Updated June 5, 2003
the October 2001 magazine, American Heritage, Sally Denton wrote an in-depth
article of the circumstances surrounding the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Some of
the following information was taken from that article.
March 29, 1857, some 40 wagons carrying approximately 50 men, 40 women, and 50
children rolled out of Arkansas to start a new life in the West, a place called
California. The families were famous for their livestock, the best of which they
were bringing with them. They had a thousand prize beef cattle, dairy cows
providing fresh cream, butter and milk along the way, and a choice herd of
Kentucky racehorses. The company's thoroughbred mare, One Eyed Blaze, was
conspicuous. Another, a black satin stallion, as one account described him, was
worth almost a million dollars in today's market. Among the valuables hidden in
the floorboards of the wagons or in the ticking of the feather beds was as much
as $100,000 in gold coins and other currency. The group carried quality weapons,
mostly Kentucky muzzleloaders, and a stockpile of expensive ammunition and had
along three elegant carriages, emblazoned with stag's heads, for the women to
Leading the train was Capt. Alexander Fancher, born the second of three
boys in 1812. His elder brother, John, had moved from Arkansas to California in
1856 and urged Alexander and the younger brother, Richard, to join him. While
Richard declined, Alexander eagerly prepared to take his wife, Eliza, and their
nine children, four boys and five girls ranging in age from 18 months to 19
years. John and Alexander Fancher persuaded their friend John T. Baker, the
52-year-old patriarch of a close-knit clan of around 25, to join them. Baker's
eldest son, Jack, was a superior horseman who would play a key role in leading
the train. Joining the Bakers and Fanchers would be the Dunlaps from Marion
County, Jesse and his wife Mary, their six children, and Lorenzo and Nancy and
their five children. One man, William Eaton, joined the group as a friend, with
no blood relations. Among the many mysteries of the event are the identities of
the dozens of others who left Arkansas with the Bakers, Franchers, and Dunlaps.
The estimated value of the wagon train was $70,000.00. A few on the train
were affluent, some even wealthy. There were livestock growers, drovers, and
traders. Others were cattlemen and thoroughbred horse-breeders from northwest
Arkansas. Most of the party was members of large families. Many were newly
married young couples; several had newborn infants and toddlers, and some wives
were pregnant, destined to give birth on the trail. There were also many
unmarried men and women in their twenties, mostly cousins and childhood friends.
Accompanying them for security reasons were at least 20 hired riflemen. Most of
those not related by blood were old friends and longtime neighbors."
(American Heritage Magazine)
When they reached the Salt Lake Valley they planned to rest their
livestock and stock up on provisions. The party arrived on August 3rd and set up
camp. Although the fields were obviously brimming with crops, the Mormons
refused to sell them any provisions.
There were two routes the wagon train could take upon leaving Salt Lake
City. One would take them south, the other west. "A Mormon emissary
approached them, and urged them to turn the train south, where there was good
pasture and food along the way. The train's leaders discussed the routes and
fell into a disagreement, after which the families in four wagons split off to
the west along the well-mapped northern route. The rest of the party pulled out
of Salt Lake City on August 5th. Eaton, the Francher's Arkansas friend, wrote a
cheerful letter to his wife in Indiana before leaving the Utah capital. It would
be the last communication from the group.
Seeing bountiful crops under cultivation, the emigrants sought to buy
supplies in the town of Lehi. Again, all the farmers refused to sell to them.
(Later evidence revealed that Church leaders had issued orders to Mormons living
in the small communities along the trail not to sell grain to the outfit.) They
were rebuffed again in the larger city of Provo. They passed through the
communities of Springville, Spanish Fork, Payson, Nephi, Buttermilk Fort, and
Fillmore, meeting the same refusal at every stop. Finally, at Corn Creek, some
Native Americans sold them feed for their cattle. They set off from Corn Creek
around August 25th and arrived two days later at the walled town of Parowan,
where they would meet up with the Spanish Trail." (Ibid)
During this same time period and by orders of James Buchanan, the
President of The United States, Gen. Albert S. Johnson's army was approaching
Utah from the East. The purpose of the army coming to Utah was to have Brigham
Young removed as governor of the territory and to install a new governor. There
had been serious problems with the Utah territorial political leaders for eight
years. There were numerous complaints of political abuse along with the
continuing depravations of polygamy. Complaints had been sent to Washington that
Church leaders were not following the laws of the United States government.
There was no separation of church and state in the Utah Territory. What Brigham
Young said and did was the law there. Brigham Young stated in a conference talk.
... "It is reported that I have said
that whosoever the President appoints, I am still governor. I repeat it, all
hell cannot remove me... [cries of Amen] ...
I am still your governor... [cries of Glory to God] ... I
will still rule this people until God himself permits another to take my
Young declared martial law throughout the entire territory on September
4, 1857. The Church leaders took Johnson's army as a real threat. The Mormons
said that they were not going to be run out of their communities any more. They
were ready to stand up and fight. Other government officials had been sent to
Utah to serve in their political capacities to no avail. No one breathed without
Brigham Young's permission. He made all the decisions. Under the heavy hand of
Young's dictatorship, the Mormon people were held in an atmosphere of bondage
"By the winter of 1856-1857, Young was tormented by defections in
his ranks. Disharmony among the Saints, questioning Church leadership, and lack
of faith was unacceptable. Brigham Young responded with his 'Mormon
Reformation'. He had his Church elders sweep through the communities of the
territory in an orgy of recrimination and rebaptism. He instructed, "back
sliders were to be hewn down." His enforcement army, called the 'Danites',
commonly referred to as the Avenging Angels, gained special notoriety."
The doctrine of 'Blood Atonement' was also in effect during this time
(1856-1857). The Blood Atonement Doctrine created an atmosphere of hysterical
repentance. If any member of the Church had committed certain crimes that were
unforgivable, the only way to exercise repentance was to voluntarily shed your
own blood. The Saints were afraid because they knew that the Danites would see
to it that Young's orders would be carried out.
Prior to the arrival of the emigrants, the Mormon leaders had been
preaching the doctrine of Blood Atonement. John Doyle Lee, Brigham Young's
adopted son and longtime intimate friend and military commander of the Mormon
Mormons nearly all, and I think every one of them in Utah, previous to the
massacre at Mountain Meadows, believed in Blood Atonement. It was taught by the
leaders and believed by the people that the Priesthood were inspired and could
not give a wrong order. It was the belief of all that I ever heard talk of these
things, and I have been with the Church since the dark days in Jackson County,
that the authority that ordered a murder committed, was the only responsible
party, that the man who did the killing was only an instrument, working by
command of a superior, and hence could have no ill will against the person
killed, but was only acting by authority and committed no wrong. In other words,
if Brigham Young or any of his apostles, or any of the Priesthood, gave an order
to a man, the act was the act of the one giving the order, and the man doing the
act was only an instrument of the person commanding, just as much of an
instrument as the knife that was used to cut the throat of the victim. This
being the belief of all good Mormons it is easily understood why the orders of
the Priesthood were so blindly obeyed by the people."
(Confessions of John D. Lee, 1880
edition, pp. 279-280)
Another element that added to the hysteria at this time was a violent
sermon preached by Brigham Young in which he said, "There
is not a man or woman who violates the covenants made with their God in the
Mormon temple, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ
will never wipe that out. Your own blood must atone for it, and the judgments of
the almighty will come, sooner or later, and every man or woman will have to
atone for breaking their covenants." (Journal
of Discourses, vol. III p. 247)
The Oath of Vengeance against the American people and the
Government for the death of Joseph Smith was a very important part of the temple
ceremony for many years. Because of this temple ceremony vow of vengeance upon
this nation, a protest was filed in 1903 in the United States Senate to have
Reed Smoot, a Mormon Apostle who had been elected a Senator from Utah, removed
from office on the grounds that he had taken this treasonous oath in the
endowment ritual. It became the subject of a United States Senate Investigation.
The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486
(59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and
Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the
Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols.
[1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906).
John Hawley made these statements in his testimony concerning the Smoot
went to Salt Lake City in 1856. They gave the endowments of washing and
anointing, and then there was an oath taken in Utah to avenge the blood of the
prophet... In taking the endowments at Salt Lake there was the oath required,
and the oath that was required was to 'avenge the death or blood of the
prophet.' We were made to swear to avenge the death of Joseph Smith the Martyr,
together with that of his brother Hyrum, on this American nation, and that we
should teach our children and children's children to do so. 'The penalty for
this grip and oath was disembowelment,' I would not have discussed the method of
these endowments when I was a member of the Utah Church. The penalty for
revealing or disclosing these secrets was disembowelment. The grips and tokens
of the priesthood were what we were not to disclose... I kept the obligation
while living in Salt Lake City."
Young stated, "Furthermore,
every one who had passed through their endowment, in the Temple, were placed
under the most sacred obligation to avenge the blood of the Prophet, whenever an
opportunity offered, and to teach their children to do the same, thus making the
entire Mormon people sworn and avowed enemies of the American nation."
(Confessions of John D. Lee, p. 160)
was a serious matter for a Mormon if they broke the covenants they made in the
temple. The threats were real. The Danites saw to it that punishment was swift
and without mercy. This oath was one of the reasons that the Mountain Meadow
Massacre took place. This oath was finally removed about 1927.
President Brigham Young sent George A. Smith ahead of the wagon train
with instructions to tell the Saints not to sell any commodities to the Francher
Party, and under no circumstances were they to provide any help to them. If this
order were disobeyed the penalty would be personal harm or even death to
themselves or their families. Juanita Brooks, Mormon historian and author
states, "At Parowan, the gates of
that fort were closed and the company passed by that town. Here one man, William
Leany, recognized a member of the company, William Aiden, as the son of a man
who had befriended him while he was on a mission. He gave Aiden some vegetables
from his garden, knowing well that he was acting in direct opposition to the
official orders. A few days later he was called out of his house and struck over
the head by one of the local police [Danites] on the charge that he had rendered
aid and comfort to the enemy. He was left for dead, and indeed never did fully
recover from the blow." (Confessions
of John D. Lee, p. 206)
Parowan had been built and enclosed with a fort as to protect the Mormons
against Indian attacks early in the settlement of the territory. But Brigham
Young had since embraced the Indians as fellow persecuted people who had been
driven out of their homelands by the despised U. S. Government, and by now, the
Mormons had made peace with them, even baptizing their famous chiefs, Wa-kara
was the Indian Chief who was accused of killing Captain John Gunnison and his
men on Oct. 28, 1853. The Gunnison Party was in Utah at the time, surveying for
the U.S. Government. However, there was testimony that white men dressed up as
Indians committed the Gunnison massacre.) (The
Unsolicited Chronicler by Robert K. Fielding)
Previous to the Mountain Meadow Massacre, on September 4th, 1857, Brigham
Young sent a request to all leaders of the Indian tribes in the Utah territory
to come to Salt Lake City as soon as possible. He met with them and told them
that the U. S. Government was sending troops to Utah for the purpose of
exterminating the Mormons and the Indian tribes in the territory. He told them
it was necessary for them to join in with the Mormons to help fight the enemy
and save their own people. This created such frenzy among the Indian Chiefs that
they promised to join in and help the Mormons. The Indians became their allies.
It is believed by many that in the private meeting that Brigham Young had
with Chief Kanosh the order to exterminate the emigrant wagon train was given,
and the Chief's reward for the extermination would be part of the booty and some
of the cattle to help feed his people. The agreement between Brigham Young and
the Indian leaders in Salt Lake City was made and put into motion.
Brigham Young gave Apostle George A. Smith direct orders to make a trip
south to warn the settlements and priesthood leaders of the approaching wagon
train, and inform them that Chief Kanosh was going to attack the settlers.
Bishop, and Indian Agent, John D. Lee stated that the original plan was to stir
up the Indians to attack the wagon train. But as the scene unfolds, the Indians
were not capable of doing the deed themselves, so the Mormons were left to
finish the job. It then became the responsibility of George A. Smith to meet
with the priesthood leaders and make arrangements to exterminate the emigrants.
"On Friday, September 4th, just before sunset, the Fancher train
entered Mountain Meadows, a five-mile-long valley surrounded by pinion-dotted
foothills. Opening from a narrow entrance on the east and expanding into an
oasis of creeks and cottonwoods, the meadow closed with a bottleneck exit into
the rugged Beaver Mountains to the west. The travelers apparently thought the
location was safe from Indian attacks, for they did not circle their wagons, as
they had done throughout the rest of the journey.
On Sunday, September 6th, the emigrants held a Sabbath service in a big
tent they had faithfully transported across the country. Late that night,
according to subsequent trial testimony, John D. Lee and his accomplices, some
of them Indians, painted their faces and hid in the low hills surrounding the
campsite. They took up strategic positions to prevent escapes, controlling
access to the meadow from all sides. At dawn on Monday, the emigrants awakened
and began their morning routines. Suddenly they heard shots. In the barrage that
followed, 6 or 7 men from the wagon train were killed, 15 more were wounded. The
other side suffered an unknown number of casualties. The pioneers drove their
enemy back. They dragged their wagons into a circular barricade. Apparently
assuming Paiutes had attacked them, they dug a rifle pit while awaiting help
from neighboring Mormons." (American
Charles Fancher sent William A. Aden and two other young men from the
wagon train for help. They were able to sneak past the Indians and rush toward
Cedar City in hopes that the Mormon leaders would send immediate help to the
wagon train to ward off the Indians. The three men traveled about 7 miles to a
watering hole called Leachey Springs. There they met up with twenty men on their
way to join John D. Lee at the massacre. Aden approached the Mormon men and
asked for help. Immediately William C. Stewart took out his rifle, shot and
killed William A. Aden, and wounded the other two men. (The fate of the two
wounded men is written in the Major J. H. Carleton Report.)
"The next day there seemed to be a standoff, and the emigrants
burrowed in further. Each time they ventured to the stream for water, bullets
turned them back. On the fifth day of the siege, Friday, September 11th, Lee and
a fellow Danite came into the camp carrying a white flag. They were greeted with
cheers. Lee told the party that he had learned of the ambush, hastily recruited
Mormons to come to the rescue, and gotten the Paiutes to agree to a truce. "When I entered the corral, I found the emigrants engaged in
burying two men of note," Lee
would later write. "The
men, women and children gathered around me in wild consternation. Some felt that
the time of their happy deliverance had come ... my position was painful, trying
and awful, my brain seemed to be on fire." If they relinquished
their arms to the Mormons, he told them, they would be escorted safely out of
The desperate emigrants agreed. All the children under eight, the age
of innocence, according to Mormon doctrine were placed in one wagon. The wounded
men were placed in a second wagon, and both wagons rolled north out of the
campsite. All the women followed, some carrying infants, and all the children
over eight, who walked a few hundred feet, smiling and waving, as they caught a
glimpse of the militia they thought had come to save them. Then came the men in
single file, spaced several feet apart, each accompanied by an armed Mormon.
Suddenly, on a hill overlooking the site, another Danite raised his
hand and shouted, "HALT! DO YOUR DUTY!" At that command, each Mormon shot
the man beside him, as others, including Indians, hiding in the embankment
ahead, butchered the women and children. The 18 surviving children, ranging in
age from 18 months to 8 years, were weak from thirst, their skin and clothing
smeared with the blood of their parents, brothers, and sisters. The killers
spared these few and distributed them to local families. Over the next 75 years,
some of them would tell the story often, even testifying in detail. But what
they had seen always seemed unbelievable. Federal authorities rescued 17 of them
in 1859, two years after they had been captured, and returned them to relatives
in Arkansas." (American Heritage)
The Mormon historian B. H. Roberts called the Mountain Meadow Massacre, "the
most lamentable episode in Utah history, and in the History of the Church."
(Comprehensive History of the Church,
vol. 4 p. 139)
The Mormon writer William E. Berrett gives this description of the
massacre: "It was a deliberately
planned massacre, treacherously carried into execution. On the morning of Sept.
11, a flag of truce was sent to the emigrant camp and terms of surrender
proposed. The emigrants were to give up their arms. The wounded were to be
loaded into wagons, followed by the women and children, and the men to bring up
the rear, single file. Thus they were to be conducted by the whites to Cedar
City. This was agreed too, and the march began. ... The white men at a given
signal, fell upon the unarmed emigrant men...only the smallest children were
spared." (The Restored Church,
The Indians acknowledged having participated in the massacre of the
emigrants, but said that the Mormons persuaded them into it. (Senate Executive
Document 42, 36 Cong., 1 sess., 94-95, as cited in The
Mountain Meadows Massacre, p. 194; p. 252 of 1962 edition)
"By maneuvering politically with the backstage help of a figure
who would be the Mormon's most important defender, Brigham Young managed to
stave off a federal investigation of the massacre for years. Thomas Leiper Kane,
a wealthy Pennsylvanian who had met the Mormons during their exodus from
Illinois, was Young's lobbyist and veritable secret agent in Washington both
before and after the Civil War. Kane first negotiated personally with General
Johnston and ultimately concluded a deal with the Buchanan administration that
forestalled any further federal invasion or punishment of past Mormon crimes in
return for Brigham's stepping down as territorial governor.
By 1859, stories about the massacre had been published in California and
in underground Utah papers, covering Major Carleton's discovery of skeletons,
his initial investigation and report, and the rescue of the children." (American
Report on the Mountain Meadow Massacre
Major J. H. Carleton, U.S.A.
This typescript (prepared in December 1998) has been compared for accuracy with
a typewritten transcription of the published House document. Bracketed
insertions in the text have been included for clarity, to note corrections in
names, or to add complete names. The bracketed identification of the surviving
children is a suggestion based on information on the memorial that was placed at
Mountain Meadows in 1990.
Congress (House of Representatives) Document no. 605 1st Session.
of the United States,
House of Representatives
that there be printed as a House document 5,000 copies of the Special Report of
the Mountain Meadows Massacre, as compiled by J. H. Carleton, Brevet Major,
United States Army, Captain First Dragoons.
A. McDowell, Clerk
REPORT OF THE MOUNTAIN MEADOW MASSACRE BY J. H. CARLETON, BREVET MAJOR; UNITED
STATES ARMY, CAPTAIN, FIRST DRAGOONS.
at Mountain Meadows,
Territory, May 25th, 1859
I left Los Angeles, the 23rd ultimo, General Clarke, commanding the Department
of California, directed me to bury the bones of the victims of that terrible
massacre which took place on this ground in September, 1857. The fact of this
massacre of (in my opinion) at least 120 men, women and children, who were on
their way from the State of Arkansas to California, has long been well known. I
have endeavored to learn the circumstances attending it, and have the honor to
submit the following as the result of my inquiries on this point:
Dr. Brewer, United States Army, whom I met with Captain Campbell's
command on the Santa Clara River on the 15th inst., informed me that as he was
going up the Platte River on the 11th of June, 1857, he passed a train of
emigrants near O'Fallons Bluffs. The train was called "Perkin's
Train," a man named Perkins, who had previously been to California, having
charge of it as a conductor; that he afterwards saw the train frequently; the
last time he saw it, it was at Ash Hollow on the North Fork of the Platte.
The Doctor says the train consisted of, say, 40 wagons; there were a few
tents besides, which the emigrants used in addition to these wagons when they
encamped. There seemed to be about 40 heads of families, many women, some
unmarried, and many children. A doctor accompanied them. The train seemed to
consist of respectable people, well to do in the world. They were well dressed,
were quiet, orderly, genteel; had fine stock; had three carriages along, and
other evidences which went to show that this was one of the finest trains that
had been seen to cross the plains. It was so remarked upon by the officers who
were with the doctor at that time. From reports afterwards received, and
comparing the dates with the probable rate of travel, he believed this was the
identical train which was destroyed at Mountain Meadows.
I could get no information of these emigrants of a date anterior to this.
Here seems to be given the first glimpse of their number, character, and
condition; and an authentic glimpse, too, if the train destroyed was the one
seen by the doctor, of which there can hardly be any doubt. The doctor was
confirmed in his belief that the train he saw was the one destroyed, by many
reasons. Among them one fact seemed to be very convincing. He observed a
carriage in the train in which some ladies rode, to whom he made one or more
visits as they journeyed along. There was something peculiar in the construction
of the carriage and its ornaments its blazoned stag's head upon the panels, etc.
This carriage, he says, is now in the possession of the Mormons. Besides, he
afterwards heard as a fact that this train had been entirely destroyed.
