Category Archives: Native Americans

Jacob Hamblin (#21), Fort Kanab (#151)

Published / by Lisa Barr / 4 Comments on Jacob Hamblin (#21), Fort Kanab (#151)

Written by Lisa Barr, US History/ Public History MA Student, University of Utah

Jacob Hamblin (#21)

Placed by: Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmark Association and citizens of Kanab Stake

GPS Coordinates:  37° 02.967’ N, -112° 32.114’ W

Located at the Levi Stewart Memorial in Kanab

Photograph by Lisa Barr, February 18, 2017

Historical Text: 

No. 21 Erected Sept. 2, 1933

Jacob Hamblin

Born April 2, 1819    Died August 21, 1886

The great Mormon frontiersman and Indian missionary settled in Tooele Valley, Utah in 1850 and began preaching negotiations with the red men. He was so successful that the officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent him to establish residence among the Indians at Santa Clara, Utah in 1854.

Frank Asahel Beckwith, Kanab Markers (2). February 1, 1941, Courtesy Willard Marriott Library

A fort was erected on this site in 1865 into which he moved in 1869. He assisted Maj. J.W. Powell and party 1869-72. He was transferred in 1878 to Arizona and later to New Mexico. He is buried in Alpine, Arizona. His friendship with the Indians saved many lives.

Extended Research:

Jacob Hamblin was born in 1819 in Salem, Ohio and baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842. He helped to settled Tooele, Utah in 1850 before Brigham Young sent him on a mission to the Native Americans in southern Utah in 1854. Hamblin first came to the Kanab area in 1867 to form alliances with members of the Hopi, Southern Paiute, and Navajo tribes. Hamblin hoped to teach them to farm, and convert them to Mormonism.

Eventually, Hamblin and his family moved from Santa Clara to Kanab in 1869 so that he could try to improve Mormon-Navajo relations in northern Arizona. In 1870, Brigham Young assigned Levi Stewart to lead Kanab’s resettlement which freed Hamblin to accompany John Wesley Powell on his second Colorado River expedition in 1871 and 1872. Hamblin and his family moved to Milligan’s Fort in Northern Arizona in 1878, and then to Pleasanton, New Mexico in 1883. He died of malaria in 1886 and is buried in Alpine, Arizona.

Fort Kanab (#151)

Placed by: The descendants of Levi Stewart and Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association

GPS Coordinates:  37° 02.967’ N,  -112° 32.114’ W

Historical Marker Text:

Photograph by Lisa Barr, February 18, 2017

No. 115 Erected April 11, 1950

Fort Kanab

On June, 14, 1870 Levi Stewart, who had been called from Salt Lake County by President Brigham Young to head a group of pioneers in settling this area, brought a party with seven wagons from Pipe Spring, where they had camped temporarily to Fort Kanab which had been built a year before by Jacob Hamblin and Indian missionaries.

Located at the Levi Stewart Memorial, Kanab, Utah Photograph by Lisa Barr, February 18, 2017

Kanab Ward was organized September 11, 1870 with Elder Stewart as bishop. Other settlers arrived, homes were built and plans were made for a permanent community. A fire in the fort on December 14, took the lives of Mrs. Margery Wilkerson Stewart and five sons.

Extended Research:

Kanab’s first settlers built Fort Kanab in stages between 1865 and 1869. The fort was vacated in 1866 due to increased Navajo and Southern Paiute raids that resulted from the Black Hawk War. In 1867, Jacob Hamblin traveled to the area to establish peace with Hopis and Southern Paiute Indians, however, Navajos continued to carryout raids throughout the region. Hamblin moved to Kanab from Santa Clara in 1869 and began to rebuild the fort which lasted until Brigham Young sent Levi Stewart to resettle the town of Kanab in 1870. The new settlers, including Stewart’s family, lived in the fort while they built homes in town. Southern Paiutes were also a part of Fort Kanab’s community and some lived in the fort and helped to farm the land in exchange for food.

