Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts

The following letter from Mr. J. W. Christian, of San Bernardino, to Mr. G. N. Whitman, of this city, has been kindly placed at our disposal, and we give it at length, as it is the fullest report of the massacre, and the cause which led to it, that has reached us. The writer seems to intimate that the Mormons will be held responsible for the murder, and in this respect, he is fully borne out by present indications, for a general belief pervades the public mind here that the Indians were instigated to this crime by the “Destroying Angels” of the church, and that the blow fell on these emigrants from Arkansas, in retribution of the death of Parley Pratt, which took place in that State. The truth of the matter will not be known until the Government makes an investigation of the affair. This should be done, to place blame in the right quarter, as well as to inflict chastisement on the immediate actors in the fearful-tragedy, who are reported to be the Santa Clara tribe of Indians. The following is the letter:

San Bernardino, October 4th, 1857:

I take this opportunity of informing you of the murder of an entire train of emigrants, on their way from Missouri and Arkansas to this state, via Great Salt Lake City; which took place, according to the best information I can possibly acquire, at the Mountain Meadows, which are at or near the rim of the Great Basin, and some distance south of the most southern Mormon settlements, between the 10th and 12th of last month. It is absolutely one of the most horrible massacres I have ever had the painful necessity of relating.

The company consisted of about 130 or 135 men, women and children, and including some forty or forty-five capable of bearing arms. They were in possession of quite an amount of stock consisting of horses, mules, and oxen. The encampment was attacked about daylight in the morning, so say the Indians, by the combined forces of all the various tribes immediately in that section of the country. It appears that the majority of them were slain at the first onset made by the Indians. The remaining forces formed themselves into the best position their circumstances would allow; but before they could make the necessary arrangement for protecting themselves from the arrows, there were but few left who were able to bear arms. After having corralled their wagons, and dug a ditch for their protection, they continued to fire upon the Indians for one or two days, but the Indians had so secreted themselves that, according to their own statement, there was not one of them killed, and but few wounded. They (the emigrants) then sent out a flag of truce, borne by a little girl, and gave themselves up to the mercy of the savages, who immediately rushed in and slaughtered all of them, with the exception of fifteen (actually 17) infant children, that have since been purchased, with much difficulty, by the Mormon interpreters.

I presume it would be unnecessary, for all practical purposes, to relate the causes which gave rise to the above-described catastrophe, from the simple fact that it will be attributed to the Mormon people, let the circumstances of the case be what they may. But it seems, from a statement which I received from Elders Wm. Mathew and William Hyde, who were in Great Salt Lake City at the time the train was there, recruiting their “fit-out;” and were on the road to this place at the time when they were murdered, but several days’ journey in the rear-somewhere about the Beaver Mountains, which is between Parawan and Fillmore cities — that the causes were something like these: The train camped at Corn Creek, near Fillmore City, where there is an Indian village, the inhabitants of which have raised a crop of wheat and a few melons. And in trading with the Indians, they gave them cash for wheat, and they not knowing the value of coin were severely cheated. They wanted a blanket for a sack of wheat, but they gave them fifty cents and told them that amount would buy a blanket. They also had an ox with them which had died, and they put strychnine in him, for the purpose of poisoning the Indians; and also put poison of some description in the water, which is standing in holes. This occasioned several deaths among them, within a few days after the departure of the train. And upon this, it seems, the Indians gathered themselves together, and had, no doubt chose the place of attack, and arranged everything before the train arrived at the place where they were murdered.

It was ascertained by some of the interpreters, from a few of the Indians who were left at Corn Creek, that most of the Indians in the country had left; but they could not learn for what purpose, and before any steps could be taken to ascertain for certain what was the cause, the story was told they were all killed.

Yours truly, J. Ward Christian

The Immigrant Massacre, Daily Alta, San Francisco, October 17, 1857

This morning, while conversing with some immigrants, who have lately arrived via the Plains from Arkansas, and are living within a few miles of this place, I related to them the circumstances of the massacre. They immediately informed me that they knew who the parties were. They stated that there were three, and perhaps four, companies from Arkansas, while the balance of the company was made up of Missourians, who fell in with them; of these latter, they knew nothing, but the Arkansas companies, consisted of Fanchers, Camerons and the two Dunlaps, and perhaps Bakers. They were from the counties of Marion, Carroll, and Johnson. They say when they saw them, they were encamped six miles from Salt Lake City, that they had been there for some time, and that they intended to stay there until the weather got cool enough for them to come by the South Pass, expecting to make a stay of eight weeks altogether. Baker had not arrived there when they left, but as they can learn nothing from him or his company, they concluded that he had fallen in and decided to come into California with these companies. The two Dunlaps each had nine children, some of them well grown. If these are the persons who were slaughtered, who can be so blind as not to see that the hands of Mormons are stained with this blood. How could so large a company remain among them for two months and they not learn one name? and why would the Indians kill every being, except those that were too young to communicate anything to their friends, or hardly tell a name, or tell who were the murderers of their parents, and brothers and sisters; or even discriminate between white men and Indians? Why all this concealment? and in the very face of it, the Indians tell what they have done and sell all their spoils to the whites. It will do to lay this blood upon them, but I feel certain that investigation will throw it off.

Murders At Mountain Canon Confirmed, Daily Alta, San Francisco, October 27, 1857

By the arrival of the steamer Senator, we have received through Wells Fargo & Co., the San Diego Herald of October 17th, and files of the Los Angeles Star to the 24th.

The report of the late terrible massacre of the emigrants in southern Utah, is fully confirmed.

We invite particular attention to our Los Angeles letter, which appears below. It gives minute details of the dreadful massacre at the Mountain Canon, and also subsequent outrages on emigrants, together with other matters of general interest. Our San Diego exchanges contain nothing of importance.

Our Los Angeles Correspondence, October 24, 1857:

The massacre of more than a hundred American citizens by Mormon traitors and Indians has created great excitement among all classes in our community, and we hope that the tocsin is now sounded that shall rouse the nation and compel the government to protect our countrymen from the additional danger which foreign territories. For long years outrage upon outrage has been committed and representations made imploring aid in that inhospitable region where nature herself is so repulsive as almost to forbid travel, but their calls have been unheeded.

Our whole community has been deeply moved. Many of them are waiting and wishing for a call, to go and abate the evils which arrest the weary traveler and consign him to an unknown and nameless grave, midway to his destination. Two large public meetings were held in this city last week, under the circus pavilion, at which speeches were made by several who had been at Salt Lake, and resolutions were passed, which, I believe, express the sentiments of everybody here but Mormons. There is a sentiment of extermination, living and intense, growing in the minds of all true Americans, against the traitors who have planted themselves in our territory, and who have instigated the savages of the desert to slaughter and rapine. Will the government make any effort to redeem its character for pusillanimity, in so long delaying to correct those monstrous evils? does there need hecatombs more of victims, before anything is done?