This article originally appeared in History of Utah Vol.4.
by Orson F. Whitney
This veteran will be remembered for four main facts in his history:
- His associations with the Prophet Joseph Smith;
- His membership in the mormon battalion;
- His early and long continued service as an Indian interpreters and;
- His connection with“ Dimick’s Band,” one of the earliest musical organizations in Utah.
He was an honest, true-hearted man, who faithfully performed his duty in every position assigned him. The son of William and Zina Baker Huntington, Dimick Baker Huntington was born May 26, 1808, at Watertown, Jefferson county, New York. There he passed his early boyhood. He had a martial spirit and delighted in “playing soldier” and training the lads of his neighborhood. His father was a well-to-do farmer and gave his son a good common school education.
When eleven years of age he was disabled for farm work by lameness, resulting from a fever, in consequence of which he took to traveling as a peddler and tinker to earn his livelihood. He afterwards learned shoemaking and blacksmithing, the latter after living on the frontier. On April 28, 1830, he married, his wife’s maiden name being Fanny Maria Allen. She became the mother of seven children.
In 1835 Dimick B. Huntington joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in May of the next year moved to Kirtland, Ohio. The following summer found him in Missouri, where he passed through all the troubles that arose between the Missourians and the Mormon settlers. He was constable at Far West, and a brave and efficient officer. On one occasion ho stepped between the Prophet Joseph Smith and a club that was raised to strike him. He would have died for his leader at any time, and as long as Joseph lived he was one of his most faithful friends. At Nauvoo he held various offices in the city government, and was one of those arrested with the Prophet for the abatement of the paper known as the “Expositor.” After the murder of Joseph and Hyrum and the return of the dead bodies from Carthage, he was one of those who bore the remains of the martyrs to their earthly resting place.
He left Nauvoo in the exodus of February, 1846, pursued by military officers, and was obliged to separate himself from his family temporarily in order to escape. He proceeded to the Missouri river, where in July he enlisted as a member of the famous Battalion. He was in Company “D,” commanded by Captain Nelson Higgins, and besides performing the ordinary duties of a soldier, served his comrades in the capacity of blacksmith. At Santa Fe he was detached with others from the main command, and sent to Pueblo, his family being with him. A child was bom to him at that place, January 1st, 1847; an Indian squaw acting as midwife. He started with Captain Brown for California on May 24th of that year, but only got as far as Salt Lake valley, the Battalion’s term of enlistment having expired. He entered the valley twenty-one days after the Pioneers. Says he:
“Through all my travels in the Battalion, to Pueblo, back to Laramie and on to Salt Lake valley, I carried in my wagon a bushel of wheat, and during the winter of ’47 slept with it under my bed, keeping it for seed. For three months my family tasted no bread. We dug thistle roots and other native growths and had some poor beef, with a little milk, but no butter. Early in the spring of ’48 I rode one hundred and fifteen miles to Fort Bridger and bought a quart of little potatoes about the size of pigeon eggs, at twenty-five cents each. From these I raised that year about a bushel of potatoes, but ate none of them. I planted them in 1849 and have had plenty of potatoes ever since.”
Mr. Huntington first lived in the “Old Fort,” but in 1849 went to Provo and in 1850 to Sanpete to help establish colonies in those placos, being chosen for this task because of his qualifications as an Indian interpreter, and because recognized by the red men as their friend. He learned to talk in the Indian tongue soon after his arrival in the mountains, and this, he says, was in fulfillment of a promise made to him by the Prophet Joseph at Quincy, Illinois, in 1839. He was Utah’s first Indian interpreter and his presence was necessary at all meetings between the settlers and the savages.
He was in the first fight with the Indians at Battle Creek, March 5, 1849, and at the beginning of the action took command, in the absence of the colonel. He was also in the Indian fight at Provo, with his two sons, Allen and Lot. He accompanied Parley Pratt’s exploring expedition to Iron county in 1850, and in 1853, at the close of the Walker war, was sent by Governor Young, superintendent of Indian affairs, to arrange a treaty of peace with that turbulent chieftain. Says Mr. Huntington:
“While in conversation with the chief in his tent, he called me to the door and directed my attention to two braves who were driving an Indian prisoner before them. I asked, ‘What are they going to do?’ ‘Watch,’ he said, and in a moment or two they shot the prisoner, as a part of the traditional rites of the treaty. Walker remained peaceable until his death, and I was present at his burial, which was attended with all the traditional and superstitious observances. A consultation was held among the braves as to whether one of the chief’s wives should be killed and sent to the happy hunting grounds along with him, but it was finally decided that a male Piute prisoner should accompany him. Accordingly the prisoner was buried with the chief—buried alive, but only to his shoulders, and left to die at the will of ‘Shinob’ (God). I acted as master of ceremonies at a grand treaty between the Utes and Shoshones at Salt Lake City in 1854, and fed both tribes at my table. That treaty was never broken.”
When not among the Indians, trading and interpreting, Mr. Huntington pursued the vocation of blacksmith, doing work of that description for both whites and reds. He was a great lover of martial music and did much to promote its cultivation in the various settlements. He made drums, founded musical schools, and was drum-major of tho old- time martial band, named in his honor, “Dimick’s Band;” his own pride and glory, and the delight of every urchin in Salt Lake valley.
Dimick B. Huntington was the husband of two wives and the father of nine children. He was own brother to the late Zina D. H. Young, of Salt Lake City, and to Oliver Huntington, Esq., who still lives at Springville. In the Church he held the offices of Elder and High Priest, to the first of which he was ordained at Kirtland, and to the latter at Salt Lake City. For many years and up to the time of his death—February 1, 1879—he was a Patriarch of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in