Oral Histories

Blankenagel, Norma P.

b.1930

blankenagel

It is interesting to note that the Bluff settlers had also lost horses. Upon bravely confronting the Indians at Elk Mountain, they demanded their property. They were allowed to cut their own horse out and depart in peace. The main reason for that was because they had fed the Indians and been sent by Brigham Young to make friends with the Indians and try and stop the fighting between the Utes and Navajos. So they trusted the Mormon pioneers, and gave them back their horses without fighting them.The Blue Mountain posse trailed the Indian band westward, then northward, toward Indian Creek, and up Hart Draw to Hatch Rock, and from there to the La Sal Mountains. The Indians had their squaws, children, and goats with them.

The posse proceeded to Mule Shoe near Kane Springs, and the head of Pack Creek on the northern slop of the La Sal Mountains. It would seem that the Indians lead them right straight into a trap, because the Dawson group camped at Mule Shoe, where there was water. The Dawson group captured some squaws and goats at Pack Creek. There was some fighting at Squaw Springs and a squaw was accidentally killed there. Thus the spring got its name.

The Indians then slipped along Shafer Creek into Mason Draw and down to Pinhook. They were able to kill six of Dawson’s men and the other five got away to shelter. It was dark when they were able to sneak back to the main body of men. The Indians had taken their best horses and vanished, but they left two of the white men dead. So at Pinhook Draw, ten men had been killed and three injured by the Indians, as well as Thurman and May. This was the Pinhook Draw massacre. I believe the Daughter of the Utah Pioneers put a plaque up to show where the massacre occurred on June l5,1881. They put this up in l940, in memory of those who were massacred by the Indians.

Again, these renegade Piutes, in the spring of 1884, had to prove their ownership of the deer on the La Sal Mountains. These Indians tried to kill all of the deer they could. About 300 Indians slaughtered deer for about a month, then they systematically drove the deer south to the reservation. They waved their blankets and drove many thousands of deer before them. They repeated this process in 1885 and in 1886, and there was nothing the white settlers could do to stop it. But the Indians killed deer unmercifully for the sale of their hides.

 

First Mail Route and Post Office in the Area – The first mail route was established through La Sal in the spring of 1879. It started in Salina, Utah and went to Green River (then called Blake), La Sal, and Paradox; then to Naturita, Placerville, Telluride, and Ouray, a distance of about 350 miles. A Mr. Howard rode the route for several months, followed by Tom Brewster who rode for two years. Sam Rolly was also one of the early riders. This mail route was one of the strangest and most dangerous in the United States. Since there were no changes of horses, there was no schedule. The horses had to be preserved and, according to the weather, the 700 miles round-trip, sometimes took six weeks, and sometimes many months. A pack horse was loaded with bedroll, food, water, and the mail. A camp would be made whenever the horses were tired. The mail carriers had to ford three rivers, cross the La Sal Mountains, and watch for hostile Indians and outlaws just to bring the mail to less than a hundred settlers. Because of the mining ventures, a lot of money went through this mail route. Never was there any loss. Sometimes they had to travel on snowshoes to get across the La Sals.

The first post office was an old pine log cabin up at Old La Sal, which was the headquarters of the Pittsburgh Cattle Company. This was located in the eastern part of Old La Sal.

In June of 1881, Alonzo Hatch settled in the north end of Dry Valley.   He farmed his ranch for less than a year and then moved to Moab. Hatch Ranch was a stopover for travelers between Monticello and Moab. If you know where Mr. Foster and that group of people are living in the rocks ( now a bed and breakfast) that’s Hatch Rock. Hatch Wash is down below that and we take our cattle through the wash every time we move them to Dry Valley. It was named after this early pioneer. I guess that was quite a popular stopover there at Hatch Ranch. They stopped over to rest their horses and rest the people that were on the mail stage. This stage took mail from Thompson through Hatch Wash to Monticello and on to Mancos Colorado.

 

The First Schools – The Leemasters and McCartys moved from Coyote to be nearer the school, which is up on Old La Sal Creek, and fifteen scholars attended that first La Sal school. Another school was built in 1916, which is kind of a long plain building. It was there for a long time, but it has been taken down now. There were long swing bars, just out of tree limbs, and you could see where the swings had been. In fact when we first came here, some of the swings were still there. That was the children’s playground for recess and such. It was used until 1931. A Miss Stair, of Philadelphia, taught a six month term here and was paid cooperatively by everyone who had children attending classes. Quite often each family would put the school teacher up for such percent of the month as determined by how many children they had in the school. This is how the teacher’s wage was partially paid by families. So the wages were mostly in living expenses.

The La Sal school system was the second organized in San Juan County, Bluff being the first one. Coyote, or the new town of La Sal was organized in 1909, and a school was organized there at that time. It is interesting that in this school they had eight grades, plus a class that was beginners. That was a total of nine classes taught by one teacher. Two boys were imported from Moab to make up eight students. They had to have eight students to rate having a teacher, so they imported Carl Berry and Alma Duncan from Moab. The other children were Lacy and Thelma Stocks, Isabella and Alma McCullum, and two other children, names unknown.

Read the other Oral Histories