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Turley on Mountain Meadows Massacre (Part 2 of 5)

Richard Turley’s book “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” was published in 2011. The book ends at the massacre in 1857. He and Barbara Jones Brown are writing the latest installment of the tragedy and this time they will focus on the trials of John D. Lee and aftermath. Barbara and Rick sat down as part of the 2020 Mormon history Association meetings and talk about their collaborative efforts on the upcoming book.

Richard:  At the time we were working on the book, we were very optimistic about the schedule, as scholars often are. Sometimes we take on a project, and we think, well, this will be done in a few months or a few years. As it turned out that project which we started around 2000 or 2001, it didn’t wrap up until 2008. Because we actually divided the project into two parts, the first part and the second part. It’s actually continued to this day. So, on the first volume, because your skills as an editor were in high demand for this project, you did a tremendous amount on the book. In fact, I’ve got this copy of the book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows that was inscribed to you by Glen and Ron and me. Ron, put this inscription in which I think reflects the feelings of all three of us. It says, “Every page shows our debt to you with warmest appreciation,” Ronald W. Walker. So, you played a major role in that. When the book was published, and I was continuing to work on the next volume of the set, you and I were working together on it in an editorial sort of role, and then ultimately became co-authors of it. We’re still working on it. For those who remain interested in the topic, I will say, for this audience, that the draft of the book is done. But as was the case with the first volume, it’s too large to meet the page count for Oxford. So, Barbara and I are currently working on trimming it down to get it within the page count so that it can be published, which we hope to do by the end of this year.

Barbara:  Great. Well, I for one, I’m really grateful to have that interview, that professional interview with you and grateful for the opportunity I had to work on this project. It led to my going back to graduate school and getting a master’s degree, and really has affected my life. The whole Mountain Meadows project was so meaningful on so many counts. I wonder if you could talk more about the reconciliation process that took place as a result of the book, and about the 150th anniversary when Elder Henry B Eyring, elicited or read an apology. Just talk more about that, and then ultimately achieving National Historic Landmark status for the Mountain Meadows.

Richard:  So, writing about the Mountain Meadows was one part of what I think needed to be done with the topic. But, more than that, I think relationships needed to be built and more needed to be done, particularly to recognize and reflect the pain of the descendants and other relatives of the victims of the massacre, as well as to have a kind of catharsis for many of those who were descendants of participants in the massacre. As I mentioned that sort of relationship had begun in the late 80s, early 90s, and it continued. Ultimately, three groups developed to represent those who had been victims of the massacre. Those three groups worked together at times. At other times they worked independently. But ultimately, one of the groups–the group that was the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, put together a group of proposals that were presented to the Church suggesting that the Church consider having the Mountain Meadows become a National Historic Landmark. That proposal was accepted. All three of the groups worked together with the Church in having that National Historic Landmark recognition occur.

Richard:  When the meeting occurred that you mentioned with then Elder Henry B Eyring, of the Twelve at that time, now of the First Presidency, the purpose of that meeting was in part to read a statement on the part that had been drafted and signed by the First Presidency, expressing several things simultaneously.

Check out our conversation….

Richard Turley and Barbara Jones Brown discuss their work together on the 2 books about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Don’t miss our previous conversation!

475: Hired After Hofmann

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Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre (Part 1 of 6)

If you didn’t grow up in Utah, you’ve probably never heard of the Utah War.  Federal troops came to Utah in 1857 creating great anxiety among the Mormons.  This war footing led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the lowest point in Mormon history.  Barbara Jones-Brown tells about these events that led to the greatest atrocity in American history up to that point in 1857.

Barbara: A memorial from Utah’s legislature [was sent to Washington] saying, “Look, if you keep sending us federal officials that we don’t like, that we don’t agree with, we’re going to send them away. Please choose appointees that are from among us and represent our values.” Basically one legislator said it was practically a declaration of independence. So there’s these kinds of stories, these kind of rumors, some based in fact, some exaggerated that reach Washington. So the new president concludes that he needs to send a whole new set of territorial appointees to Utah, including one to replace Brigham Young as governor and that he’s going to send federal troops with them to ensure that they are placed successfully and with no resistance from local Utahans.

So Brigham Young and church leaders interpret this as a threat and they vowed that the army, the troops will never enter into their settlements. I’m really glossing over things quickly here, but you have what came to be called the Utah War erupt where the troops and the federal appointees, as they are nearing settlements of what was then Utah Territory. Young and other church leaders send out Mormon militia men to hamper their way. So they’re running off their cattle, they’re burning the grass in front of them. They are burning their supply wagons, doing everything they can to try and get the troops to be stopped on the plains that year. So that’s the environment and you’ve got this war hysteria going, on if you will, in Utah Territory.

These heightened tensions contributed to Mormons in Utah committing the worst war atrocity in U.S. history up to that time in 1857.  Approximately 100 settlers from Arkansas were killed.  Check out our conversation….

President James Buchanan sent federal troops to Utah to quell the "Mormon Rebellion." The Utah War indirectly led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
President James Buchanan sent federal troops to Utah to quell the “Mormon Rebellion.” The Utah War indirectly led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Check out our other conversations about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

194: What is the Dead Lee Scroll? (Mayfield)

193: John D. Lee’s Role in Mountain Meadows Massacre (Mayfield)

074: CSI: Mountain Meadows – Using DNA to Solve 2 Mysteries (Perego)

 

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John D. Lee’s Role in Mountain Meadows Massacre (Part 4)

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.”

Steve: Yeah.

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.

Check out our conversation, as well as our other segments on Mormons & Crime!

John D. Lee was the only person executed for involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Sept 11, 1857.
John D. Lee was the only person executed for involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Sept 11, 1857.

192: Mormons & the FBI

191: Steve Mayfield: Crime Photographer

190: Mormon Connection in Patty Hearst Kidnapping