Frank Asahel Beckwith, Kanab Markers (2). February 1, 1941, Courtesy Willard Marriott Library

Fort Kanab caught fire the night of December 14, 1870. Kerosene and turpentine that were stored in the fort exploded and collapsed the roof, killing Stewart’s wife Margery and five of their sons. Jacob Hamblin recalled the fire in his journal, stating that the fort was “in a moment enveloped in an intense flame which burst out from the only entrance, and that the scene could never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.”[1]

[1] Jacob Hamblin, Jacob Hamblin: His Life in His Own Words (New York: Paramount Books, 1995), 95.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Adams, John Q. Pioneer Personal History of John Q. Adams, Kanab, Utah. July, 16, 1938.

Beckwith, Frank Asahel.  Kanab Markers (2). February 1, 1941, Willard Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Hamblin, Jacob. Jacob Hamblin: Life in His Own Words. New York: Paramount Books, 1995.

Secondary Sources:

Bradley, Martha Sonntag. A History of Kane County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical         Society, Kane County Commission, 1999.

Brooks, Juanita. Jacob Hamblin: Mormon Apostle to the Indians. Salt Lake City: Westwater       Press, 1980.

Compton, Todd. A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013.




Connor Statue at Historic Park

Published / by Zach Vayo / Leave a Comment

Connor Statue at Historic Park

Write-up by Zach Vayo

GPS Coordinates: 40.764399°N, 111.832891°W

Historical Marker Text:


Born in County Kerry, Ireland. Emigrated as a child to the United States. Enlisted in the army at age 19. Attained rank of Captain in the Mexican War. As Colonel, commanding the Volunteers, established Camp Douglas on Oct. 26, 1862. A soldier-statesman of great energy and vision, he was the “father of Utah mining”, published the first daily newspaper in Utah Territory, and founded Stockton, Utah. * * * * This park presented to the United States Army by the Fort Douglas Museum Association on the 124th Anniversary of the founding of Fort Douglas. Oct 26, 1986.”

Extended Research:

Aside from Brigham Young, perhaps no individual played a larger role in shaping nineteenth century Utah than Patrick Connor. Indeed, prominent Utah historian Dean May has hailed these men as the two founding fathers of modern Utah.[1] Today, Connor’s statue in Fort Douglas quietly rivals Young’s much grander memorialization across Salt Lake in Temple Square – a silent reenactment of what was in its day a bitter public rivalry between these two men and their competing visions. Young sought to establish Utah as the Kingdom of God on Earth according to the unique sensibilities of the LDS Church. Connor, meanwhile, aimed to bring Utah into the American mainstream by conquering the land’s indigenous peoples and opening the door for white settlers like himself, looking to make their fortunes out West. Intensely distrustful of Utah’s Mormon population, Connor was himself an immigrant who, having undergone a process of Americanization, now sought to “Americanize” Utah along the same lines as the rest of the West. Portrayed as everything from hero to murderous plunderer, Connor has been sweepingly characterized as “the archetypal nineteenth century man”, who was “representative of all that was good and bad in that age.”[2]

The man who would come to identify himself as P. Edward Connor was born Patrick Edward (“Paddy”) O’Connor in County Kerry, Ireland. Very little information exists on Connor’s early life; he claimed to have been born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1820.[3] Economic stagnation in Ireland drove his family to emigrate to New York when he was perhaps sixteen. Connor spent several years working odd jobs as a laborer before beginning his military career by volunteering for the First Dragoons in 1839. It is possible the young Irishman viewed military service as a useful means to “Americanize” himself in an era animated by nativism and anti-Catholicism.[4]

Connor’s five year tour with the Dragoons took him to the lands in and around the newly-created Iowa Territory to maintain relations with the region’s native peoples. This fledgling military presence in the trans-Mississippi West, with the US fresh off the Jacksonian ethnic cleansing of native peoples in the East, would foreshadow atrocious military violence against the indigenous peoples of the West during and after the Civil War, in which Connor himself was to play a leading role.