The people who owned it would not have been likely to have to sell such
an important part of their means of transportation midway their journey. The
road upon which these emigrants were seen by Dr. Brewer crosses the Rocky
Mountains through the South Pass, and thence goes on down into the Great Basin
to Salt Lake City, and thence Southward along the western base of the Wasatch
Mountains to what is called the rim of the basin. Here the "divide" is
crossed, when it descends upon the valley of the Santa Clara affluent toward the
Colorado. Fillmore City is upon one of the many streams which run westward down
from the Wasatch Mountains into the basin. It is about 140 miles from Salt Lake
City; then upon another stream, 90 miles farther south, is Prawn [Parowan] City;
then upon still another stream, 18 miles south of Prawn [Parowan], is Cedar
City; then to a settlement on Pinto Creek is 24 miles; thence to Hamblin's
house, on the northern slope of the Mountain Meadows, 6 miles.
From Hamblin's house over the rim of the basin to the southern point of
the Mountain Meadows, where there is a large spring, is 4 miles, 1,000 yards.
This swell of land or watershed, called the rim of the basin, runs west across
nearly midway the valley called the Mountain Meadows. This valley runs north and
south; its northern portion is drained into the basin, its southern toward the
Santa Clara. Down on the Santa Clara is a Mormon settlement called "The
Fort": here some 30 families reside. It is 34 miles from Mountain Meadows.
East of Cedar City, say 18 miles, on the east slope of the Wasatch Range,
drained by Virgin River, is the town of Harmony, of 100 families; and farther
down the Virgin River, 12 miles from "The Fort," on the Santa Clara,
is Washington City, also of 100 families. The Santa Clara joins the Virgin River
near Washington City.
The Pah Vent Indians live near Fillmore City. The Pah Ute Indians are
scattered along from Parowan southward to the Colorado.
The train of emigrants proceeding southward from Fillmore toward the
Mountain Meadows are next seen, so far as my inquiries go, by a Mr. Jacob
Hamblin, a leading Mormon, who has charge of "the Fort," on the Santa
Clara, and resides there in the winter season, but who has a cattle ranch and a
house, where he lives in the summer time, at the Mountain Meadows. I here give
what he said, and which I wrote down sentence by sentence, as he related it. He
told me he had given the same information to Judge Cradlebaugh:
the middle of August, 1857, I started on a visit to Great Salt Lake City. At
Corn Creek, 8 miles south of Fillmore City, I encamped with a train of emigrants
who said they were mostly from Arkansas. There were, in my opinion, not over 30
wagons. There were several tents, and they had from 400 to 500 head of horned
cattle, 25 head of horses, and some mules.
This information I got in conversation with one of the men of the train.
The people seemed to be ordinary frontier homespun' people, as a general thing.
Some of the outsiders were rude and rough and calculated to get the ill will of
the inhabitants. Several of the men asked me about the condition of the road and
the disposition of the Indians, and where there would be a good place to recruit
I asked them how many men they had. They said they had between forty and
fifty "that would do to tie to." I told them I considered if they
would keep a good lookout that the Indians did not steal their animals, half
that number would be safe, and that the Mountain Meadows was the best place to
recruit their animals before they entered upon the desert, I recommended this
spring, and the grazing about here, four miles south of my house, as the place
where they should stop. The most of these men seemed to have families with them.
They remarked that this one train was made up near Salt Lake City of several
trains that had crossed the plains separately, and being Southern people, had
preferred to take the southern route. This was all of importance that passed
between us, and I went on my journey and they proceeded on theirs. On my way
back home, at Fillmore City, I heard it said that that Company, meaning the
train referred to, had poisoned a small spring at Corn Creek, where I had met
There was some considerable excitement about it among the citizens of
Fillmore and among the Pah-Vent Indian who live within 8 miles of that place. I
was told that eighteen head of cattle had died from drinking the water; that six
of the Pah-Vents had been poisoned from eating the flesh of the cattle that
died, and that one or two of these Indians had also died. Mr. Robinson, a
citizen of Fillmore, whose son was buried the day I got there, said that the boy
had been poisoned in 'trying out' the tallow of the dead cattle. I am satisfied
that he believed what he said about it. I thought at the time that the spring
had been poisoned as stated. I encamped that night with a company from Iron
County, who told me that the Company from Arkansas had all been killed at
Mountain Meadows except seventeen children.
I afterwards met, between Beaver and Pine Creek, Colonel Daim [William H.
Dame] of Parowan, who confirmed what these people from Iron County had said. He
further stated that the Indians were collecting on the Muddy with a
determination to 'wipe out' another company of emigrants which was several days
in rear of the first. He mentioned that the Indians had supplied themselves with
arms and ammunition from the train destroyed at the Meadows. After consulting
with him, he advised me to go forward and spare no pains in trying to prevent
their carrying their purpose into execution, and he gave me an order to press
into service any animal I might require for that purpose. I got a horse at
Beaver about 8 o'clock that evening, and the next evening at Pinto Creek, 83
miles distant, I met Mr. Dudley Leavett [Leavitt], from the settlements on the
I told him what I had heard. He told me it was true, and that all the
Indians in the Southern Country were greatly excited and "All Hell"
could not stop them from killing or from at least robbing the other train of its
stock. He further stated that several interpreters from the Santa Clara had gone
on with this last grain. I told him to return and get the best animal he could
find on my ranch and go on as fast as he could and endeavor to stop further
mischief being done. That is, if the Indians ran off the stock of the train, for
himself and all the interpreters to go and recover it, if possible, and prevent
further depredation. He left me under these instructions.
The next morning, which, I think, was the 18th of September 1857, I
arrived at my ranch, 4 miles from the Meadows. Here I had left my family. I
found at the ranch three little white girls in the care of my wife, the oldest
six or seven years of age, the next about three, and the next about one. The
youngest had been shot through one of her arms below the elbow by a large ball,
breaking both bones and cutting the arm half off. My wife, having a young child
of her own, and these three little orphans besides, my home appeared to be
anything but cheerful. About one or two o'clock that day I came down to the
point where the massacre had taken place, in company with an Indian boy named
Albert, who had been brought up in my family.
The boy told me that the inhabitants from Cedar City had come down and
buried the murdered people in three large heaps, which he pointed out to me; the
boy showed me two girls who had run some ways off before they were killed. The
wolves had dug open the heaps, dragged out the bodies, and were then tearing the
flesh from them. I counted 19 wolves at one of these places. I have since
learned from the people who assisted in burying the bodies that there were 107
men, women and children found dead upon the ground. I am satisfied that all were
not found. The most of the bodies were stripped of all their clothing, were then
in a state of putrefaction, and presented a horrible sight. There was no
property left upon the ground except one white ox, which is still at my ranch.
The following summer, when the bones had lost their flesh, I reburied
them, assisted by a Mr. Fuller.
The Indians have told me that they made an attack on the emigrants
between daylight and sunrise as the men were standing around the camp fires,
killing and wounding 15 at the first charge, which was delivered from the ravine
near the spring close to the wagons and from a hill to the west. That the
emigrants immediately corralled their wagons and threw up an entrenchment to
shelter themselves from the balls. When I first saw the ditch, it was about 4
feet deep and the bank about 2 feet high. The Indians say they then ran off the
stock but kept parties at the spring to prevent the emigrants from getting to
the water, the emigrants firing upon them every time they showed themselves, and
they returned the fire. This was kept up for six or seven days. The Indians say
that they lost but one man, killed and three or four wounded.
At the end of six or seven days, they say, a man among them who could
talk English called to the emigrants and told them if they would go back to the
settlements and leave all their property, especially their arms, they would
spare their lives, but if they did not do so they would kill the whole of them.
The emigrants agreed to this and started back on the road toward my ranch. About
a mile from the spring there are some scrub-oak bushes and tall sage growing on
either side of the road and close to it. Here a large body of Indians lay in
ambush, who, when the emigrants approached, fell upon them in their defenseless
condition and with bows and arrows and stones and guns and knives murdered all,
without regard to sex or age, except a few infant children, seventeen of which
have since been recovered.
This is what the Indians told me nine days after the massacre took place.
From the position of the bodies this latter part of their story seems to be
corroborated, and I should judge that the women and children were in advance of
the men when the last attack upon them was made. When I buried the bones last
summer, I observed that about one third of the skulls were shot through with
bullets and about one third seem to be broken with stones.
The train I sent Leavett [Leavitt] to protect had gotten as far as the
canyon, 5 miles below the Muddy, when the Indians made a descent upon its loose
stock, driving off, as the immigrants have since said, 200 head of cattle.
Leavett and the other interpreters recovered between 75 and 100 head, which were
brought to my ranch. Of these the Indians afterwards demanded and stole some 40
head, and last January I turned over to Mr. Lane from California, the balance.
These are all the facts within my knowledge connected with the destruction of the one and the passing along of the other of these two trains."
Mrs. Hamblin is a simple-minded
person of about 45, and evidently looks with the eyes of her husband at
everything. She may really have been taught by the Mormons to believe it is no
great sin to kill gentiles and enjoy their property. Of the shooting of the
emigrants, which she had herself heard, and knew at the time what was going on,
she seemed to speak without a shudder, or any very great feeling; but when she
told of the 17 orphan children who were brought by such a crowd to her house of
one small room there in the darkness of night, two of the children cruelly
mangled and the most of them with their parents' blood still wet upon their
clothes, and all of them shrieking with terror and grief and anguish, her own
mother heart was touched. She at least deserves kind consideration for her care
and nourishment of the three sisters, and for all she did for the little girl,
"about one year old who had been shot through one of her arms, below the
elbow, by a large ball, breaking both bones and cutting the arm half off."
A Snake Indian boy, called Albert
Hamblin, but whose Indian name was a word which meant "hungry," who is
now about 17 or 18 years of age, says that Mr. Jacob Hamblin brought him beyond
where Camp Floyd is situated and that he has lived with Mr. Hamblin about six
years here and about three years up north. He was sent by Mr. Hamblin to my camp
at Mountain Meadow on the 20th day of May 1859, and in speaking of the massacre
at this place related what follows in very good English:
the first part of September a year and a half ago, I was at Mr. Hamblin's ranch
4 miles from here. My business was to herd the sheep. I saw the train come along
the road and pass down this way. It was near sundown. I drove the sheep home and
went after wood, when I saw the train encamp at this spring from a high point of
land where I was cutting wood.
When the train passed me, I saw a good many women and children. It was
night when I got home. Another Indian boy, named John, who lives at the Vegas
and talked some English, was with me. He lived with a man named Sam Knight, at
Santa Clara. After the train had been camped at the spring three nights, the
fourth day in the morning, just before light, when we were all abed at the
house, I was waked up by hearing a good many guns fired. I could hear guns fired
every little while all day until it was dark. Then I did not know what had been
done. During the day, as we, John and I, sat on a hill herding sheep, we saw the
Indians driving off all the stock and shoot some of the cattle; at the same time
we could see shooting going on down around the train; emigrants shooting at the
Indians from the corral of wagons, and Indians shooting at them from the tops of
the hills around. In this way they fought on for about a week."
I asked an Indian what he was killing those people for. He was mad, and
told me unless I kept 'my mouth shut' he would kill me. Three men came down from
Cedar City to our house while the fighting was going on. They said they came
after cattle. Other men passed to and from Santa Clara to our house during the
nights. The three men from Cedar City stayed about the house a while
"pitching horseshoe quoits" while the fighting was on, when they
afterwards went back to Cedar City. Dudley Leavitt came up from Santa Clara in
the night while the emigrants were camped here; but he did not see them. He went
on to Cedar City to buy flour. When he got to the house we told him the
emigrants were fighting here. One afternoon, near night, after they had fought
nearly a week, John and I saw the women and children and some leave the wagons
and go up the road toward our house. There were no Indians with them.
John and I could see where the Indians were hid in the oak bushes and
sage right by the side of the road a mile or more on their route; and I said to
John, I would like to know what the emigrants left their wagons for, as they
were going into "a worse fix than ever they saw." The women were on
ahead with the children. The men were behind, altogether 'twas a big crowd. Soon
as they got to the place where the Indians were hid in the bushes each side of
the road, the Indians pitched right into them and commenced shooting them with
guns and bows and arrows, and cut some of the men's throats with knives. The men
run in every direction, the Indians after them yelling and whooping. Soon as the
women and children saw the Indians spring out of the bushes, they all cried out
so loud that John and I heard them.
The women scattered and tried to hide in the bushes, but the Indians shot
them down; two girls ran up the slope towards the east about a quarter of a
mile; John and I ran down and tried to save them; the girls hid in some bushes.
A man, who is an Indian doctor, also told the Indians not to kill them. The
girls then came out and hung around him for protection, he trying to keep the
Indians away. The girls were crying out loud. The Indians came up and seized the
girls by their hands and dresses and pulled and pushed them away from the doctor
and shot them. By this time it was dark, and the other Indians came down the
road and had got nearly through killing all the others. They were about half an
hour killing the people from the time they first sprang out upon them from the
Some time in the night Tullis and the Indians brought some of the
children in a wagon up to the house. The children cried nearly all night. One
little one, a baby, just commencing to walk around, was shot through the arm.
One of the girls had been hit through the ear. Many of the children's clothes
were bloody. The next morning we kept three children and the rest were taken to
Cedar City; also the next morning the train of wagons went up to Cedar City with
all the goods. The Indians got all the flour. Some of it I saw buried this side
of Pinto Creek. There were two yoke of cattle to each wagon as they passed up.
The rest of the stock had been killed to be eaten by the Indians while the fight
was going on, except some which were driven over the mountains this way and
The Indians stripped naked the dead bodies; that is all the men; some of the women had their underclothes left. There were a good many men who came over from Pinto Creek and about, and stayed around the house while the fight went on. I saw John D. Lee there about the house during that time. He lives in Harmony--and Richard Robinson, Prime Coleman, Amos Thornton, Brother Dickinson, who all live at Pinto Creek. Thornton I saw at the house. When father (John Hamblin) came back, I came down with him onto the ground. The bodies were all buried then so we could not see them. There were plenty of wolves around. The two girls had been buried also and I did show them to father, the Indians buried the bodies taking spades from the wagons. The people from Cedar City came down three days later, after the massacre, but the Indians had buried all the bodies before they came. This is all I know about it."
This Albert Hamblin is nearly a
grown man in point of size, and from appearance and bearing has evidently had
engrafted upon his native viciousness all the bad traits of the community in
which he lives. Two of the children are said to have pointed him out to Dr.
Forney as an Indian whom they saw kill their two sisters.
His story is artfully made up, evidently part truth and part falsehood.
Leavitt could not have passed up from "The Fort" to Cedar City without
knowing where the emigrants were besieged, as the road runs near the spring
where the corral was, and between it and some hills occupied by the Mormons and
Indians. That Albert stayed upon a neighborhood hill "herding sheep"
day after day while the fight lasted, and then to the house of nights to go to
sleep cannot be true. That Mormons were passing and re-passing upon the road,
day and night, and did not know what was going on is simply absurd to one
conversant with the surroundings of the place.
In this Indian's statement that some of the Mormons at the house were
"pitching horseshoe quoits," a glance is given at the fiendish levity
with which the murdering, day by day, of this artfully entrapped party of
gentile men, women and children was regarded. This "pitching
of horseshoe quoits" was during the time when dropping shots from
the Indians and the other Mormon concealed around the springs and behind the
crest of hills kept back the perishing emigrants from water. There was time
enough for some to go up to Hamblin's house for refreshments. No danger of the
emigrants getting away. It was all safe in that quarter. "There
is time enough for us to have a game of quoits, the other boys will take care of
matters down there."
The general will hardly fail to
observe the discrepancy between Hamblin's statement and that of Albert in
relation to the burial of the two girls and in relation to the burial of the
bodies of the others who had been murdered. Hamblin says the people from Cedar
City buried them; Albert that the Indians did it, taking spades from the wagons,
not a likely thing for bona fide Indians to do. My own opinion is that 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.
Albert had evidently been trained in his statement. He gave much of it
after cross-questioning, keeping always the Mormons in the background and the
Indians conspicuously the prominent figures and actors, as Hamblin and his wife
had endeavored to do. It was not until after I told him that Hamblin and his
wife had informed me that John D. Lee and other Mormons were there and had asked
him how it was possible he had not seen them, that he recollected about
"Brother Lee" and "Brothers" Prime Coleman, Amos Thornton,
Richard Robinson, and "Brother" Dickinson from Pinto Creek. He too had
fallen into the general custom of the people and called every man
I questioned other Mormons in relation to the massacre, but many of them
said they had moved from the northern part of the Territory since it took place;
others, that they were harvesting at Parowan, Cedar, and at "The
Fort," and knew nothing of it until it was all over. Even
"Brother" Prime Coleman [said] that he was harvesting near Parowan
just before that time with Brother Benjamin Nell, but when the massacre took
place he was down on the Muddy River with Brother Ira Hatch to keep down
disturbances there among the Indians. (The Muddy is 163 miles from Parowan, on
the road to California; he had to pass Mountain Meadows to go there.) He said
that as he and Hatch were coming back they saw in the sand the tracks of three
men who wore fine boots. This was at Beaver Dams (between Mountain Meadows and
the Muddy and 50 miles from the Meadows).
He and Hatch were frightened at this sign, were afraid of robbers, and
did not stop, even for water, until they reached the Santa Clara, 2 miles off.
At Pine Valley, near Mountain Meadows, they first heard of the massacre. There
is no doubt but that all three of these men were active participants in the
butchering at the Meadows. The foregoing is the Mormon story of the Massacre. As
it took place on Hamblin's ranch and within hearing of his family, it was
impossible for them to be "out harvesting" or "up north" or
"down on the Muddy"; he himself had gone to Salt Lake City. At least
he says so; but even this, I think, needs proof. Some account had to be made up,
and the one most likely to be believed was that the whole matter had been
started by the Indians and carried out by them, because the emigrants had
poisoned a spring near Fillmore City. Mr. Rodgers, United States Deputy Marshal,
who accompanied Judge Cradlebaugh in his tour to the South, told me that the
water in the spring referred to runs with such volume and force "a
barrel of arsenic would not poison it."
While the Mormons say the Indians
were the murderers, they speak with no sympathy of the suffer[er]s, but rather
in extenuation of the crime by saying the emigrants were not fit to live; that
besides poisoning the spring "they were impudent to the people on the road,
robbed their hen roosts and gardens, and were insulting to the church; called
their oxen "Brigham Young," "Heber Kimball," etc., and
altogether were a rough, ugly set that ought to have been killed anyway."
But there is another side to this
story. It is said that some two years since Bishop Parley Pratt was shot in
Cherokee Nation near Arkansas by the husband of a woman who had run off with
that saintly prelate. The Mormons swore vengeance on the people of Arkansas, one
of who was this injured husband. The wife came on to Salt Lake City after the
bishop was killed and still lives there.
About this time, also, the Mormon troubles with the United States
commenced, and the most bitter hostility against the Gentiles became rife
throughout Utah among all the Latter-Day Saints. It will be recollected that
even while these emigrants were pursuing their journey overland to California,
Colonel Alexander was following upon their trace with two or more regiments of
troops ordered to Utah to assist, if necessary, in seeing the laws of the land
properly enforced in that territory.
This train was undoubtedly a very rich one. It is said the emigrants had
nearly nine hundred head of fine cattle, many horses and mules, and one stallion
valued at $2,000; that they had a great deal of ready money besides. All this
the Mormons at Salt Lake City saw as the train came on. The Mormons knew the
troops were marching to their country, and a spirit of intense hatred of the
Americans and towards our Government was kindled in the hearts of this whole
people by Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and other leaders, even from the pulpits.
Here, opportunely, was a rich train of emigrants--American Gentiles. That
is, the most obnoxious kind of Gentiles--and not only that, but these Gentiles
were from Arkansas, where the saintly Pratt had gained his crown of martyrdom.
Is not here some thread which may be seized as a clue to this mystery so long
hidden as to whether or not the Mormons were accomplices in the massacre? This
train of Arkansas Gentiles was doomed from the day it crossed through the South
Pass and had gotten fairly down in the meshes of the Mormon spider net, from
which it was never to become disentangled.
Judge Cradlebaugh informed me that about this time Brigham Young,
preaching in the tabernacle and speaking of the trouble with the United States,
said that up to that moment he had protected emigrants who had passed through
the Territory, but now he would turn the Indians loose upon them. It is a
singular point worthy of note that this sermon should have been preached just as
the rich train had gotten into the valley and was now fairly entrapped; a sermon
good, coming from him, as a letter of marque to these land pirates who listened
to him as an oracle. The hint thus shrewdly given out was not long in being
From that moment these emigrants, as they journeyed southward, were
considered the authorized, if not legal, prey of the inhabitants. All kinds of
depredations and extortions were practiced upon them. At Parowan they took some
wheat to the mill to be ground. The bishop replied, "Yes,
but do you take double toll." This shows the spirit with which they
were treated. These things are now leaking out; but some of those who were then
Mormons have renounced their creed, and through them much is learned which,
taken in connection with the facts that are known, served to develop the truth.
