Story of the Stolen Cow

By Elvira Blackburn

The Indians have stolen a cow it was decided to have the Indian interpreter ask them to pay for the cow. They refused saying “We’ll fight first” so the cry “to arms” was made among the settlers. The same night about 75 Indians gathered on a knoll and kept up a pow wow and war dance continued all night. Early next morning the white men were gathered and partly organized at Bishops place at West Point. Several men of St Thomas were stationed at the corral guarding horses, among them Henry Blackburn, Henry W. Esplin, Thomas Chamberlain and Lou Jensen. Some who were stationed by the house were Andrew H. Gibbons and son Billie, Healy [Helaman] Pratt, Bishop of Overton, Stratton – a little fellow, Bill Swapp who swore words not suitable for Sunday school, Delaun Mills Cox and others.

An Indian who could speak a little English came down where the men were stationed. Soon another brave followed, then another and another until finally the big chief Frank put in his appearance.

Andrew Gibbons stood upon the wagon tongue and began talking peace. The red men were about to give in when some of them showed a great desire to fight by twanging their bow strings and raising their tomahawks, causing the chief to again say “no will fight first.”

“Form in line boys,” said Gibbons, “don’t shoot until the word is given and then go to it.” “I wish I had brot my gun instead of my pistol” said the little Stratton fellow, while Delaun began spotting out the heads in the group he would unload his pistol and then he would take his gun to those hiding behind trees and rocks. Suddenly Captain Pratt shouted, “They are surrounding us boys, they’ll stampede our horses,” and before a final command could be given away ran five of the boys, Bill Swapp in the lead. “Don’t shoot,” commanded Gibbons and an old Indian stepped forward saying “hole on, hole on, hole on,” seeing that the whites meant business, the Indians began to sue for peace in that great chief Frank stepped out and began running and pulling his blanket from around him waving it in the air, which signified ‘surrender’ so the battle ended with out the shedding of blood.

[Events in the Life of Henry Blackburn, Helen Blackburn Willden, comp., 1995, 28]


Mormon Settlement in Arizona:
A Record of Peaceful Conquest of the Desert

By James H. McClintock, Arizona Historian
Phoenix, Arizona, 1921, pp. 109

Near Approaches to Indian Warfare

… There was more trouble with the Indians in February, 1868, when the tribesmen on the upper Muddy, where a new settlement had been formed, came to the camp in anger, with blackened faces, armed with bows and arrows, to demand pay for grain lands that had been occupied by the whites. [Andrew] Gibbons acted as peacemaker, but told, “the fact that the brethren were all well armed appeared to pacify theIndians more than any arguments.” The farmers formed a battle line, with Helaman Pratt as captain, Gibbons in front, interpreting….

[End of excerpt about Helaman Pratt]


History of Kane County

edited by Adonis Findlay Robinson,
Kane County Daughters of Utah Pioneers (1970), 55-64

Chapter 8
Jacob Hamblin Prevents Indian Massacre
Jacob Hamblin prevents a massacre—Peaceful Navajo killed—Indians threaten settlement—Hamblin hastens to prevent attack—Death council—Hamblin refuses to pay.

After the great peace treaty at Fort Defiance made in 1870, the Indians carried on peaceful trade with the settlers of Southern Utah until 1874 when a circumstance occurred which greatly endangered peaceful relations with the Indians.

In the winter of 1873-74, four young Navajos crossed the Colorado to trade with some Utes who were living on the east fork of the Sevier River. While in Grass Valley a severe snow which lasted for three days, hindered their progress. They became very cold and hungry and sought shelter in a vacant house belonging to a man named McCarty. Here they killed a small animal belonging to McCarty to avoid starvation.

McCarty, a non-Mormon of rough character, when he heard that the Indians were in his cabin went, with some comrades, to his ranch, and without giving the Navajos an opportunity to explain their situation, killed three of them and wounded the fourth. The wounded brave managed to make his way back to his home across the river. When he told his story of the slaughter of the other men and his own suffering, his tribesmen not being able to distinguish between McCarty and the Mormons were roused and swore vengeance against the settlers.

Events that followed and how the trouble was finally settled made a very dramatic story. But since it has been recorded by Corbett and other historians and mose of it is not closely connected with Kane County history, it will not, in the interest of space, be fully recorded here.

Briefly, the father of the young Navajo and his tribesmen demanded an old man, by the name of Winburn be given up to them for torture, together with a number of horses. If this ransom were paid they said they would not start a war. The demand, of course, was refused and word was sent to Fort Defiance where the peace treaty had been signed, informing the government officials of the precarious situation.

