(Image Above) May 23, 2018 – Coming to Wind River: the Eastern Shoshone Treaties of 1863 and 1868. In the 1860s, the U.S. government negotiated two treaties with the Eastern Shoshone people that resulted in their taking up a permanent home in Warm Valley—the valley of the Big Wind River and its tributaries—in what is now west-central Wyoming.
James Stephens Brown (July 4, 1828 – March 25, 1902) was a notable participant in the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California. He was also a member of the Mormon Battalion, a missionary, notable writer and speaker, and a prolific husband and father.
James Stephens Brown was born July 4, 1828 in Davidson County, North Carolina to Daniel Brown and Elizabeth Stephens.
In 1844 he was converted to “Mormonism” along with the rest of his family, and joined the rest of his coreligionists when they were driven from Illinois.
Upon getting to Utah, he was a prominent speaker, and traveled speaking of his adventures with the Battalion and in California. He also served LDS missions in Tahiti (October 1849–November 1852), England (April 1860-October 1862), the US Territories (October 1869-unknown), the United States (April 1872–unknown), the Navajo Indians (October 1875-unknown), and again to Tahiti (April 1892–July 1893). In 1898 he was invited to be a guest of honor at the 50th anniversary of the discovery of gold in California celebrations.
LIFE OF A PIONEER
BEING THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAMES S. BROWN.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: GEO. Q. CANNON & SONS CO., Printers. 1900.
At a general conference held in Salt Lake City, April 6, 1855, I was again called to go east among the Indians, to labor with and for them. I was appointed by President Brigham Young to take the presidency of the mission among the Shoshones. At this call I hastened to provide as comfortably as possible for my family, and to fit myself for the mission assigned me.
I set out on May 8, 1855, in company with four other Elders, going east via Salt Lake City. I drove one of the two teams, to pay for the hauling of my baggage, as I had no team of my own. On the 10th we reached Salt Lake City, and left the same day. On the 11th we overtook another wagon and two of our fellow-missionaries. We arrived at Fort Supply on the 17th, having had a pleasant trip. We found seven Elders planting the crop.
On the 18th we joined them in the work of plowing and seeding, and repairing the stockade and fences. 29th, eight of us fitted up a four-horse team and wagon and six saddle horses and started for the Shoshone camps, which we had heard were on the headwaters of either the Green or the Snake River. On June 1st we came to a tributary of the Green River, called the Fontenelle. There we rested one day, then moved camp up to the mouth of the canyon.
On the 3rd of June, E. B. Ward, Joshua Terry and I crossed over the divide between the Green and Snake Rivers, leaving Elder George W. Boyd in charge of camp. The three of us went along the western slope, passing one lodge of friendly Indians. On the 5th we came to Siveadus’ camp of twenty lodges. He and his people were very cool towards us, so we proceeded to a stream called Piney, and up that to the top of the divide, from where we could see to the headwaters of the Wind River. Having been told that Washakie and his camp were somewhere on the headwaters of Horse Creek, we made (Near Laramie Wyo) for that point, traveling over snowdrifts that we supposed were fifty feet deep. The descent was very steep, and in some places rather dangerous. That night our coffee basins, that were left standing half or two-thirds full of water, had become frozen solid; and the weather seemed seasonable for Christmas.
We suffered much with cold until 10 o’clock a.m., on the 7th of June. We turned northeast, and came onto Horse Creek, camping just below its mouth, under a high, steep bluff, in a fine grove of cottonwoods. Everything seemed deathly still. We were in the borders of the Crow and Blackfeet Indians’ country, with jaded horses, so that if we were discovered it would be impossible to escape. We began to feel a little concern for our scalps, for we were aware that both the Crows and the Blackfeet were hostile. We gathered our wood, taking care that no branch or anything connected with our fire would make much blaze or smoke, lest by it we should be discovered. Everything being placed in the best possible position for flight or fight, as might seem best if emergency should arise, we rested there that night; and something told us we should not go farther north, but that south should be our course in the morning.
Early the following morning, about 3 o’clock, I dreamed that I saw a large band of Indians come down and pitch camp on the creek above us. I was so forcibly impressed that I awoke the other two men, and told them I felt confident that the dream was true, and that we would prove it at daylight. They agreed with me, so I told them to make as dark a fire as was possible, and to get breakfast, while I would go on the high bluff that overlooked camp and the country adjacent, where I would watch everything that moved, and if there were friends or foes in the country we would see them or their lights before they should see ours. We all arose at once, the others preparing the meal and saddling the horses ready for a hasty move, while I went up on the bluff and there kept a sharp lookout until the dawn. At the first streaks of daylight I saw a blue smoke creeping up through the willows, perhaps a mile and a half above me, then another and another, until it was plain there was a camp of Indians just where I had dreamed they were. Soon the tops of lodges appeared, then a band of ponies was driven up. By this time it was fairly daylight.
I reported to the others what I had seen, and we took breakfast. By the time the sun cast his earliest rays over the landscape, we were in the saddle. Then came the question, what shall we do? To flee was folly, for it was not likely that we would escape the ever vigilant eye of the red man, in an open country like that was. We decided to ride out boldly on the open bench, and go straight to their camp. No sooner had we done so than we were discovered, and some twenty or more warriors started to encircle us, but we rode direct for the camp without showing any concern.
