One of the largest civilian massacres in the history of our country occurred at Mountain Meadows, South of Cedar City, Utah on September 11, 1857. The victims of the massacre were 121 men, women, and children of a California-bound wagon train under the leadership of Captain Alexander Fancher and Captain John Twitty Baker. All of the families were from Benton, Carroll, Johnson, and Marion Counties of Northwest Arkansas.
After the 54 members of the Iron County Militia finished their grisly act at dusk on September 11, the bodies of the massacre victims were left exposed to the ravages of birds and wild animals. Seventeen children, seven years and younger, were spared the fate of their parents and siblings because of a religious doctrine of “innocent blood,” A wagon containing the children delivered them to Jacob Hamblin’s ranch at the north end of Mountain Meadows.
In 1859 Major James H. Carleton and a contingent of dragoons from Ft. Tejon, California met Captain Reuben Campbell’s soldiers from Camp Floyd, Utah at the massacre site. The two commands collected the scattered remains of the massacre victims and interred them into four gravesites.
Captain James Lynch and Dr. Jacob Forney recovered the surviving children from Mormon homes. Fifteen of the survivors were escorted back to their Arkansas relatives. Two of the older boys, John C. Miller and Milam Tackett, remained in Utah as witnesses for U.S. Attorney Alexander Wilson and were returned sometime later. On June 28, 1859, the fifteen survivors left for Ft. Leavenworth in three army ambulances pulled by mules and accompanied by one baggage wagon. They were escorted by eight adults, three men and five women. Major D.P. Whiting was in charge of the overall operation, which included a company of dragoons for a safety escort and an Army Chaplin, Rev. Vaux.
The heavily guarded contingent reached Ft. Leavenworth on August 25, 1859. William C. Mitchell of Carroll County, Arkansas met the children at Ft. Leavenworth and escorted them on to Arkansas. The children arrived at Carrollton on September 25. Their first night home was spent in the original Yell Lodge at Carrollton. Next day the children were met by over 200 relatives and well-wishers and taken into the homes of loving relatives.
John D. Lee was the only one of the 54 members of the Iron County Militia to be brought to justice. He was escorted to the site of the massacre and executed twenty years later.
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