Mosiah Lyman Hancock

Hopi Indian Mission

1862 - 1863


Excerpts from the Mosiah Hancock Journal... p. 37, 40-45

I often used to be sent as a missionary to bring back a thief while on many expeditions to the Indians.  And the thief always seemed to be willing to come back.  We seemed to have some reformation now and then when the people would get a streak of wanting to do better; and they would come for us to do baptizing.  One cold day, I baptized three hundred Indians...

I soon found that I had to go with Jacob Hamblin to the Moquis (Hopi) Indians.  We were ready to go on the 1st of November [1862].  I was in St. George with the rest of the party when we were set apart by Apostle Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow.  There were 21 of men at this time, and we started to find a way over the desert to the San Francisco mountains.  We went from St. George to the mouth of the Grand Wash (Grand Canyon) on the Colorado River.  Isaac Riddle took a boat along that he had made; Andrew Gibbons, a faithful brother, stripped himself to the waist and with only his drawers on, helped swim the animals over the river.  After the animals were over, we buried our boat with three days of provisions, hoping to meet here on our return home.  We went up to Grass Springs where there was plenty of feed.  The Indian guide left us at the river and we obtained two more guides.  Their heads were quite shaggy, and they spoke a sort of Piute dialect.  They were low in their deportment, and many of them were quite badly deformed.  They were naked, and when they first got sight of us, would run like wild deer until stopped by the guides.  They would stop and look at us until, by chance, we might drop a cracker, then they would scramble for it.  They were not farmers; all they seemed to comprehend was to keep out of our way, and to eat cedar berries.  I saw no other food among them.  There were many of them not far from the river.  When we went up in the mountain country not far from the river, there were some deer.  When we came to the edge of the desert, our guides said they would never see us more.  They left us soon after we left Peach Tree Springs--a spring which water was fair, and which was surrounded by about 30 peach trees.  We then steered for the San Francisco Mountains as far as we could calculate.  After two days travel, we could see two little peaks to the southeast; which we reached six days after getting sight of them.  The second evening we were on the desert needing water.  I went on after dark to pray, and I came to some small tanks of water.  I took a good drink, then got my horses and they drank; then I took Brother Jacob there, and the others came and all sufficed!  The next day we came to a curious formation where we got water.  I obtained in about two hours time, what brought me sixty dollars when I got to Salt Lake City [something of value].  I have never been able to find the place since.  It took us five days after that to reach the San Francisco Mountains.  We found some banks of snow, and had only two bake kettles and three frying pans to melt water for 21 men, and 52 animals.  There was not much sleep for any of us while the melting was going on.  Then we reached the mountains and forest that were truly beautiful.  We left the forest and went down the Little Colorado River.  We found considerable deer here, and struck the Little Colorado River a little above the Black Falls.  From here we went to the Asibi Village, striking it the 16th day of December.  We found many friends here, and wherever we visited they always wished us to eat.  They were a very kind people--some of whom were quite clean; also virtuous.  Their stoves were made of stone, and were so arranged that each kettle was a little higher than the other, as the fire went toward the chimney.  They brought their firewood a distance of about twelve miles.  Some had burros to carry it; others carried it themselves.  They had to economize in those places.  Their houses were built of stone and were plastered too--they were generally two stories hight with flat roofs, and they had ladders go up to the first story.  When they were all up, they pulled up the ladders.  Their ladders were made of two poles on each side, and cross pieces tied on with oase [a desert plant used to make soap].  When they brought their sheep home, they drew them thru an opening into a pen which had a stone wall about 12 feet high.  On top of the wall was brush laid crosswise and extending over the wall on each side about a foot.  When the sheep were in the pen, a man would go in and raise a stone to a perpendicular position so that it fit tight against the opening, then he would take a stone that had been fixed to fit in a slanting position.  When it was secure, he would climb up a ladder.  They also had a ladder at home beside the sheep pen  ladder.  They would place it on the other side, then descend to the ground by helping each other in or out as desired.  There were no doors on the ground, and for safety from their enemies, they went into their house from the top.