Soon we were completely surrounded by a score of armed warriors in full costume of war paint; as these closed in their circle, they saluted us with a war-whoop. Some had “green” scalps hanging from their bridle bits, while others had them suspended from their surcingles. As the warriors drew nearer to us it became evident that they were of the Shoshone tribe , but we could not recognize any one of them, and they did not appear to recognize us. When we spoke to them and offered to shake hands, they shook their heads and pointed us to the camp, while they proudly escorted us there, some going before us and clearing the way up to the lodge of Washakie, their chief, who, with some of his leading men, stood waiting to receive us. As we rode up, Washakie and his associates stepped forward, and in a very friendly manner shook hands. By gestures they said, “We are moving camp, and you will go and camp with us tonight. Then we will hear what you have to say. We fell in with a war party of Crows and Blackfeet yesterday, and defeated them, and now we are fleeing to a safe place for our women and children, lest they get reinforcements and come upon us and our families;” then with a motion, the chief said, “Forward,” and soon the whole band was on the move.
We estimated that the Indians numbered about three thousand all told, and there was a pony for every soul; they were well supplied with rifles, Colt’s revolvers, bows, arrows, shields and some cutlasses, and large, heavy knives. They were excellently mounted, and their discipline could not well be improved for the country they were passing over and the force they were most likely to fall in with. Their flanking party was so arranged as to act as a front guard, and at the same time drive all the game into a circle and thence into a second circle, so that everything, down to the smallest chipmunk and squirrel, was bagged. This was over a strip of country about eight miles by thirty; and the pack of sagehens and squirrels that was brought into camp was astonishing. The old and middle-aged men formed the rear guard, while the whole female portion of the camp drove the pack animals. The chief and his most confidential advisers rode just in front of these, and we were called to be a part of the escort.
When all was on the move, the camp made quite a formidable appearance. It looked to us as if the shrubbery on our way had changed suddenly into a moving army, what with people and ponies all moving up hill and down, over the rolling country, to the south, between the high Snake and Wind River ranges of the great Rocky Mountains. We thought of ancient Israel, of the Ten Tribes coming from the north country, and of the promises that had been made to the Indians by the prophets of their forefathers.
To us this was a great day of thought and meditation, for at times it seemed to us that we could see the opening glories of a better day, and could almost declare, “Now is the dawn of the day of Israel,” for we had a letter from that modern Moses, President Brigham Young, to read and interpret to the red men, and also the Book of Mormon to introduce to them that very evening, for the first time; and the question uppermost in our minds was as to whether they would receive it or not, for there were many hard looking countenances in the throng, and we could see plainly from their frowns that they were not at all friendly to us.
When we had traveled till about 3 o’clock p.m., camp was made in a lovely valley. The chief’s lodge was first pitched, clean robes spread, and we were invited to take seats thereon. Our horses, packs and all, were taken charge of by the women of the camp, just where we dismounted, and we had no more to do with our animals until we had use for them next day.
A little fire having been built in the center of the lodge, the councilors began to file into their places, each very quietly shaking hands with us, some of them very coldly. When all was quiet, the chief said, by gesture, “Now tell us what you have to say. Tell it straight, and no crooked talk, for we do not want any lies, but the truth.” It seemed to us that they were ready for square work, so, with as few words as possible, we told Washakie we had a letter from the big Mormon captain to him and his people. Then he said, “Tell us what it says,” and between the three of us we could tell him every word.
I am sorry that I have not at hand the full text of the letter, but it was a very friendly document, and, so far as I can now remember, told them that President Young had sent us to Washakie and his people as their friends, that we were truthful and good men, who would tell them many good things about how to live in peace with all people; that President Young and the Mormon people were true friends to the Indian race , and wished them to be our friends, that we might live in peace with each other, for it would not be many years before all the game would be killed off or driven out of the country, and the white men would want to come and settle in the land; that if the Indians would settle down and build houses like the white man, and cultivate the land as the white man did, when the game was gone they and their families would have something to eat. President Young proposed to furnish seed and tools, and some good men to show and help the Indians to put in their crops. The letter further said that after a while, when we understood each other better, we would tell them about their forefathers , and about God; that we had a book that told a great many things regarding the Great Spirit’s dealings with their forefathers, and what He would do for them and their children. Then we presented the Book of Mormon to Washakie , while his lefthand man filled the pipe and drew a rude figure of the sun, in the ashes of the smouldering fire; he also muttered a few unintelligible words, smote his chest with his hand, took a whiff or two from the pipe, passed it to the next man on his left, and reached for the book; he opened it and said it was no good for them— that it was only good for the white man .
In that same order the pipe and book passed around the circle twenty-one times , and each time the Indian made a new figure in the ashes, each representing a different planet. During the whole time only one man spoke at once. One said, “This book is of no use to us. If the Mormon captain has nothing better to send than this, we had better send it, his letter, and these men, back to him, and tell him that they are no good to us, that we want powder, lead and caps, sugar, coffee, flour, paints, knives, and blankets, for those we can use. Send these men away to their own land.”
