Mountain Meadow Remains Buried

In the spring of 1859 a company of dragoons and two companies of infantry, under Captain K. P. Campbell, passed through the Meadows and buried the remains. Theirs was the last view of the Lord’s work. Dr. Charles Brewer, in charge of the burying party, reported; “At the scene of the first attack, in the immediate vicinity of our present camp, marked by a small defensive trench made by the emigrants, a number of human skulls, and bones and hair, were found scattered about, bearing the appearance of never having been buried; also remnants of bedding and wearing apparel. On examining the trenches, which appear to have been within the corral, and within which it was supposed some written account of the massacre might have been concealed, some few human bones, human hair, and what seemed to be the feathers of bedding, only were discerned. Proceeding 2500 yards in a direction N. 15° W., I reached a ravine fifty yards distant from the road, bordered by a few bushes of scrub oak, 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. 350 yards farther on, and in the same direction, another assembly of human remains were 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 material, part of women’s and children’s apparel. I have buried thirteen skulls, and many more scattered fragments. Some of the remains above referred to were found upon the surface of the ground, with a little earth partially covering them, and, at the place where the men were massacred, some lightly buried, but the majority were scattered about upon the plain. 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. The bones were bleached and worn by long exposure to the elements, and bore the impress of the teeth of wolves or other wild animals. The skulls found upon the ground near the spring, or position of the first attack, and adjoining our camp, were eight in number. These, with the other remains there found, were buried, under any supervision, at the base of the hill, upon the hillside of the valley. At the rate of 2500 yards distant from the spring, the relative position and general appearance of the remains seemed to indicate that the men were there taken by surprise and massacred. Some of the skulls showed that firearms had been discharged close to the head. I have buried eighteen skulls and parts of many more skeletons, found scattered over the space of a mile towards the lines, in which direction they were, no doubt, dragged by the wolves. No names were found upon any article of apparel, or any peculiarity in the remains, with the exception of one bone, the upper jaw, in which the teeth were very closely crowded, and which contained one front tooth more than is generally found. Under ray direction, the abovementioned remains were all properly buried, the respective localities being marked with mounds of stone.” Major (since General) Carleton afterwards erected a monument in the Meadows, of a large pile of rocks surmounted by a rude wooden cross, between twelve and fifteen feet in height, bearing the inscription: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” On one of the stones he caused to be engraved: “Here lie the bodies of one hundred and twenty men, women, and children, from Arkansas, murdered on the 11th day of September, 1857.” It is said that the cross and the inscribed stone mysteriously disappeared the first time Brigham Young came into the southern settlements.

