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    Mormonism.ca - Story Of

In Utah

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Even More On The History Of Mormonism
Even More On The Religious Puzzle
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
History Of Mormonism
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Introductory Remarks
Last Days At Kirtland
More On Mormonism Social Puzzle
More On The History Of Mormonism
More On The Religious Puzzle
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Mormonism The Political Puzzle
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Notes On The History Of Mormonism
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Political Puzzle
The Political Puzzle Continued
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Religious Puzzle
The Religious Puzzle Notes
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Social And Society Puzzle
The Social Puzzle
The Social Puzzle Notes
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts


The Story Of The Mormons

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Brigham Young
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Last Days At Kirtland
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts



The Mountain Meadows Massacre








We may here interrupt the narrative of events subsequent to the
restoration of peace in the territory, with the story of the most
horrible massacre of white people by religious fanatics of their
own race that has been recorded since that famous St.
Bartholemew's night in Paris--the story of the Mountain Meadows
Massacre. Committed on Friday, September 11, 1857,--four days
before the date of Young's proclamation forbidding the United
States troops to enter the territory--it was a considerable time
before more than vague rumors of the crime reached the Eastern
states. No inquest or other investigation was held by Mormon
authority, no person participating in the slaughter was arrested
by a Mormon officer; and, when officers of the federal government
first visited the scene, in the spring of 1859, all that remained
to tell the tale were human skulls and other bones lying where
the wolves and coyotes had left them, with scraps of clothing
caught here and there upon the vines and bushes. Dr. Charles
Brewer, the assistant army surgeon who was sent with a detail to
bury the remains in May, 1859, says in his gruesome report:--

"I reached a ravine fifty yards from the road, in which I found
portions of the skeletons of many bodies,--skulls, bones, and
matted hair,--most of which, on examination, I concluded to be
those of men. Three hundred and fifty yards further on another
assembly of human remains was found, which, by all appearance,
had been left to decay upon the surface; skulls and bones, most
of which I believed to be those of women, some also of children,
probably ranging from six to twelve years of age. Here, too, were
found masses of women's hair, children's bonnets, such as are
generally used upon the plains, and pieces of lace, muslin,
calicoes, and other materials. Many of the skulls bore marks of
violence, being pierced with bullet holes, or shattered by heavy
blows, or cleft with some sharp-edged instrument."*

* Sen. Doc. No. 42, 1st Session, 36th Congress.


More than seventeen years passed before officers of the United
States succeeded in securing the needed evidence against any of
the persons responsible for these wholesale murders, and a jury
which would bring in a verdict of guilty. Then a single Mormon
paid the penalty of his crime. He died asserting that he was the
one victim surrendered by the Mormon church to appease the public
demand for justice. The closest students of the Mountain Meadows
Massacre and of Brigham Young's rule will always give the most
credence to this statement of John D. Lee. Indeed, to acquit
Young of responsibility for this crime, it would be necessary to
prove that the sermons and addresses in the journal of Discourses
are forgeries.

In the summer of 1857 a party was made up in Arkansas to cross
the plains to Southern California by way of Utah, under direction
of a Captain Fancher.* This party differed from most emigrant
parties of the day both in character and equipment. It numbered
some thirty families,--about 140 individuals,--men, women, and
children. They were people of means, several of them travelling
in private carriages, and their equipment included thirty horses
and mules, and about six hundred head of cattle, when they
arrived in Utah. Most of them seem to have been Methodists, and
they had a preacher of that denomination with them. Prayers were
held in camp every night and morning, and they never travelled on
Sundays. They did not hurry on, as the gold seekers were wont to
do in those days, but made their trip one of pleasure, sparing
themselves and their animals, and enjoying the beauties and
novelties of the route.**

* Stenhouse says that travelling the same route, and encamping
near the Arkansans, was a company from Missouri who called
themselves "Missouri Wildcats," and who were so boisterous that
the Arkansans were warned not to travel with them to Utah.
Whitney says that the two parties travelled several days apart
after leaving Salt Lake City. No mention of a separate company of
Missourians appears in the official and court reports of the
massacre.

