The work will be drawn “from documents previously not available to researchers.” Like me, I suppose, although sources at the church’s historical department have told friends “Bagley got everything of significance” at LDS Archives. He added a melodramatic love story to a born-again script by Carole Whang Schutter. Directed by Christopher Cain. The surviving men of the Fancher Party leveled their lethal long rifles at their hidden, painted attackers and stopped the brief frontal assault in its tracks. Hamblin had found 15 of the orphans by December 1858, but he was “satisfied that there were seventeen of them saved from the massacre,” he wrote. This newly imagined creation, Brigham as Mr. Magoo, might sell in Utah Valley, but elsewhere it will probably not fare well. Her ornate gravestone and vault were “proof of the tenderness that James felt for Sarah.” For decades the community recalled how Captain Lynch “never tired of telling how he rescued her from the Mormons.”. Predicting how someone will come down on the issue is not hard: “It’s a story I’ve lived with my entire life, being a so-called gentile in Salt Lake City,” rare book dealer Ken Sanders said. The first attack resulted in a siege of five days with the wagon travelers fighting back. When historians confront a complex historical event, they try to develop an interpretation that provides the simplest explanation of the evidence—a task complicated when evidence is destroyed, manufactured and relies on testimony of young children or men with blood on their hands. Forney told Lynch he was “doubtful” about the Mormons he had hired to escort him to Mountain Meadows. “The scenes and incidents of the massacre were so terrible that they were indelibly stamped on my mind, notwithstanding I was so young at the time,” Nancy Huff Cates recalled in 1875. Forney reported in September 1859 that he began his inquiries hoping to exonerate“all white men from any participation in this tragedy, and saddle the guilt exclusively on the Indians.” But it simply wasn’t so. (I’m one of several historians Patrick interviewed.) How could this have happened? Forney had aligned himself with the federal officials led by Governor Cumming who had aligned themselves—and sometimes lined their pockets—with Brigham Young’s interests. Mountain Meadows fiction keeps appearing, and though most of it is awful, Elizabeth Crook’s The Night Journal, in which the main character’s father is an orphan of the massacre, won the Western Writers of America Spur Award this year for best long novel. As the odd parade approached the rim of the Great Basin, a single shot rang out, followed by an order: “Do your duty!” The escorts turned and shot down the men, painted “Indians” jumped out of oak brush and cut down the women and children, and Lee directed the murder of the wounded. The Mormons separated the survivors into three groups: the wounded and youngest children led the way in two wagons; the women and older children walked behind; and the men, each escorted by an armed guard, brought up the rear. This massive slaughter claimed nearly everyone in the party from Arkansas and is the event referred to as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. How could members of the Church have participated in such a crime? The travelers had few options: they surrendered and agreed to Lee’s strange terms. Rogers soon learned that one child was at a remote settlement named Pocketville. (Insiders speculate that Doubleday’s publicity department tore up their promotion plans when the attack appeared on the church’s Web site two weeks before its release: Their work was done. Cain, best known to Western buffs as the director of Young Guns, financed the project himself and shot it in British Columbia. These spin doctors fooled no one. Interestingly, no record of what the two boys told federal officials survives, but even “Old Granny” had seen enough. The statements the paper gathered from emigrants with the wagon trains following the Fancher Party “distinctly charge, that this persecution and murder of the emigrants is promoted by the Mormon leaders, [and] that opposition to the Federal Government is the cause of it.” A mass meeting of concerned citizens in Los Angeles on October 12, 1857, denounced the “long, undisturbed, systemized [sic] course of thefts, robberies, and murders, promoted and sanctioned by their leader, and head prophet, Brigham Young, together with the Elders and followers of the Mormon Church, upon American citizens, who necessity has compelled to pass through their Territory.”