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1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre

These important documents were originally discovered by Paul Buford Fancher during the course of his research for Richard Fancher (1700-1764) of Morris County, New Jersey: Richard Fancher's descendants 1764-1992: Fancher-Fansher-Fanchier-Fanshier, which was published in 1993. Mr. Fancher then gave this information on the documents' location to Ron Loving, who was the President of the Mountain Meadows Association at the time. Judge Roger V. Logan, Jr. published the article below in the Utah Historical Quarterly's Summer 1992 edition, p. 224-235.



By Roger V. Logan, Jr.

     Accurate detailed information about the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre has, for many years, been scarce. Many writers have studied the event, attempting to place blame, to expose complicity, draw meaning or teach lessons from the tragic details of the killing1. But, even with a considerable amount of literature on the subject, reliable information about the Arkansas emigrants has remained hard to find. It is, therefore, difficult to describe my joy when, after having collected information about the Massacre for many years, Ron Loving, a descendant of John Fancher (brother of emigrant Alexander Fancher), called me and said that he had found depositions taken in 1860 from close relatives and friends of the victims of the Massacre. Loving read from one of the documents signed by an ancestor of mine, James Douglas Dunlap. It contained information about one of his two brothers who had fallen in the massacre. In all, there are depositions signed by seventeen people. They provide a glimpse of what the caravan was like.

     Loving discovered the depositions while reading microfilm copies of the original records in the National Archives filed under the rather uninviting title Territorial Papers of the United States Senate 1789–1873, Roll 15, Utah December 31, 1849-June 11, 1870. Amongst a number of other items on the roll were the sixty pages of depositions. The documents were made as part of a futile effort by Arkansas’s U. S. Senator William K. Sebastian, apparently prompted by State senator William C. Mitchell, to get the Federal Government to reimburse seventeen of the surviving children of the Mountain Meadows Massacre for the financial losses they had sustained in the event.

     The organizer of one of the main contingents of the emigrant caravan was Captain John T. Baker, a farmer, cattleman and slave owner who lived on Crooked Creek near modern Harrison, Arkansas. His wife Mary, in her deposition made October 22, 1860, said:

“My name is Mary Baker. I was lawfully married to John T. Baker in the county of Madison and State of Alabama [in] …1823; we emigrated to Arkansas in the year 1847 where we resided together …until the said John T. Baker left his home in Carroll [now Boone] County…with a lot of cattle, horses…and I am informed and verily believe that after the said John T. Baker had proceeded as far as a place in the west known as “Mountain Meadows” he, together with a large number of persons in company with him, were murdered, and their property all stolen or appropriated by the murderers. The object my husband had in going to California was to sell a large lot of cattle with which he had started, and when he left here in April 1857, for California he was the owner of, and started with 138 head of fine stock cattle, 5 yoke of work oxen, 4 yoke of work oxen extra, two mules, one mare, one large wagon, provisions, clothing and camp equipage for himself and five hands. The cattle were all good stock, and all three years old and upwards were picked cattle and such as in this market at the date of his departure from this place were worth at the lowest cash price twenty dollars per head…[here follows a list of property and value] amounting in all as far as I now remember to the sum of $4148.00 ? in this market. ?”John T. Baker and his son Abel Baker and his married son George W. Baker were all victims of the Mountain Meadows tragedy2. Another of Bakers sons, John H. Baker, also gave a deposition verifying what his mother had said. He added that his father had taken guns, saddles and bridles and gave detailed information about his cattle. John H. Baker said that he was familiar with livestock prices in Arkansas and in California. He said: “I have been in California - was there in the latter part of the year 1852, stayed there until the month of September 1854, and from my knowledge of the country, and the price of property I think the property that the said John T. Baker left here with in April 1857, would have been worth at Mountain Meadows the full sum of ten thousand dollars. This statement, however is only made from such general knowledge as I have from the western trade, and also from the information of other traders. I cannot now state what amount of money my father started with, but I know he had money with him but as to the amount I do not know.”

     John Crabtree, a neighbor who lived about half a mile from John T. Baker said:

"Mr. Baker was a very industrious man, and a shrewd, good trader. … I was at the house of the said John T. Baker, frequently while he was collecting the cattle, and I was present in April 1857 when the said Baker started for California… . I…aided and assisted him on his way a few miles when he started.”

