Robbery of Chief Antonga Black Hawk's Grave


Photo of Timpanogos Excutive Chief Mary Meyer at the site of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk of the Black Hawk War in Utah.

Chief Executive Mary Meyer Timpanogos Nation

Descendent of Chief Arapeen, Antonga Black Hawk's Uncle.

Antonga Black Hawk's Headstone - Spring Lake, Utah


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

On September 20, 1919 Black Hawk's grave was robbed at Spring lake, Utah. An article appeared on the front page of the Deseret News with the headline, "Bones of Black Hawk on Exhibition L.D.S. Museum." Within the article, the writer explains that first, the remains of Black Hawk had been on public display 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 The Black Hawk War; Utah's Native American Historyfor public display on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.

My father, Merrill Gottfredson, remembered seeing his remains when they were on display in the hardware store window. 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. At the age of twelve, my father took me there, and I will never forget seeing Black Hawk's remains on display in a glass case.

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 in 1870 at Spring Lake, Utah, when members of the LDS Church plotted the robbery of 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.

While the living descendants of Black Hawk were outraged, their voices fell on deaf ears. Without conscience or remorse, church leaders made no apologies 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.

Sixty-seven years after William E. Croff robbed Black Hawk's grave, Antonga Black Hawk was returned to the place of his birth and again reburied in the year 1996 at Spring Lake. It raises the question, why? Why would a Christian religious institution and its leaders have no compassion or respect for the living descendants of Chief Black Hawk, even as some were and are members of the LDS church?

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. Shane Armstrong told me in a private conversation we had I will never forget, "I felt it in my heart I should find Black Hawk's remains," he told me. Inspired at the age of 14, Shane, on his own, makes contact with Thompson. Together they locate the lost remains of Black Hawk in a basement storage room, in a box, on Brigham Young University campus. On November 24, 2008, the Utah State Division of Indian Affairs awarded Shane Armstrong the prestigious Indigenous Day Award for his compassion.

Marva Loy Egget of Spring Lake, Utah, played a significant role in burial arrangements. At the same time, citizens of Spring Lake, many of whose ancestors fought against Black Hawk during the war, donated the coffin and headstone. Ironically the gravesite is on property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, according to a NAGPRA official I spoke with, the LDS Church has no jurisdiction over the actual grave or Black Hawk's remains.

In the year Black Hawk's remains were dug up by Bishop Ben Bullock and Lars Croft, Heber J. Grant was president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Black Hawk's mortal remains continued on display at Temple Square during the years of George Albert Smith (1945-1951); David O. McKay (1951-1970); Joseph Fielding Smith (1970-1972); Harold B. Lee (1972-1973); Spencer W. Kimball (1973-1985); and Ezra Taft Benson (1985-1994). These prophets administered the affairs of the church from church headquarters in Salt Lake City. These men presided over "God's church" as the "mouthpiece of God." I will never understand why none had any respect or compassion for Chief Black Hawk's living descendants and gave up their claim to the bones of their beloved ancestor or even made an apology.

I'm sure people would agree that if the Timpanogos robbed Brigham Young's grave and his bones put in the window of a hardware store for public amusement - there would be hell to pay.

For me, it is tough to cope with having been born into the LDS Church. I think of my parents, who sacrificed all they had for me to serve a two-year mission for the church. Many decades later, I found myself sitting listening to the living descendants of Black Hawk pour out their hearts, tears streaming down their faces recounting the anguish they felt.

We take for granted these things happened so many years ago, and that time heals all wounds they say. But that is not always the truth. There is much healing that needs to be done, and yes forgiveness. But to say its all in the past and we need to forget it? I disagree, we must never forget, to do so would be criminal. That said, I no longer belong to any church, group or organization. And, today I am proud to say I have spent years living with the Timpanogos and consider them my family. My message to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is simple: Walk your talk.

