Oct 18, 2011

Four Hard Men, Four Different ways: Part I, Daniel W. Jones

In trying to frame a kind of reference for discussing the relations between the Indians and the settlers in Utah Valley, I came up with the idea to discuss four men who dealt with the Indians on a frequent basis, and who, at times, were called to positions as interpreters/diplomats between the tribes and the settlers. These are four very different men, and their stories will, I think, provide a good picture.

I will start with Daniel W. Jones. A great deal of this information was taken from his autobiographical work, 40 Years Among The Indians. It is a very well-written and lively, sometimes hilarious work. The link I have provided has the full text, broken up into chapters. I suggest you go read it, or read sections of it, if this subject matter interests you.

Daniel W. Jones was born in the year 1830. He was orphaned at the age of 12. At the age of 17, he joined a group of fighters in the Mexican American war. He started out in life hard, and his life continued that way--staying in Mexico after the war to live a "wild and rowdy" existence.

Eventually he tired of that sort of fun and decided to join a sheep herding expedition. While on this expedition, he accidentally shot himself in the leg. The company left him behind, to the care of a Mormon settlement, where he was converted to the LDS faith.

He was an open-minded, warm, humorous man with a hot temper and, sometimes, a nasty defensive streak.

I don't think Daniel W. Jones was one of the first thirty families to settle in Provo, but he was there in the early years. And he took it upon himself from the beginnging to relate to the Indians and sometimes take up their cause. Accounts (other than his own history) paint him as being viewed as odd by the community--a sort of hermit, living way up on the bench above town in the middle of Indian territory in spite of the advice of Brigham Young. He describes his involvement in the Walker wars and other conflicts in this way:

"Active hostilities were kept up more or less according to opportunities during the summer of '53. When the Indians had a good chance they would steal or kill. Some were more or less peaceable when it suited them. I never went out to fight as I made no pretensions whatever of being an Indian fighter. I did my portion of military duty. I assisted in various ways in helping to protect ourselves against the natives, but I always made it a rule to cultivate a friendly feeling whenever opportunity presented; so much so that the Indians always recognized me as a [61] friend to their race.

I always considered the natives entitled to a hearing as well as the whites. Both were often in the wrong. The white men should be patient and just with the Indians and not demand of them in their untutored condition the same responsibility they would of the more intelligent class." (pp. 61, Forty Years Among the Indians)

A few years later, when Brigham Young got up and made his famous appeal in a testimony meeting for volunteers to go save the Martin and Willie handcart companies, Daniel W. Jones was among the first to agree. He rode out, met the company and found: "the hand-cart company ascending a long muddy hill. A condition of distress here met my eyes that I never saw before or since. The train was strung out for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children--women pulling along sick husbands--little children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow. As night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet. There were two of us and hundreds needing help. What could we do? We gathered on to some of the most helpless with our riatas tied to the carts, and helped as many as we could into camp on Avenue hill.
This was a bitter, cold night and we had no fuel excepting very small sage brush. Several died that night." (pp. 68-69, Forty Years Among the Indians)

Daniel Jones was a practical man, a survivor. He also had a heart full of compassion. He was an ideal person to go and help the handcart companies. He stayed with them, helping them through the hardest point of their journey, a passage called Devil's Gate, and then when he was asked, he turned around and went back to the spot where the company had left all their supplies and cattle, to guard it through the winter against Indian and other attacks and thefts until the spring, when it could be brought back to the owners into the Salt Lake Valley. Daniel W. Jones and two other men were tasked with this.

"I LEFT the company feeling a little downcast," he wrote, "to return to Devil's Gate. It was pretty well understood that there would be no relief sent us. My hopes were that we could kill game. We had accepted the situation, and as far as Capt. Grant was concerned he had done as much as he could for us. There was more risk for those who went on than for us remaining. "

His account paints that winter as a very grim experience. They ate rawhide, most of the cattle were killed and scattered by the wolves or starved to death. At one point, the men with Jones looked at the fat carcasses of the wolves they had shot, and asked him if they could eat them. Jones said that they ought not to, the animals were "unclean" as a food source, and the Lord would provide them with good food if they looked to their own weaknesses and strove to be righteous in their duties. Very soon after,

"...[a]Frenchmen and Indian came into the fort with their animals loaded with good buffalo meat. I asked about the boys of our company who went out on foot. The Frenchmen answered, "I left them about twenty-five miles from here roasting and eating bones and entrails; they are all right." They got in next day, each man loaded with meat. They were all delighted with the Indian, telling how he killed the buffalo with his arrows, the Frenchmen shooting first and wounding the animal and the Indian doing the rest."

Daniel Jones made it through the winter, and brought as many of the goods across himself as he could manage. Anything in boxes was brought, most of the cattle was reported missing or stolen. Jones kept a careful account of what they used and ate and presented it to Brigham Young, who looked the account over carefully and gave it his approval.

