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Mountain Meadows Massacre, A Personal Story

Updated on September 7, 2010

New Book, Massacre At Mountain Meadows Soon To Be Released

In September 2008 a new book was released called, Massacre at Mountain Meadows. It is written by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard. Before the book was released I had read in the newspaper of the gathering process that was taking place so the authors could write Massacre at Mountain Meadows . The authors had asked that anyone who had any information about the Mountain Meadow Massacre please contact them, so they could be very thorough in presenting all the facts. At the insistence of my aunt, I did contact them, and shared what personal information I had. Yes, I did have a personal interest in the massacre that occurred at Mountain Meadows and have been studying the subject for years. That was over five years ago. And now, the book is finally published and on the shelves. I guess it has been a long time coming. I am a Mormon, but that is not the only reason I am interested… I have a family member who I believe was there.

Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Massacre at Mountain Meadows
Massacre at Mountain Meadows
Coauthors Walker, Turley, and Leonard provide the fullest account yet of the darkest chapter in Mormon history: the massacre of a wagon train of California-bound immigrants passing through southern Utah in 1857. Readers relive the grim days when local Mormon leaders besieged the immigrants with a force of white militiamen and Paiute warriors and then brutally butchered all but a few young children. To account for the barbarism of attackers who professed a religion of love, Walker, Turley, and Leonard recount the Mormons turbulent history in Missouri and Illinois, where government officials allowed mobs to kill unarmed Mormons and drive others from their homes. Determined to protect their new communities, Utah Mormons seethed with passion when, in 1857, President Buchanan announced plans to send troops to quell a supposed Mormon insurrection. Those passions surged when some immigrants boasted of involvement in earlier depredations against Mormon settlements and threatened worse. The drama leading up to the massacre brings to view a score of memorable personalities. But the most famous namely, Brigham Young plays a role of surprising impotence, as his urgent letter directing the militia to let the immigrants pass in peace leaves a Mormon captain lamenting, too late, too late. An essential acquisition for any western history collection. --Bryce Christensen

The Mountain Meadows Massacre was something that bothered my great grandfather about the LDS Church.

Just before my great grandfather died he called my aunt and asked her to come over to his house to see him because he had something very important he wanted to tell her. It was something that had been bothering him for a long time.

A discussion ensued and he told my aunt a story that both shocked and intrigued her. My grandfather was not always a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he converted in his later years at the request of my great grandmother who, when she heard the story of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, was converted and joined the church. My great grandfather however did not follow in her conversion until several years later. He had something that had always bothered him about “the church” which he had a hard time reconciling.

That something was the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Family Story of the Mountain Meadow Massacre as told by my great grandfather...

The family story is as follows:

My great grandfather had heard it from his father, who had heard it from his father. Now, I know what you might be thinking.. this cannot be a valid, accurate account, having been retold for so many generations , I thought the same thing myself, but upon further research I have found the story to have substance, and in fact, I believe it is true and valid. I guess you can call this my testimonial part!

More to the Mountain Meadows Story...

My great grandfather imploringly asked my aunt to find out the “truth behind why the Mormons killed his great aunt.” He, in fact, made my aunt promise to find out the reason why.


It seemed so unlikely, but he continued… “My great grandfather chased the Mormon missionaries off of his farm with a gun, when they tried to come and teach him the gospel many years ago. He did this because the Mormons killed his baby sister.” He then went on to explain that “the Mormon missionaries shook the dust from their feet” on his great grandfather.

That last statement caught my attention.

My great grandfather had never even cracked the Bible, I was sure of that! There could have been no way he would have been aware of the counsel given to the apostles in the New Testament that talked about the performance of “shaking off the dust from your feet” when someone would not listen to their words.

Right away I realized that there had to be more to this story.

The story continued…His great aunt was just a young girl at the time of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. She had signed on to be a nanny for a family who was traveling to California in a wagon train bound for the west. That wagon train never reached its destination. His great aunt was never heard from again. They were convinced she was among the victims of the massacre at Mountain Meadows.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre by Juanita Brooks

Juanita Brooks, Author of The Mountain Meadows Massacre

My aunt was then given a book from my great grandfather, which he had never read, called The Mountain Meadows Massacre by Juanita Brooks. Juanita Brooks was the most credibly published author on the Mountain Meadows Massacre at the time. My aunt, who is not a fan of reading, took the book and let it set on her shelf, haunted by the promise she had made to my great grandfather for years…

Enter unsuspecting niece… me…it was time to “pass the buck” or the “baton” whichever you prefer.