On one certain occasion, I went to explain as well as I could, the principles of the gospel.  We had a great many words written down in the “Deseret Alphabet Characters.”  The landlord gave me to understand that the food should be looked after first; so he wished me to ask a blessing on it--which I did.  Then we commenced operations.  Of course I had a big wooden spoon which I always kept with me.  They would wait for me to help myself, then they would follow.  I took some rabbit soup and meat first, and I got an enjoyable piece of meat; then when I took more upon my spoon, I beheld what a tender morsel it was!  With the three large rabbits were seven small ones that had not been cleaned!  I put the spoonful back, found my way outdoors, and cast up what I had eaten--to the consternation of my new friends, who called it waste.  We saw that our provisions were getting low, yet our friends did not want to spare any provisions, still would feed the three missionaries.  We desired to leave--Brother McConnel, Thomas Haskel, and Ira Hatch.  We left for Utah with four Moquis Indians, who wished to see the “Mormon machinery.”  Our provisions were very low, but we tried to be patient.  When we came to the place where young George A. Smith was killed, we camped for the night.  The snow was 16 inches deep.  In the morning, we hitched up and packed our animals, sent them ahead, then we remained to pack the rest.  When we were ready to start, I could nowhere find my horse that I had packed and sent ahead.  I go to the front and report; I start back and go three miles and cannot find it.  I see two Navajos on our vacant camp ground.  They do not see me, and I go back again to our company who are now several miles away.  I told Jacob Hamblin, I could see that my mare was tired, so I threw the rains over the saddle horn, sent her with the men, and back I flew on foot.  I got one mile and found my horse.  The pack was on it all right, so  I tightened it and started after our company.  As I was going towards a little pass, I saw two Indians to my right trying to head me off before I could reach the pass.  I kept the horse on the trail as much as possible.  I heard a voice say, “Mosiah, remember the fate of George A. Smith.”  I happened to look to my left and saw four Indians running to head me off.  Again the voice said to me, “Mosiah, remember the fate of George A. Smith.”  I took out my butcher knife and gave my horse a prick in the thigh to make him speed--he gave a kick which sent me back!  I returned my knife to its scabbard and took the horse by the tail so that when he got off the trail I could steer the rudder and keep him on.  Both my revolvers kept swinging against my hips and I hardly knew what to do.  I had certainly gone as fast as the Navajos anyway.  I knew those Indians were enemies of the most venomous kind.  I saw the two on my right level their guns.  I was a little ahead of them, and I leveled the revolver in my right hand.  They stopped and I drove my horse into the pass.  Then I turned and faced them.  There were six who faced me.  I now held both revolvers in my hands.  The Indians were tall and well formed, except one who had think lips and was quite large.  (I learned after I reached camp that he was the one who got George A. Smith’s pistol and shot him in the back between the kidneys.)  He was spokesman, and said, “Mormon, how you do?” holding out his hand, “Mormon, me seem um gun.”  They seemed so friendly that I thought I’d let them see my revolvers one at a time.  I started to hand one to him, when again that voice said, “Mosiah, remember the fate of George A. Smith.”  I now was aware that I had been warned the third time, and I was thoroughly aroused to the responsibilities in which I was under.  I determined to sell my life as dearly as I could.  Altho the odds were against me in numbers, I had them to my advantage for I had stopped them in their mad rush to get thru the pass; for as soon as they had got fairly in, perhaps one rod I yelled out, “Harken, you sons of ______.”  They stood still.  I being perhaps twenty feet from them.  I motioned the fat one to come forward, and I told the others to stop.   I then slipped the revolver I had in my left hand into the left scabbard, while my dusky friend strode towards me.  The rest of them were in a huddle in the 10 foot wide pass.  He came up and I took his right hand with my left hand and shouted in his ear, “Momon Navajo, How you do?  You see um gun?”  I kept my revolver in my right hand cocked, and the muzzle within a foot of his face.  Altho he was quite dusky, I could see the blood dismantle from his face.  Having commenced with the bully, I called the others to take their turns to investigate my gun.  They seemed to be satisfied without further parley.  I told them not to follow me.  I walked backwards toward my horse.  Had it not been for the snow on the ground, it would have been pitch dark.  So off I went, following the trail.  I knew my dusky friends could not pass me as long as I kept the trail; and I made old Jim trot.  After I had gone several miles, I saw a light on a hill--the horse saw it too and enlivened his trot.  When I got nearer, I could hear voices say, “He has gone as George A. Smith went.  It was a shame to let him go alone that way.”  They were coming to look for me, and as they came near me, they gave a shout of joy.  There was William Lytle and James Andrews and James Pierce, and others whose names I do not remember.  I tried to get on the horse behind Lytle, but could not--so one of the boys helped me up, and to the camp we went. When we got to camp, it was two o’clock in the morning, and it was full of Indians!  Old Pennenshanks had been in camp ever since our camp was made, but they were just leaving.  I felt tired and lay down to rest until morning.  The next day we traded some ammunition for sheep meat, and on our way we went.  We soon got to the Colorado River, crossing it on New Year’s Day, 1863.  Some were of the opinion we ought to wait until morning, and Brother Hamblin asked my opinion.  I said, “Never put off till tomorrow what can be done today.”  “That is my feeling too,” said Brother Hamblin.  So we crossed that evening.

