Mormon History

First Report of the Mormon Massacre at Mountain Meadows - 1857

Los Angeles Star - October 17, 1857


In the early part of the week, an intense excitement pervaded [our] citizens on learning that parties had arrived in town, who corroborated the statements previously made in regard to the horrible massacre of one hundred and eighteen persons; on the Salt Lake route to California; and placards were posted throughout the city, calling a public meeting of the citizens to be held at the Circus Pavilion, on the Plaza, on Monday evening, to hear the statements of the parties alluded to, and to adopt such measures, in view of the facts, as should be deemed advisable. Accordingly, at the time appointed, a very large number of our citizens assembled, deeply impressed by the awful tragedy which had been enacted on the borders of our State, and anxious that such a representation of the facts in the case should be made to the authorities in Washington, as should compel them to take immediate steps to discover the perpetrators and instigators of the foul outrage, and inflict on them condign punishment. We need not here more particularly refer to the proceedings of the meeting, as they are reported elsewhere; but as we have obtained the statements of Messrs. Powers and Warn, the gentlemen above alluded to, which contain the nearest approach to an account of the massacre that can be given at present, we prefer to add them here, rather than in the report of the meeting.

The statements were drawn up, at the dictation of the parties, by Mr. W. A. Wallace, who read them to the meeting, and from whom we obtained them, through the chairman of the meeting, Mr. G. N. Whitman.

These documents exhibit a deplorable picture of the working of Mormonism, which, if correct, show the leaders of this sect to be actuated by the most atrocious designs towards their fellow-citizens of the Union. We hope for the sake of our common humanity, that the character of this people may be redeemed from the black catalogue of crime here preferred, and that it will yet appear that they are not the fiends incarnate they are represented, but that they used all possible diligence to prevent the late massacre, and that they act in good faith to preserve the lives of such of their fellow citizens as, from necessity or choice, travel through their Territory[, of] the common property of the citizens of the Union.

As each will draw his own conclusions from the narrative, without further comment we give the statements of Messrs. Powers and Warn, regarding the late Massacre of the Plains.

Mr. George Powers, of Little Rock, left Arkansas, and with his train arrived at Salt Lake in August. He says:


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 100 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 400 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 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 whores, &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 to 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 where we heard of the train was on our arrival at Beaver, 230 miles from Salt Lake. Here we learned, that when the train ahead [was] [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 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 into the cut from a phial. The meat was eaten by the Indians, and three of them died, and several more [of them] 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 had made them all sick, and he believed that the Mormons had poisoned them.

We laid by at Beaver several days, as the Bishop told us it was dangerous for so small a company as ours to go on. Our train consisted of only three wagons, and we were hurrying on to join the larger one.

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.

On the receipt of this news, another private council was held; after which I was called in and told, that in consequence of the fight behind, it would be for their advantage to bring me through, provided I would obey council and the rules of the train. To this I assented, being anxious to get on, and asked what was required of me. Mr. Dame replied, that in passing through the Indian country, it might be necessary for me to be laid flat in a wagon and covered with blankets for two or three days, as the Indians were deadly hostile to all Americans; that if I was seen, it would endanger the safety of the whole train. My friend Mr. Warn was told that he would also go on, upon the same conditions.

At Parowan, it seems, when it was "for their interest" to bring us through, the elders had no control over the Indians, while at Buttermilk Fort, they were able to restrain them, as they declared, under great provocation.

On Friday, the 18th [day] of September, we left Parowan, and arrived at Cedar City, some eighteen miles, about one o'clock. During the afternoon, an express arrived from the Indians, stating one of their warriors had run up and looked into the corral, and he supposed that "only five or six of the emigrants were killed yet." These were the words of the expressman. The same night, four men were sent out from Parowan, to go and learn what was the fate of the train, and, as they pretended, to save, if possible, some of [its] members.

I omitted to mention, in the proper place, that Mr. Dame[, President of Parowan,] informed me that the attack on the train commenced on Monday, the 14th of September. I asked him if he could not raise a company, and go out and relieve the besieged train. He replied that he could go out and take them away in safety, but he dared not; he dared not disobey counsel.

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 well 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 the same 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 the slaughter. We lay by here two or three hours to rest, and then drove all day,twenty miles, at night camping on the Santa Clara River, near the Chief Jackson's village.

