Charles Franklin Decker
Relationship: Brother to Harriet Amelia Decker
- Born: (21 Jun 1824) (Phelps, Ontario, New York, USA)
- Died: (22 Mar 1901) (Vernal, Uintah, Utah, USA)
- Buried: ( ) (Vernal, Uintah, Utah, USA)
Vilate Young m. (4 Feb 1847) (Winter Quarters, Near Florence, Nebraska, USA)
- Lucy Ann Decker b.(17 May 1822) (Phelps, Ontario, New York, USA)
- Charles Franklin Decker b. (21 Jun 1824) (Phelps, Ontario, New York, USA)
- Harriet Amelia Decker b. (13 Mar 1826) (Phelps, Ontario, New York, USA)
- Clarissa Clara Decker b. (22 Jul 1828) (Freedom, Cattaraugus, New York, USA)
- Fannie Maria Decker b. (24 Apr 1830) (Freedom, Cattaraugus, New York, USA)
- Isaac Perry Decker b. (7 Aug 1840) (Winchester, Scott, Illinois, USA)
“UNCLE CHARLIE” DECKER IS DEAD.
One of the Picturesque Characters of Utah Passes Away.
END IS REACHED AT VERNAL
Crossed the Plains Fifty-three Times
The Romantic Career of a Border Hero.
A telegram was received in this city last night announcing the death of Charles F. Decker, which occurred at Vernal yester morning. He was familiarly known as “Uncle Charlie,” and his demise removes one of the last of the picturesque characters whose lives were associated with the plains, when the West was inhabited by the bison and the Indian. He had attained the ripe age of 77 years, having been born in Ontario County, New York, June 21, 1824. He was of German descent and inherited a strong, rugged constitution and lightness of heart that bore him up through many stirring scenes of peril and exposure. When he was a boy his parents moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and subsequently went on to Missouri, settle in Davis County in that State. His family suffered with the rest of the Saints in the deprivations and outrages imposed upon them by the Missouri mobs.
During the latter part of this period Charlie was casting about the country engaging in anything that came to hand that offered any pecuniary reward. The beginning of his romantic career as scout, Indian fighter and pony express rider began in Doublia, Indiana, where he engaged to ride pony express on a thirty-five mile route, traveling seventy miles every twenty-four hours at the rate of twelve miles an hour, rain or shine. His taste for this kind of a life soon paled before the ambition to work on the river, and obtaining his father’s consent he abandoned the pony express and followed the river life for three years.
PLAYED A USEFUL PART.
When his people approached that part in the drama of their life that forced their exodus from Nauvoo, he left the river boat to play a humble but highly useful part through those who stirring scenes. He offered his services to President Brigham Young, who soon found him to be indispensable at that time. He was always there with a helping hand where it was most needed, and his cheery voice and encouraging smile were some of the factors that kept an insufferable gloom from settling down over people. Uncle Charlie wont at times to describe in his homely but graphic style the story of the crossing of the Mississippi River or the ice: the journey to Winter Quarters under the most distressing conditions and the strenuous fight against starvation.
At this time President Young honored the redoubtable youth by giving him the hand of his second daughter, Vilate, in marriage. The ceremony was performed in a crude hut at Winter Quarters. Uncle Charlie and his wife did not come to Utah with the Pioneer band his strong arm and stout heart being needed in the camp. But they came on with the first immigration train afterwards and settled in the Thirteenth ward. He struggled with the crickets the next year and worked diligently on the small farm. His agricultural pursuits, however, were broken into continually as he was often called on to go back and help the immigration train and to freight merchandise.
CROSSED FIFTY-THREE TIMES
During those years he crossed the plains fifty-three times and a vast volume could be written recounting his experiences, his marvelous escape from death in a hundred ways. He always bore a manly part, and when any danger was to be encountered his heart must be the first to be exposed. Though the hard life on the frontier and on the plains made his exterior rugged and somewhat rough, his heart though stout was naturally gentle and he never wantonly did a cruel deed. He was forced sometimes to fire at Indians to save his own life, but when the redskins once shook his hand and looked in him in the eye, they were his friends through life, as Indians only can be friends.
A MAIL CONTRACT
In 1957 he engaged with Feramorz M. Little and Ephraim Knowlton Hanks in a contract to carry the mail once a month from Salt Lake to Fort Laramie. In August of that year he went out with the mail, accompanied by Alford Higgins. Dr. Bernhisel was a passenger on his way to Congress. Stories were then rife of a renegade band of Crow Indians with Chief Big Robber at their head, and that they were going through plundering everything that the could with safety. Uncle Charlie overtook Prof. Jones, who with seven men were making sketches of the country. The former proposed to the artist that they travel on together for mutual protection until they had passed through the dangerous part of the country. To this suggestion Prof. Jones cynically replied if Mr. Decker was afraid of the Indians he had better return to Salt Lake and send someone out who was not. The intrepid was discreet Uncle Charlie made a low whistle to himself and drove off. On approaching Deer Creek and Box Elder twenty six Indians fled across the road. They made many demonstrations but your Uncle Charlie did not understand a word of the language which he later became skillful in. The Indians lassoed the mules and took the entire outfit down into a ravine, when the chief showed a slip of paper written by Mr. Vasqucs, the party of Colonel Bridger. The note stated that the Indians would be pacified with a few presents. Acting on the hint, supper was prepared and downed, and the redskins said all was peace. Those red gentlemen cried
but there was no peace. As soon as Uncle Charlie and his assistant began to hitch up, some made a rush for the wagon, where Utah’s first congressman was holding up his ands and saying, “Please don’t, Mr. Indian.” The others made for the two young men and attempted to tear the clothes from their body. Alford Higgins though was a good slugger and as often as an Indian would come within reach he would land a blow on his head that would send him sprawling. This was kept up until about ten had been knocked down, and as each Indian went plowing his head into the ground his comrades would laugh heartily. At his juncture a squaw that was in the party went running down the hill giving the alarm that other white men were coming. Being thoroughly frightened the dusky marauders let the coach go on and they retired. But it was only Professor Jones and his party, and as soon as the Indians saw how many there were they returned and stripped them of all they had on, giving in return the meager rags that had served them for clothing. On returning from Fort Laramie Uncle Charlie saw a forlorn figure standing by the side of the road and investigation developed the fact that it was the former well dressed Prof. Jones now reduced to a greasy breech clout and a melancholy smile. Uncle Charlie picked him up and they came on in to Philomen Merrill’s camp of emigrants.
FRIEND OF KIT CARSON
Uncle Charlie was a warm personal friend of the famous Kit Carson and many other celebrities of the early border life. They were together on the plains in 1853, when they had to fight a ban of outraged Indians on the Platte River. Smallpox had carried off a number of them, and their bodies had been placed in a blacksmith shop to protect them from the wolves while their friends went to get some cloth to bury them in. A Frenchman passing, fired the house and the bodies were cremated. The Indians thought that Uncle Charlie did it, and were deeply incensed but Kit Carson and his friends came up in time to avert any bloodshed.
As has been stated a volume could be written on the life of this remarkable man. In him was embodied the chivalry of the pioneer and scout. Like most men of his kind he was modest almost to diffidence and when the story turned upon himself be kept a silent tongue generally. He was held in high esteem by those who knew him and in his way has rendered invaluable service to his State and people.