LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
During the origin of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and shortly afterward, the doctrine of
commonly known as polygamy
was practiced and continued for quite a number of years until the
Congress of the United States passed a law in March of 1887 opposing the Mormon
and other acts of polygamy. Previous to the passing of this law, plural marriage
was quite a common thing, not only in the Church but especially so there than
elsewhere. According to biographers, Joseph Smith may have had as many as forty
eight wives whereas it is common knowledge that Brigham Young had twelve. It is
not our purpose here to offer explanations for the act but suffice it to be said
that the Mormon Church was within its common rights in so doing until the
passing of the "Edmunds Tucker Law" in 1887. As a result of that law
Wilford Woodruff, then president of the L.D.S. Church, issued, in April of 1889,
the "Manifesto" which helped bring about the end of polygamy in the
Church. However, before the "Manifesto" was publicly declared,
especially in Utah, a great many Mormons had taken upon themselves several
wives. Thomas Rhoades was one of these.
Thomas Rhoades' first wife,
Elizabeth Forster Rhoades, had died in California in the fall of 1847 and he
remained a widower until 1850 when he married the widow of Isaac Rodgers, Mary
Miranda White Rodgers. Then again on December 9, 1853 Thomas married his third
wife, Eliza Cicilia Jorgensen of Denmark. And in 1856 Eliza's sister, Jacobennie
Wilhemine Marie Jorgensen became Thomas' fourth wife. Like many other Mormons,
Thomas Rhoades had numerous offspring from his many marriages; of course, even
then (1856) he had the younger children from his first marriage which were Caleb
Baldwin, 10; Mary, 16; Lucinda, 15; and Elvira, who was 13 years of age. The
support of his families was mainly through his work in the Territorial
Government offices, though Rhoades was an enterprising individual and often had
several sidelines of employment going such as raising and selling fine cattle
and horses, and especially mining enterprises, all of which brings us to another
facet of Rhoades' exacting life.
General Taylor, who had watched
the Mormon colonization of Utah with considerable interest, made the statement
that, "The Mormons have settled on the backbone of the Continent."
President Abraham Lincoln, recognizing the vast wealth of the west had said,
"Utah will yet become the treasure house of the nation." Yet, mining
had no place in the economic life of Utah's early pioneers. They had not come
west for riches, but rather
P 126 FOOTPRINTS IN THE WILDERNESS
for refuge from religious
persecution. They desired, first of all, to build permanent self sustained
communities wherein they could cultivate the land, harvest its crops, build
flour and woolen mills, and construct and operate churches and schools. In was
Brigham Young's policy that the pioneers be firmly established before beginning
to develop the mineral resources of Utah.
President Brigham Young, upon
many occasions, declared that the mountains of Utah were filled with precious
metals, yet he discouraged prospecting and mining (except for coal and iron) by
saying:We cannot eat silver and gold, neither do we want to bring to our
peaceful settlements a rough frontier population to violate the morals of our
youth, overwhelm us by numbers and drive us again from our hard earned homes.
Most Mormons obeyed the pleas of
Brigham Young, although there were undoubtedly times when they must have eyed
the mountains curiously, wondering at the hidden riches which lay within their
Thomas Rhoades, however, seemed
to be an exception to the rule. Often during the summer of 1858 he had roamed
the wilderness regions of northeastern Utah in search of gold in spite of
Brigham Young's pleas to the people not to do so. That this mattered little to
Young is patent; Rhoades was already involved in secret mining operations for
the Church and any subsequent discoveries by Rhoades, Young felt confident,
would likewise not be released to the public.
Rhoades' first interest in
extracurricular activities in regard to mining, other than that of retrieving
the Utes' sacred gold of Carre
Ob for the Church, apparently
began during the fall of 1857. He had been summoned at that time by Brigham
Young to lead a small detachment of Utah militiamen to the southern settlement
of Levan for the purpose of investigating the report of the massacre of eight
Mexicans at Chicken Creek.' It was uncertain, according to the report, whether
the massacre had been perpetrated by Indians or by highwaymen dressed as
Indians. In either case, Brigham Young insisted upon a full investigative report
for the purpose of putting a halt to such uprisings before they mushroomed into
out war as was in the case of the
Walker War of 1853-54.
