Mountain Meadows Massacre Assassins

Mountain Meadows Site

In this beautiful valley occurred one of the most horrific and controversial massacres in U.S. history, drawing by H. Steinegger, Pacific Art Co, 1877.

Though several participants had a hand in the tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, this list comprises those who were the primary participants and/or assassins from a historical perspective. In actuality, there were more than 50 men who took part in the massacre, none of whom were ever disciplined by the Mormon Church. And of the primary participants, only John D. Lee ever stood trial, which would be 18 years after the tragedy. He was convicted and executed in 1876.

For our article about that tragic day, September 11, 1857, see Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Primary Assassins and their Roles: 

George W. Adair – Private, Fifth Platoon, Company I, Iron County Militia. Allegedly boasted about the murders.

William H. Dame – Colonel and regimental commander of the Tenth Regiment and first mayor of Parowan, Utah.

Isaac C. Haight – Commander in charge of the Second Battalion in Cedar City, mayor of Cedar City, and Parowan stake president. He ordered the massacre.

Jacob Hamblin – Owned the property where the massacre occurred but was not present. Any involvement is disputed.

Ira Hatch – Mormon Indian Specialist who organized the Paiutes.

John M. Higbee – Major in the Iron County Militia, first counselor to Isaac Haight, and the man who ordered the killing to begin.

Iron County Militia – A branch of the Nauvoo Legion, an estimated 50-100 members of the Iron County group participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Nephi Johnson – A 2nd lieutenant in Company D of the Iron County Militia, Johnson led the killing of the women and children.

Samuel Jukes – Private, Second Platoon, Company F, Iron County Militia, indicted in the massacre.

Philip Klingensmith – Bishop of Cedar City, Utah.

Mountain Meadows Massacre, T.B.H. Stenhouse, 1873

Mountain Meadows Massacre, T.B.H. Stenhouse, 1873

John D. Lee – Prominent leader in the massacre, Lee was the only one punished for the tragedy.

Paiute Indians – Participated in the attack, but Mormon Militiamen killed most pioneers.

George A. Smith – First Counselor in the First Presidency to church president Brigham Young at the time of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, it is not known as to whether Smith had prior knowledge of the attack that took place upon the Fancher-Baker wagon train.

William C. Stewart – Second Lieutenant in the Iron County Militia, indicted in the massacre.

David Tullis – A private in the Iron County Militia, his participation is disputed.

Daniel H. Wells – Commander-in-Chief of the territorial militia, the Nauvoo Legion, is not known as to whether Wells had prior knowledge of the attack at Mountain Meadows.

Elliot Willden – Private, Fourth Platoon, Company F, Iron County Militia, indicted in the massacre.

The following individuals have also been cited in various sources as having been involved in the massacre:

Ira Allen
Benjamin Arthur
Ira Allen
Benjamin Arthur
William Bateman
Thomas Cartwright
John W. Clark
Joseph Clews
Ezra Curtis
Labez Durfey
William Edwards
Columbus Freeman
Oscar Hamblin
George Hawley
Richard Harrison

Charles Hopkins
John Humphreys
George Hunter
Swen Jacobs
John Jacobs
Samuel Knight
Dudley Leavitt
Alexander Loveridge
James Matthews
John Magnum
Daniel McFarland
John McFarland
Samuel McMurdy
Harrison Pearce
James Pearce

Samuel Pollock
Carl Shirts
William Slade, Sr.
William Slade, Jr.
George Spencer
Anthony Stratton
William Taite
John Ure
John Weston
Joel White
Samuel White
Alexander Wilden
Robert Wiley
John Willis
William Young

Old Mountain Meadows Marker

Old Mountain Meadows Marker

Three more men that cannot be ignored were those at the top of the hierarchy — Brigham Young, governor and prophet; his Counselor, George A. Smith; and General Daniel H. Wells, Commander of the Nauvoo Legion.

Whether they were directly involved, had knowledge of the plans, or were ignorant of the attack until after the fact, ultimate responsibility and accountability reside at the top of the chain of command. At the very least, these men were heavily involved in the cover-up of this atrocity.


