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Mountain Meadows massacre

Mountain Meadows Massacre
Date September 7–11, 1857
Location Mountain Meadows, Utah Territory, United States
Deaths 100–140 members of the Baker–Fancher wagon train
Non-fatal injuries Around 17
Accused Utah Territorial Militia (Iron County district), Paiute Native American auxiliaries
Weapons Guns, Bowie knives

The Mountain Meadows massacre was a series of attacks on the Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train, at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. The attacks began on September 7 and culminated on September 11, 1857, resulting in the mass slaughter of most in the emigrant party by members of the Utah Territorial Militia from the Iron County district, together with some Paiute Native Americans.

The wagon train, mostly families from Arkansas, was bound for California on a route that passed through the Utah Territory, during a conflict later known as the Utah War. After arriving in Salt Lake City, the Baker–Fancher party made their way south, eventually stopping to rest at Mountain Meadows. While the emigrants were camped at the meadow, nearby militia leaders, including Isaac C. Haight and John D. Lee, made plans to attack the wagon train.

The militia, officially called the Nauvoo Legion, was composed of Utah's Mormon settlers (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church). Intending to give the appearance of Native American aggression, their plan was to arm some Southern Paiute Native Americans and persuade them to join with a larger party of their own militiamen—disguised as Native Americans—in an attack. During the militia's first assault on the wagon train the emigrants fought back, and a five-day siege ensued. Eventually fear spread among the militia's leaders that some emigrants had caught sight of white men and had likely discovered the identity of their attackers. As a result militia commander William H. Dame ordered his forces to kill the emigrants.

By this time the emigrants were running low on water and provisions, and allowed some approaching members of the militia—who carried a white flag—to enter their camp. The militia members assured the emigrants they were protected and escorted them from the hasty fortification. After walking a distance from the camp, the militiamen, with the help of auxiliary forces hiding nearby, attacked the emigrants. Intending to leave no witnesses and thus prevent reprisals, the perpetrators killed all the adults and older children (totaling about 120 men, women, and children). Seventeen children, all younger than seven, were spared.

Following the massacre, the perpetrators hastily buried the victims, leaving the bodies vulnerable to wild animals and the climate. Local families took in the surviving children, and many of the victims' possessions were auctioned off. Investigations, after interruption by the American Civil War, resulted in nine indictments during 1874. Of the men indicted, only John D. Lee was tried in a court of law. After two trials in the Utah Territory, Lee was convicted by a jury, sentenced to death, and executed by Utah firing squad on March 23, 1877.

Today, historians attribute the massacre to a combination of factors, including war hysteria about possible invasion of Mormon territory and hyperbolic Mormon teachings against outsiders, which were part of the excesses of the Mormon Reformation period. Scholars debate whether senior Mormon leadership, including Brigham Young, directly instigated the massacre or if responsibility lay with the local leaders in southern Utah.


  • History 1
    • Baker–Fancher party 1.1
    • Interactions with Mormon settlers 1.2
    • Conspiracy and siege 1.3
    • Killings and aftermath of the massacre 1.4
    • Investigations and prosecutions 1.5
  • Criticism and analysis of the massacre 2
    • Media coverage about the event 2.1
    • Historical theories explaining the massacre 2.2
      • Strident Mormon teachings 2.2.1
      • War hysteria 2.2.2
      • Brigham Young 2.2.3
  • Remembrances 3
  • Media detailing the massacre 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • External links 8


Baker–Fancher party

In early 1857, several groups of emigrants from the northwestern

  • Mountain Meadows Association
  • Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation
  • PBS Frontline documentary: The Mormons, Part One, episodes 8 & 9: Mountain Meadows.
  • Mountain Meadows massacre at Crime Library
  • Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial at Find a Grave

