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Incident at the Schoolhouse

Mill Creek Schoolhouse was located on the SE corner of the intersection of 2nd Street and today’s railroad track; in 2020 it was announced that this site will be the location of a new Front Runner Station.
Mill Creek Schoolhouse was located on the SE corner of the intersection of 2nd Street and today’s railroad track; in 2020 it was announced that this site will be the location of a new Front Runner Station.

Amanda Bingham
Amanda Bingham

The settlers and the Indians had a treaty… but the rude things we say or think can violate that…

A dramatic incident occurred in the Mill Creek Schoolhouse in about 1864 between the children and the Indians who came begging from the children at lunchtime.

“The Indian women were frequently begging from the settlers, and when they were camped in the Meadows and school was in session, the women used to come to the schoolhouse at noon and beg the children’s lunches. It wasn’t very often that Mary Hutchens took her lunch when she went to school; she preferred to run home and back.

One day as she neared the schoolhouse for the afternoon’s session, she saw a crowd of Indians at the schoolhouse, some on horseback, and they all seemed to be in a rather serious mood, as they were talking and gesticulating. Mary had always been told that if she minded her business, no harm would come to her, and as she had been familiar with Indians all her life, she had no fear in approaching the crowd. Then too, she saw her teacher Mrs. (Amanda) Bingham coming down the street, so she figured she would be safe.

They arrived about the same time. Mary heard Mrs. Bingham ask what was the trouble, and the Indian chiefs closed about her and commenced talking excitedly. They conversed together in the Indian language for quite a while. Mary turned to one of the schoolgirls and said, “What is the matter?”

The little girl answered that during the noon hour quite a number of the women had come begging for the children’s lunches and that a number of them had little nursing babies and that the boys made fun of the women for exposing their breasts so the women went away.

Mary looked about her. The teacher was talking very earnestly to the Indian chiefs, and they apparently were becoming quieter. She noticed too that a lot of the children were already in the schoolhouse. Then Mrs. Bingham called the children to gather together into the schoolroom and when they got inside, they found a number already there, also two or three Indians; and following closely on the heels of the children from outside, came to the rest of the Indians until the room was soon crowded to capacity.

Then the teacher called for order and told the children that the Indians had come to report that some of the boys had insulted their women by making fun of them. She asked what boys were guilty of the offense and some owned up to the deed; others had to be named, but at least a half dozen were designated as being parties to the offense. They were the larger boys from 11 to 12 years of age, and one was Mrs. Bingham’s son.

Then she said that the Indians were demanding the boys so they could punish them as they felt they deserved, but that she had finally prevailed on them to let her do the whipping, though they would superintend the punishment and decide when each boy had had enough.

Then she asked if the boys would rather she did the whipping or turn them over to the Indians. Of course, the boys agreed that it was preferable for her to whip them. Then she had them go out and bring in three green willows each. She braided three together and whipped each boy with a new braided willow whip until the Indians in charge agreed that the culprit had been punished enough; then she took another boy and punished him. It took a long time and the teacher appeared exhausted when it was finished. The boys were crying badly, so were the smaller girls. It was a tense and critical time, and it frightened one to hear the falling of the whip, the outcries of the boys, and the grunts of satisfaction from the Indians at the punishment.

Then the Indians filed out of the schoolroom after telling the teacher things had been settled to their satisfaction, and as they left the school ground on their ponies they whooped in a bloodcurdling manner and caused quite a commotion.

Then the teacher very seriously addressed the pupils – she told them how very near they had come to being seriously hurt by the Indians, and that if the boys had been delivered into their hands there was no telling what might have happened to them, and the result would have been that all of the settlers in the valley might have suffered. She explained that Brigham Young had made a treaty with the Indians that the white people would live at peace with them; and that the Indians had been more honorable than the boys in this instance because they had not taken the boys while she was away but had waited until she had come before taking action; that the children must learn to respect the rights of the Indians as the country really belonged to them first; and that the white people were the interlopers and should therefore always treat the Indians with respect, as there were just a handful of white people and many thousands of Indians in the valley.

The boys were very much subdued, and they listened intently, as did the rest of the children, and as it was impossible to settle down to studying after the awful incident, the teacher dismissed the school and the children went home.

Mary told her father, William Hutchens, about it, and he agreed with Mrs. Bingham in everything she had said and done and said she had averted a very serious catastrophe by punishing the boys and settling the dispute to the satisfaction of the Indians then and there. He warned the children again not to go into the Indian camps but to keep to the roadways when they left home and to be courteous to the Indians always.” [1]

Mary Elizabeth Hutchens attended the Mill Creek School in 1864.
Mary Elizabeth Hutchens attended the Mill Creek School in 1864.


[1] - Autobiography of Mary Elizabeth Hutchens Sherner, Mary Elizabeth – Her Stories, dictated to her daughter Dorothy A. Sherner, manuscript, 1933, p. 85.

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