George W. Adair, Jr. – A private in the Fifth Platoon, Company I, of the Iron County Militia, was one of the few men ever indicted in the massacre. In the summer of 1874, an indictment for murder was handed down against Adair and eight other men, but only John D. Lee would ever be tried. Though most accounts of the time claimed that the militia killed only the adult males and the Paiutes killed the women and children, later statements disputed this, indicating the white men did most of the killing under orders from Major John M. Higbee.

Though numerous privates in the Iron Militia were never indicted, the young Adair, who was allegedly a heavy drinker, brought attention to himself in the streets of Cedar City by boasting about the killings.

Laughingly, he was said to have imitated how he had taken babies by their heels, swinging them into the iron bands of the wagon wheels, crushing the skulls in the process. Private Adair was arrested and jailed for six months before he was released on bail on May 12, 1876. When U.S. Attorney Sumner Howard recommended to Adair that he plead guilty to the charges against him, Adair allegedly responded, “I’ll see you in Hell first!” Unfortunately, Adair never followed through with the charges.

William H. Dame

William H. Dame.

William H. Dame (1819-1884) – Born in Stafford County, New Hampshire, on July 15, 1819, Dame obviously made his way westward somewhere along the line and had at least one wife, Lovinia Dame. In 1857, he was a colonel and regimental commander of the Tenth Regiment and the Parowan Ward’s stake president (mayor). Dame was administratively responsible for the actions of officers and soldiers under his command. Though under the ecclesiastical direction of President Isaac C. Haight, his religious superior was actually his military inferior, thus giving Dame more accountability and responsibility in the Mountain Meadows Massacre matters. Though he did not participate personally in the massacre, he traveled to the site the following morning. When he saw the terrible carnage, he allegedly explained,  “Horrible! Horrible!” as the color drained from his face. Isaac C. Haight, who had participated in the massacre, responded, “You should have thought of that before you issued the orders.” Then Dame reportedly said: “I didn’t think there were so many of them [women and children], or I would not have had anything do with it.” When Dame collapsed in distress, an angry Haight yelled at his military superior, “You throw the blame of this thing on me, and I will be revenged on you if I have to meet you in hell to get it!” Both men would retain their militia commands, and Dame would become the president of the Parowan Stake, a position he held until 1880.

Years after the bloody massacre, Dame and Haight and seven other men were served with indictments and warrants issued for their arrest in 1874. Though they went into hiding, Dame was found and apprehended. He was first jailed in Beaver, Utah, before being transferred to the territorial penitentiary, where he remained until May 1876, when he was released pending trial. In September 1876, as Lee’s second trial was about to begin, Prosecutor Sumner Howard dropped the charges against Dame, apparently as part of the deal with church authorities allowing Howard to convict Lee. He died on August 16, 1884, and was buried in the Parowan City Cemetery.

Isaac Chauncey Haight

Isaac Chauncey Haight

Isaac Chauncey Haight (1813-1886) – Born in Windham, New York, Haight was an early convert to Mormonism and was in Nauvoo, Illinois, when Joseph Smith, founder of the sect, was killed. He migrated with other Mormon members in 1847 to Salt Lake City, Utah, and a year later, he and about 50 other members were sent south to establish the city of Parowan. By 1853, Haight was directing church immigration to Utah and, in 1854, was sent to Cedar City, Utah, to take charge of the ironworks. There, he also became the ecclesiastical leader of several area congregations. He was the town’s mayor, a territorial legislator (Council of Fifty), and the President of the Parowan “stake of Zion,” reporting directly to Brigham Young. However, it was his role as second-in-command of the Iron County Militia that garnered his reputation as one of the leaders of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In this capacity, he ordered the massacre of the BakerFancher party on September 11, 1857.