External links

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  1. ^ Bagley (2002), pp. 55–68; Finck (2005).
  2. ^ Bancroft (1889) p. 545; Linn (1902) Chap. XVI, 4th full paragraph.
  3. ^ Bancroft (1889) p. 544; Gibbs (1910) p. 12.
  4. ^ Shirts, (1994) Paragraph 2
  5. ^ a b Carleton 1859
  6. ^ Shirts (1994), Paragraph 6
  7. ^ a b c d Morrill 1876
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Shirts, (1994) Paragraph 8
  10. ^ Penrose 1885
  11. ^ a b c Brigham Young: American Moses, Leonard J. Arrington, University of Illinois Press, (1986), p. 257
  12. ^ Shirts, (1994) Paragraph 6
  13. ^
  14. ^ Shirts, (1994) Paragraph 9.
  15. ^ Brooks, 1950, pp. 101–105.
  16. ^ Brigham Young to Isaac C. Haight, September. 10, 1857, Letterpress Copybook 3:827–28, Brigham Young Office Files, LDS Church Archives.
  17. ^ Brooks, 1950. See also Klingensmith Testimony at first trial of John D. Lee.
  18. ^ Forney 1859, p. 1.
  19. ^ Fisher 2003.
  20. ^ Forney 1859, p. 1;
  21. ^ Cradlebaugh 1859, p. 3; Carrington 1859, p. 2.
  22. ^ a b c Bagley (2004, p. 225).
  23. ^ Bagley (2004, p. 226).
  24. ^ Bagley (2004, p. 234).
  25. ^ Brooks 1950, p. 133
  26. ^ Briggs 2006, p. 315
  27. ^ Lee was arrested on November 7, 1874. "John D. Lee Arrested", Deseret News, November 18, 1874, p. 16.
  28. ^ Tragedy at Mountain Meadows Massacre: Toward a Consensus Account and Time Line
  29. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  30. ^ "The Lee Trial", Deseret News, July 28, 1875, p. 5.
  31. ^ Lee 1877, pp. 317–78.
  32. ^ Lee 1877, pp. 302–03.
  33. ^ Lee 1877, p. 378.
  34. ^ "Territorial Dispatches: the Sentence of Lee", Deseret News, October 18, 1876, p. 4.
  35. ^ Lee 1877, pp. 225–226.
  36. ^ Young 1877, p. 242) (Young was asked after Lee's execution if he believed in blood atonement. Young replied, "I do, and I believe that Lee has not half atoned for his great crime".)
  37. ^ Brevet Major J.H. Carleton's Report to his commanding officer. (1859)
  38. ^ Lyman 2004, p. 138
  39. ^ Stenhouse 1873.
  40. ^ Lee 1877.
  41. ^ Gibbs 1910.
  42. ^
  43. ^ Richard E. Turley Jr., Writing 'Massacre at Mountain Meadows',, August 29, 2007
  44. ^ Michael De Groote, Writing 'Massacre at Mountain Meadows', Mormon Times, Sep. 11, 2008
  45. ^ In 1856, Young said "the government of God, as administered here" may to some seem "despotic" because "[i]t lays the axe at the root of the tree of sin and iniquity; judgment is dealt out against the transgression of the law of God"; however, "does not [it] give every person his rights?" Young 1856, p. 256.
  46. ^ Pratt 1975, pp. 6, 24 n.26 (Parley and Eleanor entered a Celestial marriage under the theocratic law of the Utah Territory), but Hector had refused Eleanor a divorce. "When she left San Francisco she left Hector, and later she was to state in a court of law that she had left him as a wife the night he drove her from their home. Whatever the legal situation, she thought of herself as an unmarried woman."(p. 6)
  47. ^ "Murder of Parley P. Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", JD 19(27):417 (July 4, 1857) ("Another Martyr has fallen – another faithful servant of God has sealed his pure and heavenly testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon with his blood."); Pratt 1975, p. 16; "Reminiscences of Mrs. A. Agatha Pratt, January 7, F564, No. 16, LDS Church Archives, stating that Brigham Young said, "Nothing has happened so hard to reconcile my mind to since the death of Joseph.").
  48. ^ Eleanor McLean Pratt, "Mrs. McLean's Letter to the Judge", JD 19(27):426 (July 4, 1857) ("[T]he blood of innocence has freely flowed to stain the soil of the fair State of Arkansas."); Brooks 1950, pp. 36–37; Linn 1902, pp. 519–20: "It was in accordance with Mormon policy to hold every Arkansan accountable for Pratt's death, just as every Missourian was hated because of the expulsion of the church from that state.").
  49. ^ Young et al. 1845, p. 5 ("[t]here are those now living upon the earth who will live to see the consummation"). Based on a somewhat ambiguous statement by Joseph Smith, some Mormons believed that Jesus would return in 1891 Erickson 1996, p. 9.
  50. ^ Grant 1854, p. 148 "[I]t is a stern fact that the people of the United States have shed the blood of the Prophets, driven out the Saints of God,… [c]onsequently I look for the Lord to use His whip on the refractory son called 'Uncle Sam'."
  51. ^ Diary of Buerger 2002, p. 134. The oath was deleted from the ceremony in the early 20th century.
  52. ^ Diary of
