If you’ve ever driven around the northwestern end of Heber, you may have noticed several sandstone markers displayed at the corners of 100 West 500 North, 100 West 100 North, 300 West 500 North, and 300 West 100 North, that mark the location of Fort Heber. Perhaps in your hustle to Smith’s Marketplace, you’ve wondered at the monument in front of the store. Whether you’re a long time resident or a newcomer, you’ve probably read the brief summaries of Heber’s history. As usual, there is always more to the story once you look deeper.
In 1858 a group of men came from Provo, surveyed the land in twenty-acre plots, and selected the townsite of Heber. The following winter, twenty families stayed there. As protection from the Northern Ute Indian tribe, they built a fort one block south and one block west from the site. The family homes were constructed using cottonwood logs and were joined together to form the outside wall of the fort. Inside the protective fort, a 20’ X 40’ building was erected; it had two fireplaces
and a stage and served as a schoolhouse, a church, and a gathering place for social events. In 1860 the fort was enlarged to house 44 families.
The Black Hawk War
In 1865, though there was no single act that started the war, a sub-chief named Antonga Black Hawk lead an uprising against the congressional act that forced the Ute tribes of Sanpete and Sevier Counties to reservations. Black Hawk retaliated against the settlers for broken promises, mistreatment, personal humiliation, and other acts that injured or killed Utes in the constant interactions between early settlers and natives since 1849. The Black Hawk War or Black Hawk’s War was a three-part war involving members of 16 Timpanogos Ute, Southern Paiute, Apache, and Navajo tribes, which lasted from 1865 to 1872.
Brigham Young ordered families throughout the valley to “fort up” in the central settlements of Heber, Midway, and Wallsburg. Like Brigham Young, Joseph Stacy Murdock, the presiding Bishop in Heber, believed it was better to feed the natives than to fight them. On August 20, 1867, Murdock invited Ute chief Tabby-To-Kwanah, a well educated, wise leader that served the interest of his people, to talk peace at his home. Chief Tabby, only wanting to speak with ‘Old Murdock’, rode down to Heber, taking with him all the sub-chiefs under his control, several hundred braves, women, and children, and camped out in Murdock’s yard and pasture. A feast was held the next day with enough meat, baked bread, corn, and whatever else the townsfolk had to offer to feed everyone. The two spoke all day. Later, Murdock and Chief Tabby exchanged simple gifts. A peace pipe was smoked, and a treaty of friendship was signed, ending the war between the settlers at Heber Valley and the Utes. With their signatures, the war was over, but only in Heber Valley and the surrounding towns and settlements. Chief Tabby acknowledged that he could not control Black Hawk’s actions across the rest of the territory. Even so, the meeting between Chief Tabby and Joseph Stacy Murdock lead the way for other treaties. Within a year, most of the fighting throughout the territory came to an end.
Peace In Heber Valley
Joseph and Tabby served their people well. They honored their vows to maintain peace and remained friends for life, leaders demonstrating their commitment to seeking and understanding the best of both worlds rather than fight.
Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine the wars and countless sacrifices that took place in our quiet valley not too long ago. Wars were fought, allies were made, and dynasties were altered, forging our valley into what it is today. Our valley still draws people in for the same reasons it was fought over — a beautiful, peaceful stretch of land worth fighting to keep.
The Burial Of Tom Tabby
One day in 1867, just two years after the signing of the Indian Peace Treaty, Chief Tabby rode into the valley. Astride his horse he carried the body of his son who had been killed in a hunting accident. Joseph Stacey Murdock recognized his friend and went to greet him. Knowing Murdock to be a religious leader among his people, Chief Tabby asked Joseph if he would bury his son in the custom of the ‘Mormons’. Feelings of great sorrow surged within Murdock as he conducted a Christian funeral service for his friend’s son. Tom Tabby was buried under a beautiful pine tree that had been planted several years before in the Heber cemetery by John H. Murdock.
After the final prayer Chief Tabby said, “My son has been buried in the white man’s custom, now he will be honored in the Indian fashion.” A rick of cedar logs was then laid upon the new grave and Tom Tabby’s favorite pony was led to it. The pony’s throat was cut and the animal was laid upon the pyre where the logs were set afire. Chief Tabby watched the fire until the embers slowly died, then mounting his horse, he rode off into the mountains east of Heber with his braves.