Arriving in Levan one night
shortly before sunset, First Lieutenant Thomas Rhoades and twenty
two hand picked militiamen camped
overnight near the outskirts of the small settlement and arose early the
following morning whereas they continued their journey to Chicken Creek and the
site of the alleged massacre, arriving there shortly before noon. Already the
bodies of these men
LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
Members of the Mormon Territorial
Militia of which Thomas Rhoades held the rank of 1st Lieutenant in Company B,
Utah Historical Society
of the fatal wounds and the
unsightly mutilations of the bodies, and then the remains were quickly buried in
During that investigation it was
reported that one of the militiamen had picked up a small metal box or case from
the drifted sand, inside of which was found a "very old map" drawn in
symbols and written in Spanish upon a small piece of parchment.2 Thomas Rhoades,
in command of the investigation and ever interested in mines and gold, is
reported to have kept the map.
It was later determined from the
report given Brigham Young by Thomas Rhoades only a few days later (and based
upon the facts gathered at the scene) that "the Mexicans had been killed by
a small band of Utes, seeking revenge for what was rightfully theirs (the stolen
gold) ....Brother Brigham concluded upon reading the report that the isolated
incident was no affair of his, but one souly (solely) between the Ute Nation and
that of a forign (foreign) power.
Rhoades later had the Spanish
writing of the map translated into English and he learned that the map revealed
three rich gold mines near the headwaters of the Provo River, just as he had
probably already deducted. As fall and winter slipped into spring, he grew
determined to make a search for the mines
even if it meant defying the wishes of Brigham Young in regard
to mining as put forth to the general public.
However, there was one resource
of Utah which Brigham Young encouraged his people to seek, and that was coal.
The hills and mountains nearby were plentiful with wood, but Brigham Young was
an astute conservationist and urged the preservation of precious timber.
Therefore coal was being sought and mined as early as one year of ter the
pioneers arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Coal was being used more or less
extensively in Great Salt Lake City by the early 1850's, but transportation
difficulties caused the 1854 legislature to offer $100 for the discovery of a
coal vein, not less than 18 inches thick and within a radius of not more than 40
miles of the city. This offer
zBuckskin, prepared especially
for use as a material on which to write.
'Journal of Jacobennie Wilhemine
Marie Jorgensen Rhoades
FOOTPRINTS IN THE WILDERNESS
bringing little result, the cost
of coal remained for a good length of time at about $40 a ton.
Thomas Rhoades had no intention
of prospecting for coal it was gold
that he was after
but early in the summer of 1858 he discovered a good sized
vein of the black substance quite by accident. He had entered the Wasatch
Mountains by the way of the North Fork of the Provo River, had crossed the
headwaters of the upper Provo, and had meandered westward through a maze of
water lakes in search of the
three gold mines of the old Spanish map. Failing to find the elusive mines, he
crossed the Weber River and had climbed a high promontory called Skunks Point,
sumedly to view the region before
him, and while there had accidentally stumbled upon the out
cropping of coal. Using his long
bladed hunting knife, he dug out some of the coal from the vein and took samples
back to the valley to Brigham Young.
Two years later, in 1860,
President Young sent Samuel Fletcher and John Muir into the area to investigate
the possibilities of working the Rhoades discovery. Again, chance entered to
assist the industry of the community, for while John Muir was attempting to
shoot some camp meat, a deer was wounded and not wanting to lose it, Muir called
Fletcher to help him trail the bleeding animal. While following the trail they
came upon a ten foot out cropping of a coal vein. They reported this find to
Brigham Young and other church leaders and the discovery was later developed as
Although Thomas Rhoades had
repeatedly failed in his attempts at locating the elusive Spanish mines of the
upper Provo River, he had made one other important discovery
and this was apart from his discovery of the massive coal
deposit. He had, during his occasional journeys across the mountain, come upon
the fertile meadows of the famous Kamas Prairie, a large grassy plain situated
on the mountain top about 40 miles east
southeast of Salt Lake City.
The peaceful setting of that
tranquil valley had, in fact, so impressed Thomas Rhoades that in two months'
time he had requested the permission of Brigham Young to resign his positions in
the local government and begin a new life for his families in the remote valley,
to which Brigham Young consented under the condition that Rhoades allow other
settlers to accompany him.
