September 11, 1857 was the largest mass-murder in American history. Over 100 immigrants from Arkansas were killed in southern Utah. John D. Lee was the only person executed for this atrocity. In our conversation with Steve Mayfield, we’ll talk more about Lee’s involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
GT: So as I understand it from what I understand what the Mountain Meadows Massacre, there’s a lot of tensions going on. John D. Lee kind of spurs the Indians to attack, says it’s going to be an easy target, but it’s not an easy target. And so, they surround themselves. So, John D. Lee and William Dame and Klingonsmith and Higbee, they’re kind of the leaders of this whole thing. So, they come out and they say, “Well, if you’ll turn over your weapons we will save you from the Indians.”
GT: So as I understand it, every Mormon man had a gun. [Each Mormon] was walking each man from the Fancher Party out. And then the women and children were kind of in the back and somebody gave a signal. Was it Lee that gave the signal?
Steve: I can’t remember.
GT: There was something to the effect of “Do your duty,” and then every Mormon man turned to the Fancher [Party] and shot and killed them. And then they left the women and children to be attacked by the Indians.
Steve: Yeah. Again, you’ve got so many different stories and the fact is I think they realized, whoops. Because when they reported back to Brigham in Salt Lake, what happened is not what they actually did. You know, they, they kind of lied to Brigham.
GT: Because Lee was one of the people that went to Brigham and told him what happened. But he lied about it.
Steve: Yeah. One of the interesting things is that supposedly the church or the church leaders trying to hide this. But I saw an article in New York Times two months later, before the end of the year, were talking about this massacre of white people done in southern Utah. I mean, it’s not like we have instant news today. But it was very quick when this started going around and when the government comes and then they to look into it. And again, the Johnston’s army there and all the government investigation. Here comes Mountain Meadows in the middle of it. Now of course, you know Brigham kind of telling John D. Lee to take off and hide because they were trying to find him. And of course, it was 20 years later when they [try him.]
GT: Ok, let’s make sure we’ve got those details there. So, Lee participates in the massacre. Of course, he wasn’t the only person that was in the massacre.