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Mt. Meadows


To get to the Mountain Meadow site,
travel north on Utah Highway 18 out of
St. George. 
Evidence of Utah's
volcanic history can be seen along the way.

Baker-Fancher Wagon Train leaves Arkansas bound for California in May of 1857.


History often records for us events that seem to have multiple explanations depending on the individual telling the story. This is certainly true of the tragic event referred to as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

On September 11, 1999, a grave-site memorial was dedicated by Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley to honor those who died in the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Approximately one hundred descendants of children who survived the massacre attended the dedication.  This event was to be a time of healing for all involved.

One might ask why a need for healing would exist for an event that occurred in September of 1857.  Perhaps the following details will assist educators and students in arriving at their own conclusions concerning the controversy surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Whatever the conclusion might be, one must not forget the innocent lives lost in this tragedy.  Dreams were destroyed and children were deprived of their families.


The purpose of this website is not to make judgments about the events that took place, but to have teachers and students view conflicting information and determine for themselves the direction further research might take.  Issues of tolerance, religious choice, cause and effect and emigration risk are factors that might be taught with this subject matter.  Forming opinions, gathering data/information, distinguishing between fact and opinion and critical analysis of data are also possible outcomes of having students study the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

The Issue:

At least 120 men, women and children, who were on their way from the State of Arkansas to California, were interrupted on their journey. This particular wagon train was made up of families from Carroll and Marion Counties.  The wagon master was Captain Alexander "Piney Alex" Fancher, an experienced man, making his third trip to California.  This time he had his family with him, as they were going to make their home in the far west. The train was a wealthy one.  In addition to the forty wagons, 700 head of cattle and their personal effects, it is said that the members had $70,000 in gold.  Captain Fancher was also said to have a stallion valued at $2,000.  There were also a few tents, which the emigrants used when they encamped.  About forty heads of families, many women, some unmarried, and many children were included. A doctor accompanied them. The train seemed to consist of respectable people by most accounts. They were well dressed, were quiet, orderly, and genteel; had fine stock; had three carriages, and other evidences to show that this was one of the finest trains to cross the plains. It is suspected that they may have joined up with several other trains, including one from Missouri.  The people from Missouri seemed to be somewhat troublesome.  A certain Mrs. Sally Cecil, the widow of Riley Cecil and her nine children left the party because the "Missouri Wildcats" were making so much trouble and she foresaw disaster.  Just were she joined or left the train is not clear.  This was an unfortunate combination of persons to be arriving in Utah at this time, for word had reached the territory that a Mormon Missionary, Parley Parker Pratt had been murdered near Van Buren, Arkansas by one Hector MacLean.  It seems that MacLean's wife had fallen under the spell of the Mormon Missionary and left her husband and was enroute to join the Mormons.  MacLean had Pratt brought to trail in Fort Smith but he was acquitted.   After the trail, bystanders egged MacLean into following Pratt and having it out with him.  In the ensuing fight, Pratt was killed.  This incident happened in May, 1857, just as the party was leaving Arkansas for California.  News of the Pratt-MacLean affair did nothing to endear the Arkansas party to the hearts of the Mormons, and the site of Missouri people fanned old hatreds and resentments. 

The Mormons had played a definite part in the settlement of the West by selling supplies to the emigrants passing through Utah, and the Fancher party had hoped to replenish their supplies in this way.  However, under the military orders of Brigham Young, this was impossible.

One word led to another and ugly stories about the behavior of the wagon train spread through the territory.  They had poisoned a beef of which some Indians ate and died.   They poisoned springs as they passed was also a story spread about the wagon train (short explanation on continued page).

The party passed through Salt Lake City, headed for Mountain Meadows where the grass was lush and there was good water.  Here they planned to graze and rest their stock and repair their gear before undertaking the 90 mile stretch of desert between them and California.

The party is thought to have arrived at the Meadows on Friday, Sept. 4.  Early in the morning of Monday the 7th they were fired upon by Indians.  They immediately drove their wagons into defensive formation with earth embankments between.  They lived under attack from the Indians throughout the week.  Their position was difficult, as for some strange reason, they had encamped some distance from water.  Any attempt to get water drew fire from the Indians, and thirst became unbearable.  They sent two men under cover of night to try for help, but they were overtaken by Mormons and killed.   On the morning of Friday, Sept. 11, help came with a party of white men under a flag of truce.


The Wagon Train is said to have assembled in Carroll Co., AR of individuals from Arkansas and Missouri.


Southwest of Cedar City, Utah is the site of the worst slaughter of white civilians in the history of the frontier West. Mountain Meadows was a regular stopping off point on the trail west and the location of the massacre.


The remains of the dead were allowed to lay where they fell for over a year and a half until Major Carlton's men buried them in several mass graves. The remains of the dead were allowed to lay where they fell for over a year and a half until Major Carlton's men buried them in several mass graves.


John D. Lee was the only man punished for the murder by massacre of more than 120 persons by Mormons and Paiutes at Mountain Meadows in 1857.


