John C. Hileman to Mrs. W. M. Bronson
Posted by Martin Johnson on April 2001
© Copyright Julia Ryden April 2001 This information may not be copied or reproduced for profit without specific permission.
Snake River, Idaho, August 11, 1862
to Mrs. W. M. Bronson
My Dear Friend:
On the eighth of this month I wrote you and sent the letter by a Mormon Chandler company, Salt Lake, to be mailed. That was the first opportunity I got of sending a letter since ___? upper crossing of the Platte. I little thought when I wrote you on the eighth that ____? occurrence was to take place, the next day and the day following, which will long impress itself upon my mind, and that we were in the very midst of great danger and seemed to be almost entirely unconscious of it.
I will relate what happened as near as I can.
On Saturday, about 5 p. m., I was riding ahead of the train a mile or so in search of grass, and a camping place at which we might remain over Sunday. On looking up the road and ahead of me I saw a horseman coming towards me in a hasty manner.
This was a rare thing to see any person coming eastward, and especially in so hasty a manner. On his approaching me I discovered he was a man who belonged to our wagon and who had left us the day previous, to overtake a friend of his, who he learned was in a train two days ahead of us.
The first thing he said to me was, "My God, John! The Indians have massacred a train and robbed them of all they had, and they are only a short distance from us."
I at once became conscious of our extreme danger and turned back to the train to inform them and bring up the wagons which were lagging behind, expecting an attack to be made at any moment. Learning that two ox trains were ahead and going to encamp at or near the battlefield, we pushed on to overtake them.
In an hour's driving we came to the place where the terrible event took place, but found the Indians had run off all the stock, taken provisions, clothing, etc., off the train and left the wagons, which the ox trains ahead of us took and had gone on ahead of us in search of grass.
I found quite a quantity of blood and fragments of such things as emigrants usually carry with them, and it was evident that the Indians had done their hellish deeds in a hasty manner and left. The place selected by them for the attack was the best on the entire road, and not far distant from the road which turns down to Salt Lake, which I learn is 175 miles south of us.
Not finding the ox trains here we pushed on, endeavoring to overtake them, but only went a short distance on account of the darkness and were obliged to camp on the very ground where the Indians had, a few hours previous, made ring with their pandemonium-like shouts and red with the blood of innocent men and women.
We at once put out a strong picket guard on the surrounding hills, got a hasty supper in the dark, staked our mules in the sage brush and hoped the night would be a short one. Nothing happening, we pushed on at daybreak for the ox trains and grass which we found in camp five miles distant, and here we camped during the day.
I found three men killed and several wounded, one woman mortally, and the wagons which the Indians left. Two of the men killed were from Iowa City, A. I. Hunter and an Italian whose name I didn't learn. The other man was from New York city, Named Bulwinkle, and it is said had some 6 thousand dollars which was taken. All buried here. But the affair did not end here.
Some thirty men from the two ox trains and the trains attacked the previous day started out in pursuit of the Indians and their stock, and after traveling some seven miles in the direction which they went they came suddenly upon the Indians and their stock, and a fight immediately commenced. Three fourths of the white men ran at the first fire and the red men pursued, and after a running fight of some three miles, the Indians ceased their pursuit.
In this encounter three of the whites were killed and five severely wounded, one, I think, mortally. After we learned the fate of the last party we went to their assistance to recover the dead and wounded, one of which was not found, and one scalped -- the first scalped man I ever saw.
Late in the evening both parties returned and two more ox-trains came into camp, making now some 2 hundred wagons and 4 hundred men and 3 hundred women and children. This morning we all started together, after burying the dead, and came thirteen miles to Raft River, where we are all encamped for the day and where I am sending this. Here the road forks, one for Washington and Oregon, and the other to California.
I have no desire to pass through another Indian fight and think we shall have no more. Here I shall drop the subject. Yesterday, I found in our camp four men, one directly from Salmon river, one from whom I got much information and with whom I send this letter to Salt Lake to be mailed. He mined the Salmon River some time and says mines are good, but they only extend over a country three miles by five. He advises us to go to the Powder River, where he thinks we may do something at mining. Powder river is a tributary to the Snake and the mining region is some 4 hundred miles from here and is only a short distance from the Oregon road. We are going there and if we can make reasonable wages will remain there during the winter. If nothing happens to su we will arrive at our destination in three or four weeks, at which place I will write again, if not sooner.
All communications for me I will get at Walla Walla, Ore., until otherwise directed. My kindest regards to your father and mother, and George, also to Etta if she is still with you.
Truly your friend,
John C. Hileman.
P. S. The Indians I have alluded to were Snakes, and it is thought were in large force, with a slight mixture of Mormons.
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