Returning to Washington County, he filed a land certificate for a 160-acre townsite at the spring and lived part time in a dugout while he built up his ranch, according to Nicky Leach, author of Pipe Spring National Monument; An Ancient Oasis on a Storied Frontier.
He had fenced 11 acres, planted grapevines, apple and peach trees, and, according to James G. Bleak, clerk of the Southern Utah Mission, (Annals of the Southern Mission) was milking up to 50 cows daily by 1865, when deteriorating relations with Indian neighbors forced Strip ranchers to abandon individual holdings and move to fortified settlements.
Technically, Washington County exceeded its authority in giving the land certificate to Whitmore because Pipe Spring was in Arizona, 10 miles south of the Utah line, which, however, had not been surveyed, so Whitmore’s activities would establish a squatter claim that could be commuted into a homestead if and when need arose, according to David Lavender, author of Pipe Spring; The History of Arizona’s National Monument.
Whitmore was born in Tennessee and for a time ran cattle in Texas. In the mid 1850s, he and his wife, Elizabeth and their two smaller children converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They apparently drove 500 cattle with them as they joined a wagon train headed for Salt Lake City. They remained there, until they were called by LDS Church leaders, during October general conference in 1861 to move to Utah’s Dixie. Whitmore may have been included because he was a doctor, Lavender states.
As the group moved south, Whitmore was chosen as part of a six-person scouting party led by Apostles George A. Smith and Erastus Snow to search for tillable lands as far up the Virgin River as what is now Zion National Park.
Because the St. George area was not a good cattle range, Whitmore, among other stockmen began searching south toward the Grand Canyon and east beyond the Hurricane Cliffs for pasture land, Lavender writes.
In 1862, William Maxwell built a ranch at Short Creek (now Colorado City) near the Vermillion Cliffs. Meanwhile, John and William Berry of Kanarraville, discovered Long Valley along the East Fork of the Virgin River where they would eventually establish Berryville.
In mid-December 1865, Whitmore and Mormon leader Jacob Hamblin made a week-long trip to meet with Southern Paiutes living near the Muddy and Virgin Rivers in southeastern Nevada to help calm hostilities between the Indians and Mormon settlers, and returned thinking their mission was a success, Lavender states, quoting from Jacob Hamblin; Peacemaker by Pearson Corbett.
Returning to St. George, Whitmore learned that either Navajos or disenchanted Southern Paiutes had stolen some horses from the new settlement of Kanab on Dec. 18, 1865. There were also reports of Navajo livestock raids on Pipe Spring.
Shortly after Christmas, Whitmore left his wife and new baby, their sixth child, and with his oldest son, James, Jr., 11, and brother-in-law Robert McIntyre, rode to the dugout at Pipe Spring to check on his ranch. His family would never see him alive again, Lavender writes.
Late on Monday, Jan. 8, 1866, during a light snow storm, Indian raiders made off with a herd of sheep that the Whitmores and McIntyres had rounded up and penned near the dugout for safekeeping. While young James waited anxiously at the Pipe Spring fort, Whitmore and McIntyre went out into the snow looking for stolen animals, according to Leach.
When Whitmore and his hired man left the herd house Whitmore had on his overcoat and carried in his pocket two twenty dollar gold pieces, according to Peter Gottfredson, who compiled and edited “History of Indian Depradations in Utah” in 1919. The Indians secured the men’s clothing, but not knowing the value of money, the gold pieces were later recovered.
When they failed to return, the boy starting walking toward Maxwell Ranch, 25 miles away. About 10 miles on his journey, he met some riders headed for Kanab and reported his father and uncle missing. Instead of heading on to the Pipe Spring dugout, the men returned to Short Creek and informed Maxwell, a major in the Iron Military District, Utah Territorial Militia, that Whitmore and McIntyre were missing, Lavender writes.
Maxwell raised 31 volunteers under the command of David H. Cannon, and headed to Pipe Spring. As his force appeared inadequate, he sent an appeal from Pipe Spring for additional support. D.D. McArthur came from St. George to take charge and brought with him 47 men under James Andrus with wagons and supplies for an extended trip designed to drive the Navajos across the Colorado River, according to Angus M. Woodbury, author of A History of Southern Utah and its National Parks.
When they arrived at Pipe Spring, the snow was two feet deep and no trace of the sheep or men could be found. On Jan. 18, they came upon the tracks of two Paiute Indians following a large steer, tracked them until sundown, and captured the Indians in the act of killing the beef.
They later surprised five others holding stolen personal articles, the local militia, which included two of McIntyre’s brothers, was in no mood to believe Paiute protestations that they simply traded with Navajo raiders for these articles, Leach states. Frontier justice was swiftly and brutally meted out.
Meanwhile, based on information from the captives, both bodies had bullet wounds and were riddled with arrows. They had been killed on Jan. 10, Woodbury states. The bodies were taken back to St. George were they were buried.
Earlier reports of Navajos raiding the area and contemporary accounts by other Paiutes backing up their unfortunate relatives’ stories seems to indicate that Navajo raiders were probably responsible for the killings, but no one will ever know the full story, Leach states.
In April 1866, the bodies of Joseph and Robert Berry and Robert’s wife Isabel were found at Short Creek, apparently a revenge killing by Southern Paiutes. Some men who were hunting stock had found them and taken them to Grafton where they were buried, according to Gottfredson.
Yet that same year, in Kanab and Long Valley, Kaibab Paiutes agreed to watch Mormon fields while the owners retreated to more easily defended settlements. These mutually beneficial relationships aided both sides, but not for long.
As their settlements grew stronger, 19th century Mormons dealt with their growing Paiute “problem” by using a combination of charity and punishment that did nothing to change the underlying situation, Leach writes.