Description of who allegedly performed the Indian depredations

Going back to Levi and the Indian depredations. After discussing his losses, the deposition turned to who allegedly committed the thefts.

Levi responded that he knew it was Indians because he “trailed the cattle, found horse trakes and Indian tracks following the trail.” He said he knew they were Navajo for two reasons. First, a friendly Indian called Indian Frank warned him about the Navajos. Second, the tracks of the Navajos were long, slim and neat, while the tracks of other (unspecified tribes) of Indians were broad and short. He claimed the thefts occurred in January 1866.


The questions then moved to why he had left his land. He claimed he was in fear of his life because 2 men had been killed and another wounded. Apparently the man who was wounded was in his group when they were leaving. Levi said between 6-12 Indians participated in the attack. Upon cross-examination, Levi used the word “emphatically” to emphasize how much he was in fear of losing his life, not just his property if he remained in Kanab.

Then the government asked if he had ever transferred the property to another, or either provoked or acted in revenge towards the Indians. Levi replied No.

When Levi returned six months later, most of the buildings were still standing. The government official clarified that he felt he was sustained the loss of the land because he felt that remaining there put in his life in danger, not because he was forcibly removed or the buildings were actually destroyed.

The US attorney then asked whether the land he was claiming was unsurveyed land belonging to the US government. Levi replied in the affirmative. Then it gets interesting. “Counsel for the government moves to strike out all testimony with regard to the injury of this land, buildings, corrals, and crops for the reason that it appears that the land belonged to the defendant [US government], that claimant was a squatter or trespasser upon said land, and that the defendant is not responsible for any loss he sustained.”

A blow to Levi who had purchased the land and built improvements, albeit perhaps illegally. It seems that he knew in the 1890s that it was US land. This has consequences when the final judgment of his claim is made.

Did you ancestors live through raids or attacks? Did they leave their property because they felt unsafe? I think it’s important to understand the other side of the story–the Native American viewpoint. I am still looking for sources, but trying to understand all sides when conflict is involved helps put the situation in historical context.

Information from the Indian depredations claims are from: Record Group123, Records of the United States Court of Claims, Indian Depredation Case File #9173, Levi Savage (this is how NARA referred to it when asking if I wanted a copy).


Asking Questions of your Documents


I recently attended a weeklong workshop on analyzing historic cookbooks. We studied a variety of cookbooks from England and America from the 1400s to the early 1900s. Barbara Wheaton, a noted cookbook historian, designed the workshop as an independent study workshop. Each day we had a theme (ingredients, workspace and tools, etc.) and were to carefully study the cookbook assigned for that day to ask questions such as: where did the ingredients come from: the local marketplace, the garden or other domestic setting, or hunting? Where they imported? What role did seasonality play in when ingredients would be available (and how did this change from the 1400s to the 1900s)? How long would it take to prepare the ingredients? Did the chicken come ready to drop into the pot or did it need to be killed, defeathered (I’m not a farmer–I’m sure there is an appropriate term for this!) and then put into the pot? I was surprised at how much I learned from listening to my fellow workshop members report on their assigned cookbook and how they asked questions of the cookbook and the interpretations and conclusions they arrived at after careful study.

The same applies to genealogy. As an example, let’s take a closer look at the newspaper article that started me asking more questions about Levi Savage. The article was pulled from the Library of Congress Historical Newspapers section (a wonderful resource) and was published on February 14, 1899 in the Salt Lake Herald (pg 6).

SL Feb 14 1899

Several questions comes immediately to mind. Why are all these claims before the government? Was there a new act put into place by Congress or some other government entity that invited claims? If so, why? What made one eligible to receive a claim? Just what were these “Indian depredations”? When did they occur? I thought that in the late 1800s Toquerville was a pretty safe place to be–could it be from sometime before he moved to Toquerville in the 1860s, or perhaps from the early years living in Toquerville? What other questions would you ask just by reviewing this newspaper article?

The next set of questions are what leads to a research plan.What do I want to know? I want to know the details of the claim, as well as the circumstances that led to the claim, including when the incidents supposedly took place. I would also like to acknowledge that there are at least two sides to this story and I want to learn more about the history and what the Native Americans were doing (and what the whites were doing to them) at this time.

Then I ask what additional sources can I examine? Are there resources, such as records and/or employees at the National Archives that could help me figure this out? What about family records? Maybe using the Serial Set of Congressional Records? In terms of learning about the general history I could start with my local library and see what they have. Since I live in Boston and the events occurred in Utah, they may not have much. I can also turn to local university libraries, or to repositories such as New England Historic Genealogical Society.

As you may know from previous posts I already have some hints. Levi’s son writes in his autobiography about losses due in part to Indian raids in the 1860s in Millard County in Utah. I have found some mentions of Levi’s claims in the Serial Set, and have a contact at NARA who is an expert on anything involving Native Americans and the government that I can email when I pull things together. I have yet to put together a true research plan. That will be my next post.

In the meantime, please let me know what questions you would ask of this document, and which questions you have asked of documents you came across in your research, and where finding the answers to those questions led you.

Indian depredations from his son’s view

I am slowly going through Levi’s diary looking for mentions of the Indian depredations and his request to the government for reimbursement. Once I have gone through the entire diary, I will post all the mentions. There is no surviving diary of the early 1860s in which the events occurred.

However, his son Levi M, who was 10-15 years old at the time has left an account in his remembrances and life history (originally transcribed and typed in the 1930s as part of the Federal Works Progress Administration and further edited by Lynn Hilton in 1955).

The following are of note:

When others left, Levi bought $1000 worth of land, which he eventually had to leave. Although it was resettled, he never received payment for the land. This may well be the bulk of the money Levi was asking for restitution. The remainder would be any additional land that he owned, improvements he made upon the land,  and the stock that was lost.