It is said to be a truth that Brigham Young sent letters south, authorizing, if
not commanding, that the train should be destroyed.
A Pah-Ute chief, of the Santa Clara
band, named "Jackson," who was one of the attacking party, and had a
brother slain by the emigrants from their corral by the spring, says that orders
came down in a letter from Brigham Young that the emigrants were to be killed;
and a chief of the Pah-Utes named Touche, now living on the Virgin River, told
me that a letter from Brigham Young to the same effect was brought down to the
Virgin River band by a young man named Huntingdon [Oliver B. Huntington], who, I
learn, is an Indian Interpreter and lives at present at Salt Lake City.
Jackson says there were 60 Mormons led by Bishop John D. Lee, of Harmony,
and a prominent man in the church named [Isaac C.] Haight, who lives at Cedar
City. That they were all painted and disguised as Indians.
That this painting and disguising was done at a spring in a canyon about
a mile northeast of the spring where the emigrants were encamped, and that Lee
and Haight led and directed the combined force of Mormons and Indians in the
first attack, throughout the siege, and at the last massacre. The Santa Clara
Indians say that the emigrants could not get to the water, as besiegers lay
around the spring ready to shoot anyone who approached it. This could easily
have been done. Major [Henry] Prince, Paymaster, U.S.A., and Lieutenant Ogle,
First Dragoons, on the 17th inst., stood at the ditch which was in the corral
and placed some men at the spring 28 yards distant, and they could just see the
other men's heads, both parties standing erect. This shows how vital a point the
Assailants occupied; how close it was to the assailed, and how well protected it
was from the direction of the corral.
The following account of the affair is, I think, susceptible of legal
proof by those whose names are known, and who, I am assured, are willing to make
oath to many of the facts which serve as links in the chain of evidence leading
toward the truth of this grave question: By whom were these 120 men, women, and
It was currently reported among the Mormons at Cedar City, in talking
among themselves, before the troops ever came down south, (when all felt secure
of arrest or prosecution), and nobody seemed to question the truth of it--that a
train of emigrants of fifty or upward of men, mostly with families, came and
encamped at this spring at Mountain Meadows in September 1857. It was reported
in Cedar City, and was not, and is not doubted--even by the Mormons--that John
D. Lee, Isaac C. Haight, John M. Higby [Higbee] (the first resides at Harmony,
the last two at Cedar City), were the leaders who organized a party of fifty or
sixty Mormons to attack this train.
They had also all the Indians which they could collect at Cedar City,
Harmony and Washington City to help them, a good many in number. This party then
came down, and at first the Indians were ordered to stampede the cattle and
drive them away from the train. Then they commenced firing on the emigrants;
this firing was returned by the emigrants; one Indian was killed, a brother of
the chief of the Santa Clara Indians, another shot through the leg, who is now a
cripple at Cedar City. There were without doubt a great many more killed and
wounded. It was said the Mormons were painted and disguised as Indians. The
Mormons say the emigrants fought "like lions" and they saw that they
could not whip them by any fair fighting.
After some days fighting the
Mormons had a council among themselves to arrange a plan to destroy the
emigrants. They concluded, finally, that they could send some few down and
pretend to be friends and try and get the emigrants to surrender. John D. Lee
and three or four others, headmen, from Washington, Cedar, and Parowan (Haight
and Higby [Higbee] from Cedar), had their paint washed off and dressing in their
usual clothes, took their wagons and drove down toward the emigrant's corral as
they were just traveling on the road on their ordinary business. The emigrants
sent out a little girl towards them. She was dressed in white and had a white
handkerchief in her hand, which she waved in token of peace. The Mormons with
the wagon waved one in reply, and then moved on towards the corral. The
emigrants then came out, no Indians or others being in sight at this time, and
talked with these leading Mormons with the three wagons.
They talked with the emigrants for an hour or an hour and a half, and
told them that the Indians were hostile, and that if they gave up their arms it
would show that they did not want to fight; and if they, the emigrants, would do
this they would pilot them back to the settlements. The migrants had horses
which had remained near their wagons; the loose stock, mostly cattle, had been
driven off--not the horses. Finally the emigrants agreed to these terms and
delivered up their arms to the Mormons with whom they had counseled. The women
and children then started back toward Hamblin's house, the men following with a
few wagons that they had hitched up. On arriving at the Scrub Oaks, etc., where
the other Mormons and Indians lay concealed, Higby [Higbee], who had been one of
those who had inveigled the emigrants from their defenses, himself gave the
signal to fire, when a volley was poured in from each side, and the butchery
commenced and was continued until it was consummated.
The property was brought to Cedar City and sold at public
auction. It was called in Cedar City, and is so called now by the Facetious
Mormons, "property taken at the siege of Sebastopol." The clothing
stripped from the corpses, bloody and with bits of flesh upon it, shredded by
the bullets from the persons of the poor creatures who wore it, was placed in
the cellar of the tithing office (an official building), where it lay about
three weeks, when it was brought away by some of the party; but witnesses do not
know whether it was sold or given away. It is said the cellar smells of it even
to this day.
It is reported that John D. Lee,
Haight, and Philip Smith [Klingonsmith] (the latter lives in Cedar City) went to
Salt Lake City immediately after the massacre, and counseled with Brigham Young
about what should be done with the property. They took with them the ready money
they got from the murdered emigrants and offered it to Young. He said he would
have nothing to do with it. He told them to divide the cattle and cows among the
poor. They had taken some of the cattle to Salt Lake City merchants there. Lee
told Brigham that the Indians would not be satisfied if they did not have a
share of the cattle. Brigham left it to Lee to make the distribution. One or two
of the Mormons did not like it that Lee had this authority, as they say he
swindled them out of their share. Lee was the smartest man of the lot.
The wagons, carriages, and rifles, etc., were distributed among the
Mormons. Lee has a carriage reported be one of them. The Indians have but few of
Much of this seems to be corroborated by a man named Whitelock, a
dentist, now at Camp Floyd. Whitelock says he was told by a Mormon, who
acknowledged that he was present at the massacre, but who is now in California, "that
orders to destroy the emigrants first came from above" (Salt Lake
City) and that a party of armed men under the command of a man named John D.
Lee, who was then a bishop in the church, but who has since (as Brigham Young
says) been deposed, left the settlements of Beaver City, north of Parowan,
Parowan City, and Cedar City on what was
called a "secret expedition," and after an absence of a few days
returned, bringing back strange wagons, cattle, horses, mules and also household
There is legal proof that this property was sold at the official tithing
office of the church. Whitelock says that this man could not report the details
of the massacre without tears and trembling. He said he was so horrified at
these atrocities he fled away from Utah to California. The man said he saw
children clinging around the knees of the murderers, begging for mercy and
offering themselves as slaves for life could they be spared. But their throats
were cut from ear to ear as an answer to their appeal.
There are now wagons, carriages, and cattle in possession of the Mormons
which can be sworn to, it is said, as having belonged to these emigrants by
those who saw them upon the plains.
Two hundred and forty eight head of cattle were sold on the Jordan River
after the arrival of the Army to United States commissaries by Mormons, and it
is said that they can be traced as having come through the hands of Lee and
[William H.] Hooper, who was Mormon Secretary of State, and were without doubt
the cattle taken from the emigrants. Others are seen in the hands of the Mormons
which are believed to have been captured at the time of the massacre. The Pah-Ute
Indians of the Muddy River said to me that they know the Mormons had charged
them with the massacre of the emigrants, but said they,
"where are the wagons, the
cattle, the clothing, the rifles, and other property belonging to the train? We
have not got or had them. No, you find all these things in the hands of the
Mormons." There is some logical reasoning in that, creditable at
least to the obscure minds of miserable savages, whatever be the truth.
But there is not the shadow of a
doubt that the emigrants were butchered by the Mormons themselves, assisted
doubtless by the Indians. The idea of letting the emigrants come on to an
obscure quarter of the Territory, amid the fastnesses of the mountains, with a
formidable desert extending from that point to California, over which a stranger
to the country, without sustenance, escape with his life; to a point were the
Indians were numerous enough to lend assistance, and who could plausibly be
charged with the crime in case, in the future any people should give trouble by
asking ugly questions on the subject, exhibits consideration as to future
contingencies of which these miserable Indians, at least are entirely incapable.
Besides, "fifty men that would do to tie to" in a fight, all
well armed and experts in the use of the rifle, could have wiped out ten times
their number of Pah-Ute Indians armed only with the bow and arrow. Hamblin
himself, their agent, informed that to his certain knowledge in 1856 there were
but three guns in the whole tribe. I doubt if they had many more in 1857. The
emigrants were to be destroyed with as little loss to the Mormons as possible,
and no one old enough to tell the tale was to be left alive. To effect this the
whole plans and operations, from beginning to end, display skill, patience,
pertinacity and forecast, which no people here at the time were equal to except
the Mormons themselves. Hamblin says three men escaped. They were doubtless
herding when the attack was made, or crept out of a corral by night.
The fate of one of these he had never learned. He must have been murdered
off the road or perished of hunger and thirst in the mountains. At all events he
never went through to California or he would have been heard from. One got as
far as the Muddy River, ninety odd miles from Mountain Meadows. There the
Indians cut his throat. The other got as far as Las Vegas, 45 miles still
farther towards California, where he arrived totally naked, some Indians having
stripped him of his clothes. Hamblin said an acquaintance of his coming from
that way had seen marks in the sand where the Indians had thrown him down and
where there had been struggling when he was stripped. The Las Vegas Indians cut
his throat likewise. The Mormons had a fort at Las Vegas, now abandoned, but
which was occupied at that time.
Here is something which seems to point to the "tracks in the sand
of three men who wore fine boots" which brothers Ira Hatch and Prime
Coleman saw at the Beaver Dams, and at which they became so frightened that they
didn't stop to get water, although there was none other within 20 miles. During
this "Siege of Sebastapol" or after the final massacre, it was
doubtless discovered that the three emigrants had escaped, and Brothers Hatch
and Coleman, perhaps two Mormons named Young, were sent in pursuit to cut them
off on the desert or to get the Indians to do it. Hatch talks Pah-Ute like a
native, and is now an interpreter of their language whenever needed. One of the
Youngs, who now lives at Cotton Farm, near the confluence of The Virgin and
Santa Clara, tells this story of the emigrants murdered on the Muddy:
and his brother, each on horseback, and leading a third horse, were traveling
from California, as he says, to Utah. Just before they arrived at Muddy River
they met one of the emigrants on foot. He had been wounded; was unarmed and
without provisions or water. It was at daybreak. He had traveled already nearly
100 miles from the Mountain Meadows. He seemed to be terror stricken. His mind
was wandering. He talked incoherently about the massacre and his purposes. Under
the awful scenes he had witnessed, the pain of his wound, and the privations he
had endured his senses had given away. They told him of the long deserts ahead
of which, if he pursued his way, he would certainly perish. They persuaded him
to return with them; mounted him on their lead horse, and so came on to the
Muddy, where they stopped to prepare breakfast. One of the Young's laid his
coat, containing in its pocket $500 all their money, on a bush. And commenced
frying some cakes at a fire which had been kindled.
The Indians gathered around in great numbers. The chief would seize the cakes from the pan as fast as they were done, and eat them. At last one of the Youngs struck the chief with a knife, whereupon all the Indians rose to kill the three men. Young says he and his brother drew their revolvers, and holding them on the Indians, kept them at a distance until they got to their horses, had mounted, and were out of arrow shot. They then looked back for the emigrant who had seemed as he sat abstracted by the fire, hardly to comprehend what was going on. He had not left the spot where he sat. Three or four Indians had him down and were cutting his throat. They themselves, then made off, leaving coat, money, and all their provisions."
This is their story, but the truth doubtless was the Youngs, Hatch and
Coleman, had followed up the man; had found him beyond the Muddy, brought him
back, and then set the Indians upon him. The fate of these three men seems to
close the scenes of this terrible tragedy on all the grown people of that fine
train which was seen journeying prosperously forward at O'Fallons Bluffs on the
11th of the preceding June. There were doubtless atrocious episodes connected
with the massacre of the women, which will never be known. Mr. Rogers, the
deputy marshal, told me that Bishop John D. Lee is said to have taken a
beautiful lady away to a secluded spot. There she implored him for more than
life. She too, was found dead. Her throat had been cut from ear to ear.
The little children whom we left this John D. Lee distributing at
Hamblin's house after that sad night, have at length been gathered together and
are now at Indian Farm, 12 miles south of Fillmore City, or at Salt Lake City in
the custody for Dr. Forney, United States Indian agent. They are 17 in number.
Sixteen of these were seen by Judge Cradlebaugh, Lieutenant Kearney, and others,
and gave the following information in relation to their personal identity, etc.
The children were varying from 3 to 9 years of age, 10 girls, 6 boys, and were
The first is a boy named Calvin, between 7 and 8 [John Calvin Miller, 6];
does not remember his surname; says he was by his mother [Matilda] when she was
killed, and pulled the arrows from her back until she was dead; says he had two
brothers older than himself, named James [see below] and Henry, and three
sisters, Nancy, Mary [see below] and Martha.
The second is a girl who does not remember her name. The others say it is
Demurr [Georgia Ann Dunlap, 18 mos.].
The third is a boy named Ambrose Mariam Tagit [Emberson Milam
Tackitt, 4]; says he had two brothers older than himself and one younger. His
father, mother, and two elder brothers were killed, his younger brother [William
Henry, listed below] was brought to Cedar City; says he lived in Johnson County,
but does not know what State; says it took one week to go from where he lived
with his grandfather and grandmother who are still living in the States.
The fourth is a girl obtained of John Morris, a Mormon, at Cedar City.
She does not recollect anything about herself [Mary Miller, 4 (see next below)].
Fifth. A boy obtained of E. H. Grove [Joseph Miller, 1, whose older
brother, Calvin (above)], says that the girl obtained of Morris is named Mary
and is his sister.
The sixth is a girl who says her name is Prudence Angelina [Prudence
Angeline Dunlap, 5]. Had two brothers, Jessie [Thomas J., 17] and John (John H.,
16], who were killed. Her father's name was William [Lorenzo Dow Dunlap], and
she had an Uncle Jessie [Jesse Dunlap].
The seventh is a girl. She says her name is Francis Harris, or Horne,
remembers nothing of her family [Sarah Frances Baker, 3].
The eighth is a young boy, too young to remember anything about himself
[Felix Marion Jones, 18 mos.].
The ninth is a boy whose name is William W. Huff [William Henry Tackitt,
The tenth is a boy whose name is Charles Fancher [Christopher
"Kit" Carson Fancher, 5].
The eleventh is a girl who says her name is Sophronia Huff [Nancy
Saphrona Huff, 4].
The twelfth is a girl who says her name is Betsy [Martha Elizabeth Baker,
The thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth are three sisters named Rebecca,
Louisa and Sara Dunlap [Rebecca J. Dunlap, 6; Louisa Dunlap, 4; Sarah E. Dunlap,
1]. These three sisters were the children obtained of Jacob Hamblin.
I have no note of the sixteenth [Triphenia D. Fancher, 22 mos.].
The seventeenth is a boy who was but six weeks old at the time of the
massacre [William Twitty Baker, 9 mos.]. Hamblin's wife brought him to my camp
on the 19th instant. The next day they took him on to Salt Lake City to give him
up to Dr. Forney. He is a pretty little boy and hardly dreamed he had again
slept upon the ground where his parents had been murdered.
These children, it is said, could not be induced to make any developments
while they remained with the Mormons, from fear, no doubt, having been
intimidated by threats. Dr. Forney, it is said, came southward for them under
the impression that he would find them in the hands of the Indians.
The Mormons say the children were in the hands of the Indians and were
purchased by them for rifles, blankets, etc., but the children say they have
never lived with the Indians at all. The Mormons claimed of Dr. Forney sums of
money, varying from $200 to $400, for attending them when sick, for feeding and
clothing them, and for nourishing the infants from the time when they assumed to
have purchased them from the Indians.
Murders of the parents and despoilers of their property, these Mormons,
rather these relentless, incarnate fiends, dared even to come forward and claim
payment for having kept these little ones barely alive; these helpless orphans
whom they themselves had already robbed of their natural protectors and support.
Has there ever been an act which at all equaled this devilish hardihood in more
than devilish effrontery? Never, but one; and even then the price was but
"30 pieces of silver."
On my arrival at Mountain Meadows, the 16th instant, I encamped near the
spring where the emigrants had encamped, and where they had entrenched
themselves after they were first fired upon. The ditch they there dug is not yet
The same day Captain Reuben P. Campbell, United States Second Dragoons,
with a command of three companies of troops, came from his camp at Santa Clara
and camped there also. Judge Cradlebaugh and Deputy Marshall Rogers had come
down from Provo with Captain Campbell, and had been inquiring into the
circumstances of the massacre. The judge cannot receive too much praise for the
resolute and thorough manner with which he pursues him investigation. On his way
down past this spot, and before my arrival, Captain Campbell had caused to be
collected and buried the bones of 26 of the victims. Dr. Brewer informed me that
the remains of 18 were buried in one grave, 12 in another and 6 in another.
On the 20th I took a wagon and a party of men and made a thorough search
for others amongst the sage brushes for a least a mile back from the road that
leads to Hamblin's house. Hamblin himself showed Sergeant Fritz of my party a
spot on the right-hand side of the road where had partially covered up a great
many of the bones. These were collected, and a large number of others on the
left hand side of the road up the slopes of the hill, and in the ravines and
among the bushes. I gathered many of the disjointed bones of 34 persons. The
number could easily be told by the number of pairs of shoulder blades and by
lower jaws, skulls, and parts of skulls, etc.
These, with the remains of two others gotten in a ravine to the east of
the spring, where they had been interred at but little depth, 34 in all, I
buried in a grave on the northern side of the ditch. Around and above this grave
I caused to be built of loose granite stones, hauled from the neighboring hills,
a rude monument, conical in form and fifty feet in circumference at the base,
and twelve feet in height. This is surmounted by a cross hewn from red cedar
wood. From the ground to top of cross is twenty four feet. On the transverse
part of the cross, facing towards the north, is an inscription carved in the
wood. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." And on
a rude slab of granite set in the earth and leaning against the northern base of
the monument there are cut the following words:
"Here 120 men, women, and
children were massacred in cold blood early in September, 1857. They were from
I observed that nearly every skull
I saw had been shot through with rifle or revolver bullets. I did not see one
that had been "broken in with stones." Dr. Brewer showed me one, that
probably of a boy of eighteen, which had been fractured and slit, doubtless by
two blows of a bowie knife or other instrument of that character.
I saw several bones of what must have been very small children. Dr.
Brewer says from what he saw he thinks some infants were butchered. The mothers
doubtless had these in their arms, and the same shot or blow may have deprived
both of life.
The scene of the massacre, even at this late day, was horrible to look
upon. Women's hair, in detached locks and masses, hung to the sage bushes and
was strewn over the ground in many places. Parts of little children's dresses
and of female costume dangled from the shrubbery or lay scattered about; and
among these, here and there, on every hand, for at least a mile in the direction
of the road, by two miles east and west, there gleamed, bleached white by the
weather, the skulls and other bones of those who had suffered. A glance into the
wagon when all these had been collected revealed a sight which can never be
The idea of the melancholy procession of that great number of women and
children, followed at a distance by their husbands and brothers, after all their
suffering, their watching, their anxiety and grief, for so many gloomy days and
dismal nights at the corral, thus moving slowly and sadly up to the point where
the Mormons and Indians lay in wait to murder them; these doomed and unhappy
people literally going to their own funeral; the chill shadows of night closing
darkly around them, sad precursors of the approaching shadows of a deeper night,
brings to the mind a picture of human suffering and wretchedness on the one
hand, and of human treachery and ferocity upon the other, that cannot possibly
be excelled by any other scene that ever before occurred in real life.
I caused the distance to be measured from point to point on the scene of
the massacre. From the ditch near the spring to the point upon the road where
the men attacked and destroyed, and where their bones were mostly found, is one
mile 565 yards. Here there is a grave where Capt. Campbell's command buried some
of the remains. To the next point, also marked by a similar grave made by
Captain Campbell, and where the women and children were butchered; a point
identified from their bones and clothing have been found near it, it is one
mile, 1,135 yards. To the swell across the valley called the Rim of the Basin,
is one mile 1,334 yards. To Hamblin's house four miles, 1,049 yards.
