About This Record
Deposition in support of H.R.
1459 and H.R. 3945
15 October 1877
RG 123, Indian Depredation
Claim 8479, Thurston vs. the United States and the Ute Indians, National
To the honorable the Senate
and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress
Your petitioner, Mrs.
Malinda Thurston, of San Joaquin county, in the State of California,
respectfully represents that she is fifty-eight years of age, that she has
been twice married, and that her first husband's name was Henry D. Scott and
her maiden name was Malinda Cameron, and that her father's name was William
Cameron and her mother's Martha Cameron. She further represents that in the
year eighteen hundred and fifty-seven her said father, William Cameron, her
mother, Martha Cameron, her brothers, Tilghman, Ison, Henry, James, and
Larkin Cameron, her sisters, Martha Cameron, and Mathilda Miller, her
brother-in-law, Joseph Miller and their children, named William Miller,
Alfred Miller, Eliza Miller, and Joseph Miller, her cousin, named Nancy
Cameron, her husband, Henry D. Scott, and herself, with their three
children, and her husband's brother-in-law, were in a wagon train en route
for California from the East and that on or about the third of August in
said year eighteen hundred and fifty-seven they all arrived at Salt Lake
City; that at the solicitation and under the advice of the Mormons and the
representations that the stock could better be provided with feed, the train
was divided, with the understanding that it was to be united outside of Salt
Lake City and proceed by the northern route; and under said advice her
husband, his brother-in-law, herself, and their three children and others
started from Salt Lake and made one day's journey, on the third of August,
in said mentioned year, and there encamped to await her father's part of
said train; and that they remained at said camp until the seventh day of
August in said year, when her husband was killed by one of the men of the
train (but not by the Mormons). She further says that on the tenth of said
month of August she was confined and was thus left with four small children;
that after waiting for her father's part of the train a long and reasonable
time the train proceeded on, and she eventually reached California. She
further represents that her said father, while at Salt Lake City, at the
time mentioned, was advised to and persuaded to take the southern route, as
the Mormons represented the food for their stock was better and more plenty
by said southern route; and that her said father, the said William Cameron,
acting on said advice (although contrary to the agreement with her husband);
did take said southern route, and that when some two or three days journey
from Salt Lake City the said Mormons, under the authority of Brigham Young,
with force of arms, violently killed and murdered the following persons, to
wit, her father, William Cameron, her mother, Martha Cameron, her brothers,
Tilghman Cameron, Ison Cameron, Henry Cameron, James Cameron, and Larkin
Cameron, her sister, Martha Cameron, her sister, Mathilda Miller, Joseph
Miller and their child, William Miller; and also killed other persons to her
whose names are unknown; and captured Joseph and Mathilda Miller's children,
named Alfred, Eliza, and Joseph, and her cousin, Nancy Cameron, who is yet
with the Mormons, and who is aged about thirty-two years at this time.
She further represents
that her said father, William Cameron, was the owner of the following-named
property, stock, and money, all of which was taken possession of by the
Mormons at the time of the massacre of the family of the said William
Cameron, to wit: Two large emigrant wagons, with outfit, chains, covers,
etc., of the value of twelve hundred and fifty dollars ($1,250); three
hundred and fifty number one cows of the value of ninety dollars ($90)
each-- total value, three thousand one hundred and fifty dollars ($3,150);
three head of horses of the value of eighty dollars each ($80)-- total
value, two hundred and forty dollars ($240) one full-blood race mare of the
value of three thousand dollars ($3,000)--known afterwards among the Mormons
as --One-eye Blaze,-- and run by them; and three thousand dollars in gold
coin; and she says that the total value of the property and money so taken
from her father at the time he was murdered as aforesaid was thirteen
thousand six hundred and forty dollars.
