The Indian Scare That Never Was

The episode originally aired May 2, 2008.
This episode’s audio file may be found at http://www.utahhumanities.org/BeehiveArchive.htm.
© 2008 Utah Humanities Council

The Script:

A little less than 133 years ago, fears of an armed uprising by Shoshoni Indians swept through the small northern Utah city of Corinne.  The area on the lower Bear River surrounding the town had been a traditional winter camping spot for the Shoshoni, so when members of the tribe on Idaho’s Fort Hall reservation faced the very real possibility of starving due to dwindling government resources, they set out for the Bear hoping to meet up with some of the Shoshonis still in Utah and to find food among the Mormons.  They were soon joined by hundreds of other Shoshonis and Bannocks from Idaho and Wyoming who had moved to northern Utah seeking conversion at the hands of Mormon missionaries.  Apparently, the Latter-day Saint notion that American Indians were part of the chosen Israelite nation appealed to the Native Americans.

The idea of a Mormon-Shoshoni alliance, along with the mounting flood of Indians into a camp near their town, set the residents of Corinne on edge.  As historian Brigham Madsen has pointed out, Corinne was the informal Gentile or non-Mormon capital of early Utah, and there was no love lost between the townspeople and the surrounding Mormons.  The Corinnethians (as the citizens of Corinne sometimes were called) feared the Mormons were inciting the Shoshonis to envelop their settlement and massacre them.  Fears eventually led some men to break into a shipment of Army weapons to protect themselves, while other citizens wired the governor for troops.  Soon federal soldiers were dispatched and made their way to the supposedly besieged city.  Within a matter of days, everything had quieted down around Corinne.  The Army never found any credible evidence that the Shoshonis camped on the Bear planned to attack the town.

Sources:

See the following editions of the Salt Lake Tribune for 1875: August 11; August 12; August 13; August 14; August 15; August 17; August 18; and August 21.  Also see Brigham D. Madsen, Corinne: The Gentile Capital of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1980), 259-293.

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