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


Horrible Massacre of Arkansas and Missouri Emigrants. 


A train of emigrants, from Missouri and Arkansas, for this State, were waylayed and cruelly butchered on the route, at a place called Santa Clara Cañon, near the rim of the Great Basin, about 300 miles from Salt Lake city. The scene of the massacre is differently designated as Santa Clara Cañon, the Mountain Springs, and the Mountain Meadows. But all agree in locating it near the rim of the Great Basin, and about fifty miles from Cedar City, the most southern of the Mormon settlements. Of a party of about 130 persons, only fifteen infant children were saved. The account was given by the Indians themselves to the Mormons at Cedar City, to which place they brought the children, who were purchased from them by the people of that city. Whether the cause assigned is sufficient to account for the result, or whether a different cause is at the bottom of the transaction, we will leave the reader to form his own conclusion. We can scarcely believe that a party traveling along a highway would act in the manner described, that is to poison the carcass of an ox, and also the water, thus endangering the lives of those who were coming after them. Yet this is the story told by all who have spoken of the massacre. It is stated, the emigrants had an ox which died, and they placed poison in the body and also poisoned the water standing in pools, for the purpose of killing the Indians; that several of the tribe had died from this cause, and that the whole force mustered, pursued the train, and coming up with them at the above named place, which favored their purpose, attacked and murdered the whole party, except a few infant children. The Indians state that they made but one charge on the party, in which they cut off the greater portion of the men, and then guarded the outlets of the cañon, and shot the men and women down as they came out for water; that one man was making his escape with a few children, and they followed him, killed him, and took the children fifteen in number, the eldest under five years of age. The report was brought to San Bernardino by Messrs. Sidney Tanner and W. Mathews.

The following letter from Mr. J. W. Christian, of San Bernardino, to Mr. G. N. Whitman, of this city, has been kindly placed at our disposal, and we give it at length, as it is the fullest report of the massacre, and the cause which led to it, that has reached us. The writer seems to intimate that the Mormons will be held responsible for the murder, and in this respect he is fully borne out by present indications, for a general belief pervades the public mind here that the Indians were instigated to this crime by the “Destroying Angels” of the church, and that the blow fell on these emigrants from Arkansas, >in retribution of the death of PARLEY PRATT, which took place in that State. The truth of the matter will not be known until the Government make an investigation of the affair. This should be done, to place blame in the right quarter, as well as to inflict chastisement on the immediate actors in the fearful-tragedy, who are reported to be the Santa Clara tribe of Indians. The following is the letter:—

I take this opportunity of informing you of the murder of an entire train of emigrants, on their way from Missouri and Arkansas to this State, via Great Salt Lake city; which took place, according to the best information I can possibly acquire, (which is, primarily, through Indians,) at the Mountain Meadows, which are at or near the Rim of the Great Basin, and some distance south of the most southern Mormon settlements, between the 10th and 12th ultimo. It is absolutely one of the most horrible massacres I have ever had the painful necessity of relating.

The company consisted of about 130 or 135 men, women and children, and including 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 that section of the country. It appears that the majority of them were slain at the first onset made by the Indians. The remaining forces formed themselves into the best position there circumstances would allow; but before they could make the necessary arrangement 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 much difficulty, by the Mormon interpreters.

I presume it would be unnecessary, for all practical purposes, to relate the causes which gave rise to the above described catastrophe, from the simple fact that it will be attributed to the Mormon people, let the circumstances of the case be what they may. But it seems, from a statement which I received from Elders Wm. Mathew and Wm. Hyde, who were in Great Salt Lake city at the time the train was there, recruiting their “fit out;” and were on the road to this place at the time when they were murdered, but several days' journey in the rear—somewhere about the Beaver Mountains, which is between Parawan and Fillmore cities—that the causes were something like these: The train camped at Corn Creek, near Fillmore City, where there is an Indian village, the inhabitants of which have raised a crop of wheat, and a few melons &c. And in trading with the Indians they gave them cash for wheat, and they not knowing the value of coin were severely cheated. They wanted a blanket for a sack of wheat, but they gave them fifty cents, and told them that amount would buy a blanket. They also had an ox with them which had died, and they put strychnine in him, for the purpose of poisoning the Indians; and also put poison of some description in the water, which is standing in holes. This occasioned several deaths among them, within a few days after the departure of the train. And upon this, it seems, the Indians gathered themselves together, and had, no doubt chose the place of attack, and arranged everything before the train arrived at the place where they were murdered.

It was ascertained by some of the interpreters, from a few of the Indians who were left at Corn Creek, that most of the Indians in the country had left; but they could not learn for what purpose, and before any steps could be taken to ascertain for certain what was the cause, the story was told—they were all killed.

Yours truly, J. WARD CHRISTIAN.

This morning, while conversing with some immigrants, who have lately arrived via the Plains from Arkansas, and are living within a few miles of this place, I related to them the circumstances of the massacre. They immediately informed me that they knew who the parties were. They stated that there were three, and perhaps four, companies from Arkansas, while the balance of the company was made up of Missourians, who fell in with them; of these latter, they knew nothing, but the Arkansas companies, consisted of Faziers, Camerons and the two Dunlaps, and perhaps Bakers. They were from the counties of Marion, Harrol and Johnson. They say when they saw them, they were encamped six miles from Salt Lake City, that they had been there for some time, and that they intended to stay there until the weather got cool enough for them to come by the South Pass, expecting to make a stay of eight weeks all together. Baker had not arrived there when they left, but as they can learn nothing from him or his company, they concluded that he had fallen in and decided to come into California with these companies. The two Dunlaps had each nine children, some of them well grown. If these are the persons who were slaughtered, who can be so blind as not to see that the hands of Mormons are stained with this blood. How could so large a company remain among them for two months and they not learn one name? and why would the Indians kill every being, except those that were too young to communicate anything to their friends, or hardly tell a name, or tell who were the murderers of their parents, and brothers and sisters; or even discriminate between white men and Indians? Why all this concealment? and in the very face of it the Indians tell what they have done and sell all their spoils to the whites. It will do to lay this blood upon them, but I feel certain that investigation will throw it off.