Remembering Our Ancestors
This is a small known part of the history of a woman named Seccunup. Born to the Timpanogos people, daughter of Chief Aeropeen and Cyagup – estimated 1845 year of birth to 1884. She was renamed Pernetta Sweet Murdock as a young girl living among the Mormons.
March of 1849 – Brigham Young assigned thirty families, one hundred and fifty people in total, to settle in the Timpanogos territory where Seccunup lived with her people. A few months after Brigham Young sent the settlers he said, ¨the old indians will not enter into the new and everlasting covenant or gain knowledge, but they will die and be damned¨.
January of 1850 – Old Bishop, a member of the Timpanogos people, was killed by three of the Mormon settlers. Their names were Rufus Stoddard, Richard Ivie, and Gerome Zabrisky. They shot Old Bishop, cut his stomach open, filled it with rocks, and dumped him into the Provo River. When they returned to their settlement they bragged about it. The Timpanogos went to find Old Bishop’s body and were angry when they saw what had been done to him. They wanted murderers punished, but were denied.
Later that same month, on January 31, Brigham Young held a meeting with his counselors, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the militia commander Daniel H. Wells. During this meeting Apostle Parley P. Pratt stated, ¨It best to kill the Indians¨. Willard Richards added, ¨My voice is for war, and exterminate them.¨ Brigham Young proceeded to order an extermination campaign against the Timpanogos people. Young said, ¨We have no peace until the men are killed off – never treat the indian as your equal.¨ Young ordered that all the men were to be killed, and let the women and children live if they ¨behave themselves¨.
February 8, 1850, The Nauvoo Legion went to battle.
February 10, 1850, Brigham Young said, ¨I am sent now to confiscate all their property – and then put them in the heat of battle and kill them.¨ After these events – when disagreements arose between Indigenous peoples and the Mormon settlers – it became practice to follow up with the Mormon Militia and more killings of the Native American peoples.
Timpanogos men, women, and children were all killed during this war upon Indigenous people. After the killings Dr. James Blake with the help of two militiamen decapitated the dead and used the bodies for research. The decapitated heads were sent to Fort Utah and hung on display in front of the prisoners. In the history of the massacre the following is recorded, ¨One eyewitness witnessed Big Elk’s head hanging up in Fort Utah. In an interview conducted years later, Jane Park recalled seeing his head “hung pendant by its long hair from the willows of the roof of one of the houses.” As for the Utes massacred at Table Point, both Abner Blackburn and Anna Clark Hale substantiated the fact that the Indians’ bodies had been mutilated and their heads brought back to Fort Utah. “I can never forget,” Hale remembered, “the horrible and frightening scene when the boys brought into the Fort a number of Indian heads with their nasty bloody necks and their tongues sticking out of their mouths. It was awful.” It is worth noting that the heads that were on display in front prisoners, the prisoners were predominantly the women and children of the Timpanogos who had survived. These were the heads of their family members being put on display.
The prisoners were eventually placed in Mormon families to be servants. This was done to keep the Timpanogos survivors from their ¨savage pursuits, and bringing them up in the habits of civilized and Christian life”. Most survivors died or escaped.
Seccunup was very young at this time, around five years of age. She and another male child were taken by the Mormon Militia when her people’s Walkara camp was attacked, they were then sold by Orrin Porter Rockwell to a Mormon family by the name of Murdock. The Murdocks paid two oxen for her and the young boy. On the Blackhawk War history website, ¨Mary Meyer is the Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation and related the following story of her great-great-grandfather Joseph Stacey Murdock who was the first Bishop of Heber city. Joseph raised two Timpanogos Indian children, one by the name of Pernetta who he had taken from Fort Utah following the battle there. Pernetta was the daughter of Chief Arropean, and was about 5 or 6 years of age when Joseph took her away with him to Heber and raised her to adulthood. At the same time a Timpanogos boy of the same age lay clinging to bloody remains of his mother. His name was Pick (short for Supickets). He was taken and put in a wagon with his sister. He was raised with Pernetta and was told that Pernetta was his sister. But Pick always said she was not the same sister as the one in the wagon.¨
In a Murdock family journal it states, ¨Grandfather (Joseph S. Murdock) called him ¨Traveling Port,¨ he (Rockwell) told Joseph S. Murdock that the children had been stolen in one of the raids…¨ In a second Murdock family record it adds, ¨Joseph feared what might happen to the children if he did not take them, but greater than his fear for their lives was his love for the children.¨ Joseph S. Murdock gave the children to his first wife Eunice. Eunice gave Seccunup the name Pernetta, which had been Enuice´s grandmother’s name, and the boy was called Albert Supickets Murdock. Joseph wrote in his journal, ¨The boy was just shedding his baby teeth, and the girl was about a year younger still.¨ Eunice loved the children as her own.
