There are still a lot of myths surrounding the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. How many were killed? Historian Barbara Jones Brown says it could be a few dozen lower than original estimates.
Barbara: You know what’s really interesting about that number is that number comes from Jacob Hamblin who buries the bodies later….He tells federal army officials, federal officials, that it was 120, and then they go with that number. What’s interesting is the earliest sources, the earliest body counts, put the number at 95, 96, which surprised me when started getting into those earliest primary sources because I said, “No, it’s supposed to be 120.” So then I just thought, “Well, where does this number come from?” I looked at all of the sources and they are what I just described to you. So the earliest body counts say about 95 or 96. The number of people who’ve been identified in the train is about the same. It’s about that.
GT: So, it might not be as bad as we thought.
Barbara: It is as bad as we thought. Even if one person, a massacre [is bad.]
GT: That’s true.
Barbara: Yeah. I mean 95, 120–either way. It still is as bad as we thought.
GT: It’s terrible.
Were children under age 8 spared due to Mormon theology? Barbara Jones Brown will give us some of the latest information surrounding the massacre, and it likely is different than you’ve heard.
GT: The other question I wanted to ask, so you said that the oldest child that lived was six? I know that there’s some Mormon theology. Why six years old?
Barbara: So the non-Mormon attorneys that investigated and talk about it later. It says, “Because they were too young to give evidence in court.”
GT: Oh really? Oh, I always thought it was because children under eight are not capable of sin.
Barbara: That theory came much later.
GT: Oh, okay.
Barbara: It’s a modern theory. It doesn’t hold up because babies were killed. Some babies were killed in the massacre and seven year-olds were killed. Again, the oldest survivor was six. So, what all of the perpetrators said was they were too young to tell tales. Again, there’s a federal district judge named John Cradlebaugh, and he says they were spared because they were too young to give evidence in court.
GT: Okay. So it was a legal issue. It wasn’t a theological issue.
Barbara: That’s what the historical sources say. Yeah. I can’t find a single historical source that says, “Oh, we’re not going to kill them because they’re not eight yet.” There’s not a single historical source that says that.
What precipitated the Mountain Meadows Massacre? It turns out that Mormons were stealing cattle from California-bound immigrants! Was this part of Brigham Young’s strategy to send a message to Washington that immigration was unsafe? It seems that Brigham Young was encouraging Mormons (and Indians) to steal immigrant cattle! Barbara tells about another raid on immigrant cattle at the same time the Mountain Meadows Massacre happened.
Barbara: We can’t say for sure who did it. We don’t know. That’s all we have is this account from those immigrants on the northern route. But it takes place on September 8, 1857. They said, “It was clear they did not intend to kill anyone. It was clear they just intended to run off our cattle.” That’s exactly what happens with this other train. They have their cattle run off. They’re strung out on the road and it’s in the dark at night-time and they’re in a ravine, a large wash. The Moapa Indians, led by five or six Mormon interpreters run off their cattle, and then the train goes on and makes it to California, to San Bernardino. That happens right after this other one. No one is killed.
GT: Mormons have a history of cattle rustling it sounds like.
Barbara: Well again, this was Brigham Young’s strategy. His war strategy was to try and convince the federal government that if the government removed him as Indian Superintendent and Governor of Utah and ran the Mormons out, this is what would happen, that immigration would be no longer safe.
GT: This is kind of his strategy, and so he’s making it not safe, essentially.
Barbara: Yeah. He’s encouraging this cattle raiding. In all of the sources in which the cattle raiding is encouraged, you don’t see any evidence of any killing to be encouraged at all, just to have the cattle raided.
GT: So why do you think the killing happened in Mountain Meadows?
Is this simply the actions of a small group of men that went bad? Were you aware the Brigham Young encouraged Mormons to steal cattle from immigrants? What are your thoughts?