January 14, 2010
Barton, Amasa Miles
Died: June 16, 1887, in Rincon, San Juan County, Utah
Married: Harriet Parthenia “Feenie” Hyde (May 21, 1854)
Father: Joseph Penn Barton
Mother: Eliza Anderson
Parents and Childhood
Amasa’s mother, Eliza Anderson, was born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her parents joined the Church in Tennessee in 1841, when Eliza was six years old. Shortly after becoming members, her parents decided to gather with fellow Saints, and moved to Nauvoo. As a young girl, Eliza was acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and “vividly remembered the event of the martyrdom of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum, and saw their bodies after they were prepared for burial.” (1)
Amasa’s mother crossed the plains to Utah with her parents and arrived in Parowan in October 1851. It was there that Eliza met Amasa’s father, Joseph Penn Barton. They fell in love and were married in Parowan on May 24, 1854. After their marriage, they moved to Paragonah. Amasa, the second of their five children, was born on May 27, 1857. (2)
Mission and Marriage
Amasa Barton was called with numerous other saints to be part of the San Juan Mission. He accepted the call and set out to explore and colonize southern Utah and the Four Corners area. Eventually he settled in Bluff. It was there that he met his sweetheart, Harriett Parthenia Hyde, affectionately referred to as “Feenie.” Amasa and Feenie were married in Bluff in 1884.
Below is an excerpt from “Fort on the Firing Line” by Albert R. Lyman, published in the Improvement Era between October 1948 and March 1950:
Excerpts from Chapters 13 and 14: For full story go to Fort on the Firing Line site
“The store which William Hyde began at Rincone, ten miles down the river from Bluff, had been slowly growing in prosperity in spite of Erastus Snow's ban on isolated dwellings. Amasa Barton married William Hyde's daughter, Parthenia, and became interested in the store.
In 1885, Barton became the owner of the store; at least he became the manager and the clerk, and he moved there with his wife and child to attend to the business. In taking this dangerous step Barton was not acting in defiance of any standard set up for the safety of the colony. From becoming interested in a small way, he had assumed one obligation after another until it seemed only sane and sensible to go there and give his investment personal attention. Also he may have considered it no longer necessary for the people to huddle together, since they had seen fit to move out of the fort.
Barton was a man of unusual strength and energy, large and magnetic, a talented builder and mechanic, and just the kind of man to develop a new country. With untiring effort he built a neat, commodious home from the crooked logs he could find along the river, and he made an attractive store building, warehouse, blacksmith shop, and other substantial conveniences. He devised a treadmill in which he had a donkey lift water from the river for his well-kept garden. Rincon, in Spanish, means, "corner." This corner is formed by the right-angle junction of Comb Reef with the gorge of the San Juan River. It is the corner from which the travel-worn company from Hole-in-the-Rock had so much trouble getting out in the spring of 1880.
Barton's operations in this cliff-bound Rincone began to make the very name a suggestion of neatness and beauty, for at his artistic touch the junction presented a unique and pleasing contrast to the bald, gray cliffs all around. His store like others of its kind, ran a pawn business instead of a credit account. A Navajo could pawn a gun, saddle, or anything else at a stipulated value, and draw goods up to that limit. The pawn could be renewed with a stipulated deposit, but anything left after a given amount of time was forfeited. The system was rich with possibilities of unpleasant misunderstandings even with good Indians, but with bad Indians it was a handy leverage for all kinds of mischief.
A Navajo known as Old Eye, from having lost one eye when a flying gad struck him several years before, had worked often for Barton at Rincone, and had often looked longingly at the display of attractive goods in the store. When he went back to his little sheep herd in the reservation, he somehow evolved the wild notion of carrying the goods away from the store. This idea was no doubt inflamed, if not really suggested in the first place, by a certain young bully with a bad face, who was keen for the venture. Rincone was remote and unprotected, and they could get far away before anyone came after them. Better still, they could do it in such a way that they would seem to be justified. However, that robbery notion got such a hold on Old Eye, who had been a friend to Barton from the day of their first acquaintance, he planned with the young bully to rob the store, and their plan looked neater in anticipation than it ever looked as a fact. . . .
. . .The mischief was done! . . .She was young and fair, and she tried with terrified eyes to read their intentions. "What do you want?" she asked in their language, hiding her emotions as best she could. "The store," one of them demanded, with a gesture meaning the key. She gave them the key and left them to take what they pleased. The robbery Old Eye had planned went forward wholesale while he lay sprawling on the sand where the bully had dropped him. The six men in eager haste carried the goods from the store in backloads to the boat, rowed them across in load after load, and stopped only when one of their vigilant sentinels warned them in a loud call that horsemen were approaching from Bluff.
Cheepoots had honored his trust with all diligence. Platte Lyman and Kumen Jones came loping over the sand hills where the old man had disappeared; reaching the store before it was thought possible they could have received the word. When Cheepoots rode his lathering cayuse into Bluff with Mrs. Barton's note, he found but six men in town, and by three in the afternoon all but one of the six had gone to Rincone, figuring that was the place of greatest danger. Somehow they clung to the belief that the town was immune to attack. Immune or not, Bluff that afternoon became terrible with forebodings.
Next day men came in from the camps, from the freight roads and other places in answer to the call of nightriders who told them of the danger. Everyone felt grave concern for what might happen. Then onto that stage of dreadful things pending, came a well-meaning actor, who threw the builders of the fort completely off their guard.
Amasa Barton lingered a week before he died, and in the first half of that time the men from Bluff kept fearful watch over him, and all the time they kept a vigilant eye on a mob of Navajos peeping from the cliff beyond the river. In the broad light of one of those May days, instead of in the nighttime, as the watchers had feared, they saw a man come straight down from that mob to the river, to the boat. He made no effort to keep out of sight; he rowed with deliberate stroke to the north side, and climbed to the shelf to where the weary watchers sat by the dying man.
It was Tom Holiday, one of the important chiefs who had been twice to Salt Lake City at the invitation of Brigham Young and John Taylor to hear and subscribe to peace treaties between his people and the Mormons. Impressive in size, magnetic, and intelligent, he marched boldly up to the Barton home, gave them friendly greetings and asked what the trouble was all about. They told him what had happened, showed him the unconscious man, and assured him they had no desire for anything but peace, not the least preparation for anything but peace. "I have been telling my people you are our friends," he said. "I told them you have always been our friends. I told them to go home and let the matter pass. I shall go back and send them home." He returned to the boat and up to the hiding mob from which he came, and very soon it was apparent they had all gone away; none of them could be seen. The crisis seemed to be past.
When Barton died, his funeral was held in Bluff without fear of further trouble from the Navajos. Men returned to the freight road and the camps to take up their work where they had dropped it.”
Amasa Miles Barton was a noble, brave man who lost his life in the self-less service of his family, his friends and his God.
1. Our Pioneer Heritage, Compiled by Kate B. Carter, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Volume 6, page 509.
2. History of the Iron County Mission, Parowan, Utah, Compiled by Mrs. Luella Adams Dalton, page 237.
3. “The Fort on the Firing Line,” The Improvement Era, October 1949, chapters 13 and 14.
4. Picture of Amasa Miles Barton, http://www.bartonancestry.com/gen/showmedia.php?mediaID=109&medialinkID=201
Article by Article by C.S.M. Jones LLC, Family Heritage Consulting for Hole in the Rock Foundation.
Kumen Jones recalls Murder of Amasa
Other observations about Amasa by Kumen Jones