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


Since September 1857, the events of the Mountain Meadows Massacre have been recounted and interpreted by innumerable writers. From newspaper articles, to government reports, to novels, to plays, and even to films, the massacre has been represented in popular culture and public discourse in ways that reflect the historical context of the writers and the meanings they derived from the events of September 11, 1857.

Rather than delving into the facts surrounding the massacre, this archive focuses on these portrayals of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and how their creators represented the event and its aftermath. Additionally, this archive gives users tools to explore these representations. With these tools, which include advanced browsing functions, concept highlighting that reveals narrative elements within texts, and visualizations that illustrate language usage and information dissemination, visitors can begin to develop their own understanding of the ways the massacre was reported on, ignored, contextualized, and reinterpreted over time.

The initial stages of this project focus on newspaper coverage of the massacre from 1857-1870. Many of the descriptions of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in later works spring from this early period of reportage, particularly from the earliest California reports of the massacre. Reports of a poisoned ox and the verbal abuse of Mormon women, as well as assertions of Mormon guilt and unburied corpses arise in these first articles and editorials and recur for many years.

Upon the completion of the first stages, newspaper accounts from the years following Philip Klingensmith’s confession and John D. Lee’s arrest, trial, and subsequent execution will be integrated into the archive. As these later newspaper articles are added, government reports about the massacre, burial of victims, the quest for reparations for families of the victims, and the Lee trial also will be folded into the archive.

In later phases of the project, fictional treatments of the Mountain Meadows Massacre will be added, as will depictions of the massacre in non-fiction works of Western Americana. Dramatizations of the massacre on stage and in film will round out the archive.

Date Source Author Title
1860 An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859 Horace Greeley An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859
1862 The City of the Saints Richard F. Burton The City of the Saints
1865 Across the Continent Samuel Bowles Across the Continent
1868 From England to California: Life Among the Mormons F. Merryweather From England to California: Life Among the Mormons
1869 Our New West: Records of Travel between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. Over the Plains—Over the Mountains—Through the Great Interior Basin—Over the Sierra Nevadas—To and Up and Down the Pacific Coast. With Details of the Wonderful Natural Scenery, Agriculture, Mines, Business, Social Life, Progress, and Prospects of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia; including A Full Description of the Pacific Railroad; and Of the Life of the Mormons, Indians, and Chinese. With Map, Portraits, and Twelve Full Page Illustrations. Samuel Bowles Our New West
1871 The Heart of the West: An American Story. By An Illinoian. Time: 1860. Scene: On the Mississippi. An Illinoian The Heart of the West
1872 The Golden State R. Guy McClellan The Golden State
1873 Roughing It Mark Twain [Samuel L. Clemens] Roughing It
1874 The Great West and Pacific Coast Or, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage-Coach, Ambulance, Horse-back, Railroad, and Steamer—Across the Continent and Along the Pacific Slope—through the Rocky Mountains, down the Columbia River, over the Sierra Nevadas—among Indians, Mormons, Miners and Mexicans. By Order of United States Government. With a Map of Entire Route and Eight full-page Engravings. Being Sketches of Men and Things from New York to St. Louis—in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, and Central America. With a Chapter of Advice to Emigrants and Settlers. James F. Rusling The Great West and Pacific Coast
1877 The Two Americas An Account of Sport and Travel. With Notes on Men and Manners in North and South America. Rose Lambart Price The Two Americas
1883 Conquering the Wilderness; or New Pictorial History of the Life and Times of the Pioneer Heros and Heroines of America. A Full Account of The Romantic Deeds, Lofty Achievements and Marvelous Adventures of Boone, Kenton, Clarke, Logan, Harrod, The Wetzel Brothers, The Bradys, Poe, And Thirty Other Celebrated Frontiersmen and Indian Fighters; Crocket, Houston, Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill, and All The Famous Plainsmen; Graham, Sutter, Marshall Fremont, Kearney, and Other Historic Names of the Pacific Coast. With Picturesque Sketches of Boarder Life, Past and Present; Backwoods Camp meetings, Schools and Sunday Schools; Heroic Fortitude and Noble Deeds of the Pioneer Wives and Mothers. Flatboating; The Overland Route and Its Horrors; The Gold Fever and Filibustering Expeditions; Vigilance Committees; Lafitte, Walker, Brigham Young, Etc.; Eccentricities and Self—Sacraficing Labors of Cartwright, Axley and Other Celebrated Pioneer Preachers, And Describing Life and Adventure on the Plains and in the Mining Camps of Today, Including Hunting, Trapping, Freighting, Ranching, Herding, Post-trading, Indian Agencies, Scouts, Guides and Desperadoes; Immense Fortunes of Western Millionaires, How Made; Etc, Etc. Frank Triplett Conquering the Wilderness
1883 Wild Life on the Plains and Horrors of Indian Warfare: Being A Complete History of Indian Life, Warfare and Adventure in America. Making Specially Prominent the Late Indian War, with Full Descriptions of The Messiah Craze, Ghost Dance, Life of Sitting Bull. The Whole Forms and Authentic and Complete History of the Savage Races in America—Their Illustrious Leaders, Their Beliefs, Manners and Customs, Comprising Terrible Battles, Wonderful Escapes, Thrilling Tales of Heroism, Daring Exploits, Wonderful Fortitude, etc., etc. George Armstrong Custer Wild Life on the Plains and Horrors of Indian Warfare
1886 Massacres of the Mountains: A History of the Indian Wars of the Far West J. P. Dunn Massacres of the Mountains
1888 Echoes From The Rocky Mountains Reminiscences and Thrilling Incidents of the Romantic and Golden Age of the Great West, With a Graphic Account of Its Discovery, Settlement and Grand Development. John W. Clampitt Echoes From The Rocky Mountains
1891 Recent Indian Wars, Under the Lead of Sitting Bull, and Other Chiefs; with a Full Account of The Messiah Craze, and Ghost Dances. James P. Boyd Recent Indian Wars
1898 The Great Salt Lake Trail Henry Inman and William F. Cody ["Buffalo Bill"] The Great Salt Lake Trail
1900 In And Around the Grand Canyon: The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in Arizona George Wharton James In and Around the Grand Canyon
1902 Pawnee Bill (Major Gordon W. Lillie), His Experience and Adventures on the Western Plains; or, From the Saddle of a "Cowboy and a Ranger" to the Chair of a "Bank President". J. H. DeWolff Pawnee Bill (Major Gordon W. Lillie), His Experience and Adventures on the Western Plains
1910 Celebrated Criminal Cases of America Thomas S. Duke Celebrated Criminal Cases of America
1917 Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains: Or The Lost Million Dollar Gold Mine D. K. Thomas Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains
1934 Broncho Charlie [Miller]: A Saga of the Saddle Gladys Shaw Erskine Broncho Charlie [Miller]: A Saga of the Saddle