Levi Metcalf was a scout in the Emery County area.
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."
Part 2: Blanchard said, "There were also several pueblo bands in New Mexico. The Utes were not so much a nation as they were an assortment of individual peoples that were related by kinship. They spoke generally the same language and moved in and out between various hunting grounds as the seasons changed. The Utes are going back and forth trading all along the way over a series of trails that we call the Old Spanish Trail. The trail is neither old or Spanish, nor even a single trail. It is first used just by the Utes and later the Mexicans before 1800 and stopped being used in the 1850s. It is a whole web of interwoven trails.
"The Mormons, when they arrived in 1847, started to use the Old Spanish Trails the Western half almost immediately. The Mormon Battalion used it to come back from California and they were coming back to the promised land. Captain Jefferson Hunt is the first Mormon explorer to exploit the Western half of the Old Spanish Trail, going essentially from the Salt Lake Valley down to Las Vegas following the Mojave River down to Southern California at Los Angeles. Working with Porter Rockwell he was the first person to take wagons and cattle through that area.
"Immigrant trains coming to Salt Lake would ask about and indicate they wanted to take the Southern route. They would ask 'will you take us?' So Jefferson Hunt starts going back and forth. The Western half of the Old Spanish Trail gets used quite a bit up until about 1855. On our map you can see how the trail ends in the San Diego Mission in Los Angeles and comes up through the really bad lands in the California desert, close to Death Valley, though Vegas, through St. George. They ignore the Navajo lands as they are fierce fighters. For the most part travelers continue up through Cedar City, through Panguitch, cut off through the Sevier River Valley and Fish Lake. They sometimes cut across the top part of Capital Reef. They may stray a little North on a branch around the Salina river country. Then they start coming through Emery County near Castle Dale up to Price River. That is considered the peak of the trail. From there the trail descends Southeast over two equally used branches. One a North route and the other a Southern route. The South route cuts through Cortez and Durango, Colo. straight through to Santa Fe. The North route goes up through Grand Junction and Montrose into the high plains of the central valley in Colorado. The maps shown were taken from the Old Spanish Trail web site. You can still see a remnant of the Old Spanish Trail in the Salina Canyon if you know where to look.
"We have the Indians going back and forth over this route and then we have the Mormons going over the Western half, but not the Eastern half by 1847. About this same time we have that evil nation to the East threatening our kingdom, the Federal Government. The mountain men were quite familiar with the Eastern half of the trail, because they had come up largely from New Mexico in search of beaver and other pelts. Some of the most important mountain men for that part of the country are Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith, he died at an early age. Smith didn't live long enough to tell tall tails. That is a pre-requisite of fame. You have to live to a certain age to be able to spread your story. Antoin Rubidoux established a series of forts in Western Colorado and in the Uintahs near Duchesne. He was trading with the Indians in the 1830s and 40s. The mountain men got here, saw everything, knew what they were seeing, gave names to what they saw and took those names home and shared the information with the gentiles. Unfortunately they did not share this information with the new comers the Latter-day Saints.
"In the early 1850s all of a sudden this other nation to the East decides that it wants our kingdom and they send out their scouts to find a way through to find the best places to live and to take control. They send out some of the famous scouts of the gentile nation (meaning the US Government of course), John C. Fremont he was Kit Carson's leader. One questions who really was the leader, because every expedition when Carson was Fremont's guide ended in success. When Carson was not his guide the expedition was a dismal failure and people died. In one case they ate each other to survive, before they got back out to civilization. That punctuates why it is a good idea to have a scout that knows what he is doing, a scout that knows the people, knows the language and knows the land. If not you may end up in the snow eating each other.
"We know about Captain Gunnison, we have a town named after him one county over. He died by Sevier Lake in 1853. He ran afoul of the wrong Indians.
"There were other scouts traveling through Emery County in the 1850s looking for better ways for the railroad to pass or better ways for the pioneers to come here other than on the overland trail.
