Thursday, October 30, 2008

Comments on Thomas Rowell Leavitt

I received some unusual but fascinating comments to my post relating the history of the Leavitt's. I don't know how many of you actually read the comments but I thought you would find them interesting so today I'm going to post some of the comments.

The first comment was by Phillip B Gottfredson:
Dear Mr. Leavitt;

Fred I read your story with great interest. The reason it came to me is because you mentioned the Ute, and I have my computer set to catch anything related to the Utah Indian people. For the past seven years I have been doing research for the Division of Indian Affairs in Salt Lake. The reason I am writing is to ask permission to copy the section of your story about the Ute, and of coarse giving you credit. You may be interested to know that in 1857 when the event you write about, Chief Arropeen was leader of the Ute Tribe who was Chief Wah-kara's (Walker)successor. Wah-kara had died in 1855. If indeed it was Arropeen that Thomas encountered this makes the story even more extraordinary as Arropeen was not a man easily swayed by any white man. At the time this event happened there had been around 50 bloody encounters between the Ute and the Mormon settlers, tension were high on both sides. Measles and smallpox was spreading epidemically among the Indians adding even more fuel to their rage.

Arropeen was Wah-kara's brother, and Black Hawk was Wah-kara's nephew and became leader after Arropeen resigned his position in 1865. Also 1857-58 was when Johnston's army came into the area, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and so forth, a lot was going on during this period. So it is extraordinary Thomas and his family survived this encounter, cetainly his diplomacy paid off.

Again, with your permission, I would like to add to my research the paragraphs you have written regarding the Ute.

Thank you most sincerely,

Phillip B Gottfredson

I replied to Phillip and his response was also fascinating:

Hi Fred;

Thank you for your kind and prompt reply and for giving me permission to use the story regarding Thomas and the Ute. I will credit Emma Broadbent as per your instructions, and thanks for the link!

There are a couple books I can recommend, Utah’s Black Hawk War by John Alton Peterson, and my great-grandfather’s book titled Indian Depredations in Utah. Both of these books contain considerable information on the Ute and Arropeen.

I can only speculate that it was Arropeen that Thomas encountered, at this time, but from the description given it appears it may have been. You see, understand that the social structure of the Ute has several levels. There were “bands,” and bands made up “tribes,” and tribes made up the “Nation.” Like we have cities, counties, and states. Each of these divisions had leaders, and each of the leaders the whites referred to as “Chiefs.” So you can see it gets rather confusing trying to sort out all the many Chiefs. But when reading the story of Thomas, in the details I see references that indicate that the “Chief” Thomas encountered was one of status. For example, the mention that the accompanying warriors made a half circle with the Chief in the middle is a custom paid to a Chief of stature. The time frame when this took place, the location, the body paint and feathers, all support my theory. There is one more detail, Had this band of Ute been just renegade Indians, Thomas and his family would most likely been killed. However, I see from your account the humanity of the Indians Thomas encountered. The Chief hugs Thomas, he makes a compromise, and respects the courage that Thomas demonstrated. The Chief also acknowledges the respectful way Thomas approached them. Respect, courage, humility, and fairness are attributes the Chief sees in Thomas, and he responds by showing Thomas respect in the same way. This is no small matter, but to fully appreciate what was actually going on between the Chief and Thomas we have to have a knowledge of the social behaviors of Ute leadership. In other words, leaders were chosen by the community that best represented the altruistic views of the community. I had the honor of spending a great deal of time with the direct descendants of Arropeen, Wah-kara, and Black Hawk, and they explained to me that all the Chiefs we hear about were blood relations. That is to say all these legendary leaders and came from the same bloodline going back centuries of time. This single family line raised their male children to become leaders. So “renegade” Indians were those who broke tradition, went against the community and committed atrocities against the whites that the community didn’t condone.

Arropeen was a brutal war Chief. He had set out to avenge the death of Wak-kara whom was poisoned by whites, and to avenge the deaths of his people who were dying of the diseases that the whites brought. He was angry, and felt betrayed. Wah-kara had joined the church, as did Arropeen, but things hadn’t worked out as promised to them. Their land was being taken away along with their food sources, leaving them with no choice but to fight back.

Then in 1865, the Mormons realized that they could no longer control the Indians, and in a last effort to bring peace they asked Arropeen to meet with them in Manti. Negotiations broke down when John Lowry, drunk at the time, jerked Arropeen from his horse by his hair and started to beat him. Dishonored in front of his warriors, Arropeen resigned his leadership and Black Hawk was chosen to take his place. Thus began what is referred to as the Black Hawk War. Black Hawk amassed an army of some 3000 warriors and caused the evacuation of some 70 Mormon villages.

Black Hawk was a peace maker, and spent nearly a decade campaigning for peace. He realized he was out numbered by the whites, and the only way he could assure the survival of his people was to find a way to compromise. Between the year 1847 and 1909 the Ute population had decreased by over 90%. The numbers are huge. The Ute population in 1847 was in excess of 30,000. By 1909 the population was just 2400. Today the Ute population hovers around 3400.