Another of the council, when it came to his turn, said, “ We have no use for this book . If the paper were all cut out and thrown away, we could sew up the ends and put a strap on it, and it would do for the white man’s money bag; but we have no use for it , for we have no money to put in it.” He could not understand what good it was to the Shoshone, and said, “Let the white man take it and go home, and come back with something that we can eat, or use to hunt with.”
These were the sentiments expressed by the members of the council. But Washakie had not yet spoken, and we anxiously awaited his decision.
The book passed around the entire circle without a solitary friend, and came back to our hands. The chief reached for it, and when he got hold of the volume he looked at and opened it, turned leaf after leaf as readily as though he had been accustomed to books, then straightened to his full height as he sat there, and looked around the circle. “Are you all done talking?” he asked . Seeing every man with his hand on his mouth, he spoke: “You are all fools; you are blind, and cannot see; you have no ears, for you do not hear; you are fools, for you do not understand. These men are our friends. The great Mormon captain has talked with our Father above the clouds, and He told the Mormon captain to send these good men here to tell us the truth, and not a lie. They have not got forked tongues. They talk straight, with one tongue, and tell us that after a few more snows the buffalo will be gone, and if we do not learn some other way to get something to eat, we will starve to death. Now, we know that is the truth, for this country was once covered with buffalo, elk, deer and antelope, and we had plenty to eat, and also robes for bedding, and to make lodges. But now, since the white man has made a road across our land, and has killed off our game, we are hungry, and there is nothing for us eat. Our women and children cry for food, and we have no meat to give them. The time was when our Father who lives above the clouds loved our fathers who lived long ago, and His face was bright, and He talked with our fathers. His face shone upon them, and their skins were white like the white man’s. Then they were wise, and wrote books, and the Great Father talked good to them but after a while our people would not hear Him, and they quarreled and stole and fought, until the Great Father got mad, because His children would not hear Him talk. Then He turned His face away from them, and His back to them and that caused a shade to come over them, and that is why our skin is black and our minds dark.” Stripping up his shirt sleeve, he continued: “That darkness came because the Great Father’s back was towards us, and now we cannot see as the white man sees. We can make a bow and arrows, but the white man’s mind is strong and light.” Picking up a Colt’s revolver, he went on: “The white man can make this, and a little thing that he carries in his pocket, so that he can tell where the sun is on a dark day and when it is night he can tell when it will come daylight. This is because the face of the Father is towards him , and His back is towards us. But after a while the Great Father will quit being mad, and will turn His face towards us. Then our skin will be light.” Here the chief showed his bare arm again, and said: “Then our mind will be strong like the white man’s, and we can make and use things like he does.”
The chief next drew a strong contrast between the Indian’s way of living and the white man’s, telling his people that the mode of the white man was far preferable to that of the Indian. He also told them that the Great Father had directed “the big Mormon captain to send these men to us to talk good talk, and they have talked good, and made our hearts feel very glad, and we feel that it is good for them to come and shake hands . They are our friends, and we will be their friends. Their horses may drink our water, and eat our grass, and they may sleep in peace in our land. We will build houses by their houses, and they will teach us to till the soil as they do. Then, when the snow comes and the game is fat, we can leave our families by the Mormons, and go and hunt, and not be afraid of our families being disturbed by other Indians, or by anybody else, for the Mormons are a good people . Let these three good men go, and find a good place for us to live, close by where they live; and after a while we will come, and they will show us how to build houses, for they are our good and true friends , and we wish they would go home, and bring some blankets, powder and lead, knives, paints, beads, flour, sugar and coffee, to trade for our furs, pelts and robes.”
Washakie spoke thus with great power and wisdom, while his wise old councilors sat with their heads bowed, and their hands over their mouths, only grunting assent to the strong points of his powerful speech, of which this account is only a brief synopsis.
No vote was taken, but seemingly every man gave his assent to the chief’s decision, by a grunt of approval. Then each man quietly withdrew, and a kettle of boiled antelope meat was set before us. The chief had a separate dish put before him. Then we retired for the night.
The camp was almost destitute of food, notwithstanding the squirrels and sagehens that had been taken the day before. The whole camp was hungry, and the last morsel of our provisions was gone, so next morning, June 9th, we left camp, having a very scant breakfast of meat; but we had introduced the Book of Mormon, and had had the pleasure of having it received favorably by Washakie, the great Shoshone chief, and his council, as the history of their forefathers. The chief said the wolves had written that book when they were men, but had since been turned into wolves; that being an ancient tradition among the Shoshones.
