|April 6, 1830
group of six men including Joseph Smith organize "The Church of Jesus
Christ of the Latter-day Saints" (later often called the Mormon Church)
in Fayette, New York
a band of Mormons fleeing persecution in the East, Brigham Young
(successor to the martyred Joseph Smith) arrives in the valley of the
Great Salt Lake (in present day Utah) and declares it the permanent
home of his people.
territorial government is established in Utah, with Brigham Young its
Young announces the Reformation, a plan to arouse religious
consciousness among Mormons that also had the effect of encouraging
fanaticism and suspicion of outsiders.
|January 14, 1857
Utah legislature reorganizes the territorial militia by reactivating
what was called the Nauvoo Legion. Daniel Wells is named
commander-in-chief of the Legion.
of harassment of federal officials and destruction of court records by
Mormons convince President Buchanan to send an army to Utah to quell
the "rebellion." (A federal judge, a territorial surveyor, and
the U.S. marshal--all the federal officials in Utah except for one
Indian agent--fled the territory on April 15, convinced that they were
about to be killed.)
|April and May 1857
||Several extended families leave Arkansas on what is planned to be a long emigration via wagon train to California. The route for the Fancher party, consisting of about 140 men, women, and children, will eventually take them through Utah. In May, Parley Pratt, one of the original apostles of the LDS Church, is murdered in western Arkansas by an aggrieved husband whose wife Pratt had taken.|
of Parley Pratt's killing reaches Utah in late June and inflames Mormon
hostility against non-Mormons.
reaches Mormon officials in Utah that a federal army is on its way to
the Territory to quiet what federal officials call "a rebellion."
|September 1, 1857
the Fancher party camps 70 miles north of Mountain Meadows, Brigham
Young meets in Salt Lake City with southern Indian chiefs to devise a
strategy to stop overland emigration through southern Utah. In
meeting, according to an entry in the diary of Dimick Huntington,
Young's brother-in-law, Young encouraged the Indians to seize "all the
cattle" on the "south route" to California.
|September 4, 1857
Fancher party arrives in Cedar City, Utah. About this time, Isaac
Haight, second in command of the Nauvoo Legion's southern brigade,
tells John Lee that he planned to arm the Paiute Indians and "send them
after the emigrants." Two chiefs meet with Haight and John Higbee
and receive orders to kill the Fancher party members and take their
property as spoil.
|September 5, 1857
Lee heads south and camps with his Paiute war party. Men ordered
by Haight and Higbee to participate in the action against the emigrants
are told to report to a place in the hills near the ranch of Jacob
Hamblin. The Fancher party heads south toward Mountain Meadows.
|September 6, 1857
Young, in a sermon, declares that the Almighty recognizes Mormon Utah
as a free and independent people, no longer bound by the laws of the
|September 7, 1857
Fancher party, encamped near Mountain Meadows, wakes to gunfire coming
from about 40 to 50 (some accounts give a much higher number) Indians
and Mormons disguised as Indians. The well-armed Fancher party
puts up strong resistance and the battle turns into a siege.
Haight, responding to pressure from some Mormons, sends a courier to
Brigham Young (a 600-mile round trip that would take at least four
informing him of the situation at Mountain Meadows and asking him what
to do next.
|September 8-10, 1857
reinforcements, totally about 100 men, arrive at Mountain Meadows and
join the fight. Haight and Colonel William Dame, the head of
southern Utah's militia, are kept informed of developments. A
meeting is held at Dame's house at which he says, "My orders are that
the emigrants [except the youngest children] must be done away with." On
September 10, militia commanders ring the town bell in Cedar City,
calling out trusted members of the Nauvoo Legion. The same day,
the messenger carrying news to Salt Lake gives Haight's letter to
Brigham Young. Young, according to published Mormon reports,
sends a message back to let the Indians "do as they please," but--as
for Mormon participation in the siege--if they will leave Utah, "let
them go in peace."
|September 11, 1857
leaders devise a plan to end the stand-off. Carrying a white
flag, Mormons meet with members of the Fancher party and pledge the
emigrants safe passage back to Cedar City as a way of getting them to
give up their arms. The Fancher party is divided into two wagons,
carrying the wounded and
the youngest children ("the innocent blood"), with the older children
and women marching behind, followed by the men, marching in single
file. The men are led off to a place near the side of the road
where Higbee orders a group of Mormons guards to begin the killing: "Do
your duty!" A quarter of a mile away, John Lee leads the
wagons until they reach a point where Nelphi Johnson orders the
slaughter of the women and older
children. Men rush at the party from both sides, and the killing
continues amidst "hideous, demon-like yells." It is over in just
a few minutes. 120 members of the Fancher party are dead. The
youngest children, those under about age seven, are taken away.
|September 12, 1857
Dame and Lt. Col. Haight visit the massacre site with John Lee.
