OUR JOURNEY TO THE RESERVATION
By J. Guy Murray (1972)
In 1905 the Uintah Indian Reservation was thrown open for entry. Subject to drawing number, each lucky number was entitled to 160 acres of land according to the numbers of the plot of land. Our Fathers number entitled him to the 1/4 mile wide and 1 mile long, 80 rods by 320 rods. Due east three miles from what is now Roosevelt, Utah. The town was named after President Teddy Roosevelt.
We were living in Sandy at the time our father sold. out. He bought 2 wild mares (horses). We called them Bell and Nell. We already had two horses Chub and Dude. He also bought two new wagons and harnesses. Fathers youngest brother Johnny, from Vernal, Utah, was visiting us and helped break the broncos to work. They weighed about 12 to 13 hundred lbs. each. About the middle of Sept. 1905 we started out on our new adventure. We had two wagons, two ponies and two cows, what pots and pans and dishes we really had to have for camping. We also had a cage on back of one of the wagons and about 6 hens, and our faithful dog old Dash.
The first day, we made Provo, Utah and camped by a nice clear stream. The next day father had the two new horses fit up with new shoes. The next day we made it about half way up Provo Canyon and camped in a clearing by the Provo River. Vern and I was really enjoying the trip. The cows and ponies followed the wagons. Sometimes we could ride the cows as they were already broke to ride from staking them out in the day-time along the canal, and we would ride them home. Sometimes, we would let Della ride the pony. I think Mildred was too young. Sometimes we would put her on the pony when camping. Well, the next day we made it to the mouth of Daniels Canyon. That was the stopping point. There were guards to stop all families from going any farther as the Indians were on the warpath. Only the ones with numbers could go through. So we pitched our tent in the trees by a clear stream of water.
There was a family living there and we camped on their land, (with permission). We camped there for one month while Pa, Johnny, Elda, and a friend of Elda’s by the name of Georgie Royals, took one team and wagon and went through. When they got back the farmers were threshing their grain, and pa worked on the thresher for a week and earned some oats to feed the horses as we went on our way.
The first day we got to Strawberry. The roads were rough and muddy. We could only make about 15 miles a day. We would have to stop where there was feed for the livestock. We went from Strawberry to Soldier Creek for noon and got to Current Creek that night. There were no bridges then so we had to ford the rivers and there was plenty of water in them at that time. I don’t know where they came from, but there was a lot of people there to watch us ford the creeks and streams with our outfits. I guess we were sort of amusing. We camped down the creek about a mile. The next day we camped between what is now the cities of Duchesne and Myton. Myton was a trading post for the Indians. Cecil Calvert’s father owned the store there (Hayden Calvert). He became my oldest sister Elda’s father -in -law. There was a bridge across the Duchesne River at Myton. The bridge now stands high and dry as the river changed it’s course in 1909.
Well, the next night we camped at Fort Duchesne, just across the river bridge. It was late when we arrived, and by the time we got our tent pitched, it was dark. While Ma was fixing supper, Mildred had washed her hands and went to throw the water out of the wash dish back into the river, and she was standing too close to the river bank and as she tossed the water out, she fell over the bank into the river. She had no sooner hit the water that old Dash jumped in and pulled her to the shore. The water wasn’t very deep and she cut her chin on a rock (she still has the proof). Pa ran over and carried her to the tent. Ma broke open and egg and peeled the thick skin inside the shell and patched the cut with it. It did leave a scar. Things were quite exciting there for a while that night. Sometimes, we had to make a dry at noon, but we had a 30 gallon barrel on the side of each wagon, so we had water with us. Pa bought a few bales of hay in Heber so we could have feed for the livestock when there was no grass.
The next day we got to the halfway hollow. That was a camping place between Vernal and Ft. Duchesne. A family lived there and hauled water from a spring and sold it to the campers. I think it was $1.00 per team over night. They hauled it in a large wooden tank on a wagon. The next day we got to Vernal. You never saw such a pretty place as that was looking down from the top of the pass south of Vernal. It looked like paradise in that green valley below. We got to Grampa Murray’s that night (this was Jeremiah Hatch Murray) and he let us live in three rooms of his house that winter. Grandpa had a large house made of brick in what they called Measer Ward in the western part of Vernal. Grandpa owned a threshing machine (a Superator, not like the threshing machines of the 1930’s and 1940’s) and he did custom threshing, so pa went to work on the thresher and I hauled water for the engine with a horse drawn skid and two 50 gallon barrels. The crew consisted of Grandpa as Seperator tender, Uncle Hatch as engineer, Uncle Bill as grain sacker, and I was water boy. Sometimes I had to break the ice in the ditch to get the water out, but it was fun to me.
I sure liked that crew of men and we got along together so good. After threshing was over, I started school,but didn’t go too long as Pa and I left and went on the Mosby Mt. to get out logs for a house. There was a man by the name of Dan Hancock who went with us from Roosevelt. They had to dig 10 ft down into the snow to cut the logs 18 inches from the ground. Then I would drag the logs with a horse out to the drag trail. We were 30 days getting 90 logs to the bottom of the hill where we could load them on wagons. We finally got them scattered from the mountain to the farm. Spring had started and had thawed out the ground. The mud was so bad and deep, we finally gave up and went home. The ground dried out and we moved to our new home, landing there at noon on Easter Sunday 1906. We had our dinner, then pitched our tent and prepared for the night. Ours was the only tent in the flat’s (so we thought). The next morning, you could see white dots (tents) all over the flats. People had moved in during the night, that was the dead line.
When we got Ma and the kids settled, Pa and I and Dan started getting our logs rounded up and finely got them on the place and started building our one room mansion. All we had to work with was a hand saw, and ax, brace and bit, a spirit level and of course a claw-hammer. Pa would notch out the logs and we would lay them up, when we got them 10 logs high, we put the stringers on to make the roof. We was unable to buy lumber even if there had been any, so we went down to the gulch south of where the town of Roosevelt now stands, and cut cottonwood saplings and split them into lagging and covered the roof. Then Pa went to Ft. Duchesne and bought some burlap sacks and we cut them apart and spread them over the lagging, then we hauled dirt and covered the roof.
Elda and I then took a team and went over to Vernal and bought a door, hinges, a lock and two window sashes and we made a sliding window. We did also buy enough lumber to make a frame for the door and window.
When we got the house so we could close it up, we went to work on a Government canal and stayed there until it started to freeze. Then we came back home. The house had a dirt floor, but Ma kept that floor looking like it was made out of cement. (That was pioneering)!!
This bit of history was written in beautiful print with a led-pencil by Guy in his early eighties, while they lived in California. I wrote and asked him for a wee bit of information concerning this journey to the reservation and this is what I got . I appreciate what he did, over and above what I expected and how grateful I am to him..
His sister Mildred M. Wilkins 1983
Members of this family group besides our mom, Christine Elizabeth Nilsson, and dad, Jeremiah Murray were their children, Elda Elizabeth, Julius Guy, Vernon Lester, Vivian Adella, Mildred Viola, and Douglas Jeremiah who was 5 mo. old. Ralph and Clyde came later.