And so it was that in 1858, just
nine years after his arrival from California to the City of the Saints, Thomas
Rhoades roving hunter and legendary prospector
became so imbued with the spirit, foresight, and courage to seek out a
new home on the Kamas Prairie, that he went to the prairie with twenty
five men where they erected a
stockade in the vicinity of the present Douglas Simpson ranch buildings on the
prairie's east side.
Now the Kamas Prairie was, at
that time, the tribal home of a segregated band of Ute Indians and, in only a
short time, they made known their particular dislike to the colonization of
their valley. Under the threat of annihilation, Rhoades and his men abandoned
the valley and returned to Salt Lake City.
LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
Two years later ill 1860, Thomas
Rhoades, George W. Brown and John A. Powell returned to their homestead claims
on the prairie and became the first known white men to experience the cold
winters of the high mountain valley.
In the spring of 1861, Thomas
reported to Brigham Young that the prairie held great possibilities for
livestock, although the nearby hills were infested with cattle
killing grizzlies. Nevertheless,
(hiring that late spring or early stammer, more pioneers began to migrate there
and the prairie became known as "Rhoades Valley." Their small town
they named Kamas, from the Mootka Indian word "chamas" which meant,
"a small grassy plain among the hills." Some time later the towns of
Peoa, Oakley, Marion, Francis, and Woodland began to share the valley's history
and they, like Kamas, had similar beginnings.
Perhaps it would be appropriate,
in order to place the period of Kamas history
ill perspective with the flow of national events, to present
some of the occurrences paralleling this period.
First of all, when the time
arrived for the nineteenth Presidential Election, four candidates were presented
by the People's Party and humble Abraham Lincoln was nominated. Lincoln's
platform was in opposition to the extension of slavery, which at that time was a
very vital issue.
Mr. Lincoln was the favored
candidate and Ills election had been anticipated. The political opposition of
the slave states had declared that the choice of Abraham Lincoln as president
would be regarded as just cause for the dissolution of the Federal Union.
Nevertheless, in the November election of 1860, Lincoln was elected president
and the story of his nomination, as well as his election, was carried to Salt
Lake City by the Pony Express.But Lincoln's election brought about great concern
among the Mormon people for they feared what might happen when; in Illinoisan
came into the power of the presidency for they had not forgotten the Illinois
persecutions. However, when asked as to the policy lie proposed to its (, in
relation to the people of Utah, Abraham Lincoln replied:
I propose to let them alone.
Compare the Mormon question to that of a knotty, green hemlock log, on a newly
l\ c leaned frontier farm. The log is too heavy to he moved, too knotty it split
and too wet to barn. I propose, as would a wise farmer, to plow around it.
Because of Lincoln's wise ness,
Utah stood trite to the Union and an the call for men to guard the plains route
during the Civil War.
Meanwhile in Rhoades Valley, log
houses with dirt roofs were quickly being constructed before the heavy snows of
the winter of 1861
62 set ill. Daring that winter
the entire community of Kansas was dependent upon one coffee, 111111 ill which
they ground whole wheat into flour and bread. The settlers worked the mill day
and night but even so, they could not manage to grind enough for all the needs
of the many people now there and
FOOTPRINTS IN THE WILDERNESS
so were reduced to the eating of
whole wheat grain, boiling it into soft puffy kernels.'
The cattle, too, found it
difficult to endure the severe winter and a great many of them perished in the
heavy snows. Even in these early days of Kamas, the pioneers raised livestock
for dairying and in this field many were prominent in their dealings. Families
who were prominent in beef production were the Pack family, the McCormick',
Lamberts, Lewis', Woolstenhulmes, Hoyts, the Rhoades' and others too numerous to
As for industry, John Pack and
Charles Russell set up a saw mill and began lumbering in 1861. The mill was
located in Beaver Creek Canyon about three miles east of Kamas township. James
Woolstenhulme hauled the mill's first logs. Other mill operators soon followed,
such as John Carpenter, Joseph Williams, the Pack brothers and the Lambert
In 1862 Summit County was
organized and Thomas Rhoades, as a delegate to the constitutional convention,
was elected to the House of Representatives for the first General Assembly of
the State of Deseret where he served the people of Summit County honorably.