...  By January 2, 1863, we were on the west side of the Colorado River [probably near the spot where Lee’s Ferry was later established.]  It was full of great blocks of ice, and how glad we were to be across.  The pass thru a gorge was washed out and it was full of quicksand; so we commenced to cut willows and roll down stone so we could have a road to travel on.  The morning of the 4th we had it finished, and six of us men whose animals were the best, started out for the settlements to have supplies sent to the company.  We set off, and the evening of the 5th found us at Pahreah.  Some of the animals were given out, and it fell my lot to stay with them until the company came up.  I cheerfully let them take what little grub was left and go on.  On the 6th, I followed a wolf’s tracks for some distance, but could not get sight of him.  I wanted him for food, and I had only one load for my rifle so I had to be careful with it.  On the 7th, I killed a buzzard. Having a Moqui bowl that would hold perhaps two quarts, I boiled the buzzard in it.  I also had 12 beans that I had picked up in a Moqui field intending to plant them when I got home, but I put them in with the buzzard.  I also got some white stuff from the creek bottom and mixed it in too.  Soon that pile was bouncing over a good hot fire--wood was plentiful.  I made a wooden spoon from cottonwood, and when I needed water, I got it with a piece of hat I had left.  Just about the time the buzzard began to be a little tender and I was thinking of a royal meal, William Maxwell came along.  “Mosiah, for God’s sake, have you anything to eat?  I haven’t had a bite for three days!”  Said I, “I have a turkey buzzard most done--let us hurry, for I haven’t had a bite for three days either.”  So we downed it, and I did not think there was a stink to it, for I had licked the bowl clean; but when the company came up, some of them wanted to know, “What in hell stank so!”

The next day we went to Kanab.  Some of us had had nothing to eat, but I found some rose buds!  I gathered about a quart, and gave some to Jacob Hamblin.  We ate them with relish.  Soon a couple of horses were brought forward to take a pick of which one to kill for food.  One was so sore that he had not a whole piece of skin 6 inches in diameter on his back or sides!  From his neck to the roots of his tail, and down his sides to the middle, there was no skin at all!  The other was a mare of such thin proportions that it seemed as tho we were choosing from a skin that had been doubled over a pole with the legs left dangling.  They called me to give my judgment.  I looked to the southwest, saying, “Let some of us go yonder and get that white-tailed deer.”  They all looked, but there was a man instead--a man on horseback leading a pack horse.  It was Lucas Fuller, popping his lariat with his left hand.  He had stopped at the Maxwell ranch, and Sister Maxwell had sent 60 lbs. of flour and a mutton out to us.  Luke Fuller being one of the Mormon boys, knew no fear when in danger and feeling no fatigue when he saw his brethren were suffering, came forth again with his noble help.  I can assure all that the 60 lbs. of flour and the sheep were all cleaned up at one meal!

We went on to Pipe Springs that day and camped for the night.  On January 10th, we went to Short Creek, got some breakfast, then went on to Virgin City, reaching there by 10 o’clock in the evening.  A feast of royal proportions was prepared for us, and we ate to our satisfaction--we and our animals both, until daylight, then Brother Jacob Hamblin and I rode over to my place at Harrisberg, a distance of 18 miles, and ate our breakfast...

[Note by Lionel Nebeker:  Another story told about Mosiah L. Hancock, and handed down within his family, refers to a time when Mosiah was traveling across this same desert area, and again out of food.  In order to keep from starving, and not being able to find any animals to eat, he removed his shoes and boiled the leather soles in a kettle of water in order to create a broth with some nutritional value, and that broth gave him enough sustenance to keep him alive until he made it, eventually, to a settlement where he was able to obtain food.  Of course, having boiled his shoes, he then was barefoot for the rest of his trip.  Times were difficult--beyond what we can imagine in this day and age.  But they were resourceful and knew how to make do with what they could find.  We need to be respectful and appreciative of the extremes to which this man was willing to go in order to fulfill his mission, and also just to provide faithfully for his family.]