After the tragic event, the government began to look into the killings, but investigations were interrupted by the Civil War. Under public pressure, Haight was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in 1870, but four years later, he was reinstated by Brigham Young. That same year, though, Haight and eight others were indicted for the crime. Haight hid, and a $500 reward was posted for his capture. Haight lived for a while in Manassa, Colorado, before moving to Thatcher, Arizona, where he took his mother’s maiden name of Horton. He died there on September 8, 1886, of a lung affliction. Only John D. Lee ever stood trial for the killings, during which he was convicted and executed in 1876. Haight was re-interned in Cedar City, Utah, in September of 2023.

Jacob Hamblin

Jacob Hamblin

Jacob Hamblin (1819-1886) – Born in Ohio on April 6, 1819, Hamblin grew up to marry Lucinda Taylor in 1839; the two settled down in Wisconsin and would have four children. In 1842, the couple converted to Mormonism. In 1849, the same year that Jacob decided to fully embrace Mormonism and its polygamy policies by marrying a second wife named Rachel Judd, was also the same year that Lucinda abandoned her husband and their children.  Jacob and his “new” wife went to Utah the following year, settling near Tooele. He quickly became known for his good relations between the settlers and Indians, and in 1854, he was called upon to serve a mission to the southern Paiutes and moved to a homestead near Santa Clara.

In August 1857, Hamblin became the president of the Utah Indian Mission. That same month, Hamblin traveled to Salt Lake City with Apostle George A. Smith, who had been dispatched to the southern Mormon colonies, to warn of the approaching United States army and recommend that the colonists not trade with any non-Mormons and then travel through their territory. On their way to Salt Lake City, Hamblin, and Smith actually encountered the ill-fated Fancher party. When questioned about where the pioneers might rest their cattle, Hamblin suggested his own homestead at Mountain Meadows. Some accounts say that he was “ordered” to make the suggestion.

In Salt Lake City, Hamblin met with Mormon leaders, including Brigham Young, who urged Hamblin to “not permit the brethren to part with their guns and ammunition, but save them against the hour of need.” He further instructed Hamblin that the Indians “must learn to help us or the United States will kill us both.” In the meetings, the Southern Paiute were authorized to steal cattle from travelers as a part of Brigham Young’s Utah War strategy. He was also informed that the Fancher party was allegedly “behaving badly” by robbing chicken roosts, poisoning water, and using abusive language to Mormons they met along the way. While at the capitol, Hamblin also took yet another wife, Sarah Priscilla Leavitt.

Hamblin had not yet returned home when the massacre occurred. On the trail south, he met John D. Lee, who Hamblin would later say admitted his role in the killings. Though Hamblin was well known for his honesty, many historians believe that Hamblin’s account of the events was to implicate Lee and shield other Mormons. In 1876, his testimony at John D. Lee’s trial was paramount in Lee’s conviction.

After the massacre, the surviving children were initially taken to Hamblin’s ranch, and three of them, Rebecca, Louisa, and Sarah Elizabeth Dunlap, would reside there for the next two years. The rest of the children were then taken to other Mormon families in the area, but not before one child, who was crying, was allegedly killed. When the three Dunlap children were rescued, there were allegations that they had been neglected and that Sarah Elizabeth Dunlap’s blindness was a direct result of negligent care. Though rumors of Hamblin’s participation in “setting up” the disaster were rampant, these were never proven, and he was not indicted for any crime. In fact, he was known to express his horror of the massacre adamantly.

A year after the massacre, Hamblin was sent to northern Arizona to mission to the Hopi. He took another wife in November 1865, and over the years and between his four wives, he would father 24 children and adopt several more. In 1870, Hamblin acted as an adviser to John Wesley Powell’s second expedition into the Grand Canyon. Hamblin continued to serve as a missionary to the Native American tribes in Southern Utah, where he kept a ranch. However, following the enactment of the Edmunds Act of 1882, an arrest order was issued naming Hamblin and others known to practice polygamy. Hamblin then permanently moved his family from Utah to Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua, Mexico. Until he died on August 31, 1886, he continually moved from one family to another to evade federal officers.

Ira Hatch

Ira Hatch.