On October 12, 1862 young Caleb
Baldwin Rhoades married Malinda Powell, the sister of one of the valley's first
settlers, John Ammon Powell. Malinda was born October 13, 1837 in Iowa, the
daughter of James and Jemimah Wimmer Powell whose family had come to Utah as
members of the Robert Wimmer oxteam company on October 13, 1852. James Powell
drowned while crossing the Weber River on July 19, 1857.5
winter of 186263 an odd weather condition prevailed throughout the Kamas Valley,
dragging almost into mid
summer. About four feet of hard
crusted snow lay on the ground by May 1st. The settlers were forced to drive
their cattle to the slopes beneath the ledges in the southeast edge of the
valley where the snow was nearly depleted, exposing the dry grass.
On a summer evening in the early
1860'', an event occurred which stirred much interest in Kamas Valley. Two young
lads came running home, breathless and very frightened, from their summer range
near the foothills southeast of their home. To their parents they uttered a
strange and unbelievable story of a "beast" which they'd seen roaming
the nearby pastures. After calming the boys down their father, a Mr. Thomas,
asked them to describe the "beast" and they did so. That description
has since become a classic:
The bow in its neck was on the
bottom; with its guts on its back; with four spreaded, cushioned feet; with a
hair lip, that covered incisor like teeth on its top and bottom jaw; with a tail
that couldn't reach a fly; with a voice like a seal; with eyes that were
overshadowed by two rows
'Though this may sound like a
loathsome sort of food, let me assure you that when I was a young lad on our
ranch at Monticello, Utah, there were times when food was hard to come by;
during these times my mother boiled whole wheat for cereal and it was not so bad
as I recall, but a steady diet of it can become monotonous.
Gale R. Rhoades.
'PIONEERS AND PROMINENT MEN OF
UTAH ....A short condensed LIFE SKETCH OF JOHN AMMON POWELL
JANUARY 16, 1934, gives the date of James Powell's death as
July 2. 1854.
LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
of eye lashes; and with oblique
nostrils, which closed and opened at will.
Of course, the father scolded the
two boys for telling such a tale and sent them directly to bed without an
evening meal. But soon thereafter, other sightings, similar in nature, were made
of the beast and a full scale search was made to determine the nature of its
breed and upon examination the huge beast turned out to be a camel As near as
could be determined, the camel had come from St. George, Utah, 325 miles to the
south and it had taken about five days for the beast to make the trip to the
grassy meadows of Kamas Valley.
According to the history of the
United States Army, seventy
two such camels had been
purchased from Egypt in 1856 in an imaginative attempt at desert travel in the
American West. The camels were accompanied by their trainer, Hajah Ali, who was
quickly nicknamed "Hi Jolly" by the soldiers. The camels were brought
into the west via New Mexico, Arizona, and California. These amazing beasts had
no difficulty swimming the broad Colorado River and they could carry incredible
loads of 500 750 pounds and easily traveled thirty five miles a day across the
hot summer deserts. Of course, they lasted three or four days between water
holes and ate well on just cacti and grease wood. However, the camel proved to
be infeasible in American desert travel because of the small sharp stones not
present on the Egyptian deserts and the incompatibility of the smelly, stubborn
animals and the soldiers. There were other reasons just as compelling; their
odor and sight was the cause for mule trains to stampede and the Indians were
suspicious of them when not downright terrified, resulting in the scattering and
killing of the camels at every opportunity. Therefore, the army was forced to
get rid of the camels.
Some of the animals were sold to
firms and private ownership for the transportation of cargo across the wastes;
others to circuses; others simply managed to escape and yet others were given
their freedom. It is recorded that several were used in Utah to haul freight and
several others were in use as far north as Montana. Thus they became scattered
over wide areas of the west; evidently the Rhoades Valley camel was one of these
and it provided quite a thrill for a time in and around Kamas.
On December 7, 1864, the first
post office was established for the new community and Thomas Rhoades became the
first postmaster. Thomas was then 69 years of age and he held the position until
early summer of 1865, when he resigned to make several more of his mysterious
trips into the Uintah Mountains to retrieve gold for the Church and to visit his
son Caleb and his wife, Malinda, who had moved recently to Diamond City, Utah.