Major Henry Prince, United States Army, drew a map of the ground about
the spring where the entrenchment was dug, and embracing the neighboring hill
behind which the Mormons had cover. On the crests of these hills are still
traces of some rude little parapets made of loose stones and loop holed for
rifles. Marks of bullets shot from the corral are seen upon these stones. I
enclose this map and also a drawing of the valley as it appears looking
northward from a point below the spring and another drawing giving a near view
of the monument. These latter are not so good as I could wish for, but they will
serve to give a tolerably correct idea of what they are intended to represent.
They were made by Mr. Moeller, who has lived many years among the Mormons.
In pursuing the bloody thread which runs throughout this picture of
sad realities, the question how this crime, that for hellish atrocity has no
parallel in our history, can be adequately punished often comes up and seeks in
vain for an answer. Judge Cradlebaugh says that with Mormon juries the attempt
to administer justice in their Territory is simply a ridiculous farce. He
believes the Territory ought at once to be put under martial law. This may be
the only practical way in which even a partial punishment can be meted out to
these Latter-Day devils.
how inadequate would be the punishment of a few, even by death, for this crime
for which nearly the whole Mormon population, from Brigham Young down, were more
or less instrumental in perpetrating.
There are other heinous crimes to be punished besides this. Martial law
would at best be but a temporary expedient. Crime is found in the footsteps of
the Mormons wherever they go, and so the evil must always exist as long as the
Mormons themselves exist. What is their history? What their antecedents? Perhaps
the future may be judged by the past.
In their infancy as a religious community, they settled in Jackson
County, Mo. There, in a short time, from the crimes and depredations they
committed, they became intolerable to the inhabitants, whose self preservation
compelled them to ride and drive the Mormons out by force of arms. At Nauvoo,
again another experiment was tried with them. The people of Illinois exercised
forbearance toward them until it literally "ceased to be a virtue."
They were driven thence as they had been from Missouri, but fortunately this
time with the loss on their part of those two shallow imposters, but errant
miscreants, the brothers Smith.
The United States took no wholesome heed of these lessons taught by
Missouri and Illinois. The Mormons were permitted to settle amid the fastnesses
of the Rocky Mountains, with a desert on each side, and upon the great
thoroughfare between the two oceans. Over this thoroughfare our Citizens have
hitherto not been able to travel without peril to their lives and property,
except, forsooth, Brigham Young pleased to grant them his permission and give
them his protection. "He would turn the
Indians loose upon them."
The expenses of the army in Utah,
past and to come (figure that), the massacre at the Mountain Meadows, the
unnumbered other crimes, which have been and will yet be committed by this
community, are but preliminary gusts of the whirlwind our Government has reaped
and is yet to reap for the wind it had sowed in permitting the Mormons ever to
gain foothold within our borders.
They are an ulcer upon the body politic. An ulcer which it needs more
than cutlery to cure. It must have excision, complete and thorough extirpation,
before we can ever hope for safety or tranquility. This is no rhetorical phrase
made by a flourish of the pen, but is really what will prove to be an earnest
and stubborn fact. This brotherhood may be contemplated from any point of view,
and but one conclusion can be arrived at concerning it. The Thugs of India were
an inoffensive, moral, law-abiding people in comparison.
I have made this a special report, because the information here given,
however crude, I thought to be of such grave importance it ought to be put
permanently on record and deserved to be kept separate and distinct from a
report on the ordinary occurrences of a march. Some of the details might,
perhaps, have been omitted, but there has been a great and fearful crime
perpetrated, and many of the circumstances connected with it have long been kept
most artfully concealed. But few direct rays even now shine in upon the subject.
So that however indistinct and unimportant they may at present appear to be,
even the faint side lights given by these details may yet lend assistance in
exploring some obscure recess of the matter where the great truths, that should
be diligently and persistently sought for, may yet happily be discovered.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
James Henry Carleton,
Brevet Major, U.S.A., Captain in the First
Major W. W. Mackall, Ass't. Adjutant-General,
U.S.A., San Francisco, California.
H. Doc. 605
As the early accounts of the Mountain Meadows Massacre spread, the
evidence of Mormon involvement grew, including eyewitness testimony from older
surviving children, who had watched as white men washed off war paint in a
stream, and reports of the rich spoils dispersed among local farmers or sent to
Salt Lake City. This gathering evidence triggered a new wave of outrage and
anti-Mormon sentiment throughout the country, but the atrocity was soon eclipsed
by the uproar of Lincoln's election and the outbreak of the Civil War.
In the post-Civil War period, the now-aging issue of the massacre
surfaced again, during a renewed push for statehood. To appease anti-statehood
forces in Congress demanding some acknowledgment of and punishment for the
incident, John D. Lee was the single Mountain Meadows culprit arrested. He went
through two trials. At the first, in 1875, the jury of eight Mormons and four
Gentiles predictably deadlocked, with all the Mormons voting for acquittal.
Following a public outcry, Lee stood trial again the next year. Previously
unavailable Mormon witnesses appeared with vivid testimony that marked him and
absolved all higher church officials. He was convicted by an all-Mormon jury and
The pages, which follow, contain John D. Lee's own account of the
massacre as published in Mormonism Unveiled. John D. Lee was a Danite in
Missouri and served in the Council of 50 under Brigham Young.
LAST CONFESSION AND STATEMENT OF JOHN D. LEE.
(1877 edition of Mormonism Unveiled)
"I was requested by John Doyle
Lee, after he had been sentenced to be shot for the part he took in the
commission of the Mountain Meadow Massacre, to publish an account of his life
and confessions, in order to inform the world how it was that he acted as he
had, and why he was made a scape-goat by the Mormon Church."
Wm. W. Bishop
Confidential Att'y of John D, Lee
Pioche, Nevada, May 17, 1877
AT HIS DICTATION AND DELIVERED TO WILLIAM W. BISHOP, ATTORNEY FOR LEE, WITH A
REQUEST THAT THE SAME BE PUBLISHED
"AS A DUTY to myself, my
family, and mankind at large, I propose to give a full and true statement of all
that I know and all that I did in that unfortunate affair, which has cursed my
existence, and made me a wanderer from place to place for the last nineteen
years, and which is known to the world as the MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE.
I have no vindictive feeling against any one; no enemies to punish by
this statement; and no friends to shield by keeping back, or longer keeping
secret, any of the facts connected with the Massacre.
I believe that I must tell all that I do know, and tell everything just
as the same transpired. I shall tell the truth and permit the public to judge
who is most to blame for the crime that I am accused of committing. I did not
act alone; I had many to assist me at the Mountain Meadows. I believe that most
of those who were connected with the Massacre, and took part in the lamentable
transaction that has blackened the character of all who were aiders or abettors
in the same, were acting under the impression that they were performing a
religious duty. I know all were acting under the orders and by the command of
their Church leaders; and I firmly believe that the most of those who took part
in the proceedings, considered it a religious duty to unquestioningly obey the
orders which they had received. That they acted from a sense of duty to the
Mormon Church, I never doubted. Believing that those with me acted from a sense
of religious duty on that occasion, I have faithfully kept the secret of their
guilt, and remained silent and true to the oath of secrecy which we took on the
bloody field, for many long and bitter years. I have never betrayed those who
acted with me and participated in the crime for which I am convicted, and for
which I am to suffer death.
My attorneys, especially Wells Spicer and Wm. W. Bishop, have long tried,
but tried in vain, to induce me to tell all I knew of the massacre and the
causes which led to it. I have heretofore refused to tell the tale. Until the
last few days I had in- tended to die, if die I must, without giving one word to
the public concerning those who joined willingly, or unwillingly, in the work of
destruction at Mountain Meadows.
To hesitate longer, or to die in silence, would be unjust and cowardly. I
will not keep the secret any longer as my own, but will tell all I know.
At the earnest request of a few remaining friends, and by the advice of
Mr. Bishop, my counsel, who has defended me thus far with all his ability,
notwithstanding my want of money with which to pay even his expenses while
attending to my case, I have concluded to write facts as I know them to exist.
I cannot go before the Judge of the quick and the dead with out first
revealing all that I know, as to what was done, who ordered me to do what I did
do, and the motives that led to the commission of that unnatural and bloody
The immediate orders for the killing of the emigrants came from those in
authority at Cedar City. At the time of the massacre, I and those with me, acted
by virtue of positive orders from Isaac C. Haight and his associates at Cedar
City. Before I started on my mission to the Mountain Meadows, I was told by
Isaac C. Haight that his orders to me were the result of full consultation with
Colonel William H. Dame and all in authority. It is a new thing to me, if the
massacre was not decided on by the head men of the Church, and it is a new thing
for Mormons to condemn those who committed the deed.
Being forced to speak from memory alone, without the aid of my
memorandum books, and not having time to correct the statements that I make, I
will necessarily give many things out of their regular order. The superiority
that I claim for my statement is this:
THAT I DO SAY IS TRUE AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH:
I will begin my statement by
saying, I was born on the 6th day of September, A. D. 1812, in the town of
Kaskaskia, Randolph County, State of Illinois. I am therefore in the sixty-fifth
year of my age.
joined the Mormon Church at Far West, Mo., about thirty-nine years ago. To be
with that Church and people I left my home on Luck Creek, Fayette County,
Illinois, and went and joined the Mormons in Missouri, before the troubles at
Gallatin, Far West and other points, between the Missourians and Mormons. I
shared the fate of my brother Mormons, in being mistreated, arrested, robbed and
driven from Missouri in a destitute condition, by a wild and fanatical mob. But
of all this I shall speak in my life, which I shall write for publication if I
have time to do so.
I took an active part with the leading men at Nauvoo in building up that
city. I induced many Saints to move to Nauvoo, for the sake of their souls. I
traveled and preached the Mormon doctrine in many States. I was an honored man
in the Church, and stood high with the Priesthood, until the last few years. I
am now cut off from the Church for obeying the orders of my superiors, and doing
so without asking questions--for doing as my religion and my religious teachers
had taught me to do. I am now used by the Mormon Church as a scapegoat to carry
the sins of that people. My life is to be taken, so that my death may stop
further enquiry into the acts of the members who are still in good standing in
Will my death satisfy the nation for all the crimes committed by Mormons,
at the command of the Priesthood, who have used and now have deserted me? Time
will tell. I believe in a just God, and I know the day will come when others
must answer for their acts, as I have had to do.
I first became acquainted with Brigham Young when I went to Far West,
Mo., to join the Church, in 1837. I got very intimately acquainted with all the
great leaders of the Church. I was adopted by Brigham Young as one of his sons,
and for many years I confess I looked upon him as an inspired and holy man.
While in Nauvoo I took an active part in all that was done for the Church or the
city. I had charge of the building of the "Seventy Hall;" I was 7th
Policeman. My duty as a police man was to guard the residence and person of
Joseph Smith, the Prophet. After the death of Joseph and Hyrum I was ordered to
perform the same duty for Brigham Young. When Joseph Smith was a candidate for
the Presidency of the United States I went to Kentucky as the chairman of the
Board of Elders, or head of the delegation, to secure the vote of that State for
him. When I returned to Nauvoo again I was General Clerk and Recorder for the
Quorum of the Seventy. I was also head or Chief Clerk for the Church, and as
such took an active part in organizing the Priesthood into the order of Seventy
after the death of Joseph Smith.
After the destruction of Nauvoo,
when the Mormons were driven from the State of Illinois, I again shared the fate
of my brethren, and partook of the hardships and trials that befell them from
that day up to the settlement of Salt Lake City, in the then wilderness of the
nation. I presented Brigham Young with seventeen ox teams, fully equipped, when
he started with the people from Winter Quarters to cross the plains to the new
resting place of the Saints. He accepted them and said, "God bless you,
John." But I never received a cent for them--I never wanted pay for them,
for in giving property to Brigham Young I thought I was loaning it to the Lord.
After reaching Salt Lake City I stayed there but a short time, when I
went to live at Cottonwood, where the mines were afterwards discovered by
General Connor and his men during the late war.
I was just getting fixed to live there, when I was ordered to go out into
the interior and aid in forming new settlements, and opening up the country. I
then had no wish or desire, save that to know and be able to do the will of the
Lord's anointed, Brigham Young, and until within the last few years I have never
had a wish for anything else except to do his pleasure, since I became his
adopted son. I believed it my duty to obey those in authority. I then believed
that Brigham Young spoke by direction of the God of Heaven. I would have
suffered death rather than have disobeyed any command of his. I had this feeling
until he betrayed and deserted me. At the command of Brigham Young, I took one
hundred and twenty-one men, went in a southern direction from Salt Lake City,
and laid out and built up Parowan. George A. Smith was the leader and chief man
in authority in that settlement. I acted under him as historian and clerk of the
Iron County Mission, until January 1851. I went with Brigham Young, and acted as
a committee man, and located Provo, St. George, Fillmore, Parowan and other
towns, and managed the location of many of the settlements in Southern Utah.
In 1852, I moved to Harmony, and built up that settlement. I remained
there until the Indians declared war against the whites and drove the settlers
into Cedar City and Parowan, for protection, in the year 1853.
I removed my then numerous family to Cedar City, where I was appointed a
Captain of the militia, and commander of Cedar City Military Post.
I had commanded at Cedar City about one year, when I was ordered to
return to Harmony, and build the Harmony Fort. This order, like all other
orders, came from Brigham Young. When I returned to Harmony and commenced
building the fort there, the orders were given by Brigham Young for the
reorganization of the military at Cedar City. The old men were requested to
resign their offices, and let younger men be appointed in their place. I
resigned my office of Captain, but Isaac C. Haight and John M. Higbee refused to
resign, and continued to hold on as Majors in the Iron Militia.
After returning to Harmony, I was President of the civil and local
affairs, and Rufus Allen was President of that Stake of Zion, or head of the
I soon resigned my position as President of civil affairs, and became a
private citizen, and was in no office for some time. In fact, I never held any
position after that, except the office of Probate Judge of the County (which
office I held before and after the massacre), and member of the Territorial
Legislature, and Delegate to the Constitutional Convention which met and adopted
a constitution for the State of Deseret, after the massacre.
I will here state that Brigham Young honored me in many ways after the
affair at Mountain Meadows was fully reported to him by me, as I will more fully
state hereafter in the course of what I have to relate concerning that
Klingensmith, at my first trial, and White, at my last trial, swore
falsely when they say that they met me near Cedar City, the Sunday before the
massacre. They did not meet me as they have sworn, nor did they meet me at all
on that occasion or on any similar occasion. I never had the conversations with
them that they testify about. They are both perjurers, and bore false testimony
There has never been a witness on the stand against me that has testified
to the whole truth. Some have told part truth, while others lied clear through,
but all of the witnesses who were at the massacre have tried to throw all the
blame on me, and to protect the other men who took part in it.
About the 7th of September 1857, I went to Cedar City from my home at
Harmony, by order of President Haight. I did not know what he wanted of me, but
he had ordered me to visit him and I obeyed. If I remember correctly, it was on
Sunday evening that I went there. When I got to Cedar City, I met Isaac C.
Haight on the public square of the town. Haight was then President of that Stake
of Zion, and the highest man in the Mormon priesthood in that country, and next
to Wm. H. Dame in all of Southern Utah, and as Lieutenant Colonel he was second
to Dame in the command of the Iron Military District. The word and command of
Isaac C. Haight were the law in Cedar City, at that time, and to disobey his
orders was certain death; be they right or wrong, no Saint was permitted to
question them, their duty was obedience or death.
When I met Haight, I asked him what he wanted with me. He said he wanted
to have a long talk with me on private and particular business. We took some
blankets and went over to the old Iron Works, and lay there that night, so that
we could talk in private and in safety. After we got to the Iron Works, Haight
told me all about the train of emigrants. He said (and I then believed every
word that be spoke, for I believed it was an impossible thing for one so high in
the Priesthood as he was, to be guilty of falsehood) that the emigrants were a
rough and abusive set of men. That they had, while traveling through Utah, been
very abusive to all the Mormons they met. That they had insulted, outraged, and
ravished many of the Mormon women. That the abuses heaped upon the people by the
emigrants during their trip from Provo to Cedar City, had been constant and
shameful; that they had burned fences and destroyed growing crops; that at many
points on the road they had poisoned the water, so that all people and stock
that drank of the water became sick, and many had died from the effects of
That these vile Gentiles publicly proclaimed that they had the very
pistol with which the Prophet, Joseph Smith, was murdered, and had threatened to
kill Brigham Young and all of the Apostles. That when in Cedar City they said
they would have friends in Utah who would hang Brigham Young by the neck until
he was dead, before snow fell again in the Territory. They also said that
Johnston was coming, with his army, from the East, and they were going to return
from California with soldiers, as soon as possible, and would then desolate the
land, and kill every d--d Mormon man, woman and child that they could find in
Utah. That they violated the ordinances of the town of Cedar, and had, by armed
force, resisted the officers who tried to arrest them for violating the law.
That after leaving Cedar City the emigrants camped by the company, or
cooperative field, just below Cedar City, and burned a large portion of the
fencing, leaving the crops open to the large herds of stock in the surrounding
country. Also that they had given poisoned meat to the Corn Creek tribe of
Indians, which had killed several of them, and their Chief, Konosh, was on the
trail of the emigrants, and would soon attack them. All of these things, and
much more of a like kind, Haight told me as we lay in the dark at the old Iron
Works. I believed all that he said, and, thinking that he had full right to do
all that he wanted to do, I was easily induced to follow his instructions.
Haight said that unless something was done to prevent it, the emigrants
would carry out their threats and rob every one of the outlying settlements in
the South, and that the whole Mormon people were liable to be butchered by the
troops that the emigrants would bring back with them from California. I was then
told that the Council had held a meeting that day, to consider the matter, and
that it was decided by the authorities to arm the Indians, give them provisions
and ammunition, and send them after the emigrants, and have the Indians give
them a brush, and if they killed part or all of them, so much the better.
I said, "Brother Haight, who is your authority for acting in this
He replied, "It
is the will of all in authority. The emigrants have no pass from any one to go
through the country, and they are liable to be killed as common enemies, for the
country is at war now. No man has a right to go through this country without a
We lay there and talked much of the
night, and during that time Haight gave me very full instructions what to do,
and how to proceed in the whole affair. He said he had consulted with Colonel
Dame, and every one agreed to let the Indians use up the whole train if they
could. Haight then said:
"I expect you to carry out your orders."
I knew I had to obey or die. I had
no wish to disobey, for I then thought that my superiors in the Church were the
mouth pieces of Heaven, and that it was an act of godliness for me to obey any
and all orders given by them to me, without my asking any questions.
My orders were to go home to Harmony, and see Carl Shirts, my son-in-law,
an Indian interpreter, and send him to the Indians in the South, to notify them
that the Mormons and Indians were at war with the "Mericats" (as the
Indians called all whites that were not Mormons) and bring all the Southern
Indians up and have them join with those from the North, so that their force
would be sufficient to make a successful attack on the emigrants.
It was agreed that Haight would send Nephi Johnson, another Indian
interpreter, to stir up all the other Indians that he could find, in order to
have a large enough force of Indians to give the emigrants a good hush. He said, "These are the orders
that have been agreed upon by the Council, and it is in accordance with the
feelings of the entire people."
I asked him if it would not have been better to first send to Brigham Young for instructions, and find out what he thought about the matter.
"No," said Haight, "that is unnecessary, we are acting by
orders. Some of the Indians are now on the war-path, and all of them must be
sent out; all must go, so as to make the thing a success."
It was then intended that the Indians should kill the emigrants, and make
it an Indian massacre, and not have any whites interfere with them. No whites
were to be known in the matter, it was to be all done by the Indians, so that it
could be laid to them, if any questions were ever asked about it. I said to
"You know what the Indians
are. They will kill all the party, women and children, as well as the men, and
you know we are sworn not to shed innocent blood."
"Oh h--l!" said he, "there will not be one drop of innocent
blood shed, if every one of the d--d pack are killed, for they are the worse lot
of out-laws and ruffians that I ever saw in my life."
We agreed upon the whole thing, how each one should act, and then left
the iron works, and went to Haight's house and, got breakfast.
After breakfast I got ready to start, and Haight said to me:
"Go, Brother Lee, and see that the instructions of those in
authority are obeyed, and as you are dutiful in this, so shall your reward be in
the kingdom of God, for God will bless those who willingly obey counsel, and
make all things fit for the people in these last days."
I left Cedar City for my home at
Harmony, to carry out the instructions that I had received from my superior.
