Joseph Lehi Foutz (1837-1907)

Joseph Lehi Foutz

Joseph Lehi Foutz (1837-1907)
3 wives, 13 sons, 16 daughters and unafraid of any man.

My wife made the mistake of asking me where the Foutz name came from. I said I can read you the story, but first let me demonstrate.

Standing in front of her as she sat on the couch I put my face close to hers and roared, spraying her with spittle.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” she shouted as she tried to dodge the onslaught of moisture whose intensity even surprised me.

Demonstrating said I.

Now let me read you the story of my paternal grandfather Joseph Lehi Foutz as recorded in Frank McNitt’s classic book “The Indian Traders“, including more than just the origins of the Foutz name.

Events stirring in the west and north, in the vicinity of Tuba City, presaged interesting developments for the San Juan Valley. Conflict over water rights and land use for some time had troubled Navahos and Mormons in the Tuba City–Moenkopi area. In 1896, Navaho Agent Constant Williams querulously noted that the government had taken no action on his “repeated recommendations” to drive the Mormons out. Shortly thereafter action was taken by the Indian Office to include the Mormon land in a western extension of the Navaho reservation. In November, 1902, the government began apportioning $45,000 to nineteen Mormon families remaining near Tuba, and by early the next year all had moved away. Thus closed the book on the pioneer colony founded through Jacob Hamblin’s efforts in 1875.


A number of the dispossessed, traveling by foot, horseback, and wagon came to the San Juan at Fruitland and Kirtland. Among them was a stiff, black-frocked, white-bearded patriarch–Josephi Lehi Foutz, husband of three wives and father of thirteen sons and sixteen daughters. Their arrival in the valley was not quite so overwhelming as this sounds, as Joseph’s first wife, Amanda, and her children had returned earlier to Ogden, Utah.


Family records say that the Foutz clan originated in Germany, where the name appeared variously as Pfauts, Pfouts, Pfauss, and Pfauss–all deriving from the ancient German word Faucher, which means spitter, or “making sounds of rage, like the snorting of an angry bull.”


Joseph Lehi Foutz was a strict disciplinarian and, when occasion arose, could snort like a bull. Of medium stature, he was totally unafraid of any man. Once when freighting in Arizona he came upon a stranger’s wagon mired in mud. A second stranger arrived on the scene at the same time and made no sign of stopping to help. Joseph jumped to the ground, peeled of his coat, and challenged the second man–who was larger than he–to raise his fists and prepared for a beating. His bigger opponent warned him of his disadvantage, to which Joseph responded “Even so, I can whip any man that is small enough to pass up a fellow traveler in this kind of trouble.” He then proceeded to do so. Afterwards, the two together helped the first man out of the mud.


A friend and exploring companion of Jocob Hamblin, Joseph moved his family from Utah to Arizona in 1877, spending one season operating Lee’s Ferry and the trading post on the Colorado. From there the Foutzes moved south to Moenkopi, and then settled at Moenave, where Joseph bought the former home and land of John D. Lee. It is said that while the family was here and before moving to San Juan, Jospeh traded for a time at Tonalea. The home at Fruitland was Joseph’s last. He died there in March, 1907, as six of his sons were beginning unusual careers as Indian traders.

McNitt included the following footnote in his book as to the sources of his information on Joseph Lehi.

For information relating to the Foutz family I have relied upon unpublished family genealogies prepared by Grace Foutz Boulter, Mary Foutz Corrigan, and Alice Parker Foutz; also upon interviews with Eva Foutz Noel, daughter of Joseph Lehi by his third wife; his sons, Al and Hugh, and his grandson, Russell Foutz. In the Boulter-Corrigan genealogy it is noted that “during the years when polygamists were being persecuted, Josheph Lehi was able to evade the officers as a fugitive. He spent one year in Old Mexico. When he returned from there he brought with him Susan Judd, who was his third wife. He jokingly remarked that he would just as ‘lief’ be hung for a sheep as a lamb.”

My wife agreed that my demonstration made a more lasting impression on the origin of the name Foutz than just reading the well-written McNitt account.

Other than what my father told me below, I have used the information¬†in McNitt’s book because he also has much to say about my father that I will quote in a later blog. You can learn much more about Joseph Lehi through a Google search using “Joseph Lehi Foutz”. Some of the results confuse him with his son with the same name but Jr. appended, so be careful.

Here is what I know about my grandfather as told to me by my father.

When Joseph Lehi came to visit his his second wife, Emma E. Crossland, my father’s mother, he kept his horse saddled by the door and my father, who was about 8 years old, was sent outside to climb a tree and keep an eye out for the sheriff and posse. If my father spotted them he would sound the alarm and his father would mount his horse and race away.¬†The posse always kept its distance until they gave up the chase and went back home. The reason as I remember being told, Joseph Lehi was a crack shot and when someone tried to arrest him once, he shot the gun out of their hand, then checked their hand, bandaged it, and sent them away with no hard feelings. From then on, no one felt the need to get within shooting distance.

As noted in the last sentence of McNitt’s account, six of Joseph Lehi sons moved on to be Indian traders, including my father Lehi Junuis Foutz. In preparation for his career as an Indian trader, Joseph Lehi made arrangements with a local Navaho Chief, who had a son the same age as my father, to be raised through adolescence by the Navajo Indians to learn their language and customs. But that’s another story.


Antique Navaho Ring originally belonging to my grandfather, Joseph Lehi Foutz – Jerrold Foutz

In 1956 after being discharged from the Air Force I visited Joseph Lehi’s home in Fruitland. A relative took me up to a bedroom and rummaged around in the top drawer of a chest of drawers having me try on several rings from my grandfather’s day as an Indian Trader. The picture of the ring to the left is the ring that fit my finger and that I have to this day.

Source: All blockquotes and quotes are from Frank McNitt, The Indian Traders, University of Oklahoma Press, 1962.

Another story told over coffee and biscotti during our morning talks.

3 thoughts on “Joseph Lehi Foutz (1837-1907)

  1. A very impressive story, Jerry… even without the live demonstration! Thank you for sharing this and other bits of our fascinating family history.

  2. Dad,
    I remember the ring vividly. It sat in your valet on the dresser in your room. I often tried it on and if I am correct wore it with permission once. At least I hope so. Also good to know why I can come across a bit forceful when provoked–apparently it is hereditary.

  3. Great read. I had to laugh because I’m a bit forceful even when I’m not provoked. The line of my Fathers, Joseph Lehi – Elmer – Robert Bruce – Kevin

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