Naturally, the settlers of
Rhoades Valley must have been curious about the secret excursions of Thomas and
Caleb Rhoades, for they had been making these trips at least once or twice each
summer since first settling in the valley. No one seemed to know just where the
Rhoades' went, or for what purpose, for at this early date few knew of their
connections with the
FOOTPRINTS IN THE WILDERNESS
gold. But of this they were
certain; upon arriving back in Kamas after each trip, the Rhoades' would
immediately make another trip into Salt Lake City. Also, they seemed never to be
without money with which to support their families, this was especially true in
the case of Thomas, for at this time he had three wives and twelve children (not
counting Caleb, Mary, Lucinda and Elvira, who were by this time married) to
As for the grizzly bears that
Thomas Rhoades had reported to Brigham Young as being "numerous and bad
cattle killers," these were mostly killed off by 1865. However, sometime
during this period, one of "Dick" Pangburn's largest cows was
slaughtered and had been dragged away by what must have been an enormous beast.
The brave and furious Pangburn grabbed up his muzzleloader, found a tree in a
most likely place and climbed it, and waited for the culprit. His wait was
rewarded and just two shots managed to bring the huge grizzly to the ground.
"The measurements of that bear's head," said Roy Lambert of Kamas,
"certainly bear out the conclusion of authorities today, that our grizzlies
are the same as the Alaskan Brown and Kodiak bear
that they just live in different countries.
In 1860 Chief Aropene had died
near the town of Manti in southern Utah and his successor was none other than
Black Hawk. Black Hawk was, as Walker had been, a war chief and when he obtained
the chieftainship he resumed the raids upon the white men, leading his young and
6Roy Lambert, KAMAS WITH KOMETS.
LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
warriors against the outlying
settlements and running off the cattle within the central and southern sectors
of the Territory of Utah.
Upon the advice of Brigham Young
and to prevent the possibility of any serious injury to their friends and loved
ones, Thomas Rhoades and his fellow settlers joined together in an effort to
construct two forts as protection against the hostile Indians, which, as we have
already pointed out, existed in the nearby hills of the valley. The first of the
two forts was built in the early spring of 1866 in the Peoa region at Sage
Bottoms (now known as Wooden shoe) and the second was constructed shortly
thereafter just west of the present Main Street in Kamas.
The forts stood idle until 1867,
during which time Thomas Rhoades returned to California to visit his older
children who had remained there in 1849 and was present at the home of John
Pierce Rhoades at the time of his (John's) illness and death. John's wife, Mary,
in writing to her family, poignantly tells what happened:
Consumnes, December 530, 1866
Dear Brother and Sister one and all it is with feelings of the deepest regret I
have to announce to you the death of my dear Husband. He died on Thursday, the
20th of December at 15 minutes to 6 o'clock in the evening. He died very easy
and happy. There was an overflow (of the river) the night he died and I could
not send for a coffin until Saturday on account of the high water. I was all
alone nobody to come see me but my brothers and William Rhoads we had to take
his remains out by Michael Murrays as the levy broke and there was more water
running through the farm than in the bed of the river. He recd. a letter from
Andrew a few days before he died. He cried to think he had one child to write
such a consoling letter to a dieing parent ....John mentioned some of His
relations before he died but his father (Thomas, Sr.) and I could not understand
what he said about them ....no more at present from your afflicted sister, Mary
John P. Rhoades was buried in the
Slough House Pioneer Cemetery near his first wife, Matilda, and five of his
sons. Mary lived only three years longer, passing away on February 9, 1869, and
she, too, was buried in the family plot.
It is not known exactly when
Thomas Rhoades returned from his California visit to his home in Rhoades Valley,
but records indicate that it was prior to the Indian uprising in Rhoades Valley
in 1867 when it finally became necessary for the settlers of the valley to
utilize the two forts for their own protection.
More often than not, when the
Indians did finally attack, they merely stole the settler's horses or their
cattle and then made good their escape along the trail up the Weber River, then
along the north side of the Uintah Range, or up the Provo River and along the
southern slope of the mountains. Both directions took them east into the
'Norma B. Ricketts. HISTORIC
CONSUMNES and the SLOUGH HOUSE PIONEER CEMETERY, Daughters of Utah Pioneers
Historical Quarterly. Lesson for April. 1978.
'This section of the Uintah
Mountains, being nearly inaccessible, is still known as "The Primitive
FOOTPRINTS IN THE WILDERNESS
Several men were organized to
pursue the Indian thieves for the purpose of recapturing the stolen livestock.
Among these were Captain James McCormick, Lieutenant Richard Pangburn and
several others, including two Indian guides named "Yank" and
"Sagoose." "Yank" was the son of Chief Aropene and later
became Uintah County's first state representative.
