March 25, 2009

The Monkey's Viewpoint

I came across the following account (written around 1923) of Indian fighting, pioneer courtship and a polygamous trial held in Idaho Falls in an old scrapbook in the section tabbed "Family and Friends". Pasted next to the yellowing pages of this part of early history of Franklin - the first white settlement in Idaho, was this poem which appeared on the back of a business card from the Totem Cafe in West Yellowstone, Montana. Evidently someone saw a connection of sorts between the poem and the events described from the pioneering era of southern Idaho. Franklin is just down the road from Preston and Whitney, Idaho.

The Monkey’s Viewpoint
by Helena Salzman
copyright Lowell Salzman.
Used by Permission
Three monkeys sat in a coconut tree,
Discussing things as they’re said to be.
Said one to the others, “Now listen, you two,
There’s a certain rumor that can’t be true –
That man descended from our noble race.
The very idea is a big disgrace.

“No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her babies and ruined her life,
And you’ve never known a mother monk,
To leave her babies with others to bunk.
Or to pass them on from one another
‘Till they scarcely know who is their mother.

“And another thing, you’ll never see,
A monk build a fence ‘round a coconut tree,
And let the coconuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monks to taste.
Why, if I’d put a fence around a tree,
Starvation would force you to steal from me.

“Here’s another thing a monk won’t do –
Get out at night and get on a stew.
Or use a gun or a club or a knife,
To take some other monkey’s life.
Yes, man descended, the ornery cuss,
But brothers, he didn’t descend from us!”

By Davis McEntire

In the fall of 1863, settlers in southern Idaho and northern Utah were up in arms over the numerous depredations of the Indians. The red men, aroused by seeing their lands being constantly usurped by the invading settlers, were making a last defiant effort to drive the white men from their territory. They were not numerous enough and Fort Douglas was too close to dare engage in a pitched battle, but their ends they hoped to accomplish by guerrilla warfare, by thefts, kidnappings, surprise night attacks, the occasional scalping of a lone white man, and by a thousand and one other petty, irritating annoyances. No one felt secure except in the fort for savages lurked in every ravine, hollow, and clumps of brush, occasionally they would ride into the villages and profiting by the •white man's principle that "it is cheaper to feed them than to fight them" would spend the day begging, quarreling and drinking.

This state of affairs continued until the settlers found it almost unendurable. But the Indians had not committed any acts of violence so there was no excuse upon which they could call out the soldiers. But the savages grew bolder, their depredations grew increasingly frequent and severe. Relates Mrs. Mary A. Hull, an eighty five year old resident of Whitney, Idaho, then a young married woman in Franklin:

"A large party of Indians came into Franklin, early one afternoon when we were all busy threshing and made their camp on the creek bottom below the village. Then of course they began their usual course of begging and pilfering. Nearly everybody was assisting on the threshing machine and so could not watch them carefully, but I hap­pened to be in my cabin at the time and from a back window saw two squaws sneak into our granary, seize two small sacks of wheat and run for their camp. Grain was a precious commodity in those days, so grabbing a pitchfork I ran in pursuit. I gained rapidly on them as they were heavily loaded and what would have happened had I overtaken them is hard to imagine. But I never reached the thieves; instead I turned and ran for my life, for other things were happening with amazing rapidity. A drunken Indian on horseback, came riding from the saloon, encountered a white woman on his way and attempted to run over her. Failing in this he swung a heavy stick and began beating her savagely about the head and shoulders. She screamed, ran, and fell and instantly every man in the village was rushing toward them with upraised clubs and pitchforks. The woman staggered to her feet, he struck her again, but by this time the men had arrived and were striv­ing to thrust the Indian from his horse with their forks. He swung his club, knocked several to the ground and would have made his escape but just then a man ran up with a revolver in his hand, he shook it viciously at the red man and ordered him to dismount but hesitated to shoot. A man by name of Benjamin Chadwick, my brother, jerked it from his grasp, and fired. The Indian fell from the saddle without a word and lay motionless on the ground. Then the war cry was started and Indians came yelling from all directions. I heard the shot; saw the Indian fall, and terror speeding my steps, fled for safety.

"The Indians collected in a body, a few rods from the white men and many were the ugly words and black looks that passed among them. A pitched battle seemed imminent and as the two groups stood eyeing each other, the sir seemed suddenly charged with suspense and danger. A word and the savages would have hurled themselves upon us. It was the Indian chief who relieved the situation. Even as the white men were looking for places of fortification, he rode out from, his band and spoke.