** Jacob Forney, in his official report, says that he made the
most careful inquiry regarding the conduct of the emigrants after
they entered the territory, and could testify that the company
conducted themselves with propriety." In the years immediately
following the massacre, when the Mormons were trying to attribute
the crime to Indians, much was said about the party having
poisoned a spring and caused the death of Indians and their
cattle. Forney found that one ox did die near their camp, but
that its death was caused by a poisonous weed. Whitney, the
church historian, who of course acquits the church of any
responsibility for the massacre, draws a very black picture of
the emigrants, saying, for instance, that at Cedar Creek "their
customary proceeding of burning fences, whipping the heads off
chickens, or shooting them in the streets or private dooryards,
to the extreme danger of the inhabitants, was continued. One of
them, a blustering fellow riding a gray horse, flourished his
pistol in the face of the wife of one of the citizens, all the
time making insulting proposals and uttering profane threats."--
"History of Utah," Vol. I, p. 696.


Every emigrant train for California then expected to restock in
Utah. The Mormons had profited by this traffic, and such a thing
as non-intercourse with travellers in the way of trade was as yet
unheard of. But Young was now defying the government, and his
proclamation of September 15 had declared that "no person shall
be allowed to pass or repass into or through or from this
territory without a permit from the proper officer." To a
constituency made up so largely of dishonest members, high and
low, as Young himself conceded the Mormon body politic to be, the
outfit of these travellers was very attractive. There was a
motive, too, in inflicting punishment on them, merely because
they were Arkansans, and the motive was this:--

Parley P. Pratt was sent to explore a southern route from Utah to
California in 1849. He reached San Francisco from Los Angeles in
the summer of 1851, remaining there until June, 1855. He was a
fanatical defender of polygamy after its open proclamation,
challenging debate on the subject in San Francisco, and issuing
circulars calling on the people to repent as "the Kingdom of God
has come nigh unto you." While in San Francisco, Pratt induced
the wife of Hector H. McLean, a custom-house official, the mother
of three children, to accept the Mormon faith and to elope with
him to Utah as his ninth wife. The children were sent to her
parents in Louisiana by their father, and there she sometime
later obtained them, after pretending that she had abandoned the
Mormon belief. When McLean learned of this he went East, and
traced his wife and Pratt to Houston, Texas, and thence to Fort
Gibson, near Van Buren, Arkansas. There he had Pratt arrested,
but there seemed to be no law under which he could be held. As
soon as Pratt was released, he left the place on horseback.
McLean, who had found letters from Pratt to his wife at Fort
Gibson which increased his feeling against the man,* followed him
on horseback for eight miles, and then, overtaking him, shot him
so that he died in two hours.** It was in accordance with Mormon
policy to hold every Arkansan accountable for Pratt's death, just
as every Missourian was hated because of the expulsion of the
church from that state.

* Van Buren Intelligencer, May 15, 1857.

** See the story in the New York Times of May 28, 1857, copied
from the St. Louis Democrat and St. Louis Republican.


When the company pitched camp on the river Jordan their food
supplies were nearly exhausted, and their draught animals needed
rest and a chance to recuperate. They knew nothing of the
disturbed relations between the Mormons and the government when
they set out, and they were astonished now to be told that they
must break camp and move on southward. But they obeyed. At
American Fork, the next settlement, they offered some of their
worn-out animals in exchange for fresh ones, and visited the town
to buy provisions. There was but one answer--nothing to sell.
Southward they continued, through Provo, Springville, Payson,
Salt Creek, and Fillmore, at all settlements making the same
effort to purchase the food of which they stood in need, and at
all receiving the same reply.

So much were their supplies now reduced that they hastened on
until Corn Creek was reached; there they did obtain a little
relief, some Indians selling them about thirty bushels of corn.
But at Beaver, a larger place, nonintercourse was again
proclaimed, and at Parowan, through which led the road built by
the general government, they were forbidden to pass over this
directly through the town, and the local mill would not even
grind their own corn. At Cedar Creek, one of the largest southern
settlements, they were allowed to buy fifty bushels of wheat, and
to have it and their corn ground at John D. Lee's mill. After a
day's delay they started on, but so worn out were their animals
that it took them three days to reach Iron Creek, twenty miles
beyond, and two more days to reach Mountain Meadows, fifteen
miles farther south.

