Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts

Survivor of a Massacre: Mrs. Betty Terry, Arkansas Gazette, September 4, 1938, reported by Clyde R. Greenhaw

Mrs. Betty Terry of Harrison Vividly Recalls Massacre of Westbound Arkansas Caravan in Utah More Than 80 Years Ago

High in the Arkansas Ozarks stands a monument in the form of a historical marker for Caravan Springs, erected to a band of immigrants who, in the early spring of 1857, began here as ill-fated journey to California, the shining goal of their dreams.

Historical significance of the marker is contained in the inscription, which says: Caravan Spring. Near these springs in March, 1857, gathered a caravan of 150 men, women and children who here began their ill-fated journey to California. The entire party, with the exception of 17 small children, was massacred at Mountain Meadows, Utah, by a body of Mormons disguised as Indians.

The marker was sent to Harrison by the Arkansas Centennial Commission to be erected on Highway 7, at the entrance of the springs. The marker is cast iron and weighs 280 pounds. At the top is the Arkansas state flag.

In the farm home of her daughter, Mrs. Henry Holt, west of Harrison, Mrs. Betty Terry, 86, one of the two survivors of the ill-fated journey, is visiting. Mrs. Terry has been in Missouri the past two years. She arrived in Harrison this spring, to spend the remainder of her days in this, her native town. The only other known survivor of that ill-fated journey is Mrs. Terry’s sister, Mrs. Sally Frances Gladden-Mitchell, 83, of Checotah, Oklahoma. Mrs. Terry was only five years old at the time, but she distinctly remembers the incident, and clearly recalls many details.

Mrs. Terry’s brother, William Twitty Baker, lived near Harrison for many years, then finally settled at Marshall, Searcy County, where he was living at the time of his death in 1937.

A worn reference book owned by says briefly of the Mountain Meadow Massacre: In Utah, 350 miles south of Salt Lake City, September 7, 1857, about 140 men, women and children, emigrating from Arkansas and Missouri to Southern California, were fired upon by Indians, and, it is said, by Mormons disguised as Indians. They withstood the siege until the 11th, when, on promise of protection by John D. Lee, Mormon bishop and Indian agent, they left the shelter of their wagons. All over seven years of age were killed. Lee was executed for the crime with the Mormons suspected of complicity in it.

Mrs. Terry celebrated her 86th birthday anniversary March 7. Even at her advanced age, she never ceases to work, and with eyes still strong enough to see to read, write and sew, she pieces quilts for her children and has completed many handsome articles. She finished a quilt last winter and spent many days this spring tearing carpet strings. She has lived most of her life here, and has been an active member of the Baptist church since early girlhood. She continues to attend services regularly. Mr. Terry died 11 years ago. The couple reared nine children, three boys and six girls, five of whom are still living. An entry in the family bible reads, “Married, January 25, 1874, J.W. Terry to Martha Elizabeth Baker, both of Boone County, by the Rev. Calvin Williams.”

When kinsmen press her for a story she sometimes tells that of the massacre, saying, “The wagon train to California made up of folks from our neighborhood and Missouri, was said to be the richest and best equipped that ever started across the plains, with goods, wagons, buggies, carriages and hacks. There were 30 extra good teams of mules and horses in addition to a large number of extra horses, and about 600 to 800 head of cattle, and one of the finest blooded stallions that had ever been seen in the Ozarks at that time. Nearly a week was taken for the band to gather here. There were more than 200 in the train when it started out, but they split, part going a southern route and our division going on through the Utah way.

My father, mother, grandfather and several uncles and aunts were among those killed in the massacre. Our family had a larger number in the company than any other family and we had an extra wagon and provisions besides the one that carried the family. My sister and younger brother, William Twitty Baker, who was only seven months old, were spared. My sister and I were both kept in the family of John D. Lee until the soldiers came and rescued us a year later. My brother was being cared for in another Mormon family. I played with Brigham Young’s youngest children. My grandmother remained at Harrison, and when word came that the children had been rescued, she went out to bring us back. On the way out we stopped and made camp many times to rest the weary, footsore cattle, scouts going ahead to select campsites.