. In the fall of 1857, a party of emigrants from Arkansas camped in southern Utah Territory at Mountain Meadows, a lush alpine oasis on the Spanish Trail where wagon trains rested before crossing the Mojave Desert. The Mountain Meadows Massacre stands as one of the darkest events in Mormon history. (Lynch’s captain title, however, was honorary, not military.) The murderer—smany of whom stripped for battle and donned war paint to look like Indians—took a blood oath to blame the slaughter on the local Paiutes (see “Warriors and Chiefs” in this issue), and since they thought they had killed everyoneold enough to tell the emigrants’side of the story, whocould contradict them? The tale of how a hard-bitten crew of colorful frontiersmen rescued these sad orphans is one of the great, untold stories of the American West. Mountain Meadows Massacre Mountain Meadows Massacre (1875-76) Called "the darkest deed of the nineteenth century," the brutal 1857 murder of 120 men, women, and children at a place in southern Utah called Mountain Meadows remains one of the most controversial events in … The travelers were running low on food and water and the militia feared that they would be recognized for not being Native Americans and therefore complicate the war in Utah. For the 17 orphans, the pain of their loss never went away. He found them“happy and contented, exceptthose who were sick” andinsisted the orphans were inbetter condition than most ofthe children in the settlementsin which they lived. As a group of militia men entered the camp under a white flag, they then lead the emigrants from their encampment to their death. Another film professor, Brian Patrick of the University of Utah, released a more compelling documentary in 2004, Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Forney hired five women to accompany the “unfortunate, fatherless, motherless, and pennyless children” and made sure they had at least three changes of clothes, plenty of blankets, and “every appliance” to “make them comfortable and happy.”, Forney took two of the survivors, John Calvin Miller and Emberson Milum Tackitt, to Washington, D.C., in December 1859 to provide their “very interesting account of the massacre” to the government. There is nothing like it in the faith’s history of suffering, sacrifice and devotion. The Mountain Meadows Massacre summary: A series of attacks was staged on the Baker-Fancher wagon train around Mountain Meadows in Utah. Bill Kurtis’ Investigating History produced an episode for the History Channel in 2004 about the murders from University of New Mexico professor Paul Hutton’s script. The Arkansans quickly built a wagon fort and dug a pit at its center to protect the women and children. “I remember I called all of the women I saw `Mother,’” Sallie remembered. He reported that he hoped to recover at least some of the stolen property. It was filtered through Mormon representatives at San Bernardino before the story appeared in the Los Angeles Star. I believe Mountain Meadows was a calculated act of vengeance directed and carried out by Brigham Young and his top associates. With considerable effort, Hamblin claimed, the children had been “recovered, bought and otherwise, from the Indians.” Forney hoped to go south in a month to recover the children, but he put off the job for almost a year, although he didtell Hamblin to collect the children. Freeman’s novel transports the reader to a very different time and place: the ragged edge of the Mormon frontier in southern Utah. Forney’s conduct while visiting Lee astounded his escort, who had refused “to share the hospitality of this notorious murderer—this scourge of the desert,” Lynch swore. If the emigrants would lay down their arms, the local militia would escort them to safety. As“an act of humanity,” the firm of Russell,Majors & Waddell (which would start the Pony Express in the spring) offered the children free transportation in their freight wagons, but Johnston provided more comfortable spring wagons. Efforts continued well into the 20th century to win some kind of compensation for the survivors of Mountain Meadows, but nothing was ever done. “Produce them or we will kill you,” Lynch recalled saying while pistols and rifles were pointed at Hamblin’s head. He gave their names to the attorney general, but nothing was done to bring the murderers to justice before the Civil War broke out—and nothing would be done for a dozen years. Events soon showed that neither of them had the courage to ensure justice was done for the victims of the massacre, let alone the gumption to stand up to a powerhouse like Brigham Young, “the Lion of the Lord.” Despite detailed, credible evidence that whites and not Indians had committed themassacre, Forney hired Mormons to escort him on his trip to southern Utah. “The word ‘definitive’ is often overused,” historian Brigham D. Madsen wrote in his review of Blood of the Prophets in The Western Historical Quarterly. The bloody tale gave them no comfort whatsoever, and they were happy to see it disappear into the mists of time. Ironically, the cairn standing at the center of the second memorial is modeled after the “rude monument, conical in form and 50 feet in circumference at the base and 12 feet in height,” that Brevet Major James Henry Carlton’s 1st Dragoons raised in 1859 and Brigham Young directed his minions to destroy two years later. Since the story involved a persecuted religion, historians liked to navigate around it. The death total was 120 and comprised of men, women and children. Few people know the extent of the Mormon colonization of what is today the western United States, Mexico, and even Canada. During that time, I’ve witnessed the dedication of two monuments—one near the highway on Dan’s Hill