I then believed that he acted by the direct order and command of
William H. Dame, and others even higher in authority than Colonel Dame. One
reason for thinking so was from a talk I had only a few days before, with
Apostle George A. Smith, and he had just then seen Haight, and talked with him,
and I knew that George A. Smith never talked of things that Brigham Young had
not talked over with him before-hand. Then the Mormons were at war with the
United States, and the orders to the Mormons had been all the time to kill and
waste away our enemies, but lose none of our people. These emigrants were from
the section of country most hostile to our people, and I believed then as I do
now, that it was the will of every true Mormon in Utah, at that time, that the
enemies of the Church should be killed as fast as possible, and that as this lot
of people had men amongst them that were supposed to have helped kill the
Prophets in the Carthage jail, the killing of all of them would be keeping our
oaths and avenging the blood of the Prophets.
In justice to myself I will give the facts of my talk with George A.
In the latter part of the month of August, 1857, about ten days before
the company of Captain Fancher, who met their doom at Mountain Meadows, arrived
at that place, General George A. Smith called on me at one of my homes at
Washington City, Washington County, Utah Territory, and wished me to take him
round by Fort Clara, via Pinto Settlements, to Hamilton Fort, or Cedar City. He
have been sent down here by the old Boss, Brigham Young, to instruct the
brethren of the different settlements not to sell any of their grain to our
enemies. And to tell them not, to feed it to their animals, for it will all be
needed by ourselves. I am also to instruct the brethren to prepare for a big
fight, for the enemy is coming in large force to attempt our destruction. But
Johnston's army will not be allowed to approach our settlements from the east.
God is on our side and will fight our battles for us, and deliver our enemies
into our hands. Brigham Young has received revelations from God, giving him the
right and the power to call down the curse of God on all our enemies who attempt
to invade our Territory. Our greatest danger lies in the people of California--a
class of reckless miners who are strangers to God and his righteousness. They
are likely to come upon us from the south and destroy the small settlements. But
we will try and outwit them before we suffer much damage. The people of the
United States who oppose our Church and people are a mob, from the President
down, and as such it is impossible for their armies to prevail against the
Saints who have gathered here in the mountains."
He continued this kind of talk for some hours to me and my friends who
were with me.
General George A. Smith held high
rank as a military leader. He was one of the twelve apostles of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as such he was considered by me to be an
inspired man. His orders were to me sacred commands, which I considered it my
duty to obey, without question or hesitation.
I took my horses and carriage and drove with him to either Hamilton Fort
or Cedar City, visiting the settlements with him, as he had requested. I did not
go to hear him preach at any of our stopping places, nor did I pay attention to
what he said to the leaders in the settlements.
The day we left Fort Clara, which was then the headquarters of
the Indian missionaries under the presidency of Jacob Hamblin, we stopped to
noon at the Clara River. While there the Indians gathered around us in large
numbers, and were quite saucy and impudent. Their chiefs asked me where I was
going and who I had with me. I told them that he was a big captain.
he, a Mericat Captain?"
"No," I said, "he is
The Indians then wanted to know more. They wanted to have a talk.
The General told me to tell the
Indians that the Mormons were their friends, and that the Americans were their
enemies, and the enemies of the Mormons, too; that he wanted the Indians to
remain the fast friends of the Mormons, for the Mormons were all friends to the
Indians; that the Americans had a large army just east of the mountains, and
intended to come over the mountains into Utah and kill all of the Mormons and
Indians in Utah Territory; that the Indians must get ready and keep ready for
war against all of the Americans, and keep friendly with the Mormons and obey
what the Mormons told them to do--that this was the will of the Great Spirit;
that if the Indians were true to the Mormons and would help them against their
enemies, then the Mormons would always keep them from want and sickness and give
them guns and ammunition to hunt and kill game with, and would also help the
Indians against their enemies when they went into war.
This talk pleased the Indians, and they agreed to all that I asked them
I saw that my friend Smith was a little nervous and fearful of the
Indians, notwithstanding their promises of friendship. To relieve him of his
anxiety I hitched up and started on our way, as soon as I could do so without
rousing the suspicions of the Indians.
We had ridden along about a mile or so when General Smith said,
are savage looking fellows. I think they would make it lively for an emigrant
train if one should come this way."
I said I thought they would attack
any train that would come in their way. Then the General was in a deep study for
some time, when he said,
"Suppose an emigrant train should come along through this southern
country, making threats against our people and bragging of the part they took in
helping kill our Prophets, what do you think the brethren would do with them?
Would they be permitted to go their way, or would the brethren pitch into them
and give them a good drubbing?"
I reflected a few moments, and then said,
"You know the brethren are now under the influence of the late
reformation, and are still red-hot for the gospel. The brethren believe the
government wishes to destroy them. I really believe that any train of emigrants
that may come through here will be attacked, and. probably all destroyed. I am
sure they would be wiped out if they had been making threats again our people.
Unless emigrants have a pass from Brigham Young, or some one in authority, they
will certainly never get safely through this country."
My reply pleased him very much, and
he laughed heartily, and then said,
"Do you really
believe the brethren would make it lively for such a train?"
I said, "Yes, sir, I know they
will, unless they are protected by a pass, and I wish to inform you that unless
you want every train captured that comes through here, you must inform Governor
Young that if he wants emigrants to pass, without being molested, he must send
orders to that effect to Colonel Wm. H. Dame or Major Isaac C. Haight, so that
they can give passes to the emigrants, for their passes will insure safety, but
nothing else will, except the positive orders of Governor Young, as the people
are all bitter against the Gentiles, and full of religious zeal, and anxious to
avenge the blood of the Prophets."
GEORGE A. SMITH:
The only reply he made was to the
effect that on his way down from Salt Lake City he had had a long talk with
Major Haight on the same subject, and that Haight had assured him, and given him
to understand, that emigrants who came along without a pass from Governor Young
could not escape from the Territory.
We then rode along in silence for some distance, when he again turned to
me and said,
"Brother Lee, I am satisfied that the brethren are under the full
influence of the reformation, and I believe they will do just as you say they
will with the wicked emigrants that come through the country making threats and
abusing our people."
I repeated my views to him, but at much greater length, giving my reasons
in full for thinking that Governor Young should give orders to protect all the
emigrants that he did not wish destroyed. I went into a full statement of the
wrongs of our people, and told him that the people were under the blaze of the
reformation, full of wild fire and fanaticism, and that to shed the blood of
those who would dare to speak against the Mormon Church or its leaders, they
would consider doing the will of God, and that the people would do it as
willingly and cheerfully as they would any other duty. That the apostle Paul,
when he started forth to persecute the followers of Christ, was not any more
sincere than every Mormon was then, who lived in Southern Utah.
My words served to cheer up the General very much; he was greatly
delighted, and said,
"I am glad to
hear so good an account of our people. God will bless them for all that they do
to build up His Kingdom in the last days."
General Smith did not say one word to me or intimate to me, that he
wished any emigrants to pass in safety through the Territory. But he led me to
believe then, as I believe now, that he did want, and expected every emigrant to
be killed that undertook to pass through the Territory while we were at war with
the Government. I thought it was his mission to prepare the people for the
I have always believed, since that day, that General George A. Smith was
then visiting Southern Utah to prepare the people for the work of exterminating
Captain Fancher's train of emigrants, and I now believe that he was sent for
that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young.
I have been told by Joseph Wood,
Thomas T. Willis, and many others, that they heard George A. Smith preach at
Cedar City during that trip, and that he told the people of Cedar City that the
emigrant's were coming, and he told them that they must not sell that company
any grain or provisions of any kind, for they were a mob of villains and
outlaws, and the enemies of God and the Mormon people.
Sidney Littlefield, of Panguitch, has told me that he was knowing to the
fact of Colonel Wm. H. Dame sending orders from Parowan to Maj. Haight, at Cedar
City, to exterminate the Fancher outfit, and to kill every emigrant without
fail. Littlefield then lived at Parowan, and Dame was the Presiding Bishop. Dame
still has all the wives he wants, and is a great friend of Brigham Young.
The knowledge of how George A. Smith felt toward the emigrants, and his
telling me that he had a long talk with Haight on the subject, made me certain
that it was the wish of the Church authorities that Fancher and his train should
be wiped out, and knowing all this, I did not doubt then, and I do not doubt it
now, either, that Haight was acting by full authority from the Church leaders,
and that the orders he gave to me were just the orders that he had been directed
to give, when he ordered me to raise the Indians and have them attack the
I acted through the whole matter in a way that I considered it my
religious duty to act, and if what I did was a crime, it was a crime of the
Mormon Church, and not a crime for which I feel individually responsible.
I must here state that Klingensmith was not in Cedar City that Sunday
night. Haight said he had sent Klingensmith and others over towards Pinto, and
around there, to stir up the Indians and force them to attack the emigrants.
On my way from Cedar City to my home at Harmony, I came up with a large
band of Indians under Moquetas and Big Bill, two Cedar City Chiefs; they were in
their war paint, and fully equipped for battle. They halted when I came up and
said they had had a big talk with Haight, Higby and Klingensmith, and had got
orders from them to follow up the emigrants and kill them all, and take their
property as the spoil of their enemies.
These Indians wanted me to go with them and command their forces. I told
them that I could not go with them that evening, that I had orders from Haight,
the big Captain, to send other Indians on the war-path to help them kill the
emigrants, and that I must attend to that first; that I wanted them to go on
near where the emigrants were and camp until the other Indians joined them; that
I would meet them the next day and lead them.
This satisfied them, but they wanted me to send my little Indian boy,
Clem, with them. After some time I consented to let Clem go with them, and I
When I got home I told Carl Shirts what the orders were that Haight had
sent to him. Carl was naturally cowardly and was not willing to go, but I told
him the orders must be obeyed. He then started off that night, or early next
morning, to stir up the Indians of the South, and lead them against the
emigrants. The emigrants were then camped at Mountain Meadows.
The Indians did not obey my instructions. They met, several hundred
strong, at the Meadows, and attacked the emigrants Tuesday morning, just before
daylight, and at the first fire, as I afterwards learned, they killed seven and
wounded sixteen of the emigrants. The latter fought bravely, and repulsed the
Indians, killing some of them and breaking the knees of two war chiefs, who
The news of the battle was carried all over the country by Indian
runners, and the excitement was great in all the small settlements. I was
notified of what had taken place, early Tuesday morning, by an Indian who came
to my house and gave me a full account of all that had been done. The Indian
said it was the wish of all the Indians that I should lead them, and that I must
go back with him to the camp.
I started at once, and by taking the Indian trail over the mountain, I
reached the camp in about twelve miles from Harmony. To go round by the wagon
road it would have been between forty and fifty miles.
When I reached the camp I found the Indians in a frenzy of excitement.
They threatened to kill me unless I agreed to lead them against the emigrants,
and help them kill them. They also said they had been told that they could kill
the emigrants without danger to themselves, but they had lost some of their
braves, and others were wounded, and unless they could kill all the "Mericats,"
as they called them, they would declare war against the Mormons and kill every
one in the settlements.
I did as well as I could under the circumstances. I was the only white
man there, with a wild and excited band of several hundred Indians. I tried to
persuade them that all would be well, that I was their friend and would see that
they bad their revenge, if I found out that they were entitled to revenge.
My talk only served to increase their excitement, and being afraid that
they would kill me if I undertook to leave them, and I would not lead them
against the emigrants, so I told them that I would go south and meet their
friends, and hurry them up to help them. I intended to put a stop to the carnage
if I had the power, for I believed that the emigrants had been sufficiently
punished for what they had done, and I felt then, and always have felt that such
wholesale murdering was wrong.
At first the Indians would not consent for me to leave them, but they
finally said I might go and meet their friends.
I then got
on my horse and left the Meadows, and went south.
I had gone about sixteen miles, when I met Carl Shirts with about one
hundred Indians, and a number of Mormons from the southern settlements. They
were going to the scene of the conflict. How they learned of the emigrants being
at the Meadows I never knew, but they did know it, and were there fully armed,
and determined to obey orders.
Amongst those that I remember to have met there, were Samuel Knight,
Oscar Hamblin, William Young, Carl Shirts, Harrison Pearce, James Pearce, John
W. Clark, William Slade, Sr., James Matthews, Dudley Leavitt, William Hawley,
(now a resident of Fillmore, Utah Territory,) William Slade, Jr., and two others
whose names I have forgotten. I think they were George W. Adair and John Hawley.
I know they were at the Meadows at the time of the massacre, and I think I met
them that night south of the Meadows, with Samuel Knight and the others.
The whites camped there that night with me, but most of the Indians
rushed on to their friends at the camp on the Meadows.
I reported to the whites all that had taken place at the Meadows, but
none of them were surprised in the least. They all seemed to know that the
attack was to be made, and all about it. I spent one of the most miserable
nights there that I ever passed in my life. I spent much of the night in tears
and at prayer. I wrestled with God for wisdom to guide me. I asked for some
sign, some evidence that would satisfy me that my mission was of Heaven, but I
got no satisfaction from my God.
In the morning we all agreed to go on together to Mountain Meadows, and
camp there, and then send a messenger to Haight, giving him full instructions of
what had been done, and to ask him for further instructions. We knew that the
original plan was for the Indians to do all the work, and the whites to do
nothing, only to stay back and plan for them, and encourage them to do the work.
Now we knew the Indians could not do the work, and we were in a sad fix.
I did not then know that a messenger had been sent to Brigham Young for
instructions. Haight had not mentioned it to me. I now think that James Haslem
was sent to Brigham Young, as a sharp play on the part of the authorities to
protect themselves, if trouble ever grew out of the matter.
We went to the Meadows and camped at the springs, about half a mile from
the emigrant camp. There was a larger number of Indians there then, fully three
hundred, and I think as many as four hundred of them. The two Chiefs who were
shot in the knee were in a bad fix. The Indians had killed a number of the
emigrants' horses, and about sixty or seventy head of cattle were lying dead on
the Meadows, which the Indians had killed for spite and revenge.
Our company killed a small beef for dinner, and after eating a hearty
meal of it we held a council and decided to send a messenger to Haight. I said
to the messenger, who was either Edwards or Adair, (I cannot now remember which
it was), "Tell Haight, for my sake, for the people's sake, for God's sake,
send me help to protect and save these emigrants, and pacify the Indians."
The messenger started for Cedar City, from our camp on the Meadows, about
2 o'clock P. M.
We all staid on the field, and I tried to quiet and pacify the
Indians, by telling them that I had sent to Haight, the Big Captain, for orders,
and when he sent his order I would know what to do. This appeared to satisfy the
Indians, for said they,
Big Captain will send you word to kill all the Mericats."
Along toward evening the Indians
again attacked the emigrants. This was Wednesday. I heard the report of their
guns, and the screams of the women and children in the corral.
This was more than I could stand. So I ran with William Young and John
Mangum, to where the Indians were, to stop the fight. While on the way to them
they fired a volley, and three balls from their guns cut my clothing. One ball
went through my hat and cut my hair on the side of my head. One ball went
through my shirt and leaded my shoulder, the other cut my pants across my
bowels. I thought this was rather warm work, but I kept on until I reached the
place where the Indians were in force. When I got to them, I told them the Great
Spirit would be mad at them if they killed the women and children. I talked to
them some time, and cried with sorrow when I saw that I could not pacify the
When the Indians saw me in tears, they called me "Yaw
Guts," which in the Indian language means, "cry baby," and to
this day they call me by that name, and consider me a coward. Oscar Hamblin was
a fine interpreter, and he came to my aid and helped me to induce the Indians to
stop the attack. By his help we got the Indians to agree to be quiet until word
was returned from Haight. (I do not know now but what the messenger started for
Cedar City, after this night attack, but I was so worried and perplexed at that
time, and so much has happened to distract my thoughts since then, that my mind
is not clear on that subject.)
On Thursday, about noon, several
men came to us from Cedar City. I cannot remember the order in which all of the
people came to the Meadows, but I do recollect that at this time and in this
company Joel White, William C. Stewart, Benjamin Arthur, Alexander Wilden,
Charles Hopkins and ---- Tate, came to us at the camp at the Springs. These men
said but little, but every man seemed to know just what he was there for. As our
messenger had gone for further orders, we moved our camp about four hundred
yards further up the valley on to a hill, where we made camp as long as we
I soon learned that the whites were as wicked at heart as the Indians,
for every little while during that day I saw white men taking aim and shooting
at the emigrants' wagons. They said they were doing it to keep in practice and
to help pass off the time.
I remember one man that was shooting, that rather amused me, for he was
shooting at a mark over a quarter of a mile off, and his gun would not carry a
ball two hundred yards. That man was Alexander Wilden. He took pains to fix up a
seat under the shade of a tree, where he continued to load and shoot until he
got tired. Many of the others acted just as wild and foolish as Wilden did.
The wagons were corralled after the Indians had made the first attack. On
the second day after our arrival the emigrants drew their wagons near each other
and chained the wheels one to the other. While they were doing this there was no
shooting going on. Their camp was about one hundred yards above and north of the
spring. They generally got their water from the spring at night.
Thursday morning I saw two men start from the corral with buckets, and
run to the spring and fill their buckets with water, and go back again. The
bullets flew around them thick and fast, but they got into their corral in
The Indians had agreed to keep quiet until orders returned from Haight,
but they did not keep their word. They made a determined attack on the train on
Thursday morning about daylight. At this attack the Clara Indians had one brave
killed and three wounded. This so enraged that band that they left for home that
day and drove off quite a number of cattle with them. During the day I said to
John Mangum, "I will cross over the valley and go up on the other side, on
the hills to the west of the corral, and take a look at the situation."
I did go. As I was crossing the valley I was seen by the emigrants, and
as soon as they saw that I was a white man they ran up a white flag in the
middle of their corral, or camp. They 'then sent two little boys from the camp
to talk to me, but I could not talk to them at that time, for I did not know
what orders Haight would send back to me, and until I did know his orders I did
not know how to act. I hid, to keep away from the children. They came to the
place where they had last seen me and hunted all around for me, but being unable
to find me, they turned and went back to the camp in safety.
While the boys were looking for me several Indians came to me and asked
for ammunition with which to kill them. I told them they must not hurt the
children--that if they did I would kill the first one that made the attempt to
injure them. By this act I was able to save the boys.
It is all false that has been told about little girls being dressed in
white and sent out to me. There never was anything of the kind done.
I stayed on the west side of the valley for about two hours, looking down
into the emigrant camp, and feeling all the torture of mind that it is possible
for a man to suffer who feels merciful, and yet knows, as I then knew, what was
in store for that unfortunate company if the Indians were successful in their
While I was standing on the hill looking down into the corral, I saw two
men leave the corral and go outside to cut some wood; the Indians and whites
kept up a steady fire on them all the time, but they paid no attention to
danger, and kept right along at their work until they had it done, and then they
went back into camp. The men all acted so bravely that it was impossible to keep
from respecting them.
After staying there and looking down into the camp until I was nearly
dead from grief, I returned to the company at camp. I was worn out with trouble
and grief; I was nearly wild waiting for word from the authorities at Cedar
City. I prayed for word to come that would enable me to save that band of
suffering people, but no such word came. It never was to come.
On Thursday evening, John M. Higbee, Major of the Iron Militia, and
Philip K. Smith, as he is called generally, but whose name is Klingensmith,
Bishop of Cedar City, came to our camp with two or three wagons, and a number of
men all well armed. I can remember the following as a portion of the men who
came to take part in the work of death which was so soon to follow, viz.: John
M. Higbee, Major and commander of the Iron Militia, and also first counselor to
Isaac C. Haight; Philip Klingensmith, Bishop of Cedar City; Ira Allen, of the
High Council; Robert Wiley, of the High Council; Richard Harrison, of Pinto,
also a member of the High Council; Samuel McMurdy, one of the Counselors of
Klingensmith; Charles Hopkins, of the City Council of Cedar City; Samuel
Pollock; Daniel McFarland, a son-in-law of Isaac C. Haight, and acting as
Adjutant under Major Higbee; John Ure, of the City Council; George Hunter, of
the City Council; and I honestly believe that John McFarland, now an
attorney-at-law at St. George, Utah, was there--I am not positive that he was,
but my best impression is that he was there: Samuel Jukes; Nephi Johnson, with a
number of Indians under his command; Irvin Jacobs; John Jacobs; E. Curtis, a
Captain of Ten; Thomas Cartwright of the City Council and High Council; William
Bateman, who afterwards carried the flag of truce to the emigrant camp; Anthony
Stratton; A. Loveridge; Joseph Clews; Jabez Durfey; Columbus Freeman, and some
others whose names I cannot remember. I know that our total force was fifty-four
whites and over three hundred Indians.
As soon as these persons gathered around the camp, I demanded of Major
Higbee what orders he had brought. I then stated fully all that had happened at
the Meadows, so that every person might understand the situation.
Major Higbee reported as follows:
"It is the orders of the President, that all the emigrants must be put out
of the way. President Haight has counseled with Colonel Dame, or has had orders
from him to put all of the emigrants out of the way; none who are old enough to
talk are to be spared."
