Some writers say that officials of the Mormon Church stirred the Indians up and kept egging them on till they attacked us, and then told their own folks to jump in and help the Indians finish up the job, after tricking our men into giving up their guns. But the Mormon writers insist that nobody with any real authority in the church organization knew what was going on till it was too late for them to stop it, even though they tried their best. They admit, though, that there were some Mormons mixed up in it, and years after it was over, they laid most of the blame on John D. Lee, who was a Mormon and an Indian agent. But I’ll tell about that later.
On the morning of September 7, our party was just sitting down to a breakfast of quail and cottontail rabbits when a shot rang out from a nearby gully, and one of the children toppled over, hit by the bullet.
Right away, the men saw they were being attacked by an Indian war party. In the first few minutes of fighting, twenty-two of our men were shot down, seven of them killed outright. Everybody was half-starved to death and I reckon the whole crowd would have been wiped out right then and there if Captain Fancher hadn’t been such a cool-headed man.
He had things organized in next to no time. All the women and children were rounded up in the corral, formed by the wagons, and the men divided into two groups, one to throw up breastworks with picks and shovels and the other to fire back at the Indians.
The fighting kept up pretty regularly for four days and nights. Most of our horses and cattle were driven away. Our ammunition was running out. We were cut off from our water supply. Altogether, it looked pretty hopeless but I don’t think our men would have ever surrendered if John D. Lee and his crowd hadn’t tricked them.
According to the way I heard it, while we were trapped down there in the valley, just about perishing for lack of water and food, John D. Lee and some of the other Mormons held a strange kind of prayer meeting back in the woods, just out of sight of our camp. They knelt down and prayed for Divine instructions, and then one of them named John M. Higbee, who was a major in the Mormon militia, got up and said: “I have evidence of God ‘s approval of our mission.”
“He said all of our party must be put out of the way, and that none should be spared who was old enough to tell tales. Then they decided to let the Indians kill our women and older children, so no Mormon would be guilty of shedding innocent blood. They figured that more than likely all of our men were guilty of some sin or other if it wasn’t anything worse than hating Mormons, and really should be killed, but maybe the women and older children were innocent of any wrongdoing, and it seems Mormons prided themselves on being right scrupulous about shedding innocent blood.
Years later, when he was put on trial, John D. Lee insisted he was against the whole idea and tried to talk the others out of it, but that Major Higbee, Philip Klingensmith, who was a Mormon bishop, and some of the others told him he would have to go through with it, He said Higbee told him: “Brother Lee, I am ordered by President Haight to inform you that you shall receive a crown of Celestial glory for your faithfulness, and your eternal joy shall be complete.”
I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but that’s what Lee said, and he claimed he had to follow orders because Haight was president of the Stake of Zion, or division of the church, at Cedar City.
But anyway, on the morning of September 11, John D. Lee and another Mormon came down toward our camp carrying a white flag and our men sent out a little girl dressed in white, to show that they were ready to come to terms.
Then Lee came on down to the camp and said the Indians had gone hog wild but that the Mormons would try to save us and take us all to Cedar City, the nearest big Mormon settlement if our men would give up their guns.
Well, our men didn’t have much choice. It was either stick it out and fight till the last of us was killed or starved, or else take Lee up on his proposition, even though it did sound fishy.
So the guns were all put in one wagon and sent on ahead. Then the wounded and the young children, including me, my two sisters and my baby brother were put in another wagon. My mother and father had been wounded during the fighting, so they were in the wagon with us children.
It ‘s funny how you will recall unimportant details, after so many years. I remember, for instance, that the blankets we had with us in that wagon were bright red and had black borders.
After the wagon I was in had set out, the women and the older children followed us on foot. Then the Mormons made the men wait until the women and children were a good ways ahead before starting the men out single file, about ten feet apart. I think my grandfather must have been in that procession. Betty and I never could find out for sure just when he was killed, all we could learn was that he was killed during the massacre.
Each of our men had an armed Mormon walking right by his side. They said that was because the Indians might start acting up again, but that wasn’t the real reason, as you will soon see.
The line had been moving along slowly for some little distance when all of a sudden the figure of a white man appeared in the bushes with Indians all around him. I’ve heard that he was Higbee and that he shouted: “Do your duty!”
Anyway, the Indians opened fire and then charged down with their tomahawks. Each Mormon walking along with our men wheeled around suddenly and shot the man next to him, killing most of them on the spot.
The women and older children screamed at the top of their lungs and scattered every which way, but the Indians ran them down. They poked guns into the wagon, too, and killed all of the wounded. As I have already said, my father and mother were killed right before our eyes.
One of the Mormons ran up to the wagon, raised his gun, and said: “Lord, my God, receive their spirits, it is for Thy Kingdom that I do this. Then he fired at a wounded man who was leaning against another man, killing them both with the same bullet.
A 14-year-old boy came running up toward our wagon, and the driver, who was a Mormon, hit him over the head with the butt end of his gun, crushing the boy’s skull. A young girl about 11 years old, all covered with blood, was running toward the wagon when an Indian fired at her point-blank.
In the midst of all the commotion, the two Dunlap girls I spoke about before, Ruth, who was 18, and Rachel, who was 16 made a wild dash for a clump of scrub oaks on the far side of a gully.
Hidden in the scrub oaks, they must have thought they were safe but they weren’t. Their bodies were found later, and the evidence is that they suffered far worse than any of the other women.