Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts

John D. Lee confessed to a lot of things about the Mountain Meadows Massacre before he was finally executed for his part in it, but he never would admit that he had anything to do with what happened to the Dunlap girls. Just the same, a 16-year-old Indian boy, named Albert, who worked on the ranch of Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon who lived near the Meadows, said that he saw the whole thing, and here’s the way he told it:

Albert said another Indian found the girls and sent for Lee. At first, Lee wanted to kill them then and there, because they were old enough to tell tales,î but the Indian begged him to wait a while because they were so pretty. Ruth was old enough to realize what that meant, so she dropped on her knees and pleaded with Lee to spare her, promising that she would love him all her life if he would.

But, according to Albert, Lee and that Indian mistreated those poor girls shamefully and then slit their throats.

I don’t know whether or not Lee himself attacked the Dunlap girls and murdered them, or was directly responsible for what happened to them. But there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that they were brutally mistreated by somebody, before being murdered just as Jacob Hamlin’s Indian boy said they were. Hamblin was on his way back to his ranch from Salt Lake City at the time of the massacre and when he got home Albert told him about the Dunlap girls. Then the Indian boy led Hamblin to a clump of oak bushes not far from where the massacre took place and showed him the bodies of the two girls, stripped of all their clothing.

At Lee’s second trial, Hamblin took the stand and testified that what he saw seemed to bear out Albert’s story, and that later on, he talked to the Indian who was supposed to have been with Lee at the time, and that his account of it was pretty much the same as Albert’s.

There has been a lot of argument over how much part the Indians played in the massacre and how much of it was due to the Mormons, some people even saying that the Indians didn’t have anything to do with it at all and that some of the Mormons disguised themselves as Indians just to lay the blame on them. I can’t say as to the truth of that but I do know that my sister Betty, who died only a few months ago, always insisted that she had seen a lot of the Mormons down at the creek after it was all over, washing paint off their faces and that she some that some of them at least had disguised themselves as Indians.

At any rate, while the Indians, or a crowd of savage-looking men that appeared to be Indians, went around making sure that all the grown-ups were dead and giving a final shot to any who looked as if they had a spark of life left in them and also robbing the bodies of valuables well, while that was going on the Mormons rounded up all us children and took us off to their homes.

As I said, there were 17 of us, John Calvin Sorel, Lewis and Mary Sorel, Ambrose, Miriam and William Tagget, Francis Horn, Angeline Annie and Sophronia Mary Huff, Ephriam W. Hugg, Charles and Triphenia Fancher, Rebecca, Louise, and Sarah Dunlap and us three Baker children, Betty, Sallie, and William Welch Baker. I remember that we were treated right well in the Mormon home where we lived until we were rescued.

I recall, too, that we had good food and plenty of it. We had lots of rice and also honey right out of the comb. The only unpleasant thing that happened while we were there was when one of the older Mormon children in the house got mad at me and pushed me downstairs. I hurt my right hand, pretty badly and as a result of it, I still have a long scar across the knuckles. That makes two scars I got from the Mormons.

The way Captain Lynch and his soldiers found us was by going around among the Mormons in disguise. I got to know him right well later on, and, he used to slap his leg and laugh like anything, as he told how he said to those Mormons: “You let those children go, or I’ll blow you to purgatory.”

I never will forget the day we finally got back to Arkansas. You would have thought we were heroes. They had a buggy parade for us through Harrison. When we got around to our house, Grandma Baker, the one who refused to go to California, was standing on the porch. She was a stout woman and mighty dignified, too. When we came along the road leading up to the house she was pacing back and forth but when she caught sight of us she ran down the path and grabbed hold of us, one after the other, and gave us a powerful hug.

Leah, our old Negro mammy, caught me up in her arms and wouldn’t let me go. She carried me around all the rest of the day, even cooking supper with me in her arms. I remember she baked each of us children a special little apple turnover pie. We had creamed potatoes for supper that night, too, and they sure tasted good. I’ve been especially fond of creamed potatoes ever since. I remember I called all of the women I saw “mother.” I guess I was still hoping to find my own mother, and every time I called a woman “mother,” she would break out crying.

A good way back I spoke of how the John S. Baker party set out behind our party but never could catch up with us, and now I want to tell what happened to them. At the time of the massacre, they were only about two days travel behind us, and somebody came along and told them about it. They were just about scared out of their wits, of course, so the next morning they broke camp early and set out to skirt around the Meadows and head on across the desert.