  53. ^ Diary of Daniel Davis, July 8, 1849, the LDS archives, as quoted in Quinn 1997, p. 247 (A Mormon who listened to a sermon by Young in 1849 recorded that Young said "if any one was catched stealing to shoot them dead on the spot and they should not be hurt for it."); Young 1856b, p. 247 (stating that a man would be justified in putting a javelin through his plural wife caught in the act of adultery, but anyone intending to "execute judgment…has got to have clean hands and a pure heart,…else they had better let the matter alone"); Young 1857, p. 219 ("[I]f [your neighbor] needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it"); Young 1857, p. 311 ("[I]n regard to those who have persecuted this people and driven them to the mountains, I intend to meet them on their own grounds.…I will tell you how it could be done, we could take the same law they have taken, viz., mobocracy, and if any miserable scounderels come here, cut their throats. (All the people said, Amen)."); Quinn 1997, p. 260 ("LDS leaders publicly and privately encouraged Mormons to consider it their right to kill antagonistic outsiders, common criminals, LDS apostates, and even faithful Mormons who committed sins "worthy of death.").
  54. ^ Mormons in Cedar City were taught that members should ignore dead bodies and go about their business. See Letter from Mary L. Campbell to Andrew Jenson, January 24, 1892, LDS archives, in Moorman & Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons, p. 142. Col. William H. Dame, the ranking officer in southern Utah who ordered the Mountain Meadows massacre, received a patriarchal blessing in 1854 that he would "be called to act at the head of a portion of thy Brethren and of the Lamanites (Native Americans) in the redemption of Zion and the avenging of the blood of the prophets upon them that dwell on the earth". See Patriarchal blessing of William H. Dame, February 20, 1854, in Harold W. Pease, "The Life and Works of William Horne Dame", M.A. thesis, BYU, 1971, pp. 64–66. In June 1857, Philip Klingensmith, another participant, was similarly blessed that he would participate in "avenging the blood of Brother Joseph". See Patriarchal blessing of Philip Klingensmith, Anna Jean Backus, Mountain Meadows Witness: The Life and Times of Bishop Philip Klingensmith (Spokane: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1995), pp. 118, 124; Salt Lake Cutoff and the California Trail; Spanish Trail Cut a Roundabout Path Through Utah; Scott 1877.
  55. ^ It is uncertain whether the Missouri Wildcat group stayed with the slow-moving Baker–Fancher party after leaving Salt Lake City. See Brooks 1991, page xxi; Bagley (2002), p. 280 (referring to the "Missouri Wildcats" story as "Utah mythology".
  56. ^ Mountain Meadows Massacre in Tietoa Mormonismista Suomeksi. See PBS Episode 4 and UTLM Newsletters #88 and essay at
  57. ^ Young 1875.
  58. ^ Stenhouse 1873, p. 431 (citing "Argus", an anonymous contributor to the Corinne Daily Reporter whom Stenhouse met and vouched for).
  59. ^ Lyman, Edward Leo, The Overland Journey from Utah to California: Wagon Travel from the City of Saints to the City of Angels, University of Nevada Press, (2004), p. 130 ISBN 0-87417-501-1
  60. ^ Martineau 1857
  61. ^ Lyman 2004, p. 133
  62. ^ Dimick B. Huntington Journal
  63. ^ Shirts 1994
  64. ^ MacKinnon 2007, p. 57
  65. ^ Bagley 2002, p. 247.
  66. ^ Brigham Young to Isaac C. Haight, 10 September 1857, Letterpress Copybook 3:827–28, Brigham Young Office Files, LDS Church Archives.
  67. ^ MacKinnon 2007, p. endnote 50
  68. ^ MacKinnon 2007, p. 17
  69. ^ Mountain Meadows Massacre Artifact Now Believed To Be A Fake Jeffreys, Keith B. (2010). Free Inquiry magazine, 22(4).
  70. ^ Mountain Meadows affidavit Hofmann forgery? Smart, Christopher. (Sept. 10, 2010). Salt Lake Tribune.
  71. ^ Probable Hofmann Forgery Uncovered The Utah Division of State History. (2010). Press Release.
  72. ^
  73. ^ Daily Union Vedette, June 8, 1864
  74. ^ Sally Denton (2003). American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 (New York: Vintage Books, ISBN 0-375-72636-5) p. 210.
  75. ^ Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 9 vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1984), 5:577.
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ Utah History To Go. Pioneers and Cowboys. Morris A. Shirts, .Mountain Meadows Massacre Retrieved March 9, 2009.
  79. ^ Mountain Meadows Association. .1990 Monument Retrieved March 9, 2009.
  80. ^ Mountain Meadows Association. .1999 Monument Retrieved March 9, 2009.
  81. ^ Flickr. J. Stephen Conn's photostream. Mountain Meadows Massacre Monument (photograph). Retrieved March 9, 2009.
  82. ^ Eyring expresses regret for pioneer massacre
  83. ^ Ravitz, Jessica, LDS Church Apologizes for Mountain Meadows Massacre, Salt Lake Tribune; September 11, 2007.
  84. ^
  85. ^