On June 29, seventeen of the children having been recovered, fifteen of them were sent East, overland, in spring wagons, escorted by soldiers. Every possible provision was made for their comfort, and four women were sent with them to attend to their wants. Two boys about seven years of age, John C. Miller, known to the Mormons as John Calvin Sorel, and Milum Tackett, who was known to the Mormons as Ambrose Miram Taggit, were retained as witnesses. Those returned were Mary Miller, called by the Mormons Mary Sorel; William Tackett, known to the Mormons as William Taggit; Prudence Angelino Dunlap and Georgiana Dunlap, known to the Mormons as Angeline Huff and Annie Huff; Sophronia Jones, called by the Mormons Sophronia Huff; T. M. Jones, called by the Mormons Ephraim W. Huff; Kit Carson Fancher, called Charley Fancher by the Mormons; his cousin Tryphena Fancher, called Annie Fancher by the Mormons, and supposed by them to be Charley’s sister; Betsy Baker, Sarah Jane Baker, William Baker, Rebecca Dunlap, Louisa Dunlap, Sarah Dunlap, and Joseph Miller, called by the Mormons Samuel Dunlap. They were met at Fort Leavenworth by Mr. Mitchell, whose great bereavement by this horrible affair has been mentioned. His little grandchild was not among the saved as he had hoped. With heart bowed down by the completeness of his loss, he bore the little ones tenderly on to Carrollton and gave them into the arms of their friends. It was a sad day in the little county seat. Nearly everyone had lost some relative in the massacre, and bitter tears were accompanied by bitter curses on the murderers. The two boys kept as witnesses were afterwards taken to Washington, and then returned to their homes. In addition to these children, two others were made orphans at the Mountain Meadows, although they were not there; they were Alfred Rush and his sister Martha – now Mrs. Campbell – who live at present in Texas. The misfortunes of these children did not end with their return. In attempting to justify themselves the Mormons have forged most shameful lies about them, and have so often repeated them that they have obtained credence with outsiders. It was told, and currently believed in Utah, that Idaho Bill, a noted desperado who served a long terra in the Utah penitentiary for horse stealing, was Charley Fancher, and yet it can be proven by a large number of witnesses, whose characters are above reproach, that this boy was raised by his uncle, H. B. Fancher, in Carroll County, Arkansas, and died at his house some years ago. It was told that the children were sent to the poorhouse in St. Louis. There was just one of them that went to St. Louis, but not to the poorhouse. Sarah Dunlap, blind from her birth, and with one arm shattered and crippled for life by a Mormon rifle ball, went to the Institute for the Blind in that city. They were all raised by their relatives and friends, and most of them still live in the neighborhood of their former homes. William Baker, Betsy Baker, now Mrs. Terry, and Sarah Baker, now Mrs. Gladden, live at Harrison, Arkansas; Rebecca Dunlap, now Mrs. Evans, is at Hampton, Arkansas; Louisa Dunlap, now Mrs. Lynton, is at Scottsville, Arkansas; her sister Sarah lives with her. Samuel Dunlap is at Lead Hill, Arkansas. Tryphena Fancher is the wife of J. C. Wilson, of Rule, Arkansas. The Huff children live in Eastern Tennessee. William Tackett is at Protem, Missouri; Milum Tackett lived for some years in Texas, but is now in Arizona.

There is nothing in the character of any of them that any one need apologize for, and if there were, the Mormons should be the last ones to upbraid them for it. Whatever any of them may lack of the comforts or the accomplishments of life is due to the Saints. They have the money, the cattle, the jewelry, and the other property that should have gone for the education and maintenance of these orphans. Is it not enough that they should have been made to eat the bread of charity, and to make their own ways over the rugged paths of struggling poverty, without being weighted down with slander? There is something, too, most strangely inconsistent in the fact that while the whole country has raved about the murder done at the Mountain Meadows, and clamored for the punishment of the criminals, nothing has been done for the relief of the unhappy survivors, whose property, as well as protectors, was swept away on that bloody day. It is true that Congress passed a law donating 320 acres of land to each of them, but any citizen can have that for little more than the taking, and besides, as one of them writes to me, “Public lands in this country (Arkansas) are almost worthless, and but few of them are able to emigrate.” Congress ought to make the Mormon Church disgorge the $70,000, or more, that it took from these people, with usury, and if it be not able to do so, it ought to make good the loss from the public treasury. It is notorious that the Church received the greater part of the proceeds of that butchery. It has been proven by the testimony of Mormon witnesses. It was done at a time when the Mormon Church was in armed resistance to the government. It was done when the government was not enforcing its laws in that portion of its territory. The wronged people are unable to obtain redress by any authorized means. They are poor; and it would take fortunes to prosecute their claim. Why should the Mormon Church be allowed to retain the plunder, while its victims still live in poverty? If it is permitted so to do, the government should make them whole. If the “Gentiles” of Utah wish to make an issue on which they will have the sympathy of the whole American people, let them demand the righting of this wrong. It is a far more urgent cause than preventing the Mormons from hanging a flag at half mast on the Fourth of July. Ay! it is far more worthy of attention than prohibiting a half dozen female cranks from living with a male fanatic, that the Mormon Church should give back to the rightful heirs the property that it took with bloody hands, on September 11, 1857.

