The Tintic War and the deaths of George and Washington Carson – The Lehi Militia

Published on February 24, 2013 by Carol

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Salt Lake Valley

On the same Friday morning that the posse was preparing to leave Lehi for their encounter with Tintic, and while Colonel Conover was in Salt Lake discussing the problem with Brigham Young, Abraham Hunsaker left his home at the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, heading south through the Jordan Narrows toward Utah Valley and his herd at Goshen.

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Hunsaker was one of the early Pioneers of Utah. In 1856 he and his first wife Eliza were living in Sandy, near the Jordan River. His second wife Harriet and her three children lived at the south end of Utah Lake where the family herded cattle and sheep for hire. He knew that the Indians as the Deseret News later wrote, “for some time past … [had] been disposed to be mischievous, stealing cattle and horses when opportunity offered, threatening to kill cattle when they pleased, and resisting a legal examination into their conduct.” Becoming worried about the safety of his family, he determined to bring them back into the Salt Lake Valley.

His diary records the only descriptions of the events surrounding the death of Washington Carson that has been discovered, and describes the events of that Friday and Saturday in detail.

He began Friday morning by uniting in prayer with his family, and then started toward his herd at the south end of Utah Lake. His second wife, Harriett, and her children were there, taking care of his cattle and sheep.

The day began bitter cold, with snow on the ground. He traveled by carriage and took his son Abraham with him.

During the morning the ground warmed enough to become muddy, and by sundown they had pushed their fatigued horses only as far as the ranch where Washington Carson and Henry Moran had their herd.

Hunsaker and his son spent the night with Washington and Henry. In his diary, however, he records that he spent the night with George Carson. The two brothers evidently looked enough alike that he could not tell them apart. It had only been a few weeks since Washington had bought his brother’s interest in the ranch and had moved into the dugout.

The diary records that Hunsaker “talked with George Carson and Henry Moran and they [said] they had no fear of the Indians at present, although Brother Carson told me that the Indians were getting mad, and that they were getting very hungry for a fight, and that they intended to fight when the warm weather came.”

Unfortunately we can only speculate as to why the Indians were “getting mad” and over what they intended to fight. That they were hungry, though, is not a matter of speculation.

Hunsaker and his son spent the night on Carson’s dirt floor, sleeping on a quilt, and covered by another. They did not rest much that night as it was very cold.

It was during this conversation between Hunsaker and Washington that George Carson lay in the fort at Fairfield dying.

While Hunsaker and his son slept, the Indians in Cedar Valley, using the dark as cover, returned to their camp, recovered the bodies of their dead, and made an obvious show of moving into Rush Valley.

Tintic had been placed in a precarious position. While he might not have been guilty of murder before the posse arrived, it must have been obvious to him that at least one white man had been killed. He knew that if he did not move his camp the posse would be upon him in the morning, probably with reinforcements. He could not attack the forts, and he probably had little more than a few days’ supply of food on hand for his band. If he moved the band west into Utah Valley where there were several large and unprotected herds, he would draw too much attention to himself.

It appears that he made the decision to pretend to move his entire band into Rush Valley and hide them there as well as he could in the natural rock formations. In order to insure his own safety, and provide food for the band through the entire winter in which they would have to hide, he sent a group of braves, perhaps including himself, into Utah Valley. There they would drive as many cattle as possible south into the mountains which now bear Tintic’s name. At this time the area was virtually unexplored by the settlers. Later the bands would rendezvous in the mountains.

A bold plan, and one which succeeded very well.

When morning came, George Carson was dead, the squaws and children had noisily moved into Rush Valley, and a small band of braves had crossed into Utah Valley near to where Washington had his herd. No one at the fort makes mention of seeing any Indians move east into Utah Valley.

Abraham Hunsaker awoke his son at sunrise and left Washington and Henry’s dugout before breakfast, hoping to get to their herd which was twelve miles to the south, in time to have breakfast with his wife Harriet and family.

Soon after Abraham left, several braves attacked and killed Washington and Henry. They ransacked the dugout and began driving the stock toward the south.

Hunsaker arrived at his herd at ten o’clock, just as his horses gave out from the hard work of traveling through the snow and mud. His son Lewis was pulling harnesses off the horses when they saw two Indians riding toward them furiously. He knew immediately that all was not right.

An Indian named Moto, with whom Hunsaker had been friendly, was also with the herd. He had been sick with measles, but when he heard the Indians shouting as they rode up he jumped out of bed and ran out to them, “and they hollered very furiously as though they were very mad. Moto ran back to his tent, gathered his duds, and left with the Indians.” In the meantime, Hunsaker gathered the children together and ran into the house, leaving one boy to watch the Indians.

