Juanita Brooks

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Juanita Brooks
Juanita Pulsipher Brooks.jpg
Born January 15, 1898
Bunkerville, Nevada, United States
Died August 26, 1989(1989-08-26) (aged 91)
Occupation Historian, author
Nationality American

Juanita Pulsipher Brooks[1] (January 15, 1898 – August 26, 1989) was an American historian and author, specializing in the American West and Mormon history, including books related to the Mountain Meadows massacre, to which her ancestor Dudley Leavitt was sometimes linked.[2]


Dudley H. Leavitt, father of Juanita (Leavitt) Brooks, photographed riding his horse 'Flax'

Born Juanita Leone Leavitt, Brooks was born and raised in Bunkerville, Nevada. In 1919 she married Ernest Pulsipher, who died of cancer little more than a year later, leaving her with an infant son. She earned her bachelor's degree from BYU and a master's degree from Columbia University. Settling in St. George, Utah, she became an instructor of English and dean of women at the LDS-backed, Dixie Junior College. In 1933, the same year the state of Utah discontinued funding for parochial Mormon secondary education,[3] she resigned from the college to marry a widower, Will Brooks. She became stepmother to his four sons. Within five years the couple added a daughter, Willa Nita, and three sons to their family.

For many years she served on the Board of the Utah Historical Society where she devoted herself to unearthing diaries and records of early settlers and organized a Utah library of Mormon history. The diary-collecting project was begun under the Works Progress Administration during the Depression of the 1930s; the project's transcripts were eventually catalogued at the Library of Congress.[4] She continued this work for the Huntington Library in the 1940s.[5]

But more importantly, the study of diaries and other personal journals enlivened Brooks's historiography, and her subsequent works reflected her scrutiny of such sources. Brooks went on to write numerous historical articles as well as a variety of family narratives, including a biography of her pioneer grandfather Dudley Leavitt as well as a biography of her sheriff husband, Uncle Will Tells His Story.[2]

Brooks' notable books on Mormon history include The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950), John D. Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat (1961); she also edited Hosea Stout's diaries. Brooks' book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre broke new ground. It was the first comprehensive account of the incident using modern historical methods.

Living near the area in southern Utah where the massacre occurred, Brooks investigated the events thoroughly but found no evidence of direct involvement by Brigham Young. But she did charge Young with obstructing the investigation and with provoking the attack through his incendiary rhetoric, calling him "an accessory after the fact." Brooks suggested that Young became so fearful of federal invasion that he created a hothouse atmosphere where the militia saw threats everywhere.[6]

Brooks was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although church authorities discouraged Brooks from pursuing her study of the Mountain Meadows massacre, her book on it and many of her other studies received critical acclaim.[7] No official disciplinary action was taken against Brooks by the church, but Brooks said she initially felt ostracized from both her local congregation and church officials for her investigations into Mormon history.[8]

Brooks died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1989.[9]


  • A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee. Robert Glass Cleland, editor, and Juanita Brooks, editor. Huntington Library Press, reissue June 2004 (Paperback, 868pp), 3 Volumes in 1 book. ISBN 0-87328-178-0. First published in 1955.
  • Dudley Leavitt,: Pioneer to Southern Utah. Self-published, St. George, Utah. January 1942.
  • Emma Lee. Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 7th Printing 1984. ISBN 0-87421-121-2. First published in 1975.
  • Frontier tales; true stories of real people. Western Text Society, Special publication – 1972.
  • History of the Jews in Utah and Idaho 1853–1950. Salt Lake City, Utah, Western Epics, June 1973.
  • Jacob Hamblin, Mormon apostle to the Indians. reissue 1980.
  • John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat. Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, reissue November 1992 (paperback, 404 pp). ISBN 0-87421-162-X. First published in 1961.
  • The Mountain Meadows Massacre; University of Oklahoma Press (Tdr) reissue May 1991; (softcover, 318 pages). ISBN 0-8061-2318-4. First published in 1950.
  • On the ragged edge: The life and times of Dudley Leavitt. Salt Lake City, Utah, Utah State Historical Society, 1973.
  • Quicksand and cactus: A memoir of the southern Mormon frontier. Logan, Utah, Utah State University Press, reissue 1982.
  • On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, edited by Juanita Brooks. First edition 1964. Published by University of Utah Press. Republished in 1974 by University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Juanita's daughter-in-law was the great granddaughter of Hosea Stout).
  • Uncle Will Tells His Story, published by Taggart & Company, Salt Lake City, Utah. 249 pages. Only 2,500 copies were printed. (Uncle Will is the biography of her husband, written as though he was telling her stories of his life. According to Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City, Utah, Juanita Brooks was the first-place winner of the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts Creative Writing Competition for autobiography in 1969).
  • The Christmas Tree, published by Peregrine Smith Inc., One small edition, 1972 Hardcover, Jaunita and sister, Charity, manage to wrest a Christmas "tree" from the treeless Nevada desert where they live.


  1. ^ Her name was spelled Waneta on census rolls when she was a child. [1] (1910 NV Census, p68B:70)
  2. ^ a b American Women Historians 1700s–1990s: A Biographical Dictionary, Jennifer Scanlon, Shaaron Cosner. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996 ISBN 978-0-313-29664-2
  3. ^ http://new.dixie.edu/aboutdixie/ The history of Dixie College
  4. ^ Peterson, Levi (1988). Juanita Brooks: The Life Story of a Courageous historian of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. University of Utah Press. p. 158. ISBN 9781607811510. 
  5. ^ Despain, Matthew; Gowans, Fred R. "Juanita Brooks". Utah History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Defense of Zion, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Juanita Brooks, University of Oklahoma Press, 1987 ISBN 0-8061-2318-4
  7. ^ Peterson, Levi S. (1994), "Brooks, Juanita", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917 
  8. ^ Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright (2005), David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0-87480-822-7, p. 53.
  9. ^ Peterson, Levi S. (1989). "In Memoriam: Juanita Brooks" (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon History: 6–7. 


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