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Mojave Desert History

Mountain Meadows Massacre

Led by Captains John T. Baker and Alexander Fancher, a California-bound wagon train from Arkansas camped in the valley below this monument in the late summer of 1857 during the time of the so-called Utah War. In the early morning hours of September 7th, a party of local Mormon settlers and Indians attacked and laid seige to the encampment. For reasons not fully understood, a contingent of territorial militia was ordered to join the attack against the wagon train. Complex animosities and political issues intertwined with religious beliefs motivated the Mormons, but the exact causes and circumstances fostering the sad events that ensued over the next five days at Mountain Meadows still defy any clear or simple explanation.

Encampment siege site and spring (right center), Burial site (left center)

During the five day siege fifteen emigrant men were killed fighting or attempting to escape. Late in the afternoon on the fifth day, the emigrants were persuaded to surrender with the promise of safe passage to Cedar City 35 miles away. Under heavy guard they were marched about a mile up the valley then viciously and without warning, attacked and slaughtered. Within just a few minutes fourteen men, twelve women and thirty-five children along with nine hired hands and at least 35 other unknown victims were mercilessly struck down. At least 120 souls met a violent death at what has become known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. This monument memorializes this tragedy that occured in this valley with site indicators to the mass murder and gravesite.

Massacre site (approximate center of photo)

The Burial Sites

The Baker-Fancher emigrants buried the bodies of ten men killed during the siege somewhere within the circled wagons of the encampment located west of the current monument in the valley. Most of the Baker-Fancher party died at various locations northeast of the encampment. In May 1859, Brevet Major James H. Carleton, commanding some eighty soldiers of the First Dragoons from Ft. Tejon, California, gathered scattered bones representing the partial remains of thirty-six of the emigrants, interred them near the wagon camp, and erected a stone cairn at the site. Before Carleton's arrival, Captains Reuben T. Campbell and Charles Brewer along with 207 men from Camp Floyd, Utah, collected and buried the remains of twenty-six emigrants in three different graves on the west side of the California road about one and one-half miles north of the original encampment. Brewer reported that "the remains of [an additional] 18 were buried in one grave, 12 in another and 6 in another.

Mountain Meadows, Utah
Monument on Dan Sill Hill

Since the erection of the memorial by Major Carleton, several local families, including the Platts, Lytles, and Burgesses, have preserved and protected the graves in this area from being desecrated by souvenir hunters, land developers, curiosity seekers, and other intruders. In 1999, the Mountain Meadows Association collaborated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in erecting the new monument over the spot of the original 1859 grave. On August 3rd, 1999, workers excavating for the footings for a wall around the new monument accidentally uncovered the Carleton grave. On September 10th, 1999, the remains recovered from that grave were reinterred in a burial vault inside the new wall. The monument was dedicated the following day, September 11th, 1999.

Mass burial site and monument

source:Mountain Meadows Association

Map of the Mountain Meadow Massacre site
Site map

Mountain Meadows Special Report

Old Spanish Trail

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