Ira Hatch (1835-1927) – Hatch was born on August 5, 1835, in either New York or Ohio. In 1854, he was serving as the Mormon Indian specialist in southern Utah, where he thrived in his ability to speak 13 different Indian languages. He was frequently called to various places where diplomacy was needed in Indian relations. Unlike many of the other Mormons of the time, Hatch had only one wife, Sarah Spanesbank, the daughter of a Navaho chief and Paiute woman. The couple had four children.

His involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre included playing a major part in organizing the Paiute to assist in the massacre and, once it had begun, tracking three men who had escaped and killing them. In 1860, Hatch was sent to northern Arizona with Jacob Hamblin to become a missionary to the Hopi Indians. He died at Fruitland, New Mexico, in 1927.

John Mount Higbee (1827-1904) – A major in the Iron County Militia, first counselor to Isaac C. Haight, and the man who ordered the killing to begin, Higbee was born in 1837 in Ohio. Persecuted for their religious beliefs, the family moved to Missouri in 1833, where they were forced to move several times before finally resettling in Illinois in 1838. By 1846, they were once again forced from their settlement, and the following year, John’s father, John S. Higbee, joined the company of Mormon pioneers who led the western migration, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1853, he married his first wife, Mary Clark, who would bear him 11 children. The couple then moved to Cedar City, where Higbee became a counselor to Isaac C. Haight and became a major in the Iron County Militia. It was in this role that he ordered the killing to begin at the Mountain Meadows Massacre by demanding: “Do your duty!”

John M. Higbee

John M. Higbee

Afterward, Higbee retained his militia command, but when the U.S. Government began an investigation in 1858, a warrant was issued for his arrest. In the meantime, Higbee moved his family to the new settlement of  Toquerville. However, investigations and follow-up were halted as tensions began to brew towards the Civil War.

In 1860, he married a second wife, Eunice Blanden, who eventually bore him eight children. Higbee led several militia operations during the Black Hawk War of 1866. Under public pressure, Higbee was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in 1870, but by 1874, he had moved back to Cedar City as President of the United Order. The same year he was among nine Iron County Militia men indicted for murder stemming from the 1857 massacre. As arrests were made, Higbee, Isaac C. Haight, and William Stewart fled with rewards of $500 posted on their heads.  By the 1880s, interest in the prosecution had waned, and he returned to Cedar City. Years later, when Utah achieved statehood in 1896, all local court charges were dismissed against Higbee. The Mormon Church never disciplined any of the more than 50 participants in the massacre. Only John D. Lee ever stood trial. He was convicted and executed in 1876. At the age of 77, Higbee died in Cedar City.

Iron County Militia – A branch of the Nauvoo Legion, a Mormon militia group that operated until 1870, the Iron District group had about 450 members in 1957. Ramped up due to rumors of a U.S. Army invasion, the military group was well-trained, well-organized, and ready for combat. Through its “lifetime,” the Nauvoo Legion and the Iron County Militia maintained high standards and an honorable reputation, that was until the Mountain Meadows Massacre. After this tragic event, the legion continued to operate, given federal duties during the Civil War to guard the mail and freight routes from Independence Rock to Salt Lake City.

Nephi Johnson

Nephi Johnson

Nephi Johnson (1833-1919) – Born in Kirtland, Ohio in 1833, his family were early members of Joseph Smith’s Mormon movement. The family followed Smith to Ohio and Illinois and emigrated to Utah in 1848. Two years later, they moved to Parowan and then to Cedar City. In 1856, Nephi married Mandana R. Merrill, who would bear him ten children. In 1857, Johnson was a 2nd lieutenant in Company D of the Iron Military District and was said to have led the killing of the women and children after the leaders of the wagon train had surrendered to John D. Lee. Johnson holds the dubious distinction of killing more women and children in a single day than any other person in the United States.

