Hungate Family Murdered

Sand Creek Massacre News Release

June 2, 2014
For Immediate Release
Jeff Campbell, 719-729-3003

1864's Turning Point: Hungate Family Murdered

This article is part of a series by the National Park Service concerning the 150th Anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.

Often given as a cause for the savagery of the massacre on Sand Creek, the murder of the Hungate Family forms one of the mysteries of 1864's sordid history. Nathan (29 years), Ellen (25), Laura (2 ½) and Florence (under 6 mos.) Hungate were killed along Running or Box Elder Creek at or near the cabin of their employer, Isaac P. Van Wormer.

Killed about 25 miles southeast of downtown Denver at about noon on June 11, 1864, the young family had only been in the territory about three months. The bodies were exhumed and brought to Denver on June 13, where they were publicly displayed, inciting the citizens and heightening the paranoia about impending Indian attacks.

Although many speculated about suspects in the murders, a single individual or group has never been identified to a reasonable certainty. Many Coloradans blamed the Cheyenne or Arapaho, as reflected in the Coroner's inquest on June 14. It stated that the family, "... came to their death by being feloniously killed by some person or persons to the jury unknown, but supposed to be Indians[.]"

However, even experienced frontiersman Jim Beckwourth doubted the family had been killed by either the Cheyenne or Arapaho because of the manner of death,according to the June 15th Daily Commonwealth. After four burials and three exhumations, their remains finally came to rest at Denver's Fairmount Cemetery in late July 1892.

To find out more about the Hungate Murders, go to or visit the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site outside of Eads, Colorado.

Last updated: April 4, 2020

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