Mountain Meadows Massacre Assassins

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 as to 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, 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 and by the mid-1850’s 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, leading to conjecture that one or both of these men might have been informants in the federal investigation.

Philip Klingensmith

It is known that Klingensmith was tormented in the aftermath of the massacre and 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. Afterwards, 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 some time later.

John Doyle Lee

John Doyle Lee

John Doyle Lee (1812-1877) – The only man to ever be punished for the 120 people slaughtered at the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Lee was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois on September 12, 1812. On July 24, 1833, he married Aggatha Ann Woolsey,and a few years later, the pair joined the Mormon Church as early converts. He was a friend of the founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. In 1839, he was preaching in Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A “dedicated” member, he took the church seriously, especially the polygamy policies, marrying another 18 wives during his lifetime and fathering more than 60 children. However, his choice of wives were evidently not so “dedicated” as eleven of them would eventually leave him.  Lee became a member of the Danites, a secret fraternal order that was pledged to defend the rights of Mormons; however this has been disputed.

After Joseph Smith’s murder, Lee joined the the rest of the Mormons who were headed to Utah, where he became a successful farmer and rancher. In 1856, he became a US government Indian Agent in the Iron County area, assigned to help Native Americans establish farms. Because of this role, Lee became the central figure in the tragic Mountain Meadows Massacre which occurred in September 1857.

When the Fancher wagon train was attacked in the four day siege, Lee and William Bateman met with members of the wagon train and arranged for the surviving members to be escorted to safety under a flag of truce by the Mormon militia. The party surrendered their weapons, but as they were led away from their wagons, every single male member of the party were killed by Mormon militiamen, including Lee. The women and the older children were killed by the Paiute Indians. Only 17 small children were spared.

Though the government began an investigation the following year, Lee continued to be an active leader in Mormon affairs in southern Utah, so much so, that he served a term in the Utah Territorial Legislature that year. Unfortunately, investigations into the terrible tragedy were interruputed by the Civil War and the Mormons went on with their lives. However, by the late 1860s, questions about the massacre became more and more difficult to avoid, and in October, 1870 Brigham Young excommunicated Lee from the Mormon Church for his role in the affair. Though excommunicated; the church was still giving him orders and in 1872 they sent him from Iron County and to Arizona to establish a ferry crossing on the Colorado River.

Finally, the government continued their investigation and in 1874, Lee was arrested. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was tried again in 1877 and sentenced to death. During his trial and in his written memoirs, Lee never denied his own complicity, but consistently maintained he had acted under orders from his military leaders, under protest. Though he initially maintained that Mormon President Brigham Young had no knowledge of the event until after it happened, he would later say: “I have always believed, since that day, that George A. Smith was then visiting southern Utah to prepare the people for the work of exterminating Captain Fancher’s train of emigrants, and I now believe that he was sent for that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young.”

John D. Lee Execution

John D. Lee Execution

On March 23, 1877, Lee was taken to the massacre site, where he was executed by a firing squad. His last words included a reference to Young: “I do not believe everything that is now being taught and practiced by Brigham Young. I do not care who hears it. It is my last word… I have been sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner.” His body was buried in the Panguitch Cemetery.

Though more than fifty Mormon men participated in the massacre, many of whom held high level military roles and were admittedly aware of the attack plan, Lee was the only person to have ever been punished by the U.S. Government.

In April 1961, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posthumously reinstated Lee’s membership in the church.

1 thought on “Mountain Meadows Massacre Assassins”

  1. This is a great website. You have done lots of research and I appreciate the time and effort you have devoted to this horrible event. Your website is also well organized and user friendly. Thanks again for a job well done.

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