Levi M thought Toquerville a “miserable poor place” (although earlier he refers to it as a “pleasant winter resort”)

His views towards Native Americans were decidedly white-centric (probably most other settlers had similar views), and reading between the lines of what is below and some additional paragraphs I did not post, we can see that he thinks his culture and religion is superior to that of the Native Americans.

“In the fall of 1863 we moved our stock to Kanab in Kane County U.T. and the women folds remained here—-Toquerville—-during the winter. In the spring the women folks joined us on the ranch at Kanab, but returned to Toquerville to spend the winter. Thus we had a good farm and ranch for to produce our living upon, and although it was upon the frontiers, yet the numerous Indians of that region—the Pieedes—appeared to be perfectly harmless and friendly. And Toquerville afforded us a pleasant winter resort among refined company. In consequence of the scarcity of water, seven out of the first fourteen settlers at Kanab became discouraged and sold their claims and improvements to father in July 1864. He paid them something near 1000 dollars for their claims in stock. This together with the improvements that he had made for himself he lost entirely in the Indian difficulties that followed. And not standing Kanab had been resettled since he lost it yet he has never received any remuneration for his property that the new settlers are using. In the fall of 1865 the Indians became somewhat troublesome in the Kanab country. The true cause of this change in their actions I have never been able to discover. But those who resided there became somewhat troublesome in the Kanab country. The true cause of this change in their actions I have never been able to discover. But those who resided there became saucy and commenced killing cattle upon the range. Never before had we seen anything like this aggravating policy in them, and if they had before killed cattle it was upon a very small scale and not found out.

Soon after our arrival at Kanab, while I and an old man by the name of Strong were the only white persons there, a party of Navajo Indians passed by and drove off a herd of horses among which were two of father’s. But we were not more molested nor our stock until the fall of 1865, as above stated. The Indians could not plead that we were penurious with them, for we employed them and paid them provisions and clothing, plowed their land for them, loaned them farming tools and showed them how to cultivate their land, and, during the summer of 1865, father gave to them one whole beef and one sheep for a feast. In the difficulties that followed, our home Indians, the Pieeds claimed to take no part, but said the depredations were committed by the Navajos from the South side of the Colorado River: and to be sure they—the Pieedes—were not actually caught in any of the troubles, still circumstantial evidences were strong against them so much so that some fifteen of them were killed during the winter of 65—6 by our people who found them with stolen property such as, skins of sheep and cattle, money, pocket knives & belonging to persons who had been killed by Indians, or had lost property by their depredations. They probably assisted the Navajos to say the least. The raids were made invariably in a dark of the moon. Generally the thieves would visit a ranch in the night, pillage the yards and stables and gather stock from the range. Thus they would secure several hours the start of their pursuers, and they drove the stolen animals so rapidly that they generally succeeded in their scandalous enterprises. But when overtaken they would simply leave the stock and scamper into their houses, but if they found one or two men traveling upon the range or the road they did not hesitate to take their lives. This made it extremely dangerous for anybody to be out alone. So we were obliged to be very careful. I have rode many days upon the range alone, but I supposed that I did not cross their path and so they did not molest me. They made their first strike at the Pairhiea, the outer settlement; next they made a raid at Kanab; next at Pipe Springs; Dr. Whitmore’s ranch and succeeded in murdering the Doctor and a hired man, Robert McIntyre, who were out upon the cattle range.

The Indians always crossed the Colorado River with their plunder. Early in the fall at a general Conference at St. George, the conditions of these frontiers were discussed, and the Priesthood there sent some of the brethren to these outer settlements counsel was generally complied with by concentrating at Kanab and Long Valley. In the spring of ’66 by counsel all concentrated at Long Valley, and a few days after our arrival there the Indians following up, made another raid in which they took the last horse my father had. At this time they killed two men and one woman by the name of Berry. Our women folks had not spent this winter in Toquerville, because the counsel was for all to remain at Kanab, so they had their share of the excitement. Soon after we got our crops in at Long Valley, counsel came again for us to move into the interior totally.

So having been harassed several months by Indians losing our land and improvements at both places, besides a great amount of stock we found ourselves at Toquerville in the month of July 1866, glad that our lives had been sparred. Father, being completely tired of frontier life, determined to settle in this miserable poor spot—Toquerville, and let somebody else go onto the borders. So he let what stock—-cattle he had to Wm. Maxwell who took them to Spring Valley, in Eastern Nevada. Father sold what sheep he had left, and we commenced to improve a small portion of land that he had bought there. He had resided here ever since and has a good little vineyard and orchard and a comfortable home, but I have not been here constantly as I shall here after record. During the summer time the Indians did not trouble much except to kill one man who was out upon an exploring expedition with Capt. James Andrus. Some thought the Indian war over.”

Levi Savage and Indian Depredations

While I was preparing a talk on social history using Levi Savage as a case example, I came across this 1899 newspaper article about him receiving reimbursement from the US government for alleged Indian depredations that occurred in the 1860s. The article was pulled from the Library of Congress Historical Newspapers section (a wonderful resource) and was published on February 14, 1899 in the Salt Lake Herald (pg 6).

SL Feb 14 1899

Ever since finding this more than a year ago my interest has been piqued. The next few posts will follow my journey into learning more in general about Indian depredation reimbursements in general, and the specifics about Levi’s case. I will use newspaper articles, diaries and US congressional records, and hopefully other types of records as well. As much as possible, I will be filling in the social history of a time period in Levi’s life that must have been frightening as well as resulting in loss or damage of property using his records, government records and records of other people who also filed suit.