Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows massacre

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Mountain Meadows massacre
Mountain Meadows massacre (Stenhouse).png
Series of articles about the
Mountain Meadows massacre

At the time of the Mountain Meadows massacre, Brigham Young, was serving as LDS Church President and would be replaced the following year by Alfred Cumming, as Governor of the Utah Territory.[1][2] Evidence as to whether or not Brigham Young ordered the attack on the migrant column is conflicted.[citation needed] Historians still debate the autonomy and precise roles of local Cedar City LDS church officials in ordering the massacre and Young's concealing of evidence in its aftermath.[3] Young's use of inflammatory and violent language[4] in response to the Federal expedition (known as the Utah War) added to the tense atmosphere at the time of the attack. After the massacre, Young stated in public forums that God had taken vengeance on the Baker-Fancher party.[5] It is unclear whether Young held this view because of a possible belief that this specific group posed a threat to colonists or that they were responsible for past crimes against Mormons. According to historian William P. MacKinnon, "After the war, Buchanan implied that face-to-face communications with Brigham Young might have averted the Utah War, and Young argued that a north-south telegraph line in Utah could have prevented the Mountain Meadows Massacre."[6]

Young's theology[edit]

Historians debate the role of Brigham Young in the massacre. Young was theocratic leader of the Utah Territory at the time of the massacre.

The Mountain Meadows massacre victimized several groups of emigrants from the northwestern Arkansas region who had started their treks to California in early 1857, joining along the way and becoming known as the Baker-Fancher party. For the decade prior the emigrants' arrival, Utah Territory had existed as a theocracy led by Brigham Young. As part of Young's vision of a pre-millennial "Kingdom of God", Young established colonies along the California and Old Spanish Trails, where Mormon officials governed as leaders of church, state, and military. Two of the southern-most establishments were Parowan and Cedar City, led respectively by Stake Presidents William H. Dame and Isaac C. Haight. Haight and Dame were, in addition, the senior regional military leaders of the Mormon militia. During the period just before the massacre, known as the Mormon Reformation, Mormon teachings were dramatic and strident. The religion had undergone a period of intense conflict with non-Mormons in the American midwest, and faithful Mormons made solemn oaths to pray for vengeance upon those who killed the "prophets" including founder Joseph Smith, Jr. and most recently apostle Parley P. Pratt, who was murdered in April 1857 in Arkansas.

Young's belated message to Isaac C. Haight, acting commander of the Iron County Brigade[edit]

On September 8, 1857, Capt. Stewart Van Vliet of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps arrived in Salt Lake City. Van Vliet's mission was to inform Young that the United States troops then approaching Utah did not intend to attack the Mormons, but intended to establish an army base near Salt Lake, and to request Young's cooperation in procuring supplies for the army. Young informed Van Vliet that he was skeptical that the army's intentions were peaceful, and that the Mormons intended to resist occupation.[7]

On September 10, 1857, James Holt Haslam arrived in Salt Lake City, after experiencing long delays during his nearly 300 mile journey, to deliver a message from the acting commander of the Iron County Brigade, Isaac C. Haight to Brigham Young.[8] This letter has yet to be found,[9] but accounts say it asked Brigham Young, what, if anything, should be done with the Baker-Fancher party camped at nearby Mountain Meadows.[10] After delivering the letter to Young, Haslam was told to rest for a few hours then return to pick up the reply.[11] After his rest, Haslam picked up the reply from Young, and was instructed to return to Cedar City with the letter quickly and not to "spare horseflesh".[11]

President Young’s message of reply to Haight, dated September 10, 1857, read:

"In regard to emigration trains passing through our settlements, we must not interfere with them until they are first notified to keep away. You must not meddle with them. The Indians we expect will do as they please but you should try and preserve good feelings with them. There are no other trains going south that I know of[.] [I]f those who are there will leave let them go in peace."[12]

Yet, by the time the express rider delivered Young's letter to Haight, ordering that the emigrants not be harmed, the murders at Mountain Meadows had already taken place. According to trial testimony given later by express rider Haslam, when Haight read Young’s words, he sobbed like a child and could manage only the words, "Too late, too late."[13]

Historians debate the letter's contents. Brooks believes it shows Young "did not order the massacre, and would have prevented it if he could."[14] Bagley argues that the letter covertly gave other instructions.[15]

Young's investigation[edit]

