The Book Cliff Trip

(taken from Bill GIBSON's Statement)

Introduction: The Black Hawk Indian War in Utah reached its peak between about 1865 and 1872. Most of the action was in Sanpete and Sevier counties, but some renegade Indians made their feelings about the white settlers known by stealing horses and/or cattle in other counties. This was the situation in Summit County.

Several young men from Kamas, Peoa, Marion and other settlements in the county volunteered for service in the Utah Militia. William Gibson was appointed Captain of ten men and he named John Carlos Lambert as his Lieutenant. Their most common duty was to track the stolen horses, retrieve them from the Indians, and return them to their owners, preferably without bloodshed.

The following story describes one of these incidents. Some editorial license was used in telling it. If you would like to read Bills's unedited version, you may go to his sworn statement. ~~Venita

Book Cliff Trip

Most of our troubles were from renegade Indians who had left Black Hawk's band and joined with other renegades from Tabby's tribe and from Southern Colorado and New Mexico. They pretended to be friendly and took advantage of the Indian trouble to run off our stock. Two or three Indians would sometimes run off twenty or thirty horses and hurry them through the Uintah mountains and across Green and White rivers into the Book cliff mountains where they would rest for a while then continue on to the Southern Colorado.

The country was all new to us and every trip took us into country that had never been trod by white men. We knew nothing of the trails and routes and could do nothing but get on the horses tracks and follow them. It was hard to get riding horses, and pack animals were out of the question, consequently we were always short of food and bedding, and whenever our trail passed near the Indian Agency we stopped for supplies. Bill Gibson

On the Book Cliff Mountain trip I had with me John C. Lambert and Oscar Clark. We found the tracks of the stolen horses and Indian renegades and followed them across Provo River and down the Duchesne River. On Red Creek we found one of our horses which had been shot by the Indians. (When a horse got sulky or troublesome the Indians would always shoot it.) When we saw the shot horse, we knew we were on the right trail. JC Lambert

At a point near the present site of Myton, we left the trail and went to the Uintah Indian Agency for supplies. I explained to J. F. Tortolette, Superintendent of Indian affairs, what our trip was all about. After hearing our story, he secured for us the services of three Indian guides: Yank, Sagoose, and Little Doctor. We left Oscar Clark at the agency cradling grain for the Indians as pay for their guiding services. I with John C. Lambert and the three Indian Guides followed the renegade Indians across the Green and White rivers into the tops of the Book Cliff mountains in that rough country west of Baxter Pass.

Yank had no horse, so we had to let him have Oscar Clark's which was badly jaded and soon gave out, and we had to take turns walking. We were on our horses' trail and anxious to overtake them and kept moving as fast as possible which kept the footman nearly always on the trot.

We were on the fresh trail of our horses going up a long cedar ridge in the afternoon when the sun was very hot. It was my turn to walk. Provisions were scarce and we were on half rations. We had no water and were weak from lack of food and nearly always being on the trot. I asked Yank, our Indian Guide, how far to water? He answered with a motion, but knew nothing about the distance. I believe our Guides were lost, for in every hollow that had a green bush in it, the Indians would scratch for water. jackrabbit

My lips stuck together and my throat and tongue were parched and swollen and I could hardly speak. I had exhausted every means that I knew of producing moisture, such as chewing lead etc., without relief. Then Sagoose shot a rabbit. I ran and picked it up and cut its throat and tried to suck its blood, but could get none. I looked and saw it had been shot through the body. I then cut it open and found a pint of blood and began to drink it. My lieutenant, John C. Lambert, spoke up and said, "Don't drink it all." I then gave it to him and he took a mouthful and spat it out and said, "I can't do that." I then offered it to the Indians, but they all refused by the shaking of the head and I finished it and believe it saved my life. Right here I was christened by the Indians name "Anshibob," meaning red blood or blood drinker.

That night we found a spring and each of us took a moderate drink and lay down for a while, then took another, etc., until our thirst was satisfied.

The next day we came in sight of the Indians camp with our horses. They were camped on a small stream in some cottonwood timber which we believed to be on the Grande River slope. They had nine wickiups and we could plainly see that they were too strong for us. They were resting after their long ride and had no idea they had been followed or that there was a white man within a hundred miles of them. We carefully noted the location of the indians and horses and waited for darkness.

Now came our reward for the hot sultry days we had suffered. Clouds began to thicken and get black. They were storm breeders and the night was dark and the rain fell in torrents, which kept the Indians within their wickiups while we got the horses onto the trail. Here the Guides did good work getting the horses. Everything went our way.

We had a white horse that would follow the trail even on the darkest night. He was called our trail horse. We put him on the lead. The band of horses followed him and we followed the band. An occasional flash of lightning showed the trail and horses with the white horse on lead.

Daylight found us many miles from the Indian camp and well out of danger. We had three horses in the bunch that were not ours. One belonged to Pardon Dodds, the Indian Agent, the other two were Indian Horses. We gave one to Yank.

We arrived safely at the Agency where Oscar Clark rejoined us and we continued homeward. On the way our horses were jaded and we camped on the divide between the Provo and the Duchesne rivers to hunt and let our horses rest. Here we found a horse that had been stolen by Indians the year before from Melvin D. Cook of Salt Lake County, which we returned and got fifteen dollars for it.

I killed a bear and saved the hide, which was worth eight dollars. We got Clark's check for cradling grain at the Agency and five dollars for delivering a horse belonging to a settler at Kamas, and one Indian pony. Oscar Clark got the bearskin and pony, Lambert and I divided the money. We had been gone thirty days and traveled more than five hundred miles.


Return to Stories Index

Return to Pioneers Index

Comments are appreciated. Thanks!


| Home | Family | Ancestry | Histories | Old Photos | Headstones | Utah Pioneers | Views of Utah | Views of Wales | Welsh Photo Links | Danish Photo Links |