overlooking the killing ground, where a 1990 granite monument financed by descendants and the state of Utah honors the victims; and a second that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints raised in 1999 over the grave of the victims, whose remains were inadvertently unearthed by a backhoe during the monument’s hurried construction. He told them to have Hamblin“gather up those children that were saved from theIndian Masacre [sic].” Forney also sent orders toHamblin, “All the children must be secured, at anycost or sacrifice, whether among whites or Indians.” He instructed Hamblin to take the childreninto his family. It was a typically astute request from a man who had spent his life working on public relations for the LDS Church. After retiring, Lynch visited his old charges in Arkansas, who greeted him “as a returned father.” The old frontiersman found Sarah Dunlap, now “a cultured lady of 34 years,” and he soon “wooed and won” Miss Sarah. In his recollections, Lynch claimed he and a few men might have been sent ahead in disguise to find the children and determine what kind of reception awaited Forney. All rights reserved. Rogers, affectionately known as “Uncle Billy” in both California and Carson Valley, was already a Western legend in 1858 when hemoved to Salt Lake City, opened the CaliforniaHouse (a hotel “fitted up in superior style”) andquickly won a legion of friends. For most of a decade, friends of the place have lobbied against long odds to secure federal protection and administration of this contested ground as a National Historic Park Site (or Monument). The wagon train made it through Utah during a period in time of violence history would later call the Utah War to rest in the area of Mountain meadows. With the intent of pointing the finger at Native Americans they armed Southern Paiute Native Americans and coerced them to join their party in the attack. According to the Arkansian, Mitchell told the crowd the children were “kept secreted by the Mormons” until Forney offered to pay a $6,000 ransom. The epic had scheduled production when CBS cancelled it. Two years later,British explorer Richard Burton found ColonelRogers running the Pony Express station at RubyValley, trading furs and managing a governmentIndian farm for the Western Shoshones. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines. The volumes, titled Mountain Meadows Massacre: Collected Legal Papers, Initial Investigations and Indictments, and Mountain Meadows Massacre: Selected Trial Records and Aftermath, are now available from the University of Oklahoma Press and Amazon. They were headed toward California and their path took them through the territory of Utah. Rogerswas already a veteran of many “adventures amongthe whites and reds,” Burton said, and had “manya hairbreadth escape to relate.” But nothing he didin his long, colorful career was as dangerous as hismission to Mountain Meadows. Bigger trouble was brewing. Ultimately, the film dealt not only with reconciliation but—as its title reveals—the difficulty of dealing with the darker side of Mormon history. The surviving men cheered their rescuers when they fell in with their escort. Neither a whitewash nor an expos, Massacre at Mountain Meadows provides the clearest and most accurate account of a key event in American religious history. The emigrants let the emissary, a Mormon from a nearby settlement, into their fort, and then John D. Lee, the local Indian agent, followed. Trent Ford and Tamara Hope gave solid performances as the conflicted Mormon hero and his doomed love. Following the success of Roots, the 1977 ABC television miniseries, David Susskind hoped to create a similar phenomenon with a series on the massacre. Forney’s craven behavior with John D. Lee disgusted James Lynch, who swore out an affidavit that called the agent a “veritable old granny.” Lynch accused Forney of assisting the coverup of the crime by undercutting the authority of federal officials like Judge Cradlebaugh by arousing “a feeling of resistance to his authority among the guilty murderers.”. This article was written by Will Bagley and originally published in the October 2007 issue of Wild West Magazine. “Do you know that I have my threads strung all through the Territory, that I may know what individuals do?” John D. Lee was the newspaper’s agent for Iron County that year, but as a key element in the prophet’s internal intelligence network, Young’s boast would hardly have surprised Lee. I am also intrigued by the massacre’s strange legacy and a little astonished to find myself as enmeshed in the awful tale and its ongoing story as was its greatest chronicler, southern Utah historian Juanita Brooks. This article was written by Will Bagley and originally published in the February 2005 issue of Wild West Magazine. The day after visiting Mountain Meadows, Forney and his escort reached the Mormon settlement at Santa Clara, where they found 13 of the surviving children in the custody of Hamblin, who was just beginning his legendary career as a frontiersman and Indian interpreter for explorers such as John Wesley Powell. A Case of Vengeance and Retribution, A single question lurks behind almost everything ever written about the Mountain Meadows Massacre: Did Brigham Young order it, and if so why? As Hinckley surely knew, his hope that no one would ever make a film about Mountain Meadows was wishful thinking. There, the senior Mormon officer escorting the men gave an order: perhaps “Halt!” but by most accounts, “Do your duty!” A single shot rang out, and each escort turned and shot his man. Since the book has not appeared, it would be unfair to judge a pig in a poke, but a “press release” handed out at the book’s 2002 announcement—“Forthcoming in 2003 from Oxford University Press!”