Following the massacre, an arrest warrant was issued for Johnson in 1859 for suspected complicity in the massacre, but nothing ever became of it. Johnson helped to found the colony at Virgin City, where he lived for 14 years, where he acted as presiding elder, acting bishop, and bishop’s counselor in succession. In 1860, he married his second wife, Conradina A. Mariger, who bore him 16 children. In 1871, he moved to Kanab, Utah, where he worked in several positions, including the first counselor to the bishop, county commissioner, town president, superintendent of waterworks, and road commissioner. In 1872, he was employed by John Wesley Powell’s Colorado River expedition. He married yet another woman in 1889, a widow with six children, who bore him one additional child. In 1889, he moved to Juarez, Mexico, where he stayed until 1894, before moving to Bunkerville, Nevada, where he served as a patriarch to the Mormon community there. He died in 1919, and many children and descendants survived him.

Samuel Jewkes

Samuel Jewkes

Samuel Jukes – A private, Second Platoon, Company F of the Iron County Militia, Jukes was indicted in the massacre in 1874, and he went into hiding. However, like Elliott Willden, there is no information on why the private was singled out and indicted when so many others were not. Though the indictment was handed down, the charges were never followed through. We could find no further information on Samuel Jukes.

Philip Klingensmith (1815-1881?) – Born in Pennsylvania, the Philips family moved first to Ohio then to Indiana. In 1841 he married Hannah Henry Creemer in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and joined the Mormon Church. Later they moved to the main church center in Nauvoo, Illinois. After persecution in Illinois, they left Illinois and arrived in Utah in 1849.

In 1851, they moved to southern Utah, where Klingensmith became one of the first settlers in Iron County and lent his blacksmithing skills to the newly-formed Iron mission. by the mid-1850s, he had three wives, Hannah, Margaretha, and Betsy, who bore him fifteen, four, and five children, respectively. From 1852 to 1859, he served as the bishop of Cedar City. Because of his “rank” within the church, he is listed among the “leaders” of the massacre and was known to have carried orders and other messages between the various militia officers and was present at the massacre. However, unlike the other principal participants, neither Klingensmith nor his counselor, Samuel McMurdie, were listed in the 1859 arrest warrant. This led to conjecture that one or both of these men might have been informants in the federal investigation.

Philip Klingensmith

Philip Klingensmith

It is known that Klingensmith was tormented in the aftermath of the massacre. In the early 1860s, he moved to Nevada and, except for a brief return to Parowan later that decade, he resided outside Utah for the remainder of his life, working in the ranching and mining industries.

In 1874, Klingensmith was among the nine militiamen named in the federal murder indictment but was the first to confess complicity in the massacre the following year. He gave testimony at the first trial of John Doyle Lee in 1875 and was in Beaver, Utah, in 1876 for Lee’s retrial but did not testify. Afterward, he reportedly moved to Arizona, then to Sonora, Mexico. He died sometime around 1881, some say violently, while other sources claim he died of natural causes sometime later.

John Doyle Lee

John Doyle Lee

John Doyle Lee (1812-1877) – John Doyle Lee was a pioneer and early prominent leader of the Mormon church in Utah. A leader in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, he was the only man ever to be punished for the 120 people who were slaughtered.

Paiute, 1873

Paiute, 1873. John K. Hillers

Paiute Indians – Beginning in the late 18th century, Europeans began to migrate through southern Utah, coming in contact with the Southern Paiutes. While these scattered expeditions posed some threat to the Native Americans, it would be the arrival of the Mormons in the 1850s that destroyed their sovereignty and traditional lifestyle. Settling widely across Paiute lands, the Mormons consumed the Indians’ water, foraging, camping, and hunting resources. However, the Mormon presence had one positive influence, that of all but eliminating the previous and common slave raids from which the Paiutes had suffered at the hands of the Navajo and the Utes.

Though hundreds of Paiutes died of starvation and disease, the Mormons began to conduct intensive missionary efforts in 1854, primarily under the direction of Jacob Hamblin. A dependency relationship had been established before, and the interaction between the Mormons and the Paiute was peaceful.

