Mountain Meadows Massacre: Testimony Implicates the Mormons
About 120 pioneers—men, women and children—traveling in the Baker-Fancher wagon train on their way to California were massacred by Mormon militia, with some Paiute Native American allies, on Sept. 11, 1857. This slaughter, which took place in southern Utah, is known as the Mountain Meadows massacre. The entire wagon train was ambushed and killed except for 17 infant children, who were adopted into Mormon families.
When a Mormon wagon train arrived in San Bernardino, California, a few weeks later, Mormon Elders told about the Mountain Meadows massacre, insisting it was entirely an Indian raid. The Elders said the Baker-Fancher pioneers foolishly caused their own doom by giving the Indians a poisoned ox to eat, and also poisoning the Indians’ water holes.
However, two non-Mormons who also arrived in that wagon train told about things they had seen which immediately cast suspicion on the Mormons’ complicity in the massacre. These two witnesses, George Powers and P. M. Warn, provided detailed statements that were read to a meeting of angry citizens in Los Angeles, leading to resolutions condemning the Mormons and vowing assistance to the government in cracking down the perpetrators.
That testimony and the resulting resolutions were published in the Los Angeles Star and reprinted by the Daily Evening Bulletin (San Francisco, California) on Oct. 27, 1857:
Later from Southern California
The Massacre of Immigrants on the Plains—Mormon Complicity
By the steamer Senator, which arrived yesterday from ports on the Southern Coast, we have files of Los Angeles papers to the 24th Oct. and from San Diego to the 17th of Oct. The only information of importance is in relation to the Indian troubles on the Plains. The news, published on the arrival of the last steamer, of the massacre of over 100 immigrants, is fully confirmed. The evidence establishing the complicity of the Mormons in this outrage, is now sufficient to banish all doubt on that subject. We refer our readers to the statements published below.
Indignation Meeting at Los Angeles
We learn from the Los Angeles Star that a mass meeting of citizens was held in that city on the 12th October to investigate the facts in the recent massacre, on the Salt Lake road, of more than one hundred Americans. The meeting was organized by the election Mr. George N. Whitman, chairman, and Mr. W. H. Peterson, secretary. The object of the meeting was stated by Mr. Charles Chapman.
Mr. W. A. Wallace then read the following statement of Mr. George Powers, of Little Rock, Arkansas, who had just arrived across the Plains. Mr. Powers says, on his arrival, last August at Salt Lake:
Testimony of George Powers as to the Massacre and Mormon Complicity
We found the Mormons making very determined preparations to fight the United States troops, whenever they may arrive. On our way in, we met three companies of one hundred men each, armed, and on the road towards the pass above Fort Bridger. I was told at Fort Bridger, that at Fort Supply, twelve miles this side of Fort Bridger, there were four hundred armed Indians awaiting orders; they also said that there were 60,000 pounds of flour stored at Fort Bridger for the use of their army. We found companies drilling every evening in the city. The Mormons declared to us that no U.S. troops should ever cross the mountains; and they talked and acted as if they were willing to take a brush with Uncle Sam.
We remained in Salt Lake five days, and then pushed on, hoping we might overtake a larger [wagon] train, which had started ten days ahead of us, and which proved to be the train that was massacred. We came on to Buttermilk Fort, near the lone cedar, 175 miles, and found the inhabitants greatly enraged at the train which had just passed, declaring that they had abused the Mormon women, calling them w----s, &c., and letting on about the men. The people had refused to sell that train any provisions, and told us they were sorry they had not killed them there, but they knew it would be done before they got in. They stated further, that they were holding the Indians in check until the arrival of their chief, when he would follow the train and cut it in pieces.
We attempted to purchase some butter here; the women set it out to us, and as we were taking it away, the men came running and charging, and swore we should not have it, nor anything else, as we had misused them. They appeared to be bitterly hostile, and would hardly speak to us. We were unable to get anything we stood in need of. We camped at this place but one night.