"When it became apparent that these Federals were coming with ever increasing frequency and in ever greater numbers, our king decided that he had to do something about that. If his people weren't in place, in the good spots the gentiles would come quickly and take the good spots. Starting about 1852 Brigham Young decided to send colonists out, to convert the Indians, and settle in the good spots along any trail leading in or out of his kingdom. One of those trails was the Old Spanish Trail that headed toward New Mexico. It became important to send out someone to explore what we call Emery, Grand and Carbon counties. Green River in 1853 was found by one of those gentile explorers. He did not get lost, he knew where he was going, knew what he was looking at, knew what the names were that the mountain men had given to those spots and got through the ordeal fairly easily, because they were careful and had mountain men as guides.
"The problem came about when Brigham Young decides to send out his people none of them knew where they were going. We do not have any relations with the mountain men. We do not get along with them. In fact they are rivals. We do not get along too well with the Indians either. We have to rely on family men as guides. We have an on-again, off-again relationship with the local Indian tribes. But we have some brave men who are willing to take a chance and lead into the unknown. It is amazing to me, they literally did not know where they were going or what they would find. We have no indication in history that the people living in the Sanpete Valley knew what was over here in Emery County. Some from the Gunnison area may have hunted a little bit over here.
"In 1854 Brigham Young decides it was time to send people into settlements. He sent eager people on two historic missions. The first was the Huntington Mission to the Navajos, led by one of the Huntington brothers, William D. Huntington. All of the Huntington brothers were said to be rooten-tooten wild Western characters. William was from Springville. Strangely a lot of these fellows came from this little town. Levi Gregory Metcalf lived in Springville and he had a very good Ute Indian sub-chief as a friend. That Indian was called High Forehead. He was a Timpanogos sub-chief. High Forehead agreed to take a group of men into the unknown, into the Ute mountain stronghold. He did do that and got into big trouble with the other sub-chiefs. He was showing the white man the secret Indian trails Chief Walker and others traveled.
"William D. Huntington and his men packed up two wagons with trade goods and what few guns they had. Huntington said in his report to Brigham Young, 'A more hazardous work I have never undertaken in my life.' He did not think he would return. He thought he would be killed. His mission was to do two things. He had to go to the land of the Navajo, from which no one had returned alive. They would let you in but never out. He had to make peace with them establish a trading mission and make friends. The Navajo hated all contacts with the outside world. The other thing that he was told to do was go deep into the unknown and find the land of the missing Welsh builders. There was a common belief back then, that there was a people that lived in stone houses, in the middle of the desert in Southeastern Utah. They lived like people in Europe, they lived in castles. Brigham Young had heard about these people and decided to send someone to find them. He chose William Huntington for this chore.
"They departed in October of 1854 after harvest time. They started with wagons loaded with plows, with shovels, with hoes. They hoped to teach the Navajo how to farm. Little did they know that the Navajo already knew how to farm. These are heavy loaded wagons. They do not have very many weapons. They do not have many horses instead they have mules and oxen. They stop at Manti. They had the help of the Indian guide High Forehead, guiding them into Salina Canyon. They know about the existence of Gunnison's trail and the Old Santa Fe Trail. They were able to follow the Old Spanish Tail and Gunnison's trail pretty well.They are not aware of any short cuts. They do not know of the watering holes or any of the best passages. They are poking along in Salina Canyon hoping not to be shot, hoping not to die of thirst and hoping not to get lost.
"When the missionaries get into Salina Canyon they see their first wonder of all wonders, an Indian pictograph. It is high up on the cliff face beside the road. No one knew what this meant. The Utes knew that it was not made by them but a people long gone. But it was treated with great respect by the Indians and Mormons.
"Most of the early pioneers when they saw this land thought this was ugly country, because it had no usefulness, it was dry. A pretty country was a country you could raise crops, where you could raise sheep or cattle and support them. These pioneers' main concern was where the water holes were and they moved from water hole to water hole. If you do not know where the water is it is very risky traveling through this area. When you do not find water you have to keep going until you do. Some traces of the trail they followed can still be seen today. The Indians and the Mexicans that traveled these trails did not take wagons. The first people to take wagons were Jefferson Hunt on the Western half and Greg Metcalf and the Federals in 1853, 1854 and 1855.
