12. September 2007 · Comments Off on Forted Up – Conclusion · Categories: General

The Fancher-Baker party were nearly the last large emigrant party of that year. They had the astounding ill-luck to be traveling south as tensions in the Utah settlements mounted in anticipation of an all out apocalyptic war between the Saints and the forces arrayed against them. Brigham Young had declared martial law, sealing the borders and outlawing travel through out the territory without a permit. Having already departed Salt Lake City by the time this requirement had been made public, the Fanchers and their party had no such permit, and were probably not even aware that such was required of them. They were probably aware, since they had not been able to purchase supplies from Mormon settlers, that such necessities were being stockpiled in anticipation of a war.

What they did not realize, possibly not until that last horrifying moment when the words “Do your duty!” was shouted and the men of the party were gunned down by the militiamen escorting them, was that all unknowning, they had become the enemy. Since departing from Salt Lake City, they had become identified with the advancing US Army, with the persecutors of the Saints in Missouri, and the murderers of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and with the murderer of Parley Pratt. Rumors – most of them concocted after the fact, as justifications for the massacre – had them leaving poisoned food for the Indians, boasting of rape and murder, allowing their cattle to trample crops and numerous other offensive incivilities. It is fairly certain that the local Piutes were encouraged to steal cattle from emigrant trains by no less than Brigham Young himself, who had built strong ties between his church and the local tribes. The Indians were also encouraged to attack Americans, which appears to have baffled the tribes somewhat, since they had been discouraged from doing so before. In the mean time, an emissary from Salt Lake City George Smith visited the southern hamlets of Parowan and Cedar City, steeling those militia units for battle, and encouraging residents to resist an American invasion, and telling them that they might not be able to wait for orders… but to use their own initiative.

At this late date, and because just about every witnesses who gave testimony afterwards were up to their necks in the matter, it is impossible to deduce whose idea it was to attack the Fancher-Baker train, only that once proposed it seemed to be a course of action simultaneously agreed upon. There were meetings held by various authorities in Cedar City and Parowan; at one of those meetings on September 6th it was reported that men in the Fancher train had boasted of being among the mob that had killed Joseph Smith, and that they would wait at Mountain Meadows for the approaching Army and join in on the resulting attacks against Mormons in Utah. A messenger was sent to Salt Lake City asking for Brigham Young’s advice, but it was a six-day round trip journey. Another messenger was sent to the south, where the LDS Indian Agent John D. Lee had already gone to assemble the Mormon’s Indian allies. But by the next day the Piute had already begin skirmishing with the Fancher train at Mountain Meadows. Brigham Young did not even receive the message from the dispatch rider until the night of the 10th. His instructions to allow the Fancher Party to pass unmolested – although he allowed that the Indians might do as they pleased as regards emigrant trains – was not received until too late. Of the local authorities who had taken some part in the massacre, only John D. Lee was convicted and sentenced. He was the one who had carried a white flag into the Fancher encampment and told them that their safety had been negotiated with the attacking Indians. He was executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows in 1877, twenty years afterwards… to the end acknowledging that he was a scapegoat for others involved.

The seventeen surviving children were retrieved from the local families who had fostered them after the murders of their parents in 1859 and returned to their kin in Arkansas. Nothing of the property and possessions of their parents was ever recovered. Several children while they were living in the Utah settlements observed men driving their fathers’ ox-teams, and women wearing their mothers’ dresses and jewelry.

A dreadful story, of murder and sanctioned looting, committed by Americans against other Americans. But within three years of it happening, the armies of the Union and the Confederacy would be doing much the same on American soil, to American citizens who were their cousins, brothers and friends, on a degree that would put what happened in a meadow in Southern Utah far into the shade.

Comments closed.