Timpanogos Chief Old Elk
During the Black Hawk War, one more loathsome act remained to unfold which would haunt the
Mormons for many decades to follow, even to the present day. Hickman
hung the head of Old Elk from the eves of his cabin. A witness at Fort Utah told reporters, "...it was hung pendant by its long hair
from the willows of the roof of one of the houses. I well remember
how horrible was the sight." - Robert Carter Fort Utah.
SETTLING OF UTAH VALLEY. COPIED FROM WHITNEY'S HISTORY OF UTAH. TROUBLE AT FORT UTAH (PROVO).
"It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River, and that, too, in spite of the invitation previously extended to the colonists by the chiefs, Sowiette and Walker, to settle among their tribes and teach them how to become civilized. It has also been stated that soon after Fort Utah was founded, according to Colonel Bridger and Mr. Vasquez Timpanogos Chief Wakara (Walker) began stirring up the Indians against the "Mormon" settlers. In this movement Wakara was aided by another chief named Elk, variously styled Big Elk, Old Elk, etc., like himself a hater of the whites, and apparently quite as fond of fighting.
It was with Big Elk and his band that the Provo settlers, in their first regular battle with the savages, had im-mediately to deal. It was believed by Governor Young that Colonel Bridger and other mountaineers were at the bottom of much of the ill-feeling manifested by the red men, and they were incited to attack the "Mormon" settlements. The Governor, (Brigham Young), however, seemed to have confidence in Mr. Vasquez, who had opened a small store in Salt Lake City, and whose interests to that extent were identified with those of the settlers. - Source: Peter Gottfredson Indian Depredations in Utah
Two days after the battle at Fort Utah, General H. Wells who had arrived from Salt
Lake, ordered young Black Hawk to lead a serial killer by the name
of Bill Hickman and his men up Rock Canyon to pursue the
survivors. In freezing temperatures and deep snow, Black Hawk,
having no choice in the matter, did as he was ordered and led the
men up Rock Canyon. Lookouts scaled the steep walls of the canyon as
Wells and his men slowly made their way up the rugged canyon, Black
Hawk reluctantly followed behind.
When they reached the camp of the survivors, women and children in
terror were scattering about. Black Hawk was ordered to look in to
the teepees. There Black Hawk saw his beloved relative Old Elk
frozen to death, and many others who had died of their wounds lay
frozen stiff in the cold.
The Mormon vigilantes greedily helped themselves taking from the
dead their belongings, while Bill Hickman, with knife in hand,
hacked Old Elk's head off from his frozen body. He said Jim Bridger
had offered him a hundred dollars for the head. Old Elk's wife
refused to be taken captive, broke free and ran for her life. She
scaled the steep cliffs, but while doing so either jumped, or
slipped and fell to her death. Hence the Mormon's disrespectfully
dubbed the canyon "Squaw Peak" which is located above the Provo LDS
Temple; a name that endures to this day. Hickman and his men
returned to Fort Utah, Hickman showing off his trophy, the head of
Of the seventy or so warriors, only about thirteen had escaped. Only
one life was lost among the Mormons. One of the warriors that
managed to survive was taken captive. This was An-kar-tewets, the
same one that Church leaders Dimmick and the Higbee brothers earlier
had sworn an oath to that no harm would come to the Natives, and
that their land and rights would not be taken away, and that they
would be given many gifts."
Dr. James Blake, a surgeon among the Stansbury company, was greatly
influenced by Hickman's trophy of Old Elk's head. Dr. Blake then
ordered troops Abner Blackburn and James Orr to go out and behead
each of the frozen corpses lying about in the snow, following the
two-day battle that resulted in the deaths of 70 Indian people. Dr.
Blake told the men he "wanted to have the heads shipped to
Washington to a medical institution."
The men hacked from the frozen corpses as many as 50 heads. They
piled them in open boxes, along with a dozen or so Mallard ducks
Blake had shot while his men performed their chore. The heads and
ducks were taken to the fort and placed in view of Black Hawk who was barely in his twenties, and his traumatized kin. Innocent
of any wrongdoing, the captives were thus tortured as they were
forced to view the grizzly remains placed before them for a period
of two long and excruciating weeks. Abner, keeping the agreement,
delivered the rotting heads and ducks to Blake in Salt Lake. Dr.
Blake settled up, and invited Abner to dinner. Abner Blackburn
declined, saying he had lost his appetite.
See: Battle Creek & Fort Utah