These "meadows" are a valley, 350 miles south of Salt Lake City,
about five miles long by one wide. They are surrounded by
mountains, and narrow at the lower end to a width of 400 yards,
where a gap leads out to the desert. A large spring near this gap
made that spot a natural resting-place, and there the emigrants
pitched their camp. Had they been in any way suspicious of Indian
treachery they would not have stopped there, because, from the
elevations on either side, they were subject to rifle fire. Their
anxiety, however, was not about the Indians, whom they had found
friendly, but about the problem of making the trip of seventy
days to San Bernardino, across a desert country, with their
wornout animals and their scant supplies. Had Mormon cruelty
taken only the form of withholding provisions and forage from
this company, its effect would have satisfied their most evil
wishers.

On the morning of Monday, September 7, still unsuspicious of any
form of danger, their camp was suddenly fired upon by Indians,
(and probably by some white men disguised as Indians). Seven of
the emigrants were killed in this attack and sixteen were
wounded. Unexpected as was this manifestation of hostility, the
company was too well organized to be thrown into a panic. The
fire was returned, and one Indian was killed, and two chiefs
fatally wounded. The wagons were corralled at once as a sort of
fortification, and the wheels were chained together. In the
centre of this corral a rifle pit was dug, large enough to hold
all their people, and in this way they were protected from shots
fired at them from either side of the valley. In this little fort
they successfully defended themselves during that and the ensuing
three days. Not doubting that Indians were their only assailants,
two of their number succeeded in escaping from the camp on a
mission to Cedar City to ask for assistance. These messengers
were met by three Mormons, who shot one of them dead, and wounded
the other; the latter seems to have made his way back to the
camp.

The Arkansans soon suffered for water, as the spring was a
hundred yards distant. Two of them during one day made a dash,
carrying buckets, and got back with them safely, under a heavy
fire.

* Lee denies positively a story that the Mormons shot two little
girls who were dressed in white and sent out for water. He says
that when the Arkansans saw a white man in the valley (Lee
himself) they ran up a white flag and sent two little boys to
talk with him; that he refused to see them, as he was then
awaiting orders, and that he kept the Indians from shooting them.
"Mormonism Unveiled," p. 231.


With some reenforcements from the south, the Indians now numbered
about four hundred. They shot down some seventy head of the
emigrants' cattle, and on Wednesday evening made another attack
in force on the camp, but were repulsed. Still another attack the
next morning had the same result. This determined resistance
upset the plans of the Mormons who had instigated the Indian
attacks. They had expected that the travellers would be overcome
in the first surprise, and that their butchery would easily be
accounted for as the result of an Indian raid on their camp. But
they were not to be balked of their object. To save themselves
from the loss of life that would be entailed by a charge on the
Arkansans' defences, they resorted to a scheme of the most
deliberate treachery.

On Friday, the 11th, a Mormon named William Bateman was sent
forward with a flag of truce. The other undisguised Mormons
remained in concealment, and the Indians had been instructed to
keep entirely out of sight. The beleaguered company were
delighted to see a white man, and at once sent one of their
number to meet him. Their ammunition was almost exhausted, their
dead were unburied in their midst, and their situation was
desperate. Bateman, following out his instructions, told the
representative of the emigrants that the Mormons had come to
their assistance, and that, if they would place themselves in the
white men's hands and follow directions, they would be conducted
in safety to Cedar City, there to await a proper opportunity for
proceeding on their journey.* This plan was agreed to without any
delay, and John D. Lee was directed by John M. Higbee, major of
the Iron Militia, and chief in command of the Mormon party, to go
to the camp to see that the plot agreed upon was carried out,
Samuel McMurdy and Samuel Knight following him with two wagons
which were a part of the necessary equipment.

* This account follows Lee's confession, "Mormonism Unveiled," p.
236 ff.


Never had a man been called upon to perform a more dastardly part
than that which was assigned to Lee. Entering the camp of the
beleaguered people as their friend, he was to induce them to
abandon their defences, give up all their weapons, separate the
adults from the children and wounded, who were to be placed in
the wagons, and then, at a given signal, every one of the party
was to be killed by the white men who walked by their sides as
their protectors. Lee draws a picture of his feelings on entering
the camp which ought to be correct, even if circumstances lead
one to attribute it to the pen of a man who naturally wished to
find some extenuation for himself: "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 overpowering 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."

When Lee entered the camp all the people, men, women, and
children, gathered around him, some delighted over the hope of
deliverance, while others showed distrust of his intentions.
Their position was so strong that they felt some hesitation in
abandoning it, and Lee says that, if their ammunition had not
been so nearly exhausted, they would never have surrendered. But
their hesitation was soon overcome, and the carrying out of the
plot proceeded.

