Battle Creek Canyon's name originates from Utah's first major skirmish between the Utes and the Mormon militia.

When the pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley, they generally settled in what is now Salt Lake County on the Wasatch Front. The area was largely a desert and many, including some mountain men, suggested that the people settle further south in the freshwater valley that now comprises the bulk of Utah County. Brigham Young immediately sent out people to found colonies, cities, and towns throughout modern Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico. Yet, the pioneers balked at the initial thought of settlement in Utah Valley because of the native tribes who already lived there. Various bands of the Ute and Timpanogos tribes lived throughout the valley and had a reputation of being warlike and aggressive as a way to defend their land and livelihood. 

The pioneers especially resented the Ute practice of poaching the settler’s cattle. Roman Nose, a prominent Ute, was particularly troublesome. He led a band that repeatedly raided the farms and ranches near the valley border, and was even accused of stealing several of Brigham Young’s personal horses. After Brigham Young heard of the theft, he ordered Captain John Scott to lead a posse against the Utes in hopes of apprehending Roman Nose and his band. Their orders were to find the band of thieves and to “take such measures as would put a final end to their depredations in the future.” In 1849, they began raiding the Ute bands they deemed responsible for the loss of the livestock. However, Brigham Young soon discovered that the Utes had been mistakenly blamed: his horses had simply been moved to different pastures. He ordered Scott and the posse to stand down, but they refused. 

On the morning of March 5, 1849, the relationship between Mormon settlers and the local band of Timpanogos Indians deteriorated into brutal hostility in what is now Pleasant Grove, Utah. Scott’s rogue posse of 44 men soon arrived where they found the Ute camp which they thought participated in the raids. The group surrounded the sleeping camp and opened fire in a reign of terror. The members of the posse then hunted down many of the Utes who managed to escape the initial shootout. In total, they killed seventeen men, women, and children, including Roman Nose. 

After seeing the massacre, the chief of the Native American tribe, Little-Chief was distraught. Although he reportedly agreed that the killing of the supposed thieves was justified, he understood that this would cause a rift to form between white settlers and local tribes. This event, among many other skirmishes, led to heightened tension between the two groups and permanently damaged the already delicate relationship between the Native American tribes and the Mormon settlers. After this event, the area became known as Battle Creek Canyon and is today memorialized by the Battle Creek Marker. 


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Metadata

Kade Dallin, Brigham Young University and Bryce Revelli, Brigham Young University, “Battle Creek Canyon Massacre,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 18, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/757.