Coun. then arose to give a report of his mission to the West. Their mission was to the Seneca Indians. They proceeded about five hundred miles up the and there met , from him they learned that was dead. They tarried five days with the Stockbridge tribe. This tribe expressed great kindness towards them and the Mormons. They have considerable knowledge of the Mormons and of what is going on among us. Their interests seem to be identified with ours. From they learned that the Cherokees had given permission for any number of our people to settle by them, and offered to lend us any assistance they could either to locate or to go West to explore. Brother [George] Herring has been with several tribes and says [p. ]
Willard Richards noted in his journal that Spencer told him on 1 September that Dunham had “died about 5 weeks ago—with a fever,” placing his death around the latter part of July. William Clayton also recorded that Spencer told him that Dunham “died of a fever.” In his own journal Spencer provided more detail, saying that Dana explained to him on 18 August that Dunham had “died about 6 weaks sinc at an Indian Hous By the name of Rodgers who used him well during his ilness he was sick about 3 weaks was buried diacently [decently] by B Dany.” Nearly half a century later, Oliver Huntington told Seymour Young at a dinner in Provo, Utah, that after Dunham’s death there was a rumor in Nauvoo that Dunham had felt so much guilt over his failure to send troops to protect JS while JS was in the jail at Carthage in June 1844 that he had asked a “friendly indian” to “kill and bury him.” However, no evidence substantiates this reported rumor, and Huntington was hundreds of miles away in Nauvoo at the time of Dunham’s death. (Richards, Journal, 1 Sept. 1845; Clayton, Journal, 1 Sept. 1845; Spencer, Diary, 18 Aug. 1845; Seymour Young, Journal, 23 May 1903.)
In his journal account of Spencer’s report, Clayton wrote that the missionaries stayed “five weeks” with the tribe. This appears to be an error as Spencer’s journal also describes the visit as being about four or five days long. (Clayton, Journal, 9 Sept. 1845; Spencer, Diary, 18–22 Aug. 1845.)
The Stockbridge Indians were transplanted Mohicans who had once resided around Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Much of the tribe removed under political and economic pressure to present-day northeastern Wisconsin in the 1820s. In the late 1830s the Stockbridge Mohicans split into two factions: the Wiskonsin Party, which wanted to remain in their recently acquired lands in Wisconsin Territory; and the Emigrant Party, which advocated joining other relocated American Indians west of the Missouri River. While the majority remained in Wisconsin, in 1839 a small group of Stockbridge established a settlement along the Kansas River near Fort Leavenworth. Dunham spent the summer of 1840 among this western band of the Stockbridge (and with the Kickapoo) shortly after their arrival in Indian Territory. Spencer stayed with this western branch of the Stockbridge tribe on his mission. (Oberly, Nation of Statesmen, 62–69; Dunham, Journal, 5–11 June 1840.)
Oberly, James W. A Nation of Statesmen: The Political Culture of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, 1815–1972. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.
Dunham, Jonathan. Journals, 1837–1846. Jonathan Dunham, Papers, 1825–1846. CHL. MS 1387, fds. 1–4.
Spencer recorded that he arrived at the Stockbridge settlement on 18 August 1845. He and Charles Shumway were greeted there by George Herring, the brother of recent Mormon convert Joseph Herring. George Herring introduced them to Thomas T. Hendrick, the “chiefe of the Stockbrig Tribe A man of Good mind & much influen[ce] among his people.” Shumway had met Hendrick earlier, in May 1845, when he, Dana, Dunham, and Phineas Young visited with Hendrick and obtained a letter of recommendation to the Cherokee. In his letter of introduction on behalf of his “cousin Lewis Dana,” Hendrick stated that “the friends that are with my Cousin a traveling to the South, are true friends to the Indian Nations . . . their mission to you, is of great benefit to you, and all nations, both temperally and Spiritually— Their mission will serve to make our Union stronger, and stronger, Our path brighter, and brighter.” (Spencer, Diary, 18 Aug. 1845; Thomas Hendrick to Benjamin Fields, 18 May 1845, Lewis Dana, Correspondence, CHL.)
In April 1845 Brigham Young instructed Dana, Dunham, and the other missionaries to the Cherokee and Comanche to “go to find out their feelings towards us, and whether they will admit us among them. When the brethren all meet together again, if they can find a suitable location, on this side the rocky mountains, where we can be safe & have a suitable place to locate our families, and find that we shall be received by the Indians, and be permitted to settle among them where we can instruct them, that is all we ask at present.” (Council of Fifty, “Record,” 11 Apr. 1845.)