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Was John D. Lee Most Guilty? (Part 2 of 4)

John D. Lee was the only person convicted (and executed) for the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Was he the guiltiest?  Richard Turley answers that question, as well as many others.

Turley : Contrary to popular belief, John D. Lee is not the only one who was indicted. A grand jury in September of 1874 indicted nine persons.  The key figures in the massacre were, first Isaac Haight. Isaac Haight was the militia major and also the stake president in Cedar City at the time. He seems to be the linchpin, the person who was at the center who organized the events that lead to the massacre and gave approval for the massacre to occur.

William Dame, who was his military superior, the commander of the militia in southern Utah, he lived in Parowan. He was also a stake president. Then, John D. Lee, who was the person who Isaac Haight brought in to make an initial attack on the immigrants and who was on the ground at the time of the final massacre and helped to massacre people. Then, in addition to those, all told, there were probably at least 50 people, maybe 60 people, who played some kind of role in the massacre at some point. So, it was clearly group violence.  The people who were investigating the massacre and who were trying it, were not necessarily interested in getting all those people into a courtroom. They were interested in trying the leaders. This is not unusual. If you look at group violence across the United States and across the world, often it’s the leaders that that law enforcement officials go after. That was certainly the case here.

Some have said the Fancher Party were insulting Mormons on their way through Utah.  Others have said they were peace-loving people who did not deserve to die.  Likely the truth is somewhere in the middle.  What led the Mormons to become so angry with the Fancher-Baker party?

In those days, many cities in the United States, including cities in Utah, had anti-profanity ordinances. If somebody profaned in public, you can arrest them, and then either imprison them or give them a fine. Isaac Haight, before the company arrives said we’re going to try to get some cattle from these people. Why get cattle? Well, in the event of a siege, they’d have food that they can use to help supply themselves. So, if these people were expressing themselves verbally, they could have used their anti-profanity ordinance as a way of arresting these people and then taking cattle from them as a fine. So, while the exact details are somewhat murky, we probably had something about like that going on. In short, there was nothing that these immigrants did, nothing, that would justify an attack on a single person, let alone a wholesale execution of men, women and children, who had been promised protection under a white flag.

Check out our conversation….

Richard Turley weighs in on whether John D. Lee was most guilty.
Richard Turley weighs in on whether John D. Lee was most guilty.

Check out our previous conversation with Richard!

266: Richard Turley on Saints… & Sinners

 

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Who Bears Responsibility for MMM?

In our final conversation with Barbara Jones Brown, we’ll talk about who was most culpable for the massacre.  Was it John D. Lee, Brigham Young, or militia leaders in Iron County?

Barbara:  [Brigham Young] starts to come to believe that John D Lee and Isaac Haight we’re involved. Now at this time, he doesn’t have civil authority. He just has church authority, right? Because he’s not the governor anymore. And so, he excommunicates John D. Lee and Isaac Haight, eventually.

GT: Would it be safe to say that those were the two most responsible people for the massacre?

Barbara:  I think William Dame is also responsible because he gave the final okay to go ahead and carry it out as Iron County militia commander. Phillip Klingensmith was clearly very much involved and clearly received much of the spoils. We know from a clerk of Phillip Klingensmith that he was pilfering tithing funds and stealing from the people long before the massacre.

But is Brigham Young completely blameless?

Barbara:  I agree with Juanita Brooks’ conclusion that his rhetoric before the massacre was very dangerous. You know, privately he was writing and saying, “I don’t want any bloodshed in this conflict.” But he was definitely whipping people up into a state of hysteria.

GT:  Would Brigham Young be an accessory to that with his rhetoric?

Barbara: I don’t think he’s an accessory to the crime. I look at President Donald Trump today and some of his rhetoric that he uses. Did he tell people to do what happened at Charlottesville? No. But did his rhetoric make people think it was okay to do what they did? Did some people think it was okay to do what they did at Charlottesville? Probably. So, would you call Trump an accessory to any crime? Would you call Trump an accessory to the crime that occurred at Charlottesville when you had one of these people drive a car into protesters? No. I wouldn’t call Trump an accessory to that crime. No. But did his rhetoric encourage some people to think that was okay? Possibly.

Check out our conversation….

Are there others responsible for the deaths at Mountain Meadows?
Are there others responsible for the deaths at Mountain Meadows?

Check out our other episodes with Barbara!

260: After the Killing (Jones Brown)

259: Cattle Rustling Turns Deadly (Jones Brown)

258: Tackling Myths of Mountain Meadows (Jones Brown)

257: Revenge for Haun’s Mill & Pratt’s Murder? (Jones Brown)

256: Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre (Jones Brown)

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Cattle Rustling Turns Deadly (Part 4 of 6)

What precipitated the Mountain Meadows Massacre?  In my conversation with Barbara Jones Brown, I learned something very interesting. It turns out that Mormons were stealing cattle from California-bound immigrants!  Was this part of Brigham Young’s strategy to send a message to Washington that immigration was unsafe?  It seems that Brigham Young was encouraging Mormons (and Indians) to steal immigrant cattle!  Barbara tells about another raid on immigrant cattle at the same time the Mountain Meadows Massacre happened.

Barbara:  We can’t say for sure who did it. We don’t know. That’s all we have is this account from those immigrants on the northern route. But it takes place on September 8, 1857. They said, “It was clear they did not intend to kill anyone. It was clear they just intended to run off our cattle.” That’s exactly what happens with this other train. They have their cattle run off. They’re strung out on the road and it’s in the dark at night-time and they’re in a ravine, a large wash. The Moapa Indians, led by five or six Mormon interpreters run off their cattle, and then the train goes on and makes it to California, to San Bernardino. That happens right after this other one. No one is killed.

GT: Mormons have a history of cattle rustling it sounds like.

Barbara: Well again, this was Brigham Young’s strategy. His war strategy was to try and convince the federal government that if the government removed him as Indian Superintendent and Governor of Utah and ran the Mormons out, this is what would happen, that immigration would be no longer safe.

GT: This is kind of his strategy, and so he’s making it not safe, essentially.

Barbara: Yeah. He’s encouraging this cattle raiding. In all of the sources in which the cattle raiding is encouraged, you don’t see any evidence of any killing to be encouraged at all, just to have the cattle raided.

GT: So why do you think the killing happened in Mountain Meadows?

Check out our conversation!

Brigham Young encouraged Mormons (and Indians) to steal cattle from immigrants crossing through Utah.
Brigham Young encouraged Mormons (and Indians) to steal cattle from immigrants crossing through Utah.

Don’t miss our other episodes with Barbara!

258: Tackling Myths of Mountain Meadows (Jones Brown)

257: Revenge for Haun’s Mill & Pratt’s Murder? (Jones Brown)

256: Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre (Jones Brown)