While relatively uneventful, Connor’s tour with the Dragoons gave him valuable experience as a soldier. More importantly, he appeared to become enamored with the West, where he would spend almost all of the remainder of his life. Following the end of his tour of duty, he returned to New York for several years, engaging in “mercantile business” and becoming a naturalized citizen (a process no doubt made easier by his military record).[5] Also around this time, he removed some of the conspicuous Irish-ness from his name by dropping the O’ in his surname and shortening Patrick to an initial, becoming P. Edward Connor. With the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846, Connor headed west again, joining a company of Texas Volunteers. He participated in the US victory at the Battle of Buena Vista, receiving praise for his bravery.[6]

Connor ca. 1860s

The war resulted in the US seizure of a vast swath of land claimed by Mexico. Connor was among many who viewed these lands as a place to make it big, travelling to California in 1850 on the heels of the Gold Rush. After an ill-fated attempt to establish a community on the Trinity River, he settled in Stockton. Over the next decade, his numerous entrepreneurial ventures, particularly a gravel quarry on his property, resulted in Connor accumulating a degree of wealth. He emerged as a leading citizen of Stockton and came to head its militia, the Stockton Blues. In 1854, he married Johanna Connor, another emigrant from Kerry County.[7] The couple would raise five children to adulthood, enduring the loss of two sons who died in childhood.

This relatively peaceful period of Connor’s life came to an end in 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War. Eager to serve his adopted country once more, he took the lead in recruiting several companies of California Volunteers to serve under his command. In spite of his (and his troops’) desire to fight the Confederacy in the East, he found himself assigned to protect overland mail routes in Utah, as the Lincoln administration sought to preserve California’s tenuous connection to the Union.[8] In Utah, Connor’s troops were to serve as an occupying force to both native peoples such as the Shoshone and to the territory’s Mormon population, practitioners of an enigmatic and fanatical religion in the eyes of many, whose loyalty to the country seemed particularly dubious, particularly in light of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre.

During the journey across Nevada, Connor began to hone his reputation as an Indian fighter, launching attacks that killed several dozen Shoshones. Reaching Salt Lake City in 1862, Connor remarked with disgust on the apparent un-Americanness of the Mormons, calling them “a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores,” claiming “the people publicly rejoice at reverses to our arms,” and “Brigham Young rules with despotic sway.”[9] For their part, the Mormons had good reason to fear federal troops due to the “Utah War” of 1856-58. As such, they were none too happy when Connor, despairing of the state of the old Camp Crittenden (Camp Floyd) in Utah Valley, planted his troops directly above their capital, establishing Camp Douglas on an eastern bench of the Salt Lake Valley on October 26, 1862. Connor cited this new location as all the better to “say to the Saints of Utah, enough of your treason.”[10] Connor’s troops thus became the most visible symbol of “Gentile” (non-Mormon) presence in the territory, sparking a war of words between the two groups lasting for decades.

Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas) ca. 1865. Connor named the fort for Lincoln’s great political rival, Stephen Douglas.

The year 1863 was a critical one for Connor. Denied the chance to fight in the East, he seized on a chance to “chastise” the Northwestern Shoshone instead. Increased Anglo-American incursions into what is today southern Idaho had strained relationships with the Shoshone, producing intermittent fighting and claims of kidnapping. In the bitter cold of January, Connor marched his troops from Camp Douglas to a Shoshone encampment on the Bear River. One California newspaper offered a telling insight into the attitudes of the day by publishing a gleeful letter from a Salt Lake correspondent, stating that “before [Connor’s troops] quit the entertainment Mr. Redskin is to be well thrashed, and, if possible, ‘wiped out.’”[11]

Arriving at the encampment, Connor’s troops launched an attack on the 29th of January. What began as a battle became a bloodbath as Connor’s troops flanked the Shoshones, trapping them in a ravine. The troops proceeded to massacre anyone within reach, including women and children. The death toll may well have exceeded four hundred, making it the largest massacre in the history of the American West. Connor’s troops destroyed homes and food supplies, murdering dozens more women who refused to submit to rape by the soldiers.[12] His actions would make him one of the most despised figures in Shoshone memory, with one survivor, Sagwitch, later recalling the bitter irony of “that merciless battle, when women and suckling babes met their death at the hands of civilization.”[13] Those same actions, however, made Connor a hero to white colonizers in the West, and earned him a promotion to brigadier-general.

Bear River Massacre site.