The affair caused much excitement and fear among the people living in Kanab and the other settlements of Southern Utah. When President Young heard of the outrage committed, he requested Jacob Hamblin to go to the Navajo country and explain the situation. Fearing that the troubgle might cause war, regardless of his own danger, Jacob Hamlin left Kanab on January 28, 1874, and proceeded on his way. The people of Kanab were in horror-stricken apprehension as to the results, especially so when Bishop Stewart learned from the Piutes that the Navajos threatened bitter retaliation. The bishop sent Joe Hamblin, a son of Jacob’s with a dispatch advising him to return to Kanab.

Joe overtook his father at Navajo Wells, but Jacob refused to return, saying, “My life is of little moment compared to the lives of the Saints and the Kingdom of God. I have been appointed to this mission by the highest authority of God on earth. Return and tell Bishop Stewart that I cannot make up my mind to return.”

On arriving back at Kanab, Joe delivered the message and again Bishop Stewart sent Joe Hamblin with a note to his father.

After a perilous ride far into the night, the youth arrived at the settlement of Paria, drenching wet. His horse had fallen through the ice on the Paria river twice before reaching the settlement, throwing Joe into the icy water. Here he found his father, who had stopped for the night with Lehi Smithson and another man who were going the next day to Mowabby. Jacob Hamblin read the note which was practically a demand from the Bishop, warning him that if he went on, he would surely be killed by the Navajos. He again refused to turn back. The next day he continued on his way. At Mowabby, a supply station south of Lee’s Ferry, three or four miners who had heard of the threatening of the Navajos, had fortified the store house.

Feeling that the interview with the Indians should not be delayed, Jacob hurried. He first went to Moancoppy, twelve miles away, where he learned that the relatives of the Indians killed in Grass Vallely, were very angry, but that the older Navajos wanted to see him before doing anything.

On arriving at the Indian lodges of Chief Peakon, he was received coldly by greayheaded Indians who had always been friendly. Some young Navajos whose looks and actions threatened trouble rode up.

Jacob Hamblin asked to see Hastele, the leading chief, but received no answer. He told the grey-headed men about the killing of their three young braves as he understood it, explaining that it was the result of a misunderstanding. But they only said, “When the relatives are all here we will talk.”

Jacob later said, “My spirit was weighed down with gloomy forebodings and I would gladly have left the place could I have felt justified in doing so. Unless the Lord was with us what were we to do with all those against us?”

The next day the Indians gathered and prepared for a council. They informed Jacob they were ready to hear what he had to say. He, accompanied by the accused two Smith men, were placed at the farther side of a lodge in the center of which was a fire. In case of trouble, it would have been impossible to make an escape.

Twenty-four Navajos including four counselors were in the lodge and others stood in the entrance.

The council began by the spokesman informing Jacob that what he had said of the murder in Grass Valley was not true. He said that Jacob had invited his people to come into the country across the river to trade, four of their men had gone and three had been killed and their bones were being devoured by the wolves, and the fourth had returned, “shot through with a bullet from a white man’s gun.” “You need not think of ever going home again,” Jacob was told, “but if your friends want to go they can leave.” Jacob informed the two miners that they could go if they so desired but that he must stay. The miners refused to leave.

At one point during the council all but six Indians had agreed to Jacob’s death. It appeared that they would roast him over the fire without delay. When asked by the interpreter if he were not afraid, he answered, “What is there to be afraid of? The Navajos are my friends.”

He was informed that now he did not have a friend among them.

But, finally, after much heated discussion the spirit of revenge by death was modified. They said they would take cattle and horses for the wrong done them instead of the old man, and proposed that Jacob sign a paper agreeing to pay 100 head of cattle for each of the three Indians murdered and fifty for the one wounded.

Describing this turn of events, Jacob said:

This was a close place for me. I could go home by simply putting my name to the obligation. I reflected, shall I acknowledge by my act that my people are guilty of a crime which I know they are innocent, neutralizing all the good results of our labors among the people for fifteen years? Shall I obligate the church to pay three hundred and fifty head of cattle for a crime committed by others? It is perhaps more than I should be able to earn the rest of my life.

The sacrifice looked to me more than my life was worth. I replied that I would not sign the obligation. One of them remarked that he thought I would by the time I had been stretched over the bed of coals awhile, pointing to the fire in the middle of the lodge.

