Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mountain Meadows Massacre

"Use Them Up"

Unknown to the Fancher train, the word had been passed that no quarter would be given to the immigrants passing through Utah. With the impending approach of the army, a state of war existed between the Mormons and the Americans, and any Saint who provided the least aid and comfort to an immigrant train was a traitor and an apostate. In Utah in the 1850s, everyone knew what happened to apostates -- they atoned for their sins by shedding their blood.

As the train headed south, the immigrants troubles mounted. At each stop, the Mormons refused to provide even the smallest amount of grain for the stock, and in some places, the travelers were denied access to open grassland. The attitude of the Mormons toward the Arkansans is best summed up by Major Carlton, who conducted the first in-depth investigation into the trains fate. This train was undoubtedly a very rich one. It is said the emigrants had nearly nine hundred head of fine cattle, many horses and mules, and one stallion valued at $2,000; that they had a great deal of ready money besides, Carlton wrote in 1859. Not only that, but these Gentiles were from Arkansas, where the saintly Pratt had gained his crown of martyrdom. Is not here some thread which may be seized as a clue to this mystery so long hidden as to whether or not the Mormons were accomplices in the massacre? This train of Arkansas Gentiles was doomed from the day it crossed through the South Pass and had gotten fairly down in the meshes of the Mormon spider net, from which it was never to become disentangled.

George A Smith
George A Smith
Riding several days ahead of the Fancher train was George A. Smith, Brigham Youngs personal emissary. Smiths duty was to alert the Southern Mormons to the threat of the coming American army, and to ensure the remote communities at the edge of the Mormon empire were prepared to defend the vulnerable southern flank. Described as a rotund and blustering man, George Smith was well-suited to the task of fomenting anger and instilling fear among the sparsely populated outposts. These remote areas were still caught up in the throes of the Reformation, and were especially receptive to Smiths message of hate and vengeance. Historians disagree about whether Young sent Smith to prepare the slaughter of the Fancher train, or if the militia called up to hear his message simply misinterpreted his call to arms.

Faced with the very real threat of invasion on two fronts-- from the east by Johnstons army and from California by way of the Mojave -- Youngs decision to send Smith to the south to ensure the frontiers security was the proper course of action. But Brigham Young was also well aware that the only trump card he had was immigration control. The Paiutes of southern Utah were no supporters of the Americans -- Mericats, as they called them -- and Young was actively lobbying the Indians to join his side against their common enemy. In a sermon shortly after the Fancher train left Salt Lake City, he told his congregation to spread the word back east that I will not hold the Indians while you shoot them. As the Indian agent for the Territory of Utah, Young was responsible for keeping the peace with the Indians, and if he was telling the government that he would no longer restrain the natives, this clearly meant that he would set the Indians loose upon the immigrant trains.

If the United States send their army here, and war commences, the travel must stop, Young told the Saints in August 1857. To accomplish this, I need only say a word, for the Indians will use them up unless I continually strive to contain them.

A week or so after Youngs sermon threatening to allow the Indians to use up -- contemporary slang for kill -- immigrants in the event of war, George Smith was camped out in southern Utah with Mormon John Doyle Lee, who served as the Indian farmer in the region. Along with Smith and Lee were several dozen Paiutes, whose attitude toward the Mericats and immigrants impressed the emissary. He told Lee that an immigrant train, camped less than a hundred yards away from the Mormons, would certainly be at the mercy of the Indians if Lee, who was looked upon by the natives as a leader, gave the word. Lee agreed.

The train was the Fancher-Baker party.

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