—has me waiting on the edge of my seat. One of their first priorities was to locate the Mountain Meadows orphans and “use every effort to get possession” of them, as Washington had first orderedForney to do back in March. Fancher & Co. fell victims to the Indians’ wrath” and blamed the emigrants for “indiscriminately shooting and poisoning them”—essentially, Young argued, they got what they deserved. They have been making the same claim every year for the last five years, but give them credit: They’ve got their story and they’re sticking to it. For today’s Latter-day Saints, Mountain Meadows is the most troubling event in their religion’s complicated history. In early August, Young sent orders to Isaac Haight and William Dame, religious leaders in southern Utah (and the same men who had given the direct orders to massacre the Arkansans). Born in Ireland, Lynch had been orphaned not long after his parents immigrated to Brooklyn, and he had drifted to New Orleans, where he enlisted in the frontier army. What will happen this September 11 when another Arkansan wagon train rolls into Mountain Meadows? Yet events surrounding the upcoming sesquicentennial appear primed to bring more attention to the massacre than it has had since the death of Brigham Young. The children arrived home not long before Confederate guns opened fire at Fort Sumter, and Arkansas witnessed some of the most brutal conflict of the Civil War. Brigham Young followed the federal investigation closely. As history, “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” is far from perfect. After writing Blood of the Prophets and Innocent Blood, I believe the atrocity is best explained as a calculated act of vengeance. They will wrestle with the complicated legacy of what all agree was an atrocity and some view as America’s first act of religious terrorism. I have a dog in this fight and make no pretensions to being a disinterested party: I happily admit I’ll be fascinated to witness whatever drama plays out at Mountain Meadows late this summer. According to John D. Lee, Brigham Young said that the government took the children to St. Louis and sent letters to their relatives to come for them. Massacre at Mountain Meadows offers the most thoroughly researched account of the massacre ever written. Despite the turmoil, all the children found homes with relatives, who raised them as best they could. In addition to the printed volumes, the full John D. Lee Trial Transcript Archive is now available on this website. Young it describes. Ah well, “this spell-binding narrative offers fascinating conclusions on why Mormon settlers in isolated southern Utah deceived the emigrant party with a promise of safety and killed the adults and all but a few of the youngest children.”, I would not want to be among those “Mormon settlers in isolated southern Utah” right about now. The descendants, however, knew the truth and were grateful for Hinckley’s help. A surprising number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, have dealt with the massacre during the last five years. For many living descendants and relatives of the victims, who have long been slandered as frontier hard cases who got what they deserved, the massacre remains a bitter injustice. Based on Juanita Brooks’ study, the documentary is a classic LDS retelling of the story with lots of blame for the victims and the Indians, but it won two “Telly” local television awards. William C. Mitchell’s married daughter, Nancy Dunlap, had been with the so-called Fancher party, as had a married son, Charles, and an unmarried son, Joel. When descendants began to lobby to build a monument to the victims of the massacre in the late 1980s, their efforts went nowhere until they enlisted President Hinckley’s support. They form part of a long tradition: Writers as renowned as Mark Twain and Jack London told the story, and Buffalo Bill Cody rescued his sister May from the massacre in a play that helped launch his career. On September 11, 1857, a band of Mormon militia, under a flag of truce, lured unarmed members of a party of emigrants from their fortified encampment and, with their Paiute allies, killed them. Our line of historical magazines includes America's Civil War, American History, Aviation History, Civil War Times, Military History, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vietnam, Wild West and World War II. For the children who survived and the families of the victims, the massacre became a deep and enduring wound. The massacre at Mountain Meadows on September 11, 1857, was the single most violent attack on a wagon train in the 30-year history of the Oregon and California trails. He claimed two children had been taken east by the Paiutes, a story apparently concocted to extort government money to pay imaginary ransoms to the Indians. After returning to Arkansas, she was educated at the school for the blind in Little Rock and settledwith her sister Rebecca in Calhoun County. No one who witnessed the return of the children ever forgot it. It incorporated Hutton’s updated research and focused largely on the 1859 federal investigation of the atrocity. Hinckley asked only one favor: “No movies.”