The Tintic War and the deaths of George and Washington Carson – The First Posse

Published on February 24, 2013 by Carol

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Cedar Valley

In February 1856 Judge Drummond, a federally appointed judge in Utah, issued writs of arrest for Tintic and several other Indians who were thought to be responsible for the thefts of livestock during the preceding months. The judge was little liked by the Mormons, and he took no pains to hide his disdain for the Pioneers. Brigham Young and he were on especially unfriendly terms: Drummond felt that Young was cruel toward non-Mormons passing through the state, particularly if they were from Missouri; and President Young felt that Drummond was unnecessarily harsh when sentencing Mormons convicted of crimes, and often exercised his right as governor and pardoned them, much to Drummond’s anger.

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Armed with the writs for the arrest of the Indians, U.S. Deputy Marshal Thomas S. Johnson enlisted a posse of about ten men from Provo to arrest the accused Indians. The posse consisted chiefly of men from the local militia who were under the command of their elected leader, Colonel Peter Conover. Nephi Packer, Sheriff Wall, and John Clark were also members of the posse. Both Conover and Packer in describing the writs which Drummond issued state that they were for both murder and stealing.

The posse left Provo for Cedar Valley on the morning of Thursday, February 21, 1856.

When they reached American Fork they met George A. Smith, a member of the Mormon First Presidency. President Smith records that he met the posse led by Johnson and that they had writs for the arrest of Tintic, Squash, Cottonlegs, and several other Indians who were accused of transgressing the laws of the United States.

Deputy Marshal Johnson asked President Smith for his advice in the matter and how the confrontation with the Indians should best be handled. Drummond represented the law, but Smith represented a higher law to the members of the posse who were Mormons.

Johnson, knowing Judge Drummond’s hatred for the Mormons and also President Young’s conciliatory policy toward the Indians, was probably in doubt as to what motives Drummond could have in issuing writs that would almost certainly result in bloodshed if the posse attempted to enforce them.

President Smith advised Johnson “not to break peace with the Indians, nor kick up a war without the council of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs.” At this time, Brigham Young was the ex officio superintendent.

The posse left President Smith and traveled on to Lehi, where they arrived about sunset. Taking President Smith’s advice, they decided to send Colonel Conover on to Salt Lake to seek Brigham Young’s counsel.

Colonel Conover, whose official title was Brigadier General, says that “I jumped [on] my horse and went to see the Governor to know what to do. I got there [Salt Lake City] at 1 o’clock at night. President Young made me lay down and take a nap.”

When they spoke with each other that Friday morning, Brigham Young’s advice was essentially what George A. Smith had told Marshal Johnson. Governor Young might have felt it right just because it was directly opposite of what Judge Drummond had ordered. Conover records these instructions:

“Governor Young’s orders [to me] were not to fight. If they could not take him [Tintic] peaceably to let him go. [He] told me to go out and get a posse of men and go and get the cattle Tintic’s band had stolen if possible.”

While Brigham Young and Colonel Conover were meeting in Salt Lake City, the posse, under the direction of Deputy marshal Johnson, left Lehi for Cedar Valley. They probably arrived at Cedar Fort an hour or two before noon.

Johnson recruited several men from Cedar Fort and then sent a detachment of men under Sheriff Wall to Fairfield a few miles to the south, to protect the little settlement there.

The armed posse could not have entered the valley without the Indians knowing what was going on. Tintic probably began immediate preparations to handle the situation. He knew how reluctant the posse would be to engage in an armed encounter, and probably thought his best strategy would be to feign innocence and treat the matter lightly. If necessary he would fight and ordered his braves to make a show of preparation for battle that would be obviously visible from the fort, which was only half a mile or so to the north.

Deputy Marshal Johnson was in the dilemma of having to serve the writs and at the same time avoid “kicking up a war” as George A. Smith had put it. Johnson had of course not yet heard from Conovor who was just now returning from Salt Lake with Governor Young’s orders.

Finally, Johnson asked John Clark, who was the Indian interpreter and several others if they would ride out to the Indian encampment and persuade Tintic to come to the fort to talk. He obviously felt it would be safer and less threatening if the posse stayed at the fort, rather than leading a group of armed men into the camp. He couldn’t fine anyone who was willing to accompany Clark out to the encampment.