The Murdock family journals convey the kindness that the children experienced in the Murdock home. Especially from Eunice, who was very loving to both the Timpanogos children. One journal states, ¨During her childhood Pernetta was taught to read and write by her mother Eunice, along with Picket (Albert Supickets) and many of Joseph Stacy Murdock´s children by his other three wives. Latter ¨Pernetta had grown into a beautiful young woman, well educated and refined. A young Indian man became attracted to her and both Eunice and Joseph were concerned that she might be lured away from both family and the church by him. Joseph went to his friend Brigham Young and asked for his counsel and guidance. Brigham listened closely and then to Joseph‘s shock and dismay, he advised Joseph to marry Pernetta.¨ Brigham Young prophcied to Joseph that ¨Pernetta would give him a fine family which would be an honor to his name and that the marriage would also promote an even closer bond between Joseph and his Lamanite brothers. On June 26, 1859 Joseph and Pernetta were married in the Endowment House by Brigham Young. Pernetta was the first Lamanite to enter into the Temple in this dispensation according to a history seen and read by Luann Murdock.¨ When Pernetta married her adopted father she became his fourth and youngest wife.
Pernetta was 13 or 14 years old at the time of the marriage. On the Timpanogos Tribe website, on the ancestry page, it states, ¨When she was around 13 Joseph Stacey married her.¨ Joseph S. Murdock was 37 years old at the time of marriage. A History by Amelia Brittingham Murdock Witt states, ¨Many time the girl´s heart was made to ache but Joseph was just a man and he tried so hard to see that she wasn’t bad hurt knowing too well what she was up against.¨ Pernetta went on to have five children. Her first child, named Benjamine Sweet Murdock, died around four months of age and was buried in the old American Fork Cemetery. Pernetta´s second child was a little girl she named Betsy Eunice Murdock. Next was her son Albert Alma, then Edward Teancum, and last Franklin Judson.
Throughout this early period of her life, as she had children, the crops were failing and food was scarce. In the History of Pernetta Sweet Murdock it states, ¨Pernetta searched along the rocky hillsides for sego roots while Elizabeth (Joseph´s second wife) had to grind moldy grain to make bran for their mush. Starvation seemed to be a real threat, but their faith and pioneer courage kept them going. Joseph remembered where a deer had been killed several months earlier and he went to that place and searched in the snow until he uncovered the hide. He took it home, singed the hair from it and cut the hide into inch wide strips, which were them cut into small pieces. Pernetta boiled their empty four sack to make a thin broth and then added the pieces of hide. Elizibeth set their poor table with the best dishes she had and filled a large serving bowl with the ¨glue soup¨ made from deer hide. Neighbors who had even less than they had were invited in for Christmas dinner. Joseph blessed their food and gave thanks to God, saying how lucky they were to have such a fine meal when there were others who had nothing for Christmas. In December of 1870 a message came from Brigham Young advising the, to abandon the mission as quickly as possible. As they were leaving the children sang a song which told, ¨Of sego roots and glue soup, we´ve had enough to eat, and we’d like to change our diet, to buckwheat cakes and meat! Pernetta and Elizibeth gave up the little orchard and vineyard they had labored so hard carrying water to, just as they were becoming mature enough to bear fruit. They simply closed their doors, turned their backs, and walked away. They were headed home to Heber City.¨
In Heber City Pernetta gave birth to her last two children. She settled into life – providing for and raising her children, ¨Pernetta and many of the women would gather hops along the river. They would take their sacks and a little lunch and be off real early. They would gather hops until their sacks were full then walk home. They would spread the hops on clean sheets on the upstairs floor to dry. When they were dry they would take them to Mark Jeff´s store and he would send them to Salt Lake to the Brewery to put in the beer. They could earn a little extra money from the sale of the hops. They saved scraps of cloth that were too small or not fit for quilts, rugs, or carpet rags. They sold them for making paper bags. They were thrifty women and earned extra money by washing or cleaning or helping others.¨
In the Sketch of Aunt Pernetta is the following: ¨Pernetta, full blood Ute wife of Joseph S. Murdock was held in great esteem and as a favored member of the tribe. Boy Chief Tabby and the members of the Ute Band, many other meetings took place at Pernetta Murdock´s home. It was made a rest haven for many tired Indians and their stock – moving to the new homes on the reservation. Pernetta remained a favored member of her tribe until her death.¨ Pernetta was in a position to help her people the Timpanogos as they experienced continuous trauma, loss of lands and lives, and relocation.
