Gunnison Massacre Site
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Min Dawg
N 39° 16.848 W 112° 46.680
12S E 346645 N 4349444
Quick Description: There are two markers for the same massacre at this site. The Great Basin Museum in Delta removed the plaque on one marker because of vandalism. Apparently there are three sides to the story of this massacre.
Location: Utah, United States
Date Posted: 7/22/2009 9:15:44 PM
Waymark Code: WM6VBK
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member hobbycachegirl
Views: 30

Long Description:
Attack and Massacre

The weather was beginning to turn "cold and raw" with snow flurries and Captain Gunnison sought to speed up mapping before returning to winter quarters. At Lake Sevier, the team was divided into two detachments. On the morning of October 26, 1853, Gunnison and the eleven men in his party were attacked by a band of Pahvants (Ute.) In the resulting massacre, Gunnison and seven of his men were killed. Several survivors of the attack alerted the other detachment of the survey team who rode to aid Gunnison and his party. An additional survivor of the attack and the bodies of the victims were retrieved later that day. The remains of the eight dead were found in a mutilated state. Killed with Gunnison were Richard H. Kern (topographer and artist), F. Creuzfeldt (botanist), William Potter (guide), Private Caulfield, Private Liptoote, Private Mehreens, and John Bellows (camp roustabout.)

Investigations and allegations

Allegedly, Gunnison was warned by Mormons that local bands of Pahvant Utes might not be very sympathetic to his presence due to an ongoing conflict, known as the Walker War, with Utah Chief Walkara. At the time of the killings, rumors circulated that the Pahvants involved in the massacre were acting under the direction of Brigham Young and the secret militia known as Danites. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were initially concerned that the railway would increase the influx of non-Mormon settlers and non-Mormon economic concerns into the territory. Subsequently, however, Mormon leaders organized cadres of Mormon workers to build the railway, welcoming the income for the economically depressed settlers.

Martha Gunnison, widow of Captain Gunnison, maintained that the attack was planned and orchestrated by militant Mormons, under the direction of Brigham Young. Gunnison’s letters to his wife throughout the expedition left her with the impression that “the Mormons were the directors of my husband’s murder.” She wrote to Associate Justice W.W. Drummond, the 1855 federal appointee to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Utah. She received confirmation of this belief in his response to her letter. Drummond drew this conclusion from informant and witness testimonies in several trials after the murders. He cited numerous reports by whites and natives of white attackers dressed up as Indians during the massacre.

Young, Chief of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Utah Territory, later arrested Indians who he claimed had allegedly perpetrated the Gunnison massacre, but eventually let all of them off without any real punishment. It is claimed that Young allegedly cut a deal with the Indians by compensating them in exchange for shifting the blame of the attack to them.

Historian Brigham D. Madsen, wrote, in the Utah History Encyclopedia, “Despite cries of outrage by some easterners that the Mormons had instigated the attack, Lieutenant Beckwith [Gunnison’s assistant commander] concluded, as a result of his investigation, that the Mormons were not involved and that the Pahvant Indians had acted in revenge for an earlier attack upon their people by a party of white emigrants."

The Gunnison Massacre resulted in much controversy and added additional strain to the relationship between Governor Brigham Young of the Utah Territory and the Federal Government. These events eventually culminated in the Utah War wherein President Buchanan sent the U.S. Army to the Utah Territory in order to stop a reported Mormon insurrection. (The above text was copied from Wikipedia.)


In 1853, Chief Walkara an his band of Pahvant Indians was on the warpath in what was called the Walker War. So tensions were high in the area when a Missouri wagon train came through on their way to California.

On Sept. 25, 1853, pioneers in Fillmore told the Missourians that they could camp for the night at Meadow Creek about five miles south of Fillmore. They were warned about the tensions with the Indians and they were told to be friendly and swap goods with them. However, the Missourians ended up killing an old Indian who was trying to swap goods with them and they wounded two other Indians. The man they killed was the father of the war captain in Chief Kanosh's band of Indians. Kanosh was Walkara's brother and his band was normally friendly, but despite his efforts to stop them, 20 to 30 braves rode out to seek revenge.

Meanwhile, Captain John W. Gunnison was exploring and surveying a possible route to California in the area of the present-day Delta, Utah. He happened to take his band of surveyors to the same place the Indians were camped on the banks of the Sevier River. The Indians surrounded the men as they slept and as dawn broke, they attacked. It was the morning of October 26, 1853. Eight of Gunnison's party were killed while four escaped. No Indians were killed.

It was 12 days before a burial party including Chief Kanosh arrived at the scene. By then the coyotes had left only mutilated skeletons glistening in the sun. Captain Gunnison and another man's remains were wrapped in blankets and taken with the group while the others were buried at the site of the massacre. In 1855 some of the Indians were tried, found guilty, and given jail sentences for the massacre.

A stone monument marks the spot where the massacre occurred. To get to it, travel west from Delta on Highway 50, and several miles past Hinckley to a road sign that marks the turn off. Go south about 1/2 mile to the marker. Because of vandalism, the plaque describing the event was moved to the Great Basin Museum in Delta. (The above text was copied from Great Basin Heritage website.)


Monument (1) DUP MARKER TAKEN FROM SITE, IS IN GREAT BASIN MUSEUM, DELTA GUNNISON MASSACRE SITE In 1853, Captain John W. Gunnison was selected to lead an expedition to find a trans-continental railroad route. He followed the Old Spanish Trail through Salina Canyon, over the mountains to Pahvant Valley, and upon reaching Fillmore, visited his friend, Bishop Anson V. Call. Gunnison made friends in Utah while serving with Howard Stansbury's mapping expedition in 1851. Bishop Call warned him of Indians near the Sevier River because an old Indian brave in the Kanosh Tribe had been killed by members of a California-bound wagon train. Moshoquop, son of the dead brave, had vowed to avenge his father. Gunnison knew Kanosh and Moshoquop as friends, but they did not know of his return to Utah. On the evening of October 28, 1853, Gunnison and his party made camp on the bank of the river. They took a few shots at migrating wildfowl. Two Indians heard the shots and crept near enough to see the military uniforms and army equipment, but not close enough to recognize the men. The Indians reported the news, and during the night, plans were made and the camp was surrounded. At daylight the cook made a fire, Gunnison went to the river to wash up, and men began working with the horses. As the sun appeared over the mountain the first shot was fired. Three men escaped on horses, although one fell and had to hide in the brush. One man swam the river and hid in the willows. Eight men were killed by guns and arrows. The survivors made their way to Fillmore and reported the tragedy. Gunnison's body was taken to Fillmore for burial. William Potter, a Mormon guide, was buried at his home in Manti. Six men rest in a common grave at this site. They are John Bellows, W.J. Creuzfeld, botanist; R.H. Kern, artist; and Privates Lipcott, Calfield, and Merteens of the United States Army. Monument (2) Steel Rail from old Railroad bed GUNNISON MASSACRE SITE OCT. 26, 1853 More Info Great Basin Museum Delta Ut. (The above text was copied from the Utah State History Resource Center website.)
Marker Name: Gunnison Massacre Site Oct. 26, 1853

Marker Type: Roadside

County: Millard

Group Responsible for Placement: Delta

Web link(s) for additional information:

Addtional Information: Not listed

City: Not listed

Date Dedicated: Not listed

Marker Number: Not listed

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