photo of a survivor: mary josephine (mary jo) estep (52 ancestors no. 14)

Week 14 (Apr. 2-8): Favorite Photo

Favorite photo, No, but, powerful historical photo with a jaw-dropping story, Yes, and, besides:  I couldn’t possibly choose one genealogy-photo as my “favorite”…  They are all prizes, whispering to us from the past.


Speaking to us here? The four survivors of the 1911 Indian massacre near Winnemucca, NV, Reno Sheriff Charles FERRELL standing behind them.

Left to right: Hattie, about four-years-old; Heney, about 18; Sheriff FERRELL; Cleveland, about seven; and, per article after article although I have personally yet to pinpoint exactly where her tiny self is in this group, a roughly 18-months-old toddler “wearing a white hat and crying,”[1] the daughter of Wenegah (Snake) DAGGETT[2], later to be adopted and named Mary Josephine (Mary Jo) ESTEP.[3]

Wenegah (Snake) DAGGETT and her father/Mary Jo’s grandfather, Shoshone Mike DAGGETT, were slaughtered on Feb. 25, 1911, in Humboldt Co., NV, along with six other family members, including two children.[2]

Google “Shoshonne Mike massacre” and, you will pull up page after page of articles, ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times to The Silver Star, Newsletter of the Silver State National Peace Officers Museum, plus numerous books revolving around the event. And they don’t all agree on the facts.

Frank X. MULLEN, Jr., writes in, “Shoshone Mike: New theories emerge 100 years after ‘last massacre’,” published by the Reno Gazette-Journal in 2011:

          “….eight American Indians — men, women and children — and a member of a volunteer posse lay dead of bullet wounds on blood-soaked snow in the frozen desert near Winnemucca.

          “Their deaths followed the murder of four stockmen in a remote canyon 135 miles north of Reno in January 1911 and the pursuit of an Indian band across the northern part of Nevada. Those facts are certain.

          “Over the past century, nearly everything else about the ‘Shoshone Mike’ case has been questioned, revised and exaggerated, according to researchers who studied the case.

          “The stockmen were murdered in Little High Rock Canyon, 135 miles north of Reno, in January, but their bodies weren’t discovered until Feb. 10. Lawmen and cowboys followed the suspects’ trail more than 200 miles.

          “A posse caught up with a 12-member Indian band on Feb. 26. In a dry wash north of Golconda, the pursuers began shooting. When the smoke cleared, posse member Ed HOGLE was dead and the bodies of four Indian men, two women and two children lay bleeding in the snow.

          “Four Indian children — ages estimated at 16, 7, 4 and 10 months — were captured and brought to the Reno jail. They were kept there for several months.

          “Traditionally, the story has been told as a victory of justice over savagery: a tale of noble cowboys and renegade Indians. …”[4]

Except, at least one researcher has suggested that Shoshone Mike and his family may have had nothing to do with the stockmen’s murders after all.

“A SETUP?,” asks Ed VOGEL in his “Shoshone Mike’s story endures after a century:”

          “Some believe Shoshone Mike and his group were framed for the crime of robbing, killing and mutilating the ranchers.

          “One Nevada historian said he talked to two members of the posse early in his career. He said they told him the sheepherders and the cattleman were killed by ranch hands of an eastern California ranch whose owner did not like sheep taking over open range lands in Northern Nevada used by his cattle.

          “The posse’s primary motive was to receive part of the $15,000 reward that was put up for his capture or murder, he added.  …”[5]

“The toddler survived tuberculosis and was adopted by Evan ESTEP and his wife, Rita, who were childless,” writes VOGEL.  “They guessed she was about 18 months old when she was found.”

          “She moved with the family to reservations in Montana and New Mexico, finally settling at Toppenish on the Yakima Indian Reservation in 1924.

          “Although her adoptive parents told her about the massacre, she never asked for details and they never talked much about Shoshone Mike, she said. She was treated as a white person and noted: ‘Most of my friends are non-Indians.’

“The family moved to Yakima in 1930, after Evan Estep retired.

          “Mary Estep graduated from Central Washington University with a music degree and spent 40 years teaching school before retiring in 1974. She never married.  …”[5]

My heart breaks for the children:  not only were two killed on the spot, but, of the four surviving children in the photo above, three died within the three following years, cause of death, perhaps illness, possibly from wounds obtained during the “conflict.”[2]

Mary Jo is my 3rd cousin once removed via her adoption by my 2nd cousin (twice removed) Evan W. ESTEP (1864 Danville, Hendricks Co., IN-1950 Yakima, Yakima Co., WA; buried Terrace Heights Memorial Park, Yakima, Yakima Co., WA) & his wife Retta (Rita) GARRISON (1866 Clark Co., IL-Apr. 13, 1955 1955 Yakima, Yakima Co., WA; Terrace Heights Memorial Park).  Mary Jo (abt. 1909-’10-Dec 19, 1992 Yakima City, WA; Terrace Heights Memorial Park) graduated from Central Washington [State] University with a music degree and taught music in school for 40 years before retiring.





1 HYDE, Dayton, identification of children, found in Sept. 18, 1988, LA Times article, “Survivor Returns to Site of Last Indian Massacre,” by Nicholas K. GERANIOS, Associated Press, dated Sept. 18, 1988, Los Angeles Times at , accessed Apr. 23, 2015.

2 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Battle of Kelley Creek,” at , accessed Apr., 2015.

3 1920 United States Federal Census, NM, San Juan Co., Navajo Indian Reservation, “Evan W. ESTEP” household (“Mary Josephine ESTEP” in hh),, at , accessed Apr., 2015.

4 MULLEN, Frank X., Jr., “Shoshone Mike: New theories emerge 100 years after ‘last massacre’,” dated Feb. 19, 2011, Reno Gazette-Journal at , accessed Apr. 23, 2015.

5 VOGEL, Ed, “Shoshone Mike’s story endures after a century,” posted Mar. 1, 2014, Las Vegas Review Journal at , accessed Apr. 23, 2015.


This entry was posted in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition, Genealogy, Shoshone Mike and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to photo of a survivor: mary josephine (mary jo) estep (52 ancestors no. 14)

  1. After seeing the picture I had to read on to read the story behind the photo, amazing Mary Jo had a not so normal childhood but came through successfully .

    Liked by 1 person

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