All their arms, the wounded, and the smallest children were
placed in the two wagons. As soon as these were loaded, a
messenger from Higbee, named McFarland, rode up with a message
that everything should be hastened, as he feared he could not
hold back the Indians. The wagons were then started at once
toward Cedar City, Lee and the two drivers accompanying them, and
the others of the party set out on foot for the place where the
Mormon troops were awaiting them, some two hundred yards distant.
First went McFarland on horseback, then the women and larger
children, and then the men. When, in this order, they came to the
place where the Mormons were stationed, the men of the party
cheered the latter as their deliverers.

As the wagons passed out of sight over an elevation, the march of
the rest of the party was resumed. The women and larger children
walked ahead, then came the men in single file, an armed Mormon
walking by the side of each Arkansan. This gave the appearance of
the best possible protection. When they had advanced far enough
to bring the women and children into the midst of a company of
Indians concealed in a growth of cedars, the agreed signal the
words, "Do your duty"--was given. As these words were spoken,
each Mormon turned and shot the Arkansan who was walking by his
side, and Indians and other Mormons attacked the women and
children who were walking ahead, while Lee and his two companions
killed the wounded and the older of the children who were in the
wagons.

The work of killing the men was performed so effectually that
only two or three of them escaped, and these were overtaken and
killed soon after.* Indeed, only the nervousness natural to men
who were assigned to perform so horrible a task could prevent the
murderers from shooting dead the unarmed men walking by their
sides. With the women and children it was different. Instead of
being shot down without warning, they first heard the shots that
killed their only protectors, and then beheld the Indians rushing
on them with their usual whoops, brandishing tomahawks, knives,
and guns. There were cries for mercy, mothers' pleas for
children's lives, and maidens' appeals to manly honor; but all in
vain. It was not necessary to use firearms; indeed, they would
have endangered the assailants themselves. The tomahawk and the
knife sufficed, and in the space of a few moments every woman and
older child was a corpse.

* This is Judge Cradlebaugh's and Lee's statement. Lee said he
could have given the details of their pursuit and capture if he
had had time. An affidavit by James Lynch, who accompanied
Superintendent Forney to the Meadows on his first trip there in
March 1859 (printed in Sen. Doc. No. 42), says that one of the
three, who was not killed on the spot, "was followed by five
Mormons who through promises of safety, etc., prevailed upon him
to return to Mountain Meadows, where they inhumanly butchered
him, laughing at and disregarding his loud and repeated cries for
mercy, as witnessed and described by Ira Hatch, one of the five.
The object of killing this man was to leave no witness competent
to give testimony in a court of justice but God."


When Lee and the men in charge of the two wagons heard the
firing, they halted at once, as this was the signal agreed on for
them to perform their part. McMurdy's wagon, containing the sick
and wounded and the little children, was in advance, Knight's,
with a few passengers and the weapons, following. We have three
accounts of what happened when the signal was given, Lee's own,
and the testimony of the other two at Lee's trial. Lee says that
McMurdy at once went up to Knight's wagon, and, raising his rifle
and saying, " O Lord my God, receive their spirits; it is for Thy
Kingdom I do this," fired, killing two men with the first shot.
Lee admits that he intended to do his part of the killing, but
says that in his excitement his pistol went off prematurely and
narrowly escaped wounding McMurdy; that Knight then shot one man,
and with the butt of his gun brained a little boy who had run up
to him, and that the Indians then came up and finished killing
all the sick and wounded. McMurdy testified that Lee killed the
first person in his wagon--a woman--and also shot two or three
others. When asked if he himself killed any one that day, McMurdy
replied, "I believe I am not upon trial. I don't wish to answer."
Knight testified that he saw Lee strike down a woman with his gun
or a club, denying that he himself took any part in the
slaughter: Nephi Johnson, another witness at Lee's second trial,
testified that he saw Lee and an Indian pull a man out of one of
the wagons, and he thought Lee cut the man's throat. The only
persons spared in this whole company were seventeen children,
varying in age from two months to seven years. They were given to
Mormon families in southern Utah--"sold out," says Forney in his
report, "to different persons in Cedar City, Harmony, and Painter
Creek. Bills are now in my possession from different individuals
asking payment from the government. I cannot condescend to become
the medium of even transmitting such claims to the department."
The government directed Forney in 1858 to collect these children,
and he did so. Congress in 1859 appropriated $10,000 to defray
the expense of returning them to their friends in Arkansas, and
on June 27 of that year fifteen of them (two boys being retained
as government witnesses) set out for the East from Salt Lake City
in charge of a company of United States dragoons and five women
attendants. Judge Cradlebaugh quotes one of these children, a boy
less than nine years old, as saying in his presence, when they
were brought to Salt Lake City, "Oh, I wish I was a man. I know
what I would do. I would shoot John D. Lee. I saw him shoot my
mother."