At one time they chased the
fleeing Indians along the North Trail and finally caught up to them at Brush
Creek, northeast of the present town of Vernal. On another chase the Indians
were not overtaken until they had reached the Book Cliffs, southwest of Fort
When their situation became more
desperate, the settlers of Kamas moved the school house into the fort; one which
had been used since 1863, and where Mrs. Betty Ann Deluche had served as the
town's first school teacher. William Cook and Sarah Spicer Cardy occasionally
taught the children, but perhaps "Old Man Pack" was the most
exceptionally outstanding teacher of those days.
It was not uncommon that church
services were held in that small school house since the fort was much in need of
space. The occupants, however, did have the convenience of a small store which
was located in the center of the fort.
Many whites were killed within Utah Territory during the Black Hawk War, but most of these deaths occurred in the central and southern part of the territory, and needless to say, many Indians died also. It is reported that perhaps the worst mishap to occur in Rhoades Valley during that war was that of an innocent Indian, shot by mistake through the hand. Yet, considerable cattle and horse
stealing raids were carried out
by the Indians during this time.
During that war (on June 11,
1866) Chief Black Hawk was severely wounded from a bullet fired during a
particularly severe battle with the whites
a wound that would not mend. Unable to fight any longer, he
made peace with the whites in 1868. Shortly thereafter, the war chief rode from
town to town in the vicinity of Payson and Cedar City, personally asking
forgiveness from the settlers. Chief Black Hawk died about 1869 from that old
wound at Spring Lake in Utah County.
Continuing with the civic aspect
of Rhoades Valley it might be appropriate to mention the following:
The first celebration to be known
of (in Rhoades Valley) was in 1868. The principle amusements were: Quilting
Bees, carpet rag sewing bees, surprise parties, candy pullings, lectures,
dancing parties and home dramatics.9
A1 Rhoades, a son of Thomas and
Mary, was a member of the first orchestra in which he played a violin, taught to
him by his father.
In 1867 -68 the settlers
experienced the Great Grasshopper War, wherein they nearly faced disaster by
swarms of crop
ruining grasshoppers. A similar
experience had taken place in 1848 with swarms of crickets in the Great Salt
9Ella Blazzard, ECHOES OF
LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
In 1868 George R. Galloway froze
to death just east of John A. Lambert's residence. Sometime thereafter, William
Anderson froze his feet while walking in from Parley's Park, which resulted in
the amputation of his toes.
The year of 1869 was a
progressive year for Kamas the the pioneers of Rhoades Valley for it was at this
time that ore was first discovered in the famous Park City district. And it was
a great year for Utah and the Nation for it was the year of the "meeting of
the two railroads" west of Ogden at Promontory, forming a line of steel
from coast to coast.
In 1869 the Coop Store of Kamas
was founded. The building had a wooden frame and the clerk was Alma Warr. Years
later Alma opened his own store which was constructed of rock and adobe and the
corner on which it stood was long known as "Alma Warr Corner."
Sometime in 1868 Thomas Rhoades was called upon by President Brigham Young to
fulfill yet another mission for the Church. And since the mission was of vital
importance, not only to the church leader but to the security and well
being of the Mormon settlers to
the south as well. Thomas immediately accepted the call without question and
moved his wives and the youngest of his children from Rhoades Valley and the
Kamas area to a small mining community of Minersville in the southwestern
section of the Territory of Deseret.
Although clothed in mystery for
more than a century, the objective behind Thomas Rhoades' sudden exodus from
Rhoades Valley and the purpose of his mission was, in part, simply to
"obtain and to restore to the rightful owners ...certain mining claims,
containing valuable metals of silver and gold ...then under the control of
General Conner and his men."lo This, in itself, would have little meaning
if we were not to analyze the events which led up to the crisis which then
demanded the service of Rhoades or his particular abilities.