Pernetta Sweet Murdock died at the age of 39 or 40, in Heber City on November 18, 1884. Joseph Murdock´s second wife Eliza raised Pernetta´s children and cared for them as if they were her own. She was greatly loved in her Mormon family, and was a favorite Aunt of all the children.
Pernetta´s great great great granddaughter recently expressed, ¨It has been such an exciting experience to learn more about my great great great grandmother. I have felt a closeness to her by reading letters that my father kept all these years. She must have been a brave and strong woman to endure the choices that were made for her. I can’t even imagine the emotional turmoil that came from being someone’s adopted daughter to being his wife. I like to think that my endurance is a gift that has been passed down from her. In times of struggle I know she did the best she could and has set an example for those that followed, like me.¨ Ann Bonner, daughter of the late Bertell Murdock Bonner.
This is written in dedication to the memory of Seccunup, known as Pernetta Sweet Murdock, for her bravery during a time in which her people experienced great trauma. Even now she is an inspiration to others, just as when she lived. We are honored to know her story, and through her the experience of the Timpanogos people.
(It means, I don’t speak your language, and you don’t speak mine. But I still understand you. I don’t need to walk in your footsteps if I can see the footprints you left behind. Rose Christo)
It is worth noting that there are multiple records about Pernetta which differ slightly. Having been in contact with one great granddaughter, and using quotes from additional family I thought it important to respect family narratives and indigenous history. The history of indigenous peoples have been told by those who colonized the lands, and not by indigenous people themselves. History therefore often paints a much different picture of who the indigenous people were. This history of Pernetta has been told from the Timpanogos point of view.
History is often subjective. I think it is important to consider many view points and obtain as much information as possible when considering history. Here are the differences:
1- Orrin Porter Rockwell told the Murdock family that the children were bought from an Indian who had captured them and was selling them. Rockwell said the two children were tied upside down by their feet, hurt and bleeding, and that was the reason given for the terrible state the children were in when they were sold to the Murdocks. Rockwell said that if he did not buy the children from the Indian that they would have be killed. Once the children were in the care of Rockwell he sold the children to the Murdocks.
2- The Timpanogos history says Pernetta and Albert Supickets were taken during attacks by the Mormon Militia on the Timpanogos settlements. Supickets was pulled of the body of his dead mother and put into a wagon. His younger sister was also in the wagon. They were separated, and he was sold to the Murdocks with Pernetta and told Pernetta was his sister. Albert Supickets Murdock always maintained that Pernetta was not the same sister as the one on the wagon, and that he and Pernetta were unrelated. Supickets own memory of being pulled of his mother and put in a wagon directly conflicts with an Indian capturing him to sell.
In either case – the Murdocks saw children in need and took them in. Eunice was unable to have children of her own and did love them as her own. In the Murdock journals much is written about the children being cherished and loved by the family.
3- The last discrepancy is of the age of Pernetta at the time of marriage. The Murdock journals record her as being ¨around 16 years¨. The Timpanogos records place Pernetta at ¨13 years¨ of age at the time. From all the records I gathered on specific dates I would put her around 14, but this is only a guess.
It is impossible to know which records are completely accurate. However it is completely evident that those were traumatizing times for the Timpanogos people.
Hopper, Clixie M., Great Granddaughter of Pernetta, History of Pernetta Sweet Murdock, Murdock Family Records, In Print. 8 November, 2018.
Murdock Witt, Millie, Sketch of Aunt Pernetta or Nettie Murdock, Murdock Family Records, In Print. 8 November 2018.
Timpanogos Tribe, Our Timpanogos Ancestors, Timpanogos Tribe Website. 8 November, 2018.
Utah Department of Heritage and Arts. UHQ 1978 – Volume 46 Number 3 – Open Hand and Mailed Fist. Web. 8 November 2018.
Gottfredson, Phillip, The Story of Timpanogos Leader Black Hawk. The Black Hawk War; Utah´s Native American History. Web. 8 November 2018.
Johnson, Brandon. Massacre At Table Point. Utah Humanities, The Beehive Archive. Web. 8 November 2018.
Duncan, Clifford. Utah’s Native Americans, Chapter 5. Utah Government Website, History To Go. Web. 8 November 2018.
Additional sources available for those interested in the history.
Conetah, Fred A. A History of the Northern Ute People (book)
Farmer, Jared. On Zion’s Mount (book)
Robert, Carter. Founding Fort Utah (book)