07 August 2012

Mormons Attack Arkansas Emigrants

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

By August, hatred for the Gentiles had been raised to a fever pitch. Militias had been organized and drilled in each of the hundred towns and villages across Utah Territory. Men from distant Mormon outposts in Nevada and California had been summoned back to Utah to help defend the commonwealth. Saints were instructed to supply no provisions whatsoever to the Gentile wagon that continued to roll through Utah on their way to California.

This was the explosive atmosphere that greeted the Fancher company when their wagon train crested the Wasatch Range and rolled down Emigration Canyon in to the Great Salt Lake Valley on August 3, 1857. The Arkansas emigrants, it seems, were marked as victims from the moment they entered Utah. One of them later claimed that as soon as they arrived in Great Salt Lake City, it was obvious to him that the Saints were looking for “an excuse to slaughter the entire train.” Noting the intensity of the Mormon hostility, the Arkansans rested only two days in the territorial capital before continuing south and west on the Old Spanish Train to California.

The notorious conference between Brigham Young and the Paiute chiefs took place in great Salt Lake City on the evening of September 1. The prophet’s message was clear enough: he wanted to attack the Fancher wagon train.  On September 5, John D. Lee headed for the Mountain Meadow with a large contingent of Saints and Pauites. They arrived in the hills above the meadow on September 6, where they hid among the stunted trees and watched the Arkansans make camp near the spring below, and the Saints painted their faces so they would look like Indians. As the sun crept over the serrated, the-thousand-foot crest of the Pine Valley Mountains, the unsuspecting Arkansans gathered to cook breakfast. Lee’s snipers carefully aimed their muskets to inflict maximum casualties, then fired.

Fancher Wagon Train Route

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