The total number in the Arkansas party is not exactly known. The
victims numbered more than 120. Jacob Hamblin testified at the
Lee trial that, the following spring, he and his man buried "120
odd" skulls, counting them as they gathered them up.

A few young women, in the confusion of the Indian attack,
concealed themselves, but they were soon found. Hamblin testified
at Lee's second trial that Lee, in a long conversation with him,
soon after the massacre, told him that, when he rejoined the
Mormon troops, an Indian chief brought to him two girls from
thirteen to fifteen years old, whom he had found hiding in a
thicket, and asked what should be done with them, as they were
pretty and he wanted to save them. Lee replied that "according to
the orders he had, they were too old and too big to let go."

Then by Lee's direction the chief shot one of them, and Lee threw
the other down and cut her throat. Hamblin said that an Indian
boy conducted him to the place where the girls' bodies lay, a
long way from the rest, up a ravine, unburied and with their
throats cut. One of the little children saved from the massacre
was taken home by Hamblin, and she said the murdered girls were
her sisters. Richard F. Burton, who visited Utah in 1860,
mentions, as one of the current stories in connection with the
massacre, that, when a girl of sixteen knelt before one of the
Mormons and prayed for mercy, he led her into the thicket,
violated her, and then cut her throat.*

* "City of the Saints," p. 412.


As soon as the slaughter was completed the plundering began.
Beside their wagons, horses, and cattle,* they had a great deal
of other valuable property, the whole being estimated by Judge
Cradlebaugh at from $60,000 to $70,000. When Lee got back to the
main party, the searching of the bodies of the men for valuables
began. "I did hold the hat awhile," he confesses, "but I got so
sick that I had to give it to some other person." He says there
were more than five hundred head of cattle, a large number of
which the Indians killed or drove away, while Klingensmith,
Haight, and Higbee, leaders in the enterprise, drove others to
Salt Lake City and sold them. The horses and mules were divided
in the same way. The Indians (and probably their white comrades)
had made quick work with the effects of the women. Their bodies,
young and old, were stripped naked, and left, objects of the
ribald jests of their murderers. Lee says that in one place he
counted the bodies of ten children less than sixteen years old.

* Superintendent Forney, in his report of March, 1859, said:
"Facts in my possession warrant me in estimating that there was
distributed a few days after the massacre, among the leading
church dignitaries, $30,000 worth of property. It is presumable
they also had some money."


When the Mormons had finished rifling the dead, all were called
together and admonished by their chiefs to keep the massacre a
secret from the whole world, not even letting their wives know of
it, and all took the most solemn oath to stand by one another and
declare that the killing was the work of Indians. Most of the
party camped that night on the Meadows, but Lee and Higbee passed
the night at Jacob Hamblin's ranch.

In the morning the Mormons went back to bury the dead. All these
lay naked, "making the scene," says Lee, "one of the most
loathsome and ghastly that can be imagined." The bodies were
piled up in heaps in little depressions, and a pretence was made
of covering them with dirt; but the ground was hard and their
murderers had few tools, and as a consequence the wild beasts
soon unearthed them, and the next spring the bones were scattered
over the surface.

This work finished, the party, who had been joined during the
night by Colonel Dame, Judge Lewis, Isaac C. Haight, and others
of influence, held another council, at which God was thanked for
delivering their enemies into their hands; another oath of
secrecy was taken, and all voted that any person who divulged the
story of the massacre should suffer death, but that Brigham Young
should be informed of it. It was also voted, according to Lee,
that Bishop Klingensmith should take charge of the plunder for
the benefit of the church.

The story of this slaughter, to this point, except in minor
particulars noted, is undisputed. No Mormon now denies that the
emigrants were killed, or that Mormons participated largely in
the slaughter. What the church authorities have sought to
establish has been their own ignorance of it in advance, and
their condemnation of it later. In examining this question we
have, to assist us, the knowledge of the kind of government that
Young had established over his people--his practical power of
life and death; the fact that the Arkansans were passing south
from Salt Lake City, and that their movements had been known to
Young from the start and their treatment been subject to his
direction; the failure of Young to make any effort to have the
murderers punished, when a "crook of his finger" would have given
them up to justice; the coincidence of the massacre with Young's
threat to Captain Van Vliet, uttered on September 9, "If the
issue continues, you may tell the government to stop all
emigration across the continent, for the Indians will kill all
who attempt it"; Young's failure to mention this "Indian outrage"
in his report as superintendent of Indian affairs, and the
silence of the Mormon press on the subject.* If we accept Lee's
plausible theory that, at his second trial, the church gave him
up as a sop to justice, and loosened the tongues of witnesses
against him, this makes that part of the testimony in
confirmation of Lee's statement, elicited from them, all the
stronger.

* H. H. Bancroft, in his "Utah," as usual, defends the Mormon
church against the charge of responsibility for the massacre, and
calls Judge Cradlebaugh's charge to the grand jury a slur that
the evidence did not excuse.


Let us recall that Lee himself had been an active member of the
church for nearly forty years, following it from Missouri to
Utah, travelling penniless as a missionary at the bidding of his
superiors, becoming a polygamist before he left Nauvoo, accepting
in Utah the view that "Brigham spoke by direction of the God of
heaven," and saying, as he stood by his coffin looking into the
rifles of his executioners, "I believe in the Gospel that was
taught in its purity by Joseph Smith in former days." How much
Young trusted him is seen in the fact that, by Young's direction,
he located the southern towns of Provo, Fillmore, Parowan, etc.,
was appointed captain of militia at Cedar City, was president of
civil affairs at Harmony, probate judge of the county (before and
after the massacre), a delegate to the convention which framed
the constitution of the State of Deseret, a member of the
territorial legislature (after the massacre), and "Indian farmer"
of the district including the Meadows when the massacre occurred.

Lee's account of the steps leading up to the massacre and of what
followed is, in brief, that, about ten days before it occurred,
General George A. Smith, one of the Twelve, called on him at
Washington City, and, in the course of their conversation, asked,
"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 prophet, what do you
think the brethren would do with them?" Lee replied: "You know
the brethren are now under the influence of the '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. Unless emigrants have a pass from
Brigham Young or some one in authority, they will certainly never
get safely through this country." Smith said that Major Haight
had given him the same assurance. It was Lee's belief that Smith
had been sent south in advance of the emigrants to prepare for
what followed.

Two days before the first attack on the camp, Lee was summoned to
Cedar City by Isaac Haight, president of that Stake, second only
to Colonel Dame in church authority in southern Utah, and a
lieutenant colonel in the militia under Dame. To make their
conference perfectly secret, they took some blankets and passed
the night in an old iron works. There Haight told Lee a long
story about Captain Fancher's party, charging them with abusing
the Mormons, burning fences, poisoning water, threatening to kill
Brigham Young and all the apostles, etc. He said that unless
preventive measures were taken, the whole Mormon population were
likely to be butchered by troops which these people would bring
back from California. Lee says that he believed all this. He was
also told that, at a council held that day, it had been decided
to arm the Indians and "have them give the emigrants a brush,
and, if they killed part or all, so much the better." When asked
who authorized this, Haight replied, "It is the will of all in
authority," and Lee was told that he was to carry out the order.
The intention then was to have the Indians do the killing without
any white assistance. On his way home Lee met a large body of
Indians who said they were ordered by Haight, Higbee, and Bishop
Klingensmith, to kill and rob the emigrants, and wanted Lee to
lead them. He told them to camp near the emigrants and wait for
him; but they made the attack, as described, early Monday
morning, without capturing the camp, and drove the whites into an
intrenchment from which they could not dislodge them. Hence the
change of plan.

During the early part of the operations, Lee says, a messenger
had been sent to Brigham Young for orders. On Thursday evening
two or three wagon loads of Mormons, all armed, arrived at Lee's
camp in the Meadows, the party including Major Higbee of the Iron
Militia, Bishop Klingensmith, and many members of the High
Council. When all were assembled, Major Higbee reported that
Haight's orders were that "all the emigrants must be put out of
the way"; that they had no pass (Young could have given them
one); that they were really a part of Johnston's army, and, if
allowed to proceed to California, they would bring destruction on
all the settlements in Utah. All knelt in prayer, after which
Higbee gave Lee a paper ordering the destruction of all who could
talk. After further prayers, Higbee said to Lee, "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." Lee says that he was "much
shaken" by this offer, because of his complete faith in the power
of the priesthood to fulfil such promises. The outcome of the
conference was the adoption of the plan of treachery that was so
successfully carried out on Friday morning. The council had
lasted so long that the party merely had time for breakfast
before Bateman set out for the camp with his white flag.*

* Bishop Klingensmith, one of the indicted, in whose case the
district attorney entered a nolle prosequi in order that he might
be a witness at Lee's first trial, said in his testimony: "Coming
home the day following their [emigrants'] departure from Cedar
City, met Ira Allen four miles beyond the place where they had
spoken to Lee. Allen said, 'The die is cast, the doom of the
emigrants is sealed.'" (This was in reference to a meeting in
Parowan, when the destruction of the emigrants had been decided
on.) He said John D. Lee had received orders from headquarters at
Parowan to take men and go, and Joel White would be wanted to go
to Pinto Creek and revoke the order to suffer the emigrants to
pass. The third day after, Haight came to McFarland's house and
told witness and others that orders had come in from camp last
night. Things hadn't gone along as had been expected, and
reenforcements were wanted. Haight then went to Parowan to get
instructions, and received orders from Dame to decoy the
emigrants out and spare nothing but the small children who could
not tell the tale." In an affidavit made by this Bishop in April,
1871, he said: "I do not know whether said 'headquarters' meant
the spiritual headquarters at Parowan, or the headquarters of the
commander-in-chief at Salt Lake City." (Affidavit in full in
"Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 439.)


Several days after the massacre, Haight told Lee that the
messenger sent to Young for instructions had returned with orders
to let the emigrants pass in safety, and that he (Haight) had
countermanded the order for the massacre, but his messenger "did
not go to the Meadows at all." All parties were evidently
beginning to realize the seriousness of their crime. Lee was then
directed by the council to go to Young with a verbal report,
Haight again promising him a celestial reward if he would
implicate more of the brethren than necessary in his talk with
Young.* On reaching Salt Lake City, Lee gave Young the full
particulars of the massacre, step by step. Young remarked, "Isaac
[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."

* "At that time I believed everything he said, and I fully
expected to receive the celestial reward that he promised me. But
now [after his conviction] I say, 'Damn all such celestial
rewards as I am to get for what I did on that fatal day."
"Mormonism Unveiled," p. 251.


When the tale was finished, Young said: "This is the most
unfortunate affair that ever befell the church. I am afraid of
treachery among the brethren who 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
inquirers." Lee did so, and his letter was put in evidence at his
trial.

Lee says that Young then dismissed him for the day, directing him
to call again the next morning, and that Young then said to him:
"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."*

* For Lee's account of his interview with Young, see " Mormonism
Unveiled," pp. 252-254.


When Lee was in Salt Lake City as a member of the constitutional
convention, the next winter, Young treated him, at his house and
elsewhere, with all the friendliness of old. No one conversant
with the extent of Young's authority will doubt the correctness
of Lee's statement that "if Brigham Young had wanted one man or
fifty men or five hundred men arrested, all he would have had to
do would be 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 is so."

At the second trial of Lee a deposition by Brigham Young was
read, Young pleading ill health as an excuse for not taking the
stand. He admitted that "counsel and advice were given to the
citizens not to sell grain to the emigrants for their stock," but
asserted that this did not include food for the parties
themselves. He also admitted that Lee called on him and began
telling the story of the massacre, but asserted that he directed
him to stop, as he did not want his feelings harrowed up with a
recital of these details. He gave as an excuse for not bringing
the guilty to justice, or at least making an investigation, the
fact that a new governor was on his way, and he did not know how
soon he would arrive. As Young himself was keeping this governor
out by armed force, and declaring that he alone should fill that
place, the value of his excuse can be easily estimated. Hamblin,
at Lee's trial, testified that he told Brigham Young and George
A. Smith "everything I could" about the massacre, and that Young
said to him, "As soon as we can get a court of justice we will
ferret this thing out, but till then don't say anything about
it."