He then went on and said substantially that the emigrants had come
through the country as our enemies, and as the enemies of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints. That they had no pass from any one in authority to
permit them to leave the Territory. That none but friends were permitted to
leave the Territory, and that as these were our sworn enemies, they must be
killed. That they were nothing but a portion of Johnston's army. That if they
were allowed to go on to California, they would raise the war cloud in the West,
and bring certain destruction upon all the settlements in Utah. That the only
safety for the people was in the utter destruction of the whole rascally lot.
I then told them that God would
have to change my heart before I could consent to such a wicked thing as the
wholesale killing of that people. I attempted to reason with Higbee and the
brethren. I told them how strongly the emigrants were fortified, and how wicked
it was to kill the women and children. I was ordered to be silent. Higbee said I
was resisting authority.
He then said, "Brother Lee
is afraid of shedding innocent blood. Why, brethren, there is not a drop of
innocent blood in that entire camp of Gentile outlaws; they are set of
cut-throats, robbers and assassins; they are a part of the people who drove the
Saints from Missouri, and who aided to shed the blood of our Prophets, Joseph
and Hyrum, and it is our orders from all in authority, to get the emigrants from
their stronghold, and help the Indians kill them."
I then said that Joseph Smith had told us never to betray any one. That
we could not get the emigrants out of their corral unless we used treachery, and
I was opposed to that.
I was interrupted by Higbee, Klingensmith and Hopkins, who said it was
the orders of President Isaac C. Haight to us, and that Haight had his orders
from Colonel Dame and the authorities at Parowan, and that all in authority were
of one mind, and that they had been sent by the Council at Cedar City to the
Meadows to counsel and direct the way and manner that the company of emigrants
should be disposed of.
The men then in council, I must here state, now knelt down in a prayer
circle and prayed, invoking the Spirit of God to direct them how to act in the
After prayer, Major Higbee said, "Here
are the orders," and handed me a paper from Haight. It was in
substance that it was the orders of Haight to decoy the emigrants from their
position, and kill all of them that could talk. This order was in writing.
Higbee handed it to me and I read it, and dropped it on the ground, saying,
"I cannot do this."
The substance of the orders were that the emigrants should be
decoyed from their strong-hold, and all exterminated, so that no one would be
left to tell the tale, and then the authorities could say it was done by the
The words decoy and exterminate were used in that message or order,
and these orders came to us as the orders from the Council at Cedar City, and as
the orders of our military superior, that we were bound to obey. The order was
signed by Haight, as commander of the troops at Cedar City.
Haight told me the next day after the massacre, while on the Meadows,
that he got his orders from Colonel Dame.
I then left the Council, and went away to myself, and bowed myself in
prayer before God, and asked Him to overrule the decision of that Council. I
shed many bitter
tears, and my tortured soul was wrung nearly from the body by my great
suffering. I will here say, calling upon Heaven, angels, and the spirits of just
men to witness what I say, that if I could then have had a thousand worlds to
command, I would have given them freely to save that company from death.
While in bitter anguish, lamenting the sad condition of myself and
others, Charles Hopkins, a man that I had great confidence in, came to me from
the Council, and tried to comfort me by saying that he believed it was all
right, for the brethren in the Priesthood were all united in the thing, and it
would not be well for me to oppose them.
I told him the Lord must change my heart before I could ever do such an
act willingly. I will further state that there was a reign of terror in Utah, at
that time, and many a man had been put out of the way, on short notice, for
disobedience, and I had made some narrow escapes.
At the earnest solicitation of Brother Hopkins, I returned with him to
the Council. When I got back, the Council again prayed for aid. The Council was
called The City Counselors, the Church or High Counselors; and all in authority,
together with the private citizens, then formed a circle, and kneeling down, so
that elbows would touch each other, several of the brethren prayed for Divine
After prayer, Major Higbee said, "I have the evidence of God's
approval of our mission. It is God's will that we carry out our instructions to
I said, "My God! this is more than I can
do. I must and do refuse to take part in this matter."
Higbee then said to me, "Brother Lee, I am ordered by President
Haight to inform you that you shall receive a crown of Celestial glory for your
faithfulness, and your eternal joy shall be complete." I was much shaken by
this offer, for I had full faith in the power of the Priesthood to bestow such
rewards and blessings, but I was anxious to save the people. I then proposed
that we give the Indians all of the stock of the emigrants, except sufficient to
haul their wagons, and let them go. To this proposition all the leading men
objected. No man there raised his voice or hand to favor the saving of life,
The meeting was then addressed by some one in authority, I do not
remember who it was. He spoke in about this language:
"Brethren, we have been sent here to perform a duty. It is a duty that we
owe to God, and to our Church and people. The orders of those in authority are
that all the emigrants must die. Our leaders speak with inspired tongues, and
their orders come from the God of Heaven. We have no right to question what they
have commanded us to do; it is our duty to obey. If we wished to act as some of
our weak-kneed brethren desire us to do, it would be impossible; the thing has
gone too far to allow us to stop now. The emigrants know that we have aided the
Indians, and if we let them go they will bring certain destruction upon us. It
is a fact that on Wednesday night, two of the emigrants got
out of camp and started back to Cedar City for assistance to withstand
the Indian attacks; they had reached Richards' Springs when they met William C.
Stewart, Joel White and Benjamin Arthur, three of our brethren from Cedar City.
The men stated their business to the brethren, and as their horses were drinking
at the Spring, Brother Stewart, feeling unusually full of zeal for the glory of
God and the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God on earth, shot and killed one of
the emigrants, a young man by the name of Aden. When Aden fell from his horse,
Joel White shot and wounded the other Gentile; but he unfortunately got away,
and returned to his camp and reported that the Mormons were helping the Indians
in all that they were doing against the emigrants. Now the emigrants will report
these facts in California if we let them go. We must kill them all, and our
orders are to get them out by treachery if no other thing can be done to get
them into our power."
Many of the brethren spoke in the same way, all arguing that the orders
must be carried out.
I was then told the plan of action had been agreed upon, and it was this:
The emigrants were to be decoyed from their strong-hold under a promise of
protection. Brother William Bateman was to carry a flag of truce and demand a
parley, and then I was to go and arrange the terms of the surrender. I was to
demand that all the children who were so young they could not talk should be put
into a wagon, and the wounded were also to be put into a wagon. Then all the
arms and ammunition of the emigrants should be put into a wagon, and I was to
agree that the Mormons would protect the emigrants from the Indians and conduct
them to Cedar City in safety, where they should be protected until an
opportunity came for sending them to California.
It was agreed that when I had made
the full agreement and treaty, as the brethren called it, the wagons should
start for Hamblin's Ranch with the arms, the wounded and the children. The women
were to march on foot and follow the wagons in single file; the men were to
follow behind the women, they also to march in single file. Major John M. Higbee
was to stand with his militia company about two hundred yards from the camp, and
stand in double file, open order, with about twenty feet space between the
files, so that the wagons could pass between them. The drivers were to keep
right along, and not stop at the troops. The women were not to stop there, but
to follow the wagons. The troops were to halt the men for a few minutes, until
the women were some distance ahead, out into the cedars, where the Indians were
hid in ambush. Then the march was to be resumed, the troops to form in single
file, each soldier to walk by an emigrant, and on the right-hand side of his
man, and the soldier was to carry his gun on his left arm, ready for instant
use. The march was to continue until the wagons had passed beyond the ambush of
the Indians, and until the women were right in the midst of the Indians. Higbee
was then to give the orders and words, "Do
Your Duty." At this the troops were to shoot down the men; the
Indians were to kill all of the women and larger children, and the drivers of
the wagons and I were to kill the wounded and sick men that were in the wagons.
Two men were to be placed on horses nearby, to overtake and kill any of the
emigrants that might escape from the
first assault. The Indians were to kill the women and large children, so that it
would be certain that no Mormon would be guilty of shedding innocent blood--if
it should happen that there was any innocent blood in the company that were to
die. Our leading men said that there was no innocent blood in the whole company.
The Council broke up a little after daylight on Friday morning. All the
horses, except two for the men to ride to overtake those who might escape, and
one for Dan McFarland to ride as Adjutant, so that he could carry orders from
one part of the field to another, were turned out on the range. Then breakfast
was eaten, and the brethren prepared for the work in hand.
I was now satisfied that it was the wish of all of the Mormon priesthood
to have the thing done. One reason for thinking so was that it was in keeping
with the teachings of the leaders, and as Utah was then at war with the United
States we believed all the Gentiles were to be killed as a war measure, and that
the Mormons, as God's chosen people, were to hold and inhabit the earth and rule
and govern the globe. Another, and one of my strongest reasons for believing
that the leaders wished the thing done, was on account of the talk that I had
with George A. Smith, which I have given in full in this statement. I was
satisfied that Smith had passed the emigrants while on his way from Salt Lake
City, and I then knew this was the train that he meant when he spoke of a train
that would make threats and ill-treat our people, etc.
The people were in the full blaze of the reformation and anxious to do
some act that would add to their reputation as zealous Churchmen.
I therefore, taking all things into consideration, and believing, as I
then did, that my superiors were inspired men, who could not go wrong in any
matter relating to the Church or the duty of its members, concluded to be
obedient to the wishes of those in authority. I took up my cross and prepared to
do my duty.
Soon after breakfast Major Higbee ordered the two Indian interpreters,
Carl Shirts and Nephi Johnson, to inform the Indians of the plan of operations,
and to place the Indians in ambush, so that they could not be seen by the
emigrants until the work of death should commence.
This was done in order to make the emigrants believe that we had sent the
Indians away, and that we were acting honestly and in good faith, when we agreed
to protect them from the savages.
The orders were obeyed, and in five minutes not an Indian could be seen
on the whole Meadows. They secreted themselves and lay still as logs of wood,
until the order was given for them to rush out and kill the women.
Major Higbee then called all the people to order, and directed me to
explain the whole plan to them. I did so, explaining just how every person was
expected to act during the whole performance.
Major Higbee then gave the order for his men to advance. They marched to
the spot agreed upon, and halted there. William Bateman was then selected to
carry a flag of truce to the emigrants and demand their surrender, and I was
ordered to go and make the treaty after some one had replied to our flag of
truce. (The emigrants had kept a white flag flying in their camp ever since they
saw me cross the valley.)
Bateman took a white flag and started for the emigrant camp. When he got
about half way to the corral, he was met by one of the emigrants that I
afterwards learned was named Hamilton. They talked some time, but I never knew
what was said between them.
Brother Bateman returned to the command and said that the emigrants would
accept our terms, and surrender as we required them to do.
I was then ordered by Major Higbee to go to the corral and negotiate the
treaty, and superintend the whole matter. I was again ordered to be certain and
get all the arms and ammunition into the wagons. Also to put the children and
the sick and wounded in the wagons, as had been agreed upon in council. Then
Major Higbee said to me:
"Brother Lee, we expect you to faithfully carry out all the
instructions that have been given you by our council."
Samuel McMurdy and Samuel Knight were then ordered to drive their teams
and follow me to the corral to haul off the children, arms, etc.
The troops formed in two lines, as had been agreed upon, and were
standing in that way with arms at rest, when I left them.
I walked ahead of the wagons up to the corral. When I reached there I
met Mr. Hamilton on the outside of the camp. He loosened the chains from some of
their wagons, and moved one wagon out of the way, so that our teams could drive
inside of the corral and into their camp. It was then noon, or a little after.
I found that the emigrants were strongly fortified; their wagons were
chained to each other in a circle. In the center was a rifle-pit, large enough
to contain the entire company. This had served to shield them from the constant
fire of their enemy, which had been poured into them from both sides of the
valley, from a rocky range that served as a breastwork for their assailants. The
valley at this point was not more than five hundred yards wide, and the
emigrants had their camp near the center of the valley. On the east and west
there was a low range of rugged, rocky mountains, affording a splendid place for
the protection of the Indians and Mormons, and
leaving them in comparative safety while they fired upon the emigrants.
The valley at this place runs nearly due north and south.
When I entered the corral, I found the emigrants engaged in burying two
men of note among them, who had died but a short time before from the effect of
wounds received by them from the Indians at the time of the first attack on
Tuesday morning. They wrapped the bodies up in buffalo robes, and buried them in
a grave inside the corral. I was then told by some of the men that seven men
were killed and seventeen others were wounded at the first attack made by the
Indians, and that three of the wounded men had since died, making ten of their
number killed during the siege.
As I entered the fortifications, men, women and children gathered around
me in wild consternation. Some felt that the time of their happy deliverance had
come, while others, though in deep distress, and all in tears, looked upon me
with doubt, distrust and terror. My feelings at this time may be imagined (but I
doubt the power of man being equal to even imagine how wretched I felt.) No
language can describe my feelings. My position was painful, trying and awful; my
brain seemed to be on fire; my nerves were for a moment unstrung; humanity was
overpowered, as I thought of the cruel, unmanly part that I was acting. Tears of
bitter anguish fell in streams from my eyes; my tongue refused its office; my
faculties were dormant, stupefied and deadened by grief. I wished that the earth
would open and swallow me where I stood. God knows my suffering was great. I
cannot describe my feelings. I knew that I was acting a cruel part and doing a
damnable deed. Yet my faith in the godliness of my leaders was such that it
forced me to think that I was not sufficiently spiritual to act the important
part I was commanded to perform. My hesitation was only momentary. Then feeling
that duty compelled obedience to orders, I laid aside my weakness and my
humanity, and became an instrument in the hands of my superiors and my leaders.
I delivered my message and told the people that they must put their arms in the
wagon, so as not to arouse the animosity of the Indians. I ordered the children
and wounded, some clothing and the arms, to be put into the wagons. Their guns
were mostly Kentucky rifles of the muzzle-loading style. Their ammunition was
about all gone--I do not think there were twenty loads left in their whole camp.
If the emigrants had had a good supply of ammunition they never would have
surrendered, and I do not think we could have captured them without great loss,
for they were brave men and very resolute and determined.
Just as the wagons were loaded, Dan McFarland came riding into the corral
and said that Major Higbee had ordered great haste to be made, for he was afraid
that the Indians would return and renew the attack before he could get the
emigrants to a place of safety.
I hurried up the people and started the wagons off towards Cedar City. As
we went out of the corral I ordered the wagons to turn to the left, so as to
leave the troops to the right of us. Dan McFarland rode before the women and led
them right up to the troops, where they still stood in open order as I left
them. The women and larger children were walking ahead, as directed, and the men
following them. The foremost man was about fifty yards behind the hindmost
The women and children were hurried right on by the troops. When the men
came up they cheered the soldiers as if they believed that they were acting
honestly. Higbee then gave the orders for his men to form in single file and
take their places as ordered before, that is, at the right of the emigrants.
I saw this much, but about this time our wagons passed out of sight of
the troops, over the hill. I had disobeyed orders in part by turning off as I
did, for I was anxious to be out of sight of the bloody deed that I knew was to
follow. I knew that I had much to do yet that was of a cruel and unnatural
character. It was my duty, with the two drivers, to kill the sick and wounded
who were in the wagons, and to do so when we heard the guns of the troops fire.
I was walking between the wagons; the horses were going in a fast walk, and we
were fully half a mile from Major Higbee and his men, when we heard the firing.
As we heard the guns, I ordered a halt and we proceeded to do our part.
THE MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE:
I here pause in the recital of this
horrid story of man's inhumanity, and ask myself the question, Is it honest in
me, and can I clear my conscience before my God, if I screen myself while I
accuse others? No, never! Heaven forbid that I should put a burden upon others'
shoulders, that I am unwilling to bear my just portion of. I am not a traitor to
my people, nor to my former friends and comrades who were with me on that dark
day when the work of death was carried on in God's name, by a lot of deluded and
religious fanatics. It is my duty to tell facts as they exist, and I will do so.
I have said that all of the small children were put into the wagons; that
was wrong, for one little child, about six months old, was carried in its
father's arms, and it was killed by the same bullet that entered its father's
breast; it was shot through the head. I was told by Haight afterwards, that the
child was killed by accident, but I cannot say whether that is a fact or not. I
saw it lying dead when I returned to the place of slaughter.
When we had got out of sight, as I said before, and just as we were
coming into the main road, I heard a volley of guns at the place where I knew
the troops and emigrants were. Our teams were then going at a fast walk. I first
heard one gun, then a volley at once followed.
McMurdy and Knight stopped their teams at once, for they were ordered by
Higbee, the same as I was, to help kill all the sick and wounded who were in the
wagons, and to do it as soon as they heard the guns of the troops. McMurdy was
in front; his wagon was mostly loaded with the arms and small children. McMurdy
and Knight got out of their wagons; each one had a rifle. McMurdy went up to
Knight's wagon, where the sick and wounded were, and raising his rifle to his
shoulder, said: "0 Lord, my God,
receive their spirits, it is for thy Kingdom that I do this." He then shot
a man who was lying with his head on another man's breast; the ball killed both
I also went up to the wagon, intending to do my part of the killing. I
drew my pistol and cocked it, but somehow it went off prematurely, and I shot
McMurdy across the thigh, my Pistol ball cutting his buck-skin pants. McMurdy
turned to me and said: "Brother Lee, keep cool, you are excited; you came
very near killing me. Keep cool, there is no reason for being excited."
Knight then shot a man with his rifle; he shot the man in the head.
Knight also brained a boy that was about fourteen years old. The boy came
running up to our wagons, and Knight struck him on the head with the butt end of
his gun, and crushed his skull. By this time many Indians reached our wagons,
and all of the sick and wounded were killed almost instantly. I saw an Indian
from Cedar City, called Joe, run up to the wagon and catch a man by the hair,
and raise his head up and look into his face; the man shut his eyes, and Joe
shot him in the head. The Indians then examined all of the wounded in the
wagons, and all of the bodies, to see if any were alive, and all that showed
signs of life were at once shot through the head. I did not kill any one there,
but it was an accident that kept me from it, for I fully intended to do my part
of the killing, but by the time I got over the excitement of coming so near
killing McMurdy, the whole of the killing of the wounded was done. There is no
truth in the statement of Nephi Johnson, where he says I cut a man's throat.
Just after the wounded were all killed I saw a girl, some ten or eleven
years old, running towards us, from the direction where the troops had attacked
the main body of emigrants; she was covered with blood. An Indian shot her
before she got within sixty yards of us. That was the last person that I saw
killed on that occasion.
About this time an Indian rushed to
the front wagon, and grabbed a little boy, and was going to kill him. The lad
got away from the Indian and ran to me, and caught me by the knees; and begged
me to save him, and not let the Indian kill him. The Indian had hurt the little
fellow's chin on the wagon bed, when he first caught hold of him. I told the
Indian to let the boy alone. I took the child up in my arms, and put him back in
the wagon, and saved his life. This little boy said his name was Charley Fancher,
and that his father was Captain of the train. He was a bright boy. I afterwards
adopted him, and gave him to Caroline. She kept him until Dr. Forney took all
the children East. I believe that William Sloan, alias Idaho Bill, is the same
After all the parties were dead, I ordered Knight to drive out on one
side, and throw out the dead bodies. He did so, and threw them out of his wagon
at a place about one hundred yards from the road, and then came back to where I
was standing. I then ordered Knight and McMurdy to take the children that were
saved alive, (sixteen was the number, some say seventeen, I say sixteen,) and
drive on to Hamblin's ranch. They did as I ordered them to do. Before the wagons
started, Nephi Johnson came up in company with the Indians that were under his
command, and Carl Shirts I think came up too, but I know that I then considered
that Carl Shirts was a coward, and I afterwards made him suffer for being a
coward. Several white men came up too, but I cannot tell their names, as I have
forgotten who they were.
Knight lied when he said I went to the ranch and ordered him to go to the
field with his team. I never knew anything of his team, or heard of it, until he
came with a load of armed men in his wagon, on the evening of Thursday. If any
one ordered him to go to the Meadows, it was Higbee. Every witness that claims
that he went to the Meadows without knowing what he was going to do, has lied,
for they all knew, as well as Haight or any one else did, and they all voted,
every man of them, in the Council, on Friday morning, a little before daylight,
to kill all the emigrants.
After the wagons, with the children, had started for Hamblin's ranch, I
turned and walked back to where the brethren were. Nephi Johnson lies when he
says he was on horseback, and met me, or that I gave him orders to go to guard
the wagons. He is a perjured wretch, and has sworn to every thing he could to
injure me. God knows what I did do was bad enough, but he has lied to suit the
leaders of the Church, who want me out of the way.
While going back, to the brethren, I passed the bodies of several women.