"On that famous Elk Mountain Mission to the Navajo Nation. the missionaries crossed the Green River and headed down South towards Moab and they got to the area around arches where the road goes down to the entrance to Arches National Park. There was no road down in those days and there was a cliff face they could not easily get down. They took their wagons apart and lowered them by rope to keep going. The continuing trail did not look much better so they eventually gave up on the wagons. They buried the wagons the plows, shovels, etc. and supplies, with the exception of the perishables, in the sand on a bench above Saddle Back Creek.
"The missionaries then continued on into New Mexico to a village called Rock Point in Arizona. The Navajo saw them before they saw the Navajo. The scouts for the missionaries were quickly surrounded by Navajo Indians, capturing Greg Metcalf and his Indian guide High Forehead as unwelcome invaders of their country. They tied the missionaries up and threatened to kill them. They were threatened with burning at the stake and other forms of torture. It was only through the talk of the Ute Chief High Forehead that they spared Greg Metcalf's life and offered himself instead. Things looked very grim until another Ute Chief shows up with his horseback riding warriors. Together the two Ute Chiefs and the Navajo Chief and the Mormon Chief William Huntington did the impossible. They actually sat down and decided perhaps there could be a mutual benefit in trading with the Mormons. Perhaps you have skills we can share. This became the first trilateral Indian Mormon peace conference in Southeastern Utah.
"After peace was established and at the end of the Indian, Missionary conference the Mormons asked, 'Have you heard about the white Welshmen.' The Navajo said yes. 'We will take you to them.' They were then taken to what the Navajo called, the cities of the white fathers. These are ruins of what are known today as the stone buildings in the Hoven Weep National Monument on the border of Utah and Colorado close to the Four Corners area. They do not look very much like castles, they are not very big, and there are only a few of them. The Mormon missionaries thought the buildings were only a few hundred years old. The Utes and the Navajos view these stone buildings with great respect and would not go into them. Greg Metcalf may have been the first white man to enter these buildings. The missionaries explored and examined the buildings and pottery shards found around them. They tried to understand what had happened. William Huntington concluded these were the lost cities of the Gadianton robbers and that is what he reported. They weren't quite sure the Gadianton robbers were not still around and no one returned to visit that area for 40 years.
"The expedition then continued Northeast farther into Colorado for a time and then angled to the Northwest back into Utah and to their cache of supplies. After the crossing at Green River, Greg's horse got loose from the hobbles. When Greg found and caught his horse he was following a day behind the others. He followed High Forehead's marked trail up Price Canyon and down Spanish Fork Canyon to home. These explorers did not know what they were looking at by name as they traveled through Emery, Carbon and Grand counties, they then gave every creek and mountain a name. These names were different from the names given by the mountain men who had traveled through the area earlier. William Huntington being the leader had the right to name some of the mountains, streams and land marks they saw. In general they named many of the land marks after members of the missionary party.
"They called Ferron Creek Stewart Creek after Jackson Stewart a cocaptain. The town of Huntington is named after Huntington Creek possibly a name given to it by William Huntington. Most of the names given to land marks by the missionaries are lost. This trek happened in 1854. The first settlers came to Emery County in 1879. This trip to the land of the Navajo formed the basis for a later trek called the Elk Mountain Mission led by Levi Gregory Metcalf through the Moab area. On that trek they thought they were at the Elk Mountains but were only at the Manti LaSal Mountains. The real Elk Mountains are over into Colorado," said Blanchard.
As a final note, Blanchard put on the screen photographs of early pioneers in the hope that some in the audience would see a relative or say that is my grandpa. The group then began to discuss the photos and brief histories of their ancestors, like the Huntingtons and the Ivies.Books can be purchased from Carole B. Oldroyd, 409 E. 1000 N., Springville, Utah, 84663, or Gregmetcalf.com, or Mark Blanchard at 801-704-9175. Dottie Grimes thanked everyone for coming and Blanchard and his mother Carolyn Oldroyd for an interesting informative evening.