When Jones got to Provo with the provisions for people who had ended their journey there, he found a maelstrom of rumors had been spread about him. People whispered that he had stolen. When he brought the goods to the people, a couple of them said they should have more than he gave them. Jones said he brought what was there, and that was that.

But that wasn't that. The rumors got to the point where Jones was denied entrance in the high priests, which, back then, was a political as well as priesthood leadership position. They cited his thievery as the reason. Moves began to be made by bishops to accuse Jones of the stealing, and women from the community were even telling Jones' wife to "leave him, and go find a better man."

On this matter, Jones writes: "My wife answered, "Well I will not leave Daniel Jones. I cannot better myself, for if he will steal there is not an honest man on earth." I always appreciated the answer."

It came to a head when Jones' (now many) accusers went to Brigham Young and sought a trial. Brigham Young met with Daniel W. Jones and told him that he had been accused, and asked him if he would stand trial and prove himself.

Jones describes himself as feeling shaken by this, because Brigham had previously looked over his account and approved of all he did, and expressed his satisfaction. But he agreed. He wanted to ask the prophet more questions, but Young turned away and went about some chores, not allowing him to speak.

Jones went into the trial nervous, afraid that there was nothing he could say to defend himself, if the prophet thought he was guilty. But the trial was a surprise to everybody. After asking everyone to testify, Brigham Young turned to Brother Jones and said (this is from the biography again):

"You wanted to ask me if I thought you guilty, but I gave you no chance to ask the question. I wanted you to learn that when I decide anything, as I had in your case, I do not change my mind. You were [121] not brought here for a trial for being guilty, but to give you a chance to stop these accusations." Then turning to my accusers again, "How does this look? After charging Brother Jones as you have, he makes a simple statement, affirming nothing, neither witnessing anything, and each of you say you believe he has told the truth. You have nothing to answer save that he is an honest man. Well, now, what have you brought him for?"
One of the complainers then asked if some of the company with me might not have stolen the goods. I answered "No; I am here to answer for all. Besides it would have been almost impossible for anyone besides myself to have taken anything unbeknown to others."

Bro. ______ asked, "If neither Bro. Jones nor the brethren with him have taken anything, how is it that I have lost so much?"
Brother Brigham replied, "It is because you lie. You have not lost as you say you have." (pp. 121, Forty Years Among the Indians).

After chewing out the accusers, Brigham Young and the quorum of the twelve wrote a letter of exoneration on Jones' behalf, asking that he be allowed into the high priests' counsel in Provo.

One more incident paints a perfect picture, to me, of who Daniel W. Jones was. Again, from Forty Years Among the Indians:

"One day I noticed a crowd of soldiers making some curious and exciting moves. I approached to see what was the matter. I saw an Indian standing, holding something in his hand and looking rather confused. The soldiers were getting a rope ready to hang him; all was excitement and I am satisfied that if I had not happened along the poor Indian would have been swinging by the neck in less than five minutes.

I could see from the Indian's manner that he realized something was wrong but could not understand why he was surrounded by soldiers.

I asked them what they were doing. They said that the Indian had brought one of their horses that he had stolen into camp and sold it for thirty dollars; that the owner of the horse was there and they were intending to hang the "d----d thief." I told them to hold on a minute, that I did not think an Indian would steal a horse and bring it into the camp where it belonged to sell. Some one answered, "Yes, he has; there is the money now in his hand that he got for the horse."

The Indian was still standing there, holding the money in his open hand and looking about as foolish as ever I saw one of his race look. I asked him what was up. He said he did not know what was the matter.
"What about the horse and money?"

He answered, "I found a horse down at our camp. I knew it belonged to the soldiers so I brought it up, thinking they would give me something for bringing it. This man," pointing to one, "came and took hold of the horse and put some money in my hand. It was yellow money and I did not want it. He then put some silver in my hand. There it all is. I don't understand what they are mad about."

I soon got the trouble explained. The man thought he was buying the horse, the Indian thought he was rewarding him for bringing the animal to camp; the owner happened along just as the trade was being made. Here ignorance and prejudice came near causing a great crime. As soon as this was explained I took the money and gave it back to the owner. No one had thought of taking the money. All were bent on hanging the honest fellow. Soon there was a reverse of feeling; most of the soldiers in the crowd being Irish, they let their impulses run as far the other way, loading the Indian with shirts and blouses. Some gave him money, so that he went away feeling pretty well, but he remarked that the soldiers were kots-tu-shu-a (big fools).

I have often thought there were many like these soldiers, " heap kots-tu-shu-a," in dealing with Indians."

Daniel W. Jones was a man who had a hard life, who was a survivor and hard worker, who was often thought to be odd by his neighbors. Throughout his life, he humbled himself and did what the prophets and other leaders asked of him in spite of tragedies, privations, and his own edge of pride and hot temper, which sometimes lead him to mouth off (but he always regretted it later, when he did). And somehow, all that rough exterior contained a soft heart, an open mind, and a view of the Indians as people who deserved justice just as the white men did.

Up Next: Four Hard Men, Four Different ways: Part II, Erastus Snow.

No comments: