The Tintic War and the deaths of George and Washington Carson – The Winter of 1855 and 1856

Published on February 24, 2013 by Carol

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Cedar Valley

The winter of 1855 and 1856 was particularly bitter in Utah, and the problems of the cold were compounded by the disastrous harvest of 1855 which had been ravaged by the crickets. Great Salt Lake City and several settlements to the north and south along the Wasatch Front were well established. Settlers had begun branching out into the unsettled regions farther to the north and south and to the east and west of the Wasatch Mountains.

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Much of this movement occurred immediately after the harvest of 1855, so that the settlers could take advantage of the fall months to move their belongings and build shelters sufficient to get them through the winter. The winter months were then used to build and prepare for as early a spring planting as possible.

In 1855 the Pioneers moved into Cedar Valley.

The valley lies immediately to the west of Utah Valley, and is separated from Utah Lake by a range of low mountains. The valley is higher than its neighbor to the east, and considerably drier. Two major springs whose water originated in the mountains to the west of Cedar Valley provided the only source of flowing water for the area. This was in sharp contrast to Utah Valley with its rivers flowing out of the eastern canyons.

Farther to the west of Cedar Valley lies Rush Valley which had even less water.

Two settlements were make by the Pioneers in Cedar Valley. The first was at Cedar Fort which was established on the creek that flowed out from the northern spring, and a few miles to the south was Fairfield, which was built just to the east of the creek flowing from the second spring. This creek was not only an important source of water, but was also the boundary between the two Pioneer settlements and the Indians who camped on the southern side. In later years the creek would serve as the boundary between Fairfield and Camp Floyd.

Control of the limited water supply in the valley was important to the settlers as they planned how the water would be used as they planted their crops. Control of the water was equally important to the Indians.

In 1855 Garland Hunt an Indian agent, wrote to Brigham Young, who was ex officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs:

“To those acquainted with the topography and resources of this country, it is easy to show, that as the white man takes possession of the few oases that here and there dot the dreary desert; the deer, the antelope, and even the varmints flee his presence and leave the poor Indian to take up his abode in the snowy canyons of the mountains, where it is impossible for him to exist long in his present state of nakedness, or he is driven by the white man upon the desert plains where there is neither game nor water… the Indian is forced to quit his favorite hunting ground, or to gain a meager subsistence either by begging or stealing.”

Brigham Young was well aware of the problems of establishing a people, with completely different ideas of property and ownership, among the Indians who were used to a nomadic existence. He hoped that the Indians would see the benefits of the white man’s way and gradually turn toward agriculture and husbandry as a new way of life, thereby lifting from them the Lamanite curse as described in the Book of Mormon.

In order to do this Governor Young had established several “farms” where friendly Indians could learn to plant and harvest their own crops. One of these was at Spanish Fort under Peteetneet, a friendly Ute.

Others of the Utes were not as friendly or willing to learn, preferring to keep their traditional ways. A group of these Indians were camped south of Fairfield during the winter of 1855-1856.

Fairfield at this time consisted of a rock fort, or the beginnings of one. A fort was a necessary part of the settlement plans. In 1853 Brigham Young had said:

I have a word to say to the sisters who have lately come into our city. Do not allow your fathers, your husbands, and your brothers, to go to any place to settle, unless it is walled in or in some other way made perfectly capable of defending you and themselves from the attack of Indians, or those who would seek to destroy you, and your property. If they want to drag you off to some place where you will be exposed to the ravages of Indians, tell them you are going to stay where you are, and then ask them what they are going to do about it. It is not my general practice to counsel the sisters to disobey their husbands, but my counsel is OBEY YOUR HUSBANDS: and I am sanguine and most emphatic on that subject. But I never counselled a woman to follow her husband to the devil. If a man is determined to expose the lives of his friends, let that man go to the devil and to destruction alone.”

The fort at Fairfield was built of rock and was four rods square. This is the equivalent of 66 feet per side. The entrance was on the south side, near the east corner. William H. Carson, Jr., said that “most of the houses in the Fort were log houses. There was just one or two adobe houses. All the roofs on the houses were slanted to the top of the fort. They were made this way so in case of trouble with the Indians the people could get out and walk along the roofs of the houses and see what was going on that way.”

The Carson family were the principal inhabitants of Fairfield, or South Fort, as it was often called.

Five Carson brothers were living in Fairfield at the time: William, John, David, his twin brother George, and Washington. Another brother, Jonathan, had died in Nauvoo.