She further represents
that she has one sister living (who was not with the train at the time of
the massacre), whose name is Mrs. Nancy Littleton, who resides at Stockton,
California, and that said sister and herself are the heirs and only
surviving children of the said William Cameron and Martha Cameron who were
murdered by the Mormons and robbed as aforesaid and at the time
aforementioned, and she respectfully asks that Congress may pass a bill of
relief for herself and her said sister, Nancy Littleton, reimbursing them
for the property so taken from their father, the said William Cameron, as
above state, and that they also be reimbursed for the interest on the value
of said property from the time of said massacre and robbery until the
She further represents
that she verily believes that she, the said petitioner, and the said Nancy
Littleton are entitled to receive from the United States the full value of
said property and money, as the said petitioner will ever pray.
Malinda (her x mark)
Jno. H. Webster
State of California,
County of San Joaquin:
Mrs. Malinda Thurston,
being duly sworn, says that the statements in the foregoing petition are
true as she knows from her own personal knowledge and from authentic
information that she has received of the account of the massacre of her
family from those who knew the circumstances.
Malinda (her x mark) Thurston.
Jno. H. Webster
Sworn to and subscribed before me this
15th day of October, A.D. 1877.
Jno. H. Webster,
Notary Public, San Joaquin County, Cal.
Malinda Cameron Scott Thurston
Deposition in support of H.R. 1459 and
18 December 1877.
RG 123, Indian Depredation Claim 8479,
Thurston vs. the United States and the Ute Indians, National Archives
File: Thurston 18dec77
To the honorable the Senate and House of
Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:
respectfully represents that she is a resident of San Joaquin County, in the
State of California; that she is the daughter of William Cameron and Martha
Cameron, who were murdered and robbed by the Mormons in the year 1857 while
en route to California; that she has been twice married, and that in the
month of August, 1857, she, with her first husband, her three children, her
said father and mother, William Cameron and Martha Cameron, and her five
brothers, named Tilghman, Ison, Henry James, and Larkin Cameron, and also
her cousin, Nancy Cameron, and her petitioner's husband's brother-in-law,
and divers other persons whose names she does not now remember were en route
from the East to California in a large emigrant train, with numerous cattle,
horses, wagons, and the general outfit of emigrant trains of those days. She
further represents that when the train arrived at Salt Lake City on or about
the first of August, in said year 1857, the Mormons persuaded her husband,
whose name was H. D. Scott, to consent to divide the train and to go out of
the city of Salt lake so as to give the stock a better chance for feed, her
husband taking the usual northern route, and that her said husband, at the
suggestion and advice of the Mormons, her said husband, herself, and her
children, her husband's brother-in-law and some of his men, took their part
of the train one day's journey out of Salt Lake City, leaving her father,
William Cameron, and her mother, Martha Cameron, her five brothers in Salt
Lake City, to follow them and join them the next day; that after waiting for
some three days for her father and mother and brothers and their stock, her
husband, the said H. D. Scott, was killed'not by the Mormons--and some four
days subsequent thereto she was confined, leaving her with four helpless
children in the wilderness.
She further represents
that after her said husband and herself and their part of the train had left
Salt Lake City as aforesaid, the Mormons persuaded her father to take the
southern route, representing that the feed for the large amount of stock he
had was more abundant on that road, and that, acting under the advice of the
Mormons, her said father, William Cameron, with his said family and his
stock, and other persons, did take said southern route, and consequently did
not join her husband's part of the train; and that a few days thereafter.
