Indian Wars of the western frontier were an integral part of American and Native American history. Stories of those wars would not be complete without Peter Gottfredson's classic, time-honored account, Indian Depredations in Utah . After Peter arrived in America in 1855, he became a passionate journalist, storyteller, and author, quite aware of living in a historical time. In his book, first published in 1919 by Skelton Publishing CO. of Salt Lake City, Utah, he recorded for posterity his firsthand experiences during those trying and often tragic times. The Timpanogos Nation ruled the area of Utah's Wasatch Range when Mormon colonists arrived in 1847. Peter, who herded sheep for a living, spent much of his time living among the Timpanogos Tribe during the Utah Black Hawk War years in the 1860s. Called "Sheep Captain" by tribe members, Peter enjoyed playing with their children and helping them gather food. Peter Gottfredson's book is regarded as vital by scholars, historians, and history buffs; Peter has earned his place in American history.
In reading John Alton Peterson’s excellent book, Utah’s Black Hawk War, I repeatedly saw references to a book written in 1919 called Indian Depredations in Utah, by Peter Gottfredson. I bought the reprint, and read it, fascinated. I now will go back and finish Peterson’s more modern history.
Peter Gottfredson was born in Denmark in 1846. By age 12, he had left Denmark with his family, boarded a sailing ship for America, faced rough storms that turned them back to Ireland, survived two fires on board, witnessed the rescue of sailors from a wrecked ship, traveled up the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska, joined a handcart company, buried his Mother and a little sister, learned English from soldiers in Johnston's Army headed to Utah, arrived at Salt Lake City after the city had been vacated in preparation to defend from an expected invasion by the U.S. Army, and cared for in the army fort for a while, before moving with his family to Sanpete County in Utah. The book is not about Peter's life, but it helps to know who he was, as one reads his amazing compilation.
Peter recounts in the Preface to his book:
"It fell to my lot to be herd-boy in Thistle Valley, which was then a favorite haunt of the Indians, and they often told us that we were trespassers on their domain. In 1865, when the Black Hawk war broke out, I had left Sanpete to locate in Sevier Valley, which was then most exposed to Indian raids because of having been settled but one year when the war broke out..."
Peter knew and loved many of the Indians, but was also active in the battles and defense of his people. After the Black Hawk war was over, he began gathering accounts of the many skirmishes and battles:
"It is half a century and more since the raids and assaults recorded in this book took place.... I have often querried; why should those conditions be forgotten, and why has so little interest been taken in keeping memorandas and records of events and conditions of those early and trying times. I have written several times over much of the information I have gathered in order to make corrections and supply additional information. I have been more than twenty years compiling this history, and have not left a stone unturned in my endeavors to obtain correct data on all the important events which properly belong to his history.”
This book brought to me better than I could have imagined the trauma suffered by the Indians and by the settlers in Utah, as their two lifestyles inevitably ground into each other, even as many on both sides tried heroically to get along with each other.
This is a book that will find a permanent place on my shelf.