"Horrible Massacre of Emigrants!!" The Mountain Meadows Massacre in Public Discourse


Horrible Massacre of Emigrants—Over 100 Persons Killed. 

A letter from J. O. Ward to the Los Angelos Star, dated San Bernardino, Oct. 4th, 1857, states that an entire train of Emigrants from Missouri and Arkansas bound to California by way of Great Salt Lake, had been massacred by Indians at the Mountain Meadows, which are on or near the rim of the Great Basin, and some distance South of the most Southern Mormon settlements. The massacre took place about the 10th or 11th of September. Mr. Ward says he first obtained his information from the Indians. The account, no doubt much exaggerated, if not altogether untrue, is as follows:

The company consisted of one hundred and thirty or one hundred and thirty-five, women and children, and included some forty or forty-five capable of bearing arms. They were in possession of quite an amount of stock, consisting of horses mules and oxen. The encampment was attacked about daylight in the morning, so say the Indians, by the combined forces of all the various tribes immediately in the section of the country. It appears that the majority of them were slain at the first onset made by the Indians.

The remaining force formed themselves into the best position their circumstances would allow; but before they could make the necessary arrangements for protecting themselves from the arrows, there were but few left who were able to bear arms.

After having corralled their wagons and dug a ditch for their protection, they continued to fire upon the Indians for one or two days; but the Indians had so secreted themselves that, according to their own statement, there was not one of them killed, and but few wounded. They (the emigrants) then sent out a flag of truce, borne by a little girl, and gave themselves up to the mercy of the savages, who immediately rushed in and slaughtered all of them, with the exception of fifteen infant children that have since been purchased, with some difficulty, by the Mormon interpreters.

The causes which led to the massacre are reported to be that when the train camped at an Indian village near Fillmore City, the emigrants not only cheated the natives badly in trading with them, but they put strychnine in a dead ox for the purpose of poisoning the Indians, and also put poison in the water which stands in pools. This occasioned several deaths among the Indians within a few days after the departure of the train, whereupon the Indians rallied, selected a place of attack, and took terrible vengeance. Mr. W. says he obtained the statement of the causes of the massacre from Elders Matthews and Hyde, who were in Great Salt Lake City at the time this train was there recruiting their fit-out, and were on their way to San Bernardino when the murders were committed, but several days' journey in the rear of the emigrants.