“It was about five o’clock when they passed down the streets of Salt Lake City, then a town of about five thousand people. People came out to wave them greetings. The trees along the open ditches were large enough for some shade, flowers were in bloom in the yards, corn stood ready to tassel, beans were climbing along the poles in the gardens. Surely this was a zion, “indeed a haven for the weary travellers.” They pulled into Union Square just before sunset. Captain Andrus, now on horseback, directed the last wagon in place, then lifted his hand for attention and said, “Brothers and sisters. We have been blessed. We have come to the end of our journey in safety. When we separate, it will be up to each one of you to locate according to your own judgement. Let us unite in thanksgiving to God who brought us here in safety.” People gathered in the streets. A tall, young man with a smile on his face worked his way through the crown and came toward the wagon. No one noticed until Priscilla called, “Mother, there’s Lem. There’s Lem, Mother!” What a happy reunion. Lemuel had married Melvina Thompson and they had a place ready for them at Dual settlement. This was truly a homecoming, especially for the weary mother. Later that winter Mary Amelia married William Hamblin. This left Dudley, Thomas, Betsey and Priscilla. They stayed at Dual settlement until spring and then moved to Tooela. They lived quite comfortably in a two-room log house with home-made furniture. Although they worked hard they had their good times as well. Dudley and Thomas learned to dance. House parties and other church gatherings were great fun. They lived here for three years.
“It looked as though they would become quite prosperous until the Indians became troublesome. They would sneak down at night and steal anything they could get their hands on or drive away. It became so annoying and dangerous the church authorities decided to withdraw the Saints from Tooela About this time a call came to help settle the Dixie country as it was then called. In 1854 Jacob Hamblin was chosen President of the first Indian mission and to help colonize a Mormon setlement at Santa Clara. Dudley had married and was called to take his family in 1857. He took his mother, Sarah Sturdevant Leavitt and Priscilla with him. Jeremiah and Lemual also left with their families in 1857.
“Now you will ask about Thomas. On the 30 June 1857 he was twenty-three years old, a young man of medium height, dark hair and eyes. He was a well-built man with a strong, healthy body and mind. Although he had a quiet disposition, he made friends easily as he had a wonderful sense of humour. He was a good clean sport and had courage to stand for what he knew was right. Having pioneered he became courageous and fearless. He worked with his brother-in-law William Hamblin. Much of his time was spent directing scouting parties or travelling back and forth, as he had a mother in the south. On several of these scouting trips he had many encouters with the Indians. His bravery won their admiration and he learned to speak their language well.
“He had been in Utah seven years when he met the girl of his dreams, Ann Eliza Jenkins. She was born 23 April 1941 at Nauvoo, Hancock County, Ill. She was a beautiful young lady with a beautiful voice and a sharp sense of humor. They were married 1 March 1857. He built the first house in Wellsville, Cache Valley, Utah, for his young bride. The following year before their first child was born they had their first real encounter with the Indians. Betsey, Thomas’ sister, tells her own story:
“The morning had been chilly and clear with a stiff breeze blowing off the snow-capped mountains. Gleaming in the distance seven new log cabins stood proudly in a clearing near the point of a hill. Around the hill a rough trail wound its way, which had its beginning at Salt Lake City. Seven pioneer families had come with all they possessed to spend the spring and summer making butter and cheese. This was a profitable business. Instead of hauling their products regularly into Salt Lake City, they were assured a steady market and a good price from emigrant trains en route to California gold fields which eagerly bought up all the dairy and farm products they could supply. This was the beginning of Wellsville, Cache Valley, Utah. Salt Lake City was fast becoming an oasis in a desert to these weary travellers.
The cabin farthest from the point of the hill belonged to Betsey and William Hamblin and the one beside it belonged to her brother Thomas Rowell Leavitt and his wife Ann Eliza Jenkins. Betsey had come to live here while her husband William Hamblin was on a business trip to California. She came alone with her two children Billy, two-and-a-half years and Jane, only two months. She brought a few milk cows, also her two white oxen which had drawn her wagon from Salt Lake City.