I answered that I had never lied to them, and that I would not pay for the wrong that other people had done. ‘Let the Americans pay for their mischief, I will not sign a writing to pay you one hoof.’

And finally the trial was ended. Jacob was allowed to go home with the promise of returning to them in twenty-five days. They agreed to send someone into Grass Valley to verify Jacob’s story.

The people of Kanab were indeed relieved and thankful over the outcome of the affair and overjoyed at seeing Jacob again.

A few days after reaching Kanab, he went to St. George where he visited and reported to President Young and George A. Smith. He returned to Kanab where he remained until the time came for him to keep his agreement with the Navajos. On February 17, although sick from the hardship and exposure, he kept his promise. At Mowabby he was met by Ketch-e-ne, father of two of the murdered Indians, and a company of Moquis. Ketch-e-ne renewed the demand for the 350 head of cattle for the wrongs he had endured.

Jacob said he would talk with the leaders when he got home, but he could make no promises.

As Hastele the principle chief did not appear, Jacob visited all the Moquis towns and told them to tell the Navajos that he had kept his agreement as he promised.

This account of one of Jacob Hamblin’s dramatic experiences while working for peace between the Mormon settlers of Southern Utah and the Indians, is significant as a chapter in Kanab history since he was a resident of Kanab and had such a vital part in the early history of the community in other was as well as in his work with the Indians.


NOTE: Chief sources: From manuscript “History of Kanab” compiled by Rose H. Hamblin.

Chapter 9
The Call to Rescue Moancoppy Mission
Blythe’s colony endangered—J. R. Young leads one rescue party—McCarty refuses reparation—Hamblin leads peace party—More Indian threats—Wallapi Council—Investigation of Grass Valley murder—Hastele at Kanab—Roundy expedition—Road building.

John L. Blythe, who was taking a company to organize a colony across the Colorado River, was asked in a note, by Jacob Hamblin to wait at Lee’s Ferry until he informed them of conditions with the Indians before going across the river to settle. He warned that the situation with the Indians at that particular time was not good and that since their number was small, they had better wait until safety could be expected. But Mr. Blythe did not receive the message and proceeded with his plans by moving his company to Moancoppy. The colony consisted of about forty people, among whom were Ira Hatch, Thales Haskel, Ammon Tenny, Fredrick Hamblin and Samuel N. Adair. It was not long before word was received by John R. Young and Bishop Stewart at Kanab that the Navajos had threatened to come and scalp every man, woman and child at the Moancoppy Mission. Brother Blythe and Ira Hatch were threatened with death by fire. Blood was demanded by the braves.

President Brigham Young telegraphed for John R. Young to raise a company of fifty men from Kanab and Long Valley to bring the settlers to the north side of the Colorado River. John R. Young says, “Andrew Gibbons of Glendale, Thomas Chamberlain of Mt. Carmel, and Frank Hamblin of Kanab responded with six men each.” Henry W. Esplin, pioneer of Long Valley, gave the following facts in regards to this call to protect the settlers across the Colorado River.

The company halted at Buckskin and organized their march, having ten men on advance guard and ten men on rear guard. There were six pack animals and three baggage wagons. Two of the wagons were left at the Ferry, only one being ferried across. Among those who were called are the following: Thomas Chamberlain, Henry W. Esplin, Henry Blackburn, Isaac Buchanan, Christopher Heaton, Aaron and Isaac Asay, James Maxwell, Brigham McMullin, Rueben Jolly of Mt. Carmel; Andrew S. Gibbons and son, William and James Swapp of Glendale; John R. Young, James Little, and Frank Hamblin of Kanab. A man from Toquerville joined them.

Jacob Hamblin and Elijah Potter joined them at Lee’s Ferry.

The account continues:

We reached Moancoppy two days before the time set by the Navajos to make their onslaught. I found my task a hard and delicate one. Jacob Hamblin and John L. Blythe were older and more experienced in frontier life than I. Each of them, moreover, was presiding in some capacity over that particular mission, and so they were reluctant to yield to my counsel and suggestions. I have always felt thankful to Frank Hamblin and Ira Hatch for, by reason of the loyal manner in which they supported me, the task was accomplished without loss or accident of any kind. He also expressed appreciation for the support of Gibbons and Chamberlain.