Both Knight and McMurphy testified that they took their teams to
Mountain Meadows under compulsion. Nephi Johnson, another
participant, when asked whether he acted under compulsion,
replied, "I didn't consider it safe for me to object," and when
compelled to answer the question whether any person had ever been
injured for not obeying such orders, he replied, "Yes, sir, they
had."

Some letters published in the Corinne (Utah) Reporter, in the
early seventies, signed "Argus," directly accused Young of
responsibility for this massacre. Stenhouse discovered that the
author had been for thirty years a Mormon, a high priest in the
church, a holder of responsible civil positions in the territory,
and he assured Stenhouse that "before a federal court of justice,
where he could be protected, he was prepared to give the evidence
of all that he asserted." "Argus" declared that when the
Arkansans set out southward from the Jordan, a courier preceded
them carrying Young's orders for non-intercourse; that they were
directed to go around Parowan because it was feared that the
military preparations at that place, Colonel Dame's headquarters,
might arouse their suspicion; and he points out that the troops
who killed the emigrants were called out and prepared for field
operations, just as the territorial law directed, and were
subject to the orders of Young, their commander-in-chief.

Not until the so-called Poland Bill of 1874 became a law was any
one connected with the Mountain Meadows Massacre even indicted.
Then the grand jury, under direction of Judge Boreman, of the
Second Judicial District of Utah, found indictments against Lee,
Dame, Haight, Higbee, Klingensmith, and others. Lee, who had
remained hidden for some years in the canon of the Colorado,* was
reported to be in south Utah at the time, and Deputy United
States Marshal Stokes, to whom the warrant for his arrest was
given, set out to find him. Stokes was told that Lee had gone
back to his hiding-place, but one of his assistants located the
accused in the town of Panguitch, and there they found him
concealed in a log pen near a house. His trial began at Beaver,
on July 12, 1875. The first jury to try his case disagreed, after
being out three days, eight Mormons and the Gentile foreman
voting for acquittal, and three Gentiles for conviction. The
second trial, which took place at Beaver, in September, 1876,
resulted in a verdict of "guilty of murder in the first degree."
Beadle says of the interest which the church then took in his
conviction: "Daniel H. Wells went to Beaver, furnished some new
evidence, coached the witnesses, attended to the spiritual wants
of the jury, and Lee was convicted. He could not raise the money
($1000) necessary to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United
States, although he solicited it by subscription from wealthy
leading Mormons for several days under guard."**

* Inman's "Great Salt Lake Trail," p. 141

** "Polygamy," p. 507.


Criminals in Utah convicted of a capital crime were shot, and
this was Lee's fate. It was decided that the execution should
take place at the scene of the massacre, and there the sentence
of the court was carried out on March 23, 1877. The coffin was
made of rough pine boards after the arrival of the prisoner, and
while he sat looking at the workmen a short distance away. When
all the arrangements were completed, the marshal read the order
of the court and gave Lee an opportunity to speak. A photographer
being ready to take a picture of the scene, Lee asked that a copy
of the photograph be given to each of three of his wives, naming
them. He then stood up, having been seated on his coffin, and
spoke quietly for some time. He said that he was sacrificed to
satisfy the feelings of others; that he died "a true believer in
the Gospel of Jesus Christ," but did not believe everything then
taught by Brigham Young. He asserted that he "did nothing
designedly wrong in this unfortunate affair," but did everything
in his power to save the emigrants. Five executioners then
stepped forward, and, when their rifles exploded, Lee fell dead
on his coffin.

Major (afterward General) Carlton, returning from California in
1859, where he had escorted a paymaster, passed through Mountain
Meadows, and, finding many bones of the victims still scattered
around, gathered them, and erected over them a cairn of stones,
on one of which he had engraved the words: "Here lie the bones of
120 men, women, and children from Arkansas, murdered on the 10th
day of September, 1857." In the centre of the cairn was placed a
beam, some fifteen feet high, with a cross-tree, on which was
painted: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay
it." It was said that this was removed by order of Brigham
Young.*

* "Humiliating as it is to confess, in the 42d Congress there
were gentlemen to be found in the committees of the House and in
the Senate who were bold enough to declare their opposition to
all investigation. One who had a national reputation during the
war, from Bunker Hill to New Orleans, was not ashamed to say to
those who sought the legislation that was necessary to make
investigation possible, that it was 'too late.'" "Rocky Mountain
Saints," p. 456.





Next: After The War

Previous: The Peace Commission



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