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Making Space on the Western Frontier

Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Making Space on the Western Frontier
    Book Description:

    When Mormon ranchers and Anglo-American miners moved into centuries-old Southern Paiute space during the last half of the nineteenth century, a clash of cultures quickly ensued. W. Paul Reeve explores the dynamic nature of that clash as each group attempted to create sacred space on the southern rim of the Great Basin according to three very different worldviews._x000B_With a promising discovery of silver at stake, the U.S. Congress intervened in an effort to shore up Nevadas mining frontier while simultaneously addressing both the Mormon Question? and the Indian Problem.? Even though federal officials redrew the Utah/Nevada/Arizona borders and created a reservation for the Southern Paiutes, the three groups continued to fashion their own space, independent of the new boundaries that attempted to keep them apart. _x000B_When the dust on the southern rim of the Great Basin finally settled, a hierarchy of power emerged that disentangled the three groups according to prevailing standards of Americanism. As Reeve sees it, the frontier proved a bewildering mixing ground of peoples, places, and values that forced Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes to sort out their own identity and find new meaning in the mess.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09226-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Intersections
    (pp. 1-9)

    In March 1866, the southwest fringe of Utah Territory simmered in a stew of mistrust and anxiety. Euro-American Mormons and non–Mormon miners had come to the southern edge of the Escalante Desert seeking very different gods through very different means. In the process they disrupted the region’s long-term inhabitants, the Southern Paiutes. These three disparate communities, thrown together by a variety of forces, quickly found themselves in competition over the area’s natural resources. It was a “convergence of diverse people,” which in this case proved difficult for all and deadly for some.¹

    In late March, the murder of George...

  5. 2 Making Space
    (pp. 10-32)

    Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes all tell stories about their coming to the land. Through those stories, we get a glimpse of the three different worldviews that brought competing meanings to the same geographic place. What follows is an exploration of those founding rituals—a Paiute origin story and settlement stories of the Mormons and miners.¹ As the religious historian Mircea Eliade contends, “[T]o settle in a territory is, in the last analysis, equivalent to consecrating it.”²

    Although Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes used very different means to consecrate their space, those means fall within three broad commonalities that offer...

  6. 3 Power, Place, and Prejudice
    (pp. 33-62)

    In March 1865, Thomas C. W. Sale, a Southern Paiute Indian agent turned prospector, set in motion a series of events that would forever redefine Mormon, mining, and Paiute space. Sale induced an “old Indian” to lead him to an outcropping of ore at what would soon become the Pahranagat Mining District. The agent quickly became convinced that he had found the much-rumored Silver Mountain for which so many had searched in vain. News of the find spread rapidly and generated intense excitement.¹ Early reports in national mining journals called the mines “richer than any yet discovered” and predicted that...

  7. 4 “Listen Not to a Stranger”
    (pp. 63-84)

    The federal government’s attempts to draw lines of separation notwithstanding, the new political borders proved little more than strokes on official maps. Mormons, miners, and Southern Paiutes continued to mix with each other, their paths intersecting in time and space, but against a geographic backdrop of their own making. Even though Mormons and Paiutes were given no meaningful voice in border politics, they assumed spirited roles in shaping the western frontier. They were not merely victims of oppressive state power but aggressive wielders of power themselves. They actively guarded their differing worldviews but at the same time modified them to...

  8. 5 “To Hold in Check Outside Influences”
    (pp. 85-112)

    The Mormon apostle Erastus Snow toured the fringe settlements of the Cotton Mission in southwestern Utah and southeastern Nevada in July 1869. His trip took him to Hebron, Clover Valley, Panaca, Eagle Valley, and Spring Valley, a string of ranching outposts that, in the words of Snow, formed a “frontier line” close to the mines of soon-to-be Pioche. Snow recorded his assessment of the region in a letter to Brigham Young, noting that “notwithstanding their proximity to the mines and a periodical influx of adventurers, the people, generally, with a few exceptions seem to be striving to live their religion.”...

  9. 6 “The Out-Post of Civilization”
    (pp. 113-135)

    The “booming of anvil guns,” the “firing of bombs,” and other “demonstrations of joy” announced the Fourth of July festivities at Pioche in 1873. The swelling “throng” of people who gathered that day offered “forcible evidence” that “Pioche was determined not to be behind any of her neighbors in the display of patriotism on Independence Day.” The Pioche Brass Band led a long procession of people through the streets in what the newspaper deemed “an imposing pageant.” Little Lizzie Ward was chosen as the “Goddess of Liberty” and was “handsomely and appropriately attired so as to represent the Red, White...

  10. 7 “Dead and Dying in the Sagebrush”
    (pp. 136-156)

    On one occasion during his explorations of Southern Paiute country, John Wesley Powell came upon “three old women” crouched around the fire of an otherwise deserted camp. The rest of the band had moved on, but the women remained behind. They sat stoically staring into the fire of what would become their death camp. Alternating between sitting, dancing, chanting, and sleeping, they would starve themselves to death over the coming days. It was better that way, according to Southern Paiute belief, so that the women would not turn intoU-núpits, or witches, and be doomed to live in snake skins.¹...

  11. 8 Transformations
    (pp. 157-168)

    The morning of 17 November 1902 dawned “clear and beautiful” at Hebron. It was unseasonably pleasant weather, and even the typically chilly north wind decided not to blow that day. Chris Ammon, a Norwegian stone mason, was eager to take advantage of the sunshine to finish work on Frank Hunt’s house. Everything seemed normal as Ammon methodically laid the last rocks on one of the gable ends of the Hunt home, but sometime after the noon hour something peculiar happened. The rock Ammon was placing began to bounce in his hand and refused to lie still. It took a split...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 169-208)
    (pp. 209-222)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 223-232)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-235)