Mountain Meadows •
Descendants of the victims of the Mountain Meadows
Massacre and others interested in the 1857 atrocity had an
opportunity Saturday to walk through history.
More than 100 people
gathered in Washington County at the site of the infamous
massacre of 120 California-bound emigrants by a Mormon
militia. Thanks to land ownership changes, they were able
for the first time to walk the path taken by the doomed,
unarmed men and women from Arkansas as they were led away
from the security of their besieged wagons under the guise
of being taken to safety, then ruthlessly gunned down.
included the dedication of a new memorial where it is
believed the boys and men of the group were murdered, a
little more than a mile north of the siege site.
A stone from a cairn
constructed by Army soldiers in 1859 to mark where they
buried the remains of the massacre victims has been
incorporated into the new memorial dedicated Saturday.
That rock bears the faint impression of a cross carved
On Sunday, the actual
anniversary of the massacre, the entire site will be
dedicated as a national historic landmark.
The designation culminates
years of work between descendant groups, federal agencies
and the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
which owns the site after several years of land swaps and
"We want to thank the LDS
Church for all they've done and being a wonderful host,"
said Phil Bolinger, president of the Mountain Meadows
Monument Foundation that helped create the national
landmark along with the Mountain Meadows Descendants and
Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants.
He said while many of the
annual descendant reunions at the site have been sobering
reminders of what happened to their relatives, "This time
we have something to celebrate, so let's have a great
Bolinger then requested a
moment of silence for the massacre victims and those
killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York,
Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, that occurred on the
anniversary of the massacre in 2001.
Richard E. Turley Jr.,
assistant historian for the LDS Church, said Saturday it
was a "wonderful" experience working with the
organizations in getting the national landmark status,
granted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June.
Turley said the process
required satisfying a lot of government regulations but he
hopes it strengthened the bonds between the descendant
groups and the church.
During a box-lunch meal at
Saturday's ceremonies before the hike to the new memorial,
Arthur Richards, an elder with the Cedar Band of Paiutes,
spoke to the audience.
He said stories about the
role of the tribe, originally accused of carrying out the
attack, are largely untrue; and that while there may have
been a handful of Paiutes aiding the militia, they did not
participate in the siege.
Richards said he bases his
information on what he learned from a tribal member named
"Issac" who was 12 years old when he was an eyewitness to
the massacre. He said Issac, who died at age 116, told him
he saw the militia shoot the emigrants.
Logan Hebner, author of
Southern Paiute: A Portrait, published by Utah State
University Press, also attended Saturday's event. Hebner
said he wrote the book because after more than 150 years,
it was time to hear the version of the massacre from the
Paiutes, who had been vilified for their perceived
"They [tribe] were
initially blamed for everything," Hebner said.