January 18, 2010

Decker Children, (Parents: Zachariah Bruyn, Jr. and Emma Seraphine Smith)

Zachariah Nathaniel,
Louis Addison,
Emma Constance,
Inez Gertrude,
Jesse Moroni

Ron McDonald includes this story in his book: Fort Montezuma 1879-1884: An account of the first Mormon settlers in San Juan County, Utah.
It was written by two of sons, Nathaniel and Louis:
"Zechariah B. Decker Jr., a Hole-in- the-Rock pioneer, settled at Montezuma in 1880 with his
wife Emma Saraphine, and five children: Zechariah eight, Louis six, Emma four, Inez three, and Jesse, ten months. When they arrived at Montezuma Zechariah was thirty, and Saraphine was twenty-seven.

Zack’s two sons, Nathaniel and Louis recorded the following stories, told in the book (Zechariah B. Decker, Indian Fighter, Pioneer, Gun Slinger, Bishop) by great-grandson, Calvin Decker. With his permission, we have borrowed from his book to provide a shortened version of both stories.

Four outlaw Indians had stolen a mare from Zack. He found them in possession of it and relieved them of the animal. This aroused their resentment and they sought revenge. One Sunday morning, Zack hitched a team to a wagon with running gear only, and took the four older children to Sunday school, which was two miles down the wash at the Montezuma Fort. He left his wife and baby home. Zack had the running gear of the wagon only, because the box from the wagon was part of the cabin at the time. As they exited the fort following Sunday school, Zack saw two Indians riding fast toward their ranch.

He put the children on the hind hounds of the wagon and told them to hold on tight. Standing on the
front bolsters to hold the king bolt, Zack whipped the horses, and away they flew for home, hoping to
get there before the Indians. The horses moved with great haste, but the Indians were faster. When
Zack reached the house, he jumped off, leaving both team and children panting in the yard. He ran
into the house, past Saraphine, who was arguing with the two Indians, to the back of the room where
he jerked his revolver from a peg on the wall. He then turned and faced the Indians and asked them to
leave and not return.

The Indians said they had come for the mare. Zack told them if they had to have her, they would have
to try to get her. The Indians mounted their horses and rode to the corral down by the wash, but when they arrived, Zack had beat them their on foot. The Indians reluctantly left without the mare.

During the night Zack woke Saraphine and told her he had just had a dream that the Indians were
stealing his horses. He felt it was a warning revelation that couldn’t be ignored. Saraphine tried to
protest as he got dressed to leave. He told her not to worry; the same power that warned him would
protect him. It was dark, but Zack was able to saddle the horse he kept near the house. He left it there
while he rode a mule a short distance to his father’s cabin. His father said four Indians had camped
near there, and Zack asked him to watch Saraphine until he returned.
Zack knew the Indians would be trying to get the stolen horses across the San Juan River before
sunrise. As it began to get light he was able to pick up their tracks. He was pleased to see there was a cow among them, because he knew that would slow them down. He
tracked them several miles to the San Juan River, probably down river a few miles from the fort. The
Indians were not expecting anyone that early, and Zack caught them by surprise. They had corralled
the stolen horses in a natural crevice in the rock wall on the north side of the river, and held them there
with a long willow pole across the opening.

Two Indians were butchering the cow. A third man was cutting the hide in strips so they could tie
driftwood logs together to make a raft for moving the beef across the river. A fourth Indian was on his
horse standing guard. There were other Indians waiting on the south side of the river, and they saw
Zack first and raised the alarm, which distracted the Indians on the north bank long enough for Zack to
get the jump on them.

The startled guard couldn’t believe that one lone white man would attack them. With a show of
bravado, he waved at his companions and exclaimed “There four of us!” Zack waved his pistol in the
Indian’s face and calmly replied, “Yes, and there are six of us” The Indians realized they had been
caught with the stolen beef, and offered Zack some if he wouldn’t tell the Indian Agent. Zack refused.
The beef was not his. He didn’t know whom it belonged to. Zack ordered an Indian to move the
willow pole and release his horses. With a quick look across the river, he saw several Indians running
to catch their horses to come after him. He would have to hurry. He ordered the captive Indian on his
horse to ride in front of him, and soon the horses were on the run for the ranch.

After traveling some distance, the Indian asked what was going to happen to him, and was told he
would be turned over to the Indian Agent. That frightened the Indian, and he told Zack he could kill
him, but he would go no further. At that point, Zack had compassion on the terrified Indian and told
him he would let him go if he would promise to tell the Indian agent about the cow he had stolen. The
Indian agreed, and was set free to join his friends who were in hot pursuit. Zack’s horse was becoming
jaded, so he roped his stallion, not taking time to change saddle or bridle. He fashioned a nose loop
and jumped on the stallion bare back and outran the Indians.

Later, Zack was telling a rancher, Billy Gunn, about the incident. Gunn commented, “That accounts
for the $20 government check I received!” Apparently the Indian had confessed to the agent, and the government had reimbursed the rancher for his cow. Zack was quoted as saying “Had I not gone to San Juan, I never would have learned that Indians are honorable if you treat them right, and I have learned to love them. They steal, and so do white men.”

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