As I was doing my family history research, because I am a big fan of genealogy, my aunt, who was the family history specialist of the family asked me to come to her house because she had an assignment for me.

You guessed it, that assignment involved me reading the book by Juanita Brooks and figuring out just exactly what the Mountain Meadow Massacre was. Being a church history enthusiast I was up for the challenge and started right away. I soon learned that Juanita Brooks was a lone voice on the subject at the time. The Mountain Meadows Massacre was not a subject that was discussed openly amongst practicing Mormons. It was difficult to find information at all not to mention credible information.

Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial

Paying tribute at the Mountain Meadows Memorial.
Paying tribute at the Mountain Meadows Memorial.

Mountain Meadow Massacre Memorial

Mormons are now talking about the Mountain Meadows Massacre

The Mountain Meadows Massacre has just recently become a topic of discussion, and a forum for healing among Mormons and family members of the victims alike.

Because of the wonderful inspired efforts of our dearly departed prophet,Gordon B. Hinckley, in his attempt to repair the hurt and sorrow brought about by this tragic event, the Mountain Meadows Massacre is openly discussed, and education on the subject is available to all, so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past.

A beautiful memorial has been created and is maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to pay tribute to those who suffered death and loss by the Mountain Meadow Massacre.

A wonderful article in the church publication called the Ensign was written exploring the circumstances and the events of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which is fabulous if you are interested in learning more about the subject.

My Great Great Aunt Hortensia Grover...will always be remembered!

You must admit, I am in a very strange predicament, a member of the Mormon Church with an ancestor who was reportedly “killed by the Mormons.”

I say reportedly because her name appears nowhere in any of the documentation or company manifests, it does not appear on the beautiful monument, it only remains in the memory of my family by way of family history…some may call lore, I call love.

Although many will never know she was there, I Hortensia, know you were and will always remember you.

Understanding brings peace... I understand the climate, and events that led to the Mountain Meadow Massacre...

Do I hold bitter feelings about the Mountain Meadows Massacre? No way! I have had the incredible opportunity to study firsthand the history of the event. I have come to understand it better than I could have ever understood it without that charge I was given to research it.

And… simply because this HUB is becoming a “book” I will write a follow up one to explore the fascinating things I personally have learned about the Mountain Meadows Massacre… watch for more to come!


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    • Dottie1 profile image


      13 years ago from MA, USA

      Never heard of this but very very interesting story. Eager to hear more about this through your continued story. thanks for sharing.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California

      Hi MikeJ

      The Mountain Meadows Massacre is most certainly a time we can look back on and learn from. There was much more to the story then I have written in this Hub, and I am hoping to continue the story soon... just got home from vacation, so I am in the process of writing more on the subject. Nice to see you around.

    • MikeJ profile image

      Mike Jones 

      13 years ago from Utah

      Hello again Doghouse,

      An educational piece of work your hub was for me. I did not know about the MMM. But it does not surprise me. All through the history of the church, both in modern times as well as in times of old, tragedy has struck, giving cause for us to look back upon those times reflecting and perhaps even gaining an insight on what we might learn from those incidents to help us through the rest of our mortal journeys. Thank you for the insight.


    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      I too have visited the Mountain Meadow Massacre Memorial, it is a place of reverence and respect. I was amazed at the feeling that I felt there, possibly because I have felt a little connected because of my family story and my personal study. I feel so sad for everyone who was a part of this terrible tragedy. I especially feel bad for the John D. Lee family and the pain they have personally suffered because of the pointing fingers. I am glad that the incident is being talked about so that healing can occur for all parties involved.

      I can't wait to hear your insights on the upcoming book!

    • LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

      Kathryn Skaggs 

      13 years ago from Southern California

      Doghouse -

      Thank you for sharing your very personal story about the massacre at Mountain Meadows. What was in the past history of the LDS Church - a dark mar, is now becoming a healing balm for those who have been affected by it as families.

      I recently went to the site, of which you show the memorial of the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Knowing the history of it as I do - it was a solemn and yet spiritual occasion. I left with a reverent and peaceful feeling. I could feel the great empathy for all victims of this tragic occurrence.

