Way We Were: Settlers weren’t the first ones here | ParkRecord.com

Way We Were: Settlers weren’t the first ones here

Larry Warren
Park City Museum
Early photographer A.J. Russell took this photograph, circa 1868 to 1869, of Samuel Snyder’s Mill during his time as photographer of the construction of the Union Pacific portion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Park City Museum, Park City Historical Society Collection

The story of the settlement of Utah is most often told as the story of the Mormons, fleeing west to escape religious persecution, to eventually, as Brigham Young said, quoting the Book of Isaiah, “make the desert blossom as the rose.”

But that history ignores the fact that the Intermountain West, including Utah, was already settled by Native Americans, principally the Ute Tribe. And as elsewhere in the west, the inevitable clashes between the two cultures often led to violence, death, and the ultimate defeat of the first nations of the region.

Before the first Mormon pioneers, what would come to be known as the Snyderville Basin was a summer hunting and gathering place for the Utes. Soon after the 1847 Mormon emigration to the Salt Lake Valley, white settlers set their sights on the basin. It became summer grazing pasture for Parley Pratt’s cattle. And in the area now called Snyder’s Mill subdivision, Samuel Snyder harnessed the flow of White Pine, Red Pine and Willow Creeks to power a sawmill in the spring of 1853.

With cattle grazing on former hunting ground, trees falling to Snyder’s saw mill, the diversion of streams and other white “improvements”, relations between Natives and whites grew tense. On August 15 of the mill’s first year of operation, Ute warriors killed two of Snyder’s customers, John Dixon and John Quail, as they hauled lumber from the mill to growing Salt Lake City.

“The Whites Want Everything” expresses Native American thoughts about the new settlers, and is the title of a new book from prolific western history writer and scholar Will Bagley. Bagley will present a lecture on topics from the book November 12 in Park City, sponsored by the Park City Historical Society and Museum. Bagley will read extensively from Ute writings about the period from the tribe’s most eloquent speakers.

The Utes wanted to peacefully coexist with their new neighbors. They were open to trading and learning what they could of the white’s technology—but they did not want to lose their land and their way of life. As Bagley describes it, “The whole story of the West is the competition over who gets what—and it still is.”

Will Bagley’s lecture begins at 5 pm November 12 at the Park City Museum’s Education Center at 2079 Sidewinder Drive.

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