See also

Media detailing the massacre

In 2014, California archaeologist Everett Bassett discovered that the two mass graves of the massacre victims are not located at the site of the monument erected in 1990 by the Mountain Meadows Association but instead on private land nearby. The Mountain Meadows Massacre Foundation is trying to come to an agreement with the land owner for conservation of the sites and wants to give them national monument status.[85]

In 2011, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark after joint efforts by descendants of those killed and the LDS Church.[84]

In 2007, the 150th anniversary of the massacre was remembered by a ceremony held in the meadows. Approximately 400 people, including many descendants of those slain at Mountain Meadows and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles attended this ceremony.[82][83]

In 1955, to memorialize the victims of the massacre, a monument was installed in the town square of Harrison, Arkansas. On one side of this monument is a map and short summary of the massacre, while the opposite side contains a list of the victims. In 2005 a replica of the U.S. Army's original 1859 cairn was built in Carrollton, Arkansas; it is maintained by the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation.[81]

Starting in 1988, the Mountain Meadows Association, composed of descendants of both the Baker–Fancher party victims and the Mormon participants, designed a new monument in the meadows; this monument was completed in 1990 and is maintained by the Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation.[77] In 1999 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints replaced the U.S. Army's cairn and the 1932 memorial wall with a second monument, which it now maintains.[78][79][80]

The 1999 burial site monument

The first monument for the victims was built two years after the massacre, by Major Carleton and the U.S. Army. This monument was a simple cairn built over the gravesite of 34 victims, and was topped by a large cedar cross.[72] The monument was found destroyed and the structure was replaced by the U.S. Army in 1864.[73] By some reports, the monument was destroyed in 1861, when Young brought an entourage to Mountain Meadows. Wilford Woodruff, who later became President of the Church, claimed that upon reading the inscription on the cross, which read, "Vengeance is mine, thus saith the Lord. I shall repay", Young responded, "it should be vengeance is mine and I have taken a little."[74][75] In 1932 citizens of the surrounding area constructed a memorial wall around the remnants of the monument.[76]


[71][70] Analysis indicates that Edwards's signature may have been traced and that the typeset belonged to a typewriter manufactured in the 1950s. The Utah State Historical Society, who maintains the document in its archives, acknowledges a possible connection to [69] A modern forensic assessment of a key affidavit, purportedly given by William Edwards in 1924, has complicated the debate on complicity of senior Mormon leadership in the Mountain Meadows massacre.

According to historian MacKinnon, "After the [Utah] war, U.S. President James Buchanan implied that face-to-face communications with Brigham Young might have averted the conflict, and Young argued that a north-south telegraph line in Utah could have prevented the Mountain Meadows massacre."[67] MacKinnon suggests that hostilities could have been avoided if Young had traveled east to Washington D.C. to resolve governmental problems instead of taking a five-week trip north on the eve of the Utah War for church related reasons.[68]

In regard to emigration trains passing through our settlements, we must not interfere with them until they are first notified to keep away. You must not meddle with them. The Indians we expect will do as they please but you should try and preserve good feelings with them. There are no other trains going south that I know of[.] [I]f those who are there will leave let them go in peace.[66]