     Hugh A. Torrance said:

“In April 1857 I was living on the farm of the said John T. Baker and while he was gathering cattle for his intended trip to California, I helped take care of the cattle and to feed them. They were a good stock of cattle, well selected and likely.”

     One of the facts which becomes readily apparent from the depositions is that John T. Baker was the organizer and leading character in the contingent of the Mountain Meadows Caravan which originated at Crooked Creek. Most of the depositions mention the other victims as having gone west in company with Baker. It is interesting to note that none of the 60 pages of depositions mentions Alexander Fancher, the person traditionally thought to have been the leader of the caravan. There is other evidence which shows that Fancher was in the caravan when it passed through Utah and that he was referred to as its leader by a number of persons who saw it there3.
     Another leading citizen of the caravan was John T. and Mary Baker’s oldest son, George W. Baker. He took his wife and family along on the trip west. Only three of his children would return. Joseph B. Baines, a neighbor of the Bakers, testified on the 23rd of October, 1860, as follows:

“I…was living in one fourth mile of John T. Baker when the parties all left for California in April 1857. I now reside at the same place I did then and within a quarter of a mile of Mary Baker the widow of John T. Baker. George W. Baker was the son of said John T. Baker and Mary Baker and I know that the said George W. Baker left here about the same time of his father in April 1857. When George W. Baker left he was the owner of in his own right and had in his possession a considerable amount of cash and personal property, and had sold out his lands and was moving to California. He had a wife and four children when he left here. [ Baker's wife Manerva Beller Baker and children: Mary Lovina Baker, Martha Elizabeth Baker, Sarah Frances Baker and William T. Baker.] He was guardian of Malissa Ann Beller and she was also in the company with him and he had in his possession as guardian of said Malissa Ann Beller the sum of seven hundred dollars in cash. I had paid him as guardian that amount for the said Malissa Ann, and know he had that amount. I think Malissa Ann had a bed [?], bedding, evening apparel &c but of what value I can not say. The amount of personal property within the possession of the said George W. Baker, and which he carried off with him as well as I can make an estimate from my knowledge and information, recollection and belief was as follows [:] 2 ox wagons, chains &c each worth $125, … [He] Had in cash in hand about [$]500. He had beds and bedding, evening apparel for himself and family, provisions for himself and family worth [$]500, 3 young mares at $100 each, … 1 rifle gun [$]25, 1 double barrel shot gun [$]25, 136 head of cattle (or about that number)… [total value $] 4,320. He had oxen, but how many he had I do not know. Neither do I know their value. Baker had a good outfit, and his family was well provided for in the way of evening apparel, provisions, &c, and I have placed the estimate at a sum that I am satisfied is a low estimate of what said property was worth in this market. The cattle were a very good lot… . Three of his children are now living within one quarter mile of me at their grand mother’s Mary Baker. The oldest of the children were recognized by their friends and relations here as soon as they returned, and this fact convinces me that said Baker and family except the children were all murdered at Mountain Meadows…"

     William C. Beller, George Baker’s brother-in- law, said:

“…I was present when he [George W. Baker] started to move to California in April 1857, and saw his cattle and outfit for the trip. I think that George W. Baker had, when he started from here, one hundred fifty or sixty head of cattle, in which was included about eight yoke of work oxen. I think the cattle without the oxen were well worth in cash in this market fifteen dollars per head. …”  He was moving to California, and had his wife, 4 children, Malissa Ann Beller, David]. W. Beller, and 2 hired hands with him and was well supplied with provisions, clothing, etc for the trip. … I could pick [the Baker children] out of the crowd of children when they were brought back here. I know they are the children of George W. Baker.”

     John H. Baker, already mentioned, testified about the composition of his brother’s family and estimated the value of his 136 cattle, 8 yoke of oxen, 3 mules, and other possessions at $3,815.00. He also said that he knew that the three children returned to Arkansas were his brother’s. Irwin T. Beller, a brother-in-law of George W. Baker, swore that he had accompanied Baker for two days at the start of the trip west and that he was familiar with his stock and other possessions. He estimated the value at $5,135.00.
     Lorenzo D. Rush, Sr., was one of the earliest settlers of the area which is now Harrison, Arkansas. His son Milam L. Rush died at Mountain Meadows5. The elder Rush testified October 23, 1860, as follows:

“I am the father of Milam Rush and know that he left here in the month of April 1857, bound for California; he left in company with John T. Baker. When my son the said Milam L. Rush left here he was the owner of from ten to twelve head of cattle. He had one rifle gun, three blankets, knives and his wearing apparel, and also about twenty five dollars in cash. I think his cattle were worth at a low cash price at least fifteen dollars per head. ?. [total] $268.00.”