Thomas was obviously a great example of what could have been. Cooler heads prevail. In my opinion had there been more people like Thomas things would have turned out very different for all. The Utah Indians were not all bad, as not all settlers were all kind. On both sides of the fence there were those who had it in their hearts to live in peace, as there were those who gave into hate. Thomas not only saved the lives of his family and friends, he saved the lives of those Ute’s who he encountered that day.

So you see Fred, your story is important. It reveals the humanity of the Ute. Not many accounts do so, as they have all too often been given far more credit than they deserve as being cruel and savage. I cringed when I read about the scalps on the poles, but I also cringe when I read about the beheadings of the Ute at Fort Utah, heads that were shipped to Washington for scientific examination. Heads that were hung from the eves of the cabins of the fort as trophies. As I have learned from my research, there was plenty of gruesome details to go around.

Thomas lived in a violent time, among people who were fighting for control of the land. It was a matter of who would survive.

Please feel welcome to visit my website for more information at: Here I have tried to tell the Indians side of the story, one we have not heard before. It’s a huge collection of stories and insight. And because I am telling the story from the Indians perspective, it may seem at times I am biased. But it has not been my intention to do so. You see, my great-grandfather spent much of his time living among the Ute during the same time as Thomas was around. So I have approached Utah history from a different perspective.

I have always looked for the real heroes in our history, those like Thomas who was like so many others who was trying to carve out a life in the midst of a very tumultuous world in the wild west. He was not a man of influence, a leader, but he made a huge difference because of who he was. He followed his heart, and gave peace a chance. He made a tremendous difference for generations of people that have followed. Many owe their very existence to the courage of this one man.

Its amazing the difference one person can make, isn’t it?

Many blessings,

Phillip B Gottfredson

You should check out his website. It is very interesting. And then I received a comment from a long lost relative named Renaye. She said:


I found your story very fascinating. More so when you mentioned Wellsville, Utah...and then I saw the name of John Ephraim Redford (married one of the Leavitt girls). If this John E. Redford is the son of John Eckersall Redford and Caroline Kington, there is a connection here and I would like to know more about his descendants as well. I'm keeping a copy of this story!



And finally there were a couple of comments from Mark. I knew the Leavitts were tied into the Hamblins but I had no idea Mark descended from Jacob Hamblin. That makes this all the more cool. Like Mark, I knew that Priscilla married Jacob Hamblin but I was surprised to see that Betsey married Jacobs brother William Hamblin. That I did not know until I researched this story. And then to learn that William also married Betseys sister Mary ties us in even tighter. Thank you for your comments Mark, I think the Leavitt's and Hamblins make a good combination. We have a lady in our ward who is a descendant of Jacob Hamblin's. I'll have to tell her about you.

The town west of SLC that the Leavitts and Hamblins lived in for a short while was Tooele.

Until I read your blog, I wasn’t aware that two of Jeremiah and Sarah’s daughters married Hamblins. Priscilla married Jacob Vernon Hamblin, my third great grandfather. (I am descended from another wife, Rachael). I suppose that without knowing it at the time, I continued a family tradition as a Hamblin descendant marrying a Leavitt daughter.

An interesting historical sideline to the marriage of Jacob Hamblin and Priscilla Leavitt: While Jacob and Priscilla were away in Salt Lake City getting sealed, the Mountain Meadows Massacre occurred on Jacob’s ranch. (That ugly chapter of history was swept under the rug for nearly a century.) Another of my third great grandfathers, Nephi Johnson was involved in the massacre. So was Dudley Leavitt, one of Mary and Priscilla’s brothers. Both of these men were respected frontiersmen and went on to become leaders and family patriarchs.

I often ponder what it would be like to have to support a militia commander (who also happens to be your Stake President) who makes a series of incredibly bad decisions. We may never know in this life whether their allowing this outrage to occur and participating in it was an act of cowardice, or was necessary for their own survival in the face of retribution from their leaders.

The connection between the Hamblins and Leavitts is even stronger than I thought. According to the genealogy I got from my brother Doug, William Hamblin was a polygamist and married Leavitt sisters, Mary and Betsey.


Lynn said...

Oh the intrigue! The mysteries unfolding!
I love it! You have a FASCINATING family history. Thank you VERY much for sharing these comments and replies you received. I really appreciated what was said and shared. So much history to explore! And that's just YOUR family..........

Justin, Kira and Evan said...

what about my comment?? just kidding! How fascinating is all this?! Awesome!

Alycia Leavitt said...

so guess what?! MY SCHOOL MASCOT is the UTE! cooool

Jon Williams said...

So Fred I have a question for you about Thomas. Other than the Emma Broadbent accounts, do you happen to know where one could get a copy of letters or journals by Thomas or his wives.

I find it fascinating, and I would love to do more research on his life as I think Canadian Saints get a short shift in Mormon History, unless you name is Charles O. Card.