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Chief Little Soldier - (1841-1884)

Shoshone Indian Village by W. P. Snyder

Weber County was home for camping and wintering grounds to a band of Northwestern Shoshone that were sometimes referred to incorrectly as “Weber Utes”.   In February 1850 Weber Shoshone Chief Terikee was camped by the Big Bend in the Weber River with eighty-five warriors and Chief Little Soldier was on the south side of the Weber River with sixty-five warriors.  The white leaders in Ogden were uneasy, but the natives left in the spring and then returned in August.  
 
In August Chief Terikee talked peace with Ogden leader, Lorin Farr, and visited with Farr’s family.   But the bright prospect of mutual friendly intentions was struck with tragedy on September 17, 1850, when Harrisville settler, Urban Stewart, shot blindly into his corn patch and unintentionally killed Chief Terikee who was respectfully removing his straying horses from the patch. 
 
Chief Little Soldier demanded that the settlers turn Urban Stewart over to them, but Stewart fled for his life. Danger and chaos ensued for all the settlers who were a small group compared to the hundreds of Native Americans in the valley.  Within a day the Shoshone killed a white man in revenge, stole five head of horses and fled north. [1]

 

Chief Little Soldier, age 29, now became the pre-eminent chief of all the Weber Northwestern Shoshone.  The name his parents gave him is lost to history as Little Soldier considered it a “bad name”.  Beginning in the 1840s, the settlers only knew him as Little Soldier. In the 1860s a resident of 2nd Street observed that Little Soldier often wore a soldier hat. [2]

Chief Little Soldier & wife Wango-bit-y

In the 1850s the cattle and herds of the settlers in Weber County and all over Utah Territory were denuding the land of the magnificent grasses, plants and seeds that the Shoshone gathered for food. Seeds of the grass cover were stored by the natives for winter use and were essential for their existence.  To survive, the hungry Indians killed cattle, stole garden produce and burned fences as they felt it was their right to do so since the white men had intruded on Indian land. [3]  The Mormons urged the natives to join them and learn the art of husbandry, but the natives resisted the suggestion and demanded tributes for the destruction of their food and land. The Shoshone never acknowledged the right of the white man to usurp the land. [4]

Even more destructive to the Native American land ecology were the 70,000 gold seekers passing through Utah Territory in 1849-50 creating a devastating impact on the Shoshone and Paiute people. The white travelers indiscriminately killed the Indians and contributed the most to retaliatory attacks by natives. Travelers refused to give tributes or even respect to the worthless Indian creatures. Gold seekers, immigrants and miners continued to use these trails until 1869, denuding the watercourses, destroying grass seeds, roots and small game that the Shoshone depended upon. [5]

In July 1853, as the Indians were troublesome and there were still hard feelings about the death of Chief Terikee, Brigham Young commanded settlers in Weber County to “fort up” as a precaution against possible Indian attacks. Bingham Fort was organized by Bishop Erastus Bingham, straddling West 2nd Street for four blocks in the area where the Bingham family had settled. This site was two miles south of the corn patch where Chief Terikee was killed and in a heavy camping location for Native Americans. [6]

In August 1853 one-hundred-fifty Shoshone and Bannock warriors swept in Willard (then Willow Creek, 10 miles north of Bingham Fort) whooping, yelling and singing their war song. They turned their horses loose on grain, corn and potato fields and harvested some of the crop. David Moore reported that “the Shoshone are bitter against us and say this is their ground and they intend to have it”. In spite of threats, a battle against whites did not materialize. [7]

 

At first the Bingham Fort residents were nervous and kept their guns close by, but the relations with the local Weber Shoshone remained friendly.  Little Soldier's braves were admitted into the fort and sometimes camped there in the open space in the middle.  Food was scarce for all, but the settlers shared what they had. The walls of the fort went up slowly; some white families failed to put up their assigned portion of the walls, and the east gate was not put in place until 1856. There did not appear to be an urgent need for the security of fort walls. No wars were ever fought here; it turned out to be a fort of peace with the Indians and a gathering of white persons into a small town. [8]
 
