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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Murphy in Owyhee County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
 

Utter Wagon Train Disaster

 
 
Utter Wagon Train Disaster Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 26, 2017
1. Utter Wagon Train Disaster Marker
Inscription. Near here the Elijah P. Utter wagon train was attacked by Indians on September 9 and 10, 1860. The two-day encounter resulted in the deaths of eleven emigrants and an estimated twenty-five to thirty Indians. The forty-four member train was composed of four families with twenty-one children, some single men, five recently discharged soldiers, and an army deserter.
The first attack occurred on the high ground just west of Castle Creek when the Indians attempted to stampede the stock. The strong position of the hurriedly circled wagons and the distribution of food to Indians discouraged additional aggression. The train was allowed to continue on toward Snake River where the party intended to fill their water barrels. The train kept to the high ground and, while passing down to Henderson Flat, was attacked again. The wagons were circled and the fight continued into the next day.
Toward sundown on the second day, each family hitched up a wagon and left the remaining wagons and loose stock for the Indians. But the hungry, thirsty, and wounded oxen could not advance. The attackers pressed their advantage and forced the emigrants to abandon their property and flee. A wounded Elijah Utter was shot down, and Abagel Utter and three Utter children refused to abandon him. All were killed.
The survivors escaped the attacks with only
Utter Wagon Train Disaster Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 26, 2017
2. Utter Wagon Train Disaster Marker
the clothes they were wearing, some firearms, and a few basic necessities. For over a week they followed down along the Snake River until they reached the Owyhee River crossing in Oregon. They traveled some 75 miles until they could not physically go on. Some were wounded, and all were hungry and exhausted. There, eighteen children, six surviving parents, and a young man waited to be rescued.
Two weeks later the camp was visited by a few Shoshone Indians. They traded salmon for what few possessions the survivors still harbored and forcefully took their firearms. After receiving some salmon, the Van Ornum family, a young man named Gleason, and the two surviving Utter boys left the camp in hopes of finding a relief party. Near Farewell Bend, they encountered Indians. The three Van Ornum girls and their little brother were taken captive. The bodies of the others were discovered by soldiers, "gleaming in the moonlight," in a crater near the site.
At the Owyhee camp, four children died from starvation. After much discussion and prayer, those who remained ate the flesh of the dead in an attempt to survive until relief arrived. On October 24, an army expedition lead by Captain Frederick T. Dent rescued ten survivors. No other Oregon Trail wagon train suffered greater losses.
 
Erected by Oregon-California Trails Association, Owyhee County Historical Society.
 
Location. 43° 6.486′ N, 116° 17.97′ W. Marker is near Murphy, Idaho, in Owyhee County. Marker is on Wees Road near Nettleton Road, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Murphy ID 83650, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 1 other marker is within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Utter Disaster (approx. 3.7 miles away).
 
Also see . . .  Utter Disaster - Idaho OCTA. Much of the on the marker is repeated in this website. However, there is some additional post-disaster material as well as maps and site photographs. (Submitted on November 17, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.) 
 
Categories. DisastersRoads & VehiclesSettlements & SettlersWars, US Indian
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 17, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 17, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 53 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 17, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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