     H. A. Torrance testified that he was well acquainted with Milam L. Rush and knew that he had left with about ten head of cattle. Torrance said he was a neighbor to Baker, Rush, and Deshazo who were all emigrants in the Mountain Meadows Caravan.

     Francis M. Rowan, testified about members of the Jones and Tackitt families. He said:

“My name is Francis M. Rowan: I reside in the County of Carroll and State of Arkansas. In April 1857, I was residing in the County of Washington in this state, and the said John M. Jones and his brother Newton Jones, on their way to California camped some 10 to 15 days within five or six miles of where I lived at that time. I had been acquainted with the Jones boys for a number of years previous to that time, and when they camped there, I was frequently with the boys; I was at their camp and saw their property, and being well acquainted with the boys, Milam Jones, and Newton Jones particularly pointed out the property that they owned, showed me their cattle and oxen. …My recollection, and belief is that the two Jones boys owned four yoke of work oxen, one large ox wagon. John M. Jones was married and had his wife and two children with him, and was moving to California. He had with him the widow Tackitt and three or four of her children; Newton Jones, John M. Jones, his wife and two children, Widow Tackitt and three or four children and Sebron Tackitt constituted one company in family groups. The Jones boys owned the wagon, oxen and outfit, and the others seemed to be traveling with them and depending on the Jones boys for their support. The wagon was large and very heavily loaded; I suppose John M. Jones had a gun and other fire arms but of what value or number I do not know. Newton Jones had a fine rifle gun. They appeared to be well supplied with beds and bedding and wearing apparel for an excursion of that kind, and also with Provisions.”

     Rowan said that the Jones herd consisted of eight head of cattle and four yoke of oxen. With their equipment and other possessions he estimated the value of their property to be $1075.00. Rowan thought that the Jones each owned half interest in the wagon and that Newton Jones had one yoke of oxen of his own. He said John M. Jones had a gun. He also said:

“There were several other persons along, and who had separate wagons. There were three men by the name of Peteat [perhaps Poteet], or Petteats. The oldest one of the Peteats was a married man, had his wife and children along; They had a separate camp and wagon; There was another man Pleasant Tackitt who had a separate wagon; and before they started George W. Baker drove up and camped near the others. The Peteats and Pleasant Tackitt had oxen and other property but I can not say how many. They had horses, and camp equipage, provisions, and appeared to be well fixed for the outfit. … I have no doubt but what all the parties were murdered at “Mountain Meadows” in September 1857, except a few children who have been sent back to the states.”

Fielding Wilburn also testified about the Jones and Tackitt group. He said:

“I was living near the Indian line in Washington County, Arkansas, in the month of April 1857. I was personally acquainted with John M. Jones, and Newton Jones, Pleasant Tackitt, and the Widow Tackitt mentioned in the foregoing deposition of Francis M. Rowan. When the parties above named, were on their way to California, and while they were in camped on Indian Line in Washington County, Arkansas, I was at their camp and stayed with them two or three days. I was well acquainted, and on intimate terms with the Jones boys, and saw their property. . . . John M. Jones and his brother had to my own knowledge: one large good ox wagon, 4 yoke of first rate work oxen. Their wagon was very heavily laden with clothing, beds and bedding, provisions, &c. …”

     Wilburn went on to say that the Jones had six or eight stock cattle and that there were other cattle totaling about sixty but he did not know to whom they all belonged. He mentioned that the Widow Tackitt, Pleasant Tackitt, Peteats and others were in the crowd and said that they all left Arkansas for California together. He said that this all took place sometime in the month of April, 1857. He said that the Peteats, Basham and Tackitts had three wagons, several yoke of good oxen to each wagon and had one horse and provisions. Felix W. Jones testified that he was a brother to the two Jones men who have been referred to. He said that John M. Jones was married and went west with his wife and two children. He said that Newton Jones was a young man and was going with his brother to California. Jones gave further details about the property his brothers had taken with them and confirmed a lot of what Wilburn had already stated about them.


