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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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