Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts

This train was undoubtedly a very rich one. It is said the emigrants had nearly nine hundred head of fine cattle, many horses and mules, and one stallion valued at $2,000; that they had a great deal of ready money besides. All this the Mormons at Salt Lake City saw as the train came on. The Mormons knew the troops were marching to their country, and a spirit of intense hatred of the Americans and towards our Government was kindled in the hearts of this whole people by Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and other leaders, even from the pulpits.

Here, opportunely, was a rich train of emigrants — American Gentiles. That is, the most obnoxious kind of Gentiles–and not only that, but these Gentiles were from Arkansas, where the saintly Pratt had gained his crown of martyrdom. Is not here some thread which may be seized as a clue to this mystery so long hidden as to whether or not the Mormons were accomplices in the massacre? This train of Arkansas Gentiles was doomed from the day it crossed through the South Pass and had gotten fairly down in the meshes of the Mormon spider net, from which it was never to become disentangled.

Judge Cradlebaugh informed me that about this time Brigham Young, preaching in the tabernacle and speaking of the trouble with the United States, said that up to that moment he had protected emigrants who had passed through the Territory, but now he would turn the Indians loose upon them. It is a singular point worthy of note that this sermon should have been preached just as the rich train had gotten into the valley and was now fairly entrapped; a sermon good, coming from him, as a letter of marque to these land pirates who listened to him as an oracle. The hint thus shrewdly given out was not long in being acted upon.

From that moment these emigrants, as they journeyed southward, were considered the authorized, if not legal, prey of the inhabitants. All kinds of depredations and extortions were practiced upon them. At Parowan, they took some wheat to the mill to be ground. The bishop replied, “Yes, but do you take double toll.” This shows the spirit with which they were treated. These things are now leaking out; but some of those who were then Mormons have renounced their creed, and through them much is learned which, taken in connection with the facts that are known, served to develop the truth. It is said to be a truth that Brigham Young sent letters south, authorizing, if not commanding, that the train should be destroyed.

A Paiute chief, of the Santa Clara band, named “Jackson,” who was one of the attacking party, and had a brother slain by the emigrants from their corral by the spring, says that orders came down in a letter from Brigham Young that the emigrants were to be killed; and a chief of the Paiute named Touche, now living on the Virgin River, told me that a letter from Brigham Young to the same effect was brought down to the Virgin River band by a young man named Huntington [Oliver B. Huntington], who, I learn, is an Indian Interpreter and lives at present at Salt Lake City.

Jackson says there were 60 Mormons led by Bishop John D. Lee, of Harmony, and a prominent man in the church named [Isaac C.] Haight, who lives at Cedar City. That they were all painted and disguised as Indians.

That this painting and disguising was done at a spring in a canyon about a mile northeast of the spring where the emigrants were encamped, and that Lee and Haight led and directed the combined force of Mormons and Indians in the first attack, throughout the siege, and at the last massacre. The Santa Clara Indians say that the emigrants could not get to the water, as besiegers lay around the spring ready to shoot anyone who approached it. This could easily have been done. Major [Henry] Prince, Paymaster, U.S.A., and Lieutenant Ogle, First Dragoons, on the 17th of this month., stood at the ditch which was in the corral and placed some men at the spring 28 yards distant, and they could just see the other men’s heads, both parties standing erect. This shows how vital a point the Assailants occupied; how close it was to the assailed, and how well protected it was from the direction of the corral.

The following account of the affair is, I think, susceptible of legal proof by those whose names are known, and who, I am assured, are willing to make oath to many of the facts which serve as links in the chain of evidence leading toward the truth of this grave question: By whom were these 120 men, women, and children murdered?

It was currently reported among the Mormons at Cedar City, in talking among themselves, before the troops ever came down south, (when all felt secure of arrest or prosecution), and nobody seemed to question the truth of it — that a train of emigrants of fifty or upward of men, mostly with families, came and encamped at this spring at Mountain Meadows in September 1857. It was reported in Cedar City, and was not, and is not doubted–even by the Mormons–that John D. Lee, Isaac C. Haight, John M. Higbee (the first resides at Harmony, the last two at Cedar City), were the leaders who organized a party of fifty or sixty Mormons to attack this train.

They had also all the Indians which they could collect at Cedar City, Harmony and Washington City to help them, a good many in number. This party then came down, and at first the Indians were ordered to stampede the cattle and drive them away from the train. Then they commenced firing on the emigrants; this firing was returned by the emigrants; one Indian was killed, a brother of the chief of the Santa Clara Indians, another shot through the leg, who is now a cripple at Cedar City. There were without doubt a great many more killed and wounded. It was said the Mormons were painted and disguised as Indians. The Mormons say the emigrants fought “like lions” and they saw that they could not whip them by any fair fighting.

After some days of fighting the Mormons had a council among themselves to arrange a plan to destroy the emigrants. They concluded, finally, that they could send some few down and pretend to be friends and try and get the emigrants to surrender. John D. Lee and three or four others, headmen, from Washington, Cedar, and Parowan (Haight and Higbee from Cedar), had their paint washed off and dressing in their usual clothes, took their wagons and drove down toward the emigrant’s corral as they were just traveling on the road on their ordinary business. The emigrants sent out a little girl towards them. She was dressed in white and had a white handkerchief in her hand, which she waved in token of peace. The Mormons with the wagon waved one in reply and then moved on towards the corral. The emigrants then came out, no Indians or others being in sight at this time, and talked with these leading Mormons with the three wagons.

They talked with the emigrants for an hour or an hour and a half, and told them that the Indians were hostile and that if they gave up their arms it would show that they did not want to fight; and if they, the emigrants, would do this they would pilot them back to the settlements. The migrants had horses which had remained near their wagons; the loose stock, mostly cattle, had been driven off–not the horses. Finally, the emigrants agreed to these terms and delivered up their arms to the Mormons with whom they had counseled. The women and children then started back toward Hamblin’s house, the men following with a few wagons that they had hitched up. On arriving at the Scrub Oaks, etc., where the other Mormons and Indians lay concealed, Higbee, who had been one of those who had inveigled the emigrants from their defenses, himself gave the signal to fire when a volley was poured in from each side, and the butchery commenced and was continued until it was consummated.

The property was brought to Cedar City and sold at public auction. It was called in Cedar City, and is so-called now by the Facetious Mormons, “property taken at the siege of Sebastopol.” The clothing stripped from the corpses, bloody and with bits of flesh upon it, shredded by the bullets from the persons of the poor creatures who wore it, was placed in the cellar of the tithing office (an official building), where it lay about three weeks when it was brought away by some of the party; but witnesses do not know whether it was sold or given away. It is said the cellar smells of it even to this day.