In one place I saw six or seven bodies near each other; they were stripped
perfectly naked, and all of their clothing was torn from their bodies by the
I walked along the line where the emigrants had been killed, and saw many
bodies lying dead and naked on the field, near by where the women lay. I saw ten
children; they had been killed close to each other; they were from ten to
sixteen years of age. The bodies of the women and children were scattered along
the ground for quite a distance before I came to where the men were killed.
I do not know how many were killed, but I thought then that there were
some fifteen women, about ten children, and about forty men killed, but the
statement of others that I have since talked with about the massacre, makes me
think there were fully one hundred and ten killed that day on the Mountain
Meadows, and the ten who had died in the corral, and young Aden killed by
Stewart at Richards' Springs, would make the total number one hundred and
When I reached the place where the dead men lay, I was told how the
orders had been obeyed. Major Higbee said, "The boys have acted admirably,
they took good aim, and all of the d--d Gentiles but two or three fell at the
He said that three or four got away some distance, but the men on horses
soon overtook them and cut their throats. Higbee said the Indians did their part
of the work
well, that it did not take over a minute to finish up when they got fairly
started. I found that the first orders had been carried out to the letter.
Three of the emigrants did get away, but the Indians were put on their
trail and they overtook and killed them before they reached the settlements in
California. But it would take more time than I have to spare to give the details
of their chase and capture. I may do so in my writings hereafter, but not now.
I found Major Higbee, Klingensmith, and most of the brethren standing
near by where the largest number of the dead men lay. When I went up to the
brethren, Major Higbee said, "We must now examine the bodies for
I said I did not wish to do any such work.
Higbee then said, "Well, you hold my hat and I will examine the
bodies, and put what valuables I get into the hat."
The bodies were all searched by Higbee, Klingensmith and Wm. C. Stewart.
I did hold the hat a while, but I soon got so sick that I had to give it to some
other person, as I was unable to stand for a few minutes. The search resulted in
getting a little money and a few watches, but there was not much money. Higbee
and Klingensmith kept the property, I suppose, for I never knew what became of
it, unless they did keep it. I think they kept it all.
After the dead were searched, as I
have just said, the brethren were called up, and Higbee and Klingensmith, as
well as myself, made speeches, and ordered the people to keep the matter, a
secret from the entire world. Not to tell their wives, or their most intimate
friends, and we pledged ourselves to keep everything relating to the affair a
secret during life. We also took the most binding oaths to stand by each other,
and to always insist that the massacre was committed by Indians alone. This was
the advice of Brigham Young too, as I will show hereafter.
The men were mostly ordered to camp there on the field for that night,
but Higbee and Klingensmith went with me to Hamblin's ranch, where we got
something to eat, and stayed there all night. I was nearly dead for rest and
sleep; in fact I had rested but little since the Saturday night before. I took
my saddle blanket and spread it on the ground soon after I had eaten my supper,
and lay down on the saddle blanket, using my saddle for a pillow, and slept
soundly until next morning.
I was awakened in the morning by loud talking between Isaac C. Haight and
William H. Dame. They were very much excited, and quarreling with each other. I
got up at once, but was unable to hear what they were quarreling about, for they
cooled down as soon as they saw that others were paying attention to them.
I soon learned that Col. Dame, Judge Lewis of Parowan, and Isaac C.
Haight, with several others, had arrived at the Hamblin ranch in the night, but
I do not know what time they got there.
After breakfast we all went back in a body to the Meadows, to bury the
dead and take care of the property that was left there.
When we reached the Meadows we all rode up to that part of the field
where the women were lying dead. The bodies of men, women and children had been
stripped entirely naked, making the scene one of the most loathsome and ghastly
that can be imagined.
Knowing that Dame and Haight had quarreled at Hamblin's that morning, I
wanted to know how they would act in sight of the dead, who lay there as the
result of their orders. I was greatly interested to know what Dame had to say,
so I kept close to them, without appearing to be watching them.
Colonel Dame was silent for some time. He looked all over the field,
and was quite pale, and looked uneasy and frightened. I thought then that he was
just finding out the difference between giving and executing orders for
wholesale killing. He spoke to Haight, and said:
"I must report this matter to the authorities."
"How will you report it?" said Haight.
Dame said, "I will report it just as it is."
"Yes, I suppose so, and
implicate yourself with the rest?" said Haight.
"No," said Dame. "I will not implicate myself for I had
nothing to do with it."
Haight then said, "That will not do, for you know a d--d sight
better. You ordered it done. Nothing has been done except by your orders, and it
is too late in the day for you to order things done and then go back on it, and
go back on the men who have carried out your orders. You cannot sow pig on me,
and I will be d--d if I will stand it. You are as much to blame as any one, and
you know that we have done nothing except what you ordered done. I know that I
have obeyed orders, and by G-d I will not be lied on."
Colonel Dame was much excited. He choked up, and would have gone away,
but he knew Haight was a man of determination, and would not stand any
As soon as Colonel Dame could collect himself, he said:
did not think there were so many of them, or I would not have had anything to do
I thought it was now time for me to chip in, so I said:
"Brethren, what is the trouble between you? It will not do for our
chief men to disagree."
Haight stepped up to my side, a little in front of me, and facing Colonel
Dame. He was very mad, and said:
"The trouble is just this: Colonel Dame counseled and ordered me to
do this thing, and now he wants to back out, and go back on me, and by G-d, he
shall not do it. He shall not lay it all on me. He cannot do it. He must not try
to do it. I will blow him to h--l before he shall lay it all on me. He has got
to stand up to what he did, like a little man. He knows he ordered it, done, and
I dare him to deny it."
Colonel Dame was perfectly cowed. He did not offer to deny it again, but
"Isaac, I did not know there were so many of them."
"That makes no difference," said Haight, "you ordered me
to do it, and you have got to stand up for your orders."
I thought it was now time to stop the fuss, for many of the young
brethren were coming around. So I said:
"Brethren, this is no place to talk over such a matter. You will agree when you get where you can be quiet, and talk it over."
Haight said, "There is no more
to say, for he knows he ordered it done, and he has got to stand by it."
That ended the trouble between them, and I never heard of Colonel Dame
denying the giving of the orders any more, until after the Church authorities
concluded to offer me up for the sins of the Church.
We then went along the field, and passed by where the brethren were at
work covering up the bodies. They piled the dead bodies up in heaps, in little
gullies, and threw dirt over them. The bodies were only lightly covered, for the
ground was hard, and the brethren did not have sufficient tools to dig with. I
suppose it is true that the first rain washed the bodies all out again, but I
never went back to examine whether it did or not.
We then went along the field to where the corral and camp had been, to
where the wagons were standing. We found that the Indians had carried off all of
the wagon covers, and the clothing, and the provisions, and had emptied the
feathers out of the feather-beds, and carried off all the ticks.
After the dead were covered up or buried (but it was not much of a
burial,) the brethren were called together, and a council was held at the
emigrant camp. All the leading men made speeches; Colonel Dame, President Haight.
Klingensmith, John M. Higbee, Hopkins and myself. The speeches were
first--Thanks to God for delivering our enemies into our hands; next, thanking
the brethren for their zeal in God's cause; and then the necessity of always
saying the Indians did it alone, and that the Mormons had nothing to do with it.
The most of the speeches, however, were in the shape of exhortations and
commands to keep the whole matter secret from every one but Brigham Young. It
was voted unanimously that any man who should divulge the secret, or tell who
was present, or do anything that would lead to a discovery of the truth should
The brethren then all took a most solemn oath, binding
themselves under the most dreadful and awful penalties, to keep the whole matter
secret from every human being, as long as they should live. No man was to know
the facts. The brethren were sworn not to talk of it among themselves, and each
one swore to help kill all who proved to be traitors to the Church or people in
It was then agreed that Brigham Young should be informed of the whole
matter, by some one to be selected by the Church Council, after the brethren had
It was also voted to turn all the property over to Klingensmith, as
Bishop of the Church at Cedar City, and he was to take care of the property for
the benefit of the Church, until Brigham Young was notified, and should give
further orders what to do with it.
CONFESSION CONTINUED AND CONCLUDED, MARCH 16,
1877, SEVEN DAYS PRIOR TO LEE'S EXECUTION:
COLONEL DAME then blest the
brethren and we prepared to go to our homes. I took my little Indian boy, Clem,
on the horse behind me, and started home. I crossed the mountains and returned
the same way I had come.
When I got in about two miles of Harmony, I overtook a body of about
forty Indians, on their way home from the massacre. They had a large amount of
bloody clothing, and were driving several head of cattle that they had taken
from the emigrants.
The Indians were very glad to see me, and said I was their Captain, and
that they were going to Harmony with me as my men. It was the orders from the
Church authorities to do everything we could to pacify the Indians, and make
them the fast friends of the Mormons, so I concluded to humor them.
I started on and they marched after me until we reached the fort at
Harmony. We went into the fort and marched round inside, after which they halted
and gave their whoop of victory, which means much the same with them as the
cheers do with the whites. I then ordered the Indians to be fed; my family gave
them some bread and melons, which they ate, and then they left me and went to
I will here state again that on the field, before and after the massacre,
and again at the council at the emigrant camp, the day after the massacre,
orders were given to keep everything secret, and if any man told the secret to
any human being, he was to be killed, and I assert as a fact that if any man had
told it then, or for many years afterwards, he would have died, for some
"Destroying Angel" would have followed his trail and sent him over the
"rim of the basin."
From that day to this it has been the understanding with all concerned in
that massacre that the man who divulged the secret should die; he was to be
killed, wherever he was found, for treason to the men who killed the emigrants,
and for his treason to the Church. No man was at liberty to tell his wife, or
any one else, nor were the brethren permitted to talk of it even among
themselves. Such were the orders and instructions, from Brigham Young down to
the lowest in authority. The orders to lay it all to the Indians, were just as
positive as they were to keep it all secret. This was the counsel from all in
authority, and for years it was faithfully observed.
The children that were saved were taken to Cedar City, and other
settlements, and put out among different families, where they were kept until
they were given up to Dr. Forney, the Agent of the United States, who came for
I did not have anything to do with the property taken from the emigrants,
or the cattle, or anything else, for some three months after the massacre, and
then I only took charge of the cattle because I was ordered to do so by Brigham
There were eighteen wagons in all at the emigrant camp. They were all
wooden axles but one, and that was a light iron axle; it had been hauled by four
mules. There were something over five hundred head of cattle, but I never got
the half of them. The Indians killed a large number at the time of the massacre,
and drove others to their tribes when they went home from Mountain Meadows.
Kingensmith put the Church brand on fifty head or more, of the best of the
cattle, and then he and Haight and Higbee drove the cattle to Salt Lake City and
sold them for goods that they brought back to Cedar City to trade on.
The Indians got about twenty head of horses and mules. Samuel Knight, one
of the witnesses on my trial, got a large sorrel mare; Haight got a span of
average American mules; Joel White got a fine mare; Higbee got a good large
mule; Klingensmith got a span of mules. Haight, Higbee and Allen each took a
wagon. The people all took what they wanted, and they had divided and used up
much over half of it before I was put in charge.
The first time I heard that a messenger had been sent to Brigham Young
for instructions as to what should be done with the emigrants, was three or four
days after I had returned home from the Meadows. Then I heard of it from Isaac
C. Haight, when he came to my house and had a talk with me. He said:
"We are all in a muddle. Haslem has returned from Salt Lake City,
with orders from Brigham Young to let the emigrants pass in safety."
In this conversation Haight also said:
"I sent an order to Higbee to save the emigrants, after I had sent
the orders for killing them all, but for some reason the message did not reach
him. I understand the messenger did not go to the Meadows at all."
I at once saw that we were in a bad fix, and I asked Haight what was
to be done. We talked the matter over again.
Haight then told me that it was the orders of the Council that I should
go to Salt Lake City and lay the whole matter before Brigham Young. I asked him
if he was not going to write a report of it to the Governor, as he was the right
man to do it, for he was in command of the militia in that section of country,
and next to Dame in command of the whole district. I told him that it was a
matter, which really belonged to the military department, and should be so
He refused to write a report, saying:
can report it better than I could write it. You are like a member of Brigham's
family, and can talk to him privately and confidentially. I want you to take all
of it on yourself that you can, and not expose any more of the brethren than you
find absolutely necessary. Do this, Brother Lee, as I order you to do, and you
shall receive a celestial reward for it, and the time will come when all who
acted with us will be glad for the part they have taken, for the time is near at
hand when the Saints are to enjoy the riches of the earth. And all who deny the
faith and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints shall be
slain--the sword of vengeance shall shed their blood; their wealth shall be
given as a spoil to our people."
At that time I believed everything he said, and I fully expected to
receive the celestial reward that he promised me. But now I say, "Damn all
such "celestial rewards" as I am to get for what I did on that fatal
It was then preached every Sunday
to the people that the Mormons were to conquer the earth at once, and the people
all thought that the millennium had come, and that Christ's reign upon earth
would soon begin, as an accomplished fact.
According to the orders of Isaac C. Haight, I started for Salt Lake City
to report the whole facts connected with the massacre, to Brigham Young. I
started about a week or ten days after the massacre, and I was on the way about
ten days. When I arrived in the city I went to the President's house and gave to
Brigham Young a full, detailed statement of the whole affair, from first to
last--only I took rather more on myself than I had done.
He asked me if I had brought a letter from Haight, with his report of the
affair. I said:
"No, Haight wished me to
make a verbal report of it, as I was an eye witness to much of it."
I then went over the whole affair and gave him as full a statement as
it was possible for me to give. I described everything about it. I told him of
the orders Haight first gave me. I told him everything. I told him that
"Brother McMurdy, Brother Knight and myself killed the wounded men in the
wagons, with the assistance of the Indians. We killed six wounded men."
He asked me many questions, and I told him every particular, and
everything that I knew. I described everything very fully. I told him what I had
said against killing the women and children.
Brigham then said:
(referring to Haight)
has sent me word that if they had killed every man, woman and child in the
outfit, there would not have been a drop of innocent blood shed by the brethren:
for they were a set of murderers, robbers and thieves."
While I was still talking with him, some men came into his house to see
him, so he requested me to keep quiet until they left. I did as he directed.
As soon as the men went out, I continued my recital. I gave him the names
of every man that had been present at the massacre. I told him who killed
various ones. In fact I gave him all the information there was to give.
When I finished talking about the matter, he said:
is the most unfortunate affair that ever befell the Church. I am afraid of
treachery among the brethren that were there. If any one tells this thing so
that it will become public, it will work us great injury. I want you to
understand now, that you are never to tell this again, not even to Heber C.
Kimball. It must be kept a secret among ourselves. When you get home, I want you
to sit down and write a long letter, and give me an account of the affair,
charging it to the Indians. You sign the letter as Farmer to the Indians, and
direct it to me as Indian Agent. I can then make use of such a letter to keep
off all damaging and troublesome enquiries."
I told him that I would write the letter. (I kept my word; but, as an
evidence of his treachery, that same letter that he ordered me to write, he has
given to Attorney Howard, and he has introduced it in evidence against me on my
Brigham Young knew when he got that letter just as well as I did, that
it was not a true letter, and that it was only written according to his orders
to throw the public off of the right trail. He knew that it was written simply
to cast all the blame on the Indians, and to protect the brethren. In writing
that letter I was still obeying my orders and earning that Celestial reward that
had been promised to me.
He then said, "If only men had been killed, I would not have cared so much; but the
killing of the women and children is the sin of it. I suppose the men were a
hard set, but it is hard to kill women and children for the sins of the men.
This whole thing stands before me like a horrid vision. I must have time to
reflect upon it."
then told me to withdraw and call next day, and he would give me an answer. I
said to him, "President Young, the people all felt, and I know that I
believed I was obeying orders, and acting for the good of the Church, and in
strict conformity with the oaths that we have all taken to avenge the blood of
the Prophets. You must either sustain the people for what they have done, or you
most release us from the oaths and obligations that we have taken."
The only reply he made was,
"Go now, and come in the morning, and I will give you an
I went to see him again in the morning. When I went in, he seemed quite
cheerful. He said,
"I have made that matter a subject of prayer. I went right to God
with it, and asked Him to take the horrid vision from my sight, if it was a
righteous thing that my people had done in killing those people at the Mountain
Meadows. God answered me, and at once the vision was removed. I have evidence
from God that He has overruled it all for good, and the action was a righteous
one and well intended.
The brethren acted from
pure motives. The only trouble is they acted a little prematurely; they were a
little ahead of time. I sustain you and all of the brethren for what they did.
All that I fear is treachery on the part of some one who took a part with you,
but we will look to that."
I was again cautioned and commanded
to keep the whole thing as a sacred secret, and again told to write the report
as Indian Farmer, laying the blame on the Indians. That ended our interview, and
I left him, and soon started for my home at Harmony.
Brigham Young was then satisfied with the purity of my motives in acting
as I had done at the Mountain Meadows. Now he is doing all he can against me,
but I know it is nothing but cowardice that has made him turn against me as he
has at last.
When I reported my interview with Young to Haight, and gave him
Brigham's answer, he was well pleased; he said that I had done well. He again
enjoined secrecy, and said it must never be told.
I remember a circumstance that Haight then related to me about Dan
McFarland. He said:
"Dan will make a bully warrior."
I said, "Why do you think so?"
"Well," said he, "Dan came to me and said, 'You must get me another knife, because the one I have got has no good stuff in it, for the edge turned when I cut a fellow's throat that day at the Meadows. I caught one of the devils that was trying to get away, and when I cut his throat it took all the edge off of my knife.' I tell you that boy will make a bully warrior."
I said, "Haight, I don't believe you have any conscience."
He laughed, and said,
"Conscience be d--d, I don't know what the word means."
I thought over the matter, and made
up my mind to write the letter to Brigham Young and lay it all to the Indians,
so as to get the matter off of my mind. I then wrote the letter that has been
used in the trial. It was as follows:
WASHINGTON Co., U. T.,
To His Excellency, Gov. B. Young,
Ex-Officio and Superintendent of Indian Affairs:
DEAR SIR: My report under date May 11th, 1857, relative to the Indians
over whom I have charge as farmer, showed a friendly relation between them and
the whites, which doubtless would have continued to increase had not the white
mans been the first aggressor, as was the case with Capt. Fancher's company of
emigrants, passing through to California about the middle of September last, on
Corn Creek, fifteen miles south of Fillmore City, Millard County. The company
there poisoned the meat of an ox, which they gave the Pah Vant Indians to eat,
causing four of them to die immediately, besides poisoning a number more. The
company also poisoned the water where they encamped, killing the cattle of the
settlers. This unguided policy, planned in wickedness by this company, raised
the ire of the Indians, which soon spread through the southern tribes, firing
them up with revenge till blood was in their path, and as the breach, according
to their tradition, was a national one, consequently any portion of the nation
was liable to atone for that offense.
About the 22d of September, Capt. Fancher and company fell victims to
their wrath, near Mountain Meadows; their cattle and horses were shot down in
every direction, their wagons and property mostly committed to the flames. Had
they been the only ones that suffered we would have less cause of complaint. But
the following company of near the same size had many of their men shot down near
Beaver City, and had it not been for the interposition of the citizens at that
place, the whole company would have been massacred by the enraged Pah Vants.
From this place they were protected by military force, by order of Col. W. H.
Dame, through the Territory, beside providing the company with interpreters, to
help them through to the Los Vaagus. On the Muddy, some three to five hundred
Indians attacked the company, while traveling, and drove off several hundred
head of cattle, telling the company that if they fired a single gun that they
would kill every soul. The interpreters tried to regain the stock, or a portion
of them, by presents, but in vain. The Indians told them to mind their own
business, or their lives would not be safe. Since that occurrence no company has
been able to pass without some of our interpreters to talk and explain matters
to the Indians.
Friendly feelings yet remain between the natives and settlers and I
have no hesitancy in saying that it will increase so long as we treat them
kindly, and deal honestly toward them. I have been blest in my labors the last
year. Much grain has been raised for the Indians.
I herewith furnish you the account of W. H. Dame, of Parowan, for cattle,
From the above report you will see that the wants of the Natives have
increased commensurate with their experience and practice in the art of
With sentiments of high consideration,
I am your humble servant,
JOHN D. LEE,
Farmer to Pah Utes Indians.
Gov. B. Young, Ex-officio and Superintendent
of Indian affairs.
forwarded that letter, and thought I had managed the affair nicely.
I put in the expense account of $2,220, just to show off, and help
Brigham Young to get something from the Government. It was the way his Indian
farmers all did. I never gave the Indians one of the articles named in the
letter. No one of the men mentioned had ever furnished such articles to the
Indians, but I did it this way for safety. Brigham Young never spent a dollar on
the Indians in Utah, while he was Indian Agent. The only money he ever spent on
the Indians was when we were at war with them. Then they cost us some money, but
Brigham Young, well knowing that I wrote that letter just for the
protection of the brethren, used it to make up his report to the Government
about his acts as Indian Agent. I obeyed his orders in this, as I did the orders
of Haight at the Mountain Meadows, and I am now getting my pay for my falsehood.