A few days after the massacre, September 29, 1857, John D. Lee briefed Brigham Young on the massacre. Decades later, Young's son, 13 years old in 1857, said he was in the office during that meeting and that he remembered Lee blaming the massacre on the Native Americans.[16] Some time after Lee's meeting with Young, Jacob Hamblin said he reported to Young and George A. Smith what he said Lee had related to Hamblin on his journey to Salt Lake.[17] Brigham Young was mistaken when he later testified, under oath, that the meeting took place "some two of three months after the massacre".[18] When Lee attempted to relate the details of the massacre, however, Young later testified he cut Lee off, stopping him from reciting further details.[18]

When Brigham Young sent his report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1858, he said the massacre was the work of Native Americans.[19]

Young first heard about the massacre from second-hand reports,[18] After Lee reached Salt Lake City, Lee met with Young on September 29, 1857,[20] according to Lee, he told Young about Mormon involvement. Young, however, later testified that he cut Lee off when he started to describe the massacre, because he could not bear to hear the details.[18] Lee, however, said he told Young of involvement by Mormons. Nevertheless, according to Jacob Hamblin, Hamblin heard a detailed description of the massacre and Mormon involvement from Lee and reported it to Young and George A. Smith soon after the massacre. Hamblin said he was told to keep quiet, but that "as soon as we can get a court of justice, we will ferret this thing out".[17]

With regard to the new policy to unbridle Natives to steal cattle, roughly at the same time of the massacre Indian agent Hurt received word that militia leadership at Ogden had arranged for the Snake tribe to run off over 400 cattle that were being driven toward California.[21]

Lee's suggestion of a conspiracy[edit]

During the 1870s Lee,[22] Dame, Philip Klingensmith and two others (Ellott Willden and George Adair, Jr.) were indicted and arrested while warrants were obtained to pursue the arrests of four others (Haight, Higbee, William C. Stewart and Samuel Jukes) who had successfully gone into hiding. Klingensmith escaped prosecution by agreeing to testify.[23] Brigham Young removed some participants including Haight and Lee from the LDS church in 1870. The U.S. posted bounties of $500 each for the capture of Haight, Higbee and Stewart while prosecutors chose not to pursue their cases against Dame, Willden and Adair.

At his sentencing, as required by Utah Territory statute, he was given the option of being hung, shot, or beheaded, and he chose to be shot.[24] 1877, before being executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows (a fate Young believed just, but not a sufficient blood atonement, given the enormity of the crime, to get him into the celestial kingdom)[25][26] Lee himself professed that he was a scapegoat for others involved, saying:

I have always believed, since that day, that General George A. Smith was then visiting Southern Utah to prepare the people for the work of exterminating Captain Fancher's train of emigrants, and I now believe that he was sent for that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young.

The knowledge of how George A. Smith felt towards the emigrants, and his telling me that he had a long talk with Haight on the subject, made me certain that it was the wish of the Church authorities, that Fancher and his train should be wiped out, and knowing all this, I did not doubt then, and I do not doubt it now, either, that Haight was acting by full authority from the Church leaders, and that the orders he gave to me were just the orders that he had been directed to give, when he ordered me to raise the Indians and have them attack the emigrants.[27]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ LDS Church Department of History. "Brigham Young, 2nd President of the Church". History of the Church - Presidents of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Utah State Historical Society/Utah State History. "Alfred Cumming". Utah History to Go. State of Utah. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Shirts 1994
  4. ^ MacKinnon 2007, p. 57
  5. ^ Bagley 2002, p. 247.
  6. ^ MacKinnon 2007, p. endnote 50
  7. ^ Bagley 2002, pp. 134–139; Brooks 1950, pp. 138–139; Denton 2003, pp. 164–165; Thompson 1860, p. 15
  8. ^ https://archive.org/details/supplementtolect00penrrich
  9. ^ http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/six/young.htm
  10. ^ Bagley, Will (2002). Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 126. 
  11. ^ a b Bagley, Will (2002). Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 136. 
  12. ^ Brigham Young to Isaac C. Haight, 10 September 1857, Letterpress Copybook 3:827–28, Brigham Young Office Files, LDS Church Archives.
  13. ^ James H. Haslam, interview by S. A. Kenner, reported by Josiah Rogerson, 4 December 1884, typescript, 11, in Josiah Rogerson, Transcripts and Notes of John D. Lee Trials, LDS Church Archives.
  14. ^ Brooks, "The Mountain Meadows Massacre" p. 219
  15. ^ See [1] this review of Bagley's book by Jeff Needle of the Association for Mormon Letters where this subject is debated.
  16. ^ John W. Young affidavit (1884)
  17. ^ a b Hamblin 1876.
  18. ^ a b c d Young 1875.
  19. ^ Brooks 1950, p. 118
  20. ^ Diary of Wilford Woodruff (Brooks 1950, p. 104); Affidavit of John W. Young (1884) (saying the meeting took place "in the latter part of September, 1857"). Brigham Young was mistaken when he later testified that the meeting took place "some two of three months after the massacre" Young 1875.
  21. ^ See Message of the President. December 4, 1859. Hurt to Forney. Also see Bagley, p. 113.
  22. ^ Lee was arrested on November 7, 1874. "John D. Lee Arrested", Deseret News, November 18, 1874, p. 16.
  23. ^ Tragedy at Mountain Meadows Massacre: Toward a Consensus Account and Time Line
  24. ^ "Territorial Dispatches: the Sentence of Lee", Deseret News, October 18, 1876, p. 4.
  25. ^ Young 1877, p. 242) (Young was asked after Lee's execution if he believed in blood atonement. Young replied, "I do, and I believe that Lee has not half atoned for his great crime".)
  26. ^ Interview with Brigham Young, Deseret News, April 30, 1877
  27. ^ Lee 1877, pp. 225–226.