when the said William Cameron and his train and stock were near what is
known as Mountain Meadows, the Mormon solders, or forces, by order of
Brigham Young, fell upon her father's train, attacked it, and murdered
nearly every person in the train, including her father, her mother, and her
brothers, and that the Mormons robbed the train of everything valuable. She
says that her father owned the following property in the train, all of which
was taken from her father by the Mormons and kept by them, to wit, two large
emigrant wagons, with covers, chains, and general outfit, of the value of
twelve hundred and fifty dollars; twenty-four oxen, of the value of one
hundred and twenty-five dollars each; three hundred first-class cows, of the
value of ninety dollars each; three head of horses, of the value of eighty
dollars each; one racing mare, of the value of three thousand dollars (said
mare being known among the Mormons as --One-eye Blaze,-- and run by them
afterwards in southern California); and that they also took from her father
three thousand dollars in gold coin, and that the total value of the
property so taken and robbed from her said father and mother is thirty-seven
thousand and four hundred and ninety dollars. And she further says that she,
the petitioner, and her sister, Mrs. Nancy Littleton, of Stockton,
California, are the only surviving children of the said William Cameron and
Martha Cameron, who were murdered by the Mormons under command and by order
of Brigham Young at Mountain Meadows, as aforesaid; and that her sister and
herself are the heirs of said William Cameron. She further says that neither
her sister nor herself have ever received from any person whatever or from
the United States any remuneration or pay for said specified property so
taken from her father; and she respectfully asks that Congress may pass a
bill of relief for herself and her sister, the said Nancy Littleton,
reimbursing them for the value of said property, and also for the interest
on the value of the same from the time of the said Mountain Meadow massacre,
in August, 1857. As your petitioner will ever pray.
State of California,
San Joaquin County, ss:
Mrs. Malinda Thurston,
being duly sworn, says that she is 48 years of age and a resident of San
Joaquin County, in the State of California; that the facts set forth in the
foregoing petition are true, as she knows from her knowledge personally up
to the time of the arrival at Salt Lake and from authentic information
obtained of the massacre of her father's family as above stated.
Malinda (her X mark)
Subscribed and sworn to
before me this 18th day of December, A.D. 1877.
[seal.] H. T. Compton,
Notary Public in and for
San Joaquin County, Cal.
Malinda Thurston, Joel
Scott, Frederick Arnold, and Andrew Wolf Statements, 2 May 1911
RG 123, Indian Depredation
Claim 8479, Thurston vs. the United States and the Ute Indians, National
IN THE COURT OF CLAIMS OF THE UNITED STATES IND. DEP. CLAIMS.
Malinda Thurston, )
Administratrix of the
estate of )
William Cameron, )
The United States and Ute
Depositions of Malinda
Thurston, Joel Scott, Frederick Arnold and Andrew Wolf, witnesses on behalf
of claimant taken before me, W. N. Rutherford, a Notary Public, in and for
San Joaquin County, State of California. Taken at Stockton, San Joaquin
County, State of California, this 2nd day of May, 1911. This testimony was
taken with notice and by consent of parties. there appearing as local
attorney for the claimants, Albert R. Bogue, representing the claimant, and
who conducted the direct examination and John Stansbury, United States
attorney, appearing for the defendants and cross-examined the witnesses.
Malinda Thurston being
first duly sworn, testified as follows to-wit:
By the Notary:
Q. State your name, age,
occupation, residence and post office address. Are you the Milanda [sic]
Thurston named as the administratrix in this claim and what interest have
you in this claim?
A. Malinda Thurston; 83
years of age past; Housewife; 404 N. Center St., Stockton, California,
Post-office address, the same.
A. I am the Malinda
Thurston who is named as administratrix, I am also interested as an heir of
the original owners of the property claimed for.
Direct Examination by Albert
Q. Where were you born?
A. In Alabama
Q. What was the name of
A. William Cameron.
Q. He is the William
Cameron that is mentioned in this claim.
Q. And Where was he born?
A. In Illinois.
Q. When did he remove to Alabama?
A. I do not remember.
Q. How long did you live in Alabama?
A. I do not remember.
Q. For what place did you leave Alabama:
A. For Arkansas
Q. How long did you reside in Arkansas?
A. I left in 1857.
Q. You started across the plains in 1857?
A. Yes, the 29th day of
Q. What place in Arkansas?
A. Clarkesville, Johnson
Q. Who did you start with?
A. I left home with my
father and his family.
