Whenever I ride through Thistle, Fairview, Mt. Pleasant, and Moroni, I can’t help but think of Dan Jones. Fairview was founded in 1859 by Mormon settlers and sometime between 1865 and 1872, at the invitation of Jones (a convert to the Mormon Church while traveling through Utah and injured by an accidental gunshot wound), the Ute tribe camped in the Thistle Valley. According to Jones, they were being mistreated in the Uintah Basin by the Government Agent there, yet were friendly with Jones.
I learned of Jones and his exploits from what I thought was an out-of-print book of my father’s, Forty Years Among the Indians, which Jones wrote in 1890 about his exploits among the Indians and as one of the first Mormon missionaries in Mexico. I looked today and you can purchase a copy at Amazon.com.
It wasn’t all peaches and cream for the Utes and the folks who lived in nearby Fairview. According to Jones, a Mr. G.W. Dodge had been appointed the government’s agent for Utah and Nevada. He convinced Dodge to visit the encampment so he could demonstrate to them their need for supplies and food stuffs. “It was the first Indian camp he had ever visited,” he writes. “He professed great friendship. The Indians said to me: ‘He talks good, but his eyes have dirt in them.'”
The agent was holding goods sent by Washington for the tribe, which made a treaty very problematic. For the most part though, he writes that the settlers seemed to get along with the Indians—but there were some (both Indian and settler) who would stir up trouble from time to time. “The whiskey selling was the great evil, likely to bring on trouble at any time,” he writes. “Finally, through threatening the whiskey sellers with prosecution, I succeeded in frightening them off, all except one man at Moroni, who still had not given up the business.”
Of course this stirred up some of the Indians against Jones, who suffered a few close calls as a result.
It’s a quiet ride through country that I don’t think has really changed all that much in the last 100 or so years—outside of the growth of the towns and the highway. It’s easy to imagine a large Indian encampment as I drop down into Thistle Valley. Some of the homes and other buildings from around that time are still part of Fairview and the other communities, making it easy to contemplate what it must have been like riding through the area on horseback.
After stopping in Fairview for some breakfast I headed toward Mt. Pleasant, Moroni, Nephi, and home. I avoided the freeway until I left Spanish Fork and had an uneventful ride up I-15. This particular area is usually part of a ride over the Nebo Loop or up Fairview Canyon, but it’s a pleasant ride this time of year as snow keeps me out of the canyons. Today felt like spring might be just around the corner.