Next morning, after driving a few miles, we stopped to water. Jackson and his band soon came to us; and in a few minutes pointed out Mr. Warn as an American. The Mormon boys denied it, but the Indians were dissatisfied, and appeared restive. The Chief came up and accused me of being an American, appeared mad, stepped round, shook his head, and pulled his bowstring. He then sent several men on our road ahead. Mr. Mathews advised us to leave there as quick as possible, as it was getting dangerous.

At Jackson's we engaged Mr. Hatch to go on to the Muddy as an interpreter. It was a fortunate circumstance for us that this Mr. Hatch arrived at our camp at the very moment that we were wishing for him most. Mr. Mathews told me he was an Indian missionary, and of great influence among them. He could do more with them than anybody else, and if he could not get me over the road, nobody could. Mr. Tanner had declared that he would not go on without Mr. Hatch, and pretended to be afraid of the dangers of the road.

Next morning, Mr. Hatch left us and went on to the Muddy. About a day's drive the other side of the Muddy, we met him 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 the 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 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 danger.

We arrived at the Muddy the day after we met Mr. Hatch and the Young boys. We found here 30 or 40 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.

At the Vegas, we found another band of Indians. The chief asked our interpreter whether our captain had brought him no word from Brigham Young, whether he was nearly ready to fight the Americans yet; adding, that he was ready, had got his arrows poisoned, &c. &c.

At the Cotton-woods, 15 miles from the Vegas, the chief, called Brigham Young, said he was afraid of the emigrant train behind, and wished to know if they would shoot.

On the 1st October, we arrived at San Bernardino, and I was advised by R. Mathews, who I 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 I wished, they would give me constant work at their mill in the mountains, and I must be careful not to talk too much of what I had seen.

[Whilst] in San Bernardino I 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 [prophecies] 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 the boys that were left, should come to Zion and beg for bread.

I did not stay in San Bernardino, because it did not appear to be a free country, for I am an American, and like freedom of thought and speech.

Thus far the narrative of Mr. Powers.

On being asked, if he did not at any time express any feeling, in the company, at the wholesale massacre of his countrymen. He replied, it was not safe to express an opinion. The men he was with were unscrupulous, and would not have hesitated to kill him for any unguarded words. When the Indians passed by him, wearing the garments of American women, and seeming to exult in their crimes, his blood boiled, but he dared not speak; and after they were gone, he asked Matthews, with earnestness, why it had been done. Matthews replied, that he must not grieve or take on, for the women were all prostitutes, that their bodies had been examined by President Dame, and this ought to console him. Matthews rejoiced greatly at the massacre, and considered it the beginning of long delayed vengeance.

Mr. Tanner regretted it, and seemed to be deeply grieved.

It is supposed that one hundred and eighteen (118) persons were killed of whom fifty six (56) were men, and that fifteen (15) children were taken back to Cedar City of whom, not one was over six years old. It was reported, that but one Indian was killed.

Mr. 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. Matthews, 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 Matthews and 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 every where 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 emigrants 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 night, the night on which the slaughter was completed. They rested an hour or two, and took refreshments. In the conversation which ensured, one our 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 that 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, a Mormon 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 escaped was talked over by the Mormon captains, and Mathews made the remark, ["]If the man comes into our train, he shall not be received!["]



The Duty of the Government.

It may be superfluous in us, on reviewing the facts detailed elsewhere, to say anything to urge the Federal Government at Washington to take prompt measures to investigate the last sanguinary tragedy on the Salt Lake route to California. The facts set forth, that one hundred and eighteen Americans, men, women, and children, have been cruelly butchered on the nationís highway, by a band of ruthless savages, are in themselves sufficiently startling and appalling, to arouse the energies of the most dormant. From time to time, outrages have been perpetrated by the Indians on passing emigrants, of which no notice have been taken by the authorities. It would seem as if those who set out to make their homes in this State, are deemed to have left behind them all claim on the Government for protection; and that they are doomed to death, if unable to defend themselves against the sudden attack of an ambushed enemy, or unfortunate in contending against the unknown and unforeseen dangers of the route....



Public Meeting.

A mass meeting of the citizens of Los Angeles, convened at the Pavillion, on the Plaza, October 12th, 1857, to investigate the facts in the recent massacre, on the Salt Lake road, of more than one hundred Americans....

Committee reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

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 cloud of troubles 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, who 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 the most important and scared laws of our State.

Be it Resolved, That we hereby respectfully request the Chief Executive of this State, to enforce its laws upon the people.

Resolved, That we hold ourselves ready at all times to respond to the call of the proper authority, to assist, if necessary, in enforcing obedience to the laws...


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