Q. Were you married at that time?
Q. What was your husband's name?
A. H. D. Scott.
Q. Had you a family at that time and what were their names?
A. Joel, Martha and George
Q. Where did you meet your father?
A. In Cherokee Nation,
Q. Did they form an immigrant train at that place?
Q. How many were there in this train, have you an idea?
A. I think about four
wagons that started from Cherokee Nation with my father and my brother
Tillman and my sister--my married sister, Matilda Miller. We met them at
Cherokee Nation and well, all that I know about the names of the people, I
know well there was my sister--married sister, Mrs. Miller, her husband's
name was Joe Miller. They were traveling with my father and my husband's
sister and her husband.
Q. For what location did you start?
A. We started for
Q. Had you any acquaintances at Stockton?
A. Yes, my husband's
sister, she came here in 1854.
Q. Did all of your father's family come with this train?
A. Yes, all but one sister
and she stayed at home.
Q. What was her name?
A. Nancy Littleton.
Q. What property did your father have at that time?
A. You mean how much?
A. He had three wagons,
two big wagons, immigrant wagons, and a small wagon for traveling, and three
horses. There were some mules with the company, but I cannot place them as
belonging to my father, but I think they belonged to my brother-in-law.
Q. What kind of horses were they?
A. One was a very fine
race horse. My brother rode it every single day that he lived.
Q. What was the name of this horse?
A. One-eyed Blaze. There
never was a morning that he did not get on that horse and ride all day, and
come in at camp at evening.
Q. What other property did your father have, did he have any oxen?
A. He had twelve yoke of
oxen, two big wagons and teams. They had too much they could not drive all
Q. Did he have any cows?
A. Yes, about thirty or
thirty-five. I am very sure that in a former statement it is made to read
350 cows. No, that is not correct, that is a mistake.
Q. Was there any other personal property?
A. Yes, there was $3000 in
Q. How did he carry that money?
A. I think it was a place
mortised under the wagon, in the hounds of it.
Q. Did he have any money besides that?
A. Yes, just enough to pay
the expenses along the road.
Q. Did he have provisions too?
Q. And plenty of wearing apparel?
A. Yes, he started out
with a good outfit.
Q. What route did you take from Indian Territory?
A. Well, at that time
there was no place only a little path way.
Q. You took the regular immigrant road then?
Q. When did you arrive at Salt Lake?
A. On the 3rd day of
August in 1857.
Q. How many people were in the train at that time when you arrived at Salt
A. Must have been about
Q. There was other people who joined you at Salt Lake?
A. Yes, in wagons.
Q. What occurred at Salt Lake?
A. We stopped at Salt Lake
one day, and on the morning of the 5th of August my father came to our wagon
and says, I think I am going to take the southern route; and my husband
said, for what reason; and my father said that he heard that there was good
feed and plenty of water and that was something they wanted, for the stock
needed feed and water; and my husband said, I do not think I will take that
route, I would rather go the main route.
Q. Did you take a different route?
A. Yes, we took the main
Q. And did you start before your father and the other members of the train?
A. They all started the
Q. You took the regular road and your father and the other members of the
train took the southern route?
Q. And what time did you arrive in California, if you remember?
A. Some time in October.
Q. Have you ever seen your father or your mother or any of the members of
that train since that time?
A. I expected to have them
drive up with us any day.
Q. When was the next time you heard anything from them?
A. When I heard of the
trouble and it must have been either before or after Christmas, I do not
Q. What did you hear? What was it you heard?
A. Of the massacre, and it
was George Baker who was the captain of the company.
Q. What did you hear of your father's people?
A. We heard that they were
Q. Was there anyone left from that company?
A. Some small children not
over 8 years of age.
Q. Were any of those children members of your family?
A. My married sister's
three children and they were taken back to Johnson County.
Q. Who took charge of them?
A. My sister, Mrs.
Littleton, took charge of them, and she said they always acted so strange
and seemed to be bewildered and the youngest child was like a wild goose.
Q. Do you know if he is dead or alive?
Q. Is Mrs. Littleton dead or alive.
Q. How long has she been dead?
A. Four or five years.
Q. Has she any children?
A. Budd, Mrs. Tate, and
Q. Is Mrs. Tate dead or alive?
Q. Had she any children?
A. Three children.
Q. Do you know where they are?
A. The last I heard, one
was back East and another was in Oregon and the other one was in California.
