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





BEAVER, Utah, July 23. — At 2 o’clock to-day, the first witness in the trial of John D. Lee and others was called. Robert Keyes came to Utah Territory Oct. 2, 1857, through the Mountain Meadows; saw two piles of bodies of women and children piled promiscuously, about sixty to seventy, the children from two months old to twelve years; the smaller ones were torn by wolves and crows; some bodies were shot, some had their throats cut, some were stabbed, and all were torn by wolves except one woman a little way off, who appeared as if she were asleep; there was a bullet hole in her left side; from appearances the bodies had been dead for fifteen days; seven of us saw them; the pile of men’s bodies was further on; did not go to see them; there was no clothing on the bodies except a sock on the foot of one man; none had been scalped.

Ashel Benuette, called: Was at the Meadows December, 1857; saw bones there—a horrible sight of skeletons of women and children, with curls and long tresses of hair dried in blood; the children were from ten to twelve years of age; some of the skulls had the flesh dried on them; the bodies had been covered up, but wolves evidently dug them out.

Phillip Klingen Smith a defendant of San Bernardino, Cal., was called. The prosecution entered a nolle prosequi as to himself: lived in Cedar City in 1857 since 1852; the Meadows are forty-five miles south of Cedar City, on the California road; was at the massacre in September, 1857: heard of emigrants coming; the people were forbidden to trade with them; felt bad about it; saw a few of them at Cedar City; this was on Friday; some swore, and Higbee fined them; they went on; heard rumors of trouble; on Sunday it was the custom to have meetings of the President and Council, the Bishops and Council, and the High Council; I was a Bishop; the question as to their destruction came up for discussion; Haight, Higbee, Morrill, Allen, Willis, myself, and others, were there; some of the brethren opposed destruction; I did; Haight jumped up and broke up the meeting; I asked what would be the consequences of such an act; Haight then got mad; the Indians were to destroy them on Monday; Higbee, Haight, White, and I met and discussed the same subject again; I opposed their destruction; Haight relented, and told White and me to go ahead and tell the people that the emigrants should go through safely, we did so; on the road we met John Lee, and told him where we were going; he replied that he had something to say about that matter; we passed the emigrants at Iron Springs, UT; next morning we passed them again as we came back; they had twenty or thirty wagons and numbered altogether over 100 persons, old and middle-aged men and women, youths, and children; while near home we met Ira Allen, he said that the doom of the emigrants was sealed, and that the die was cast for their destruction; also that Lee had orders to take men out and intercept the emigrants, and that Allen was to go on and counteract what we had done; I went home. Three days afterward Haight sent for me, and said that orders had come from the camp that they did not get along, and wanted reinforcements; that he had been to Parowan and got further orders from Col. W. H. Dame to finish the massacre, to decoy the emigrants out, and spare only the small children who could not tell the tale; I went off and met Allen, our first runner, and others; Higbee came out, and said we were ordered out armed and equipped, so I went: Hopkins, Higbee, John Willis, and Sam Purdy, went along; we had two baggage-wagons with us; we got to Hamblin’s ranch in the night, three miles from the emigrants. We there met Lee and others from the general camp, where the largest number of men were. We then found the emigrants were not all killed. Lee called me out for consultation. He told me the situation. The emigrants, he said, were strongly fortified. There was no chance of getting them out. Higbee gave orders to decoy them out the best way we could. This was agreed to, and the command was given to John D. Lee to carry out the whole plan. They went to the camp; Lee placed all the soldiers in a hollow square and addressed them. They were all white men, about fifty in all. The Indians were in another camp; saw there Slade and his son; Jim Pearce and probably his sons, too, all those from Cedar, and Bill Stewart, Levin Jacobs; I think Dan McFarlan too; Slade and I were outraged, but we said, “What can we do? We can’t help ourselves;” just then the order to march was given, and we had to go; we were put in double file; Higbee had command of part of the men; it was the Nauvoo Legion, organized from tens up to hundreds; we marched in sight of the emigrants; either Bateman or Lee went out with a white flag. A man from the emigrants met them. Lee and the man sat down on the grass and had a talk; don’t know what they talked about. Lee went with the man into the entrenchments. After some hours they came out and the emigrants came up with the wounded in wagons ahead. The wounded were those hurt in the three days’ previous fight; said the Mormons and Indians could not oust the emigrants; next came the women and next the men; as the emigrants came up the men halted, and the women on foot with the children and wounded, went on ahead with John D. Lee; the soldiers had to be all ready to shoot at the word; when the word halt came the soldiers fired; I fired once; don’t know if I killed the men; they were not all killed the first shot; saw the women afterward dead, with their throats cut; I saw as I came up to them, a man kill a young girl; the men were marched in double file first, then thrown in single file with soldiers alongside; heard the emigrants congratulating on their safety from the Indians at last; Higbee came and ordered my squad to fire; Lee, like the rest, had fire-arms; no emigrants escaped; saw soldiers on horses to take on the wing those who ran; saw a man run; saw Bill Stewart, on a horse, go after one and kill him; saw one wounded man beg for his life, but Higbee cut his throat; the man said, “I would not do this to you, Higbee;” he knew him; after I fired, was told to gather up little children; as I went I saw a large woman running toward the men crying “My husband, my husband!” a soldier shot her in the back and she fell dead. As I went on I found wagons, with wounded all out on the ground, with their throats cut. I went on and found children, and put them in a wagon and took them to Hablin’s house. I saw no more. The soldiers had dispersed. Two of the children were wounded. One died at Hamblin’s. I think I had to leave it there. Many of the soldiers were from southern counties, and I did not know them. Next day, I, McCurdy, and Willis took the children to Cedar City, leaving one at Pinto Creek. On the road we met a freight train of wagons. I went to old Mrs. Hopkins and told her we had children with us. She bustled around and got places for them. I took one girl baby home, and my wife suckled her. I afterward gave it to Birkbeck, he having no children. The children were well treated, I believe. Good places were obtained for them.