We rode hard all day the day that we left the Shoshone camp, and at sundown camped by a mountain leek spring, without a bite to eat. Nor had we had anything to eat at dinner time; so we made our supper of mountain leeks. Next morning, the 10th, we had leeks for breakfast, and at sunrise we were in the saddle, and on our way back to where we had left the other brethren. I was on the lead, with a double-barreled shotgun before me. We had not gone very far before a blue mountain pheasant flew up from under my horse’s head, and lit in the trail a few yards in front. I shot it so quickly that I never thought of my horse being frightened. Another man jumped from his saddle, and had the bird skinned before the blood had stopped flowing, while the other built a fire. The pheasant was broiled and eaten before the animal heat could have gone out of it, if it had been left where it was shot. Then we traveled all that our horses could bear until 3 o’clock p.m., when we came to a flock of sagehens. As I was still on the lead, I shot three of them before the rest fled. We broiled one of them, and soon devoured it, as we had the other bird, then continued our journey till evening.
As we traveled along by a small stream of water, I saw a fish about eighteen inches long, and almost as quick as thought shot at and stunned it, so that it turned up at the top of the water long enough for an Indian boy who was traveling with us to shoot an arrow through it. With the arrow sticking through it, the fish shot up to where the creek widened out, and I, thinking the water only knee-deep, plunged in up to my hips. I caught the fish, we broiled it for supper, and ate it as we had done the birds and leeks—without salt or pepper.
On the 11th we had a bird for breakfast, and traveled till afternoon, counting that we had journeyed about one hundred and twenty-five miles, and reached our camp, where we found all well. The boys soon spread a white man’s meal before us, and each of us did our part without a grumble. Then we made a short drive, and on the 12th pushed forward on our way to Fort Supply, reaching that place on the 14th. We found all well, and in good spirits.
June 15th we loaded two wagons with a large assortment of Indian goods, as we had agreed to meet the Indians with the merchandise, in twenty days, on the Labarg, a tributary of Green River. On the 20th we reached that stream and as there were no Indians there I sent Joshua Terry, E. Barney Ward, and my cousin James M. Brown, to inform the red men that we were on time as agreed. It seemed that after we left them they had quarreled and divided into three parties, and came very near righting among themselves. They were therefore very different in spirit to when we left them. At last they began to come and lodge in three distinct camps around our wagons.
On the 28th, all the Indians were very sullen and did not seem to be the same people they were a few days before. Knowing something of their nature, we turned out about seventy-five dollars’ worth of provisions and other goods as a present. Still that did not seem to satisfy them; they wanted all we had. Finally I told them that we had done as we had agreed to do, and if they wished to trade we were ready. They continued to manifest a very mean spirit, and we were not able to sell more than five hundred dollars’ worth of goods out of a stock of three thousand dollars.
On June 30th we left three of our party with the Indians, while the rest of us returned to Fort Supply with our stock of goods. The Indians felt very bad because we had not given them all we had. It was July 4th when we arrived at the fort, and found the brethren there celebrating the glorious Independence Day. I was quite ill, but the brethren insisted on my taking the lead of the ceremonies. That being my birthday, I accepted the offer, and we had a very enjoyable time.
From July 5th to the 18th we continued our farm labors. Then E. B. Ward and three or four other men, including myself, set out on a little exploring trip among the hills. We crossed over to Henry’s Fork, then returned to Smith’s Fork, where we selected a place for the Indians to settle when they saw fit. Having thus completed our obligations to them, we returned to the fort, and continued our labors until August 1st, when we had a recruit of twelve men sent to us, under command of John Phelps. About August 3rd or 4th I rebaptized all the Elders, and baptized three of the first Shoshone women that ever came into the Church. Their names were Mary, Sally Ward, and Corger. I also baptized a young Indian man named Corsetsy. From the 5th to the 7th, the Indians came and went, attended our meetings regularly, and felt very friendly and somewhat inquisitive. We gave them a few presents. They said they were well pleased to have us locate in their country, and were satisfied with the places we had selected for them to settle and live upon as we did. On the 7th of August, Joshua Terry and I started for Salt Lake City, each with an ox team and two wagons loaded with furs, pelts and robes. We arrived in the city on the 11th, and reported our success to Governor Young, who was pleased with our efforts. We also settled for the goods we had had of him.
On the 13th I started for Ogden City, and reached there the next day, meeting my wife and firstborn child, a daughter, who was born August 10th.
Celebrate with us the great stories of the Native American Indians of the Book of Mormon. Purchase your copy of The Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon, by David Hocking and Rod Meldrum. At Deseret Book and here.
Baptism of Chief Washakie
Wind River Mission By Geneva Ensign Wright Ensign Aug 1982
Amos R. Wright has been dead sixty-seven years. Until 1978 his written record of how he baptized the Shoshone Chief Washakie along with over three hundred of his tribesmen had been lost for nearly one hundred years. Now that it has been discovered in the Archives of the Historical Department of the Church, it can be told again—in Amos’s own words.1
When Elder Charles C. Rich of the Quorum of the Twelve asked Brother Wright in 1880 to serve a mission to the Wind River reservation in western Wyoming, he told him that the Shoshone Indians had sent word that they wanted a Latter-day Saint to preach to them. Amos had learned Shoshone while playing with Indian boys in Brigham City when just a youngster, and had gone on a mission to Fort Lemhi in Idaho to the Shoshone tribe as an interpreter at the age of sixteen. Later he helped settle Indian troubles in Bear Lake valley. For over two years now he had been a missionary to them in Bennington, Idaho, whenever they camped there during the summers.2
Amos was forty years old when he received his mission call in 1880, one of many calls given him to preach the gospel to the Indians during the next twenty years. He had a wife and eight children living in Bennington at the time and made a scant living by farming in that cold, six-thousand-foot country. His wife, Cate, encouraged him, however, saying that she and their boys would take care of things while he was gone. None of them knew how long this would be.3
But Amos knew the Indians needed the gospel and that he had it to give them. Most of all, he believed Elder Rich was the Lord’s servant and that if he said no to Elder Rich he would be saying no to the Lord. Amos’s testimony was too strong for that. And so, in September 1880, he left for the Wind River reservation.