     James DeShazo, who lived in the same neighborhood as John T. Baker, lost a son, Allen DeShazo, in the massacre. On October 23, 1860, he testified that his son had left for California with Baker in April of 1857 and that he believed he had been murdered at Mountain Meadows.

“He had seventeen head of stock. The most of the cattle were likely heifers, and were worth in cash over two hundred dollars the morning he left here. … This together with his evening apparel worth fifty dollars, and a violin worth ten dollars was all the property that I can remember that the said Allen P. had when he left.”

     James DeShazo said his son’s property was worth three hundred dollars. Hugh A. Torrance said young DeShazo’s cattle were well selected and “likely” and worth $15.00 per head at least.


     One of the most interesting depositions is that of State Senator, later to become Confederate Colonel, William C. Mitchell7. Mitchell had the melancholy job of describing his murdered sons’ property. Earlier, he had written to Senator Sebastian (December 31, 1857) and said:

“Two of my sons were in the train that was massacred, on their way to California, three hundred miles beyond Salt Lake City, by the Indians and Mormons. There were one hundred and eighteen unmercifully butchered; the women and children were all killed with the exception of fifteen infants - one of [my] sons, Charles was married and had one son, which I expect was saved, and at this time is at San Bernardino, I believe in the limits of California. I could designate my grandson if I could see him.“

Mitchell felt strongly that something must be done to punish the guilty in this matter. He continued:

“From all accounts the President has not made a call sufficient to subdue them; the four regiments together with what regulars can be spared is too small a force to whip the Mormons and Indians, for rest assured that all the wild tribes will fight for Brigham Young. I am anxious to be in the crowd - I feel that I must have satisfaction for the inhuman manner in which they have slain my children.”

     Colonel Mitchell believed that his infant grandson, John Mitchell, had survived the massacre. He wrote about the boy on different occasions and worked tirelessly for the return of the surviving children. Mitchell was appointed agent of the U. S. Government to go to Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas Territory, to receive the surviving children. He went there in August of 1859, and he, with others from Arkansas, brought the children back to Carrollton where they were distributed to their families, and in one case, to a friend. Two of the surviving children who had been kept in Utah to serve as witnesses should the guilty be prosecuted, were taken to Washington, D. C., and then delivered to Mitchell at Carrollton, Arkansas, in January of 1860.
It is because of William C. Mitchell that we have most of the original written records of who the emigrants were. He was present at the taking of most, if not all, of the depositions, and appears to have been the one who forwarded them to Senator Sebastian in Washington. Mitchell’s own deposition tells about his sons and their property:

“I was personally well acquainted with said Charles and Joel Mitchell—they were my sons, and I assisted them in making their outfits for the trip in the spring of 1857. They left in company with John T. Baker and many others and were murdered as I am informed and believe at “Mountain Meadows” in September of same year. They were on their way to California, and when they left here they had in their possession and under their control the following personal property. They had cash when they left this county in April of 1857 about the sum of two hundred and seventy five dollars. They had thirteen yoke of good work oxen. They had sixty two head of other cattle and when they reached Washington County in this state, they wrote to me that they had bought ten head more and intended getting two more so as to make one hundred head in all. … They had one large ox wagon, log chains &c. They had their wearing apparel, beds, and bedding and cooking utensils. The property they had with them when they left for California in April 1857, was worth in this market, at the date of their departure … [as follows:] 13 yoke of work oxen @ $60.00 per yoke $780.00, 74 head of other cattle, cows, steers &c @ 12 $888.00, cash on hand when they left here [$]275.00, 1 large wagon, chains &c [$]120.00, 1 horse, saddle bridle [$]100.00, guns, firearms, knives &c [$]50.00, clothing, beds, and bedding, provisions, cooking utensils, camp equipage &c [$]300.00 [total]$2513.00. … I believe that said property at Mountain Meadows would have been worth the sum of about five thousand dollars.”

