Massacre History

In 1857, a group of families from Arkansas set out on the long trail to California. Most of the families were related to each other, either by blood or marriage. Their intent was to meet up with other relatives already in California, sell their prime stock for a hefty profit, build new homes and send for family members who stayed in Arkansas.

This group traveled in what is now called the Baker/Fancher wagon train, led by Captain George Baker and Captain Alexander Fancher. From historic accounts, we know that this group consisted of at least 150 men, women and children traveling in no fewer than 40 covered wagons. Several eyewitness accounts attest to the wealth and size of the wagon train. In Brevet Major H. Carleton’s official report detailing the massacre, he states, “The train seemed to consist of respectable people, well to do in the world. They were well dressed, were quiet, orderly, genteel; had fine stock; had three carriages along, and other evidences which went to show that this was one of the finest trains that had been seen to cross the plains.” It was hard to miss this particular wagon train as it was herding more than 400 head of cattle and had one of its carriages described as “peculiar in the construction of the carriage and its ornaments—its blazoned stag’s head upon the panels, etc.” Brevet Major Carleton reported that this easily recognized carriage was in the possession of the Mormons after the massacre.

The wagon train traveled from Arkansas to Salt Lake City and from Salt Lake City, south along the California Trail to Mountain Meadows. At Mountain Meadows, the wagon train was attacked by what appeared to be Native Indians, though the surviving children later attested that the attackers were actually white men. Ten men were killed in the first attacks, but the emigrants were able to circle their wagons and defend themselves. After 5 days of fighting with no food or water, the emigrants were happy to see a man approach with a white flag. The man said that the Mormons had negotiated with the Indians for their lives. All they had to do was put down their weapons, leave all their possessions and walk out of the Meadows with the Mormons. The emigrants agreed.

When the group of Mormons came to “rescue” the emigrants, they insisted that the emigrants be divided into three groups. The first group was a wagon that carried the wounded and some of the infants. The second group consisted of the women and young girls. The third group was the men and boys. After the group of women walked over the hill, the order was given to “Do your duty”. At this command, each man and boy was shot point blank. They then shot, bludgeoned and beat the women and girls to death, along with the injured men in the first group. In the frenzy, small children and infants were killed. Only 17 children, all under the age of 7, survived.

After the bloody massacre, the Mormons stripped the bodies of valuables and jewelry and confiscated all the wagons, cattle, gold coins, furniture, carriages, etc–leaving the 120 bodies to rot. They took the surviving children to live with them, separating them into various Mormon households. Two years later when Brevet Major Carleton visited Mountain Meadows, he found many scattered bones and remnants from the massacre.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre victims were an affluent, cultured group of people with political ties. Without these ties, the surviving children would likely never have returned to Arkansas. It took the efforts of former Arkansas State Senator William Mitchell to pressure the U.S. government into forcing the Mormons to acknowledge the existence of the children and to relinquish them. Before the Mormons would hand over the children, they demanded the U.S. Government pay for the expense of caring for each child. In some cases, they asked for and received more than $4,000 per child. It took two years for their return.

As a result of the Massacre, Senator Mitchell lost his sons Joel and Charles, his daughter-in-law Sarah Baker Mitchell and his infant grandson John. Senator Mitchell’s wife lost two brothers, Lorenzo and Jesse Dunlap, their wives and 13 nieces and nephews.


  1. I cry even today for you, knowing the injustice is still being hidden. I was Mormon for many years, never knowing the real story. When I discovered this truth, among others, I left Mormonism. There are so many good and kind people who are deceived, even to this day. I am so, so sorry to have been misled and for looking away for too long. My heart breaks a little every time I think of this horror.

  2. re: above – George Baker was actually the son of Capt. John [Jack] Twitty Baker, so the 1st line of the 2nd paragraph needs to be corrected from “George Baker.”

  3. I’m digging into the history around this incident for the first time in my life. I believe I am a descendant of the Mormon community responsible for this heinous act.

    My late grandmother told me that we had a relative (I think he would have been my great great great grandfather) who grew up in an isolated Mormon community who would dress like Indians and attack settlers by night, to build the reputation of the savage dangers of this part of the continent. My grandmother told me he ran away at about the age of 8. I don’t know for certain if it was this exact group or just another group involved in the same kind of evil. But geographically it seems likely that these were my ancestors.

    By the grace of God, my fore-bearer abandoned Mormonism and the violence of his particular sect. It was evident that this kind of life was not right, whether or not God was real.

    But being raised in this kind of environment leaves its mark on you, even if you don’t embrace it for yourself. He ended up raising a cold, dark household. My great great grandmother (the oldest of my relatives I have known personally) was borderline crazy (or perhaps a little past borderline). I attribute this to being raised in a generational pattern of trauma / psychological damage / depression. Statistically, this should have been my grandmother’s fate as well.

    When my grandmother was a little girl, a young Mexican girl from her neighborhood gave her a Bible. She immediately read it, because she was hungry for a God that she believed was real, but knew nothing about. Praise to the Lord, she read that Bible and devoted her life to Jesus Christ. Not the twisted false Christ presented in Mormonism, but the true Jesus of Nazareth. This completely changed the trajectory of my family.

    She raised a joyful, healthy family who have consistently honored the Lord through their lives; this is a legacy that has passed now FOUR generations, from her, to my mother, to me, to my children. Hers is a family of pastors and missionaries.

    I praise God for how he broke the pattern of depression and fear that, statistically, should have been handed down to me and my children, had He not intervened with the beautiful truth of the Bible.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you, and cause his face to shine upon you this year.

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