Back in Salt Lake, Connor became fixated on the notion of publicizing Utah’s mineral wealth so as to draw non-Mormons into the territory, contending that “inducements … to the teeming population of the East and West, seeking new fields of exploration and prosperity” would spell political and social doom for the Mormonism that he saw as “not only subversive of morals, in conflict with the civilization of the present age, and oppressive on the people, but also deeply and boldly in contravention of the laws and best interests of the nation.”[14] To that end, he founded the Daily Union Vedette, a staunchly non-Mormon newspaper that wrote extensively on the wealth to be had in Utah. Connor helped to establish and personally invested in numerous mining districts, including what would become Bingham Canyon, earning the honorific “father of Utah mining.” In 1863, Connor also established the town of Stockton, near Tooele, named for his former home in California. Connor intended Stockton as a hub for non-Mormon settlement, though his grand visions could never elevate it beyond a minor settlement on the fringes of Brigham Young’s Mormon kingdom. Of course, Young and his disciples were none too happy to see these capitalistic incursions into their Zion. After Young petitioned unsuccessfully to have Connor and his troops removed from Utah,[15] he was spared of the general for a time when Connor was sent to present Wyoming for the Powder River expedition in 1865.

Connor thus departed Utah to crush resistance from the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho in response to a mining boom that had drawn a wave of white colonizers into Montana. While Connor’s campaigns failed to win any “victories” as decisive as that at Bear River, he nonetheless killed several hundred indigenous persons in a series of battles and skirmishes such as Tongue River (at times fighting alongside indigenous allies such as the Omaha). Such militancy undermined the capacity of indigenous communities to sustain themselves, leaving little recourse to federal economic dependency and reservations (with poverty ironically reinforcing white perceptions of indigenous nations as primitive and backwards). The Powder River endeavor was largely regarded as a failure, in part due to negative publicity surrounding another event to the south: namely, the army’s 1864 Sand Creek Massacre against the Cheyenne and Arapaho, which had soured the nation for a time on war with native nations.[16] Reflecting this shift in attitude, the Salt Lake Tribune expressed desire for “some sensible plan” regarding “the poor Indian race.”[17]Nonetheless, the expedition cemented Connor’s status as to hero to white colonizers in the West. This would be Connor’s last major military mission, as he resigned his commission in 1866.

After a brief return to Utah (and a trip to Washington DC to testify against the evils of the Mormons), Connor returned to California with his family. By 1869, however, the looming completion of the transcontinental railroad brought him back to Utah. This time, his family stayed in California, establishing a permanent residence in Redwood City. Over the next decades, Connor would become increasingly estranged from his family as he bounced between various mining and railroad endeavors in Utah and Nevada in largely unsuccessful attempts to amass his fortune, made all the more difficult by the market instabilities laid bare in the Panic of 1873. Johanna Connor would eventually die in 1889, making no mention of her oft-absent husband in her will.

In Utah, the railroad spelled doom for Brigham Young’s bucolic conception of an economically isolated Zion. Anticipating an economic and demographic influx to the territory, Connor took an interest in the town of Corinne, near the mouth of the Bear River, which emerged in the wake of the railroad’s completion as Utah’s leading non-Mormon community. His assessment of this emerging landscape proved somewhat overly optimistic, with his vision of a steamboat service across the Great Salt Lake connecting Corinne to Stockton never truly materializing. As the most esteemed non-Mormon in the territory, Connor became the symbolic leader of Utah’s anti-Mormon Liberal Party, which denounced polygamy and sought to block statehood for fear of losing federal leverage against the dominant religion. Speaking at an 1880 Liberal rally, Connor declared his intention of “taking up the fight with renewed vigor,” and “helping forward the good work of regulating and Americanizing Utah.”[18] This symbolic leadership notwithstanding, Connor proved unsuccessful in parlaying his notoriety into political office, losing a bid even for the modest office of Salt Lake County Recorder. He died in Salt Lake in 1891 with much prestige and little wealth, and was buried in the Fort Douglas Cemetery.[19]

Connor with President Hayes during the latter’s visit to Fort Douglas, 1880.