Q. And you and the children of Mrs. Littleton, and the three Tate children
are the only heirs?
A. That is all.
Q. Do you know of your own knowledge that your father and his family were
massacred at Mountain Meadow?
A. Yes, sir. I know it to
be true only as a matter of history, that they were massacred at a place
called Mountain Meadow in Utah.
Q. Do you know who killed them?
A. No, I do not.
Q. You only know as a matter of history that they were massacred?
Q. Do you of your own knowledge know whether the Mormons or the Indians
A. I do not.
Q. Well your claim was originally based on the fact that this was done by
A. It was a mistake,
certainly, because we do not know. I trusted it all to someone else.
Q. There were two bills introduced at Congress, one by Congressman Page and
one by Congressman Budd, and they asked Congress to get $30,000. It was
gotten up by your agent, was it not?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Well, your claim is $13,690, but do you know or can you account for the
A. I account for it by the
reason that someone got it up that did not know and they added interest to
make up the account.
Q. Do you know the value of this property at that time?
A. No, I do not know very
much about the value of the property at that time.
Q. Well, did your father have all of this property that he started with at
A. The same property, yes.
Q. Had they lost any when they got there?
Q. You had property of your own also did you not?
A. My husband and myself,
Q. Then you understand, you do not know of your own knowledge who it was
that massacred this train of people?
A. No, I do not.
Q. And you know that your father had all this property when you left him at
Salt Lake. Two large wagons and a small wagon, two horses and a race horse,
twelve yoke of oxen, cooking utensils, beds, bedding and everything that
went to make up an outfit for traveling?
Q. You do know that they never arrived at California?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Now in your statement thus given it mentions two immigrant wagons $1250,
it was intended to include the out-fit, covers, beds, and bedding and the
contents, was it not?
A. Yes, and this statement
does not mention that there was a small wagon.
Q. You are an invalid now, are you not?
A. Yes, I suffer from
Cross Examination by John
Q. Where was your father and his family living in Arkansas prior to starting
on this trip to California?
A. He lived in a small
town about 15 miles from Clarkesville.
Q. On the trip to the Cherokee Nation, where you met your father and his
family and outfit, you came to Fort Smith, did you not?
A. Yes, my brother was in
business at Fort Smith and my father came with them at fort Smith and they
met us in Cherokee Nation.
Q. And you crossed the Nation?
Q. Do you know what place it was you met them in the Cherokee Nation?
A. No, I do not. There was
no such a thing as a place from the time we left Cherokee Nation, but just
the bare ground and we never saw a place where you could buy a thing from
there to Salt Lake.
Q. Did you come up through Kansas on the way?
A. I don't remember.
Q Where did you strike the trail knows as the Old Mountain Trail?
A. No, I don't remember.
Q. Did you go to Omaha?
A. No, I do not remember.
Q. Do you know where you struck what was known as Salt Lake Trail?
Q. How long were you traveling from Cherokee Nation, to what was called Salt
A. It was just one long
traveling road and it was very rough and no place where you could get
anything or sell anything.
Q. In what direction did you travel from the Cherokee Nation?
A. I do not know. Any way
that we could travel on account of the roads and feed and water for the
Q. Do you know where you crossed the Rocky Mountains?
A. It all seemed to be
Rocky Mountains all the way.
Q. Do you remember passing any place in those days where there were soldiers
A. No, I do not. I don't
think there was any at that time, we did not see any.
Q. Did you pass any telegraph poles?
A. There were no telegraph
poles, no such a thing as a pole.
Q. When you reached Salt Lake City how many of you were there the night you
reached Salt Lake City in your train?
A. Well, I knew some of
the families that left home the same time, but I could not tell how many.
Q. While you were on the road did you meet with their wagons?
A. Yes, we would drive in
with trains and stop over night and then in the morning we would separate.
Q. Do you remember striking the Green River?
A. I remember the river
but not when or where.
Q. Do you remember crossing the Laramie?
A. I remember crossing the
place but not by name.