When Amos returned from his month-long mission, he was asked to send President John Taylor a detailed report. What follows is Amos’s account, dated 18 November 1880 from Bennington, Idaho. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the handwritten letter have been retained.
Bennington, Idaho, Nov. 18th 1880 Pres John Taylor Salt Lake City Utah
Your Kind letter was Received. I have appropriated what time I could, (seeing it was Confrence times here) in copying my Baptismal Record which I forward herewith to You to make such disposal of as you may deem proper. …
Judging from my experience I should say that … were it not for the promises of the Lord Concerning them [the Indians in general] I should Despair, or abandon the idea of trying to enlighten them, but I believe the Promises . Accordingly I am thankful for this mission and have enjoyed it very much from the beginning and hope I shall never do any thing that will procure me a dishonorable discharge. One thing About them which is remarkable, when they fall into error and lose the spirit they act ashamed but never show any disposition to persecute.
My reason for making this last trip among the Indians was because I understood I was legally call[ed] so to do. I went alone because there are but few men that would be willing to adopt the plan I thought best and those who would were buisy haying and harvesting and I did not wish to call them from their work when I could get along alone
The former agt [agent] Mr Patten upon being introduced to one of my brothers, at Evanston one day, told him that if ever he could get hold of me he would put me in Irons I heard also from other sources that the present agt has made similar threats and considers our Missionary Work among the Indians as an Insurrection against the government, though I am not prepared to Vouch for the truth of this last report.
Nevertheless for this and other reasons I thought it best to go out there as quietly as I could.
Accordingly I left the Road about 35 miles above this place and tried to follow an Indian trail but owing to its dimness and the fact that I knew little or nothing of the country I could not follow it, but was obliged to strike across the country and find my way as best I could.
I undertook to cross the Wind River Range of Mountains about 40 or 50 Miles north of South pass City, but I encountered so much fallen timber Rocks and other obstacles of a Rugged character I thought best to try some other route, which I did, by Heading that Range leaving South Pass Miners Delight and Lander City in the Valley all to my Right, Keeping Close to the foot of the main Range of Mountains all the time so as not to be discovered by White Men.
However I unavoidably Came in contact with several during the time I moved up the Valley but was not Recognized by any of them though I was considerably acquainted with one of them and made some enquiries of him respecting the route, Etc.
After 12 Days travel I arrived at a place called Quakenasp Springs by the Indians. I suppose it is about 5 miles from Camp Brown, the government Post there though I did not know exactly where I was at the time. I found four lodges of Indians at this place and though strangers to me, they received me very kindly.
I enquired of them How far it was to the Main Village, Agency & Camp Brown. I soon found out exactly where I was. I made my business known to the principal man of the Camp, called Sam by the Whites there but (Tor namp pe Black Feet) by the Indians, who said he was a Mormon and appeard to be almost beside himself he was so glad I had come among them
I told him I wished to send a message to Washakie. He Replied that he was just getting ready to go to Town that day and would take any word I desired to Send
I told him that when he got to the village to take one of the chiefs with him and acquaint Washakie of my arrival, & buisness, but be sure he said nothing to anybody Else. he was soon Ready & off. in the mean time one of the young men of the Camp, accompanied me up on the side of the Mountain, where I had as good a view of the village & garrison of the Troops, as Could be had in that valley, at that distance the whole country being a succession or series of gulches Buttes and Bluffs, so one cannot see but a very short distance from any point, only high up on the Mountain except a narrow Strip of land on Either side of the River which the people Call the valley.
The messenger did not return till after Dark I thought I could see that he had been disappointed. He said that he had done as I told him. But Washakie said that Pres Young had told him of our faith years ago, but he did not Believe our Doctrine and as for himself he choosed to remain as he was.
Furthermore his advice to me would be too Keep out of camp for if I were Discovered by the Whites there I would be arrested & Chained up. The Old Man & the government Interpreter were both very sick [and] unable to go away from the lodge in which they were respectively Confined. The other chiefs who visited me, said that these two were the only ones of their people who were Indiferent to our preaching. You will perceive that if I obtained an Interview with Washakie I must of necessity go where he was, he being entirely unable to come where I was.