References[edit]

  1. Bagley, Will (2002), Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-3426-7.
  2. Briggs, Robert H. (2006), "The Mountain Meadows Massacre: An Analytical Narrative Based on Participant Confessions", Utah Historical Quarterly 74 (4): 313-333.
  3. Brooks, Juanita (1950), The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-2318-4.
  4. Carleton, James Henry (1859), Special Report on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Washington: Government Printing Office (published 1902).
  5. Carrington, Albert, ed. (April 6, 1859), "The Court & the Army", Deseret News 9 (5): 2.
  6. Cradlebaugh, John (March 29, 1859), Anderson, Kirk, ed., "Discharge of the Grand Jury", Valley Tan 1 (22): 3.
  7. Cuch, Forrest S. (2000). History of Utah's American Indians. Salt Lake City: Utah State Division of Indian Affairs : Utah State Division of History : Distributed by Utah State University Press, pp.131-139. ISBN 0-913738-48-4. OCLC 45321868. Retrieved on 2007-07-08. .
  8. Fisher, Alyssa (2003-09-16), "A Sight Which Can Never Be Forgotten", Archaeology.
  9. Forney, J[acob]. (May 5, 1859), "Visit of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs to Southern Utah", Deseret News 9 (10): 1, May 11, 1859.
  10. Hamblin, Jacob (September 1876), "Testimony of Jacob Hamblin", in Linder, Douglas, Mountain Meadows Massacre Trials (John D. Lee Trials) 1875–1876, University of Missouri-Kansas School of Law, 2006.
  11. Hamblin, Jacob (1881), "Jacob Hamblin: A Narrative of His Personal Experience", Faith Promoting Series, vol. 5.
  12. Hamilton, Henry, ed. (1857), "Horrible Massacre of Arkansas and Missouri Emigrants", Los Angeles Star (published October 10, 1857).
  13. Lee, John D. (1877), Bishop, William W., ed., Mormonism Unveiled; or the Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee, St. Louis, Missouri: Bryan, Brand & Co..
  14. MacKinnon, William P. (2007), "Loose in the stacks, a half-century with the Utah War and its legacy", Dialogue, a journal of Mormon thought 40 (1): 43–81.
  15. Rogers, Wm. H. (February 29, 1860), "The Mountain Meadows Massacre", Valley Tan 2 (16): 2–3; also included in Brooks (1991) Appendix XI.
  16. Shirts, Morris A. (1994), "Mountain Meadows Massacre", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917 .
  17. Smith, George A. (July 30, 1875), at Salt Lake City, "Deposition, People v. Lee", Deseret News 24 (27): 8, August 4, 1875.
  18. Stoffle, Richard W; Michael J Evans (1978). Kaibab Paiute history : the early years. Fredonia, Ariz.: Kaibab Paiute Tribe, p. 57. OCLC 9320141. .
  19. Thompson, Jacob (1860), Message of the President of the United States: communicating, in compliance with a resolution of the Senate, information in relation to the massacre at Mountain Meadows, and other massacres in Utah Territory, 36th Congress, 1st Session, Exec. Doc. No. 42, Washington, D.C..
  20. Whitney, Helen & Jane Barnes (2007), The Mormons (Documentary), Washington, D.C.: PBS.
  21. Young, Brigham (July 30, 1875), at Salt Lake City, "Deposition, People v. Lee", Deseret News 24 (27): 8, August 4, 1875.
  22. Young, Brigham (April 30, 1877), "Interview with Brigham Young", Deseret News 26 (16): 242–43, May 23, 1877.

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