Q. Did you have any trouble with the Indians before you reached Salt Lake?
A. Yes, many a night we
sat up and watched all night.
Q. Do you remember anything of the Platt River?
A. Yes, I remember going,
it seems--we went along the side of the Platt River and crossed it a few
Q. Do you know whether there were any other wagons stationed there that
started from the Cherokee Nation in your company?
A. Yes, quite a few came
in our company before we got there because they were afraid that the Indians
would break in at any time and so they drove up together.
Q. Who was in charge of the train of which you were a member and of which
your father was a member when you reached that city?
A. My husband, H. D.
Scott, was there, and when we separated George Baker was the man that took
charge of the company.
Q. Where was this George Baker from?
A. From Arkansas some
where I can't remember the name of the place.
Q. While you were in Salt Lake City did you hire anyone to act for your
party of the train or your husband?
Q. Do you know whether the members of the train of which you your father and
his family were members of hired anyone to act as a guide?
A. No, I do not know
anything about them after they parted from us at Salt Lake.
Q. Well, you were in Salt Lake that day and two nights?
Q. Did you see anyone who had formerly lived in Arkansas, who came to your
A. No only who were
traveling with us.
Q. Did you ever know a man in Arkansas by the name of John D. Lee?
A. No. Back in Arkansas?
Q. Did you ever meet a man while in Salt Lake by the name of John D. Lee?
Q. You stated that that race horse belonged to your brother, was that true?
Q. Was he married or single?
Q. What became of him?
A. He was with my father.
Q. Did he own this race horse or was it your father's property?
A. My brother owned it
Q. Did you brother own any of those wagons or oxen?
A. He had an interest in
them, because he started with lots of feed for the horses, they had the
Q. Can you read and write, Mrs. Thurston?
A. No sir.
Q. Have you been appointed the administratrix of your brother's estate, that
is the brother that owned this horse?
Q. Did you see any other trains in and around Salt Lake when you arrived
there that were going with your father's train?
A. No, I did not see them.
Q. Now how many cows did your father have with him when you left him at Salt
A. Well, thirty, not over
thirty-five nor under thirty.
Q. Were they all good milk cows?
Q. And you say who ever placed that number in the claim as 300, made a
Q. How did you know that your father had this gold and where it was hidden?
A. Well, I know it because
my father told me.
Q. Then you never saw this gold?
A. No, I never saw it.
Q. Then after leaving your father on August 5th, 1857 and his family you
never saw or heard of them directly after?
A. No, not until I heard
of them in the papers about Christmas time.
Q. Do you know what papers it was in?
Q. You being unable to read or write who was it if you remember that read of
this killing to you?
A. It was my husband.
Q. When were you married to your present husband, Mr. Thurston?
A. In February of 1859.
Q. Where at?
A. Out in the country 10
or 11 miles in San Joaquin County.
Q. When and where did your husband H. D. Scott die.
A. About two day's travel
from Salt Lake.
Q. Did he die a natural death?
A. No, the difficulties in
Q. Was he killed by some member of your own train?
Q. How many of those people that came into Salt Lake with you followed your
husband and your party of the outfit?
A. About eight or nine
persons. There were only two wagons besides ours, my husband and myself and
those two wagons had something like eight or nine with them--yes, I think
Q. And after your husband was killed did you continue on until you reached
Q. Who took charge of your wagons and outfit?
A. Well, there were four
men, one was R. D. Scott and Sam Martin.
Q. And you were all from Arkansas, were you not?
A. Yes, from the same
Q. And the most of those people who remained and went with your father and
his family from the South route were from Arkansas too were they?
A. Well yes--well there
were some of them that I knew and some that I did not know and they had to
make up companies there on account of the Indians.
Q. Do you know this man George Baker who assumed charge of the train in
which your father's train was a member of?
A. Yes, I knew him back
home, but I don't remember him as traveling with him [sic] but they drove up
with us in Salt Lake and left our train there and Baker, I knew before I
Q. Did you ever hear anyone in your train or in your father's train or with
Baker speak of John D. Lee?