In the winter of 1854-55 the Weber Shoshone were completely without food, and the settlers did not have much surplus.  David Moore proposed to Chief Little Soldier that they give up their arms and live in the fort with the settlers, sharing the chores and labor instead of just getting handouts. It was a good idea, but the natives resisted giving up their guns.  After they had reluctantly stored their guns in the tithing house, James S. Brown recorded the following:
 
Chief Little Soldier’s brother said, “Here are my wife, my children, my horses and everything that I have.  Take it all and keep it, only give me back my gun and let me go free.  I will cast all the rest away.  There is my child,” pointing to a three year old, “take it.”…
 
This spirit was but a reflex of that which animated the whole band; “for,” said they, “we are only squaws now.  We cannot hunt or defend our families.  We are not anybody now.”  But finally, though very sullenly, they went home with the whites and pitched their tents in the back yards.


To us it did seem hard to have them feel so bad, but they had no means of support for the winter, and citizens could not afford to have their stock killed and their fences burned, and it was the better policy to feed the Indians and have them under control.  They could husk corn, chop wood, help do the chores, and be more comfortable than if left to roam; but for all that, they were deprived of that liberty to which they and their fathers before them had been accustomed; therefore, they felt it most keenly.  As I was the only white man who could talk much with them, I was kept pretty busy laboring with them.


In the evening of December 3rd, the Indians had a letter from Governor Young.  I read and interpreted it to them.  Then for the first time they seemed reconciled to their situation.  Their chief (Little Soldier) was filled with the spirit of approval of the course that had been taken with them, and he preached it long and strong.  After that, the Indians and the citizens got along very well together.” [9]
 
Brigham Young praised this experiment at Bingham Fort in his annual message to the territorial legislature on Dec 11, 1854. “He indicated that the settlers had been very helpful in ameliorating the difficult condition of the Shoshoni, furnishing them with provisions, clothing, guns, and ammunition, and even raising grain for them and building homes for some of the chiefs. But these helpful services were a server tax and burden on the people and he looked forward to [the US government] signing treaties with the Indians.” [10]
 
Unfortunately, this experimental program did not gain momentum after the first year, and the US government did not sign a treaty with the Shoshone until July 1863.   However, the experiment was successful in increasing trust between the settlers and the Shoshone living on West 2nd Street and in Weber County.


Among the twenty-one forts on the Wasatch Front, Bingham Fort was unique for its large population of 562 persons and for its common ground with the Shoshone. After the fort was abandoned, the Native Americans continued to camp part of every year on West 2nd Steet next to the settlers until the 1870s. West 2nd Street made a good wintering ground for the natives as Stone's Pond never froze over, and there were seven springs nearby. [10.5] Read more about the cultural blends and clashes of two nations at Brotherhood Stories, binghamsfort.org. 
 

Bingham Fort on 1855 map as a village and location for the Shoshone, or the “Weber Utes” as they were misnamed.

In summary, from 1849 to 1863 there was a great turmoil in Utah Territory between Native Americans and white emigrants on western trails, Mormon settlers, U S Government soldiers and US legislators who were negligent in establishing treaties.  All the white intruders destroyed the Native American sources of food, and the US government gave the Natives little or no compensation until 1863.  The prominent western emigrant trails did not pass-through Weber County, so much of the conflict and violence that was experienced on these trails did not occur in Weber County.

During these turbulent years, Little Soldier always defended the land rights of his people and negotiated for compensation from the Mormon leaders and the US government.  His demands for compensation were commanding, even desperate, but peaceful.

Elsewhere the turbulent years climaxed on January 29, 1863, when the angry and vain U. S. Army Colonel Patrick Edward Connor attacked a large village of Northwestern Shoshone near present-day Preston, Idaho.  Colonel Connor was a “man of blood” who came with 300 soldiers “to kill them all”.  The Bear River Massacre is classified as the worst Native American disaster in western American history.  Men, women, children and babies were slaughtered like wild rabbits. The death toll was between 350 and 400 souls. [11]

Two months after The Bear River Massacre, General Connor continued his goal of extermination by assaulting Utes and incidentally Little Soldier’s peaceful band near Spanish Fork. After killing 30 Utes, General Connor tried to secure peace with Little Soldier by having Little Soldier come to Fort Douglass to talk.  Little Soldier’s distrust of Connor was so strong he refused to budge from a secure mountain retreat west of Salt Lake City. Connor’s agent delivered some presents of blankets to convince them he was not talking “forked” and trying to entrap them. Even then, Little Soldier sent his trusted lieutenant, Weber Jim, to meet with Connor.  On June 24, 1863, Connor and Weber Jim concluded a treaty of peace, or a satisfactory understanding.  There was no formal, written document, only a verbal agreement.

