The Deseret News reported that the U.S. Government designated Mountain Meadows as a national historic landmark a few weeks ago.  For those who don’t know, in September 1857, 120 immigrants were killed by Mormons at Mountain Meadows near Cedar City, Utah.  Mormons tried to cover up the tragedy and blame it on the Indians.  I have previously discussed the massacre here and here, if you’re interested in more detail.  Families of the Fancher party along with the LDS Church worked together for the designation.  The Deseret News article notes that there is a “plan [for] another event in September, during which a plaque noting the landmark designation may be unveiled.”

As I’ve reviewed comments about this designation, it seems to be dominated by partisans.  Critics of the church feel this is a long-overdue designation, and feel that the church will no longer be able to “hide” this issue.  Defenders of the church wonder why the church went along with the designation, and bring up the fact that there is no memorial at the site of the Haun’s Mill Massacre.  It got me wondering about what it means to be a national historic landmark.  I looked up the National Historic Landmark sites in Utah.

Utah Landmark Description
Alkali Ridge A set of widely-scattered archaeological remains of the earliest forms of Puebloan architecture, representing a period of transition from scattered, pit-style dwellings to a settled agricultural lifestyle. These multi-story buildings and kivas have yielded high-quality ceramics, and form the type location for the Pueblo II period (ca. 10th century – ca. 11th century).
Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine The world’s first and largest open-pit copper mine, Bingham Canyon was opened in 1904.
Bryce Canyon Lodge and Deluxe Cabins The Union Pacific Railroad built this national park lodge in 1924-1927. The architectural style was used by railroads for lodges across the American west with the encouragement of the National Park Service.
Central Utah Relocation Center (Topaz) One of 10 relocation centers for internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The internees were mostly from northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, and included many professional artists.[6]
Danger Cave Archaeological site featuring artifacts of the Desert Culture from ca. 9500 BCE until ca. 500 CE.
Desolation Canyon This remote canyon on the Colorado River was traversed by John Wesley Powell in 1869. Powell’s expedition was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.
Emigration Canyon The Mormon pioneers traversed the Wasatch Range through this canyon at the western end of their trail, beginning in 1847. The canyon mouth is the location of Brigham Young’s famous quotation “This is the place.”
Fort Douglas This US Army post was established in the 1860s to uphold United States authority in the Mormon territories, and to protect overland transportation and communication lines.
Old City Hall Completed in 1866, the city hall also served as the capitol of the Utah Territory, and was the scene of many tensions between Mormon leaders and the United States.
Quarry Visitor Center Built as part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program of modern architectural design in the US national parks, this visitor center exemplifies the philosophy of locating visitor facilities immediately at the resource being interpreted. The visitor center is presently closed due to structural damage from unstable soils, and its future is in doubt.
Reed O. Smoot House The home of Reed Smoot from 1892 to his death in 1941. Smoot was a prominent US Senator best known for advocacy of protectionism and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.
Temple Square The earthly center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Begun in the mid-19th century, the Square’s Mormon landmarks include the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle, and the Assembly Hall.
Brigham Young Complex The Beehive House and adjacent Lion House were the residence of Brigham Young from 1852 until his death in 1877. As President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time of the Mormon settlement of the Salt Lake Valley, Young and his home were pivotal in the development of the Church, Utah, and the American west.

Wikipedia says, “The United States National Historic Landmark program is operated under the auspices of the National Park Service, and recognizes structures, districts, objects, and similar resources according to a list of criteria of national significance.”  The official website for the National Park service notes that about half of the sites are privately owned. 

I decided to look up some sites that are “Mormon sites” and discovered that there are 67 sites along the Mormon Pioneer Trail.  Here is a sample of the first 6 sites.  You can see the rest at the official website.

Site Description State
1. THE “EXODUS TO GREATNESS” HISTORIC SITE: NR, 4/30/87, 87000031 This site and monument is at the foot of Parley Street in Nauvoo and marks the approximate site where the Mormons crossed the river into Iowa. Illinois
2. OLD FORT DES MOINES HISTORIC SITE The Mormon Trail of 1846 in Iowa proper begins in what is now River Front Park in Montrose. This was the site of the first Fort Des Moines (1834-1837). The site of the old fort, now contained in this park, is located at the eastern end of Main Street and is marked by a bronze plaque set into a boulder at the south end of the little park. Iowa
3. SUGAR CREEK HISTORIC SITE This was the staging ground, where in February 1846, the Mormons organized themselves for their trek across Iowa. There is no marker here. Iowa
4. DES MOINES RIVER FORD HISTORIC SITE On March 5, 1846, the pioneers forded the Des Moines River at Bonaparte, Iowa. This fact was recently commemorated by a sign on the Bonaparte side of the bridge over the river on Highway 79. Iowa
5. RICHARDSON’S POINT HISTORIC SITE There is no marker here, but in 1985 two Mormon graves were found and marked by relatives. These graves are in the NE 1/4 of sec. 32, but one must ask locally for directions and secure permission to visit them. Iowa
6. LOCUST CREEK HISTORIC CAMPSITE Here in April 1846, William Clayton wrote the words to the most famous of all Mormon hymns, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” A marker commemorating this event was erected here July 1990 and is located at the entrance of Tharp Cemetery. Iowa

I think it is a nice gesture  for the church to actively try to follow the Fancher descendants wishes, but I have to ask if this is really a big deal.  What do you think of the designation?