There is a consensus among historians that Brigham Young played a role in provoking the massacre, at least unwittingly, and in concealing its evidence after the fact;[63] however, they debate whether Young knew about the planned massacre ahead of time and whether he initially condoned it before later taking a strong public stand against it. Young's use of inflammatory and violent language[64] in response to the Federal expedition added to the tense atmosphere at the time of the attack. Following the massacre, Young stated in public forums that God had taken vengeance on the Baker–Fancher party.[65] It is unclear whether Young held this view because he believed that this specific group posed an actual threat to colonists or because he believed that the group was directly responsible for past crimes against Mormons. However, in Young's only known correspondence prior to the massacre, he told the Church leaders in Cedar City:

Historians debate the role of Brigham Young in the massacre. Young was theocratic leader of the Utah Territory at the time of the massacre.

Brigham Young

Scholars have asserted that [61] Among Smith's party were a number of Paiute Native American chiefs from the Mountain Meadows area. When Smith returned to Salt Lake, Brigham Young met with these leaders on September 1, 1857, and encouraged them to fight against the Americans in the anticipated clash with the U.S. Army. They were also offered all of the livestock then on the road to California, which included that belonging to the Baker–Fancher party. The Native American chiefs were reluctant, and at least one objected they had previously been told not to steal, and declined the offer.[62]

The Mountain Meadows massacre was caused in part by events relating to the Utah War, an 1857 deployment toward the Utah Territory of the United States Army, whose arrival was peaceful. In the summer of 1857, however, the Mormons expected an all-out invasion of apocalyptic significance. From July to September 1857, Mormon leaders and their followers prepared for a siege that could have ended up similar to the seven-year Bleeding Kansas problem occurring at the time. Mormons were required to stockpile grain, and were enjoined against selling grain to emigrants for use as cattle feed. As far-off Mormon colonies retreated, Parowan and Cedar City became isolated and vulnerable outposts. Brigham Young sought to enlist the help of Native American tribes in fighting the "Americans", encouraging them to steal cattle from emigrant trains, and to join Mormons in fighting the approaching army.[59]

Apostle who met the Baker–Fancher party before touring Parowan and neighboring settlements before the massacre

War hysteria

Thus, historians argue that southern Utah Mormons would have been particularly affected by an unsubstantiated[55] rumor that the Baker–Fancher wagon train had been joined by a group of eleven miners and plainsmen who called themselves "Missouri Wildcats", some of whom reportedly taunted, vandalized and "caused trouble" for Mormons and Native Americans along the route (by some accounts claiming that they had the gun that "shot the guts out of Old Joe Smith"[56]) They were also affected by the report to Brigham Young that the Baker–Fancher party was from Arkansas where Pratt was murdered;[57] it was rumored that Pratt's wife recognized some of the Mountain Meadows party as being in the gang that shot and stabbed Pratt.[58]

The sermons, blessings, and private counsel by Mormon leaders just before the Mountain Meadows massacre can be understood as encouraging private individuals to execute God's judgment against the wicked.[53] In Cedar City, the teachings of church leaders were particularly strident.[54]

In 1857, Mormon leaders taught that the Second Coming of Jesus was imminent,[49] and that God would soon exact punishment against the United States for persecuting Mormons and martyring Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Patten and Pratt.[50] In their Endowment ceremony, faithful early Latter-day Saints took an oath to pray that God would take vengeance against the murderers.[51] As a result of this oath, several Mormon apostles and other leaders considered it their religious duty to kill the prophets' murderers if they ever came across them.[52]

In addition, during the prior decades, the religion had undergone a period of intense persecution in the American Midwest, and faithful Mormons moved west to escape persecution in midwestern towns. In particular, they were officially expelled from the state of Missouri during the 1838 Mormon War, during which prominent Mormon apostle David W. Patten was killed in battle. After Mormons moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, the religion's founder Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith were killed in 1844. Just months before the Mountain Meadows massacre, Mormons received word that yet another apostle had been killed: in April 1857, apostle Parley P. Pratt was shot in Arkansas by Hector McLean, the estranged husband of one of Pratt's plural wives, Eleanor McLean Pratt.[46] Mormon leaders immediately proclaimed Pratt as another martyr,[47] and many Mormons held the people of Arkansas responsible.[48]

For the decade prior to the Baker–Fancher party's arrival there, Utah Territory existed as a theodemocracy led by Brigham Young. During the mid-1850s, Young instituted a Mormon Reformation, intending to "lay the axe at the root of the tree of sin and iniquity".[45] Mormon teachings during this era were dramatic and strident.