I acted conscientiously in the whole matter, and have nothing to blame myself
for, except being so silly as to allow myself to be duped by the cowardly
wretches who are now seeking safety by hunting me to the death.
The following winter I was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention
that met in Salt Lake City to form a constitution, preparatory to the
application of Utah for admission into the Union. I attended during the entire
session, and was often in company with Brigham Young at his house and elsewhere,
and he treated me all the time with great kindness and consideration.
At the close of the session of the Convention, I was directed by Brigham
Young to take charge of all the cattle, and other property taken from the
emigrants, and take care of it for the Indians. I did as I was ordered. When I
got home I gathered up about two hundred head of cattle, and put my brand on
them, and I gave them to the Indians, as they needed them, or rather when they
demanded them. I did that until all of the emigrant cattle were gone.
This thing of taking care of that property was an unfortunate thing for
me, for when the Indians wanted beef, they thought they owned everything with my
brand on it. So much so, that I long since quit branding my stock. I preferred
taking chances of leaving them unbranded, for every thing with my brand on was
certain to be taken by the Indians. I know that it has been reported that the
emigrants were very rich. That is a mistake. Their only wealth consisted in
cattle and their teams. The people were comfortably dressed in Kentucky jean,
and lindsey, but they had no fine clothing that I ever saw.
They had but few watches. I never owned or carried one of the watches
taken from the emigrants in my life, or had anything to do with any of their
property, except to take care or the cattle for the Indians, as ordered to do by
Brigham Young, as I have before stated in this confession.
There is another falsehood generally believed in Utah, especially among
the Mormons. It is this. It has generally been reported that Brigham Young was
anxious to help Judge Cradlebaugh arrest all the guilty parties. There is not
one word of truth in the whole statement. Brigham Young knew the name of every
man that was in any way implicated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. He knew
just as much about it as I did, except that he did not see it, as I had seen it.
If Brigham Young had wanted one man, or fifty men, or five hundred men
arrested, all he would have had to do would have been to say so, and they would
have been arrested instantly. There was no escape for them if he ordered their
arrest. Every man who knows anything of affairs in Utah at that time knows this
It is true that Brigham made a great parade at the time, and talked a
great deal about bringing the guilty parties to Justice, but he did not mean a
word of it--not a word. He did go South with Cradlebaugh, but he took good care
that Cradlebaugh caught no person that had been in the massacre.
I know that I had plenty of notice of their coming, and so did all the
brethren. It was one of Brigham Young's cunning dodges to blind the government.
That this is true I can prove by the statement of what he did at Cedar City
while out on his trip with Judge Cradlebaugh to investigate the matter and
arrest (?) the guilty parties.
Judge Cradelbaugh and his men were working like faithful men to find out
all about it, but they did not learn very much. True, they got on the right
track, but could not learn it all, for Brigham Young was along to see that they
did not learn the facts.
While at Cedar City, Brigham preached one night, but none of the Judge's
party heard him. In his sermon, when speaking of the Mountain Meadows Massacre,
"Do you know who those people were that were killed at the Mountain
Meadows? I will tell you who those people were. They were fathers, mothers,
brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and children of those who killed the
Saints, and drove them from Missouri, and afterwards killed our Prophets in
Carthage jail. These children that the government has made such a stir about,
were gathered up by the government and carried back to Missouri, to St. Louis,
and letters were sent to their relatives to come and take them; but their
relations wrote back that they did not want them--that they were the children of
thieves, outlaws and murderers, and they would not take them, they did not wish
anything to do with them, and would not have them around their houses. Those
children are now in the poor house in St. Louis. And yet after all this, I am
told that there are many of the brethren who are willing to inform upon and
swear against the brethren who were engaged in that affair. I hope there is no
truth in this report. I hope there is no such person here, under the sound of my
voice. But if there is, I will tell you my opinion of you, and the fact so far
as your fate is concerned. Unless you repent at once of that unholy intention,
and keep the secret of all that you know, you will die a dog's death, and be
damned, and go to hell. I do not want to hear of any more treachery among my
These words of Brigham Young gave great comfort to all of us who were out
in the woods keeping out of the way of the officers. It insured our safety and
took away our fears.
There has been all sorts of reports circulated about me, and the
bigger the lie that was told the more readily it was believed.
I have told in this statement just what I did at the Mountain Meadows
Massacre. The evidence of Jacob Hamblin is false in to. Hamblin lied in every
particular, so far as his evidence related to me.
It is my fate to die for what I did; but I go to my death with a
certainty that it cannot be worse than my life has been for the last nineteen
John Doyle Lee
"On the cold, windy morning of March 23, I877, the condemned man
wore a hat, coat, and muffler to the place of his execution, not far from the
ground where he had given the order to execute his victims. Overgrazing and
torrential floods in 1861 and again in 1873 had ravaged the rich emerald grass,
but the slope and bend of the valley were much the same as when Lee and his men
had ridden in nearly two decades before. Now he sat patiently on his coffin and
waited as a photographer set up his equipment for the official pictures of the
When the camera was ready and the five-man firing squad in place,
anonymous behind covered wagons, Lee rose. "I have been sacrificed in a
cowardly, dastardly manner," he said. His accusers hoped that to spare
himself in the final moment, he would at last incriminate Young, who government
prosecutors believed had ordered him to commit the atrocity. Instead, Lee shook
hands with a few men standing nearby and methodically removed his hat, coat, and
muffler. Blindfolded, he gave the riflemen a final order: "Center my heart,
boys. Don't mangle my body." At the volley he fell back silently onto the
rough-hewn coffin, his blood spilling into the ground in symbolism all Mormons
understood. Two of his 64 children, by 18 wives, took his body to nearby
Panguitch, with his temple robes under his corpse. Of the dozens, if not
hundreds, of men involved in the massacre at Mountain Meadows, Lee was the only
one ever brought to justice.
The story, it would seem, had been laid to rest. The markers at the
site remained obscure and hard to reach, the history texts vague and exonerating
of the Mormons. Despite all the agitation over the last 144 years, despite the
volatility of the issues, and despite the connection with a religion of 11
million adherents, amazingly little has been written on the subject, and the
event has been dealt with literarily mainly in fiction and in a handful of
nineteenth-century anti-Mormon creeds. The original 1887 edition of Mark Twain's
Roughing It contained an appendix about the massacre that was deleted from later
editions. A few authors wrote of the 'Avenging Angels,' most notably Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle in A Study in Scarlet, but without mention of the massacre.
In 1945 the Mormon historian and niece of the late President David O.
McKay, Fawn Brodie, wrote a controversial biography of Joseph Smith, No Man
Knows My History, for which she was excommunicated. Because of this publication
Juanita Brooks was encouraged to write her benchmark 1950 book, Mountain Meadows
Massacre. That volume was an original attempt at exposing the massacre and its
cover-up and resulted in the 1961 reinstatement of Lee into the Mormon Church.
But only recently was it revealed that Brooks, herself a descendant of one of
the participants, had admitted to burning crucial historical documents because
"they were just too incriminating" of the Church. A critical study of
the event was published in 1976, in a little-known nonfiction book written by a
children's author, William Wise.
What happened at Mountain Meadows is history that will not die or go
away. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is an American tragedy. The valley is still
littered with the debris of unsettled history. For all the reconstructions of
the scene, the precise site of the massacre has never been established. Nor do
we know, except for the first fragments of evidence assembled by the scientists
in 1999, exactly how the victims were killed and where more than a hundred
bodies were disposed of. This is an American mystery, and inextricably tied to
that mystery is the question of Brigham Young's part.
As a 'Prophet, Seer, and Revelator' of the Church, Young is revered and
therefore considered not subject to the scrutiny or judgment of other mortals.
"There has been no realistic handling of Young by Mormon scholars,"
says the historian Will Bagley, himself a Mormon. "To continue to blame it
on the Paiutes is disgraceful." At stake is not only the esteem of the
Church within its own ranks of 11 million souls and as a $25 billion financial
empire, but how it is seen by an outside world.
Oddly enough, the most significant new contribution to the literature of
the episode is the oldest published record. In the spring of 2000, the Western
historian R. Kent Fielding compiled and edited all the Salt Lake Tribune's
reports on the trials of John D. Lee, a comprehensive collection that presents
an unmistakable portrait of Lee as a scapegoat and of Brigham Young as an active
and impassioned participant camouflaging this own role in the massacre. The
newspaper's contemporaneous summaries of the trial transcripts show the
involvement of dozens of Mormon leaders, from Philip Klingonsmith to William H.
Dame, Isaac C. Haight, John M. Higbee, and many others, to have constituted an
unbroken chain from Church officials to their Prophet in Salt Lake City. The
official concealment and subterfuge began, according to Lee's later confession,
the day after the massacre; "The brethren involved were sworn not to talk
of it among themselves, and each one swore to help kill all who proved traitors
to the Church or the people.... It was then agreed that Brigham Young should be
informed of the whole matter."
Fielding's work, on the heels of a similarly revealing history of the
massacre of Captain Gunnison and his party, establishes conclusively Brigham
Young's role in many depredations of the era, including Mountain Meadows, albeit
most conclusively after the fact. The transcripts make clear that "the
cause of justice in the Lee trials," as Fielding wrote, "had been
Will Bagley takes it further. After a painstaking reevaluation of
original nineteenth-century sources and a fresh examination of supporting
evidence in Church documents, he contends that Young participated in the
earliest decisions to slaughter everyone on the train. "He not only
engineered the cover-up but gave orders to the Paiutes prior to the massacre
about the distribution of the wagon train's livestock," Bagley concludes in
his newly released book, The Blood of the Prophets, published 2002 by the
University of Oklahoma Press. "Young was operating with a political
purpose. He was in a terribly weak position with the U.S. government and had a
ragtag militia and a ragtag group of Indians. His only hope against the federal
government was to close the overland road to California."
These events occurred at a time in history when instructions by cautious
leaders were almost always oral. But it was also a time when an extraordinary
amount of evidence was committed to writing. Young rarely met alone with any of
his followers, and Church records detailed every meeting with meticulous
exactitude. "If the LDS Church really wants to heal, it will throw open its
archives," a dissident Mormon historian recently said. However, such candor
seems unlikely." (American Heritage
Mormonism, born with one man's vision and fueled by passions of
persecution, supernatural visions, and spiritual supremacy had changed otherwise
good men into cold-blooded murderers. Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor to
Brigham Young, had told the Saints "Learn
to do as you are told. If you are told by your leaders to do a thing, do it,
none of your business whether it be right or wrong."
hatred, deep-seeded beliefs, greed, and unquestioning loyalty to the Church
Hierarchy were all combined in the final tragedy at Mountain Meadows. Perhaps
most relevant to the events at Mountain Meadow was the role of a church doctrine
more secret, sacred, and controversial than polygamy: the belief in BLOOD
ATONEMENT, that there are certain sins that can be forgiven only when the
sinner's (Gentiles) own blood spills on the ground. This doctrine was a reality
in the lives of the Saints. Not even the most sympathetic apologists of the
Mormon Church have been able to deny it. Whatever other motives or circumstances
shaped the terrible events of that September week, the extermination of the
Fancher train was undeniably an act of religious fanaticism unparalleled by any
other religious event in the country's history, until Sept 11, 2001. It would be
bad history to pretend that there were no "Holy Religious Murders" in
UP DATE, 8-3-1999:
For over a century and a half many of the bones of 120 emigrants from Arkansas lay buried in a mass grave in the southwestern corner of Utah, a beautiful spring-fed valley known as Mountain Meadow. This wagon train on its way from Arkansas to California became the victims of Mormons and Indians who saw the group as a real and imminent threat to their way of life.
To the shock of those watching on August 3, 1999, a backhoe's claw tore open the grave exposing the skeletal remains of men, women, and children who had been brutally murdered in 1857.
For several years descendants of those who had died at the massacre site had expressed concern about the deteriorating condition of the monument. In 1998 the LDS (Mormon) Church, owners of the land, had agreed to restore the gravesite. This excavation was part of that renovation. However, the Mormon Church was totally unprepared for the legal and political controversy that followed when the skeletons of so many men, women, and children were unearthed.
The first-reaction comment of one of the men who unearthed the skeletons was to dump them back into the hole and swear an oath of secrecy. But after giving it a second thought the men realized they were legally bound by Utah State law to inform the proper authorities of the find. They eventually called Washington County Sheriff, Kirk Smith. Smith said it was a very humbling experience. "I saw buttons, some pottery, and bones of adults and children. But the children—that was what really hit me hard."
Utah state archeologist, Kevin Jones, was immediately called in. He explained to a group of state officials, including Governor Mike Leavitt, the state law which required any unidentified human remains found on private property be forensically examined. Jones issued a permit and the remains were taken to Church owned, Brigham Young University lab, allowing scientists to determine the age, sex, race, stature, health condition, and cause of death. "We were under pressure from the very beginning to get done what we needed to do very quickly," Jones said.
Shannon Novak, a University of Utah forensic anthropologist was allowed to study the remains. Novak thought the work would take perhaps six months to complete. She said: "This [kind of work] is giving the dead a chance to speak." The bones were beginning to tell their story when she received an unexpected phone call from BYU archaeologist, Shane Baker, on the evening of September 8. Baker was on the scene when the discovery was made the month earlier. He had been hired by the Mormon Church to examine the meadow to make sure the grave would not be disturbed, before earthmoving equipment was sent in.
Novak was not prepared for the conversation that ensued. Baker told her the antiquities permit had been rewritten. He informed her that she would have to surrender the bones by the end of the next day. She was able to secure only one extra day and told Baker he could have them back the morning of September 10.
Knowing that time was now her enemy, Novak, her research assistant, Derrina Kopp, a photographer, and other experts sorted through the fragments. By the time they finished, she concluded the bones represented at least 28 people. It further became evident that white men's methods rather than Paiute Indians' had accomplished the murders. The examination also disclosed that some of the victims, including several women and at least one child, had been killed while facing their executioners head-on, by point-blank gunshots between their eyes, rather than being shot in the back while fleeing, as earlier accounts had claimed. Novak found that at least two small children were beaten to death. One of the children was about four the other about seven. There was no evidence that any of the victims had been scalped, or that any of them had been shot with arrows, as had been claimed through the years.
Utah's governor, Mike Leavitt, who happens to be a descendant of an apparent participant in the massacre, had given the order to have the bones reburied immediately. Novak's examination was still not complete, including DNA testing. Nevertheless, she was forced to surrender the bones.
Marian Jacklin, a U.S. Forest Service archeologist, was one of many who fought the state's decision to halt the inquiry. "Those bones could tell the story and this was their only opportunity," she said. Jones commented that the bones should be studied to help future generations better understand the past. "None of them got to tell their story. This was our only opportunity for them to tell us what happened to them," Jones said.
Hundreds of victims' relatives around the country petitioned the state of Utah to retrieve the remains of their ancestors, some demanding DNA testing. Their request fell on deaf ears. The governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, speaking for the descendants living in his state, requested federal stewardship of the site, which would remove it from Church control. Again, the request fell on deaf ears.
"It's like having Lee Harvey Oswald in charge of JFK's tomb," said Scott Francher, a descendant of one of the leaders of the wagon train.
On Sept 10, 1999, Church officials put the bones back in the ground. The next day, Sept. 11, hundreds made the trek to the valley to dedicate the new memorial. Mormon Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley, spoke a Christian message of peace and reconciliation. Then he reached a portion of the speech written by Church lawyers: "That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgement on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day." Hinckley said.
The remark stunned many in the crowd, including Francher, who said, "Hinckley
kind of blew it." Mormon author and historian, Will Bagley said, "I
don't think he had to so much accept responsibility, but he didn't have to stand
up and totally deny any involvement at all."
So why is it important to know what really happened? "It's terribly important," said Jim Loewen, author of Lies Across America, a book that traces inaccurate historical markers. "Whether they were Mormon visitors from nearby or transcontinental visitors from Vermont, the average tourist would have inferred that Indians did it," he said, "And this was one of the characterization that Native Americans were savages. We don't need any more misconceptions about Native Americans."
Today Mormons still downplay the Church's involvement in the killings of
these doomed souls. Most refuse to
acknowledge any Mormon would be a party to murderous deeds.
Homogenized accounts of possible scenarios are much more palatable to a
church determined to look to the future rather than face a troublesome past.
was ashamed when I found out that members of my family had been involved in the
cold-blooded murders of those innocent travelers, and that others of my family
had received some of the booty. As a member of the Mormon Church my Mormon
leaders and friends told me that Indians, and Indians alone, had murdered,
raped, and robbed the Fancher Party in Southern Utah.
During my study to find the truth, I visited the sight at Mountain Meadow
quite often. It was impossible to comprehend what happened nearly a century and
a half before on this very spot. The reality that as many as 120 men, women, and
children, had been attacked, besieged for five days, persuaded to surrender
under a flag of truce and a pledge of safe passage, and then murdered, tore at
the very core of my being. As I sat on top of the hill that overlooks the valley
I tried to envision how the tragedy unfolded. It was hard to imagine the horror
and distress of the men, women and children; the cries of despair; the intense
fear. How were the fathers to protect their families? How could the mothers
protect their children? It must have been such a horrible scene that God himself
would have had to hide His face, so as not to witness the inhumanity of man.
This atrocity was one of the worst in the history of the West. It was the
worst butchery of white pioneers in the whole colonization of America, and it
was, by definition, an elaborate criminal conspiracy of planners, participants,
and protectors. The murders were carried out with grizzly swiftness and
precision. The brethren involved were sworn not to talk of it among themselves,
and each one swore to help kill all who proved traitors to the Church or the
My Great Grandfather, James Holt, was threatened by the Danites, with his
life, if he went to the proper authorities and told them about the massacre. He
and his family were living in Torry, Utah at the time. His sister's husband had
been at the massacre and told James what had happened there. James recorded the
information in his journal. Somehow the Church authorities found out about the
journal. They sent the Danites to silence James, whatever the cost, and take the
journal. Because of the threats of the Danites and family involvement, the
journal was thrown down the Holt well taking its horrible secrets with it.
Because I had family involved in the murders of these innocent people I
wrote a letter of apology to the people of Arkansas:
"If our ancestors... who were involved, or knew about, the
Mountain Meadow Massacre... were here today, I'm in hopes they would say
something like this.
A heart-felt apology to God for thinking that You would sanction the taking of
innocent lives of men, women and children, all in the name of Deity.
apologize... to Christ, who taught me to love one another, and to value all
apologize... to my wife, children and family. I am so sorry that I was involved
in the treacherous murder of all those innocent people.
apologize... for listening to priesthood leaders, who told me this was the will
of the Lord, so that His church could move foreword and "avenge the death
of the prophet, Joseph Smith."
apologize... to the men who witnessed my part in what I did on that horrible
apologize... to the American people for creating such an awful page in
most of all, I apologize...to those whom I murdered, to the children who
witnessed the cruel, senseless murders of their fathers, mothers, brothers and
sisters, and to the families of those who were brutally murdered by men who were
following orders issued by the Mormon Hierarchy."
While living in St. George, Utah, we were invited to attend a lecture
that was being given by a relative of Mormon historian, Juanita Brooks. The
topic was the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The audience was 95 percent Mormons.
The presentation leaned toward the Mormons being justified in their actions
against the wagon train. With the study that I had done concerning the topic I
couldn't just sit there and let them slander the innocent. I stood up and said, "Would
you like to hear the rest of the story?" With no verbal objections I
proceeded to tell it. As you can imagine the information was not well received.
One man in particular went into a rage and said that he was tired of being
persecuted and if he were placed in the same situation as the early Saints, he
would have done the same thing. He walked over to me shaking his fist. I was
prepared for the worst. Instead of hitting me with his fist he put his hand on
my shoulder and attacked me with his piercing eyes and strong language.
Eventually he went back to his seat and the meeting continued. Except now the
tone was different. The speaker softened his attack on the immigrants and the
hostile feelings in the room subsided. As I sat there in my chair I hoped that I
had said something that would start people thinking about how cruel and
sometimes even deadly we as humans can be, all in the name of God!
Note: A new book entitled Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and The Massacre at Mountain Meadows was released on October 1, 2002, written by the famous western author Will Bagley, who has done 26 years of extensive research on the Massacre. This book is well worth reading, for it gives ample evidence that Brigham Young gave the order for the attack. Another great book is Juanita Brooks book, The Mountain Meadows Massacre.
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