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Treasure Hunters Look for Golden Cairn

By: Pat Wilde

Somewhere along the east side of Bear Lake between Dingle and the southern end of the Lake, Peg-Leg Smith claimed to have buried his favorite Indian wife-Mountain Fawn.

Peg leg, the first polygamist in Bear Lake County, had many wives. From the battle that gave him Mountain Fawn also came two others. Smith said in later life, they gave me many but I took only three.

For many years, Peg-Leg had lived in happiness with Mountain Fawn, Kai-emp-ta, and Paigu, his Ute wives. During those years, his fortunes grew as did his family. By the time he moved to the Bear Lake Valley, he was a wealthy man by both standards of the Indian, who measured wealth in horses, and the white man in pounds of gold.

How much gold the old trader had has never been known, but it was known that just before the death of Mountain Fawn he was making over $100 a day in his horse trading on the Oregon Trail.

When Peg-Leg returned from the east after delivering his furs to St. Louis, he brought with him a Crow woman whom he had won from Jim Bridger. Immediately the Crow and Mountain Fawn became enemies. The Crow was younger, prettier and seemed to have captured much of the favors of Peg-Leg. At a time when the trader was away attending to business, the women fought and Mountain Fawn was killed in a bloody knife battle. Peg-Leg returned shorty after and found his Ute Indians packing to leave forever. The old man was in deep despair.

The Indians planned to take their dead member back to Utah and bury her as the princess of the tribe. Smith objected and promised to bury her in Indian fashion in the Bear Lake Valley looking out over the lake that she loved so much.

To do this meant to gather her favorite things, her horses, items of food and wealth and carry it to the chosen place. With Peg-Leg went all of the Utes who had served him so faithfully in the Bear Lake Valley. With them went the wealth of Mountain Fawn and as some believe much of what Peg-Leg had. Somewhere east of the lake, the old trapper said in later years, “I buried my woman. It was cold and a huge hole was dug. The squaws dug feverishly rock by rock until a large hole had been picked out. There with the blue lake shining far below I buried my woman standing up so that she could see the lake forever. First, two horses were killed and placed in the hole for her to ride. Food, clothing and all sorts of things were placed beside her next. Much of the loot from the Spanish raids and foofaraw that I had given her was placed beside her. Last, in a show of respect and in hope that I would persuade the Indians to return with me to my horse camp, I dumped two saddle bags of gold and coin into the cairn and it was rocked up about it all.”

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