When the Cedar City Mormons became intent upon “punishing” the Fancher wagon train for their perceived grievances with the party, Cedar City leaders formulated a plan to attack the wagon train by convincing local Paiute tribesmen to kill the men and steal the cattle. Though the generally peaceful Paiute occasionally were known to steal food and stock from passing wagon trains, they were initially reluctant to have any part of the attack plan.  However, Cedar City’s leaders promised them plunder, including many heads of cattle. They convinced them that the emigrants were aligned with “enemy” troops who would kill Indians along with Mormon settlers.

At dawn on September 7, 1857, the travelers were besieged by the Mormon-allied Paiute and militiamen disguised as Indians. The attacks would continue for the next five days as the wagon train resisted. Despite plans to pin the entire massacre on the Paiute Indians, the vast majority of the killing was done by the Iron County Militia.

George A. Smith

George A. Smith

George Albert Smith (1817-1875) – First Counselor in the First Presidency to church president Brigham Young at the time of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, it is not known as to whether Smith had prior knowledge of the attack that took place upon the FancherBaker wagon train. However, as second in command in the military hierarchy, he, as well as his superior, Brigham Young, are culpable under the military rules of accountability. Further, there is little question that he was involved in the cover-up that followed the tragedy.

George Albert Smith was born on June 26, 1817, to John Smith and Clarissa Lyman and was a nephew of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church. In 1833, his family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, the headquarters of the Church. From 1835 to 1837, he served as a missionary in the eastern states. In 1838, he moved with his family to Missouri, and the following year, he was ordained an Apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

More than a decade later, he led a large party to Utah, arriving in 1851. They soon established a colony in Iron County, which they named Parowan.

In August 1857, Young sent him to alert the Southern Mormons of the threat of the coming U.S. army. These remote communities, still caught up in the throes of the Reformation, a rejuvenation movement initiated by Church leaders in 1856-1857 to rekindle faith and testimony throughout the Church, were especially receptive to Smith’s message of hate and vengeance. In addition to the warning, Smith was tasked with preparing the people for war, both psychologically and militarily.

Historians believe that Smith’s speeches contributed to the fear and tension in these communities, influencing the decision to attack and destroy the BakerFancher wagon train.

In 1868, Smith was made the First Counselor under Church President Brigham Young, a position he held until his death on September 1, 1875. During his lifetime, Smith married six women, who bore him 20 children.

William Stewart

William Stewart

William C. Stewart – A second Lieutenant in the Iron County Militia, Steward was also a high priest and member of the Cedar City Council. Eyewitness accounts know Stewart’s involvement in the massacre, and he was said to have killed William A. Aden and wounded two other men that Charles Fancher had sent out of the camp for help. When the massacre was over, Stewart assisted Philip Klingensmith and John Higbee in searching the bodies for any valuables. Stewart was indicted in 1874, along with eight other Mormon men, and immediately went into hiding. Though a $500 reward was posted for his capture, he was never apprehended, and there was no follow-up.

David Wilson Tullis

David Wilson Tullis

David Wilson Tullis (1833-1902) – The fourth child of David Tullis and Euphemia Wilson, Tullis was born in Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland, on June 3, 1833. In 1849, the family came to the United States, where they settled in Illinois. It was there that Tullis converted to the Mormon religion, the only one in the family to do so. In 1852, he went to Utah and, by 1857, was working on Jacob Hamblin’s ranch. Tullis, who was a private in the Iron County Militia, was said to have been involved in the massacre, and Rebecca Dunlap, who was eight years old at the time of her rescue, would say that he had killed her father, Jesse Dunlap, Jr. However, Tullis’ family history says that when David heard of the plans, he wanted to have nothing to do with it and “played sick” to avoid the massacre. Tullis had two wives, Martha Eccles and Alice Hardman.

Daniel Hanmer Wells (1814-1891) –  Commander-in-Chief of the territorial militia, the Nauvoo Legion, it is not known as to whether Wells had prior knowledge of the attack that took place at Mountain Meadows. However, as third in command in the military hierarchy, he, as well as his superiors, George A. Smith and Brigham Young are culpable under the military rules of accountability. Further, there is little question that he and his superiors were involved in the cover-up that followed the tragedy.