With Little Soldier finally convinced of Connor’s sincerity, the chief surrendered all the government stock held by his band and came in to confer with the general and Governor Doty.  Other presents were delivered to the band at a cost of $3,700 to the Utah superintendency.  The Deseret News of July 1, 1863, expressed the hope that the troops would now no longer “fight inoffensive Indians” like Little Soldier’s band. [12]

General Connor continued to war on all Indians who were attacking the Overland Mail route and stations.  Delayed approbations of $20,000 for treaties left Indians all along the mail line destitute and robbing for food and supplies. The Deseret News writer heard that Connor had given orders to “shoot all Indians… whether friends or enemies, without distinction” but could not believe that he was “thus void of humanity.”  [13]

  

Six months after the Bear River Massacre the treaty negotiations between the U. S. Government and the Northwestern Shoshone began.  In two meetings with the new Utah Territory Governor, James Doty, and the Northern Indian chiefs held in July and November 1863, the Treaty of Box Elder was finally established between the U. S. government and the Northwestern Band of Shoshoni at Brigham City. There were four or five hundred Native Americans in attendance in November who joyfully received annuity goods.  The Deseret News hoped that the peace terms of the Treaty of Box Elder would prevent any reoccurrence of robberies, plundering and tragic scenes that had occurred over northern Utah settlements for the past decade. At the time of the treaty the Northwestern Shoshone numbered 1,500 persons.  The purpose of the treaty was to send all the Shoshone to Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho. [14]

Little Soldier and his band did not follow the trend to move to Fort Hall but chose to pursue their traditional nomadic lifestyle as best they could. They wintered in Weber County for many more years, camping harmoniously with the white settlers on 2nd Street part of every year until the mid-1870s. 

Green highlights the areas of Native American camping on West 2nd Street, Ogden, Utah.

The railroad arrived in 1869 expanding Ogden’s population. Despite two decades of peaceful coexistence in Weber County, the settlers steadily displaced the Native Americans from the land, and by the arrival of the railroad, the Native Americans were pushed onto the fringes of society. [15] 

 

In 1874 Little Soldier and his people joined a small Mormon-sponsored farm near Franklin Idaho, twenty-seven years after his first contact with Mormon settlers.  He was now 53 years old. It is here that Little Soldier, his wife, and several members of his band joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Little Soldier had earlier been refused Mormon baptism by missionary George Washington Hill, who felt that the chief was addicted to hard drink.  With his second application LIttle Soldier assured Hill that he had given up whiskey and said that he was "determined thenceforward never to touch the poisonous drug any more" -- a promise that he faithfully kept the rest of his life. 

 

After his baptism, Little Soldier was set apart as an elder.  He had always been a leader and now he was set apart to preach to the other Indians.  A year later, in June 1875, Little Soldier and his wife, Wango-bit-y, traveled to the Endowment house in Salt Lake City, and had their marriage sealed for time and all eternity. [16]

By 1875 nearly all the Northwestern Bands of Shoshone had moved to Fort Hall Reservation.  The exception was Little Soldier and about two hundred Northwestern Shoshone from Weber County and Cache Valley who joined the Mormon Church.

 

In 1875, Chief Little Soldier and his band joined other Indians at a farm set up by the Mormons near Corinne, in an area where the Shoshone had traditionally wintered.  Corinne was mainly a Gentile (non-Mormon) city that formed around the railroad.  Little Soldier and other Shoshone started learning how to farm there, under the guidance of interpreter George Washington Hill who was sent by Brigham Young to help them. There were more than two hundred Indians in camp, with more coming each day. This aroused much apprehension on the part of the non-Mormon people of Corinne who thought that if any difficulty arose that the Mormons and Shoshone would unite and outnumber the Gentiles. So, the Gentiles called in federal troops to drive the Indians away in mid-August 1875 before they could harvest their crops. [17]

 

The Indians were confused - they were evicted off land they had never sold and believed to be their birthright.  They were trying to join white society and be farmers, and now their only supply of food for the winter was destroyed by white people.

