 20 New Mexico slave traders at that location with the Utes. They could see the signal fires going up the canyon. After three days for some reason the Utes and those with them left. William Huntington said the Spaniards went their way (they weren't Spaniards, but were New Mexicans) and the Indians went theirs.

"The expedition members claimed it was the wonderful protection and deliverance by the hand of God. Chief Walker's Utes were just doing what they had been doing for years exacting tolls for the use of the Spanish Trail and going through what they considered their territory.

"As for the route through Emery County, the expedition members had some knowledge of where Gunnison went through. Huntington was aware that they were following the Gunnison trail to Green River. We know this from the journals of missionaries mentioning which way the expedition went. They did not follow the Old Spanish Trail through Castle Dale, but followed the Gunnison trail to the Price River. They definitely could have saved a lot of time by heading due East from Castle Dale instead of going around Cedar Mountain. The speculation is that High Forehead did not know the area all that well. One of the missionary journals mentions as they dropped down into a draw, they came across the Gunnison trail and the Huntington expedition trail. That is how we know they went around Cedar Mountain by passing part of the Spanish Trail.

"Most of the names of land marks are no longer there. Stewart Creek is what they called Ferron Creek. Where is Soldier Creek or Coal Creek? The only surviving name is Huntington Creek.

"When they neared Green River, this is where they ran into Walker's Shebertch Utes. Picture this: as they get close to Green River they see the Utes and there is a race to the river crossing. The Utes tried to get in front of them, of course the expedition was not going very fast with ox drawn wagons. Never the less it was a race to get to the crossing. I believe the Indians wanted to get in front of them to prevent them from crossing. So they could extract a toll from the expedition. As they are racing to get to the river the Huntington group found a grouping of Cottonwood trees where they could prepare a fortification for a possible conflict with the Utes. As they moved into the Cottonwoods theyflushed out a deer. The deer takes off and the Indians gave up their race and chased after the deer. The Indians could not get the deer so they came back and got one of the expedition members with a gun to go with them to get the deer, he shoots the deer. With that everything was calmed down.

"The Colorado Rims, when they got out about 40 miles outside Green River, they took the Southern branch. These were the first wagons to ever travel the Southern branch on the Old Spanish Trail. As you go into Arches National Park you are dropping down a cut before you get to Arches, if you back up about 100 yards and look to the left, where the road comes down, you can see where the wash is. That is called the Jump Off. If you go up there you will see Indian writings and some old historic cowboy names.

"At the Jump Off the Huntington Expedition had to take their wagons apart and lower them over that cliff, then put the wagons back together and go about three miles down to the river. When the Elk Mountain Mission got there a year later, they actually built a trail around that jump off so they could get through without taking the wagons apart.

When they get to Moab, they brought along a lot of plows and seeds for trade with the Utes or the Navajos. When they get down there it starts to get rough going. They know they can not take the wagons, so they stash three wagons at Calf Creek, buried in the dirt. They continue South with two wagons. Somewhere I haven't been able to determine they abandoned the other two wagons. They continued south going towards San Juan. A farmer later plowing a field did find remnants of two wagons. The other three wagons have never been found.

"Southeast of San Juan the expedition was captured by Navajos. The guide High Forehead and the scout Levi Metcalfe were singled out to be killed, they had been out in front of the expedition. Then a Ute chief comes by, he was a friend of High Forehead and recognized him. I think the chief had been following the expedition for some time. Because when the Navajos were discussing the killing of the scout and guide, they looked up and saw a cloud of dust coming toward them, in the dust was this Ute chief. There is some indication that he knew High Forehead. He basically intervened and saved the lives of High Forehead and Levi Metcalfe.

"After that the expedition discovered Hovenweep. Most likely they were the first Americans to see these ruins. Upon seeing the ruins many in the expedition referred to the Book of Mormon and the Gadianton Robbers. Some in the expedition felt that they had found remnants of the Gadianton Robbers. The Indians did not like the Hovenweep area because of all the abandoned ruins.

"W. D. Huntington came back to Brigham Young to report. He doesn't give a glowing report of Grand Valley, but it is just enough for Brigham Young to call 38 men. Actually 41 decided to go down to settle Moab. This was called the Elk Mountain Mission. Levi Metcalf and Rock Huntington were part of that mission, to be the guide and the scout. These Elk Mountain missionaries, give some of the best accounts, that I have found, as they traveled through Emery County. I have about 10 copies of these journals of day by day, mile by mile and descriptions of where they camped in Emery County. Probably the best one to read is the journal of Oliver Huntington about Emery County. A caution with Oliver's journals, he wrote three of them. Why he wrote three of them about the same expedition I do not know. There a lot of discrepancies in his journals. Ethan Petit wrote a journal. The best one that I have found is John McQuen's Journal," said Allinson.

The historical society meets monthly to learn of the history in Emery County.

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March 2, 2010
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