Although the Mormon settlers were admonished to “feed not fight” the Native American Utes whose land they were encroaching upon in the Utah Territory, the relationship between the settlers and the Indians were often strained. Whether the story of Chief Walker and Mary Artimesia Lowry is fact or legend will never be known, but it is included not only in several family histories but also in general histories of Sanpete County as well, so it deserves to be shared here.
Chief Walker and the Walker War
He was born during the early 1800s near the Pequinarynoquint (Stinking) River in what is now Spanish Fork, Utah County, Utah, and he was originally named Pan-a-Carre Quinker (Iron Twister). After his wife and unborn child died, he had a vision on Medicine Rock in which the Great Spirit Towats (The Lord) renamed him Ya-Keerah (Keeper of the Yellow Metal, referring to the gold that could be found in the Uinta Mountains). Probably in honor of this name, as a warrior he wore yellow buckskins and yellow face paint. He later was known as Chief Colorow Ignacio Ouray Walkara (The Hawk), and the Mormons referred to him as Chief Walker. He was also nicknamed Hawk of the Mountains and Napoleon of the Desert.
In California, he and his band became some of the most prolific horse thieves in America. It has been said that two of the canyons entering Cajon Pass in California were named in his honor: Horse Thief Canyon and Little Horse Thief Canyon. When he became one of the most wanted men in California, he returned with his band to his native Uinta Mountains.
After the Mormons arrived in 1847, Chief Walker encouraged their settlement in the Sanpitch Valley (now Sanpete County), and he was a skilled negotiator and trader. In 1850, he became the first Indian to be baptized into the Mormon Church in the Utah Territory, although his lifestyle did not necessarily live up to the Mormons’ ideals. There were instances of Indians stealing cattle from the settlers during this time, but it was mostly men whose families were starving due to the decrease in the area of their hunting grounds and the smaller number of game animals. They usually were not dealt with harshly.
Among the many ways that Chief Walker and his followers made their living was the raiding of lesser Indian tribes and the selling of captured women and children to the Mexicans as slaves. When Brigham Young disliked this idea and outlawed the selling of slaves in his territory, the relationship between him and Chief Walker began to deteriorate, and thus began the Walker War in July 1853.
The Walker War was actually more a series of small skirmishes than a real war, and the number of casualties was rather low. Both sides seem to be equally to blame for its escalation. An Indian would kill a settler, and the settlers would retaliate by killing other Indians who weren’t actually involved in the original killing, and then the Indians would retaliate by killing other settlers who weren’t originally involved. The fighting finally ended with a peace negotiated between Brigham Young and Chief Walker in May 1854.
The Brief Courtship
Many accounts claim that one of the causes of the Walker War was that Chief Walker desired to have a Mormon bride but could not find one agreeable to a marriage with him. Whether this was true or not, in August 1854, the story goes, he came to the Lowry farm looking for a wife.
Mary Artimesia Lowry was the half-sister of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Sarah Lowry Peacock. On this particular day, Mary was left at home alone with her invalid grandmother while the rest of the family was out working in the fields. Walker had apparently been watching for her to be alone in the house and came with an escort of young Indian braves, telling her that he wanted her to be his “white squaw.”
Frightened, but not wanting to offend him, she told him that she was already married. When he demanded to know “Who?” she said the first name that came to her mind, the husband of her half-sister: “Judge George Peacock.” He did not believe her, and he stormed off, saying “We shall see!”
When the rest of the family came in from the fields, Mary told her father what had happened. Her father said that her word must be made good. The Lowry boys were sent to fetch Judge Peacock and Isaac Morley. Judge Peacock felt that fighting could begin anew if Chief Walker discovered that Mary had lied to him, so Morley performed the ceremony as Mary became George Peacock’s second wife.
The following January, while the Indians were camped along the river in the winter cold, Chief Walker died of pneumonia.
True to his less-than-romantic nature, George Peacock recorded the following succinct entry in his personal journal for the day:
“August 5, 1854—Mary A. Lowry was given to me to wife according to the patriarchal order of marriage.”