Letter From White River

Fred Shepard was twenty years old and a new employee at the White River Agency in the summer of 1879. He came from the town of Greeley, Colorado, the colony founded in 1870 by Nathan Meeker with the financial support of Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune. After Meeker was appointed Indian Agent at White River, he moved the agency to a new location. He recruited workers among his old Greeley neighbors.
                Fred wrote to his father on June 3, 1879: 

Dear Father
                I recd. yours of May 23 in due time and was glad to hear from you as you may know.  I wrote a letter to Ruby [Fred’s sister] last Sunday, and was pitching quoits [A game like horseshoes using heavy metal rings] the rest of the day and didn’t “get to write”  I have been laying floors today and putting in window and door casings.  Have been at work for over a week tearing down and moving a big log house about thirty five feet by sixteen and a 16 x 16 foot ell. Have got the logs all up now and part of the roof on.  the rest is at the old agency, yet, and one team up there now for a load. I was up there two or three days last week tearing down the building. I was surprised to see what a lot of buildings there is up there, a good steam sawmill, shingle mill, &c. We have not got started on the logs that were cut last winter.  we are liable to have to start them down before long but hardly believe I will have to help drive them.  he [Agent Meeker] seems to have lots of carpenter work for me to do.  perhaps you will think it is no big job to tear down a log house of that dimension and haul it 12 miles and put it up again just as it was. It is a nice building at least it was once.  the logs are all hewn to about 8 inches thick and mortised into upright posts in several places as you see the logs were not long enough to reach. They are all cottonwood. I wish you would get me about two good towels and send them in by mail.  The boys furnish their own towels and I haven’t any. We have a tri-weekly mail in here now so it don’t matter when you write. We will soon have the P.O. down here too but now we have to go to the old Agency after our mail.

We are a little south of west of Greeley.  I don’t know the altitude but is some higher than Greeley. We had a little snow squall last week. Had two days of cold rainy weather. Will help the crops wonderfully.

June 5 noon.  Part of the boys have gone up to the old place for lumber and part are out butchering.  Price and I are the only ones here to dinner.  N.C.’s family have got moved down here now. I am at work on the house right along. Will go above Monday and commence tearing down another building. I hear Wirt Fullerton, Geo. Eaton and another man are on the way in here. Don’t know how true it is. The boys used to plague Joe.  they called him “the fondling” is the reasons he didn’t like to stay here but it is good enough for me and if things go along as they are now I shall probably stay some time, but I am afraid if he gets all the Greeleyites out here the Department [of Interior, Indian Bureau] wont like it and discharge about half of us.  I was in hopes that I could wait for my box until I got some money but I guess you may send it as soon as possible. There will be some teams leave Rawlins in a short time for here and they can bring it if you will direct it (in care of James France, Rawlins, Wy T. [Wyoming Territory]). Yes I will want a couple of pairs of taps and some pegs and an assortment of awls – crooked, sewing and pegging. Bert has got a handle so you needn’t send one. About a half dozen good big towels. You may send one by mail as I am in need of one. Send my razor outfit, toothbrush, and a little bunch of toothpicks in my valise. I would like it if I had some flannel shirts too besides overalls stockings.  Shirts and overalls is the main thing here.  Can’t get buckskin breeches here any better than in Greeley unless we make them and it is a big job. Berts folks will want to send some things in [Last line cut off in copying. Probably said “I don’t expect to get paid”] until into July some time but you shall have all I have left after my board bill is paid here and I get a pair of moccasins apiece for Ruby and I – I have ordered a pair made for Ruby with beads all over them of Jane [a Ute woman] and will send them to her by mail as soon as they are done. I wrote a long letter to her last week and I guess this will wear you out so I will close. From your affect. son  Fred

          Fred Shepard was among the eight employees killed, along with Agent Meeker, by a group of White River Utes on September 29, 1879.  The incident resulted in an investigation by the Indian Bureau, a Congressional inquiry, and a new treaty with the Utes which was negotiated in Washington, DC during the early months of 1880.
           A copy of this letter and the photo were obtained from a descendant of Fred’s sister, Ruby Shepard McClave.
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Published in: on February 14, 2010 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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