A. No, I never heard his
Q. When that paper was read to you by your husband, Mr. Thurston, did it say
who was responsible for the killing of your father and his family?
A. No, I do not remember,
it didn't say who nor how nor very much about it in the paper. They were
left on the plains.
Q. It didn't say whether it was the Mormons who killed them or the Indians,
Q. It did not say who killed your parents and their families and took their
A. I don't know.
Q. The same knowledge that you now have you in possession of on October
15th, 1877, when you filed a petition in congress?
A. Yes, I can remember
just the same.
Q. And you have no other evidence of what took place after leaving Salt Lake
with your father or his outfit than you had at that time, have?
A. Only by history.
Q. And the same evidence was in existence when you filed your petition in
the Senate on December 18, 1887 that is in existence today and you have no
more evidence today than you had then?
A. No, I could not have
Q. And the facts and all the facts that you now have in regard to this claim
you had when you filed your petition in the House of Representatives and of
the Senate of the United States, is that true?
A. They are all just the
Recross Examination by A. R.
Q. In preparing your petition for Congress did you furnish any evidence then
existing as to the value of the property?
A. I depended upon others.
Q. You knew that your people had lost their property and they had been
killed by someone and only by a matter of history?
Q. You thought that you had a claim against the United States for the
destruction of this property and you left this to others, did you not?
A. Yes, I had to leave it
to others with the description and value of the property.
Q. And the different descriptions in these matters have been caused by
different people taking them up. You being unable to read or write depended
upon others to do it for you, did you not?
A. Yes sir.
Malinda Thurston being
unable to write, made her mark in my presence, and I wrote her name at her
request and in her presence, and I hereby sign the same as a witness.
Elizabeth L. Buck
THURSTON v. U S, 232 U.S. 469 (1914)
232 U.S. 469
MALINDA THURSTON, Administratrix, Appt.,
UNITED STATES and Ute Indians.
Submitted December 22, 1913.
Decided February 24, 1914.
Messrs. Harry Peyton, F. Sprigg Perry, and
John W. Clark for appellant.
Assistant Attorney General Thompson for
Mr. Justice Van Devanter delivered the
opinion of the court:
This suit was begun in the
court of claims in 1892, under the Indian depredation act of March 3, 1891
(26 Stat. at L. 851, chap. 538, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 758), to recover
from the United States and the Ute Indians the value of certain personal
property alleged to have belonged to appellant's intestate, and to have been
taken and destroyed by members of the Ute tribe in 1857. It was also alleged
that the claim had been presented to, and was pending before, the House of
Representatives in 1877 and 1878. The allegations of the petition were
traversed, and a trial resulted in a judgment of dismissal for want of
jurisdiction, upon the ground that the claim accrued before July 1, 1865,
and had not been presented to Congress, or any officer authorized to inquire
into such claims, prior to the act of 1891, and so was not cognizable under
The facts disclosed in
the findings, and material to be noticed, are these: The depredation
occurred at Mountain Meadows, Utah, September 11, 1857, while the
appellant's intestate was en route, with an emigrant train, from Arkansas to
California, his life being taken at the time. In 1877 and again in 1878 one
of his daughters, on behalf of his heirs, presented to Congress a petition
praying that they be reimbursed for the property from the public treasury.
The petitions, as also the accompanying affidavits, represented that the
depredation was committed by Mormons acting under the direction of Brigham
Young, and contained no suggestion that it was in anywise chargeable to the
Ute Indians or to any Indians. In response to each of the petitions a bill
was introduced in the House of Representatives, reciting that the
depredation was committed by Mormons at the instance
of Brigham Young, and making an appropriation to reimburse the heirs as
prayed in the petition, but neither bill was passed, and the claim was not
otherwise recognized by Congress. In no other way or form was the claim
presented to or pending before any department of the government, or any of
its officers or agents, prior to the passage of the act of 1891.
