Perhaps the most notable brush with death started in early winter of 1874, when four Navajo young men came to trade with the Mormon settlers on the promise of Hamblin that no harm would befall them if they crossed the Colorado River to trade in Utah. The young Navajos ventured across the river but, caught in a snowstorm, found refuge on a ranch owned by outlaws. From this ranch, the outlaws launched a career of violence that soon made them notorious with the law and wanted as criminals.
These outlaws found the Navajo young men and killed three while seriously wounding the fourth, who struggled in great pain to return to his people.
In response, the Navajos declared war on all whites in Utah and began raiding the Mormon herds around Kanab.
Hamblin was determined that this should not happen between the whites and Navajos. He left Kanab by himself, since others thought the journey to be suicidal. A short distance into the journey, Hamblin received a message delivered by his son from the local bishop in Kanab warning Hamblin that it had been learned that the Navajos were to retaliate by killing the first white man on sight, especially Jacob Hamblin.