Strident Mormon teachings

Historians have ascribed the massacre to a number of factors, including strident Mormon teachings in the years prior to the massacre, war hysteria, and alleged involvement of Brigham Young.

Historical theories explaining the massacre

Initially, the LDS Church denied any involvement by Mormons, and was relatively silent on the issue. In 1872, it excommunicated some of the participants for their role in the massacre.[42] Since then, the LDS Church has condemned the massacre and acknowledged involvement by local Mormon leaders. In September 2007, the LDS Church published an article in its publications marking 150 years since the tragedy occurred.[43][44]

, a Mormon scholar who lived near the area in southern Utah. Brooks found no evidence of direct involvement by Brigham Young, but charged him with obstructing the investigation and provoking the attack through his rhetoric. Juanita Brooks in 1950 by The Mountain Meadows Massacre The first detailed and comprehensive work using modern historical methods was [41] In 1910, the massacre was the subject of a short book by Josiah F. Gibbs, who also attributed responsibility for the massacre to Young and Smith.[40] in 1877, expressing his opinion that Confession The massacre has been treated extensively by several historical works, beginning with Lee's own

The first published report on the incident was made in 1859 by Carleton, who had been tasked by the U.S. Army to investigate the incident and bury the still exposed corpses at Mountain Meadows.[37] Although the massacre was covered to some extent in the media during the 1850s,[38] the first period of intense nation-wide publicity about the massacre began around 1872, after investigators obtained Klingensmith's confession. In 1867 C.V. Waite published "An Authentic History Of Brigham Young" which described the events. In 1872, Mark Twain commented on the massacre through the lens of contemporary American public opinion in an appendix to his semi-autobiographical travel book Roughing It. In 1873, the massacre was a prominent feature of a history by T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints.[39] National newspapers covered the Lee trials closely from 1874 to 1876, and his execution in 1877 was widely covered.

The cover of the August 13, 1859, issue of Harper's Weekly illustrating the killing field as described by Brevet Major Carleton "one too horrible and sickening for language to describe. Human skeletons, disjointed bones, ghastly skulls and the hair of women were scattered in frightful profusion over a distance of two miles." "the remains were not buried at all until after they had been dismembered by the wolves and the flesh stripped from the bones, and then only such bones were buried as lay scattered along nearest the road".

Media coverage about the event

Criticism and analysis of the massacre

At Lee's sentencing, as required by Utah Territory statute, he was given the option of being hanged, shot, or beheaded, and he chose to be shot.[34] In 1877, before being executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows on March 23, 1877, Lee professed that he was a scapegoat for others involved.[35] Brigham Young stated that Lee's fate was just, but not a sufficient blood atonement, given the enormity of the crime.[36]

Lee's first trial began on July 23, 1875, in Beaver, before a jury of eight Mormons and four non-Mormons.[30] This trial led to a hung jury on August 5, 1875. Lee's second trial began September 13, 1876, before an all-Mormon jury. The prosecution called Daniel Wells, Laban Morrill, Joel White, Samuel Knight, Samuel McMurdy, Nephi Johnson, and Jacob Hamblin.[31] Lee also stipulated, against advice of counsel, that the prosecution be allowed to re-use the depositions of Young and Smith from the previous trial.[32] Lee called no witnesses in his defense.[33] This time, Lee was convicted.

During the 1870s Lee,[27] Dame, Philip Klingensmith and two others (Ellott Willden and George Adair, Jr.) were indicted and arrested while warrants were obtained to pursue the arrests of four others (Haight, Higbee, William C. Stewart and Samuel Jukes) who had gone into hiding. Klingensmith escaped prosecution by agreeing to testify.[28] Brigham Young removed some participants including Haight and Lee from the LDS Church in 1870. The U.S. posted bounties of $500 ($9325[29] in present-day funds) each for the capture of Haight, Higbee and Stewart, while prosecutors chose not to pursue their cases against Dame, Willden and Adair.