At Corn Creek, we found plenty of Indians, who were all peaceable and friendly. We learned nothing of the train, except that it had passed that place several days before, and we were glad to find we had gained so much on them. The next place we heard of the train was on our arrival at Beaver, 230 miles from Salt Lake. Here we learned, that when the train ahead were camped at Corn Creek, which was thirty-five miles back, and at which place we found the Indians so friendly, an ox died, and the Indians asked for it. Before it was given to them, a Mormon reported that he saw an emigrant go to the carcass and cut it with his knife, and as he did so, would pour some liquid from a phial. The meat was eaten by the Indians, and three of them died, and several more were sick and would die. The people at Beaver seemed also to be incensed against the train, for the same reason as before reported. I asked an Indian, at Beaver, if there was any truth in the poisoned meat story; he replied in English, that he did not know, that several of the Indians had died and several were sick; he said their water-melons made them all sick, and he believed that the Mormons had poisoned them.
While waiting here, the train of Wm. Mathews and Sidney Tanner, of San Bernardino, came up, and I made arrangements to come on with them. We came on to Parowan, and here we learned that the train ahead had been attacked by the Indians, at the Mountain Meadows, fifty miles from Parowan, and had returned upon their road five miles to a spring, and fortified themselves. We then drove out of Parowan five or six miles, and camped at what is called the Summit.
Next morning an express arrived from Mr. Dame, President of Parowan, requesting us not to proceed any further that day, if we pleased; also, that Mathews and Tanner should return to Parowan, and bring me along with them. We returned, and a council was held, at which it was advised by Mr. Dame, that I should go back to my own train, as they did not wish to have strangers in their train. He also stated, that at two o’clock that morning, he had received an express from the train ahead, stating they were surrounded by Indians, who had killed two or three of their number, and asking for assistance. While we were talking, an express came in from Beaver, stating that the Indians had attacked my train in the streets of that place, and were fighting when he left. One reason given was, that ten miles the other side of Beaver, an emigrant train had shot an Indian, which greatly enraged them; that the people of Beaver went out in the night and brought the emigrants in, and were followed by the Indians, who made the attack after their arrival.
From this statement to Mr. Powers, it appears that the attack was commenced on the 14th of September [correction: the initial attack was on September 7th—ed.]. Mr. Dame, a Mormon, told him he could raise a company and rescue the train from the Indians, but he “dared not disobey the Council.” Continues Mr. Powers:
On Saturday, at twelve o’clock, we left Cedar City. About the middle of the afternoon, we met the four men who were sent out the night previous, returning in a wagon. Mathews and Tanner held a council with them apart, and when they left, Mathews told me the entire train had been cut off; and, as it was still dangerous to travel the road, they had concluded it was better for us to pass the spot in the night. We continued on, without much conversation, and about dusk met Mr. Dame (I did not know that he had left Cedar City) and three other white men, coming from the scene of slaughter, in company with a band of some twenty Indian warriors. One of the men in company with Mr. Dame was Mr. Haight, President of Cedar City. Mr. Dame said they had been out to see to the burying of the dead; but the dead were not buried. From what I heard, I believe the bodies were left lying naked upon the ground, having been stripped of their clothing by the Indians. These Indians had a two-horse wagon, filled with something I could not see, as blankets were carefully spread over the top. The wagon was driven by a white man, and beside him, there were two or three Indians in it. Many of them had shawls, and bundles of women’s clothes were tied to their saddles. They were also all supplied with guns or pistols, besides bows and arrows. The hindmost Indians were driving several head of the emigrants’ cattle. Mr. Dame and Mr. Haight, and their men, seemed to be on the best of terms with the Indians, and they were all in high spirits, as if they were mutually pleased with the accomplishment of some desired object. They thronged around us, and greeted us with noisy cordiality. We did not learn much from them. They passed on, and we drove all night in silence, and at daylight camped, and were told we were three miles beyond the scene of slaughter.
