Utah Pioneer Stories

A True Pioneer Story

A MOST UNUSUAL PROPOSAL

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Mary Artemesia Lowry was a pretty young lady living in the new settlement of Manti. This day she felt especially lucky because it was her turn to stay at home with Grandma. Of course, there were numerous tasks to attend to, but anything was better than working in the field all day long under the hot August sun.

Mary quickly planned her day: first, she would care for Grandmother Brown, then she would clean the eggs, mix the bread, churn the butter and maybe, just maybe, she could work on her quilt blocks before she had to start supper for the family.

She was busily working through her jobs, when a loud knock came at the door. Before she could answer it, the door flew open and a deep voice in broken English said, “Me come in! Me come in!”

To her frightened dismay, there stood Walker, chief of all the Ute Indians, in his finest Indian regalia, and with him were several of his young Indian braves. She was so startled she could hardly move, but somehow she did manage to slip back of her invalid Grandmother’s chair, as if she could protect her. (Grandmother Brown was a helpless, speechless invalid.) Mary herself could not speak and she began to shake with fear.

Oh, the thoughts that went through her mind! What did he want? What could she do? The settlers had been told it is better to ‘feed than fight’ the Indians. Could she give him the food she was preparing for supper? She soon found that the savage had come on a most amazing errand.

The great powerful warrior came all bedecked in his feathered headdress, beads and paint. He bound his ebony locks with copper wire and tied tinkling bells to his legs. Tossing furs, blankets, and beads on the table, he said, “You be my white sqaw! I give you more, you marry me.!”

This was his proposal of marriage to this beautiful, innocent young maiden. He promised he would line her wigwam with buffalo robes, costly furs, ermine, sable, and bear skins, sheep pelts and cowhides. He would give her many horses because he was rich. He promised her he would never take her to the mountains to live as he did his other squaws. But she could live in his wigwam and he would learn the white man’s ways and live with her.

Mary listened with trembling lips and a faint heart to his lengthy, powerful proposal of marriage. Oh what could she do? What could she say? She thought, “Nothing could be worse than to marry this old reprobate.” But she knew she could not make him angry. If only her father and brothers were here they could defend and help her. The refusal of his proposal could cost the lives of every man, woman and child in Manti. He was known for his murders, his pillage, his assassinations and she remembered well the horrors of Indian massacres. She knew she should not lie, but what else could she do under these circumstances?

Throwing aside all her young romantic dreams, but being resourceful and as courageous as possible she falteringly declared, “Oh, I can’t marry you. I’m already married, a white man’s squaw!”

“Who?” Walker demanded.

She quickly thought of all the names of her friends who were eligible for marriage. Then, in desperation, the name of her twin sister’s husband, a prominent man in the settlement, came to her mind and she blurted out, “Judge George Peacock.”

He hardly believed her and with fire flashing from his eyes, the old warrior glared at her and took from his belt a knife, and plunged it into the pine table, indicating what Judge Peacock could expect. Haughty and hurt, the old chief grabbed his furs and jewelry and said, “We will see!” as he stomped out slamming the door behind him.

Mary was frightened, and agonized as she paced the floor. What had she done? Lied to save herself! This could cause serious trouble in the whole settlement.

It was a great relief when her family came from the fields. She ran to her father’s arms and she told them what had happened. Her father consoled her but said, “Your word must be made good.”

He sent the boys to summon Judge Peacock and Father Morley to come quickly. The brethren knew the seriousness of the problem. They knew Chief Walker had visited Brigham Young and requested a white squaw. President Young had told him he could have one if he could find one who would marry him. Little did Brother Brigham know that he already had one in mind, Mary Lowrey, the Mormon Bishop’s daughter.

Judge Peacock smiled and said he would be pleased to marry her. The ceremony was performed in haste by Father Morley, and when he tied the knot, it was tied fast and sure!

A message was sent to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City of the incident. Word came back from Brother Brigham, “Come to Salt Lake City and remain in hiding until the passion of the old chief has had time to cool!” They left immediately and did not return until Walker’s passion had subsided.

Mary’s very ordinary day turned into her wedding day and the incident was told over and over again to her posterity.

Courtesy: Helen Dyreng
Manti, Utah