Correcting the record: Silver Lake history

By Friends & Neighbors September 1, 2017 15:39

Editor’s note: Two FAN readers, Mavis Sare and Frank Tortorich, cited a historical inaccuracy in our Summer 2017 issue about who killed three men in 1848 near Silver Lake (“A day at the lake,” page 14). Mr. Tortorich sent this letter to the editor:


Dear Ms. Hopkins,

My friend Mavis Sare alerted me to a short article in your latest issue regarding the event at Tragedy Spring.

I have been researching the Carson River Route of the California Emigrant Trail for over 40 years. I’m a student of the Mormon Battalion and the Mormon Migration. I am the author of two books on the Carson route and one on Snowshoe Thompson. I have researched and written numerous articles on the subject and specifically the Tragedy Spring killing of the three men.

Over the years I have seen and heard numerous stories regarding who did it and most of them do not hold up under careful research and study. I have not found any primary source documentation to support any but one version of the event.

Based on my years of research I have found two very important primary source documents that do support that it was Indians who did in fact kill those three men.

William Henry Bigler was one of the eye witnesses when the grave was found and their dead Brethren unearth. Bigler’s diary goes on to tell about the numerous bloody arrows and a nearby Indian Lodge. Bigler does go on in detail about their discovery, including a gold pouch found nearby belonging to Brother Allen, still full of gold.

Azariah Smith was the other journalist in the same party with Bigler and his accounting is equally as compelling. Smith goes on to describe some in their party seeing “Indians with clothing on which resembled those of Brothers Browett, Allen and Cox.”

I could go on about this subject but I think you get my point.

All scholars whom I have had the good fortune to work with over the years subscribe to the fact that it was the Indians who did kill the three men.

Now all that being said, if someone has found other primary source documents that tell a different story, I will be excited to read and study those documents.

I also have never come across the term “The Massacre of Tragedy Spring.”

Mavis makes a good point at submitting a retraction and telling the story correctly.

My very best,



By Friends & Neighbors September 1, 2017 15:39
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