Further investigations, cut short by the American Civil War in 1861,[25] again proceeded in 1871 when prosecutors obtained the affidavit of militia member Philip Klingensmith. Klingensmith had been a bishop and blacksmith from Cedar City; by the 1870s, however, he had left the church and moved to Nevada.[26]

Justice At Last! – Leslie's Monthly Magazine article of 1877.
The scene at Lee's execution by Utah firing squad on March 23, 1877. Lee is seated, next to his coffin.

A federal judge brought into the territory after the Utah War, Judge John Cradlebaugh, in March 1859 convened a grand jury in Provo, concerning the massacre, but the jury declined any indictments.[21] Nevertheless, Cradlebaugh conducted a tour of the Mountain Meadows area with a military escort.[22] Cradlebaugh attempted to arrest John D. Lee, Isaac Haight, and John Higbee, but these men fled before they could be found.[23] Cradlebaugh publicly charged Brigham Young as an instigator to the massacre and therefore an "accessory before the fact."[22] Possibly as a protective measure against the mistrusted federal court system, Mormon territorial probate court judge Elias Smith arrested Young under a territorial warrant, perhaps hoping to divert any trial of Young into a friendly Mormon territorial court.[24] When no federal charges ensued, Young was apparently released.[22]

Carleton interviewed a few local Mormon settlers and Paiute Native American chiefs, and concluded that there was Mormon involvement in the massacre. He issued a report in May 1859, addressed to the U.S. Assistant Adjutant-General, setting forth his findings. Jacob Forney, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Utah, also conducted an investigation that included visiting the region in the summer of 1859 and retrieved many of the surviving children of massacre victims who had been housed with Mormon families, and gathered them in preparation of transporting them to their relatives in Arkansas. Forney concluded that the Paiutes did not act alone and the massacre would not have occurred without the white settlers,[20] while Carleton's report to the U.S. Congress called the mass killings a "heinous crime",[5] blaming both local and senior church leaders for the massacre.

An early investigation was conducted by Brigham Young,[11] who interviewed John D. Lee on September 29, 1857. In 1858, Young sent a report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs stating that the massacre was the work of Native Americans. The cairn and cross.

Investigations and prosecutions

Some of the property of the dead was reportedly taken by the Native Americans involved, while large amounts of their valuables and cattle were taken by the Mormons in Southern Utah, including John D. Lee. Some of the cattle were taken to Salt Lake City and sold or traded. The remaining personal property of the Baker–Fancher party was taken to the tithing house at Cedar City and auctioned off to local Mormons.[17]

Leonard J. Arrington, founder of the Mormon History Association, reports that Brigham Young received the rider, James Haslam, at his office on the same day. When he learned what was contemplated by the militia leaders in Parowan and Cedar City, he sent back a letter stating the Baker–Fancher party were not to be meddled with, and should be allowed to go in peace (although he acknowledged the Native Americans would likely "do as they pleased").[11][16] Young's letter arrived two days too late, on September 13, 1857.

On Friday, September 11, 1857, two militiamen approached the Baker–Fancher party wagons with a white flag and were soon followed by Indian Agent and militia officer John D. Lee. Lee told the battle-weary emigrants that he had negotiated a truce with the Paiutes, whereby they could be escorted safely the 36 miles (58 km) back to Cedar City under Mormon protection in exchange for turning all of their livestock and supplies over to the Native Americans.[14] Accepting this, the emigrants were led out of their fortification. The adult men were separated from the women and children. The men were paired with a militia escort. When a signal was given, the militiamen turned and shot the male members of the Baker–Fancher party standing by their side. The women and children were then ambushed and killed by more militia that were hiding in nearby bushes and ravines. Members of the militia were sworn to secrecy. A plan was set to blame the massacre on the Native Americans. The militia did not kill some small children who were deemed too young to relate the story. These children were taken in by local Mormon families. Seventeen of the children were later reclaimed by the U.S. Army and returned to relatives in Arkansas.[15]

Four of the nine Utah Territorial militiamen of the Tenth Regiment
"Iron Brigade" who were indicted in 1874 for murder or conspiracy
(Not shown: William H. Dame • William C. Stewart • Ellott Willden • Samuel Jukes • George Adair, Jr.)
Isaac C. Haight—Battalion Commander—died 1886 Arizona
Maj. John D. Lee, constable, judge, and Indian Agent. Having conspired in advance with his immediate commander, Isaac C. Haight, Lee led the initial assault, and falsely offered emigrants safe passage prior to their mile-long march to the field where they were ultimately massacred. He was the only participant convicted. Philip Klingensmith, a Bishop in the church and a private in the militia. He participated in the killings, and later turned state's evidence against his fellows, after leaving the church.

