Mile 1508: Willow Creek Station

“The authors do not necessarily support the idea that a station was located here but the following evidence, from excerpts of Nick Wilson’s story in ‘Utah and the Pony Express’ presents a favorable case.”

Peter Neece, our home station keeper, was a big strong man and a good rider. He was put to breaking some of these wild mustangs for the boys to ride. Generally, just as soon as the hostler could lead them in and out of the stable without getting his head knocked off, they were considered tame, and very likely they had been handled enough to make them mean.

My home station was Shell Creek (Nevada). I rode from Shell Creek to Deep Creek (Utah), and one day the Indians killed the rider out on the desert, and when I was to meet him at Deep Creek, he was not there. I went to the next station, Willow Creek, the first station over the mountain, and there I found out that he had been killed. My horse was about jaded by this time, so I had to stay there to let him rest I would have had to start back in the night as soon as the horse got so he could travel, if those Indians had not come upon us. About four a ‘clock in the afternoon, seven Indians rode up to the station and asked for something to eat. Peter Neece picked up a sack with about twenty pounds of flour in it and offered it to them, but they would not have that little bit, they wanted a sack of flour apiece. Then he threw it back into the house and told them to get out, and that he wouldn’t give them a thing. This made them pretty mad, and as they passed a shed about four or five rods from the house, they each shot an arrow into a poor, old lame cow, that was standing under the shed. When Neece saw them do that, it made him mad, too, and he jerked out a couple of pistols and commenced shooting at them. He killed two of the Indians and they fell off their horse there. The others ran. He said, ‘Now boys, we will have a time of it tonight. There are about thirty of those Indians camped in the canyon there and they will be upon us as soon as it gets dark, and we will have a fight.’ A man by the name of Lynch happened to be there at the time. He had bragged a good deal about what he would do and we looked upon him as a sort of desperado and a very brave man. I felt pretty safe until he weakened and commenced to cry, then I wanted all of us to get on our horses and skip for the next station, but Pete said, ‘No, we will load up all the old guns that are around here and be ready for them when they come. There are four of us and we can stand off the whole bunch of them. Well, just a little before dark, we could see a big dust over toward the mouth of the canyon, and we knew they were coming. It was bout six miles from the canyon to the station.

Pete thought it would be a good thing to go out a hundred yards or so and lie down in the brush and surprise them as they came up. When we got out there he had us lie down about four or five feet apart. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘when you fire, jump out to one side, so if they shoot at the blaze of your gun, you will not be there.’ We all took our places, and you bet, I lay close to the ground. Pretty soon we could hear their horses feet striking the ground, and it seemed to me as if there were thousands of them, and such yells as they let out, I never heard before. The sounds were coming straight towards us, and I thought they were going to run right over us. It was sandy where we lay, with little humps. Finally the Indians got close enough for us to shoot. Pete shot and jumped to one side. I had two pistols, one in each hand, cocked all ready to pull the trigger, and was crawling on my elbows and knees. Each time he would shoot, I saw him jump. Soon they were all shooting and each time they shot, I would jump. I never shot at all. After I had jumped a good many times, I happened to land in a little wash or ravine. I guess my back came pretty nearly level with the top of it. Anyhow, I pressed myself down so I could get in. I don’t know how I felt, I was so scared. I lay there and listened until I could hear no more shooting, but I thought I could hear the horses’ hoofs beating on the hard ground near me until I found out it was only my heart beating. After a while, I raised my head a little and looked off towards the desert and I could see those humps of sand covered with greese-woods. They looked exactly like Indians on horses, and I could see several of them near the wash.

I crouched down again and lay there for a long time, maybe two hours. Finally everything was very still, so I thought I would go around and see if my horse was where I had staked him, and if he was, I would go back to my station in Deep Creek and tell them that the boys were all killed and I was the only one that had got away. Well, as I went crawling around the house on my elbows and knees, just as easily as I could, with both pistols ready, I saw a light shinning between the logs in the back part of the house. I thought the house must be full of Indians, so I decided to lie there a while and see what they were doing. I lay there for some time listening and watching and then I heard one of the men speak. ‘Did you find anything of him?’ Another answered, ‘No, I guess he is gone.’ Then I knew it was the boys, but I lay there until I heard the door shut, then I slipped up and peeped through the crack and saw that all three of them were there all right. I was too much ashamed to go in but finally I went around and opened the door. When I stepped in Pete called out, ‘Hello! Here he is. How far did you chase them? I knew you would stay with them. I told the fellows here you would bring back at least half a dozen of them.’ I think they killed five Indians that night.

[Note: Also retold in Settle and Settle, Saddles and Spurs, p. 156-157