Monday, May 27, 2013

Reported Indian War in Idaho is a “Humbug” ... but be Careful Anyway

On May 27, 1863, the Deseret News, in Salt Lake City, published an item based on an interview with expressman Aaron H. Conover. He had brought in mail from Bannack City, on Grasshopper Creek. Conover asserted that “the Idaho Indian war, reported by the messenger who was sent to Gen. Connor for assistance was a humbug, invented by gamblers for their special benefit.”

He did not explain how phony news of an Indian war would benefit the gamblers. But, in fact, the News reported, “All was peace there between the Indians and whites when Mr. Conover left, but there was some ill feelings existing between the Bannocks and some other tribe.”

With not-so-subtle humor, the item went on to say that the bad feelings “caused the transfer of horses from one to the other occasionally. Neither party, however, stole from the miners, excepting it was through a mistake.”

Beyond that, Conover reported that the mines were “ in a prosperous condition” and “provisions were plenty.” Still, prices were such that many hopeful entrepreneurs had turned to farming and Conover felt that “there would be large quantities of grain and vegetables grown there this season.”

This last hope was probably in vain, however. The high altitude and short growing season in that region required some adjustments by farmers used to conditions in the East or Midwest.
Indian Warriors ready to Raid. Library of Congress

A couple weeks later the New York Times printed the Deseret item, with slight adaptations. They concluded their article with some wise advise: “Notwithstanding these pacific assurances, emigrants will do well to be always ready for sudden attack, for there are undoubtedly northward some ugly Indians – though they may not be just now on the emigrant track – who would not willingly forego a tempting opportunity for making a raid on some unwary emigrant camp or herd.

References: “Affairs in Utah,” New York Times, New York City (June 14, 1863).
“Late from Bannock City,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah (May 27, 1863).

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