The Indians went off some 200 yards and stopped and talked together for about twenty minutes and then headed west. Hunsaker told his family he knew the Indians would kill them if they got the chance, and that the family should move north as quickly as possible.

There was only one fresh mare at the house, and fearing what would happen if the horses gave out before they got to Carson’s, Hunsaker told his son Lewis to go and get a mare he had seen about two miles north of the house. Lewis jumped on the fresh mare and galloped toward the one his father had seen. Hunsaker then asked two of the younger boys, Allen and Lemuel, to gather up the sheep as he would try to take them with him.

The Indians saw the two young boys headed after the sheep and started to ride toward them, but then seeing Lewis headed north alone after the mare, they turned and rode after him. They might have thought Lewis was headed for Provo or Lehi to raise a posse.

While Lewis was gone, the younger boys brought in the sheep and some cattle. Abraham hitched the cattle to a wagon and the tired horse to the carriage. He loaded his family and started north “to flee from the Indians.” As they moved north they continued to gather whatever stock they could find.

When they came to the spot where Abraham had seen the mare, he could not find his son Lewis but could see where Lewis’s horse, or some other animal, had been on the “jump.”

Fearing for the rest of his family’s safety, he traveled on as fast as he could, hoping that he would overtake Lewis. When they were about half a mile from Carson’s, he sent Allen on ahead to warn Washington and get an “express” to Provo for help. The lake was frozen and he thought Washington could cross over easily on horseback. As they neared Carson’s, Allen returned and said he had found the dugout plundered, and that no one was there.

Hunsaker drove close to the dugout, went in and found the house had been robbed of all the clothing and bed clothes; and all the guns were gone.

It was now dark, so he told his family to leave the sheep and cattle, and that they would travel on to the Wixoms at Pelican Point as quickly as possible. He found a fresh yoke of cattle, hitched them on and traveled along the lake, keeping as far from the cedars as possible, fearing that the Indians might be hiding, waiting for a chance to ambush them.

In reality, however, the Indians were probably all to the south, rounding up whatever sheep and cattle they could find. Having rid the western side of the lake of all the white men, they were free to carry out Tintic’s plan.

Hunsaker drove the lead team with his gun on his shoulder, and Allen drove the other team with an ax ready to chop down if any Indian should make attack on them. His younger boys and wife Harriett rode in the wagons. Lemuel, who was an adopted son, made up the rear guard “as he was an Indian and could see better than any of us.”

They had not traveled more than three hundred yards north of the dugout when Abraham saw a man lying on his back, dead. Fearing that it was his son Lewis, he stopped down and looked closely into his face.

It was Washington Carson.

He told his family that it was Carson, and being afraid that taking the body with them might frighten the family too much, he left it there, thinking he could raise a company of men from Lehi and return the next day.

They traveled on as fast as they could and arrived at the Wixom place at about one o’clock in the morning of Sunday, February 24, 1856. Solomon Wixom and his family knew nothing about the Indian uprising.

Wixom and his family raised sheep at the point. They had previously lived in Cottonwood, having been there since 1851, and probably knew the Carsons very well.

In the morning Abraham Hunsaker left his family at the point with the Wixoms and started toward Lehi with David Sanders to get help. Part way there they met a company of about ten men from Willow Creek in Salt Lake County under Colonel Brown, who was coming to get their cattle at Carson’s. After hearing Hunsaker’s story, the men realized they would need reinforcements and so an express was sent back to David Evans, the bishop in Lehi. It was a Sunday and the express probably interrupted a church service to tell the congregation of the Indian uprising. This would have been the first they would have know about it, and the fact that men had actually been killed on the west side of Utah Lake.

Bishop Evans raised a company of 25 men and placed them under the direction of William Sidney Smith Willis. Willis was a veteran of the Mormon Battalion, and Colonel of the Lehi Militia.

Willis left Lehi in the afternoon, crossed the frozen lake, and arrived at Wixoms at sundown. Over the next few days the Wixom place would become the headquarters of the attempt to subdue the Indians and recover the cattle. The militia rested until midnight, then traveled on to Carson’s. They arrived just before sunrise on Monday, February 25.

Hunsaker records in his diary that “we came to Carson’s, some twelve miles [from Wixom's] and we searched for the dead body which was near there. We found Henry Moran, lying flat on his belly with his arms stretched out, dead, being shot with two bullets through his body. His dog was lying between his legs. We also came to where I had seen Carson in the night. He was lying on his breast. He was shot in the body also.”

Washington Carson and Henry Moran had probably been surprised by the Indians after they had left their dugout the previous Saturday morning. If they had been in their dugout when the Indians attacked, they probably could have defended themselves.