The decades after his death saw Patrick Connor’s vision of an Americanized Utah come to fruition to a remarkable degree. Booming mining industries throughout the new state in regions such as Carbon County and Bingham Canyon attracted waves of non-Mormon immigration from countries including Greece and Italy, and, to a lesser extent, Japan and China. Mining in particular signified Utah’s increasing integration into the national economy; while providing economic opportunity, this new colonial economy also spawned appalling working conditions and environmental degradation. Connor would no doubt also have been pleased to see the LDS church, the object of his perpetual contempt, take a firmer stance against polygamy and recede from the political sphere in the first decades of the twentieth century (though the latter change did not prove permanent). Furthermore, the twentieth century also saw emphasis on Brigham Young’s model of economic cooperation decline as many Mormons made their peace with Connor’s capitalist vision. Indeed, while not abandoning their distinct identities, Mormon communities have undergone a noteworthy degree of Americanization since Connor’s time.[20] Connor himself practiced what he preached with regards to Americanization: the Irish-born immigrant epitomized the self-made man of fame and fortune. While this rugged, romantic image has become iconic in conceptions of the West, Connor’s case also illustrates its shortcomings. Never truly successful in making his fortune later in life, his obsessive quest for wealth resulted in considerable alienation from his family. Underpinning all of this is Connor’s darkest legacy (and one that is conspicuously absent from his historical marker): the brutalization of indigenous nations, on whose dispossessed land the processes of “Americanization” played out. Particularly for the Northwestern Shoshones, the impacts and bitter memories of Colonel Connor’s atrocious actions on the Bear River echo into the twenty-first century.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

P. Edward Connor, Official Report on the Bear River Massacre, February 6, 1863.

Secondary Sources:

Madsen, Brigham. Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1990.

May, Dean. Utah: A People’s History. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1987.

Varley, James. Brigham and the Brigadier: General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and Along the Overland Trail. . Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989.

[1] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History (Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1987), 194.

[2] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier: General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and Along the Overland Trail. (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989), x.

[3] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor (Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1990), 3-5.

[4] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 2.

[5] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 18-19.

[6] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 4.

[7] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 30.

[8] Ibid, 48.

[9] P. Edward Connor, letter to Major R. C. Drum, September 14, 1862.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “A Big Expedition – Connor and the Volunteers after the Indians,” Sacramento Daily Union (Sacramento, CA), Feb. 7, 1863

[12] Scott Christensen, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999), 52.

[13] F.W. Warner (Sagwitch), “Sagwitch Writes The Citizen About New Monument,” Franklin County Citizen (Preston, ID), Jul. 11, 1918.

[14] P. Edward Connor, letter to Major E. McGarry, October 26, 1863.

[15] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 114.

[16] Ibid, 121.

[17] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 258.

[18] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 237.

[19] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 271.

[20] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History, 190, 194-198.

Chief Wasatch

Published / by Zak Erickson / Leave a Comment

Placed by: Mayor Larell D. Muir and Park and Operation Superintends Lynn F. Pett and Bill D. Crocker

GPS Coordinates:  40°39’37.7748”N 111°53’16.7136”W

Historical Marker Text

“Chief Wasatch”

To raise the nation’s conscience to the plight of the first American so they won’t be forgotten, but will be remembered in our minds and in our hearts.  This statue is sculpted out of a giant cottonwood tree in honor of Utah Native Americans – Southern and Northern Ute, Sothern Shoshone, Goshutes, Paiute, and Navajo.  Creator Peter “Wolf” Toth, is sculpturing statues for all 50 states.

Dedicated: November 23, 1985

Mayor: Larell D. Muir

Park & Operation Superintendents: Lynn F. Pett and Bill D. Crocker

Extended Research:

In 1985, the mayor of Murray, Utah, Larell D. Muir, commissioned Peter “Wolf” Toth to sculpt a statue of “Chief Wasatch”. It continues to greet visitors at the entrance of Murray Park to this day. The statue may prompt people to think that “Chief Wasatch” was a great leader of one of the Native American tribes in Utah. However, this was not the case; in fact, “Chief Wasatch” was not an actual person. The statue was not created to honor a specific individual, but rather to honor the many Native Americans who lived in Utah long before fur traders, explores, and Euro-American settlers came to Utah. In this regard, “Chief Wasatch” stands in for all Utah Native Americans and represents their history and legacy.

