Letter to the Editor

The horseradish incident

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dear Editor,

The late Leonard J. Arrington, noted historian and Western history professor at BYU, estimates that 12,000 Native Americans lived in the Utah Territory in the 1800s.

Gosiutes lived in the northwest section, Paiutes lived in the southwest part, Shoshonis resided in the northeast and Utes lived in the center of the region.

Brigham Young insisted that the Mormon settlers develop a charitable attitude toward the Indians. Shoshonis and Utes traded with them. After Indians stole their horses and killed their cattle, complaints were filed.

Still, peaceful negotiations continued to be part of his philosophy. His ideal was to teach the Indians by proper example and to educate them.

My great-grandfather, August Hjorth, was a Danish immigrant who traveled with handcart pioneers to Utah in 1861. He and his wife, Huldah (Terry) Hjorth lived in central Utah.

Young asked them to work with the Utes in San Pete County. One day a Ute Indian Chief and some of his braves were invited for dinner. One of Grandma Huldah's favorite condiments was ground horseradish mixed with whipped cream.

The chief mistook it for dessert. He ate a heaping spoonful and choked violently. Tears ran down his cheeks.

Grandma Huldah prayed silently that she had not caused an Indian uprising. Fortunately, the chief was a good sport. Finally, he laughed, saying "You played a big joke on me."

Later, the family shared their story with Brigham Young, who thought it was quite humorous. (Members of our family still eat Grandma Hulda's horseradish recipe on their meat.)

Helen Ruth Arnold,


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