At the same time that Forney was pursuing his inquiries, Judge John Cradlebaugh, one of the associate justices of the Supreme Court of Utah, came south to hold court there, and to aid in investigating the massacre. He was accompanied by Brigham Young, who was ‘extending every assistance in ferreting out the perpetrators of the crime.” John D. Lee says that while on this trip Young said to a congregation of the faithful, at Cedar City: “I am told that there are many of the brethren who are willing to swear against the brethren who were engaged in that affair. I hope there is no truth in this report. I hope there is no such person here under the sound of my voice. But if there is I will tell you my opinion of you, and the fact so far as your fate is concerned. Unless you repent at once of that unholy intention, and keep the secret of all that you know, you will die a dog’s death, and be damned, and go to hell. I do not want to hear of any more treachery among my people.” Inasmuch as Young admits in his deposition that he was familiar with the facts of the affair long before this; inasmuch as apostates from that section corroborate Lee’s statement; inasmuch as no one was brought to justice at the time, we may fairly believe this statement to be true. There was evidence obtained, nevertheless, and apostates in the South promised that, if Judge Cradlebaugh would hold court with enough troops at hand to protect the witnesses and the court, they would insure the conviction of nearly all the guilty parties. Warrants were issued for thirty-eight of the assassins, but just then another complication occurred. A great outcry had been raised because troops had been stationed near the court in Provo, during some recent Danite trials, and General Johnston received instructions that the troops must be used only as s posse comitatus, on due call of the executive department. He notified Judge Cradlebaugh of this fact, and the judge, having had experience in holding a court of justice in a Mormon community, without protection, very sensibly dropped the Mountain Meadows investigation for the time. Indeed, it was a matter of necessity, for no witness would have dared to testify without protection.

Investigation was smothered temporarily, but the affair was too horrible for any ban of Church or State to keep it down, especially among such a people as the Mormons; for from their intense superstitions it is but a step to others, and they are believers, with scarcely an exception, in spirits, goblins, ghosts, visions, trances, and other supernatural phenomena. It is admitted, by the most bitter anti-Mormons, that a thrill of horror was felt by many Mormons, especially in the northern settlements, as the truth concerning the Fancher train was gradually revealed in mysterious whispers; but that was little to the feelings of those in Southern Utah from whose consciences the impressions of the teachings of earlier and better days had not been wholly effaced. The war feeling quieted down, and they realized that the day of the Lord had not yet come. They saw their leader openly pretending friendship with the officers of justice, who were searching, not for priests of the atoning blood, but for murderers. They saw men of their neighborhoods riding away on midnight expeditions, and heard reports of other murders that appeared more like the deeds of pirates than of priests. They heard of the attack on Shepherd’s train, in Hedspeth’s cutoff, where a child of eighteen months was wantonly tossed on the rocks and its limbs broken, three of the attacking party being recognized as painted whites. They heard of Lieutenant Gay’s party, intentionally led into an ambuscade by a Mormon guide. They heard of a white woman of one train, ravished by five men, and then shot, who lived long enough to tell the next party that her assailants were all painted whites. They heard of the attack on Miltimore’s train, in Landei’s cutoff, where five were killed, three carried or driven off so that they were never found, and one child of five years was left with its legs and ears cut off, scalped, and its eyes gouged out, and that these Indians, by the affidavits of those who escaped, all spoke good English – that some had light hair and several had beards. Was the atoning blood always to flow? Was there to be no end of sacrifices? It was not strange that the Mormons came to believe the Meadows were haunted. It was not strange that men told in low tones how the spirits of the dead met nightly at the old camp and re-enacted the bloody tragedy. It was not strange that the lives of those who neither dared to speak while living, nor to die without speaking, became hideous nightmares. It was not strange that a lad of Beaver drank deeply of rum, without staggering, and horrified his acquaintances with recitals of the visions that he saw. It was not strange that young Spencer, the schoolteacher at St. George, wasted to a skeleton, and, after writing piteously to his bishop and to Brigham Young for some assurance that could drive away the terrors that haunted him, died in gruesome tortures of remorse. It was not strange that, from time to time, as opportunity offered. Mormons escaped from the territory, apostatized, and relieved their guilt laden souls by confession. But it was strange that the Mountain Meadows, whose verdant heath had induced its name, became barren and sterile, and to this day remains the abode of desolation.

