(Tribune file photo) The monument near the site of
the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre. American Indian spiritual leaders
held a weeklong healing ceremony at the site of the massacre.
The Salt Lake Tribune
First published Jun 30 2011 01:05PM
1, 2011 08:55AM
Patty Norris, whose
great-great-great grandfather and seven other relatives were murdered at
Mountain Meadows more than 150 years ago, was overcome with emotion at
Thursdayís news that the southwestern Utah site has been designated a
national historic landmark.
"Iím ecstatic and excited.
Itís overwhelming," Norris said from her northern Arkansas home. "Iím
sure that all those who died out there that day would be extremely proud
and grateful for those who have worked on this for so long."
Norris, president of
Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants, was responding to Interior
Secretary Ken Salazarís announcement designating 14 new national
historic landmarks, including the Washington County location where
Mormon militiamen slaughtered 120 California-bound men, women and
children in the Fancher-Baker wagon train on Sept. 11, 1857.
"The designation means the
United States has recognized that this site is among the most important
in U.S. history," said Lysa Wegman-French, a historian with the
Intermountain regional office of the National Park Service. "I like to
compare it to the Emmy or Oscar awards for actors. This is public
recognition of the importance of the site to the nation."
The move is "a dream of a
lifetime, that started with some of our fathers and grandfathers, going
back to the 1950s," Terry Fancher, president of the Mountain Meadows
Association, said from his Boston-area home. "Thatís how long people
have wanted to do something at that site to improve it."
president of Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation Inc., said the move
was his groupís "top priority."
"We hope we can get
Secretary Salazar to join us in September," said Bolinger, on vacation
in Florida, "for the designation ceremony."
All three groups give
credit for the designation to the extraordinary alliance that has
emerged in the past few years between descendants and the Utah-based LDS
"This is the culmination of a
multiyear collaboration between the church as landowner, victim groups and the
federal government," Richard Turley, assistant LDS Church historian, said
Thursday. "We are grateful that so many people came together to make this a
The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints will continue to manage the part of the site it owns, while
the U.S. Forest Service will oversee its portion of the property 35 miles
southwest of Cedar City.
"Our hope has been that we can have
this property be a fitting memorial to those whose lives were tragically and
wrongly taken in September 1857," said Turley, who co-wrote the critically
acclaimed 2008 book Massacre at Mountain Meadows. "We want to have the land
preserved so that it retains the sense of historicity it has had."
The drive to make the site a
national historic landmark began earnestly in 2007, when LDS leaders gathered at
Mountain Meadows with the three descendant groups, Paiutes and others for a
150th anniversary memorial service to honor the victims of the massacre.
At that time, Henry B. Eyring, then
an LDS apostle, now a member of the churchís governing First Presidency,
acknowledged that the responsibility for the massacre rested with regional LDS
leaders who also held civic and military positions and with members of the
church acting under their direction.
"What was done here long ago by
members of our church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from
Christian teaching and conduct," Eyring said at the service. "We cannot change
what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here."
The site already was on the National
Register of Historic Places, but descendant groups pushed the LDS Church to join
the effort to make the site a national landmark, a designation with more
stringent requirements that would guarantee public access to the land and bring
more visibility to the massacre.
Six months after the 150th
anniversary, Marlin K. Jensen, an LDS general authority and the churchís
official historian, announced that the faith supported the landmark effort.
In November 2010, Turley presented
the nomination to the National Historic Landmark subcommittee in Washington,
D.C, with descendant groups looking on. Then, in April, the Landmark Advisory
Board voted on the proposal.
It passed unanimously, Wegman-French
The designation is "honorific," she
said, meaning that the LDS Church and Forest Service retain ownership and
management of the property.
"If the owners ask for assistance or
advice about preservation, we are happy to provide it to them," Wegman-French
said, "but they donít have to follow our suggestions."
"Utahns already know of the siteís
historic significance," Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said in a statement."Now,
because of this designation, it will become better known to the rest of the
Matt Canham contributed to