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, 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 and by the mid-1850s 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. 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 to ever 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. Before long, a dependency relationship was established and the interaction between the Mormons and the Paiutes was basically 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 that to attack the wagon train by convincing local Paiute tribesmen to kill the men and steal the cattle. Though the generally peaceful Paiutes 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 head of cattle, and 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 Paiutes and militiamen disguised as Indians and for the next five days the attacks would continue 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 Iron County Militia.

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, he was a nephew of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church. His family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, the headquarters of the Church in 1833. From 1835 to 1837, he served as a missionary in the eastern states. In 1838, he moved with 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 and soon established a colony in Iron County in 1851, 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 C. Stewart – A second Lieutenant in the Iron County Militia, Steward was also a high priest and member of the Cedar City Council. Stewart’s involvement in the massacre is known by eye witness accounts 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 (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 superiors were involved in the cover-up that followed the tragedy.

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 personal friends with Joseph Smith which helped him get elected to the Nauvoo City Council and later as 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. Made an official church member in 1846, Wells 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 as an Apostle, was the second counselor to Brigham Young, and the commanding officer of the Nauvoo Legion, the territorial militia.  Later he would preside over the church’s European missions while living in Great Britain and when he returned to Utah Territory 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 which 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 Willden (or Wildon) (1833-1920) – Born in England in 1833 to Charles and Eleanore Willden, Elliot’s family came to the United State in 1849 and were in Utah in 1851, as members of the Mormon congregation. In 1853, they had 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 went back 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, one 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 March 2020.

Mountain Meadows Massacre Site

Mountain Meadows Massacre Site.

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.

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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