"White man kill Indian", he said, “who is he” We want ‘um. No one spoke but all looked about for Chadwick, but he was no longer there. Sensing that his life was in danger, and knowing that there were those who would give him up rather than plunge the village into battle, he had quietly taken leave. ‘Ben’ was no coward but he was far from being a fool. "He's not here, Indian" replied one of the white men, "you've miss­ed him, he's beat it." But the Indian was unconvinced. “We no care, where he go," he replied, "but we wantum white man. White man kill Indian, Indians kill white man". Simple and crude yet it was the only justice they knew. A dead Indian was a dead Indian reasoned they, and he had been killed by a white man, therefore the only way to right the wrong was to kill a white man--any white man.

"No, Indian", again replied the white leader, "Chadwick did it, you go get him but we'll not give you any other white man". Much parley followed but in the end the Indians retreated to their camp far from satisfied. That evening a delegation of three white men of which my husband, Robert M. Hull, was one, was sent to the Indian camp to carry the pipe of peace and to make negotiations if possible. But the aggrieved Indians proved treacherous and attacked the three men as soon as they entered the camp. Two succeeded in escaping but my husband was held captive. They bound him to a tree and all night long they tortured him, forcing him to yell for Bishop Peter Maughn of Logan, whom the red men wished to treat with.

Taking a lighted pine splinter, an Indian would thrust it into the white man's flesh, saying "Bishop, Bishop", and Hull would cry in agony, "Oh Bishop, Bishop, Bishop, oh Bishop". This, thought the savages, was great sport, it was even better than killing a man, so all that night they kept it up. Every conceivable torture which the Indians could devise they practiced on the unfortunate white man. Burning sticks were applied to the soles of his feet, lighted splinters were thrust into his legs and arms and the savages laughed with delight to hear the flesh sizzle. Salt was rubbed into his blisters, slow fires were built close by him, and as a special treat to the women and children, squaws and papooses were allowed to spit in his face. It was an experience that Hull nev­er forgot.

"The next morning Bishop Maughn arrived from Logan and with him came an interpreter. With his aid the delegations of white men and Indians conferred for several hours. The Indians agreed to release my husband on payment of a large indemnity and the promise that if ever Chadwick did come back to the village, he was to be immediately surrendered. With this the Indians seemed satisfied but they killed a man on Bear River without the slightest provocation, which brought on the famous battle of Battle of Battle Creek, between the Indians and the government soldiers under Colonel P. E. Connor.

"Years later in 1891, Robert Hull was in a camp on the Blackfoot river a number of miles north of Pocatello, when an Indian rode up on horseback and without a word of warning shot him downward through the left shoulder, killing him and also his young nephew who stood close by.

"In Franklin", continued Mrs. Hull a bit huskily, for the recount­ing of her husband's tragic death had brought tears to her eyes, "we all lived inside the stockade. Every family had its own log cabin and it was built facing the inside of the fort. Of course both cabins and stockade were built of great, solid logs, properly flattened on the sides so that they fitted close together, and any chinks or holes were plastered up with mud so that no light could shine through the walls to indicate the whereabouts of the occupants. Armed sentries, whom we called 'minute men' were posted at each corner of the square fort and they maintained a vigilant watch at every moment of the night.

By day a signal and lookout post was kept up on the top of Mt. Picket now known as the Little Mountain, which towers directly above the little village of Franklin. From the top of the peak one can see all Cache Valley spread out before him and two men kept watch there from daylight till dark. If any Indians were in the vicinity they would send the word down by flag signals and by the same system they would inform the villagers -whether the movements of the red men seemed friendly or hostile. For many years this practice was kept up and never was Franklin the victim of a surprise attack. Pitched battles also were very infrequent but nevertheless the Indians continued to exact their toll of lives until in the seventies. The first man ever buried in the village met his death at the hands of the Indians. Reed was his name and he was deliberately murdered by a band of braves whom he tried to argue with. On another occasion two men, Andrew Morrison and Bill Howell were in the canyon getting out a load of wood when the Indians charged down upon them, volleying arrows. Both men fled leav­ing their outfit at the mercy of the braves but an arrow overtook Morrison and dropped him in his tracks. Howell ran on uninjured into the village and told his story. A party of riflemen immediately went back to get his corpse before the Indians or wild animals should mutilate it, but to their astonishment he was still living with three arrows in his body. They brought him back to Franklin where he soon regained his health and strength. One of the arrowheads however, remained stuck fast in his side. It was too close to his heart to permit of cutting it out so there it stayed throughout the remain­ing twenty years of his life."