There is not much known about the earliest Native American inhabitants of Utah.  This is because they did not have a written language and did not come into contact with groups that did. The little bit that we do know is from artifacts such as worn sandals, food caches, stone houses, silk weed nets, and even human droppings[1].  After the Desert Archaic, the Fremont Indians made the transition out of caves and started to build their own shelters.  They also learned how to farm but it is not known where they learned this skill.  With farming, they also started to build granaries to protect what they grew[2].  They would build several homes and granaries near each other to create a sort of village. This marked a transition from a nomadic lifestyle to a more stationary one.  The Fremont also spread throughout the region until there were  many different  Fremont sites across the area that would become Utah.

The Fremont were eventually displaced by or absorbed by the Ute, Goshute, Shoshone, and Southern Paiute. Each of these tribes thought that the land they lived on was sacred and that their God intended for them to live there. Creation narratives instilled in tribal members a sacred connection between the land and the people. With this in mind, it is easier to understand why there was sometimes tension between the Ute, Goshute, Southern Paiute, Shoshone and the Mormon pioneers. Mormon settlers came into the Great Basin and built homes and communities on lands that the Native Americans considered sacred.  This tension lead to many conflicts and sadly the eventual removal of the Native Americans to reservations.

It is because of this removal that Mayor Larell D. Muir arranged for a sculpture of “Chief Wasatch” at Murray Park. Muir wanted to honor and make sure that Utah’s Native Americans would not be forgotten.  Now when people enter Murray Park or drive past the park on State Street they can see “Chief Wasatch” and remember the Native Americans of Utah.

[1] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 12.

[2] May, 14.

For Further Reference:

Primary Source:

Acts, Resolutions, and Memorials, Passed by the First Annual, and Special Sessions, of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah, Begun and held at Great Salt Lake City, on the 22nd day of September, A. D., 1851(Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory: Brigham H. Young, Printer, 1852), 91-93.

Secondary Sources:

Clifford Duncan, “The Northern Utes of Utah,” in A History of Utah’s American Indians, ed.

Forrest S. Cuch, (Salt Lake City:  Utah Division of Indian Affairs and Utah Division of State History, 2000), 167-8.

“The Deseret News.” Google News Archive Search. Accessed April 19, 2017. safe=strict&nid=336&dat=19851112&id=a9lUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8oMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4787%2C6022654&hl=en.

Iverson, Kristen. “Living History: How the giant Chief Wasatch came to Murray Park.” The Salt Lake Tribune. September 22, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2017.

May, Dean L. “Man and Desert.” Utah: A People’s History. Salt Lake City: U of Utah Press,

  1. 1-19.

Thomas G. Alexander, Utah, The Right Place:  The Official Centennial History (Salt Lake City:

Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995), 29-30.

W.Paul Reeve, Making Space on the Western Frontier:  Mormons, Miners, and Southern

Paiutes (Urbana and Chicago:  University of Illinois Press, 2006), 12.

Newspaper Rock

Published / by Laura Angell / 3 Comments on Newspaper Rock

Written by Laura Angell, BA History Student at the University of Utah

Placed By: Unknown

Sign Information:

This sign is not a historical marker, it was placed to document the area and provide some brief information about the site. The sign was placed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Sign Text:

Newspaper Rock is a petroglyph panel etched in sandstone that record approximately 2,000 years of early human activity. Prehistoric peoples, probably from the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont and Pueblo cultures, etched on the rock from B.C. time to A.D. 1300. In historic times, Ute and Navajo people, as well as European Americans made their contributions.

In interpreting the figures on the rock, scholars are undecided as to their meaning or have yet to decipher them. In Navajo, the rock is called “Tse’Hane’” (Rock that tells a story).

Unfortunately, we do not know if the figures represent storytelling, doodling, hunting magic, clan symbols, ancient graffiti or something else. Without a true understanding of the petroglyphs much is left for individual interpretation.

Newspaper Rock is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Please continue to preserve it.

GPS Coordinates: 37°59’6.6″N 109°31’05.1″W

Newspaper Rock Feb. 2017

Extended Research:

Utah’s territory has been shaped by the presence of early Americans throughout the territory. Newspaper Rock is one of the few pieces that remains as evidence of the Native American activity in the area. The site was rediscovered by early pioneers and was given the name Newspaper Rock due to the abundance of petroglyphs on the large sandstone canvas. The various artists responsible for this artwork are not known, however, historians and archaeologists believe that different Native American cultural groups who have lived in the four corners area have contributed to the artwork on the rock over several thousand years. The artwork was etched on the rock face that contains a black coloring, known as “desert varnish,” which gets its color from a combination of iron deposits and bacteria that forms when rain falls on the exposed sandstone. The artists who created the petroglyphs used the technique of chiseling away at the top layer of the sandstone to reveal the red rock underneath. The petroglyphs date back from about 2,000 years ago to as recent as the 20th century.

