Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family, July 3, 1864

In this letter from July 3, 1864, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and family describing his interactions with a small band of Utah Indians and their Chief, Sandpitz. The Indians are friendly, but in Reed's estimation, "are the greatest beggars imaginable." He also notes the progress of his survey, which is over difficult terrain, and expresses his fear that the entire party will strike for higher wages.

One day last week there was a band of Indians, the first we have seen, camped near us. They were of the Utah tribe and going north to meet the Snakes to trade with them. The chief Sandpitz and his squaw took breakfast with us and I gave him a little flour and bacon to distribute among his band. He talks some English and was well pleased with his reception and treatment. I have heard from him since and he says we can go anywhere in his country with perfect safety. The first question he asked when coming into camp was "Who are you and where are you going?" We told him we were from Salt Lake and looking out routes for a road. He then asked if we were working for Brigham Young and when satisfied that we were, all was right with them. All the Indians in this part of the country fear and respect the head of the church in Utah.

My work the past week has been much more difficult than heretofore. The divide between the headwaters of the streams emptying into Salt Lake and those emptying into the gulf of California is quite high and I have not yet found a good line over, but hope to within this week. Since leaving Salt Lake we have ascended 3800 feet, which makes us at this point about 8,000 feet above the sea. Three nights last week ice froze in camp kettles at our camp half an inch thick, frost every morning. Spring flowers are in bloom on the hill sides, no berries ripening yet in this high country. Mountains on the west, south and southeast in sight, tops covered with snow.

For the past week there has been a small band of Indians camped near us. They appear to be perfectly peaceable and the greatest beggars imaginable. Sandpitz the chief, is a large, tall, fine looking Indian and takes a great fancy to me because I am big chief like himself; he frequently comes over in the evening with his squaw, both on one horse, his squaw before and Sandpitz behind, to have, as he says, a talk with me, but I think to get his supper. They have a very large number of horses which they trade with the Snakes, a tribe that lives north of the Utahs, for buffalo robes and buck skins. They have gone to meet them now about 100 miles down Bear river. I hope they will stay until I have closed my work. We can hardly refuse them a crust of bread, but their wants are so numerous and it takes many a loaf of bread to feed them. When he left us he said, "Wino (good) chief go anywhere, Indians no hurt and no steal from Wino chief, Indians steal from bad men only." My party will, I fear, all leave and return to Salt Lake. Depreciation of greenbacks is the cause of their dissatisfaction.

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family
  • Citation: Nebraska State Historical Society, Samuel Reed Papers (Union Pacific Railroad Collection), MS 3761, Unit 1, Subgroup 14, Series 1, Box 2, Letters to Wife and Family
  • Date: July 3, 1864