The Indian with whom I was staying was Quite uneasy for fear I had become alarmed & would Return without any further effort toward accomplishing the object for which I was sent. He was untiring in his efforts to please me all the time I was there, sent to or generally went himself to the settlements and brought vegetables and such things as he thought I would most Relish. … the Man erected a good comfortable Tent in the centre of the grove for my special benefit, furnished me a horse whenever I wanted to go anywhere. (My own horse having become so lame I had to leave him Entirely) and finally loaned me the best horse he had to come home upon. he said his family had never had the Privilege of being baptized and he hoped I would not forget him now that I was there. in fact he gave me no peace till I performed that ordinance for them & then he was Just as much Concerned as before, because one of his sons was or had gone to the Railroad after supplies, he was afraid I would go away before the boy Came Back, but the boy came all Right and was baptized, Contrary to this Indian’s fears. I was not at all alarmed or Discouraged at the Reception I had met with from Washakie for I had fasted and prayed and I felt that god was with me, and if so who could be against me. However I concealed my real intentions from this man, but told him to catch a couple of horses Early the next morning and with one make haste to the Village and I with the other would prospect the country a little. Moreover I directed him to visit the next chief to Washakie himself, & tell him I was near Camp and wanted to see him Immediately. This chief (who by the way Belongs to the church and has the name of being a very good man) soon Came to where I was stopping. I told him why I was there, and how I had thus far been received. he said if he were in my fix he should go and have a personal Interview with washakie myself. he thought I would look very Destitute to come away and not be able to say that I had even seen the chief. he Questioned me very Closely in Order to find out what I would do, but as before I said nothing about my Contemplated Mode of Procedure. The next day after Baptizing this mans Family with whom I was stopping and some others in that same Camp, I started for the village, which Contained about 1,000 Indians I suppose more or less. I left about 4 o clock in the evening so as to arrive about Dark. I rode up to the chiefs lodge about dusk [.] he had changed so much since I had seen him 16 years ago that I did not know him. I asked where washakie lodge was [.] he Replied that he was Washakie Pointing to Himself. I dismounted introduced myself, and told him my business asked him if he had any objections to his people joining our church if they wanted to. I thought he answered rather reluctantly, but before I left him he appeared to be anxious to give me all the Information concerning the people and premises there, that he could. I asked him what he thought of our Doctrine. He said he thought it was an Invented story, and not true. Still the Mormon People were and had always been his Friends and he wished to be Considered their friend. I gave him an account of the visit to Joseph Smith By the Angel Moroni Restoration of the gospel Etc[.] he said Pres Young had told Him the same year[s] ago.
After saying all to him that I thought I was prompted to say & obtaining his Consent to labor among his people, I returned to my stopping place. The next morning I dispatched a messenger telling him to circulate the word in the Camp that those who wished to be baptized could find me there at those Springs above mentioned, but [to] come in small squads one after the other so as not to excite suspicion. that day I performed the ordinance for 87 persons … as well as administering to many. … That evening I received a message from the Interpreter who is a Half Breed Indian, saying that he was so sick that he expected to die, but hoped I would come and see him Immediately. Accordingly I took my Indian Friend, (Tor namp pe) with me for a guide. we started about sunset. upon entering the village I procured a wrapper and went on in disguise. when only a few Rods from the sick mans lodge, which seemed to be only just across the Road from the forte, I told the guide to go in and prospect the premises and if the Post Doctors had retired Come back and let me know. he soon returned saying the coast was Clear Follow Him. The Interpreter I found lying upon his Back in a perfectly helpless condition. His Right arm was paralized so that he was unable to raise his Hand to shake hands with me, his left arm also was so to the Elbow. However he could raise his left Hand but not his arm. His legs too were so Completely paralized that they appeared to be of no use to him whatever[.] He said he wanted to hear of our Doctrine[.] much had been told him but he said he did not think he had got it as it was. I commenced at the beginning and talked fast until 1 or 2 o clock I suppose, arranging what I had to say so as to accommodate myself to the time as near as possible. he said he believed Every word I said, and if he got able before I got throug[h] with the people there he would be glad to be baptized, wanted to know also where I had stationed myself as he wanted to send his Family to me to be Baptized, which he did the next day. His Brother, (John Sinclare) also Came joined us. the lodge was full of Indians & Half Breeds. my guide said on the way home that night that the Indians present could feel that I gained upon that man until he was overcome, though we spoke in English on that occasion. I told him it was not me that gained upon him, but the spirit of God. he replied that he knew that. I had asked Washakie if he thought there was any Danger of some young wreckless Indian Informing on me. he said no. … when we left the lodge that night I found myself completely surrounded by Indians for several Hundred yards. It seemed as though I could not get away although it would soon be light. One would take hold of me and another and another, till I could not Begin to answer them all. The next day they commenced Coming Early[.] I was in the water almost constantly until after sundown, except when Confirming & Recording. [I] Baptized & Confirmed about 120 persons that Day[.] I have no Ideah how many I administered to. … I became so weak towards Evening that it seemed to me that I could not say another word. still I said if they should come all night I would not turn one person away, & they did come till after sundown; some of them appeared to be perfectly Out of Breath and their Horses all of a Foam. …
One Morning just before Daylight after I had Spent almost the Entire night in the village Preaching & Baptizing, I had only just Retired to Bed at my own Camp, when I was aroused again by the Indians who had followed me up in the night to have me do something for them that they might he Healed[.] Candidates were accompanied by their Friends so I was Enveloped almost Constantly by a Perfect Swarm[.] How such crowds could leave the agency & Post day after day and not Excite suspicion, I don’t know, without God was in it, but they told me that they had sent you Men on Horses to watch the movements of the Troops and settlers up and Down the Valley, and if suspicion should be aroused I should know it first or before any one could take me. furthermore if any one was to be Imprisoned, they would go in first. How true this would have proved to be I can’t say.
