Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Graphic Tale of Violence, Forgiveness, and Sacrifice.

[Warning: This story contains a little graphic violence. If you want to avoid the most graphic parts, don't read the sentences that I struck out below.]

Two brothers, Joseph and Robert and Robert’s wife Isabella were on their way from Spanish Fork, Utah County, their former home, to their new home at Long Valley. It was April 1866, and this area was still frontier. They had spent the winter at their old home and had purchased some farm implements including a plow. A pair of good horses pulled the light wagon it was on. In addition they had bought more supplies.

Along the way they stopped briefly at the homes of friends who would be joining them in their new home further south. They stopped at Ezra Strong’s place in Kane County. And at William Maxwell’s place at Short Creek. At both places they decided not to wait for their friends. They wanted to get back to their new home and get started on the considerable work still needed.

But their decision was fateful. For just two miles past Short Creek, at a place called Cedar Ridge, they were attacked by Indians. Joseph was shot in the leg and they turned back to Short Creek. But they never made it. The Indians chased them down. At Big Sandy Wash, the Indians crippled one of the horses by shooting it in the shoulder making it unable to pull. This probably happened at full gallop since the other horse pulled unevenly on the harness and cramped the wagon. Unable to go any further they were killed and their horses taken.

Robert and Joseph had a brother named William who grew concerned that they had not yet arrived. So William started from Long Valley and started back tracking. Stopping at a grassy spot to rest the horse, he said a quiet prayer for the safety of his brothers and sister-in-law. As he prayed, a vision was opened to him showing their fate. Fearing it could be true he hurried on to Grafton for help. Along the way he met a friendly Indian who confirmed his horrible vision.

At Grafton a posse was organized and sent to recover the bodies. Robert was found tied faceing out to the front wagon wheel, his body riddled with holes. Joseph was found a short distance from the wagon. Isabellas body was on the wagon tongue face up, stripped, raped and mutilated. She was pregnant with their second child. They took their bodies to Grafton and buried them there.

William tried to find the Indians who killed his brothers and sister-in-law. William traced the iron arrowheads the Indians used back to Mr. Wilcock, the man who made them. Wilcock identified the two Indians to whom he sold the arrowheads. It wasn't long before William cornered the two in a log cabin. Butcher knife in hand, he held one against the wall, intent on extracting whatever he knew about who had used those iron arrowheads. As the Indian talked, William became sure this was one of the killers. The knife was at the Indian’s abdomen. But then something changed. As the Indian folded his arms and stood there motionless, William heard a voice saying "Venegence is mine saith the Lord" and he realized he wanted “no human blood on his soul”. He released his grip and told the Indian to go.

Eighteen years later, William was called on a mission. He was much older than his companion and the lessons he learned in not letting his anger control him had served him well. Even in the face of danger, William remained calm and in control. Four months into his mission he was sitting in a members home when four men forced their way in the front door. They shot the missionary leading the services and then turned to shoot William’s companion. But William’s quick thinking saved his companion’s life. He grabbed the shot gun barrel and held it, preventing the shooter from getting a clear shot. He didn’t fight the shooter, he just held the gun. His companion survived, escaping out the back door and into the woods. But William wasn’t so lucky. Another shooter pointed his gun at William. Knowing he fate was sure, he bowed his head and waited for death. William Shanks Berry died defending his companion on August 10, 1884 at Cane Creek, Tennessee.

7 comments:

Ardis E. Parshall said...

Wow. I didn't realize the connection between the two stories. Wow.

Amy said...

I can only repeat what Ardis said. (The "wow" part.)

BruceCrow said...

I like how researching Tennessee Mormon history has led me down so many paths of Mormon history in general. This connection has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I thought it was time to bring it out.

Jeff Johnson said...

I have seen the headstones many times, but did not know the full story. I know a member of the family--I will tell him of your post

BruceCrow said...

Jeff,
I have not seen the headstones in person. I was sent this photo. I hope to swing by there on my next trip to Utah.

Clark said...

This is an amazing story. I had to look up "Long Valley." Judging from the other references, it's near Kanab? Thought I'd post it to save others the trouble...

BruceCrow said...

It is further north than that. Long Valley was near Orderville. After the Indian attack, the Berry's left and went to Kanarraville. In 1871, settlers leaving Muddy River, Nevada moved in and renamed it Glendale.