 

Chief Little Soldier made a poignant statement:  "We were making a good farm above Bear River City; and all we wanted was to be good Mormon and live in peace.  But Corinne white man send talk all over the country, got soldiers come and drive Indian away; reason: Corinne man no like Mormon, heap like sell soldier whiskey, make money.  Indian no money.  Corinne man no like shake hands.  Now maybe heap soldiers come, kill Indian man, woman and papoose.  Indian no sleep now, no potato, no wheat, no beef; no like Fort Hall Reservation; not good." [18]

 

After the "Corinne Scare", as the confrontation came to be known, the Shoshone homesteaded with George Washington Hill's help on land between the Bear and Malad Rivers - this time twenty miles from Corinne. It was known as The Malad Indian Farm.  Little Soldier filed a homestead claim on an 80-acre tract of land.  All worked diligently with other Native Americans and Mormon missionaries to build cabins, fences, farm and dig irrigation canals. [19]

 

In 1880 instead of moving on to a new Indian farm at Washakie, Little Soldier chose to return home to Weber County. He was beginning his sixties and felt he should return to the place that he had always considered home.  He and his braves built lodges on the bench of the Weber River close to today’s 24th Street and lived there with their families mixing their old culture with their new religion and their new adopted culture.  On West 2nd Street and in Ogden Little Soldier became a welcome guest among many white residents.

Mary Elizabeth James Jones recalled that Little Soldier came many times to her parents' house for breakfast when she was a young girl.  She said that “Little Soldier was terribly religious and wouldn't sit down to eat until he had asked the blessing.  It seemed as if he would pray for hours, asking our Heavenly Father to bless the cattle on the hills and everything else he could think of.  I really was ready to eat when he got through.” [20]

One day in about 1882, Little Soldier decided to visit his friend George Washington Hill. But George was in Salt Lake City working as an interpreter for the Indians.  When Little Soldier entered Hill's daughter's house, he saw that her papoose, Louis, was all blue and cold as if her were dead.  All the children had the whopping cough, but the baby had it the worst and had ruptured himself badly while coughing so that it looked as if he could not live.

Little Soldier asked them for the oil that had been blessed to be used in the administering to the sick. He laid his hands on the little one's head and blessed him as George had taught him, and by the power of the Priesthood that he held and in the name of Him who healed llittle ones when He was on earth, he commanded the evil power to leave the home and for the sickness to flee. He later told George that the Evil One heard and he left.

The baby began to breath, the baby's cheeks began to get red.  He began to cry for his food.  His mother fed him and he did not throw up. His mother cried, she was so happy.

Then Little Soldier left and went to Salt Lake City to get George Washington Hill.  When they returned, they found the little one sleeping peacefully.  He hadn't coughed all afternoon and never showed any sign of the rupture after that.  His name was Louis Moench, born in Ogden in April 1880, son of the founder and first president of Weber Academy.  [21]

 

Early in the spring of 1884 two quarreling braves discharged their guns and several shots passed through the old chief’s lodge.  Little Soldier was not harmed, but he considered the incident a fatal omen foretelling death to his house; he could never shake off the effects of this tradition of his fathers. The omen left him in shock.  In the three weeks that followed, he became debilitated and was confined to his lodge.  Death came on April 22, 1884. He was 63 years old.

Bishop George Washington Hill spoke at Little Soldier’s funeral in English and then in Shoshone to Wango-bit-y, the only surviving widow of his four wives, to part of his 12 surviving children and to his three great grandchildren. Hill spoke of the past life and character of the deceased as he had known him for thirty-five years. Little Soldier, he said, was an honest, upright man, always truthful and unswerving in his integrity.

A correspondent from the Deseret News eulogized Chief Little Soldier as “An exemplary Indian… He was valiant in battle, defending the rights or redressing the wrongs of his tribe. His influence among his people was always immense, and they looked to him as their leader… He was also a peaceful, honest, inoffensive man, a friend to the Mormon people, and was always a welcome guest at the houses of many people in this county. Peace to his ashes.” [22]

Little Soldier was buried in Ogden City Cemetery, the last chief of the Weber Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, serving for 44 years.

