Attention: This site does not support the current version of your web browser. To get the best possible experience using our website we recommend that you upgrade to a newer version or install another browser

Massacre of the Berrys

[From the book Our Pioneer Heritage, Lesson for Nov. 1964, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, SLC, compiled by Kate B. Carter, chapter Blackhawk Indian War, pp. 204-206: Massacre of the Berrys.] Robert Madison Berry was born February 3, 1841, and Joseph Smith Berry was born December 9, 1843, at Dresden, Weekly County, Tennessee, the sons of Jesse and Armelia Shanks Berry. About the year 1842 the Gospel message was being preached in their locality and Elders Amasa Lyman, Benjamin Cluff and Lyman Wight converted the Berry family, who left soon afterwards for Nauvoo, where Jesse Berry died. The mother and children were pioneers to Utah in 1849, settling in Spanish Fork a few years later. In 1862 John W., William, Robert and Joseph Berry with their families, were called to help colonize the St. George area. In the spring of 1866, Joseph and Robert Berry with Isabelle Hales Berry, the latter's wife, were returning from a trip to Salt Lake City. They stopped at Kanarraville and while there the two-year-old baby girl of Robert and Isabelle died. The Berrys resumed their journey, traveling in a light wagon, camping for noon, April 2, 1866, at Short Creek, where they were attacked by Piutes, who it is claimed had been following them from Corn Creek in Millard County. Their dead bodies were found several days later by John and William Berry. The details of the tragedy will never be known. It appears that they attempted to escape by running their horses across the country and finding they could not do so, fought desperately for their lives, but in vain. One dead Indian was found nearby. Joseph was found lying face down in the wagon box; his leg had been bandaged, no doubt, while they were fleeing as fast as they cold from the Indians. Isabelle had been shot through the head with a six-shooter and was lying on the ground, while Robert's body was astride the wagon tongue with the head leaning into the wagon. The Indians said afterward that Robert was a "heap brave fighter." Robert and Joseph were large men, tall of stature. The burial of these pioneers took place at Grafton, Utah. In Church Chronology it is recorded that this massacre occurred four miles from Maxfield's Ranch on Short Creek, Kane County, Utah. There is a small knoll between Short Creek and Kane Beds which marks the place and is called Berry Knoll. When President Young heard of this outrage on the part of the Indians, he sent word to Cedar City for the men of that place to form a company of militia and go to Berryville and escort the people back to Dixie. The late John Parry of Cedar City was a member of that escort, and furnished the writer much of the information for this sketch. Coal Creek John, Indian chief of the Cedar band of Indians who were Piutes, was one of those who killed the Berry brothers. He was large of stature, tall and commanding, with long braids hanging down and decorated with many colors. He and his braves again appeared on the scene just as the settlers were ready to leave with the escort. He was wearing a shirt which William Berry recognized as his brother's, awakening in him the spirit of revenge. He determined to kill the chief. The other settlers knew that they would all be killed if William were allowed to do as he felt, so they reasoned with him to see the result of such action. He refused to be consoled and was locked up until his anger subsided. The settlers, although very frightened that the Indians would attack them, talked peace and the red men did not cause further trouble at this time. The road through the valley ran on the west side of the creek. When the company reached a ravine in the mountains called the Calf Pasture, a small son of George Spencer wanted to ride on the mules and his father granted his wish, but he had not ridden far when he fell off and was run over and killed. The company halted and made a coffin from one of the wagon boxes and buried him at the mouth of Calf Pasture. It was near this place that a Piute Indian, Old Mose, came up to the company. When he saw how frightened the people were, he said, ˜Ti-wiga Ti-ca-boo" meaning he was friendly and extended his hand for a handshake. Long after this when settlers returned, he visited among the people and often related this incident. Before he closed his visit, he would ask for flour and it was usually given to him. The hostile band again appeared when the company reached Short Creek. The settlers talked peaceably with them and any trouble that might have occurred was averted. But the people knew that the band was following them and kept a vigilant watch. The men took turns standing guard. It was June and the nights were cool. Joseph Hopkins, who stood guard toward the cool part of the early morning, wore his wife's flannel petticoat over his shoulders because he did not have a coat. They arrived at their destination in safety. When they reached Long Valley they found their crops growing nicely and unmolested. Some of the men stayed there during the summer and fall to care for the crops and finish the harvesting, while others returned with loads of provisions for their families at home. When they reached the Elephant seven miles below Mount Carmel, the Indians attacked them and there was a skirmish in which one Indian was killed. Hyrum Stevens was shot through the breast by an Indian named Humpie, but the wound was not fatal. The Indians rode off with five of their horses, so the white men were unable to haul their provisions any further. The others received orders from Major Russell of Dixie to leave their crops on the ground and return to Dixie. They left the valley where the Zion-Carmel Highway now takes off, going over Bernt Flat, thence to Blue Springs on Kolob and from there to Virgin and Rockville. Hyrum Stevens rode a horse the whole distance as it was less painful than to ride in a wagon. He had been shot with a musket army gun, and it was three days before the bullet was removed. Then it was cut out with a dull knife. His wife, hearing of the accident, had come to meet them with a wagon and team, but he preferred riding the horse. He was 26 years old at the time and recovered, raised a large family and lived to the age of 83 years. In passing over the area at Elephant afterwards, the settlers found large holes where the Indians had buried the corn and potatoes that had been left lying on the ground, and which had later been dug up and used by the Indians. The next spring the settlers came into Long Valley again and took back grain and potatoes which they had stored the fall before.



Select a language