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


** 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


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


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


* 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


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


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


* 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


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


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


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


* "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.

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