Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts

It is reported that John D. Lee, Haight, and Philip Klingensmith (the latter lives in Cedar City) went to Salt Lake City immediately after the massacre, and counseled with Brigham Young about what should be done with the property. They took with them the ready money they got from the murdered emigrants and offered it to Young. He said he would have nothing to do with it. He told them to divide the cattle and cows among the poor. They had taken some of the cattle to Salt Lake City merchants there. Lee told Brigham that the Indians would not be satisfied if they did not have a share of the cattle. Brigham left it to Lee to make the distribution. One or two of the Mormons did not like it that Lee had this authority, as they say, he swindled them out of their share. Lee was the smartest man of the lot.

The wagons, carriages, and rifles, etc., were distributed among the Mormons. Lee has a carriage reported be one of them. The Indians have but few of the rifles.

Much of this seems to be corroborated by a man named Whitelock, a dentist, now at Camp Floyd. Whitelock says he was told by a Mormon, who acknowledged that he was present at the massacre, but who is now in California, “that orders to destroy the emigrants first came from above” (Mormon Leadership) and that a party of armed men under the command of a man named John D. Lee, who was then a bishop in the church, but who has since (as Brigham Young says) been deposed, left the settlements of Beaver City, north of Parowan, Parowan City, and Cedar City on what was called a “secret expedition,” and after an absence of a few days returned, bringing back strange wagons, cattle, horses, mules and also household property.

There is legal proof that this property was sold at the official tithing office of the church. Whitelock says that this man could not report the details of the massacre without tears and trembling. He said he was so horrified at these atrocities he fled away from Utah to California. The man said he saw children clinging around the knees of the murderers, begging for mercy and offering themselves as slaves for life could they be spared. But their throats were cut from ear to ear as an answer to their appeal.

There are now wagons, carriages, and cattle in possession of the Mormons which can be sworn to, it is said, as having belonged to these emigrants by those who saw them upon the plains.

Two hundred and forty eight head of cattle were sold on the Jordan River after the arrival of the Army to United States commissaries by Mormons, and it is said that they can be traced as having come through the hands of Lee and [William H.] Hooper, who was Mormon Secretary of State, and were without doubt the cattle taken from the emigrants. Others are seen in the hands of the Mormons which are believed to have been captured at the time of the massacre. The Paiute Indians of the Muddy River said to me that they know the Mormons had charged them with the massacre of the emigrants, but said they, “where are the wagons, the cattle, the clothing, the rifles, and other property belonging to the train? We have not got or had them. No, you find all these things in the hands of the Mormons.” There is some logical reasoning in that, creditable at least to the obscure minds of miserable savages, whatever be the truth.

But there is not the shadow of a doubt that the emigrants were butchered by the Mormons themselves, assisted doubtless by the Indians. The idea of letting the emigrants come on to an obscure quarter of the Territory, amid the fastnesses of the mountains, with a formidable desert extending from that point to California, over which a stranger to the country, without sustenance, escape with his life; to a point were the Indians were numerous enough to lend assistance, and who could plausibly be charged with the crime in case, in the future any people should give trouble by asking ugly questions on the subject, exhibits consideration as to future contingencies of which these miserable Indians, at least are entirely incapable.

Besides, “fifty men that would do to tie to” in a fight, all well armed and experts in the use of the rifle, could have wiped out ten times their number of Paiute Indians armed only with the bow and arrow. Hamblin himself, their agent, informed that to his certain knowledge in 1856 there were but three guns in the whole tribe. I doubt if they had many more in 1857. The emigrants were to be destroyed with as little loss to the Mormons as possible, and no one old enough to tell the tale was to be left alive. To effect this the whole plans and operations, from beginning to end, display skill, patience, pertinacity and forecast, which no people here at the time were equal to except the Mormons themselves. Hamblin says three men escaped. They were doubtless herding when the attack was made, or crept out of a corral by night.

The fate of one of these he had never learned. He must have been murdered off the road or perished of hunger and thirst in the mountains. At all events he never went through to California or he would have been heard from. One got as far as the Muddy River, ninety odd miles from Mountain Meadows. There the Indians cut his throat. The other got as far as Las Vegas, 45 miles still farther towards California, where he arrived totally naked, some Indians having stripped him of his clothes. Hamblin said an acquaintance of his coming from that way had seen marks in the sand where the Indians had thrown him down and where there had been struggling when he was stripped. The Las Vegas Indians cut his throat likewise. The Mormons had a fort at Las Vegas, now abandoned, but which was occupied at that time.

Here is something which seems to point to the “tracks in the sand of three men who wore fine boots” which brothers Ira Hatch and Prime Coleman saw at the Beaver Dams, and at which they became so frightened that they didn’t stop to get water, although there was none other within 20 miles. During this “Siege of Sebastapol” or after the final massacre, it was doubtless discovered that the three emigrants had escaped, and Brothers Hatch and Coleman, perhaps two Mormons named Young, were sent in pursuit to cut them off on the desert or to get the Indians to do it. Hatch talks Paiute like a native, and is now an interpreter of their language whenever needed. One of the Youngs, who now lives at Cotton Farm, near the confluence of The Virgin and Santa Clara, tells this story of the emigrants murdered on the Muddy:

“He and his brother, each on horseback, and leading a third horse, were traveling from California, as he says, to Utah. Just before they arrived at Muddy River they met one of the emigrants on foot. He had been wounded; was unarmed and without provisions or water. It was at daybreak. He had traveled already nearly 100 miles from the Mountain Meadows. He seemed to be terror stricken. His mind was wandering. He talked incoherently about the massacre and his purposes. Under the awful scenes he had witnessed, the pain of his wound, and the privations he had endured his senses had given away. They told him of the long deserts ahead of which, if he pursued his way, he would certainly perish. They persuaded him to return with them; mounted him on their lead horse, and so came on to the Muddy, where they stopped to prepare breakfast. One of the Young’s laid his coat, containing in its pocket $500 all their money, on a bush. And commenced frying some cakes at a fire which had been kindled.

The Indians gathered around in great numbers. The chief would seize the cakes from the pan as fast as they were done, and eat them. At last one of the Youngs struck the chief with a knife, whereupon all the Indians rose to kill the three men. Young says he and his brother drew their revolvers, and holding them on the Indians, kept them at a distance until they got to their horses, had mounted, and were out of arrow shot. They then looked back for the emigrant who had seemed as he sat abstracted by the fire, hardly to comprehend what was going on. He had not left the spot where he sat. Three or four Indians had him down and were cutting his throat. They themselves, then made off, leaving coat, money, and all their provisions.”