Within a year of the establishment of Fort Utah, relations between Latter-day Saint settlers and the Timpanogos Utes dissolved into violence, culminating in a two-day conflict. The original Fort Utah has since been demolished, but a replica stands in its place in Provo, Utah.

Fort Utah was first established a mile and a half east of Utah Lake by a company of one hundred and fifty Latter-day Saints. Led by John Higbee, the Saints arrived on April 1, 1849. They chose the location with the intention to farm on the fertile river soil, but when President Brigham Young visited the fort, he suggested they move to higher ground. The secondary location became the nucleus for the city of Provo. The Saints settled next to the indigenous village of the Timpanogos Utes. Initially, the Utes treated their new neighbors with kindness and generosity, and they fished and gambled together.

That winter, however, misunderstandings broke out between the Utes and Saints. It began in August with a dispute between Richard Ivie and a native known to the Latter-day Saints as Old Bishop, whom Ivie accused of stealing his shirt. When Bishop refused to give the shirt up, Ivie and his friends killed him and threw his body into the Provo River. Furious, the Timpanogos demanded the settlers hand over the murderers. When their requests were denied, they insisted the Saints provide compensation for Bishop’s death, which the Saints also refused. Considering how generous the tribe had been in sharing their prized fishing and hunting resources during the summer, the Utes felt justified in collecting rent through involuntary cattle and corn payments from their neighbors during the fall and winter. As the amicable relations began to sour, Higbee asked Brigham Young permission to declare war against the Timpanogos, whom he misrepresented to Young as hostile.

Young granted the request. Parley P. Pratt and Willard Richards agreed with him, not wanting to find themselves cut off from their southern colonies. They sent the Nauvoo Legion to assist the local Latter-day Saints in attacking the Timpanogos. After just one day, the soldiers cornered their enemies into an abandoned cabin. The next day they placed shields on sledges and attacked. Desperate, the natives fled during the second night only to be hunted down. When the fighting ended, there were more than one hundred Timpanogos casualties and one dead Latter-day Saint. This dark episode serves as a reminder that while Latter-day Saints generally had positive interactions with the Native Americans, there were certainly episodes of unwarranted and reprehensible violence.


Drawing of Fort Utah in the winter
Drawing of Fort Utah in the winter Source: James Ackerman (lithographer), 1851. In Stansbury, Capt. Howard (Corps of Topographical Engineers, U.S. Army) "Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah", Washington, DC: United States Senate (Special Session, March, 1851, Executive Document #3). 1852. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fort_Utah_c1850.jpg. Creator: James Ackerman
Drawing of Old Elk (leader of the Timpanogos) and his wife
Drawing of Old Elk (leader of the Timpanogos) and his wife Source: Howard Stansbury, An Expedition to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Co., 1852; repr. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1966), 150–151, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015034432776&view=1up&seq=175&skin=2021. Creator: Howard Stansbury
Fort Utah replica in Provo, Utah
Fort Utah replica in Provo, Utah Source: "The Fort Utah replica in western Provo, Utah, October 2016," An Errant Knight (pseud.), October 16, 2016. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fort_Utah_replica,_Oct_16.jpg. Creator: An Errant Knight (pseud.)


A replica of the original Fort Utah stands here in Fort Utah Park.


Andrew Burt, Brigham Young University, “Fort Utah (Provo),” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 21, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/465.