Massacre at Sand Creek

by chuckofish

Today is the 148th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado.

You can read about it here. It is a sad episode in American history, in which our family played a small part. Our great-great grandmother’s brother, John Wesley Prowers, a southern Colorado cattleman credited with bringing the first Hereford breeds into the territory, was 26 at the time, a married man with two daughters, Susan and Mary.

He’s a lot older here, but you get the idea.

His wife, Amache Ochinee, was a full-blooded Cheyenne Indian, the daughter of one of Black Kettle’s sub-chiefs, One Eye. In 1864 Chief One Eye had negotiated a truce between the Cheyenne and Arapaho and the U.S. government. According to the truce the Cheyenne were guaranteed a safe camping area for the winter at their reservation along Sand Creek. But on the morning of November 28 soldiers from the Colorado First Volunteer Calvary rode onto the Prowers ranch and held the Prowers family and seven cow-hands hostage, under house arrest. Early the next morning at the camp along Sand Creek, Colonel John Chivington ordered his regiment to attack the Indians despite the fact that an American flag flew over their camp. The massacre claimed the lives of 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho. Among the dead was Chief One Eye, John Prowers father-in-law. John Prowers was later called by the government to testify at the investigation held at Fort Lyon.

Kit Carson, a close family friend of the Houghs and the Prowers, had this to say about the terrible events:

Jis to think of that dog Chivington and his dirty hounds, up thar at Sand Creek. His men shot down squaws, and blew the brains out of little innocent children. You call sich soldiers Christians, do ye? And Indians savages? What der yer ‘spose our Heavenly Father, who made both them and us, thinks of these things? I tell you what, I don’t like a hostile red skin any more than you do. And when they are hostile, I’ve fought ’em, hard as any man. But I never yet drew a bead on a squaw or papoose, and I despise the man who would.

Old Kit describes it pretty succinctly I’d say.

In an attempt to make reparations to the Indians, the U.S. government gave a 640-acre parcel of land to each of the survivors. Amache, her mother and the Prowers’ two oldest daughters were each given tracts along the Arkansas River, on which, along with other Cheyenne lands, John Prowers ran his cattle. The young Cheyenne dog soldiers who terrorized the countryside following the Massacre, left the Prowers alone.

I am happy to know that my ancestors were the “good guys” and not on the side of that dog, Chivington. Years later, Amache attended a meeting of the Eastern Star in Denver and someone brought Colonel Chivington over to meet her and asked, “Mrs. Prowers, do you know Colonel Chivington?” Ignoring his outstretched hand, she looked him straight in the eye, “Know Colonel Chivington? I should. He murdered my father.”

John and Amache Prowers had nine children. All those who lived to adulthood went to college. John died in 1884 at the age of 46 and a few years later when a new county was created by the Colorado General Assembly, they named it after the great cattleman.