Dame seemed appalled at what he saw and said, "I did not think there
were so many of them [women and children], or I would not have had
anything to do with it." Dame's comment angered Haight, who
expressed concern that Dame might try to throw the blame on him for an
action that he ordered. (Lee's account) The men pledge to keep
Mormon participation in the massacre secret.
|September 13, 1857
messenger sent to ask of Brigham Young what to do with the emigrants at
Mountain Meadows returns to Cedar City and presents a letter from Young
to Isaac Haight. "Too late, too late," Haight says as he reads
the letter and begins to cry.
|September 15, 1857
||Brigham Young issues a proclamation (of questionable legality) declaring martial law in the Utah Territory. The proclamation prohibits "all armed forces...from entering this Territory," orders the Nauvoo Legion to prepare for an invasion, and prohibits any person from passing through the Territory without a permit from "the proper officer."|
|September 16 or 17, 1857
Young hears his first reports concerning Mormon participation in the
massacre at Mountain Meadows.
|September 20, 1857
Lee leaves for Salt Lake, where he will provide Young with a detailed
account of the massacre. According to Lee, Young first expresses
dismay and concern that the massacre will damage the LDS
reputation. The next day, however, Young tells Lee, "I asked the
Lord if it was all right for the deed to be done, to take away the
vision of the deed from my mind, and the Lord did so, and I feel first
rate. It is all right. The only fear I have is from
|September 27, 1857
Hurt, the federal Indian agent for the Territory, hears reports that he
will be assassinated by Mormons who fear that he knows too much about
the massacre and, with the help of Utes, flees to safety.
forces, under General Albert Johnston, sent to suppress the Utah
rebellion decide to overwinter at Fort Bridger, rather than fight the
men of the Nauvoo Legion guarding the canyons leading to Salt
Lake. Meanwhile, the first published reports of the massacre
begin to appear in the press. The reports place much of the blame
on Mormon fanatics, and many people call for military action against
those responsible. The San Francisco
Bulletin, for example, calls for "a crusade against Utah which
will crush out this beast of heresy forever."
|November 20, 1857
writes a fictionalized report of the massacre, attributing all the
killing to the Indians, and sends it do Young.
|January 6, 1858
Young submits a report to the Indian Commissioner laying the blame for
the massacre on mistreatment of Indians by non-Mormons.
|February 25, 1858
Kane, sent to Utah by President Buchanan to attempt to work out a
peaceful solution to the Utah problem, arrives in Salt Lake City.
|March 18, 1858
debates the massacre at Mountain Meadows. It orders an inquiry.
Cumming, the newly appointed governor of Utah sent from Washington,
arrives in Salt Lake to assume office. Cumming announces that he
will head south to begin an investigation of the massacre. Young
assures Cumming that he is also determined to get to the truth of the
matter, and Cumming seems to believe him.
|May 11, 1858
Cumming declares the California trail open and says emigrants can once
again "pass through Utah territory without hindrance or molestation."
|June 26, 1858
troops (one-fourth of the United States Army) march through Salt Lake
City toward their headquarters at Camp Floyd, forty miles away.
They do so after Young, recognizing the overwhelming size of the
federal force, accepted federal terms--including a pardon for acts of
|August 6, 1858
A. Smith, one of the twelve apostles in the LDS Church, begins drafting
an apostolic report on the massacre. The report blames the
emigrants for inciting Indians. It also places John Lee at the
scene, thus identifying him as the best possible Mormon scapegoat for
the crime. (Historian Juanita Brooks believes to be the person
ultimately responsible for the massacre, having told Dame to issue the
order that all the emigrants be killed.)
S. District Judge John Cradlebaugh arrives in Utah and begins to take
an immediate interest in prosecuting those responsible for the
massacre. Prosecution will be frustrated by a Utah law that
places jury selection in the hands of Mormon officials.
Superintendent Jacob Forney travels through southern Utah, rounding up
children orphaned by the massacre. He eventually retrieves 17
Cradlebaugh issues arrest warrants for John D. Lee, Isaac Haight, and
John Higbee. The men, all accused in connection with the Mountain
Meadows murders, flee.
|May 5-6, 1859
army and Judge Cradlebaugh inspect the massacre scene. Skulls,
bones, masses of women's hair, and bits of clothing still litter the
scene. Remains of the victims are buried by troops.