Mormons of the time give a more detailed account of Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk's grave robbery. Beginning with a letter by William Probert to my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson four years before, followed by the front-page news article that appeared in the Deseret Evening newspaper in 1919, we get a clear insight into the Mormon mindset of the time.

The following is an excerpt from my book "Black Hawk's Mission of Peace."


Dated at Provo, Utah, July 1st, 1915

Mr. Peter Gottfredson, Springville, Utah

Dear Sir:--I am glad to comply with your request to give some items of history of some of the Indian troubles in and near Round Valley (Scipio) and in the following narrative I am sure some of the erroneous stories told in regard to the death of Black Hawk, the great Indian Chief, and also Panacara, an inoffensive Indian who made his home in Round Valley, may be corrected and the truth of the matter given to the people in your proposed history of the Indian troubles of early Utah days. ( note; Round Valley is known today as Circleville)

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.

Black Hawk told the people wherever he went that he was going home to die and before the end came he desired to be at peace with the pale faces. Black Hawk died at his wigwam near Spring Lake in 1869 or 1870; the exact date I am unable to give. He was buried in the foothills immediately east and south of Spring Lake Villa, Utah County.

Because of the killing of the old man Ivie (James Ivie) in Round Valley (Scipio) a few years before by members of the Black Hawk tribe it was feared that the old warrior would be harshly treated by the Ivie family on the trip through the valley, unless provisions were made in advance for his protection from assault from that source.

The Ivies had previously sworn vengeance, and some time before Black Hawk's appearance on his mission of peace, the old Indian, Panacara, had been shot to death by James A. Ivie. In order to justify himself, Ivie charged that Panacara was a spy for the Ute Indians on the south, which was not true, as Panacara was a special friend of the white people in that vicinity and was hated by the Utes. On one occasion a band of Utes came into the valley for the soul purpose of killing him. Panacara was for a number of years before his death medicine man for the Pahvante tribe of Indians was always friendly with the white settlers.

Panacara's death at the hands of Ivie was brought about in this way: The old Indian came to the town of Scipio, and was objected to by the military authorities and a rule was adopted that Indians should not carry arms when visiting the settlements. Accordingly the acting justice of the peace Benj. Johnson, prevailed upon the old Indian to give up his gun. The Indian willingly gave the gun the justice and started out to cross the hills in the direction of Oak Creek, when Ivie followed him, and shot him dead. He was buried where he was killed.

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


The Mormons Side of the Story:

The following was copied verbatim from the Deseret Evening News paper article I found on microfilm at the Harold B. Lee Library on BYU campus. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns the newspaper. Remember the Graves Protection Act was passed in 1906. The LDS Museum mentioned in the article was located on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.

Photo copy of frontpage article that appeared in the Deseret News with the headlines Bones of Black Hawk Indian Warrior Now On Exhibition L.D.S. Museum

Deseret Evening News
Saturday September 20, 1919 Salt Lake City Utah

Bones of Black Hawk Indian Warrior
Now on Exhibition L. D. S. Museum

Benjamin Goddard Takes Precaution to Verify Discovery of Grave of Indian Chief by Affidavits Before Placing Skeleton in Institution.

A case on the north side of the L.D.S. Church Museum is destined to become the center of to many a student of early-day Utah history. For resting peacefully in the midst of the very white settlers whom he loved to harass is all that remains of Chief Black Hawk who in the early sixties was dreaded and feared in many a town and settlement of Utah. What are described to be the bones of the Indian desperado have been brought from their final resting place near Spring Lake Villa, and now along with spurs, beads, sleigh bells, ax, bucket, brass buttons and all such comforts which were supposed to accompany him to the Happy Hunting grounds are on display to the eyes of the White trespassers who he so much resented.

Before placing the skeleton on exhibit Benjamin Goddard, in charge of the museum, has made every possible effort to prove their authenticity and has obtained a mass of evidence which seems to prove unquestionably that none other than the famous chief reposes in the museum. Mr. Goddard has not only obtained the affidavits of those who exhumed the remains, but of early settlers near Spring Villa who knew the chief and saw his funeral cortege pass up the mountain a little to the east of the little Utah County town. There are also a number of interesting photographs showing the place where Black Hawk started on his last journey.