The Indians attacked them in the cedars to the north of the dugout, shooting them without warning. Washington probably did not die instantly, but tried to stop the bleeding in his chest with his cap. After they were dead, the Indians mutilated their bodies, perhaps by scalping them.

After locating the bodies, Hunsaker, Willis, and about twenty men set out to find Hunsaker’s boy, Lewis, and round up the herds. They traveled south along the lake and found nothing. That night Hunsaker records that he slept in his “shack” in Goshen Valley.

James Lamb and John Glynes of the Lehi Militia were sent to notify the inhabitants at Fairfield of the deaths.

On Tuesday, February 26, Willis and his men gathered up the cattle while Hunsaker searched for his son. He realized now that Lewis was very probably dead, his only hope being that Moto, the Indian with whom he had been friendly, had talked the other Indians into keeping Lewis as a prisoner, or hostage.

Willis and his men rounded up about 115 head. Knowing there were still more on the range, Willis and Hunsaker went out again, and in two hours rounded up another 140, making a total of about 250 head at the camp in Goshen Valley.

It was evening now, and the men made camp close to a large grove of cedars near Kimball Creek. Hunsaker returned just as the men finished killing a steer, which they planned to roast for their evening meal.

The men were exhausted, cold, and very hungry. Joseph Cousins, a member of the Lehi Militia, jestingly remarked that “if the Indians kill me, I wish to die with a full stomach.”

After they had eaten, Hunsaker went out again with his boy Allen in search of Lewis’s body. The men in camp built up a roaring fire as protection against the cold, and Cousins and Sylvanus Collet went into the cedar grove to gather more firewood.

“They were busily engaged when Collett, glancing up, saw an Indian peering out from behind a tree not far away. Shouting to his companion, ‘Run, there is an Indian’ he hastily fled to camp. Not so with Cousins. He seemed rooted to the spot, unable to help himself.”

“The savages made quick work of him, mercilessly shooting him down and scalping him.”

The Indians then began an attack of the camp. The men crouched behind wagons and whatever else they could for protection and returned the fire as best they could.

During the confusion the Indians drove off almost all the cattle that had been gathered and seventeen of the horses.

Hunsaker didn’t know anything about the battle but he saw the herd being drive off. As he and his son returned toward camp they found a dead man. Hunsaker said, “Here lies Lewis now.” Allen looked at him and said it was not Lewis. Hunsaker went closer to him and saw that he had whiskers on. He took hold of this arm and found that it was limber and that the blood was not yet frozen. They immediately realized the Indians must be very close to them. They crouched down and ran stooped over toward the camp. He records:

“We ran stooped over till we came [within] 100 yards of the camp. We stopped and heard nothing but we [could] see the carriage and some four of the horses but could not see or hear the boys. I feared the Indians had killed them all off and drove the cattle and horses off for we had just seen two large droves going.”

They crept within forty yards of the camp, until they heard the men talking quietly. Thinking it was safe they started walking toward the camp. The men saw them coming and took aim at them, thinking they were Indians. When they were within twenty yards of the camp, Willis hollered to them and told them to run.

When they got to camp, they were told that the militia had thought they were Indians and had taken aim at them. Willis said that he had thought they were Indians “and that he had taken aim at me [Hunsaker] and couldn’t pull off the trigger, and also two other boys said they were pulling triggers and aiming at me when Willis hailed.”

Hunsaker reported seeing Cousins dead in the cedars, and was told that another had been killed at the camp, and one wounded. Willis ordered the men to retreat to Wixom’s as quickly as possible. They put the wounded man, George Winn, in a carriage, and then walked across the frozen lake toward Pelican Point. They arrived at Wixom’s at two o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, February 27. The wounded man died soon after that.

Alonzo Rhodes continued on across the ice from Pelican Point to Lehi to raise a relief company.

Since the outbreak of the “war” the previous Friday, six men had been killed by the Indians and one, Lewis Hunsaker, was still missing. Tintic, the Indian chief, had been wounded in the hand, his brother Battest was dead, and the least three other Indians killed.

More than 250 head of cattle had been taken by the Indians and driven south and west of Goshen Valley into the Tintic Mountains.

Hunsaker never found Lewis’s body, or determined his fate.

On March 3 he gathered his family together and told them, “I have felt to mourn for my son more grief than in all my life before, and it is all that I can do to refrain and govern myself not knowing where my son is and whether he is dead or alive, but I will here state that … he was sometimes disobedient and would have his own course, but I will further state that he was a through-going boy and when he undertook anything he would accomplish it at all hazards. He was not profane … I also stated that it made no matter when we died, only so that we had accomplished our work and prepared ourselves for entering into a celestial kingdom.”

Hunsaker’s words and grief reflect the feelings that were felt by George and Washington’s families in Fairfield.

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