Gunnison Massacre

Captain John Gunnison's Engineers Attacked by Renegade Ute Indians on the Sevier River - 1853

(Original Utah Centennial Legacy, Acrylic/Canvas 176 sq. ft. [22 feet long].    Mural in Collection of
Millard County Commission, Fillmore, Utah 84631)

 Historical Background:
     During the early 1850's, numerous U.S. Government surveying expeditions were made into the Rocky Mountain West. In the Spring of 1853, Captain John W. Gunnison, U.S. Army Topographical Engineer, took command of a party on the Survey of Pacific Road (railroad) route through the central Rockies. His command was made up of Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith, second in command; at least eight civilian topographers, geologists, etc., and also, for security, included thirty soldiers of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (U.S. Army Dragoons), Captain R. M. Morris, Commanding.

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By the first of September, they had negotiated the Continental Divide, and the 17th of October found them on the Sevier River, south of present day Manti, Utah. They hired Mormon guides from the Manti settlement to lead them on to Lake Sevier.

Days before, early in October, a wagon train of Missouri emigrants, enroute to California, had passed through the Fillmore settlement and camped on Meadow Creek. A small band of Pahvant Ute Indians came into the camp, wanting to trade buckskins for tobacco, etc. The Missourians attempted to disarm the Indians of their bows and arrows. In the fracas, War Chief Moshoquop's father was killed by revolver fire. Moshoquop then took his band and moved to a site about twelve miles northeast of Lake Sevier.
Evening of the 21st of October, Gunnison's expedition camped at Cedar Springs [site of present day Holden, location of artist Frank Thomas' studio]. Captain Gunnison visited the Fillmore settlement (ten miles south of Cedar Springs) and was warned of possible Indian trouble. Moving northwest across the Pahvant Valley, they reached the Sevier River (near present day Delta) in two days. Snow squalls in the mountains, frigid weather, and sand made travel difficult, so a rest was called.

The singular tragic event of this ill fated expedition then occurred. Captain John Gunnison had divided his command, sending the larger force to explore miles upriver, toward the Nephi settlement. Gunnison then proceeded down the river towards Lake Sevier, his small party consisting of four civilians and a corporal and six of the Mounted Riflemen. They camped for the night on the north side of a bend in the river, east of Lake Sevier. Discounting the Indian warning received at the Fillmore settlement, their perimeter security was almost nonexistent.

At dawn the next morning, the 26th of October 1853, while eating breakfast, they were surprised in an attack by vengeful Pahvant Ute War Chief Moshoquop and forty of his warriors. He was seething for vengeance against white men, any white men, an acceptable practice in his culture. Within minutes, Captain John W. Gunnison, his four civilians, and three soldiers died of gunshot and arrow wounds. Only Corporal Barton and three of his horse soldiers escaped to tell of the massacre.

Artist's note: The site of this massacre is to be found only 40 miles west of his art studio...and the Paiute Indian warriors (models painted) are the actual descendants of those who perpetrated the incident.


 Canvas Art Print Offerings:

15" x 47" (signed by artist/rolled - ready to stretch)..........................$260.00

20" x 62" (signed by artist/rolled - ready to stretch)..........................$412.25

30" x 94" (signed by artist/rolled - ready to stretch)..........................$973.50                                        

NOTE: The rolled canvas print may be stretched in most frame shops before framing.      Also the art image (above) may be quite beautifully printed on heavy art paper (same price as canvas art...slightly different technique) and then shipped flat.