Updated July, 2022
About this photo, from the Library of Congress
Photograph of the Southern Plains delegation, taken in the White House Conservatory on March 27, 1863. The interpreter John Simpson Smith (misidentified in source as William Simpson Smith) and the agent Samuel G. Colley are standing at the left of the group; the white woman standing at the far right is often identified as Mary Todd Lincoln. The Indians in the front row are, left to right: War Bonnet, Standing in the Water, and Lean Bear of the Cheyennes, and Yellow Wolf of the Kiowas. Yellow Wolf is wearing the Thomas Jefferson peace medal that aroused such interest. The identities of the Indians of the second row are unknown. Within eighteen months from the date of this sitting, all four men in the front row were dead. Yellow Wolf died of pneumonia a few days after the picture was taken; War Bonnet and Standing in the Water died in the Sand Creek Massacre; and Lean Bear was killed by toops from Colorado Territory who mistook him for a hostile. (Source: Diplomats in buckskin, by Herman J. Viola, p. 101).
Chapter 4 ~ A way of life destroyed
In the space of a few years, a series of events as unfortunate as they were intentional destroyed much of the life and culture of the Native Americans in the central-western United States. In 1862, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle met with U.S. Army officers outside of Denver and agreed to lead his people back to their Sand Creek reservation in order to restore peace in the area. Yet, that same year, a volunteer force led by “The Fighting Parson,” Henry M. Chivington, massacred nearly 200 men, women, and children in the Native American encampment.
In 1868, General Philip H. Sheridan took command of the U.S. Army forces in the West and proposed to bring peace to the area by exterminating the herds of buffalo. “Kill the buffalo and you kill the Indians,” Sheridan decreed.
Note: “Buffalo” and “Bison” are not the same. Only the American bison is native to North America.
George Armstrong Custer announced the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of Dakota in 1874. This set off a stampede of fortune hunters in the most sacred part of the Lakota Territories which, according to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, were to be protected against White settlers. However, federal authorities protected the miners instead. By 1875, federal authorities had ordered the Lakota chiefs to report back to their reservations. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and others refused.
In the area around Eagle Rock, the prominent First Nations were the Lakota, Shoshone, Lemhi, and Bannock tribes. Many had already moved to the Black Hawk Indian reservation near Fort Hall and present-day Pocatello. Some remained in the areas where they had grown up but were not treated well by the settlers. The heavy influx of gold-seeking miners in the hills east of Eagle Rock contaminated the streams. Trappers, looking strictly for furs, exterminated much of the wildlife that was the source of food for the indigenous people. The loud, unnatural sounds of the railroad and the constant airborne soot frightened away the rest. Native Americans who were forced into reservations and encouraged to change their lifestyle from living off the land to looking for work. Rampant racism against Native Americans and foreigners resulted in them finding nothing but the most menial jobs, if any.
The times I have indicated below each chapter title are a general guide of the times of the events presented in this book. It wasn’t until the passing of the Standard Time Act of 1918 that the current time zones were established. Consequently, prior to 1918, each community established the time for their location based on “local solar time,” setting noon as the time when the sun passed the local meridian. At one point, this resulted in more than 300 separate time zones in the nation. This became a problem once railroads were introduced since it was difficult to set arrival and departure times for sites along each rail line. Railroads had difficulties setting meaningful schedules since the times in adjacent towns could be as much as a half an hour different. Most towns were connected by a single rail line used for travel in both directions, so the timing of trains running in opposing directions had to be correct. Early on, two trains actually collided, both going by the time found in the town they had just left. Initially, each railroad line established its own definition of what the time was in the stations they served, but this posed a problem for larger towns that were served by multiple railroads. The introduction of the Standard Time Act of 1918 was the beginning of standardized time now used throughout the world.
As a guide to how people used their daylight hours in 1879, I used a useful table from the internet indicating when the sun rose and set throughout the nation on any given date. It became apparent that this table had to be adjusted to take out the current, built-in use of Daylight Savings Time. Another table allowed me to establish the phases of the moon for nighttime events.
The Mormons had started construction of the Utah Northern Railroad in 1871, anticipating Mormon settlers setting up homesteads throughout Northern Utah and Idaho, but they only completed a portion of the line to Franklin, just inside the southern Idaho border. The Union Pacific proposed bridge construction to cross the Snake River approximately midway between Salt Lake City and the mines in Butte, Montana and built a railroad town to act as the division point for the new Utah & Northern Railroad. With the Union Pacific Railroad building the infrastructure necessary to maintain their railroad stock at this location and rumors of gold in the hills north and east of this new town, it was inevitable that the town would grow rapidly and be a destination point for all sorts of men wanting to make their fortunes in the West.