Bones of about 29 individuals were uncovered by a backhoe in 1999 while workers were preparing for the memorial. These remains were reburied by Arkansas families who brought Arkansas soil to Utah so that the dead might rest on that soil.


"That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment of the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that
fateful day"

-- President Gordon B. Hinckley
dedicating the monument, Sept. 11, 1999

Hampton, Arkansas Connection:

Sarah E. Dunlap, 1 year old, was returned to Arkansas and as an adult  married James Lynch.  She died in November of 1901 and was buried at Hampton, Arkansas. Lynch died at the age of 91 and was buried beside Sarah.

Mt Meadows
Utah memorial to those who lost their lives at Mountain Meadows.



Mt Meadows
In Memoriam



Mt Meadows
Grave site
In the valley below between September 7 & 11, 1857, a company of more than 120 Arkansas emigrants led by Capt. John T. Baker and Capt. Alexander Fancer was attacked while en route to California.

 Mt Meadows
Other scenes from the memorial site


 Mt Meadows
Photos courtesy of:
Mark Wassen &
George and Audrey DeLange.

 Mt Meadows
Photo by E. Jeffers


These men were members of the Iron County militia, and they told the people of the wagon train that if they would turn over their arms and agree to give up their stock to the Indians, they would be able to go their way in safety.  The party readily agreed to the plan.   The men left the camp, walking side by side with the militia, one Mormon to each emigrant man.  The women and children followed about a half mile behind.  The children under 8 were placed in one wagon and the sick and wounded in another, and the procession away from camp began.  When they had gone about a mile, at the signal "halt" the Mormons turned and shot the unarmed emigrant men, and Indians, hidden in the brush, fell upon the women and children and killed them.

The treacherous massacre was all over in the matter of a few minutes, and the bodies of the victims left to rot under the Utah sun.

The surviving children were taken to a nearby ranch and in time were farmed out to various Mormon families.  The children were all suffering from sore eyes, which were neglected.  This resulted in several of the children being blind.

An investigation of the Massacre was held and conflicting accounts were given by those interviewed. On behalf of the Mormons some account had to be made up, and the one most likely to be believed was that the whole matter had been started by the Indians and carried out by them, because the emigrants had poisoned a spring near Fillmore City. During the investigation, Mr. Rodgers, United States Deputy Marshal, who accompanied Judge Cradlebaugh in his investigative tour to the South, stated that the water in the spring referred to runs with such volume and force "a barrel of arsenic would not poison it."

While the Mormons say the Indians were the murderers, they showed no sympathy, but rather said the emigrants were not fit to live.  Besides poisoning the spring "they were impudent to the people on the road, robbed their hen roosts and gardens, and were insulting to the church.  These statements in no way matched those given by others who had encountered the wagon train along the trail.

After the massacre wagons, carriages, and cattle belonging to these emigrants were in the possession of the Mormons, it is said by those who saw the emigrants upon the plains

About this time the Mormon troubles with the United States had begun, accompanied by the most bitter hostility against the Gentiles.  The Mormons knew that troops were marching to their country, and a spirit of intense hatred of the Americans and towards the Government was kindled in the hearts of the Mormon people by Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and other leaders, even from the pulpits.

Here was a rich train of emigrants--American Gentiles. That is, the worst kind of Gentiles--and not only that, but these Gentiles were from Arkansas, where Pratt had been killed. This provides a clue to whether or not the Mormons were accomplices in the massacre? This train of Arkansas Gentiles was doomed from the day it crossed through the South Pass.

I Discover Calhoun County Account...

One of the most outrageous facts of the aftermath of this tragedy was the fact that the US Government paid   Mormon Jacob Hamblin $600.50 for the care of Sarah, Rebecca and Louisa Dunlap from Sept. 10, 1857-April 17, 1859.  Hamblin was paid $318.00 for expenses he incurred in hunting one of the children who survived the massacre.  From Dec. 1, 1858 to June 30, 1859 another $350.00 and from Aug. 1, 1858-April 18, 1859, $1,693.20 was paid him for board, clothing and schooling for children saved from the massacre.  $2,961.78 was Hamblin's take for caring for these children, killed by his Mormon brothers and stolen their wordly goods.

It was Captain Lynch, U.S. Army who finally collected the children and took them to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas where they were met by Senator Mitchell and returned to relatives in Arkansas.  Senator Mitchell had lost three sons in the massacre.  It was undoubtedly the senator who kept the heat on that led to the rescue of the children and bringing to justice at least one of the guilty, John D. Lee.  Finally in 1877, Lee was executed for his part in the affair.  Lee was definitely at the massacre and he is credited with killing Rachel and Ruth Dunlap.  Rebecca (7 at time of the massacre), after she lived in Woodberry, Arkansas, often told of seeing Lee wash the Indian paint off his face after the massacre.

Willma Humphreys-Newton, deceased,  The Calhoun Herald, 1959.

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