Ronald J. Rood, Forensics Antropologist with the
Antiquities section of the Utah Division of State
History carefully excavates skeletal remains found
at a construction site.
By Myrna Trauntvein
The story of eight Native Americans killed during the
Walker War in 1853 may have been uncovered, literally, with
the finding of several skeletal human remains found as
workers began cleaning up along a dirt bank at a home
The home, being constructed by Kevin and Val Creps, just
east of 131 East 300 North, was being prepared for concrete
to be laid. However, dirt had slid down into an unwanted
On Thursday, Aug. 3, along the Old Hallow, a burial
ground was found.
"The workers started shoveling the dirt when they
uncovered human bones," said Bruce Beal, Nephi Utah Police
Department Detective. "They called the police
Police responded by putting up yellow site protection
tape and by contacting the state historical agency.
Ronald J. Rood, Forensics Antropologist, Curriculum
Director and Assistant State Archaeologist of the
Antiquities Section of the Utah Division of State History,
and Arie Leeflang, Archaeologist with the Utah Division of
State History, responded to the scene.
When they began working the site, they quickly found that
there was more than the one skeleton. In fact, by evening,
there were five which necessitated a return of Rood to the
site on Friday.
Another fact became apparent, the burial was not the
usual neatly completed task with bodies laid in some sort of
burial arrangement with heads facing one direction and feet
"The bodies were heaped together," said Rood. "There
doesn't seem to be too much of a plan."
In the beginning, before it became evident that more than
two bodies had been buried at the site, Rood said he was
hopeful that the way the heads were facing might be
Native Americans did have burial protocol.
"There is a big layer of what appears to be juniper bark
over the top of the remains," he said.
One of the bodies was upside down.
"We did find a piece of glass and a glass button on the
first day," said Rood.
The piece of glass was with one of the skeletons and the
glass button was found when the earth around the first two
uncovered bodies was sieved.
The layer of wood appeared to be bark and was falling
into layers after having been buried for many years.
"A botanist can tell us what kind of wood this is," said
He said the bones could be anywhere from 100 to 200 plus
While carbon dating requires funding and the destruction
of a bone, Rood was hopeful that the site would lend clues
as to the time and identity of the skeletons.
"It would not be appropriate to use carbon dating since
it is not as accurate the more recent the remains are," he
One of the first to be uncovered was a fairly young male
"He was a younger person at death," said Rood. "He has
his wisdom teeth and has very good teeth."
A shovel-shaped incisor lead Rood to conjecture that the
teeth might be those of a Native American, however, he said
he would not be certain until the bones had been more
If the bones turned out to be those of Angelo Americans,
he said, an attempt would be made to identify them and
return them to someone who would have an interest in seeing
If they proved to be Native American, they would go to
the Native American Remains Review Committee and the Utah
Division of Indian Affairs.
Likely tribes would then be determined and the bones
turned over to them.
Rood said much more historical data will be gathered from
the site before it can be determined just what and who the
remains may belong to. Forensic historians will also examine
The workers preparing the site for construction had,
earlier, found many animal bones. Some were those of horses
and others of pigs and cattle.
Rick Gadd's concrete crew, along with the Creps, knew
they should contact police because they understood that
anytime human remains were found, no matter how old they
appeared to be, the police must be notified.
"I want to thank you for contacting police," said Rood.
"We thank you for doing the right thing."
"Maybe they are the remains of eight Native Americans
which were killed and buried in Nephi in the days of the
Walker War," said Chad Bowles, Nephi City Police Chief.
He said he had spoken with Cleve Winkle, who has been
looking in Nephi for the remains of William Luke Sr. near
the boundaries of the Nephi City Cemetery. Winkle thought
the bodies might be those of eight Native Americans, said
At this point, said Rood, any identification of the
remains is conjecture.
