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Circleville Massacre

Memorial Dedication

Please join us on Friday, April 22, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. for the dedication of a memorial to the Paiute men, women, and children massacred in Circleville on April 22-24, 1866. The dedication will take place in Circleville Memorial Park in Circleville, Utah, where a memorial has been erected to remember the massacre victims.

CONDUCTING/MASTER OF CEREMONY Michael Haaland, Mayor of Circleville
BLESSING AND REMARKS Arthur Richards, Cedar Band, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
SONG Mark Rogers, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
STATEMENT ON HISTORY Jedediah Rogers, Senior State Historian, Utah Division of State History
REMARKS Richard E Turley Jr., Assistant Church Historian, LDS Church History Department
REMARKS Dorena Martineau, Tribal Cultural Resource Officer, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
REMARKS Toni Pikyavit, Koosharem Band, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
CLOSING Mayor Haaland

Governor Declaration

A declaration issued by Utah Governor Gary Herbert recognizes April 22, 2016, as Circleville Massacre Memorial Day.

Brief History of the Massacre

 

In April 1866, Mormon settlers in Circleville massacred as many as thirty men, women, and children belonging to the Koosharem band of the Paiute tribe.

The massacre occurred in an atmosphere of fear and conflict known as the “Black Hawk War,” a conflict staged primarily between Mormons who, by settling on the best farmlands in central and southern Utah, had cut off Ute access to resources on their traditional homelands. Settlers newly arrived in Circle Valley found themselves in the heart of this conflict. Late in 1865, some Utes raided the town of Circleville—which was ill prepared to defend itself—killing four citizens, including two thirteen-year-old boys, Orson Barney and Ole Heilersen.

Reports had swirled that Paiutes, or Piedes, as they were sometimes called, were in alliance with Utes. A Ute-Paiute alliance seems unlikely; the Ute had long abducted Paiute women and children as part of their slave trade. In 1866 Parowan militia officers decided to “take in all straggling Indians in the vicinity”—Paiutes included—eventually requesting several to come to Fort Sanford, where they were questioned. Fort Sanford, located between Panguitch and Circleville, had been constructed earlier that year as additional protection on the road over the pass to Parowan. The colonizers at Circleville, however, remained ill-prepared to defend against attacks; unlike Marysville to the north, Circleville had no fort or stockade and the houses were too scattered to provide effective protection.

On April 21, an express sent from Fort Sanford to Circleville stated that two formerly friendly Paiutes in the area had shot and wounded a member of the Utah militia. What the dispatch did not report was that one of the Paiutes had already been injured, while the other had been shot and killed by a soldier’s long-range rifle. The fort’s military commander advised settlers at Circleville and Panguitch to disarm the Paiutes encamped near those settlements.

Settlers ​ in Circleville met to decide what course to pursue. They decided to take the Koosharem Band prisoner and sent a messenger to them, directing them to come into town to hear a letter read by the local LDS bishop. Those who complied were directed into the log church meetinghouse. When the settlers told the Paiutes to disarm and they indicated reluctance, the settlers forcefully disarmed them. The local militia quietly surrounded the remaining Paiutes who had refused to come in the first time and directed their prisoners to the meeting house. The men were bound under guard in the church meetinghouse, while the women and children were held in the cellar.

LDS church apostle Erastus Snow received a report from Circleville and returned instructions that the prisoners should be treated kindly and let go unless “hostile or affording aid to the enemy.” The dispatch arrived too late. Unnoticed by the guards, the Paiute men managed to unloose the ropes that bound them. In evening the men sprang upon their captives. In the struggle that followed, the militia men shot and killed all of the Piede Indians. They then proceeded, one at a time, to bring the women and children up from the cellar and to slit their throats. Reportedly, the bodies were taken to the cellar of an unbuilt mill and buried in a mass grave. Three or four children of the Koosharem Band thought too young to bear witness were spared and adopted by local families.

Bibliography

For more information about the massacre, we invite you to this annotated bibliography, which provides both secondary and primary sources of various historical perspectives leading up to the event.