But they acted like they thought I was the Hero of the whole Country. they Brought me Various Kinds of Food from different parts of the village, and nothing seemed to Good for me. I had Canned Salmon, Nuts, Fresh Beef, Good Bread, Milk, Potatoes onions, Turnips, Groceries, if I wanted them. they paid 50 cts apiece for Water Melons & brought [them] to me, which By the way was Quite a treat as I had not seen any for 12 or 15 years nor was they unmindful of me when I left, but furnished me with a good supply to come home with, sent a young Indian to show me the trail across the Range of Mountains, so that what it took me 5 days to travel going out, I made in 2 Coming Back. After I had been employed for 9 or 10 Days in this manner, or at least the day before I intended Getting Ready for Home, Washakie sent me word by his Herder that he had come to the conclusion I had told him the Truth (for I had Declared to him with all my Might that I was telling him the right way and there was no other that would do, That it was not Merely my word or Pres Youngs word, but the word of God.) Hence he wanted to see me again right away[.] myself & guide went Down that night Upon our arrival[.] The Old Man wanted to know How he could be Baptized, as he was unable to come up to where the rest Came. I told him that he might select his own place and I would attend to it no Matter where, it might be. accordingly he sent his young Men & Boys to prepare a place in a Creek Close by, which took them about 2 Hours. they built a log Heap Fire on the Bank, and after the Moon was up so we could see better, I performed the Ordinance for Himself and all his Family 17 Persons. before I left I administered to him. I cam Back by the Interpreters lodge[.] He said if he Died he wanted some one to be Baptized for him[.] I told him it Could be Done when Our Temple was finished. He said if He got well he would attend to it himself. He asked me to pray for him[.] I administered to him[.] I never went to the village any more after that night having Baptized all but two of that Camp, (The Int [interpreter] and His Mother, who was waiting on Him) But very many Indians were off Hunting so I could not see near all, of them. The next Day was Issue Day. My friend Sam went to Town that Day to receive supplies while I went into the Mountains about 6 Miles to see if my Horse would be able to come Home.
When I got Back Home that night Sam told me that Washakie was on his Horse that Day attending to Busness as usual. I have seen One Indian from that Country lately[.] he says Washakie and the Int were Healed, & are both well and Hearty now. When I left for Home I thought proper to ordain My Friend Sam. I did so. The kindnesses done me by Himself and Family brought tears to my Eyes many Times, & what could I do for Him[.] I only had 50 cts. I gave him that, but I could Exercise the Power of the Priesthood in his Behalf. I did so.
The first night out Coming Back I camped alone in the Tops of the Mountains of that Range. after I had made preparation for the night, I heard the neighing of a Horse some distance from me through the Timber. I saddled up as soon as I [c]ould and made my way for the place from whence the sound proceeded. I soon Discovered a light which Proved to be the Camp Fire of 3 Indians. I stopped there that night. shortly after Retiring I was taken very sick. the Indians were very much alarmed[.] they said that if I died there the whites would say they killed me. not only that but they were very sorry for me because they Considered that I had been a Benefactor for the Indians. My Sufferings were so severe that I thought the sickness was a judgement upon me for something I had Done sometime in my life, though I did not know what it was. One of the Indians said or suggested that I pray to God to Heal me. They had Hunted through the Brush and timber for something for me but could find nothing, and now what Else Could be done. I did pray that I might be relieved or taken out of the world, for my suffering seemed to be beyond Endurance. Finally I asked the Indian who seemed to be so much Concerned for me, if he was a Mormon, (for they were all Strangers to me,) he replied that he was.
I then asked him if he would pray for me[.] he said he did not know how but would try. I ordained Him and told him to put his Hands on my head and Pray for me which he did[.] I felt very Much Relieved. I then asked him if those other two belonged to the church[.] he said they did. I ordained them[.] they all put their Hands on my head, and prayed for me. As the Gentiles would have it, the moment they took their Hands from my Head I happened to be Entirely well, but I would be afraid and ashamed to say that I was Healed in any Other way Only by the Power of God. And whether the sick were healed through my ministrations or not I think I was Healed through the ministrations of those 3 Indians.