And what did the Mormons all this time? They bent every power to show that the massacre was the deed of Indians who had been incensed by outrageous conduct of the emigrants. They slandered the victims in the most vindictive manner. They said the relatives of the surviving children refused to receive them, saying that “they were the children of thieves, outlaws, and murderers, and they would not take them, they did not want anything to do with them, and would not have them around their houses,” and that in consequence the children were sent to “the poorhouse in St. Louis.” There was not a Mormon of any prominence who did not know the truth about the massacre, and not one who did not take part in this deception. George Q. Cannon, late Representative in Congress, wrote articles to prove the Indians guilty. Brigham Young maintained it for years, and then swore that he knew the truth within three months after the crime occurred. William II. Hooper, for some time Representative in Congress, asserted it again and again in the most solemn manner; he denounced the enemies of his people as the basest of liars, and extolled the Mormons as “the most peaceful and persistently industrious people on the continent;”  and yet it was proven that he traded boots and shoes for forty of the cattle taken at the Meadows, soon after the murder was done. The Mormons, from the first, assumed an air of injured innocence. While the army was in winter quarters, Colonel Kane, an old friend of the Saints, went into Utah, by way of California, to negotiate with them. Under his care Governor Cummings started to Salt Lake City, accompanied by two servants, on April 6. He received military salutes as he passed the Mormon troops; the walls of Echo Cañon were made light with bonfires in his honor, and on April 15 he was duly installed in his office and received ceremonial calls from leading Mormons. The people, who were all moving from the northern settlements, were begged to come back. L. W. Powell and Ben McCulloch were sent as commissioners to treat with them, and it was agreed that the army should not he further resisted, it being understood that it would not camp close to any town or city. The army entered the Basin and went into camp in Cedar Valley, three miles west of Utah Lake, and thirty-six miles south of Salt Lake City. The government resumed operations. Haight and Lee came to Salt Lake City as Senator and Representative, and each received a young wife from the hands of Brigham. All the murderers retained respectable standing in the community and in the Church – Lee, Haight, and Dame all being bishops for years.

But conscience did not die, and people did not forget. Instead of growing faint with age, the color of the crime seemed to heighten. The civil war did not result in the destruction of the Gentile men, and seven women did not take hold of one man. Gentiles kept settling in Salt Lake City, and apostates no longer fled. The younger generation of Saints did not hold to the faith of their fathers with much steadfastness. Something more of conformity to the ideas of the world at large was necessary, and the more extreme doctrines of the Church were put in the background. Lee was “cut off” from fellowship; so were Bill Hickman and other Danites. Lee went on a “mission” outside the limits of Utah. He kept a ferry on the Colorado, down in the deserts of Arizona, where for convenience he was known as Major Doyle. In January, 1874, the Gentiles held a public meeting in Salt Lake City, and a committee of forty-five drafted a memorial to Congress, showing the utter perversion of justice in the territory. Congress passed a law which took the selection of jurors out of the control of the Mormon Church, and it was left with no refuge but the perjury of witnesses, and such Mormon jurors as came on in regular order. In the same year Lee came up to Panguitch, on the Sevier, to visit some of his younger wives (he had eighteen, besides one whom he married “for her soul’s sake,” and did not count). While there, Deputy Marshal William Stokes received warrants for the arrest of Lee, Haight, and others. He located Lee, and went after him with a posse of four men. The object of their search was found concealed in a log chicken coop, and taken away peaceably, after much talk and threatening. He was brought to trial in the following summer.