Severely Wounded

Utah historians and Black Hawk veterans declare that Chief Black Hawk died at Spring Lake Villa, a small settlement situated between Payson and Santiquin, Utah County, in 1870. The old Chief is declared to have been severely wounded in the fight at Gravely Ford on the Sevier River some three or four years before. He was assisting one of his wounded braves when sited by one of the settlers during the battle. The White man not being able to see the Chief shot through the horse which shielded him and wounded him severely. He still seems to have taken an active part in the war on the white settlers after this mishap and actually before his death gained permission to visit every town and village from Cedar City on the south and Payson on the north to make peace with the people he had harassed. According to the stories told by Indian war veterans he had caused so much misery to the settlers during his raids on Utah towns and was so hate and feared that a number of heroes are declared to have arisen about the state who claim the honor of killing him. The old Chief, however, it seems, died in his wigwam near Spring Lake Villa and was buried in the nearby foothills immediately south and east.

The story of the Black Hawk War in Utah chiefly culled from the declarations of Black Hawk War veterans is one of the pitiful that stands taken by the Red men to save the land of their fathers from the inroads of the pale face. It was also the story of the heartbreaking fight of the early day settlers to establish their small home in the western wilderness.

Local historians declare the war started about 1864 when a small band of Indians camped near Gunnison, Sanpete County, had a siege of smallpox and began to blame the settlers for it threatening to kill them and steal their horses and cattle. Matters grew worse and worse and worse until Col. Reddick N. Allred and a company of cavalry started in pursuit of the Red men. Then came ambushcades in the rugged foothills near Fish Lake and Grand river, depredations near Gunnison, Fairview, Spanish Fork canyon, Ephraim, Red Lake, Glenwood, Circleville, Pipe Springs, Salina, Moroni, Marysvale, Scipio, Thistle valley, Diamond, Fork, Lees ranch, Rock lake, Spring City, Warm Creek, the Indians attacking lonely settlers up and down the center of the state as far as St. George and even spreading their reign of terror over the Wasatch county.

Women and children were tortured, carried away, homes devastated, ranchers murdered, and all sorts of Indian deviltry committed under the leadership of Chief Black Hawk. This continued practically until the fall of 1873. when the Red men at last acknowledged the ruling hand of their White brothers. During this period various commanders in charge of local militia and federal troops took a hand in quieting the Red men and Brigham Young work earnestly to bring about some sort of a satisfactory adjustment between the warring tribes and the settlers.

Mr Goddard has painstakingly gathered the following information from old newspaper files and has supplemented the clippings with the affidavits of persons who know of this burial and finding the remains of the famous old Chief.

Account of Death

Black Hawk, the noted Indian chief was born at Spring Lake Villa, a few miles south of Payson in Utah county. Numerous accounts have been published of his death but from the files of The News it is evident that he died at his old home in Spring Lake, Sept. 26, 1870: “Black Hawk”

October 5th, 1870

We received the following dispatch per the Deseret Telegraph Line: “Payson, September 27, Black Hawk died at the Indian camp, 3 miles south of here, last night. John Spencer, interpreter.”

From Spring Lake Villa, September 27, 1870, the following account reached The News:
“ten to tell you that Black Hawk the Indian, desperado is dead. He has been living here in camp with his brother “Mountain,” together with Joe and has been for several days. We knew he was sick but did not think of so sudden demise. This morning before sunup the Indian wail was heard in their camp, and soon was seen an Indian squaw with two horses heavily packed on their way to the foot of the mountains. Stopping at a small ravine within sight of our door, they killed one of the horses and proceeded to put away the body of the great Black Hawk. This is the place of his birth, and here he commenced his desperadoism and here he came back to die.

