Monday, August 11, 2008

The Mountain Meadows Massacre - My Family Remembered

Links are shaded type

Overlooking the Mountain Meadows Massacre site

Before the tragedies of Oklahoma City in 1995, and September 11, 2001, the Mountain Meadows Massacre was the largest civilian massacre in our Country's history. It was the worst atrocity in the annals of the West. Yet the massacre of more than 120 innocent men, women, and children of the Fancher-Baker Train by Mormons in Mountain Meadows, Utah has been largely unrecognized, and rarely recorded in history books...

On our way to John and Rachael's wedding in July, Barbara and I made a slight detour to visit an historical site of significance to my family, the Mountain Meadows Massacre site west of Cedar City in southwest Utah.

"The Mountain Meadows Massacre involved a mass slaughter of the
Fancher-Baker emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows in the Utah Territory by the local Mormon militia in September 1857. It began as an attack, quickly turned into a siege, and eventually culminated on September 11, 1857, in the execution of the unarmed emigrants after their surrender." (Wikipedia introduction to the "Mountain Meadows Massacre).

17 members of family on my mother's side were in that wagon train. . . 14 of them either killed in the surprise attack as they prepared breakfast on a September dawn or murdered in cold blood 4 days later after accepting an offer from the Mormons to provide them safe passage in return for their surrender. The three survivors were children under the age of 6 who were thought unable to provide testimony against the perpetrators.

There was initially an attempted cover-up, but that quickly failed. At this point in time, both sides agree that the attack was a combination of Paiute Indians and white Mormons, and the subsequent deception and murder of the unarmed settlers was planned and carried out by Mormons. A major disagreement however is if Birgham Young was complicit in the attack and murders, or if it was solely instigated and directed by the head of one of the local Mormon Militias, John Lee.

Barbara should be writing this blog; she knows far, far more detail and history of this event than do I. Much has been written, but condensed information is available in several websites:

This is a good non-denominational facts site:
This is a good, private site with LOTS of information:
This is a website primarily from descendants of the victims of the massacre:
This is a Mormon website:
This is the best site with the most information; it works the old fashion way:

Reasonably historically accurate movie: September Dawn

As it turned out, we arrived at the exact same time as a mother and her son from Salt Lake City. She was pleased to be a tour guide insofar as she had been reading about the event in preparation for their visit. On top of that, her great/great grandfather had been involved in legal proceedings and economic development of the town in that area in the years after the massacre. Barbara, to her credit, has read, both in volume and in variety, more on this event than anyone I know, and was more than ready to rebut any historically revisionist view of the event. Below, you see Barbara (standing in front of the memorial very recently erected by the Mountain Meadows Association) explaining the facts, as her antagonist stands with her arms crossed in front as her son looks on. This went on for about a half hour until I had to step in with a "break" command. (Left click on a picture to enlarge it)

If you enlarge this picture of the memorial,you can read names of our original Arkansas family members who were killed: Tackitts, Prewits, and Jones

Standing at the monument and looking southwest you can see the site of the encampment where the morning attack took place. The train had many Arkansas mountain men who were hunters and well armed and, to the surprise of the Indians and Mormons, quickly responded and repelled the initial and subsequent attacks.

Looking to the northwest, you can see the massacre field. The men, women, and children were lead to this area, and then on a command "Men do your duty", the escorting Mormons turned and shot the unarmed settlers.

This is a rebuilt version of the original monument at the encampment site. It makes note of the "19" that were killed, just the number who lost their lives during the initial attacks, not mentioning the other 100+ killed 4 days later.

A laminated memento to a survivor had been placed at the memorial.

This is the current state of the Old Spanish Trail, which the wagon train was following. The encampment is to the right of the picture. A child was shot during the seige while trying to get a bucket of water from the stream (road with culverts is crossing the original forde.)

This link will take you to a Google map of the area if you want to see the satellite images. The road along the bottom of the map leads to a parking lot with the encampment on the other side of the creek from the parking lot at the end of the road. Just above the top left edge of the map is the massacre field. The tiny fish-hook road on the lower right is the trail to the monument with the inscribed names that overlooks the valley.

Just a note; if you visit the site, there is only a very small sign that says "Mountain Meadows 1" a mile before the turn off of Hwy 18. It's easy to miss, even if you are looking for it.