Mr. Powers continues to give the particulars of his journey through the Indian country. His train secured the services of a Mormon, named Hatch, an Indian missionary, who for compensation agreed to come through with the train, and protect them from the Indians, calling himself an “interpreter.” One day Mr. Hatch started ahead of the train to go to the Muddy. He continues:
When the train had nearly reached the Muddy River, they met Hatch returning, in company with two young men, brothers Young, horse thieves, who were escaping from justice in San Bernardino; having been assisted in getting away by those who had them in custody. Mr. Hatch stated, that when he reached the Muddy, he found two young boys, in company with an emigrant, who had escaped the massacre. That on his arrival, there was not an Indian in sight, and that he had to give the whoop to call them from concealment. He said in continuation, without appearing to notice the discrepancy, that on his arrival he found the Indians hotly pursuing the three men; and that they jumped upon the emigrant, and killed him before his eyes, before he could interfere to prevent it. He said that he threw himself between the boys and Indians, and had great difficulty in saving them. The Indians were in a great excitement, as he said, but that as Mathews and Tanner were Mormons, they could pass without any danger.
When they arrived at the Muddy they found thirty or forty Indians, and the mail-riders from Los Angeles, who had come in that morning. The Indians were very friendly, and shook hands with everybody. No expression of hostility to Americans was heard, but this was accounted for on the ground that this was a Mormon train.
Mr. Powers and his train arrived at San Bernardino, and he was advised by Mr. Mathews, who, he learned, was a President or Elder in that place, not to associate with the damned apostates, that they were cut-throats of the worst character. If he wished, they would give him constant work at their mill in the mountains, and he must be careful not to talk too much of what he had seen. Whilst in San Bernardino he heard many persons express gratification at the massacre. At the church services on Sunday, Capt. Hunt occupied the pulpit, and among other things, he said that the hand of the Lord was in it; whether it was done by white or red skins, it was right! The prophesies concerning Missouri were being fulfilled, and they would all be accomplished. Mr. Mathews said the work had just begun, and it should be carried on until Uncle Sam and all his boys that were left should come to Zion and beg for bread.
Testimony of P. M. Warn on the Same Subject
P. M. Warn, of Bergen, Genesee county, New York, who was a fellow-traveler with Mr. Powers, on that fatal journey, corroborates the statements of Powers, so far as he was acquainted with the facts, and gives the following additional particulars, which did not come under the observation of Mr. Powers:
Mr. Warn states that there was a coolness between himself and Mr. Mathews, arising from the frankness with which he expressed his opinions, and in consequence of this, he was not treated with as much confidence as Mr. Powers.
Mr. Warn arrived at Salt Lake, via Independence, on the 7th of April last, and remained until the 26th, on which day he started for California, as a passenger in Mathews & Tanner’s train. He states, that on his journey through the settlements, which was a week or ten days subsequent to the passage of the murdered train, he everywhere heard the same threats of vengeance against them, for their boisterousness and abuse of Mormons and Mormonism, as was reported, and these threats seemed to be made with the intention of preparing the mind to expect a calamity, and also when a calamity occurred, it should appear to fall upon transgressors, as a matter of retribution.
Mr. Warn says, according to his memorandum: On the 5th of September, we encamped at Corn Creek. Here I had conversation with the Indian agent, concerning the poisoning of the ox. He said that six Indians had died; that others were sick and would die. Upon one of them, the poison had worked out all over his breast, and he was dead next morning, as reported. Afterwards, I conversed with an Indian, said to be the war chief Ammon, who spoke good English. I inquired how many of his tribe had died from eating the poisoned animal. He replied not any, but some were sick. He did not attribute the sickness to poison, nor did he give any reason for it. His manner, and that of all his people towards us, was not only friendly, but cordial; and he did not mention the train which had been doomed. Besides the Mormon train, there were camped at this place two or three emigrant trains, amounting to fifteen or eighteen wagons, with whom the Indians were as friendly as with ourselves. From Corn Creek, nothing of importance occurred more than is related by Mr. Powers, until we arrived at Cedar City. Here the four men, spoken of by Mr. Powers (and among whom I recognized Mr. Dame), arrived at our camp; they wished to get fresh animals, that they might go on that night to the besieged party. This was on Friday [September 11] the night on which the slaughter was completed. They rested an hour or two, and took refreshments. In the conversation which ensued, one of the party said, “Be careful, and don’t get shot, Mr. Haight.” Mr. H. replied, “We shall have no shooting,” emphasizing the we, and throwing up his head, as if he meant to imply that the shooting would be all over before he arrived. They left us in good spirits.
