Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Mountain Meadows massacre was a series of attacks on immigrant wagon trains moving through southern Utah in September 1857. Mormon militia members, who were disguised as Native Americans, carried out the attacks. The attacks were part of a tense period in Utah history, as many Mormons feared interference from the United States. Debate rages as to whether Mormon leaders, including Brigham Young, ordered the attack.
In early 1857, emigrant families en route to California from Arkansas, known as the Baker-Fancher Party, stopped in Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah Territory was a theocracy run by Brigham Young and at the time was under martial law. When the wagon train stopped at Mountain Meadows, local militia leaders planned to attack. With the help of some Paiute Indians, the Mormon militia besieged the party, killing seventeen and wounding eighteen.
Mormon leaders feared that the group had caught sight of whites among the attackers, so the decision was made to kill everyone except small children. On September 11, 1857, the Baker-Fancher were approached by members of the “Iron Brigade” and tricked into leaving their fortification. The men, women, and older children were then shot.
The U.S. Civil War delayed official investigations into the Mountain Meadows massacre. In 1874, nine indictments were handed down, but only one man, John D. Lee, was tried, convicted and executed for the crime.