Chief Black Hawk's Gravesite at Spring Lake, Utah

Chief Black Hawk's Headstone - Spring Lake, Utah

Eagle Feather

Robbery of Chief Antonga Black Hawk's Grave

by Historian Phillip B Gottfredson Author Black Hawk's Mission of Peace

The life of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk had come full circle when in 1870, his loving kin honorably laid him to rest on a hillside overlooking Spring Lake, the place of his birth. Black Hawk crossed over to the spirit world into the arms of his ancestors within days after arriving at Spring Lake above Payson. From the age of thirteen, when at Battle Creek, he stood in brave defiance facing Capt. John Scott threw his rifle at the feet of Scott breaking its stock. And the time he was mortally wounded at Gravely Ford while attempting to save the life of his fellow warrior White Horse. He had fought the good fight, and he passed out of this world in peace. But, his journey was not yet over. Just 49 years following his burial, in 1919 his grave was robbed.

On July 1, 1915, William Probert wrote a letter to Peter Gottfredson the following:

Mr. Peter Gottfredson, Springville, Utah

There are probably a dozen men in Utah who claim the honor of killing Black Hawk, none of which is true.

It is true that Black Hawk was severely wounded in the fight at Gravelly Ford on the Sevier River, near what is now called Vermillion; but he lived three of four years after receiving the wound; and before his death Black Hawk obtained permission from the military authorities of the Territory to visit all the places where he and his tribe had caused trouble or raided. And accompanied by a few (seven or eight) warriors, Black Hawk visited every town and village from Cedar City on the south to Payson on the north and made peace with the people. On his mission of peace he was provided with an escort, usually from two to six citizens, from town to town. Ansel P. Harmon and myself acted as such escort from Holden to Scipio, Millard County.

(Signed) William Probert.
Manti, Utah, Feb. 12,1915.
Box 109.

Incredibly, the journey by horseback likely took nine or more days from Cedar City to Payson, Utah. The gunshot Probert spoke of was to the stomach, which never healed. Black Hawk was in severe pain, gaunt and hollow-eyed, and knew he would die. We have to ask the question, why? Why would any person in such dire condition choose to travel 180 miles on horseback? One reason is that Black Hawk wanted to return to his place of birth. But there was far more to it. The most vital clue is that he visited "every town and village...and made peace with the people," which speaks volumes about the many endearing qualities of Chief Black Hawk.

Black Hawk was the son of Chief Sanpitch(Tenaciono) and mother Tanar-oh-wich who gave birth to several children. Sanpitch was a son of Chief Moonch, his brothers were Timpanogos leaders Wakara, Sowiette, Arapeen, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), Tintic, Kanosh, and Grospean.

In the year 1865, at the height of the Black Hawk War, Black Hawk would become his Tribes War Chief when his uncle Tabby was the Nations principal Chief. The following year Black Hawk recieved word that his father Sanpitch had been murdered at Birch Creek near the Mormon settlement Moroni, Utah.

The Black Hawk War; Utah's Native American HistoryOn September 20, 1919, members of the Mormon church robbed Black Hawk's grave at Spring Lake. An article appeared on the front page of the Deseret News with the headline, "Bones of Black Hawk Now on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum." The reporter explains that first, the remains of Black Hawk had been on public display for amusement in the window of a hardware store in downtown Spanish Fork, Utah. Then Benjamin Guarded, the man in charge of the L.D.S. Museum acquired the remains for public display on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.

There were several affidavits in the news article Gottfredson included in his book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace. One example is Ben Bullock's account published in the Deseret Evening news the following:

Quote: In 1911 I became interested in what is known as the “Syndicate mine,” located on Santiquin mountain, a little southeast of Spring Lake Villa. Several of the old settlers of Spring Lake Villa knew the old “Black Hawk” has been on the mountain near where we was working this property. At my leisure moments I would hunt for the spot where “Black Hawk” was buried and one day one of the miners, William E. Croft reported what he supposed to be “Black Hawk’s” grave. This started an investigation and Mr. Croft along with Lars L. Olsen and myself uncovered the remains of “Black Hawk,” which were buried in a large quartzite slide. Three feet of rock were taken from the skeleton, and upon uncovering it, we found the remains in a sitting posture. The first article we saw was a china pipe, which, was laying upon the top of his head. Then we discovered the saddle, the remains of the skeleton, portion’s of his horses bridle that had been buried with him; sleigh bells, ax, bucket, beads, part of an old soldier coat with the brass buttons still intact. All of these were removed very carefully, and for safety deposited them with the Spanish Fork Co-op where they were exhibited for several days.

Subsequently at the suggestion of Commander J. M. Westwood I secured these remains and conveyed them to the L.D.S. Church Museum on temple block, suggesting that they should be placed on exhibition there and preserved. – Ben H. Bullock.

There is a treasure trove of information on Chief Black Hawk in Phillip B Gottfredson's book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace.

"My father, Merrill E. Gottfredson, remembered seeing his remains when they were on display in the hardware store window when he was just a boy. For decades, remains of Black Hawk, and those of an Indian woman and a child, were on display in the church museum for the public to see as mere curiosity. My father took me there at the age of twelve, and I will never forget seeing Black Hawk's remains on display in a glass case," Gottfredson wrote.

"They say there are no known photos of Black Hawk, there's one and it appeared on the front page of the Deseret News Paper. Just 49 years had passed since Black Hawk had been laid to rest, when members of the LDS Church looted his grave. The Black Hawk War; William E. Croff.Accompanying the article is a photo of William E. Croff standing in the open grave, grinning ear to ear, while holding in his hands the skull of Black Hawk," said Gottfredson.

Gottfredson describes in his book how the living descendants of Black Hawk were outraged. Their voices fell on deaf ears. Mormon Church leaders made no apologies and expressed no conscience or remorse despite a federal law passed in 1906 called the Graves Protection Act. Descendents of Black Hawk had no real legal recourse until the enactment of the National American Graves Protection Reparation Act, or NAGPRA, passed in 1994. 

He explains the frustration of finding Black Hawk's remains. "no one knew where they were," said Shane Armstrong. It took an act of Congress, the help of National Forest Service archeologist Charmain Thompson, and the humanitarian efforts of a boy scout Shane Armstrong to find and rebury the remains of Black Hawk at Spring Lake. In a private conversation with Phillip, Shane, and his mother, Shane explained, "I felt it in my heart I should find Black Hawk's remains," he said. "Inspired at the age of 14, Shane, on his own, makes contact with Thompson. Gottfredson details how they locate the lost remains of Black Hawk in a basement storage room. On November 24, 2008, the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs awarded Shane Armstrong the prestigious Indigenous Day Award for his humanity and compassion.

Marva Loy Egget of Spring Lake, Utah, played a significant role in the burial arrangements that involved residents of Spring Lake, many whoes ancestors had fought Black Hawk in the war.

NOTE: According to Maj. [Jacob] Holeman Ind. Agent for Utah Territory who held a conversation with Indian Chief Walker in 1853, Wakra said "the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites." It should also be noted that there is no record of the Timpanogos tearing up white man's graves. One can only imagine what would happen if Brigham Young's mortal remains were put on public display in a window of a hardware store for amusement.

See: We Can Forgive But Never Forget