It took nearly six months, she recalled, for the immigrants to reach Mountain Meadows, which is located about 160 miles south of Salt Lake City. Camp was made at the spring at the west end of Mountain Meadows, Friday night, September 2 or 3.

Mountain Meadows is named for the beautiful mountains on the northern and southern borders. There was good grazing for the cattle and it was a good place to camp and rest, so the leaders of the caravan of immigrants decided to remain there several days before pushing on into the plains country.

Early on Monday morning, September 6, about the time that the earlier risers of the immigrants were moving about the camp near the spring, they were fired upon from ambush, Mrs. Terry said. An alarm was sounded, the entire party was aroused, and soon their more active men were organized with firearms and they succeeded in temporarily frightening away the intruders.

During the quiet that followed the first brief battle, all wagons were put into a circle, dirt was shoveled up under the wagon to serve as a breast works for fort like protection.

Several of the men left the corral to investigate the cause of the earlier firing, and these again were engaged in another battle at close range, causing several fatalities to the stronger and braver group of immigrants, but little loss to the enemy, who took advantage of the boulders and underbrush for shelter.

Preparations were made by the men in camp to conceal the women and children and prepare for battle. The siege continued at intervals of four to five days. Finally several white men, found to be Mormons and disguised in Indian garb, under the leadership of three white men, posing as government attaches, proposed to the wagon train group that if they would surrender their arms and ammunition they would be escorted back east to the nearest village of Cedar Valley. The immigrants surrendered all their arms and ammunition and reluctantly agreed to retrace their steps under escort toward Cedar Valley. When the party had traveled about one mile from the spring and campsite the Utah group called a halt, placed all children under seven years old in one wagon, and sent them ahead. With the aid of a large number in hiding, they immediately opened fire on the unarmed immigrants, killing the entire band.

The 17 children were sent ahead to the eastern end of the mountain valley to the home of one Hamblin, from which place they were distributed among the Mormons. The children were recovered by the government in the early summer of 1859 and were returned to Arkansas to their relatives. Names of the 17 children were as follows: John Calvin Sorel [John Calvin Miller,] Lewis and Mary Sorel, Ambrose, Milum, and William Tackitt, Francis Horn, Angeline, Annie and Nancy Saphrona Huff, Ephraim W. Huff, Chris and Tryphena  Fancher, Betsey and Jane Baker, William Welch Baker, Rebecca, Louisa and Sarah Dunlap.

Mrs. Terry sadly related that she never knew what became of her older sister, Vina. She was the prettiest of the three Baker girls, she said, and had beautiful long black hair. She was eight years old. The last time she remembers seeing her sister, she was being led away as a captive. “I do not know whether she was killed or whatever happened to her”. Just before the last attack on the immigrants, Mrs. Terry said she heard her father tell her mother to get up and put the children in the wagon. That was the last time she saw her mother, she said. ‘I distinctly remember the group disguised as Indians. There was not a real Indian in the group, for they went to the creek and washed the paint from their faces.”

“How was your grandmother able to identify and claim you?” Mrs. Terry was asked. “By clothing, and the sunbonnets which were quilted in a certain design still in our possession. My brother had a peculiar identification mark. The end of the index finger on each hand was smooth and glistening, without the sign of a fingernail, with but one joint to the finger, appearing much as a felon leaves a finger.” She explained that this disfigurement of the index fingers was a birthmark. “Our aunt lived with us and worked for our mother for months preceding my brother’s birth. She suffered terribly from a felon and complained much. Her felon was on an index finger. So when the brother was born, the two index fingers were marked as if from felons. He carried them that way through life and never had a felon.”

Before Caravan Springs are two huge flat rocks, where the family washing was done, she said: “They were long and broad and were on one side of the creek. Stately elm trees lined the creek banks, shading these rocks, where I spent many hours shedding tears.”

“I do hope they get the marker at the right spring,” she added. “Maybe I should go out there and point out the right place.’

A number of descendants, great-grandchildren of the wealthy Jack Baker who helped finance the emigrant train, now live in Harrison. Relatives of the Beller family who were members of the company, live there also.