William, the oldest of the boys, had his wife Ursula and six children with him. Five of the children were from his marriage to Corrilla Egbert, who died in Cottonwood in 1854. John and his wife, Elvira, who was pregnant, had six children with them. David, and his wife, Millie, were there with their two-year-old Mary Jane. George and his wife Elva had a two-year-old daughter Elva; and Washington’s wife Emily Ann was pregnant with their first child.

In addition, the five brothers’ oldest sister Elizabeth was at the fort with her husband Pattison Delos Griffith and their four children.

Their other sister Mary Ann, or Polly as she was called, lived with her husband Thomas Ewing in Cottonwood where the entire family had settled soon after their arrival in Utah in September 1851.

It is not known if Ann, the brothers’ mother, was in Fairfield in 1856 or in Cottonwood with her youngest daughter.

At this time, none of the brothers had taken a plural wife. The doctrine had been known to them since the time they had left Nauvoo and had been publicly preached since 1851.

William’s wife Ursula, or “Sula”, had expressed negative feelings toward the practice. Of the women in Fairfield, she was the only one experienced with the family complexities that could arise from a second wife, as she was raising the children of her husband’s first wife as well as one of there own.

Several others at Fairfield were intimately connected to the Carson family’s presence at the settlement. One of these was Mads Christensen, who had arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1854. Needing a job, he waited at the public square for someone who would have use of his labor. He wrote:

“I was picked up by George Carson, who lived eight miles south of Salt Lake City. He was riding a horse and I was placed behind the saddle and this make me so sore that I could hardly walk for days. He was rather rough character, unfeeling and not religiously inclined. He had a young wife and baby. I liked the baby best for it did not mock me nor use me for a scapegoat.

I had the language to learn and scarcely knew the meaning of a dozen English words, but the first lessons were the hardest. By mutual consent I left Carson and went to Springville where my younger brother, William, was living … thus I spent the first winter. In the spring of 1855 I engaged again to work for George Carson, for which service he agreed to pay me two good steers and one heifer, all one year of age, besides keeping me in food and clothes.”

In addition to Mads, it appears that Washington had contracted similarly with a young convert named Henry Moran.

Both George and Washington Carson, with their hired men, worked as herders, or cowboys.

On the eastern side of the small range of mountains that separate Cedar Valley and Utah Valley is a narrow strip of land between the mountain and the lake. It was here that the Carsons had a “ranch” where they herded their cattle and the cattle of others. One account calls the ranch “Lore Tree”.

The ranch was little more than a dugout with a dirt floor and a range where the cattle were kept. It was probably about twelve miles south of Pelican Point where Solomon Wixom had a home and some cabins which he rented out to travelers. Twelve miles farther north from Pelican Point was Dry Creek, or Lehi.

Twelve miles south of Carson’s Ranch was Goshen Valley where Abraham Hunsaker’s family lived, herding cattle for hire much like the Carsons. Across the lake from Carson’s Ranch Provo.

At the beginning of February 1856 George sold his interest in the ranch to his brother Washington. George and Mads must have moved back to Fairfield and Washington and Henry Moran took over at Utah Lake. Mad’s brother William had also been with Mads and George at Utah Lake, but “had left for Springville to live in his former home with the Richard Bird Family.”

Thus Mads and his brother, as Mads records, “were luckily preserved from death.”

Evidently Pattison D. Griffith, Elizabeth’s husband, was also at the lake planting. This was done by drilling small holes in the ground deep enough that the wheat would survive the cold and germinate as quickly as possible in the sprint. The Deseret News reports, however, that at the end of February the weather had become so cold that “drilling” had ceased nearly everywhere.

As the winter became increasingly colder, and rations dearer, the settlers of Fairfield shared less and less with the Indians as they begged. Their Chief was Tintic, who with his brother Battest, headed the group of about thirty braves, their wives and children. Tintic had refused to follow Brigham Young’s plan and as Garland Hund had predicted, had resorted to begging and stealing cattle.

Peteetneet, who had chosen to follow the plan, “was grieved at the hostilities of Tintic and his band, and remarked that Tintic had ears that were no good and of no use to him, he had council given him, but he would not hear it, and [Peteetneet] wanted Peanitch, the Indian Guide, and three others, when they would find Tintic to cut off his ears as they were no good.”

The rustling and hostilities were mainly aimed at the two settlements in Cedar Valley – Cedar Fort and Fairfield. At times, though, Tintic and his band would move into Utah Valley through one of the passes at the south and of the valley and raid the cattle which were being herded along the shores of Utah Lake.

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