“Showone, a friendly Indian, the head of the camp about here, died at Goshen a few days since. “Quvant another good Indian lies in camp about ready to die. Really our Indian neighbors are fast passing away.

“Indian Joe, the present head of the Indians about here is here telling me about the death of Black Hawk. He wishes the Mormons to know that Black Hawk is now dead and that he died in his camp. B. F. Johnson.”

At the time B. F. Johnson was presiding elder and subsequently bishop at Spring Lake Villa, Utah county.

Makes Affidavit

The following statement also will be of great interest in this connection
Provo City, Utah, July 7th, 1919.

To Whom It May Concern;
The later part of September or first part of October 1870 my parents and their family were living in Spring Lake Villa, Utah county, state of Utah.

Several of us young people would visit the Indian camp on the north west of the little village and at this place “Old Black Hawk” was brought in a very sick condition. The Sunday before Black Hawk’s death, several of us young people visited the camp and heard him moaning and saw him lying on his bed. During the week he died, I, with others, stood on the main street of Spring Lake Villa, Utah, and saw old Black Hawk’s body tied across his horse in the funeral procession, there being about eight horses rode by Indians some in front of Black Hawk’s horse, and some following.

This procession followed a drag trail up the mountain a little east of south of Spring Lake Villa, to where his remains were buried. About one week later, several of the Indians came to our home – two of the squaws had their heads shaved, some of the Indians said they were Black Hawk’s squaws and their “heap big chief” was dead.
(Signed) Chana E. Hales
Signed in the presence of Ben H. Bullock.

Locate Grave

Some years ago Bishop B. H. Bullock of Provo and friends were in the vicinity of this old grave and felt the impressed to secure, if possible, the remains. After careful search they found the old resting place of Black Hawk; his remains were unearthed with what remained of his old bridle, especially the rosettes which were so well known to the settlers during the life time of the noted chief. The remains were carefully stored away for some time and later presented to the L.D.S. church museum on temple block.
More Affidavits
The following affidavits have also been added to the record:
Santiquin, Utah County, Utah, September 6th, 1919.

To Whom It May Concern.

During the year 1917 Bishop Ben Bullock was telling several men who were working at the Syndicate Mine on the mountain east of Santiquin, Utah, and a little east of south of Spring Lake Villa, Utah, that the remains of “Old Black Hawk,” Indian were buried some place near the tunnel that we were working in and one day while I was prospecting on the surface of the property I noticed in a slide of quartzite rock a piece that looked like the rock had been moved and a small mound built. I reported this to Bishop Bullock and then he with Lars Olsen and myself, started removing the rock and found the skeleton with beads, bridle, silver rosettes, spurs, saddle, sleigh bells, ax, bucket, cup, parts of a old soldier coat with buttons and several trinkets, among them a china pipe. Later it was reported by those that knew the Indian that we had found his grave and the things we had taken from the grave with the skeleton were “Old Black Hawk’s.” - William E. Croff.

Springville, Utah county, Utah
August 23, 1919
To Whom It May Concern:
In the fall of the year 1870 I was in Spanish Fork, Utah county, Utah, this being my place of residence at that time and “Old Black Hawk” the noted war Indian came to my home and I cooked the last meal he ate in Spanish Fork, Utah, before he died at Spring Lake Villa, Utah county, Utah. I remember his looks very well, his head and face were shaped more like that of a white man than an Indian, and his teeth were in very good condition.

I remember the silver rosettes, the bridle bit, his spurs, sleigh bells, and things in general that he had when coming among the white settlers before his death and bear testimony that the silver rosettes the bridle, bit, bells and spurs that Bishop Ben Bullock had in his possession were what I saw in the possession of “Old Black Hawk” and also testify that the skull and the teeth in the jaws of the skull are “Black Hawks.”
Louise N. Pace
Provo City, Utah
August 26, 1919

To Whom It May Concern:
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.

Black Hawk was again reburied in the year 1996, 67 years later at Spring Lake the place of his birth.

See: We Can Forgive But Never Forget