By Mrs. A. B. Sidwell
(Written about 1889)
  1. The Pioneers Enter Sanpete Valley
  2. A Year of Privations
  3. The First Summer
  4. Health, Indians, Grist Mill
  5. Walker, the Crafty Indian Chief
  6. The Indians on the War Path
  7. The Indian Troubles Continue
  8. Novel Indian Move Gave Sanpete County Impetus
  9. Maniti's First Settlers
Chapter V

Walker, the Crafty Indian Chief

The question has repeatedly been asked, "What started the Walker War"? The question will in all probability never be satisfactorily answered. Those best acquainted with the prominent traits of the nomadic races of North America, know how small a spark it takes to explode the dynamite of their ferocious natures. Pitiless and blood thirsty, the smallest injury is avenged in deeds of blackest barbarity.

Incapable of consecutive reasoning, with violent, but transient feelings, it is difficult to tell what slight cause precipitated the bloody war referred to. But this is certain: when the Indians were most peaceable, the settlers were never free from apprehension, as the following incident will serve to illustrate.

The tribe acknowledged allegiance to two chiefs, Walker and Sowiatt. Walker was the "War Chief"; and the aged Sowiatt, the civil, political, or diplomatic chieftain, a very eloquent speaker, wielding quite as much influence and power as Walker himself, though seldom interfering with war matters.

On one occasion the male portion of the inhabitants of Manti were mostly away, some working at Hamilton's saw mill on Pleasant Creek, others gone to "the city" on business, etc., leaving only 10 or 15 men, including aged men and very young boys. Walker who happened to be in one of his “moods," literally spoiling for a "row," and knowing too well the weakness of the town, put on his war paint, and sent a peremptory demand for the whites to deliver up to him for death, Shumway and Chase, the two most influential men left in the settlement.

Of course the demand was not complied with, the settlers determining to sell their lives as dearly as possible; the fate of the town hung on a mere thread. Sowiatt disapproved of this high handed proceeding and called a council (of course the doomed inhabitants supposed the council was to decide the time and manner of their death). Walker, who was no "slouch" in an argument, appealed to the basest passions of his braves till it seemed universal slaughter was imminent.

Then, old Sowiatt arose with manly fervor, pleaded the cause of whites, beseeching his followers to forego the hope of plunder and the gratification of conquest, presenting to them with eloquence of a Demosthenes the cowardice and shame of such great chiefs and braves attacking "squaws and papooses"; and although passion, tradition and savage nature were all against him, the magnanimous old fellow so wrought upon the feelings of the warriors that when he drew a line and said, "Those who will live in friendship with the Mormons, let them follow me," he drew after him such a formidable array of braves as to leave the discomfited Walker with a force too small to dare the attack; and he accordingly stowed himself away somewhere to sulk in morose and moody silence until his war paint had lost some of its vivid hues, when he came in and told the whole story on himself.

And this is how our Mormon settlements were planted, and under God's divine protection, throve.

Our men labored hard all day, standing guard by turns all night, bearing with fortitude and patience the various disappointments and disasters incident to frontier life.

An incident in the career of Walker, unconnected with the Mormon settlements, but illustrative of the craftiness of his character, his extensive resources, the subtle fertility of his intellect, the immense distances and domains traversed by him in his raids, may not be uninteresting. With quite a following of his dauntless braves, he went away off across the Colorado, through Arizona, perhaps even to the borders of Old Mexico, to obtain a fresh supply of horses.

They were very successful in bunching several hundred of the Spaniards "Cayuses," and in getting off without an encounter. But the Mexicans were in hot pursuit. Walker and his braves kept ahead of them with their booty well in hand until the Colorado was reached. Once across this formidable stream they would be in comparative safety; but it was a raw day, and the horses were not warm enough to "take the water." In spite of their utmost endeavors, the animals could not be forced to cross the river. The Indians were in a dilemma; it appeared as though they must either abandon their prize, or risk a pitched battle on an open plain. Walker was disposed to do neither and was equal to the emergency.

The daring chieftain, being personally unknown to the Spaniards, selected a dozen of his trusty braves, took a few head of the stolen horses, and with crest fallen and dejected countenances turned back and met their pursuers. He delivered to the Spaniards the few horses taken for the purpose; representing to their owners, that this small party of warriors were mutineers; that they had quarreled, and, in consequence, had a fight with Walker, had lost three of their men, and had succeeded in capturing this many of the horses; told them that Walker was now far across the Colorado, beyond the possibility of pursuit and capture; and that this leader and his mutineers deserved a great reward, not only for their dead warriors, but for their honesty.

They comported themselves in a manner to bear out his daring fraud, thus convincing the Spaniards of the utter uselessness of following Walker. The two parties camped together for some time and smoked the pipe of peace; and the Mexicans after paying them a liberal "bonus" for their supposed dead braves bade them a friendly farewell, taking with them the few head of horses returned and for which they had paid almost the full value, they departed for their respective ranches.

By this time the weather had settled, and Walker on again reaching the banks of the Colorado, was enabled to cross; and without firing ashot, risking an encounter, or losing a man, he brought his still numerous band of horses in triumph to Utah. Such was the man in whose tender mercy the infant settlements of Sanpete were cradled.

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