The railroad survey was one of several sponsored by the War Department’s Corps of Topographical Engineers. Unaware that the Walker War had broken out between the Ute Indians of central Utah and the Mormons, Captain John W. Gunnison, the leader of the 38th Parallel Railroad Survey, and seven men set out on October 21, 1853, from their camp at Cedar Springs, just west of Fillmore, Utah, to explore the Sevier Lake country, in the area of Indian hostilities. Four days later, a band of Ute massacred most of the party members on October 26, 1853.
Killed with Gunnison were Richard H. Kern, a topographer and artist; F. Creufeldt, a botanist; William Potter, a Mormon guide; Private Caulfield, Private Liptoote, Private Mehreens, and John Bellows, a camp roustabout. Four members of the survey party escaped. Searchers found the bodies and buried them at the site.
The massacre halted surveying activities in Utah until the following year, when Ute hostilities ended. Lieutenant Edward G. Beckwith resumed the survey and completed it to the Pacific Ocean. A monument marks the massacre site on an unimproved road about six miles southwest of Hinckley on the Sevier River.
The site of the massacre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.