John Clark was an incredible man. He was 23 years old, unmarried, and “considerable of an athlete”, as Bishop Packer described him. He had learned to speak Ute several years before in the Moab area as a missionary sent to teach the Indians to farm. The mission was a failure, but Clark learned the Ute Indian culture and their language very well. He was not afraid to go out to meet Tintic, but Marshal Johnson couldn’t find anyone else willing to go with him.

While the posse was arguing among themselves about who should accompany Clark to the encampment, Tintic’s brother, Battest, rode into the fort alone.

Tintic was probably unwilling to let the white men make the first move, and decided it would be a better show of his innocence if his own brother rode into the fort to find out what was going on.

Marshal Johnson asked Battest through the interpreter to have his brother come to the fort. Battest refused. After some discussion, Clark agreed to accompany Battest alone back to Tintic’s tent.

He rode out of the fort sitting behind Battest on the Indian’s horse.

Battest had probably refused to allow Clark to ride his own horse to the camp. Before leaving, Clark loaded two “shooters”, tucked them into his belt and hid them under his overcoat.

The other members of the posse watched them as they left the fort, probably with a great deal of fear for Clark’s safety, if not a little awe at his bravery – or his foolishness. As Clark and Battest saw it, though, the Indian had ridden alone into the fort, so why should the white interpreter be afraid to ride alone into the Indian camp?

Clark and Battest arrived at the encampment at about noon. Clark got off the horse and according to this own account:

“[I] walked into Tintic’s tent and sat down by an Indian at the door. In a minute another Indian came in and sat by the Indian on my left. Tintic was this Indian. He told the Indian in front of him to hand him his [Tintic's] gun, which he did.

He took it and looking it over and moving it around he cocked it and dropped it down on me, careless like.

I was eyeing him and as it dropped I grabbed it and said, ‘Hold on, that might go off.’ Tintic laughed and said it wasn’t loaded.

The Indians kept filing in one at a time and sitting down around the tent with their bows and arrows, until the tent was full, leaving their spears sitting up against the front of the tent as they came in. The tent was make of buckskin [and] I could hear the spears click as they put them down and they fell against the tent.

Tintic talked to the Indians in a low grunt, thinking I could not catch what he said, [but] I was in too tight a place not to observe all that was passing around me.

Probably as another test of Clark’s courage Tintic said to the other Indians, “Wait until he starts home, then we will kill him.”

Tintic said it in a low voice, but obviously intended Clark to hear it. It was difficult now to imagine what motive Tintic could have had in actually planning to kill Clark, knowing that the posse would attack the camp at the slightest sign of trouble. Clark records that “I could see I would have to wait until dark to have a chance for escape.” Clark did not seem to want to test Tintic’s real intentions, and Bishop Packer, who new Clark well, said that “Clark was fast on foot, being considerable of an athlete, he intended on leaving to dodge round as he ran. Thus, if they fired at him they would not be likely to hit him.”

As the cold afternoon wore on, the posse members and those living at the fort stood on the walls or at the gate and watched for Clark to emerge from the tent.

In the tent, Clark talked to Tintic, “telling him that Brigham Young wanted him to come to the fort and talk with Johnson. He [Tintic] only said that he would not go. He was so sullen he wouldn’t talk much. I had to keep talking as I dared not make a move to go.”

While Clark was in the tent, waiting for dark and a better chance for escape, the posse at the fort became increasingly worried about his safety. Bishop Packer reports seeing the Indians “stripped and painted in their war-paints, and prepared to fight.”

Fearing for Clark’s safety, Johnson and George Parish made the decision to take the posse into the camp, rescue Clark, and arrest Tintic if possible. Men were recruited from the forts and a posse of about thirty men, which was about equal to the number of braves in the camp, prepared to ride to the encampment.

George Carson was among those at the fort who decided to accompany the posse.

Although we know very little about George Carson personally, it is not hard to imagine some of the motives that led him to join the posse. For over a hundred years his family had lived on the frontiers of the country. His grandfather William Carson had lived in Pennsylvania during several Indian uprisings. George’s parents had moved to Ohio in the middle 1820′s and soon after his birth had moved with the Mormons to Jackson County, Missouri, which was on the very borders of Indian country. Driven from their homes and lands by the Missouri mobs, who often disguised themselves as Indians, they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Once more the family lost their land to the anti-Mormon mobs and moved to Garden Grove, Iowa. They worked and saved money over the next few years and then moved to Utah in 1851. Throughout his life George had learned how precarious possession of property can be, and probably felt compelled to take a stand in defense of his new home in Cedar Valley.