“On the morning our story begins Betsey and Ann were washing in Betsey’s cabin while Thomas, having nothing more to do, sat on the hearth making bullets for their guns. Beside him lay a powder horn and bullet mold. On the glowing coals he held a frying pan in which a large bar of lead was slowly melting. It was now near noon and Betsey decided to build up a fire in the huge fireplace and prepare dinner. Needing wood and not wanting to disturb Thomas she ran to the wood pile a short distance from the house. As she bent to pick up the wood her ear caught the sound of horses’ hooves. Her heart pounding in sudden fear, she glanced toward the trail just as the first of a band of Indians appeared around the point of the hill. Filled with the pioneers’ dread of the redskins she snatched the two keen-bladed axes and raced for the house. “Indians!” she screamed. “Lots of them.” By this time the Indians had been seen by the settlers. Ann had been sitting on the bed resting and thinking as she held baby Jane. It would not be long, only a few short months before she would be holding her own child in her arms. A glow spread over her sweet face as she smiled to herself in happy anticipation.
“Startled, she looked up. She caught that one word “Indians”. All the color drained from her face and her dark eyes reflected the horror of this word as no other instilled in her. “Dear Lord have mercy upon us,” she cried, and fell in a dead faint, the baby slipping from her arms to the bed. Thomas sprang to her side and took her gently in his arms. Meanwhile Betsey snatched Billy off the floor and placed him beside the baby on the bed saying, “Thomas, put Ann beside the children. Then help me move the bed into the corner so that the foot will be behind the door. Now I am going to prop the door wide open and you talk to them.If they are the Ute tribe you can talk to them if they give you a chance and I’ll keep running bullets. We might need all we can make.” So saying, Betsey quickly busied herself at the fire. She took a long thin pole sharpened at one end and stirred the fire. Then picking up the pan which held the lead Thomas had started to melt, she sat down on the hearth and went to work.
“At almost the same instant Betsey had sighted the Indians, others had also seen them. Amid cries from women and children and hoarse shouts from the men, all rushed to their cabins. Doors were shut and bolted and guns snatched from brackets over the beds. Now grim-faced men watched the approach of the band through the cabin portholes.
“Strange to say the Indians did not stop when they reached the first cabins, but silent, grim and forbidding, as their chief who led them, they filed past, not stopping until they reached Betsey’s cabin where they quickly formed a semicircle. They quickly dismounted, securely holding their horses by the lariats which were tied around the horses’ necks. Their bows and arows were held in the other hand. The chief took his place in the centre facing the white man Thomas, standing in the door. The picture they formed as they crowded their horses together was one to chill the heart of a much older and harder man than Thomas who was only twenty-three. There must have been a hundred savages, their bodies, save for a loin cloth, were naked and painted, their hair had been plastered with mud and feathers were stuck in the back, but the most horrible picture of all was the scalps dangling from their waists. Beautiful brown tresses of some unfortunate girl and long, grey hair of some elderly lady, were reminders of recent savage brutality.
“It seemed to Thomas he lived a lifetime while he waited for silence among the Indians. When the last horse was quieted he stepped into the circle and called a greeting to the chief. A grunt was the only answer as the chief glowered at him, hate andl ust to kill in his black eyes. Thomas went bravely on with his speech. Speaking slowly and weighing every word carefully, “We are peaceful people. We have never harmed you or your people. We ask you not to harm us.” “Ugh!” grunted the chief. “White men liars. We kill all white men. My braves want blood revenge for brothers killed.” In his hand he held a long thin pole sharpened to a point at one end, not unlike Betsey’s poker. Now he raised his hand and threw it to the ground with such force it stood upright, buried in the earth deep enough to hold the rest of its weight. Immediately scores of arrows from his warriors encircled it. His brain working with lightning rapidity, Thomas slipped quickly back into the cabin. Going up to Betsey he said, “Do you know what that means?” Betsey answered, “Yes, I know, but Thomas we will not give up here.”