The women had just tied their sunbonnets to the covered wagon bows and taken off their shoes, as they usually did while traveling when somebody shouted: “Indians coming!”

I don’t know whether they were some of the same Indians that were in on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or another band that heard about it and decided to do a little killing on their own hook.

But anyway, they opened fire and galloped around and around, whooping and yelling.

As near as I can recollect, the members of the John S. Baker party were: Mr. and Mrs. Baker; their young daughter, who later became Mrs. Perry Price and died a few years ago near Berryville, Arkansas; their baby son, William Baker, who shouldn’t be confused with my baby brother, Billy Baker; Dal Weaver, Mr. Baker’s uncle; Mrs. Dal Weaver; Dal’s brother, Pink Weaver; two Weaver sisters; and three young men named Smith and their old mother.

Dal Weaver was shot and killed in the first attack and later robbed of $1,000 in gold he had in a money belt. One of his sisters was killed in the first attack, too, and a bullet hit little William Baker, inflicting a scalp wound, but he got over it. Several others were also wounded, but not seriously.

There were several wagons in the train and before the men could wheel them around and form a corral, one of the teams got away and lit out with its wagon. Some of the Indians took out after that wagon and when they captured it they found it had a couple of ten-gallon kegs in it, one of whisky and the other of peach brandy. So that whole band of Indians took time out from the pleasure of killing for the pleasure of getting drunk.

That’s the only reason any of the John S. Baker party managed to escape, it gave them a chance to figure out a trick.

Meanwhile, one of the Smith brothers jumped on a horse and took out in the hope of getting help. but the Indians saw him and one of them lassoed him. The last anybody saw of him he was being dragged away.

When the Indians were all good and drunk they started to close in on the little party, huddled behind their wagons. But just as the Indians were about to pounce on them, the men ripped open all the feather beds they had, and threw a big cloud of feathers into the Indians’ faces, setting up a kind of smokescreen. Before the stupefied Indians had time to figure out what had happened, the grown folks in the party lit out for the bushes, carrying the children. Two of the Smith boys carried their old mother by making a pack saddle with their hands. I guess by that time the Indians were too drunk to follow them up.

Pink Weaver hurried on back down the trail as fast as he could, looking for help, and finally, he ran across some of the soldiers sent out to back up Governor Cumming. Meanwhile, the others followed him, as best they could. When the soldiers finally located them they were so weak they could hardly walk. They were taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and cared for till they were able to travel back to Arkansas.

In the Spring of 1859, Major James H. Carlton passed through Mountain Meadows and stopped there long enough to gather up the bones of the victims of the massacre. He found 34 skeletons and buried them in one place, under a heap of stones, and put up a cedar cross with these words on it: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Later on, Captain R. P. Campbell passed through the Meadows and found 26 more skeletons, which he also buried there. That only accounts for about half of the victims. Nobody knows what became of the other bodies.

In later years, a granite slab was put up in the Meadows, and on it were these words: “Here one hundred and twenty men, women and children were massacred in cold blood in September 1857. They were from Arkansas.”

Long after I had grown up and married and settled down, Captain Lynch, the man who rescued us, came to see me one day. He was in mighty high spirits and I could see right away he had something up his sleeve. He asked me if I remembered little Sarah Dunlap, one of the children he had rescued, and a sister of the two Dunlap girls who were killed. I said I sure did. Sarah was blind and had been educated at the school for the blind in Little Rock. I don’t recall whether any injury she might have gotten in the massacre was what made her blind, but I do remember she grew up to be a really beautiful girl. Well, Captain Lynch said: “Guess what? I’m on my way to see Sarah.”

When he mentioned her name it looked like he was going to blow up with happiness. Then he told me why. He was on his way right then to marry Sarah, and he did. I guess he must have been forty years older than she was, but he sure was a spry man just the same. I never saw anybody could beat him when it came to dancing and singing.

Sometime after the massacre, Federal Judge Cradlebaugh held an investigation and tried to bring to trial some of the Mormons. He was convinced were responsible for the crime, but he never got anywhere with it, and he was finally transferred from the district at his own request. Then the Civil War came on and nothing more was done about it until 1875.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2021.

Also See:

Mountain Meadows Massacre – 1889 Account

Primary Assassins

Wagon Train Members, Victims & Survivors

Brigham Young – Leading the Mormons

Mountain Meadows Massacre (primary article)