     Sam Mitchell, one of William C. Mitchell’s other sons, did not go west with the wagon train. He also gave a statement about his brothers. He said:

“I am a brother to Charles R. and Joel D. Mitchell mentioned in the foregoing deposition of William C. Mitchell. I was well acquainted with the outfit of the parties, and acquainted with all the property set forth in the tabular statement made by the said William C. Mitchell and from my knowledge of the property and its value I believe that the value therein given and estimated is a fair cash valuation.“


     William C. Mitchell’s wife Nancy was a sister of two victims of the massacre, Lorenzo Dow Dunlap and Jesse Dunlap. Jr. The Dunlap Mitchell family had twenty-six members in the caravan and only five orphan children survived the massacre. Senator Mitchell gave a second deposition about his brother-in-law Lorenzo D. Dunlap. He said that:

“He was well acquainted with Lorenzo D. Dunlap who left for California in John T. Baker Company and that the said Dunlap had a wife and eight children who was all killed at or near a place called the Mountain Meadows, Utah Territory, except two small daughters who is at this time in my care and the said L. D. Dunlap had at the time he left Arkansas, the following described property to wit: four yoke of oxen worth sixty dollars each, twelve head of cattle worth fifteen dollars each, three guns, pistols, knives &c worth fifty dollars, one wagon, log chains, wagon sheet &c worth one hundred dollars. Provisions, cooking utensils, tent, bedding &c worth three hundred and fifty dollars. This statement is what property was worth at the time they left Arkansas in the spring of 1857. I am informed and believe it was worth more in Utah Territory. I was appointed special agent to receive and take charge of the children survivors of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and received the children above mentioned at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas Territory in August A.D. 1859 and returned them to Carrollton, Arkansas, in September 1859 and have no doubt of the death of L. D. Dunlap and [that he] was killed at or near the Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory. . . “

   Three other family members verified that Mitchell’s statement about Lorenzo D. Dunlap was correct. They were Samuel Mitchell, already mentioned, James D. Dunlap, and Adam P. Dunlap, both brothers of Lorenzo D. Dunlap.

    My great, great, great grandfather, James Douglas Dunlap was, himself, helping to raise three of the orphaned survivors of the massacre. He also made an affidavit. He said:

“Jesse Dunlap and family left Marion County…en route for California in April, 1857 and was in company of Capt. John T. Baker and all of his family with the exception of three small daughters, I have no doubt, was killed at or near the Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory. And said Jesse Dunlap left with the following described property belonging to him, to wit: nine yoke of oxen worth sixty dollars per yoke, thirty head of cattle worth twelve dollars per head, five head of horses worth one hundred dollars each, three wagons, log chains &c worth one hundred dollars each, three guns, pistols and knives worth fifty dollars each at the time of departure… provisions, camp fixins, cooking utensils &c worth four hundred dollars. The said Dunlap family contained at the time he left a wife and nine children. The three youngest was delivered at Carrollton, Arkansas, in charge of William C. Mitchell special Agent in September A. D. 1859 and said survivors of said Jesse Dunlap is at this time in my possession. The said Jesse Dunlap deceased was my brother”.

     In a short statement, William C. Mitchell added that James D. Dunlap had the three children of Jesse Dunlap at his house “which is their home at this time.” In their affidavits, Robert H. Mitchell and William C. Dunlap tell how they were with William C. Mitchell, special agent for the U.S. Government, when he received surviving children from the massacre at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. These men said they were well acquainted with Jesse Dunlap and knew his outfit having traveled with him the day of his departure for California in the Spring of 1857. They said that the statement made by James D. Dunlap was correct. An additional affidavit made by Adam P. Dunlap and Samuel Mitchell also verified the accuracy of James D. Dunlap’s statements.


The depositions, while not the only contemporary records of the Arkansas emigrants, are some of the best. In reading them one can sense the concern that the affiants felt for the well being of the orphaned survivors who were bereft of parents and estate and who faced the prospect of great adversity. The depositions failed to accomplish their primary goal of securing government assistance under some sort of Indian depredations compensation act. Such laws were passed but none were made applicable to the Mountain Meadows survivors.
The documents are valuable for the detail which they add to the body of knowledge about the emigrant caravan, its composition and leadership. They also give some of the best statements of the purpose many emigrants had in making the journey west and also give an accurate account of the property owned by the emigrants. Since all the adult emigrants were killed there are few statements by persons who knew first hand what the emigrant caravan consisted of.


J.T. Baker Depositions ] Mitchell Depositions ] G.W. Baker Depositions ] Deshazo Depositions ] Rush Depositions ] Jones-Tackett Depositions ] Dunlap Depositions ] Brigham Young Deposition ] Malinda Thurston Deposition ] Huntington Journal ] Depositions & Journals ] HOME ]

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