In 2021 Little Soldier would have been 200 years old.  During the Bicentennial year of his birth, Ogden City Council approved a neighborhood petition in July to honor the Native Americans who once camped in the historic Bingham Fort area by giving West 2nd Street the honorary road name of “Chief Little Soldier Way”. Four signs were placed on from Wall Ave. to Century Dr. within the confines of the old Bingham Fort.

Chief Little Soldier's Daughter

In 1860 tragedy struck Little Soldier's family while they were camping at Point of the Mountain. His daughter died after giving birth to her first child. According to the family history the baby survived the birth, but because there were no nursing mothers in the band at that time, there was no way of feeding the newborn infant.

The band of Indians brought the mother's body from Point of the Mountain to Farmington for burial along with the still alive baby.  They were both buried, along with the horse that carried them, under rocks resulting from an earlier slide. The baby and the horse were buried alive. [23]

The site, long known to settlers in the area as "Indian Annie's Grave", was restored and rededicated in 1989 as a collaborative effort of the Utah Archeological Society, the U. S. Forest Service,  the Shoshone Nation, and the Boy Scouts of America. [24]

Rockslide burial site for Little Soldier’s daughter above Farmington, Utah. The red circle indicates the location of the plaque.

Plaque on a large stone within the rockslide.

Footnotes

1] - Sketch by David Moore, Wrote from records and memory, manuscript; Richard C Roberts & Richard W Sadler, A History of Weber County, Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission, 1997, p. 96, 97; Madsen 36, 37

[2] - Scott R Christensen, Chief Little Soldier, Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, Pioneer Magazine, Winter 1995, p. 17, 18; Dorothy A. Sherner, Mary Elizabeth - Her Stories, manuscript, 1933, p. 84.  NOTE: In the Nineteenth Century many Native Americans began taking English, French or Spanish names.
[3] - Brigham D. Madsen, The Shoshone Frontier and the Bear River Massacre, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1985, p. 12-14

[4] - Ibid, p. 32.
[5] - Ibid, p. xvii, 30-32, 39, 55.

[6] - Roberts and Sadler, p. 59.

[7] - Madsen, p. 54.

[8] - Journal of Isaac Newton Goodale, 1850-1857, copied by Eldon J. and Anne S. Watson, manuscript, 1981, p. 52-64.

[9] - James S Brown, Life of a Pioneer, George Q. Cannon & Sons, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1900, chapter 45, p. 348; Milton R. Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond’s Peak, Publishers Press, Salt Lake City, 1966, p. 282, 283.
[10] - Madsen, p. 61, 62.

[10.5]- Journal of Isaac Newton Goodale, 1850-1857, p. 80; Sarah Stone Crowther, Biography of Mary Ellen Melling Stone, hand written manuscript, c. 1930, p. 80.

[11] - Madsen, p. 21, 191; https://www.utahhumanities.org/stories/items/show/258#:~:text=The%20Bear%20River%20Massacre%20was,present%2Dday%20Preston%2C%20Idaho.

[12]- Madsen, p. 205- 207.

[13] - Ibid, p. 209.
[14] - Madsen, p. 213; Roberts & Sadler, p. 17.

[15] - Roberts & Sadler, p. 95,99.
[16] - Scott R Christensen, p. 18.
[17] - Scott R Christensen, p. 18, 19.
[18] - Deseret Evening News, 1 Sept. 1875.

[19] - Scott R Christensen, p. 19; Richard C. Roberts and Sadler, p. 393.
[20] - Standard Examiner, Dorothy Porter’s True Pioneer Stories, 1947.

[21] Theresa Snow Hill, George Washington Hill Stories, p. 115-117.

[22] - Christensen, p.19; Deseret News obituary, An Exemplary Indian, April 24, 1884.

[23] - Bryon Saxton, Standard Examiner, Burial Site Along the Proposed Trail, 20 April 1999.

[24] - https://www.lehi-ut.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Little-Soldier-by-Richard-Van-Wagoner-Google-Drive.pdf  (7-16-2017)

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