The trial was a farce. Three of the jurors were Gentiles, and nine were Mormons who took their seats by dint of sturdy swearing. Men who had lived in Utah for years and never heard of the massacre – men who resided in the southern settlements before and ever since the crime, and formed no opinion about it – men who long lived in the same town with Lee and never heard much about him – men who had seen the monument in the Meadows and never asked what it was for, were accepted as jurors. They were “counseled” beforehand that Lee was not guilty. The prosecution made a much stronger case than had been anticipated. They had witnesses who, it had been supposed, would not dare to return to Utah. The Mormons tried to get hold of them by arresting them on various charges, but the United States Marshal ordered his deputies to prevent their removal for any cause, and they did so. Philip Klingensmith, ex-Bishop of Cedar City, who had fled into Nevada and thence to California, went on the witness stand and told the whole story. He was corroborated by other witnesses. The defense tried to prove the old stories of poisoning the spring and the ox, but under cross examination the perjured witnesses broke down. The Church authorities became alarmed and decided to sacrifice Lee, but no opportunity for communicating with the jury was allowed them. The jury went out, and these nine Mormons, who knew nothing about the case, and had formed no opinions, proceeded to demonstrate from facts within their own knowledge that Lee could not have been guilty. The Gentiles held out for two days, and consented to a disagreement. Then came an era of excitement. The Mormons and their friends through the country claimed that they were vindicated, but the evidence that had been sent out over the wires every day, and printed in every corner of the country, was too strong to be cried down in that way. Public sentiment grew bitter. There were still many who believed that Brigham Young was innocent, but Lee had been proved guilty and should have been punished; he had been saved from punishment by Mormon jurors.

The second trial was a worse farce than the first. In fatal folly the Mormon authorities permitted themselves to be persuaded that they could sacrifice Lee and better their own standing. They forgot that in so doing they must give the he to their professions of nineteen years. They forgot that they must give testimony which would implicate themselves. They forgot that though a prosecuting attorney may promise immunity, he cannot prevent cross examination or restrain public opinion. They forgot everything except that the country demanded the punishment of John D. Lee, and they dared no longer refuse it. Of course, Lee was not informed of this. He passed the fourteen months that intervened between his two trials relying on the protestations of friendship of the leading men. The first thing was to fix the jury. A list of the venire was obtained, and submitted, by the defendant’s attorneys, to a Mormon committee of professed friends of Lee, who were to mark with a dash ( – ) those who would convict, with an asterisk (*) those who would rather not convict, and with two asterisks (* *) those who would not convict under any circumstances. There was no trouble in getting that jury. The defense thought they knew who they wanted, and the prosecution seemed willing to humor them. Every juror was a * * man. The jury was impaneled and the testimony began. Then the defense realized that they were entrapped. The depositions of Brigham Young and George A. Smith, which had been objected to by the prosecution in the former trial, were now offered by the prosecution. Mormons who previously had known nothing of the massacre, and had aided Lee in the former trial, now became possessed of remarkable memories – as to Lee. Samuel Knight, who lived at Hamlin’s, and drove one of the wagons at the massacre, but who formerly knew nothing about the matter, now recollected that he saw Lee shoot a woman in his wagon. He saw a number of white men at the place, but no one that he knew except Lee. Nephi Johnson, another shining example of previous ignorance, now remembered enough as to Lee and Haight and two or three who were dead, but as to others his memory was fatally defective. Finally, under cross examination, he said: “I don’t want to bring in new names.” He was further tortured sufficiently to cause him to drop the facts that the few Mormons who objected, at the councils, did not dare to say anything; that persons had been injured for not obeying counsel; that the whole matter was talked over afterwards, and it was decided to keep it secret. Jacob Hamlin recollected that Lee told him all about the massacre, within a few days after it occurred; he recounted Lee’s story to the jury. On cross examination he remembered that he reported the matter fully to Brigham Young and George A. Smith, ” pretty soon after it happened,” and that Brigham Young said: “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.” In accordance with this injunction he kept quiet until the second trial. He said: “It is the first time I ever felt any good would come of it. I kept it to myself until it was called for in the proper place. … I had an idea that if I came here that it would be a pretty good place to tell it.” This man’s story to Dr. Forney has been given. To Judge Cradlebaugh and various military officers who investigated the affair he professed to know nothing that would implicate any white man. He did not feel called upon to speak at Lee’s first trial. He gave to the jury the statement of the Indian boy Albert, who saw the massacre and the killing of the two girls, yet this boy told Dr. Forney that it was all done by Indians. The inference is irresistible that Hamlin induced him to lie about it, and this although anti-Mormons concede Hamlin to be an unusually honorable Mormon. This boy Albert, by the way, first revealed the fact that the children were brought directly to Hamlin’s house on the evening of the massacre. The good people, who had bills for purchasing them from the Indians, had probably forgotten to instruct him on that point.

