The emigrant train which left the frontier, in the spring of 1854, under command of Capt. Fields, was accompanied by a government train which was bringing presents from the government to the Indians who were to assemble at Fort Laramie.
Sometimes the government train was ahead of the emigrant train, then nearly beside it, or following after, but never very far away. Just before they reached Laramie, an Indian stole a cow belonging to an emigrant and killed it.
The owner of the cow, proceeded ahead and made complaint to the officers at the fort. A company of twenty-eight soldiers were detailed to lay the matter before the Indian chief. The commanding officer of this company, it is told, inflamed his brain by freely imbibing fire-water before his departure. When he met the chief, he demanded in an insolent tone, that the offender should be delivered up to him, "If you do not," said he, "I will blow the top of your head off!"
The chief laughed at him, and said, "What will become of you, if you blow the top of my head off? See all these Indians here!" pointing to the hundreds who had come in from all their hunting grounds, to receive their presents.
The surrounding hills were black with their ponies, and their wickiups seemed without number. All this made no impression on the officer who immediately ordered the soldiers to fire, which they did, killing the chief instantly.
The enraged Indians falling on the soldiers killed and scalped every one of them; then proceeded to the fort, killing as they went, and helped themselves to the presents, and everything else they wanted.
"Our company," says S. R. Parkinson, of Preston, Idaho, "were ten miles this side of Laramie when this occurred, but runners flying for their lives overtook us telling of the dreadful massacre.
"Instead of camping that night, Capt. Fields ordered the train on, traveling all night and notifying every one we met of the massacre at the fort. Prior to this time our train for various reasons had been divided, eighteen wagons, among them George Dunford and his family, going before, under command of Capt. Isaac Groo. As I had the only mule team of the train, Capt. Fields asked me to go ahead and bear the news to them. At Deep Creek I overtook the other train, and we took another forced march. We were accompanied by the terrified mountaineers and others whom I had warned en route. At every trading point they gathered up their ponies, wagons and belongings and joined us, for the greatest fear rested on all when they heard of the uprising of the Indians."
By an overruling Providence, these emigrants were unmolested, but it took a long time to overcome the scare. Others following these trains were not so fortunate. The late Henry W. Naisbitt told the writer that when he reached Laramie, he beheld the sickening sight of forty dead faces upraised to the blazing sun, murdered and scalped, but still unburied beside the wreckage of a train that had been looted by the Indians. This train, however, did not belong to our people; it seems that we were always ahead or a little behind all such dreadful occurrences on the plains. Almost the last time the writer conversed with Brother Naisbitt he vividly related this massacre at Laramie. "Write it," I urged him, "that others may know what some of us escaped." He then was ill and sat in darkness, so that the circumstance was not written that I know of.
Continuing his narrative, Brother Parkinson says, "By the time we reached the Sweetwater country, our cattle began to give out, we could not travel as before. Capt. Fields, alive to the emergency, and fearing a belated entrance into the Valley, bought up a lot of cattle there, which was a great help to the emigrants, expecting to make good his outlay when they reached the Valley. This wise and humane act, however, proved a sad pecuniary loss to him, though such a great blessing to his company, for he failed to make good his outlay. Later, stripped of his earthly possessions, he left the chosen people for California, where he soon died. While those who remained under his care with their descendants have helped to build up and make beautiful the Zion of our God."
Salt Lake City, Utah.