Revenge and retribution for extermination of several
Native Americans which occurred in Manti at the hands of
settlers after several Native Americans had sought refuge
there and the deaths of several Utes in another skirmish may
have helped motivate a massacre at Uintah Springs, near the
head of Salt Creek Canyon which, ultimately, lead to the
killings of eight Native Americans at Nephi.
On September 30, 1853, four men, Thomas Clark, James
Nelson, William Reed and William Luke, left Manti for Salt
Lake City with two oxen-drawn wagons filled with wheat.
"William Luke was on his way to Utah's capital to meet
his three sons and daughter-in-law who had just arrived in
the Great Basin from England," said Winkle.
Isaac Morley counseled these men to camp on the San Pitch
River in an area between the current towns of Chester and
Moroni and wait there for him and a company of horse-drawn
wagons traveling north to attend LDS General Conference. The
two groups could then travel through Salt Creek Canyon
together. Instead, the men traveled farther north to Uintah
Springs, near the head of Salt Creek Canyon, and they camped
there for the night.
When Morley and the others traveling with the horse team
company reached the suggested camping site on October 1,
they found it empty.
"When they approached Uintah Springs, Utes had attacked
the camp that morning. William Reed's body lay stripped,
scalped and disemboweled a short distance from the wagons,"
said Winkle. The throats of Luke and Nelson were cut, and
they were disemboweled.
Morley, Peacock and the others found no trace of
Grain was emptied out of one the horse-drawn wagons, the
three bodies were loaded and the journey resumed through
Salt Creek Canyon. As they were ready to continue, numerous
Utes appeared on the hillside.
When the settlers arrived in Nephi, the men unloaded the
three bodies for burial.
On the morning of Sunday, October 2, another encounter
with the Indians occurred. The Deseret News printed an
account of a skirmish near Nephi in which eight Indian men
met their death.
One woman and two boys became prisoners in Nephi.
Springville resident Luke Gallup wrote in his journal on
October 3, "News from Nephi states 4 to 5 men killed by
Indians in Salt Cr. Kanyon & soon after a Band of
Indians near or going into Nephi were shot down, supposed to
be the murderers."
Peter Gottfredson, author of "History of Indian
Depredations in Utah," wrote that the company from Manti
encountered an Indian camp and fought a skirmish in which
eight Indian warriors died.
Martha Spence Heywood, a resident of Nephi and a
polygamous wife of Territorial Marshal and leader of the
Nephi colony, Joseph L. Heywood, said in her journal that
the massacre at Uintah Springs incensed Isaac Morley so that
he sought revenge on the Utes.
Heywood wrote: "This barbarous circumstance actuated our
brethren, counseled by Father Morley of San Pete
President Call of Filmore, to do quite as barbarous an act
the following morning, being the Sabbath. Nine Indians
coming into our Camp looking for protection and bread with
us, because we promised it to them and without knowing they
did the first evil act in that affair or any other, were
shot down without one minute's notice. I felt satisfied in
my own mind that if Mr. Heywood had been here they would not
have been dealt with so unhumanly. It cast considerable
gloom over my mind."
"The body of Thomas Clark was later found under the loose
wheat filling the wagon left at the campsite. A member of
the posse, George Peacock, was a relative of Clark. He took
Clark's body to Manti for burial," said Winkel.
One of the seven bodies found by Friday did have a bullet
hole through the femur, said Bowles.
"That finding was consistent with the body being a Native
American," said Bowles.
"I'm kind of thinking that it is probably the site of the
burial of the eight Native Americans who were killed in
1853," said Bowles.
Pat Baxter, Nephi City Police Officer, said that the
archaelogical dig was interesting for the history of Nephi.
He said Rood would continue looking at the site to see if
the last Native American could be uncovered.
It may be that some of the six or more feet of earth
covering the bodies may have to be moved by mechanical
means. Rood has been tunneling into the bank of earth.
Bert Wright, Nephi City Police Officer, has been assigned
to make the final report.
Please turn to page 12 for a late update to this