Some of the settlers, among them John L. Blythe, sent their families back with John R. Young, but refused to abandon the settlement themselves. They felt, as did Jacob Hamblin, that to withdraw was a mistake. Jacob said, “We have shown cowardice, fear, and weakness,” and he thought that the Indians would take advantage of it.

During March and April of 1874, the brethren of Kanab continued to work for peace. Upon instruction of President Young, Jacob appealed to McCarty at Circleville to restore to the Navajos the property of the slain Indians which he, the outlaw that he was, had confiscated at the time of the previously reported murder. This property consisted of eleven horses, saddles, buffalo robes, silver jewelry and other goods of home manufacture which they had for trade. A man sent to receive his property was rebuffed by McCarty and his companions. It is reported that after stealing many cattle and horses in Southern Utah, they went into Colorado. In making a get-away from a bank they had robbed, Will McCarty and his son were killed. Tom McCarty escaped and went to South America.

In April, John W. Young, first counselor to President Snow at St. George, sent Elders Jacob Hamblin, Ira Hatch, Thales Haskel, Samuel Knight, and Ammon Tenney as missionaries to the Indians across the river. They were also to assist Brother Blythe in reestablishing the Moancoppy settlement. They carried specific instructions. They had been gone but three days when a horseman reached Kanab, April 18, reporting new Indian threats and demands upon the Moancoppy settlers. The message read: “Navajos are very angry and demand two hundred head of horses, one hundred head of cattle. They give until June 13th to satisfy their demands; and if we do not comply, they will kill the brethren over the river and never cease raiding on our settlements until they are satisfied. Can the property be obtained and forwarded that was taken from them in Grass Valley? It would result in much good.”

John R. Young and twenty-two men from Long Valley and Kanab left to assist the colony. At Moancoppy they met Jacob and the other missionaries. They decided that Jacob should take five men and meet the United States Indian Agent, Mr. Rollins, and some Navajos for a council at Wallapi. The five men were Thales Haskel, Ammon Tenny, Thomas Stewart, Thomas Chamberlain, and Elijah Potter. The council talked over their difficulties. According to Corbett, one of the Navajos said during the council: “Why did you not punish those young men (the three murdered Navajos), if they were doing wrong, and not cut them off and deprive them of proving themselves? They were neither young nor old; they had just arrived at manhood and were becoming useful in the nation; they were honorable and honest and were not stealing. The Navajos are mad and are going to raid unti lthey are satisfied.

“They intend to wait until the ribs of their horses cannot be seen, and their hoofs grow out. They will start in the month of October. They know your country; they are at home anywhere.”

Jacob answered: “Do you remember your people killing one of our young men (George A. Smith, Jr.)? He was the son of a good and great captain. And of killing others (McIntyre and Whitmore) in their own land; and of taking great herds of stock?”

The Navajo answered: “I do.”

Continuing, Jacob said: “We never made war on you for that; notwithstanding all this we still reach out our hands for friendship; but you demand pay from us for a wrong our people never committed. Do you remember all this? When you did wrong we did not wage war, but we came and made peace, and did not demand pay.”

The Navajo replied, “Yes, I know it and remember it all. I don’t know what will be done, but they are mad now. I want peace, but for that I would not be here. I belong near Moancoppy, but I was afraid of you.”

The council meeting closed after considerable more was said which cannot be given here.

They sent a letter to the principal Navajo chiefs who were soon to meet at Fort Defiance, asking again for an official investigation of the Grass Valley murders.

It was not until July 14, 1874, that the great chief, Hastele, Mr. Boyd, who had been appointed by the United States Agency at Fort Defiance, and an interpreter named Hubbert, and others, arrived in Kanab to investigate the Grass Valley affair that had caused so much trouble. They started for the scene of the murder without delay. James A. Little gave this account of the trip:

I and Jacob, had talked to the Navajos and explained to them the location of the ‘Mormons’ and the Gentiles and what took place at McCarty’s ranch. I had telegraphed to Bishop Thurber, of Richfield, and Brother Helaman Pratt to meet us at the lower end of Circle Valley. We arrived there before them and waited. I told Hastele there would be two ‘Mormons’ there that evening, who knew more about the affair than I did, and they were men of truth.

We were camped near the road, where men were passing both ways, on horseback and in wagons. When the two brethren were approaching, and still a considerable distance off, Hastele rose to his feet saying, “There come the two men we were waiting for.”

As they drew near, he remarked, “Yes, they are good men, men of God.”

