1859 May 16 Letter to Alfred Cumming


1859 May 16 Letter to Alfred Cumming


John Kay was sent by the Governor to find evidence of citizens organizing militarily. Apart from cattle drivers he found no parties of armed men.




John Kay


Alfred Cumming


1859 May 16


Great Salt Lake City

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Governor's Office

Item sets

Great Salt Lake City. U. T.
May 16th. 1859.

His Excellency A. Cumming,
Governor of Utah Territory

Pursuant to your orders of the 9th inst., I left this city on the morning of the 10th, accompanied by Deputy Marshall John Sharpe. The same day I learned from Mr. Charles Mogo, whom I met near his residence, some twenty three miles south, that he had seen a small body of armed men on the pack trail leading from Spanish Fork to San Pete. I continued on, making strict inquiries as I passed the settlements and of such travellers as I met by the way.

On arriving in the vicinity of the place designated by Mr. Mogo, I directed Marshall Sharpe to search through the ravines and all places suitable for the secretion or camping of parties of men. We found some eight or nine men in a grove of pine timber on the mountains about three miles south of Spanish Fork Canon engaged in cutting timber and sliding logs for lumbering. They were armed, as has been customary with such parties, but were peaceably attending to their avocations. On receiving Mr Sharp's report, I did not consider it within the province of my duties, nor required by your instructions to interfere with them, and so I passed on.

As particularly suggested in your instructions, I proceeded at once to Goshen. I there met two gentlemen, Messrs. Ward and Johnson, strangers to us, who received us very kindly, and courteously gave me such information as they had in their possession, From them I learned that about five days previous to our arrival there, some eighteen men, armed with rifles, had left the Goshen settlement (or fort as it is called by some) and were absent about three days. I did not learn whither they had gone, nor the names of the parties, but was assured, by the gentleman before-named, that the parties had returned and were peaceably attending to their affairs at home.

Anxious, however, to carry out fully your Excellency's instructions, Mr Sharpe and myself made a critical reconnoisance of the country in the vicinity of Goshen. We found quite a number of men scattered over that extensive range of pasture country. They were, however, simply in search of stock, and, although armed, some with rifles and others with revolving pistols, were in parties of not more than two or three, and diligently prosecuting the business of herders or cattle-gatherers.

On further inquiry I learned that the Messrs. Stewart, extensive stock owners in that neighborhood, had for some time been making arrangements for an extended cattle drive, and had for several days previous to our visit, been carrying out their plans. I would here suggest to your Excellency, that it has been a custom, from the period of the first settlement in Utah, to make what is generally termed a "spring drive, for the purpose of collecting together the cattle that have been driven or scattered by the winter storms. At such times prudent men always go armed, and seldom, if ever, singly. Determined, however, to avail myself of every opportunity to inform myself of any thing that might lead to the discovery of the unusual assembling of armed bodies of men, I inquired closely of all parties I met, and particularly of strangers in the Territory, who I presumed would be the most likely, in travelling, to take observations of that kind. Mr. Box, himself an extensive stock-owner, and who has recently been employed in herding government stock, assured me that, apart from the usual herders and cattle-drivers before referred to, there were no parties of armed men, to his knowledge, in the hills, ravines, or valleys in that neighborhood. He spoke confidently, as he unquestionably has and has had a superior opportunity to acquaint himself with every thing transpiring in his neighborhood.

I held while at this place, a conversation with Mr. Riley Stewart. He told me that there had been a body of some forty-five armed men posted in the mountains near Goshen, a little east by south of that place. He had seen three different men coming down from what he considered their rendezvous, bringing with them a three-gallon keg, filling it with water and returning again, one at a time, for three successive days. He stated that the party had already left their position. Not satisfied, however, I made further inquiries, and found that about six or eight men had been engaged there cutting fencing posts from the large cedars in that vicinity. Of this party a gentleman named White, who I believe is a resident at Goshen, came down from the mountains, and proposed to purchase a rifle of a train (I think Mr. Hickey's) This may have created some suspicions; but why it should, I am not prepared to say.

On my return from the south I visited the mountains more immediately west of this city and after the strictest inquiries, failed to ascertain that any of the citizens were doing aught, save attending to their own legitimate business
Before closing my report, I consider it my duty to say to Your Excellency, that I heard, during my short tour, numerous complaints of petty thefts committed upon the citizens by parties unknown, such as the breaking open of stables stealing horses and saddles, &c.

That there are any bodies of men gathering or concealed, in the mountains, with a view to military organization or service, is entirely a mistake and without any substantial foundation, I have no hesitation in assuring your Excellency, after the strictest and most impartial inquiries.

I have already occupied much space in my report, but was anxious to lay before your Excellency all the relative facts and circumstances connected with my tour.

I have the honor to remain
Very Respectfully Your Excellency's Obt Servt.

(Signed) John Kay

Marshall of Utah Territory