In 1864 certain gold and silver
ore discoveries were made by Mormon road builders in the Pahranaget White
Mountain range of the territory. Some of the discoveries were very rich, so much
so that Elder Erastus Snow, the Apostle then in charge of that part of the
territory, called for his Mormon brothers to stake out mining claims over the
entire area in an effort to quell an onslaught of outsiders and further prevent
the making of a gold rush equal to or even greater than that experienced by
California. The Elder's call was answered and upon the ore deposits many claims
were filed by his fellow Mormons. Unfortunately, when word of the valuable
discovery reached General Conner of the United States Cavalry, he, out of self
interest, declared all Mormon
claims invalid. The Mormon settlers, fearing reprisal from the General's
soldiers reluctantly abandoned their claims and the General quickly reacted by
ordering his soldiers to lay claim upon the valuable deposits. Soon thereafter
the United States Government, unknowingly perhaps, became deeply involved in the
mining operations controlled by General Conner. The General had, of course,
stepped beyond the realm of the law in issuing his declaration and had done so
'"Journal of Jacobennie
Wilhemine Marie Jorgensen Rhoades
Joseph, Utah, 1872.
FOOTPRINTS IN THE WILDERNESS
without authority, but the
Territory of Deseret had been at that time subject to martial or military law by
the United States Government and under those circumstances his word was
considered by many to be the law.
However, in 1868, the United
States Government reprimanded General Conner for his actions against the Mormon
miners and agreed to make restitution for his unlawful act. It was the mission
then of Thomas Rhoades to travel to Minersville and to act on behalf of the
settlers, who were the original claim holders, during negotiations in the
property settlement. It was also Rhoades' duty to obtain, either by purchase or
by trade, all claims not otherwise donated for the sole purpose of Church
In her journal Jacobennie
Jorgensen Rhoades neglected to tell whether or not Thomas Rhoades' mission was a
success. We can only surmise that it was, in that Thomas Rhoades was well
known for his ability to persuade
the people to give, both of material things and of themselves, for the needs of
never returned to Rhoades Valley, the land he loved best, for on February 20,
1869 he passed away in his small log home at Minersville after a lingering
illness of nine months. It was said of him that he died "in full faith and
fellowship in the Church" and that he was "cheerful to the last with
faith and confidence of a Glorious Resurrection." He was interred on
February 22nd, attended by a large concourse of citizens, at the Provo City
Cemetery. He was seventy three years of age.On July 20, 1872 Eliza Cicilia
Jorgensen Rhoades, his third wife, passed away and was buried at his side.
Eliza's sister and Thomas' fourth wife, Jacobennie Wilhemine Marie Jorgensen
Rhoades moved with the children of both unions to Joseph, Utah where she wrote
her journal describing her life with Thomas in 1872. Jacobennie died near Desert
Lake in Emery County, Utah on May 9, 1906 and was laid to rest in the old
cemetery near Victor, Utah. Mary Miranda White Rodgers Rhoades, Thomas' second
wife had died during childbirth in Salt Lake City during the early 1850's and
Brigham Young himself preached at the funeral. Thomas Rhoades had fathered
thirty six children; twenty by his first wife, Elizabeth Forster Rhoades who
died in California in 1847, and sixteen by his last three wives, some of the
descendants of whom are still living to this day in various localities.
With the departure of the Rhoades
families from the famous Kamas Prairie, and as the years progressed, they
changed the name from that of the "Rhoades Valley" to the "Kamas
Valley" and then simply to `Kamas."
Today, although Kamas has
remained that of a rural community, nothing remains of what was once the Rhoades
Valley Fort. In 1937, however, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers erected a
Relic Hall upon the site of the old fort. In it they have preserved some of the
memories connected with the fort's early times including ox yokes, spinning
wheels, pictures, miniature models, etc., all of which denotes the furious and
LIFE ON THE KAMAS PRAIRIE
fought history of the valley. A
brass plaque attached to the front of the Relic Hall reads:
Daughters Of Utah Pioneers No.
24Erected August 27, 1937 Rhoades Valley Relic Hall, on site of Rhoades Valley
Fort, erected 1866-67 for protection against hostile Indians. Was 30 rods square
with walls 16 feet high, built of logs that formed the back walls of the houses,
with gates in the east and west walls." There were about 47 families who
lived in this fort from the time of its erection until it was abandoned about
1870. The town of Kamas was surveyed and divided into lots 1869 1870.
Rhoades Valley Camp, Kamas Utah
The constitution of this
fort was unique not only m Utah but in the far West as well, bring built on the
principal of early Kentucky forts such a, Boonesburrough end Rhoadesville,
without doubt, evidence of
I Thomas Rhoades fort building
experience on these fronts prevailed here.