One reason that may be assigned for the massacre of this train, is, that it was known to be in possession of considerable valuable property, and this fact excited the cupidity of the Mormons. It was said they had over 400 head of stock, besides mules, &c. They were well supplied with arms and ammunition, an element of gain which enters largely into all Mormon calculations. The train was composed of families who all seemed to be in good circumstances, and as they were moving to California, their outfit indicated that they might be in possession of considerable funds. The men were very free in speaking of the Mormons; their conduct was said to have been reckless, and they would commit little acts of annoyance for the purpose of provoking the saints. Feeling perfectly safe in their arms and numbers, they seemed to set at defiance all the powers that could be brought against them. And they were not permitted to feel the dangers which surrounded them, until they were cut off from all hope of relief.
Mr. Warn states, in speaking of the emigrant who escaped and was killed at the Muddy, that at Painter Creek, some six or seven miles on the other side of the place of massacre, Mormons told him that one of the little girls who was taken back, and who is about six years old, said that she saw her mother killed by an arrow, and that her father had escaped to California. This was before Hatch joined the train. The matter of the escape was talked over by the Mormon captains, and Mathews made the remark, “If the man comes into our train, he shall not be received!”
After hearing the reading of these statements, the meeting was addressed by Dr. Andrews, Messrs. Sparks, Margradge, Chapman and others. A committee of four, consisting of Messrs. A. S. Sparks, W. A. Wallace, Dr. Andrews and W. W. Twich, were appointed to draft resolutions, and the meeting adjourned until the next day.
Resolutions of the Meeting
On the 13th Oct. the meeting convened again, when the Convention reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were adopted unanimously:
WHEREAS, After a careful examination into all the circumstances connected with the late horrible massacre in Utah Territory, we firmly believe the atrocious act was perpetrated by the Mormons, and their allies, the Indians; and
Whereas, We perceive the rapidly gathering clouds of trouble, caused by a long, undisturbed, systemized course of thefts, robberies and murders, promoted and sanctioned by their leader and head prophet, Brigham Young, together with the Elders and followers of the Mormon Church, upon American citizens, whom necessity has compelled to pass through their Territory; aware of their bitter hostility to our republican government, and all its institutions; their rejection, insult, oppression, and in some cases murder, of the Federal officers sent by the President to enforce the laws of the United States; believing that the late massacre in cold blood of one hundred and eighteen persons, included in which number were sixty women and children, is but the commencement of a series of such fiendish atrocities, that the many emigrant trains, now on their way from the Western States to California, are liable to meet the same fate; that unless speedy measures are taken by the Government of the United States, the tide of emigration by this route will be entirely stopped:
Therefore, be it Resolved, That we respectfully petition the President of the United States to exert the authority vested in him by the Constitution, that prompt measures may be taken for the punishment of the authors of the recent appalling and wholesale butchery of innocent men, women and children.
Resolved, That as there are at the present time a large community of Mormons residing in the adjoining county of San Bernardino, many of whom are living in open violation of one of the most important and sacred laws of our State,
Be it Resolved, That we hereby respectfully request the Chief Executive of this State to enforce its laws upon this people.
Resolved, That we hold ourselves ready, at all times, to respond to the call of the proper authorities to assist, if necessary, in enforcing obedience to the laws.
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