Gunnison Massacre (1853) – At this site a band of Ute Indians massacred Captain John W. Gunnison’s Pacific Railroad Survey party, 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, Gunnison 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 the party. 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. A monument marks the massacre site, which is in Millard County, on an unimproved road, about nine miles southwest of Deseret.
Mountain Meadows Massacre (1857) – On September 11, 1857, approximately 120 men, women, and children in a wagon train from Arkansas were murdered by a band of Mormons and their Indian allies, who were set on a holy vengeance. Known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the history of this event continues to generate fierce controversy and deep emotions even to this day. More ….
Walker War (1853) – When the Mormons began to settle on the hunting grounds of the Ute Indians, the natives were at first friendly, working out accommodations with the immigrants and even inviting Brigham Young to send Mormon colonists to the Sanpitch (now Sanpete) Valley. Relations between the two groups were helpful and cooperative when they first began to settle in 1849. However, when the Mormons began to attempt to suppress New Mexican trade, tensions developed with the Ute, who had long depended on the trade, especially that of native slaves, to which the Mormons strongly objected. Though Young had negotiated a trading relationship with Chief Walkara in 1850, the colonists began to interfere in many of the Ute transactions. At the same time, the area was being traveled more and more with non-Mormon trading expeditions and settlers and in a few isolated instances, some Ute Indians were killed.
The tensions came to ahead on July 17, 1853, when several Ute were trading at James Ivie’s home near Springville. During the transaction, a dispute erupted between a Ute man and his wife over her failure to strike a good bargain. When Ivie tried to intervene, the dispute turned violent and in the end, Ivie killed an Indian brave named Shower-Ocats, who was a relative of Walkara. The Ute were outraged.
In response, Captain Stephen C. Perry of the Springville Militia led a unit into Walkara’s camp the next day to try to mollify the Indians; however, the Utes demanded the death of a white settler in retribution. When their demands were not met, the Ute were even angrier and Perry’s militia fled. The Walker War had begun, which primarily consisted of Ute raids against the Mormon outposts and retaliation by the pioneers. As a result, Brigham Young directed settlers to move from outlying farms and ranches and establish centralized forts.
The Walker War ended through negotiations between Young and Walkara during the winter of 1853. Casualties during the war equaled about twelve white settlers and an estimated equal amount of Indians. The next summer, about 120 of Walkara’s tribe were baptized as Mormons.
Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated December 2017.