On a Stream Called the Labarge about One Days travel this side of Green River the way I came Back, there is quite a large settlement of Mountaineers. I stayed there all night[.] their Women were very anxious to know where I had been. I told them. all that heard me talk wanted to be Baptized, (I mean Indians and Half Breeds) no whites. I sought and obtained permission from the principal Man among them, & Baptized 18 Persons almost against their Doors. Thus Closed my Missionary labor of that Trip. I left home with only a loaf of Bread tied behind my Saddle and 2 Dollars the People gave me. Before I was 5 Miles away I had $5 1/2 and before I was 2 days Away I had $11 Dollars, but I felt that I could get along without it. I did not ask any body for a cent Either. From the way I had been threatened I supposed it was all my life was worth to go. But Pres [Elder] Rich, (who by the way has always been a Father to me,) Blessed me and told me that I should have wisdom to know what to do when I got in that Country. It was so, & though I knew not the country or how I was going to live or how I should accomplish the Mission, I never lacked for 3 Good Meals a Day without I choosed to fast. Strangers treated me like I was an Old Friend. I was fed and Clothed and Men Gave me Money, though I never asked for any of these things. Enemies to the South seemed to be afraid of me and Perfectly Powerless, though I was alone. Of course I could write Volumes but I am afraid I have already said to much. Again I don’t like to talk so freely about myself but I never was so blessed before & never was so thankful[.] I never Enjoyed myself so long at one time. I don’t wish to weary you but you understand these things[.] in fact I thought of the time you were in France and of Bro Cannon on the Sandwich Islands, and of many of the experiences of the Elders of the Church, and how the Lord had proposed to Bless me too, though I was only a poor Private Man.
Of course you are at liberty to make such Dispositon of the Accompanying Record and these Papers as you may Deem Proper.
Thanking you for your kind letter, I remain your Brother in the Gospel of Christ -A.R. Wright
Thus concludes Amos Wright’s letter describing his 1880 mission. Four years later, President Taylor asked Elder Lorenzo Snow, then seventy-one years old, to take a party of hardy men, including Amos R. Wright as interpreter and guide, to the Wind River reservation again. They left in late October.4
Suffering great hardships in order to visit the Shoshones, they proposed that the Church buy land in that vicinity and send teachers among them to show the Indians how to plow and sow, water and harvest, thus helping them become independent like their white brothers. The Indians seemed to be willing, but the difficulties and problems proved to be too great. Former habits were too strong to be overcome at that time.5
In 1885 Amos was again called, along with Brother James Brown (who was part Indian), to Wind River to teach the gospel. They spent five months, from November through March, living under extreme hardships. Then in the winter of 1901–1902, Amos responded to still another call at the age of sixty-one. This time he stayed six months.6
Brother Wright’s November 1880 missionary report was discovered in 1978 in the archives of the Church, together with a small leather-bound notebook containing the names of all the Indians he had baptized during his numerous missions. These names were carefully recorded, together with sex, pronunciation, date and place of baptism, and confirmation. Included was the name of Chief Washakie, some of his other names, and their interpretation in English.
After the notebook was brought to the attention of the Church’s Genealogy Department, processing of the names it contained began for temple endowments. The names were sent by request to the Mesa Temple in Arizona, and the necessary ordinance work began for the Shoshone women. Temple workers and friends caught the spirit and volunteered to help. Brethren likewise offered with enthusiasm to do the men’s names. In a number of cases the brethren were themselves of Indian descent.
Certainly Amos R. Wright had the spirit of missionary work in his efforts to help bring to realization the Lord’s promises to his children among the Shoshone Indians.
Sunset Light, Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains, 1861, by Albert Bierstadt, courtesy of the Free Public Library, New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Amos R. Wright
“I don’t like to talk so freely about myself, but I never was so blessed before and never was so thankful,” Amos R. Wright said of his mission to the Indians.
Washakie, Chief of the Shoshone
“I performed the ordinance for the Washakie and his family of seventeen persons. Before I left I administered to him.” (Photo courtesy of the Church Graphics Library.)
- Except for Wright’s letter to President Taylor, the information in this article comes from Geneva Ensign Wright, Amos Wright: The Adventures of Amos Wright, Mormon Frontiersman (Provo, Utah: Council Press, 1981).
- Ibid., pp. 124–26.
- Ibid., p. 137.
- Ibid., p. 157 (letter from Moses Thatcher, Quorum of the Twelve, to Amos R. Wright, received 9 Oct 1884).
- Ibid., pp. 158–67.
- Ibid., pp. 253, 261–66.
Geneva Ensign Wright, eighty-four-year-old great-grandmother and free-lance writer, has recently moved from Montana to Mesa, Arizona.
Record of Indians baptized, confirmed, and ordained to Priesthood offices in Bennington, Idaho and Wind River Valley, Wyoming. Includes the names of Washakie and Brazil. Also includes interpretations of Indian names
Washakie is a ghost town in far northern Box Elder County, Utah, United States. Lying some 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of Portage, it was established in 1880 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) for the settlement of the Northwestern Shoshone. The Washakie Indian Farm was home to the main body of this Native American band through most of the 20th century. By the mid-1970s, Washakie’s residents were gone and the property sold to a private ranching operation. Today the tribal reservation consists of a small tract containing the Washakie cemetery, and the tribe is seeking to acquire more of the surrounding land. The old LDS chapel in Washakie is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Celebrate with us the great stories of the Native American Indians of the Book of Mormon. Purchase your copy of The Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon, by David Hocking and Rod Meldrum. At Deseret Book and here.