This page contains past historical treatments of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
- 1 A Brief Overview
- 1.1 T.B.H. Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints"
- 1.2 John D. Lee, Mormon Unveiled, or The LIfe and Confessions of John D. Lee
- 1.3 Charles W. Penrose, The Mountain Meadows Massacre: Who Was Guilty of the Crime?
- 1.4 Josiah Gibbs, The Mountain Meadows Massacre
- 1.5 Hoffman Birney, Zealots of Zion
- 1.6 Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre
- 1.7 William Wise, Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Legend and a Monumental Crime
- 1.8 Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
- 1.9 Sally Denton, American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857
- 1.10 Walker, Leonard & Turley, Massacre at Mountain Meadows
- 1.11 Documentary Volumes: Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Andrew Jenson and David H. Morris Collections
A Brief Overview
In their methodology and use of sources, how have the major treatments of the massacre distinguished themselves?
T.B.H. Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints"
In Rocky Mountain Saints (1873),T. B. H. Stenhouse sought verification from independent sources. Thus, he relied heavily on Philip Klingensmith's affidavit with (apparent) verification from journalist Charles Wandell's unnamed source. But Wandell's source was the selfsame Klingensmith, as Klingensmith later revealed. Thus, Stenhouse's search for corroboration ended in circularity.
Other treatments during the 1870s were part of the exposé and sensationalistic crime genres. J. H. Beadle's Life in Utah; Or, Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism (1870 and later editions) and Ann Eliza Young's Wife No. 19; Or, The Story of a Life in Bondage (1875) were two of these.
John D. Lee, Mormon Unveiled, or The LIfe and Confessions of John D. LeeJohn D. Lee gave at least five statements on the massacre. His penultimate statement was in his Mormonism Unveiled; or The Life and Confessions of John D. Lee (1877). The longest militia account, it is an important primary source. It also presents serious historiographical challenges, mainly in the form of unverified accomplice accusations against others. Reliance on unverified accusations has been common, particularly in the sensationalistic crime genre.
Charles W. Penrose, The Mountain Meadows Massacre: Who Was Guilty of the Crime?
In 1884, Mormon leader Charles W. Penrose delivered an address, later published as The Mountain Meadows Massacre: Who was Guilty of the Crime? It provided a short summary of the massacre mainly from unattributed sources. A polemical work, Penrose sought to refute charges against the Mormon church. It contains many legal affidavits, then considered especially credible.
Josiah Gibbs, The Mountain Meadows Massacre
Josiah Gibbs' The Mountain Meadows Massacre was published in 1910 and was of uneven quality. In its favor, Gibbs cited the primary witnesses in the Lee trials. Then, with access to other primary witnesses, he provided at least one witness statement found nowhere else. But Gibbs also used unattributed sources and his argument was marred by a polemical tone.
Hoffman Birney, Zealots of Zion
In 1931, Hoffman Birney offered a lengthy account in Zealots of Zion. While it was a journalistic treatment based on many unattributed sources, Birney did achieve a greater degree of impartiality than previous works and took an important step toward a balanced account. Arguing for the complicity of five militiamen -- Isaac Haight, William Dame, Philip Klingensmith, John D. Lee and John Higbee -- Birney countered the view, popular in some quarters, that Lee was solely responsible. He also anticipated the conclusions of Juanita Brooks and, more recently, Walker, Turley and Leonard.
Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows MassacreThe Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950, revised 1962, 1970). Relying heavily on primary sources, Brooks skillfully weighed their strengths and weaknesses. In defending John D. Lee, she may have exceeded the evidence, but then she was trying to correct the popular perception (within Utah) of Lee as the massacre's sole cause. Brooks' strengths include unflinching honesty in a generally balanced narrative marked by its brevity in treating complex events.
William Wise, Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Legend and a Monumental Crime
Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain MeadowsBlood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (2002) made a notable contribution to the relevant sources. His central inquiry was "What did Brigham Young know, and when did he know it?" Relying generally on primary sources, he was skeptical of the "murderers" and argued for the credibility of the child survivors. Yet he relied heavily on militiamen, including Lee and Klingensmith, and sometimes their unverified accusations. Opinion remains divided on whether his or Brooks' interpretation was the more judicious.
Sally Denton, American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857Lee and Klingensmith and their unverified accusations. Perhaps unwittingly, she has brought the sensationalistic crime genre and its fascination with the massacre into the twenty-first century.
Walker, Leonard & Turley, Massacre at Mountain MeadowsMassacre at Mountain Meadows, an semi-official volume sponsored by the historical department of the Mormon Church. They present the massacre in an economical 231 pages. But they also include four appendices with important summaries identifying the involved emigrants, emigrant property, the militiamen, and the Indians. Its most important contribution is using a framework based on four decades of study of American violence. Since the 1960s there has been a flood of scholarship studying American violence. Massacre at Mountain Meadows is the first history of the massacre to incorporate that scholarship into a framework for understanding it.