As the brethren dismounted, Hastele embraced them in true Navajo style. I mention this as one of the many circumstances that have come under my notice which prove to me that many of the Indians, and especially the honest-hearted, are blessed with much of the spirit of revelation and discernment.

The following morning when arriving to visit the spot where the Navajos were killed, Hastele spoke as follows: “I am satisfied; I have gone far enough; I know our friends, the Mormons, are our true friends. No other people we ever knew would have taken the trouble they have to show us the truth. I believe they have good hearts. Here is Jacob; he has been traveling about to do good all winter and spring, and is going yet. When I get home I do not intend my tongue to lie idle until the Navajos learn the particulars of this affair.”

Hastele started for Kanab; Brother Thruber and Pratt, a Mr. Boyd, who was sent by the agent at Fort Defiance to accompany the Navajo delegation, and two Navajo interpreters, and I went to Grass Valley, to see the place where the Navajos were killed. Having satisfied the interpreters we returned by way of Richfield. Returning to Kanab, we found Hastele and his companions waiting for us. Corbett relates: The old Navajo chief and his companions were comfortably quartered in a nice camp in a shady lane near Jacob’s home. The people of Kanab said, “They are our guests and they shall be treated as such,” Therefore, nice cuts of cheese, pitchers of milk from Aunt Mary Judd’s home, grapes and wine from Aunt Sally Crosby’s cellar, squash and green corn from George Adair’s garden, were given to them while Melissie Hamblin and her older sister Olive, who was an excellent cook, furnished fluffy biscuits and Johnny cake with butter and honey atop it.

There was one present which outshone all the rest. This was donated by Jacob’s little son Oscar. Seeing the Indian chief use corn shucks for paper to wrap tobacco into smokes (cigarettes), Oscar at once had a bright idea. He rushed to the corral and gathered up an armful of shucks and carried them to the old chief. Accepting them, the big chief laughed, patted Oscar on the head and said, “Heap big present.”

Hastele, after this little event, began to pay attention to the children. To Melissie he put out his hand. She shook hands with him and emboldened by the kindly twinkle of his eye, she ventured to say, “I like you.” The old chief replied, “Why?” Melissie not knowing why said, “Because you’re clean.” One had to be clean to find favor in Melissie’s eyes.

There was too much of the real “gallant” in Hastele to laugh. He had no such desire. Glancing at his shirt, which no doubt was soiled, he replied, by placing his hand on his heart, “My heart is clean.” The act drove the truth home in such a way that Melissie never forgot it.

All the rest of the evening, Hastele, the old diplomat, that truth-loving patriot with his proudly-held head slightly bent in meditation, as though he had not time for the present, was deeply occupied in thought concerning some of the “knotty-problems” which would confront him when he reached Fort Defiance.

The next morning when the peace-visitors were getting ready to go, Hastele asked about Jacob’s family. He wanted to bid them good-bye. All who were near gathered about him. He first embraced the boys in true Navajo style and holding out his hand, he blessed Jacob and his family. It was an inspiring scene to those present, and they never forgot the act, nor Hastele.

Peace was finally again established between the Navajos and the settlers. Jacob Hamblin says, Ketch-e-ne, father of two of the murdered braves, died a few months later, brokenhearted over the loss of his sons.

The year before the above incident, in the spring of 1873, President Brigham Young had called a number of people to establish settlements in Arizona. They met at the tabernacle in Salt Lake where they were given instructions by President Young. A company of these people headed by Lorenzo W. Roundy stopped in Kanab for a short time in April as they were on their way to Arizona. After the river was crossed, the expedition was abandoned when they saw the desert wasteland and because they feared Indians. They returned to Utah. Among these were Charles S. Cram and family, who first settled in Johnson, but later located at Kanab. They brought with them a number of cows and horses which they first ran in Stewart Canyon.

According to John R. Young, it was 1873 that the road over ‘Lee’s Backbone’ near Lee’s Ferry was built.

Zadok Judd, Jr., says that he, Walter Dinsor, and L. C. Mariger from Kanab worked with the other men in Southern Utah on this project. They repaired the road from Kanab and spent about three weeks building the road over Lee’s Backbone. On their way home they met the Lorenzo W. Roundy company. He says, “Thus we opened the gateway from Utah to Arizona and it was, I suppose, the only wagon road used for many years.”

A little prior to this time, Jacob Hamblin had located a wagon road from the mouth of the Paria to the San Francisco Forest.


NOTE: Chief sources: From manuscript “History of Kanab” compiled from old journals, etc. by Rose H. Hamblin.


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