In addition, during the previous months, he had lived closer to Tintic and his band than the posse members from Provo and had perhaps been subject to losses of livestock from the Indians, for which he wanted justice done.

There also exists the possibility that he simply conscripted on the spot by Deputy Marshal Johnson, who had the power to enlist any men he needed.

The posse was quickly formed and rode to the encampment as the sun was beginning to set.

Clark, who was still inside the tent trying to reason with Tintic, suddenly heard one of the squaws outside the tent holler that the Mormons were coming. He recalls that “some of the Indians stood slowly to their feet. A few of them walked leisurely outside. When the boys rode up, Thomas Johnson called out, ‘are you all right John?’”

Clark answered, “‘Yes, now that you boys have come.’ Johnson and Parish [then] came into the tent. Johnson grabbed Tintic by the hair, [and] drawing his six shooter saying, ‘You are my prisoner.’ Tintic grabbed [the shooter] by the muzzle, it went off shooting him through the hand.”

The posse and Indians on the outside of the tent, not being able to tell who had shot whom inside the tent, became frightened, and the posse opened fire.

Joseph S. McFate records “the fight took place just at dusk; I stood on the fort wall at Fairfield, a distance of about half a mile from their guns and heard the reports.”

Tintic pulled loose from Johnson’s grip and ran out the back of the tent.

Bishop Packer says, “Tintic’s brother, Battest, aimed his rifle at George Parish and fired, but the gun barrel being knocked aside, the bullet missed its mark. One of Parish’s friends then drew his revolver and shot Battest through the head, killing him instantly.”

The rest of the Indians inside the tent then jumped for the door, knocking Clark flat on his face. He wrote:

As I attempted to rise all the rest [of the Indians] either jumped over me or sprang of my back as they went out. The boys on the outside shooting at them as they went out. I was unable to rise until all were out of the tent, as they knocked me down every time I tried, they were gone so fast. It was the only thing that saved my life

Outside the tent, the posse killed two braves and one squaw.

During the fighting, which could not have lasted more than a minute or so since most of the posse members had only one shot in the “shooters,” a squaw grabbed a spear from those that had been set up outside the tent, and tried to kill George Carson. He saw her and tried to move, but the spear struck him in the leg.

By now the posse had expended its ammunition and began to head back to the fort. George Carson was picked up and laid over his horse, and Woods Wilson led George and his horse back to the fort. It was slow going and soon the posse had left them far behind.

The posse assumed that John Clark had been killed in the tent, and left without attempting to get him.

The Indians with their families ran and hid in the cedars to the south of their encampment.

When Clark came to, he was alone in the tent. He picked up two guns and some bows and arrows and then he “looked for a horse. Seeing Tintic’s and his brother’s tied near the tent, I untied them as fast as I could, jumped on one, leading the other and just started away as the Indians were coming back. Seeing me, they began running and shooting, being careful [though] not to hit their horses. I lay over the side [of the horse] and rode for my life.”

Clark soon overtook Woods Wilson who was leading the wounded George Carson on his horse. Clark gave Wilson one of his loaded pistols and raced on to the fort.

George’s older sister Elizabeth often told her grandchildren how she “with her small family watched the battle from the fort and saw her brother’s white horse come up the trail with his lifeless [appearing] body thrown over the saddle.”

It was dark now. The posse and settlers retired to the safety of the fort and set guards in the event the Indians should attack.

Mads Christensen, George’s hired hand, wrote that he “and some others stood guard that night at the little fort, listening and watching closely, expecting a possible attack by revengeful Indians. We could hear moaning and mournings by refugees who, during the night, were moving their camp and effects west into Rush Valley for safety, having some wounded ones with them and having left one Indian and a squaw on the battleground.”

From the moment George was brought into the fort, it was obvious that he would not make it through the night. Most likely he bled to death.

He died about one o’clock in the morning, Saturday, February 23 1856.

George appears to have been the only member of the posse to have been wounded, and was certainly the only casualty. The family must have felt a certain irony that George, who was not actually a member of the militia, was the only one to die.

Perhaps the squaw who threw the spear recognized George as one of the settlers from the fort and chose him specifically as the target of her anger.

The ironies of fate however were soon to be confounded, for during the night some of the Indians, instead of moving into Rush Valley, traveled east into Utah Valley, near to where Washington Carson and Henry Morgan were herding, and where Elizabeth’s husband, Pattison, was farming.

Source: Legendsofamerica Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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