When Lee heard the testimony of these men he knew that the Church had abandoned him and he was lost. He broke down completely and was taken to his cell, where he paced the floor, cursing the Mormon leaders. The defense offered no testimony; their witnesses of the previous trial had forgotten everything. The jury was out three hours, and brought in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. The prisoner was brought to the bar, and, after a few impressive words. Judge Boreman informed him that, under the statute, he had his choice of being hung, shot, or beheaded. Lee said: “I prefer to be shot.” He was accordingly sentenced, and on March 23, 1877, the sentence was executed in the Mountain Meadows, at the scene of the massacre. At the last moment Lee confessed to his attendant minister, Mr. Stokes, that he killed five of the emigrants with his own hands. This was his fourth confession, each one differing from all the others, and yet each one lifting the veil from around the affair enough to give a glimpse of its actual horrors. He made a short speech, declaring his faith in Mormonism, as originally taught by Joseph Smith, and his assurance of a place in the Mormon heaven, but stated that Brigham Young was leading the people astray. He closed, and sat down on his coffin. A prayer was offered, the word was given, five rifles were discharged, and he fell back without a struggle.

So justice was done-not rightly justice either, for this man was not convicted as men are required to be convicted under our laws. The jury that pronounced him guilty had morally no more right to do so than the Sultan of Turkey had legally. They were murderers as truly as Lee was. John D. Lee was not a victim to justice. He was murdered by his accomplices for their own safety – as much so as if they had shot him themselves. Personally they attained safety, though not as they expected. The greater criminals of the active participants hid for a time in the mountains, and are now probably in foreign countries. Brigham Young died peacefully in his home, five months after Lee’s execution. The remainder were not molested. But in the public eye the Mormon Church stands as the guilty criminal, and it seems destined to expiate the crime. In that respect the Mountain Meadows massacre has had a mission. It is the one complete and unanswerable exposure of Mormon deceit, hypocrisy, and crime, under the “higher law” dogma. Every other crime charged against them they can defend, not having admitted their guilt, but in this one they have been forced, step by step, from an indignant denial to a defiant confession. They cannot evade it; their apologists can make no explanation of it; and in its lustration their denials of other crimes become faint and sickly. It is admitted that they are industrious and thrifty, but the American people realize that thrift has its crimes as dark as any of those of dissipation. Jonas Chuzzlewit was thrifty; so was Judas Iscariot. It is true that, according to their standard of virtue, they are fairly virtuous, but the people understand that, under the “higher law” their virtue is, to the civilized world, crime. They understand it so well that the American heart, which warms most quickly to any persecuted for religion’s sake, is icy towards the Saints. Only a few weeks since, a murderous attack was made on one of their meetings in Tennessee, and a bitter local persecution followed. Had the people assailed been Buddhists, or Brahmins, or Voudooists the country would have been in an uproar of indignation. What comment did it receive? Generally, none; and occasionally a growl that it would be well to follow the example elsewhere. The Mormons are right in their superstition that a Nemesis stands, ever threatening them, on the mountains of Southern Utah. She does stand there, and in her outstretched hands, for the ash branch and the scourge, she holds a blight and a curse over the doomed theocracy, while from her ghastly lips there comes the murmur of those words, which no prophet can still: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”

See Previous: Mormons Passed in Preparation for War

History, Mormons,

Dunn, Jacob Piatt. Massacres of the mountains: a history of the Indian wars of the far West. Harper & brothers, 1886.

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