“Laying his hand on her shoulder he said,”That kind of courage always wins the day.” He seized the poker from beside the fireplace, then standing in the doorway he raised to his toes and threw it with all his strength close beside the chief’s spear. The makeshift spear stood just as proudly as the Indian chief’s in the circle of arrows.
“A surprising grunt came from the chief and he eyed Thomas with his hostile eyes. The white man walked boldly to where the chief stood beside his horse. Immediately the silence was broken as the savages, keeping time with their moccasined feet, started a low weird chanting of their war song. Thomas joined his voice with those of the wariors, singing as he had never sung before in his whole life. After the song ended each warrior, placing his hand over his mouth, gave a blood-curdling war whoop. The chief, laying his hand over Thomas’ heart said,”White man brave, white man not afraid.”
Thomas spoke again, “My sister and I and the other people in their cabins do not want to die, we want to live and be friends to the red man. Do you want to die? Do you love your warriors?” At once the chief swept the circle with his hand and then placed his hand over his heart. “Yes, I love them very much. They are all brothers to me.” Thomas took advantage ofthis. “We may die, but some of your warriors that you say you love will die also – maybe even you, their chief will die first, for inside every cabin are white men with guns watching you through little holes in the wall. If you start to kill us they will kill many of you with the guns that are all loaded and pointed at you right now.”
“At this point the Indians began their war chant again. To Thomas it seemed to hammer at his brain and the whole thing seemed like a horrible nightmare closing in on him. The stench from the Indians’ bodies,the horses and scalps made him deathly sick. With an effort he pulled himself together. He stepped back into the house and went quickly to Betsey’s side. “Betsey,” he said in a steady voice, “the chief says we are brave people and because we are so brave he will be good to us and those in their cabins if we will give them all of our cattle, food and clothing, they will let us go peacefully over the mountain to Salt Lake City.”
“As the full import of the proposition struck home to her, she jumped to her feet, standing straight and bravely before him she said, with deep feelings, “No,Thomas, no. We will not do that. It would only mean death in the end, if not from cold then from starvation. We could not hope to get over the mountain. There is still snow in the pass. We will die fighting first.
“You are right,” said Thomas. “I’ll go and see what the others say. The chief has granted me permission to talk to them.” He was back in a few minutes. “Most of them say accept the terms. They say maybe they will take everything.”
“Thomas,” said Betsey thoughtfully, “if the Lord has made these Indians merciful enough to suggest terms at all when they can take everything by killing us and the price would be just a few warriors, then I feel He is opening the way to spare our lives. Go tell them they can have the two white oxen and that is all. Tell the chief I have my gun aimed at his heart and he will be the first do die, but tell him this as a last resort.”
“Again Thomas stepped out into the semi-circle. He strode up to where the chief stood waiting, stopping only a few feet from him. He drew himself up and looking the chief full in the face he spoke swiftly in the Indian dialect. “My sister and I cannot accept your terms because we would all die anyway. We could not get through the deep snow in the mountain pass, with no covering for our bodies, for we are not tough like your warriors. My brave sister says for you to take the two white oxen because they are the best we have and are fit even for an Indian chief. Take these and go in peace.”
“Thomas held his breath while the chief gave him a grim solid look. Suddenly the chief seized Thomas in his strong, brawny arms. He hugged him as though he could not restrain his admiration for this white man’s bravery. Betsey, watching from the cabin, almost fainted. She thought surely her brother was being killed. Then she breathed again as she saw the chief release Thomas. This broke the silence. “White man and squaw talk brave, very brave. We no kill. Take oxen and go.”
From the book: The Life of THOMAS ROWELL LEAVITT And His Descendants p.21-27
The true Indian story involving Thomas and his sister Betsey was
included in the book by Betsey’s granddaughter, Josephine Alger Pursley;