Killings and aftermath of the massacre

Large panorama of the area in 2009

[13] Eventually fear spread among the militia's leaders that some emigrants had caught sight of white men, and had probably discovered who their attackers really were. This resulted in an order to kill all the emigrants, with the exception of small children.[12] The somewhat dispirited Baker–Fancher party found water and fresh grazing for its livestock after reaching grassy, mountain-ringed Mountain Meadows, a widely known stopover on the old Spanish Trail, in early September. They anticipated several days of rest and recuperation there before the next 40 miles (64 km) would take them out of Utah. But, on September 7, the party was attacked by Mormon militiamen dressed as Native Americans and some Native American

The Baker–Fancher party left Corn Creek and continued the 125 miles (201 km) to Mountain Meadows, passing Parowan, and Cedar City; southern Utah communities led respectively by Stake Presidents William H. Dame and Isaac C. Haight. Haight and Dame were, in addition, the senior regional military leaders of the Mormon militia. As the Baker–Fancher party approached, several meetings were held in Cedar City and nearby Parowan by the local Latter Day Saint (LDS) leaders pondering how to implement Young's declaration of martial law.[6] In the afternoon of Sunday, September 6, Haight held his weekly Stake High Council meeting after church services, and brought up the issue of what to do with the emigrants.[7] The plan for a Native American massacre was discussed, but not all the Council members agreed it was the right approach.[7] The Council resolved to take no action until Haight sent a rider, James Haslam, out the next day to carry an express to Salt Lake City (a six-day round trip on horseback) for Brigham Young's advice, as Utah did not yet have a telegraph system.[7] Following the Council, Isaac C. Haight decided to send a messenger south to John D. Lee.[7] What Haight told Lee remains a mystery, but considering the timing it may have had something to do with Council's decision to wait for advice from Brigham Young.[8]

Conspiracy and siege

While most witnesses said that the Fanchers were in general a peaceful party whose members behaved well along the trail, rumors spread about misdeeds. Brevet Major James Henry Carleton led the first federal investigation of the murders, published in 1859. He recorded Hamblin's account that the train was alleged to have poisoned a spring near Corn Creek; this resulted in the deaths of 18 head of cattle and two or three people who ate the contaminated meat. Carleton interviewed the father of a child who allegedly died from this poisoned spring, and accepted the sincerity of the grieving father. But, he also included a statement from an investigator who did not believe the Fancher party was capable of poisoning the spring, given its size. Carleton invited readers to consider a potential explanation for the rumors of misdeeds, noting the general atmosphere of distrust among Mormons for strangers at the time, and that some locals appeared jealous of the Fancher party's wealth.[5]

Christopher Kit Fancher (survivor of the Mountain Meadows massacre)

The Baker–Fancher party were refused stocks in Salt Lake City and chose to leave there and take the Old Spanish Trail, which passed through southern Utah. In August 1857, the Parowan, traveled throughout southern Utah, instructing the settlers to stockpile grain. While on his return trip to Salt Lake City, Smith camped near the Baker–Fancher party on August 25 at Corn Creek, (near present-day Kanosh) 70 miles (110 km) north of Parowan. They had traveled the 165 miles (266 km) south from Salt Lake City, and Jacob Hamblin suggested that the wagon train continue on the trail and rest their cattle at Mountain Meadows, which had good pasture and was adjacent to his homestead.

At the time of the Fanchers' arrival, the theocratic democracy under the lead of Brigham Young, who had established colonies along the California Trail and Old Spanish Trail. President James Buchanan had recently issued an order to send troops to Utah. Rumors spread in the territory about the motives for the federal troop movement. Young issued various orders, urging the local population to prepare for the arrival of the troops. Eventually Young issued a declaration of martial law.[4]

Interactions with Mormon settlers

, as did most wagon trains at the time. The party reached Salt Lake City with about 120 members. Salt Lake City This group was relatively wealthy, and planned to restock its supplies in [3].Missouri They were joined along the way by families and individuals from other states, including [2]

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