Cradlebaugh follows up his visit with a letter to President Buchanan
outlining his conclusion that the murders were committed "by order of
|May 12, 1859
arrest warrant is issued for Brigham Young. He appears
voluntarily before Judge Joseph Smith (in a Mormon probate court) to
give a statement about the massacre, in which he accused of being an
accessory after the fact. The case is apparently dismissed for
lack of evidence.
|June 3, 1859
||The federal case against 38 Mormons for the massacre is essentially dropped when the U. S. Marshal declares his unwillingness to make arrests without federal troops to protect him from local citizens, and that help is not provided.|
|August 13, 1859
report from the scene of the massacre, accompanied by a grisly cover
sketch, appears in Harper's Weekly.
|December 12, 1859
Superintendent Forney arrives in Washington, D.C. with the two oldest
surviving boys from the massacre. Forney hopes the boys will be
allowed to testify before Congress.
the Union ready to split apart, interest in prosecuting the Mountain
Meadows massacre begins to wane. In Utah, Governor Cumming is
unwilling to press prosecution, which he sees as futile: "God
Almighty couldn't convict the butchers unless Brigham Young was
the onset of the Civil War, federal troops leave Utah.
Lincoln appoints non-Mormons to fill all federal offices in Utah and
signs a law outlawing polygamy, although the law is largely ignored in
D. Lee, a man with a domineering personality who repeatedly boasted of
his role in the massacre, is relieved of his position as elder of the
Harmony, Utah branch of the LDS.
J. Wilson Schaffer, appointed by President Grant, abolishes the Nauvoo
Legion. The Mormon political condition generally begins to
W. Wandell, under the pen name "Argus," writes a series of stories in
the Utah Reporter challenging Brigham Young's response to the Mountain
Meadows massacre. Wandell's articles eventually produce the first
confession by a massacre participant. About this time, Young
meets with Lee, Haight, Dame, and others involved in the
massacre. Historians suggest that Young singles out Lee to take
the blame, confident in the belief that Lee will do as he is told at
any trial. Lee is excommunicated.
|April 10, 1871
Klingensmith, a former LDS bishop who subsequently left the Church,
appears in a Nevada court and swears out an account of the massacre,
including his own role in it.
passes the Poland Act, which redefines the jurisdiction of courts in
Utah. The law restricted the authority of Mormon-controlled
probate courts and opened Utah juries to non-Mormons. The Poland
Act finally makes prosecution for the murders at Mountain Meadows a
warrants are issued for Lee, Higbee, Haight, Stewart, Wilden, Adair,
Klingensmith, Jukes, and Dame.
|November 7, 1874
Lee, a fugitive for fifteen years, is captured in a chicken coop near
Panguitch, Utah. Soon thereafter, federal authorities arrest
|July 23, 1875
trial of John Lee opens in the courtroom of Judge Jacob Boreman.
Payment for Lee's defense is arranged by Brigham Young. The
prosecution's star witness is Philip Klingensmith.
|August 5, 1875
trial of John Lee ends in a hung jury, with the nine Mormon jurors
voting to acquit and the three non-Mormon jurors voting to
convict. The trial, however, severely tarnishes the reputation of
the LDS Church in the eyes of most Americans.
|September 1, 1875
A. Smith dies.
Sumner Howard, the new U. S. attorney for Utah, makes a deal with
Brigham Young. Young agrees to find witnesses to convict John Lee
in return for his affidavit being placed in evidence (largely
exonerating him) and charges are dropped against William Dame and other
|September 14, 1876
second trial of John Lee opens in Beaver, Utah. Numerous Mormons
testify against Lee, but the testimony does not implicate other
Mormons. Lee asks that no witnesses testify in his behalf.
|September 20, 1876
only a few hours of deliberation, an all-Mormon jury convicts John Lee.
his appeals play out, John Lee writes his autobiography and confession,
which he gives to his attorney, William Bishop, and which is later
published under the title, Mormonism
|March 23, 1877
Lee is executed by firing squad while sitting on his coffin in Mountain
|August 29, 1877
Young dies, possibly of appendicitis.
|August 3. 1999
||A back hoe's claw exposes the skeletal remains of men, women, and children massacred in 1857.|
|September 11, 1999
B. Hinckley, President of the LDS Church, dedicates a new monument to
the victims of the 1857 massacre. He says, "[The past] cannot be
changed. It is time to leave the entire matter to God."