. On Tuesday, September 11, 2007, another wagon train from Arkansas will arrive at Mountain Meadows to commemorate the sesquicentennial of one of the grimmest anniversaries in American history. The Mountain Meadows Massacre has since been hailed by historians as “the most hideous example of the human cost exacted by religious fanaticism in American history until 9/11.” The execution of John D. Lee in 1886. That same month the U.S. Army established the nation’s largest military station at Camp Floyd, 40 miles from Salt Lake City. Patrick became interested in the story after reading a news article about the reestablishment of the Mountain Meadows Association. ), A surprising hero of the Mountain Meadows wars of the last two decades is Gordon B. Hinckley, who became president, prophet, seer and revelator of the LDS Church in 1995 after effectively running the organization since the early 1980s. Learn more. Neither a whitewash nor an exposé, Massacre at Mountain Meadows provides the clearest and most accurate account of a key event in American religious history. It did attract media attention when Spudfest, the fledgling film festival founded by actress Dawn Wells (Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island), pulled the documentary from its lineup, claiming the film was too violent for a family-oriented event. The Mountain Meadows Massacre stands as one of the darkest events in Mormon history. Neither a whitewash nor an expose, Massacre at Mountain Meadows provides the clearest and most accurate account of a key event in American religious history. For 150 years, leaders and official historians of the LDS Church have worked hard to justify or explain away the crime, and a large part of the legacy of the murders is a tangled web of lies and deception. During the past two decades, descendants and other relatives of the emigrants and the perpetrators have at times worked together to memorialize the victims. Johnston then ordered the “Santa Clara Expedition ” to provide protection for Judge Cradlebaugh, who was on his way to investigate the crime and, if possible, arrest the murderers. Major Carleton ensured that those killed in the Meadow Mountains Massacre … At the same time, Captain Lynch was leading a party of between 25 and 40 men south from Camp Floyd, where he had worked for the commissary department, to the area that would become Arizona (possibly to prospect there), when he too met Forney at Nephi. Massacre at Mountain Meadows offers the most thoroughly researched account of the massacre ever written. Academic presses are primed to release at least three serious nonfiction studies of the event over the next year, including one by the forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones of 28 men, women and children the U.S. Army buried in 1859. This militia was comprised of the Mormons that settled Utah. It was leaders from the nearby militia called Nauvoo Legion that staged the attack on the train of pioneers. Cut off from water and under continual gunfire,the emigrants fended off their assailants for five long, hellish days. A love story set during a tense encounter between a wagon train of settlers and a … At a meeting in 1989, they asked how they could reward his good efforts. On Friday, September 11, hope appeared in the form of a white flag. Lee told the Arkansans he and his men had come to rescue them from the Indians. Cut off from any source of water and under continual gunfire, the emigrants fended off their assailants for five long, hellish days. Young became interested in the subject when he tried to date a descendant of John D. Lee. An Incident That Should Be Forgotten: Books. The Mountain Meadows Massacre stands as one of the darkest events in Mormon history. More than 120 men, women, and children perished in the slaughter. Poisoning The Well & Murder – In his official report about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, member of the First Presidency George A. Smith claimed that the wagon party poisoned a spring and killed ten local American Indians as well as local Latter-day Saint settlers. Explore articles from the History Net archives about The Mountain Meadows Massacre, » See all The Mountain Meadows Massacre Articles. As the travelers brewed coffee not long after dawn on Monday, September 7, a volley of gunfire suddenly tore into them from nearby ravines and hilltops, immediately killing or wounding about a quarter of the able-bodied men. 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