One of the individuals responsible for one of the more recent markings is Ramón González’s son, J. P. González. Ramón González and his family moved from New Mexico to Monticello and permanently settled there in March of 1900. The family created a homestead in the Indian Creek area on land that included the Newspaper Rock site. J. P. González carved his name on the far left corner of the rock.[1] The inscription reads “J.P. Gonzalez 1902” and just below, another inscription says “C.D. Gonsales 6/3/54,” which was left by J.P.’s son. Other recent inscriptions include, “Jean,” written with a backwards N and “JER.”

Newspaper Rock has been recognized as a state historical monument since its dedication in 1961. During this year, control of the site went from the Bureau of Land Management to the State Park and Recreation Commission. The Commission stated its goal for the site was to make improvements by building a fence around the monument, build a parking lot, a picnicking site, and camping facilities. These improvements began in the Spring of 1962 and a portion of the funding for the project was provided by Sunset Magazine.

An image of a woman pointing towards the artwork. Part of the Al Watkins Morton Photograph Collection, 1940-1950. Courtesy the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.[2]

The monument has become a tourist destination in the 20th and 21st centuries. Over the years the site has continued to garner attention. Many individuals found the vast artwork of interest and took pictures of their interactions with the site. Documentation about the site has continued to assist in the increase of visitation to the area.






The Times Independent newspaper has documented the amount of visitors that the site has received over the years. Gordon W. Topham, a ranger during the time, states that the sizable differences in numbers may have been due to “the fact that many vacation plans were canceled in 1974 due to the price of gas” and during one of the months, the sign for the monument was in Salt Lake City for repairs, and many people passed the monument.

Statistics provided by Gordon W. Topham, Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation. Courtesy Times Independent 1975, 1976.[3]

Statistics provided by Gordon W. Topham, Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation. Courtesy Times Independent 1975, 1976.[3]








In 2017, a trip to the site proved that the conservation efforts of the State Park and Recreation Commission and Bureau of Land Management have been beneficial for the preservation of the site. Although the background and meaning of the artwork remains a mystery, the monument continues to represent the early American presence in Utah and the importance of artwork to their culture.


[1] Gonzalez, William H. and Padilla, Genaro M., “Monticello, the Hispanic Cultural Gateway to Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 52(Winter 1984): 9-28.

[2] Morton, Alton Watkins, “Woman points to what is known now as Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument,” 470, 1940-1950.

[3] “State Commission Announced Plans to Develop ‘Newspaper Rock,'” Times Independent, 12/28/1961.

[3] “Newspaper Rock State Park Visitor Increase Noted,” Times Independent, 1/09/1975.

[3] “Newspaper Rock Visitation is Way Up,” Times Independent, 6/12/1975.

[3] “29% Increase in Visits Noted at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 1/8/1976.

[3] “Visitation Down at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 2/12/1976.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources

Morton, Alton Watkins, “Woman points to what is known now as Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument.” 470, 1940-1950.

“State Commission Announced Plans to Develop ‘Newspaper Rock,'” Times Independent, 12/28/1961.

“Newspaper Rock State Park Visitor Increase Noted,” Times Independent, 1/09/1975.

“Newspaper Rock Visitation is Way Up,” Times Independent, 6/12/1975.

“29% Increase in Visits Noted at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 1/8/1976.

“Visitation Down at Newspaper Rock,” Times Independent, 2/12/1976.

Secondary Sources

Castleton, K. B., 1979. Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Utah. Salt Lake City.

Gonzalez, William H. and Padilla, Genaro M., “Monticello, the Hispanic Cultural Gateway to Utah,” Utah Historic Quarterly, 52(Winter 1984): 9-28.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lands. Newspaper Rock Recreation Site.

National Park Service Petrified Forest. Newspaper Rock.

Utah Parks. Petroglyphs Near Moab Utah.