      Chef Jeff gave some great insights into the "times" and ways - during those tumultuous times. It is wise to take into consideration these things, when we look back on this terrible incident.

      I too have waited a long time for this book to be published, and will with you - be anxious to review it.

      Excellent Hub:-)



    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      Yes, I am in an usual spot. I can relate to the feelings of both sides of the fence. The Mountain Meadow Massacre is such a tragedy but it is tragic for both sides. I think many people tend to forget the pain and suffering the offenders must have gone though as well as the families of the victims.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Wow that promises to be an interesting read! I wonder if we will ever really know the whole story of what happened. Thanks for sharing your personal story. How funny to sort of be on both sides of the issue.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      Thanks for your kind words. I do think that there is much to be learned from the past including the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I was so lucky to have been placed into the position that I was so that I could learn more about it. I can't wait to share more insights in a future Hub!

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      Again, you are very knowledgable on the historical facts concerning the Mormon Church. I am aware of the "Know Nothings" who also persecuted my Irish Immigrants. Our pioneer ancestors really had to fight for their rights didn't they?

      I have been to Nauvoo and it is an interesting place to visit. I love the beautiful temple up on the hill that was recently restored to its place of splendor. Nauvoo is steeped in Mormon History! So much to write about!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      13 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Your heart is in the right place, my friend Diana, for seeing beyond as always! There is much to learn from this tragedy (and any tragedy for that matter); and having an open and forgiving heart makes you see the wealth of information and love that is in store within the challenges of life. I await to read more. :)

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      13 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Thanks! I had a g-g-g-grandfather who was lynched by the "Know Nothings", a radical anti-immigrant party from those times. He had been here from Germany only about 3 months before they hanged him because he couldn't speak English. If I remember right, the Know Nothings were also involved with the death of Joseph Smith and others. I think it was them that incited people against the Mormons because of the militia being trained amongst the Mormons.

      Today Nauvoo in Illinois is a thriving communuty and an interesting place to visit. I am not Mormon but I went there with some friends who are and we all learned a lot about the turbulent history of those times.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      You are absolutely right, the young children were taken and raised by families in the area for several years, until they were returned to their original family members who came to claim them. My ancestor however would have been too old to have been spared. They only allowed people who would not be able to recount what happened to live. There are stories of nannies being shot because they saw the terrible deed and would be able to testify.

      I do realize completely that the states of Illinois, and Missouri treated the Mormons dreadfully. There were a lot of religious tensions around several different areas during that time. I plan on exploring that in a future Hub.

      I agree with your statement about judging... it is a situation that could not be comprehended by us.. we were not there. I will let you know that the emotional condition of the travelers and settlers in the area were flamed by the pending Utah/US war... this in my opinion is a casualty of that so called "bloodless" war. IMHO it was definitely not a bloodless war... the Mountain Meadow Massacre was a result of that war time mentality. This I will talk about in my next Hub as well.

      As far as Europeans coming to the US because of hearing the gospel and joining the church is a whole other topic that is so cool and a great idea to talk about! I would love to write a Hub on that as well.... watch for more LDS History to come!

      AS always your kind comments and insights are welcome as well as appreciated.


    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      13 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      I had always heard that most of the young children were taken to be raised by the men who were involved in the tragedy. Could it be that she was simply given a new name and never knew that she was part of the MMM?

      By the way, while I do not condone killing, my own study of those times indicates to me that groups of people were easily incited to strike out at others who held differing beliefs. I am from Illinois and we have our own sad legacy about treating the Mormons cruelly, so far be it from me to judge people who lived in times I can only understand from such a distance.

      Still, it is great to see that healing and forgiveness have come to pass in this matter.

      One other question I have always wondered: How come so many Mormons on the Great Trek came form Europe? Did your faith spread so far as Germany and other European nations so quickly? Who brought it there and how were they recieved and treated by the local populations in those nations?

      Maybe you could write a hub informing us about this interesting piece of history.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      The Mountain Meadows Massacre was a terrible tragedy for everyone involved. My relative was a young girl who was not really accounted for as she was not part of a family, but a nanny. We found her in census records before the trip and she vanishes at that point. I believe that she was among the travelers that day! I will post more details about the incident soon.

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      13 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Interesting article, I'm sorry to hear that your family, (great-grandfather,) was touched personally by something so tragic. I've never heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre before, thank-you. I'm looking forward to the upcoming book.


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