Daniel Hanmer Wells

Daniel Hanmer Wells

Wells was born on October 27, 1814, in Trenton, New York, to Daniel Wells and his wife, Catherine Chapin. When he grew up, he married Eliza Rebecca Robison on March 12, 1837, in Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois. The couple made their home in Nauvoo, and Wells was a “Jack Mormon,” a term applied to non-church members who defended the church and its members.  He was a personal friend of Joseph Smith, who helped him get elected to the Nauvoo City Council and later to be a judge. After his friend, Joseph Smith, was killed in June 1844 and the Mormons were expelled from the area, Wells decided to join the church. He became an official church member in 1846, but he remained in Illinois until 1848 when he went to Utah and began working toward the organization of the State of Deseret. However, his wife, Eliza, who never participated in plural marriages, did not accompany him. In Utah, Daniel, on the other hand, would take six wives.

In the year of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Wells was ordained an Apostle, the second counselor to Brigham Young, and the commanding officer of the Nauvoo Legion, the territorial militia. Later, while living in Great Britain, he presided over the church’s European missions. When he returned to Utah Territory, he was elected mayor of Salt Lake City in 1866, a position he held until 1874.

In 1872, Wells was arrested for being an accessory in the murder of Robert Yates, a murder that occurred in 1857 at the mouth of Echo Canyon. Though a man named Bill Hickman would eventually confess to killing Yates, Wells was the official commanding officer of the military operation that resulted in the death of Yates, thereby making him an accessory. However, a year later, the charges were dismissed.

In 1879, he was jailed for failing to disclose information regarding the various polygamist marriages he had performed. Jailed for a couple of months and accessed a $100 fine, he was released. In 1884, he was back in Europe, returning in 1888. At the age of 76, he died in Salt Lake City on March 27, 1891.

Elliot Wildon

Elliot Wildon

Elliot Willden (or Wildon) (1833-1920) – Born in England in 1833 to Charles and Eleanore Willden, Elliot’s family came to the United States in 1849 and were in Utah in 1851 as members of the Mormon congregation. In 1853, they moved to the Iron Mission in southern Utah. In 1856, Willden married an English immigrant named Emma Jane Clews, who would bear him nine children over the years.

When the Fancher party began to move through Utah in 1857, Elliot was a private in the Fourth Platoon, Company F, of the Iron County Militia in Cedar City. While he was known to have been at the massacre site, his role in the tragedy remains unclear.

Though an investigation began the year after the massacre, nothing became of it due to tensions preceding the Civil War. In the meantime, the Mormons returned to their lives, and in 1861, Willden and his family established Fort Willden on Cove Creek midway between Beaver and Fillmore, Utah. However, when the Black Hawk War broke out in 1865, they were forced to abandon the fort, and they moved to Beaver, Utah, where he lived the rest of his life.

In 1867, Ira Hinkley and his family returned to Fort Willden and built a larger fort called Cove Fort, which still stands today.

In 1874, while Willden was working as a farmer in Beaver, the indictments were handed down by the Grand Jury of the Second Judicial District Court against nine men involved in the massacre, including Elliot Willden. Though it is known that he was present at Mountain Meadows, it is unknown what he might have done that caused the private to be singled out and indicted when so many others were not.  However, the charges were never followed through.

In 1890, Willden’s wife, Emma Jane, died, and two years later, he married another English immigrant, Christiana Brown, who would bear him three more children. Willden lived to the ripe old age of 87 when he died in 1920 and was buried in Beaver, Utah.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April 2024.

Mountain Meadows Massacre Site

Mountain Meadows Massacre Site by Kathy Alexander.

Also See: 

Mountain Meadows Victims and Members

Mountain Meadows Historical Accounts and Testimony

An 1889 Account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre (By Hubert Howe Bancroft)

Mountain Meadows Massacre (primary article)


Mountain Meadows Association
Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation
1857 Iron County Militia
Gibbs, Josiah F., The Mountain Meadows Massacre; Salt Lake Tribune Publishing Co., 1910.