The question of allowing the statements of the co-conspirators as to to the disposal of the emigrants property after the massacre was here argued for an hour. The court held it admissible. During the argument, Sutherland, for the defense, said it was an attempt to fix the crime on some one else, Lee being only the figurehead.

A. Baskin, for the prosecution, replied he wanted but the truth whoever it implicated; that Sutherland feared his real client would be reached,(decided sensation, it being known that Brigham Young was meant.)

Witness resumed: After several days Haight

sent me to the Iron Springs, where the wagons, cattle, and goods of the emigrants were, to get them and put them in the tithing-house; I was to brand the cattle too; found there John Gorie and Hunter, and Allen; I put the goods in the Church tithing-office cellar; left the wagons in front of the tithing office; branded the cattle with the Church brand, a cross; Lee was in the cellar with me and saw the goods; Haight and Higbee told me a council had been held and Lee deputed to go to President Brigham Young and report all the facts of the massacre; Lee went, and I followed to attend to conference Oct. 6 at Salt Lake City; met Lee at Salt Lake; asked if he had reported to Brigham Young; he said yes, every particular; same day I, Lee, and Charley Hopkins called on Brigham Young; he there , in presence of them, said, “You have charge of that property in the tithing office, turn it over to John D. Lee. What you know of this, say nothing of it; don’t talk of it even among yourselves; had to go to Vegas Lead Mines to get more ore; while I was gone Lee took the property, had an auction, and sold it off; so Haight and Higbee told me: Haight sold part of the cattle to Hooper, afterward Congressional delegate, for boots and shoes; there were Indians at the massacre; the hills were pretty full of them; they were disputed to kill the women; I saw an Indian cut a boy’s throat; I heard of no effort to restrain the Indians; three of them died from wounds received from the emigrants. The Indians came back to Cedar, where they lived. Two of their chiefs’ names were Bill and Tom. I saw some of the emigrants’ property in the possession of the Indians. I saw Lee get dresses and jeans from the tithing office out of the emigrants’ plunder. I learned from Allen that Lee was the one to gather up the Indians to attack the emigrants. I talked with Lee about it afterward. Lee was Indian agent at Harmony, traded with the tribes, and issued goods and rations from the Government to the Indians.

The court here adjourned.

After to-day night sessions will be held.

The court has warned the citizens not to speak to the jurors from the street, and declares that such an offense will be punished.

During the time that Klingen Smith was testifying, giving the horrible details of the massacre, the suspense was terribly painful. Lee’s square, hard, low-browed face and neck became fairly purple and black. His wives scarcely breathed, straining forward to catch each syllable.

The excitement in town is intense. It is understood that Klingen Smith’s story, in all the material details, is the same as Lee’s suppressed confession as to the massacre. Klingen Smith’s reputation here is that of a man of truth. He could not be impeached save by facts.