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History Q & A by Marilyn Smith
Mt. Meadows Massacre story at Heritage Museum
May 27, 2005
Question: What is the full story about Mt. Meadows? The historical marker south of town mentions this event and I would like to know more.
Answer: The historical marker, located near Milum Spring on Highway 7 South, is a poignant reminder of the ill-fated wagon train that formed in that beautiful valley with hopes of beginning new lives at west. The full story of the horrible September 1857 event, known at Mountain Meadows, has remained one of America's enduring and controversial pieces of history.

In the spring of 1857, one of the richest wagon trains ever assembled, left that spring valley south of Harrison. Made up of local families, 700 to 1,000 head of cattle, horses, mules, wagons and carriages, they were to endure the trials and tribulations of overland travel, hoping to join relatives who had earlier settled in California.
Capt. Alexander Fancher with John Twitty Baker, second in command, led the Wagon train into the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. There is little question as to the route they took after reaching Salt Lake City, and their continuing trek into the valley known as Mountain Meadows. Mormon history documents this route well as being near the present Interstate 15 in southwest Utah.
The train's arrival in Utah was at a critical time - war hysteria permeated the entire area; President Buchanan had sent an expedition to suppress a suspected rebellion by Mormons against the government; militias had been formed and people were convinced that a state of war was near and they were trained to take action. Old troubles in Missouri and Illinois preceded the train and the murder of apostle Parley P. Pratt in northwest Arkansas was certainly a factor in hostility toward the train.
Needing water and supplies, the Fancher Train arrived in the Utah valley for a few days of gathering supplies, recuperation and rest. On the 7th of September, the train was brought under siege and for five days they were pinned down without food and water. By the 11th of September, they were in a helpless condition! Under a flag of truce, the massacre of as many as 120 Arkansas emigrants occurred on that date.
Dr. Shannon Novak, a University of Utah forensic anthropologist, has worked long hours pouring over the physical evidence of remains found in the old burial site. Among other revelations, she found some (including women and children) has been shot point blank between the eyes and not in the back, as earlier accounts had claimed.
Seventeen children (some say 18) under the age of eight survived - and two years later, were returned to Carrollton to reunite with family members. These children were: Mary Elizabeth , Sarah Frances and William Twitty Baker; Rebecca, Louisa and Sarah Dunlap; Prudence and Georgia Dunlap; Christopher and Triphenia Fancher; Nancy Huff; Felix Jones; John Calvin, Mary and Joseph Miller; Emberson Milum and Wm.Henry Tackitt - with possibly one other survivor remained in Utah. This return was prompted by relatives in Arkansas demanding an investigation.
One man, John D. Lee, was put on trial and found guilty for his role in this affair. Some say he was a scapegoat but his execution took place in 1877. Yet many believe the Mormons, disguised as Indians, were to blame for the killings. The Paiute Indian leaders say the new forensic evidence supports their own oral histories that the tribe has been wrongfully blamed. So who is right and who is wrong?
Lee's descendants and those of the Fancher wagon train have met in the past and in 1990, a memorial was dedicated on Dan Sill Hill overlooking the Mountain Meadow Valley with both factions represented.
"What Happened at Mountain Meadows" by Sally Denton published in the October 2001 issue of American Heritage magazine is an excellent take on this event. This and 117 other volumes of information on Mountain Meadows are available at the Boone County Heritage Museum, all made possible by the generosity of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation. Local residents, Judge Roger Logan, J. K. Fancher, Scott Fancher and Harley Fancher, are some of the descendants of members of the wagon train and are involved in various organizations constantly researching this piece of history.
The Heritage Museum invites you to come spend time looking over the material we have on Mountain Meadows - and view memorabilia and artifacts from the past, now filling display rooms on three floors of the historic 1912 Harrison High School building.
The museum is located on the corner of South Cherry and Central Avenue. Hours are from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This column appears Fridays in the Harrison Daily Times. Mail questions to Boone County Heritage Museum, P. O. Box 1094, Harrison, AR 72601. Marilyn Smith can be contacted at bchm@windstream.net
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