Unrest continues following Meeker Massacre

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Photo courtesy John M. Motter This photo shows Billy Kern, an early Pagosa Springs pioneer and sheriff. Kern built the house still standing just east of the Healing Waters Resort and Spa on San Juan Street.
Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This photo shows Billy Kern, an early Pagosa Springs pioneer and sheriff. Kern built the house still standing just east of the Healing Waters Resort and Spa on San Juan Street.

We’ve been writing about the 1879 Meeker Massacre, when the White River Utes revolted at the Meeker, Colo., reservation in northern Colorado.

Not only did they kill Agent Nathan Meeker by driving a wooden stake through his heart, they killed all of the men at the agency, badly defeated two Army units sent to rescue, and kidnapped Meeker’s wife and daughter and the other white women.

Ouray, regarded by the white pioneers at that time as leader of the Southern Utes down in Pagosa Country, helped gain the release of the captured white women, helped calm down the White River Utes and kept the Southern Utes in check. Nevertheless, settlers in Pagosa Country were nervous.

First Lt. Davis, stationed at Fort Lewis in Hesperus, Colo., sent the following promise of help on Oct. 11 to the A.A.A. general in the field, Alamosa:

“Sir: The two communications of the 8th instant received this a.m. In reply to the first I have the honor to say that three six-mule teams left early this morning to meet Major Hough. They were sent in compliance with note of District Commander received last evening per Mr. Cooper. In reply to the second letter this is the latest on Indian matters in vicinity of the Agency (Ignacio, agency headquarters for the Southern Utes). On Tuesday last the Indians concentrated at the Agency to receive rations on Wednesday the regular issue day. Some of them were under the influence of liquor and behaved saucily toward employees though doing no harm. Mr. Page-Agent-was out on Tuesday and left Animas City for the Agency with the intention of withdrawing employees as noted in letter of Mr. Beaumont forwarded to you last Wednesday. A party of twenty cattlemen went to Agency and remained two days as a means of protecting the whites there. A company of 40 men raised at Pinos River (Motter: today’s Bayfield) were also near there watching but withdrew Tuesday being satisfied with the peaceable aspect of affairs. Mr. Charles King came over last evening from Pinos River and reports all quiet; citizens are organized but lack ammunition; non-reliable parties start rumors of very mysterious construction, which are rapidly disproven. From 500 to 600 Indians reported present on Issue Day. They wanted rations for families absent which on being refused made them angry — They also wanted annuities to be issued which were refused. Ignacio and Aquilla (Aguillar?) were reported present and one source says some Utes from North also at Agency. Mr. Hefferman at Animas City states Indians are building a trail a few miles south of that town; direction in which the trail leaves not stated — As some of the Indians were absent from reservation on Wednesday (issue day) it is probable they have gone north. Settlers west are naturally very anxious on subject, but the arrival of the troops of which the people have been informed allays fear.

“Some of Indians are camped near Stollsteimer’s ranch 11 miles west of here and balance either at Agency or off hunting.”

More next week on 1879 Indian unrest in Pagosa Country.