Mary Hull smiled a trifle apologetically. "I fear that I am telling you too much of the strife, and hard­ships of pioneering", she said, "I do not wish to give the impression that we pioneers knew nothing but battle, blood, and hardship, for such is not the case. On the contrary we were fairly light hearted on the whole for there were many young people among us and youth is always gay. True, we did not have automobiles nor dance halls, nor cinema palaces, but we had other things and we enjoyed them. Our amusements were hiking, berry picking, parties, and occasionally the bishop allowed us to convert the church house into a dance hall and we would dance merrily, many of us barefooted to the music of some scraping old fiddle. Our favorite dances were the Virginia Reel, French Four, Plain Quadrille, Horseless Four and Scotch Reel, such innovations as Waltzes and Foxtrots were unknown.

"Courtship also was a much different matter than it is nowadays. If a young man felt himself getting giddy he would ask the girl's parents permission for him to 'keep company’ with their daughter. Even then his courtship was carried on at a distance so to speak. The pairing off, the intimacies which young people find so entertaining today were entirely unknown to us. We went in groups, & bunches, we called it, to our parties, and early in the evening we returned, also in bunches. Most of us were strictly orthodox in our morals and behavior and any one who was not was looked upon with plain disfavor, I remember one incident in particular". She chuckled.
"I don't know whether I should tell it or not", she laughed, "but it was the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen in my whole life.

"A certain young man came into our village and speedily proved himself not a desirable character. No one knew where he came from and no one knew where he was going or what his business was in Franklin, but we all knew that he was different from the rest of us and different in an undesirable way and that prejudiced us against him. He did everything which we thought a young man shouldn’t do, from flirting with the girls, to smoking, swearing, and drinking. He was a veritable thorn in the flesh of Franklin's young people. At last ten girls, of whom I was one, held a secret meeting in the schoolhouse and decided that the unwelcome one must go and we formulated a plan whereby he was to be got rid of.

Two days later one of our number who was chosen to be the bait, asked the young fellow to meet her at a designated place, at ten o'clock in the evening. He came on scenting high adventure. He got it. As the unsuspecting undesirable reached the trysting place, ten big, husky, corn fed, country girls leaped out of the shrubbery, armed with a long rope, we seized the unfortunate victim and bore him to the ground. He kicked, screamed, blasphemed, and fought in a most wrathful and ungentlemanly like manner, but in spite of his struggles we bound him hand and foot, and dragging him to the nearest post, lashed him securely to it. All that night we listened, chuckling in our beds to his exasperated screams and yells, and I suppose he'd have been there yet had not some villager, along toward morning, craving a little sleep, gone down, and untied the poor wretch. The next day he packed his worldly all and left Franklin for good. We never saw him again".

Mary Hull's experiences throw an interesting light on pioneer travel. She says:
"All travel was by oxen, horse and buggy, or horseback and of course it was exceedingly slow when compared with the airplanes, automobiles, and passenger trains which we have today. Long trips were rare and touring for pleasure was a thing unheard of. The longest trip I ever took was in 1860 when with some friends I drove from Franklin to Idaho Falls to attend the trial of my husband who was facing a charge of polygamy before the federal court. The journey consumed three days of steady traveling by horse and blackboard. My husband was found guilty and fined six hundred dollars which he paid without a whimper, but he refused to renounce either of his wives and lived with them both until the day of his death in 'ninety one.

"That was my first trip into the Snake River Valley and though I have visited it many times since I shall never forget how it looked then. My first impression was of an enormous flat plain and the most desert like stretch of country I have ever seen. As far as the eye could see the land stretched away in one unbroken terrain, covered with sage, buckbrush and flying sand. I thought it at the time one of the most desolate, most barren places I had ever set eyes upon.
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1 comment:

  1. This poem was written by my great-grandmother. She was an artist who wrote this poem to go with a painting she had done during the 50s-70s (we are not exactly sure the time frame.) The author is Helena Salzman and copyright is owned by her son, Lowell Salzman. Please give her the credit for the work. Thanks!