Preliminarily, it is well to
observe that the court of claims has no general jurisdiction over claims
against the United States, and can take cognizance only of those which, by
the terms of some act of Congress, are committed to it. Johnson v. United
States, 40 S. L. ed. 529, 531, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 377.
Turning to the act of 1891 we
find that it is not couched in general terms, but, on the contrary,
carefully specifies what claims may be considered, and as carefully points
out some which it is intended shall not be considered. It is entitled, 'An
act to Provide for the Adjudication and Payment of Claims Arising from
Indian Depredations.' Its 1st section empowers the court to inquire into and
adjudicate, among others not material here, 'all claims for property of
citizens of the United States, taken or destroyed by Indians belonging to
any band, tribe, or nation in amity with the United States, without just
cause or provocation on the part of the owner or agent in charge, and not
returned or paid for.' And the 2d section declares:
'That all questions
of limitations as to time and manner of presenting claims are hereby
waived, and no claim shall be excluded from the jurisdiction of the court
because not heretofore presented to the Secretary of the Interior or other
officer or department of the government: Provided, That no claim accruing
prior to July first, eighteen hundred and sixty-five, shall be considered
by the court unless the claim shall be allowed or has been or is pending,
prior to the passage of this act, before the Secretary of the Interior or
the Congress of the United States, or before any
superintendent, agent, subagent, or commissioner, authorized under any act
of Congress to inquire into such claims; but no case shall be considered
pending unless evidence has been presented therein: . . .'
Assuming, without so
deciding, that the clause quoted from the first section, if not otherwise
restrained, is broad enough to embrace the present claim, notwithstanding
some of its particulars not here noticed, we come to consider whether it is
within the restrictive clause in the 2d section, declaring that no claim
accruing prior to July 1, 1865, shall be considered unless it was allowed or
was pending prior to the passage of the act. To a better understanding of
this clause and the preceding one in the same section it is well to recall
that there was an existing limitation of time upon the prosecution of claims
against the government ( Rev. Stat. 1069, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 740,
and that there had been and were then various statutory and treaty
provisions regulating the manner of presenting claims for Indian
depredations, by whom they were to be examined, and the evidence required to
sustain them. 4 Stat. at L. 731, chap. 161, 17; 11 Stat. at L. 401, chap.
66, 8; 12 Stat. at L. 120, Res. No. 26; 16 Stat. at L. 360, chap. 296, 4; 17
Stat. at L. 190, chap. 233, 7, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 254; Rev. Stat.
466, 2098, 2156, 2157, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 264; 23 Stat. at L. 376,
chap. 341; 13 Stat. at L. 674, art. 6; 15 Stat. at L. 620, arts. 5 and 6.
Both clauses must be read in the light of those limitations and provisions,
and when this is done, it is apparent that Congress, while disposed to be
very liberal inwaiving prior restrictions upon the time and mode of
presenting such claims, deemed it unwise to open the door so wide in respect
of claims accruing prior to July 1, 1865, and therefore declared that the
court should not consider them, save where they had been allowed or had been
pending prior to the passage of the act.
The present claim
accrued in 1857, was never allowed, and was not a pending claim before the
date of the act; unless it can be said that it was
pending before Congress in 1877 and 1878. We think this cannot properly be
said. The claim to which the attention of Congress was invited in those
years was not for an act of depredation by Indians, but, as was stated in
the petitions and accompanying affidavits and in the bills introduced in
response thereto, was for a depredation by Mormons. No one could understand
from the petitions and affidavits or from the bills that there was any
purpose to claim indemnity from the government on the ground that the
depredation was committed by its Indian wards, or to obtain reparation from
the latter through the exertion of the government's control over them.
Rightly speaking, it was merely an appeal to the bounty or generosity of
Congress, and probably was so regarded by the latter. At all events it was
not an assertion or presentation of the claim which is the subject of this
suit, for the latter is for an act of depredation by Indians, not by
Mormons. We are accordingly of opinion that the claim is one jurisdiction of
which is expressly withheld from the Court of Claims by the act of 1891.